Fairweather Skateboards has been around now for 4+ years run by a five friends in NY: Robert Russell, Jurgen Koch, Chase Massingel, Terry Urban & Bryan Davis. Here’s a collection of stories behind each of their board graphics firsthand via head designer Jurgen Koch.
Words by Bryan Davis
This is pretty much the one that started it all. I’m pretty sure by the time we had this printed, the whole “keep calm and…” was on its way out. A lot of people were still asking for them long after we ran out of the initial stock. There was a bunch of people who were working on designs, but somehow very few of them made it onto boards, probably because we had no structure or real plan on what we were doing. There was some loose voting method on graphics, and it basically dissolved as we realized how much time doing this type of stuff takes up when you have 40+ hours of work a week along with girlfriends & wives on top of it. Differences of opinions mixed with some strong personalities – along zero structure – wasn’t making it fun creating graphics. We ended up running pretty much the same graphic in Tiffany Blue.
The guys who run King Brown Magazine out of Australia were responsible for the next two boards. The taxi board was from our friend having this really wide format Russian camera that was used to photograph mortars or something. We figured we could try the photo print option our board manufacturer offered us, and that photo seemed like a perfect fit. The color shifting between boards from CMYK printing was significant. Some were green tinted, some were cyan tinted, and basically every variation of tinting errors came with the CMYK printing. Once the decks were in our hands, we felt that the end product was looking a little too much like another New York board company, so we made an effort to stay away from doing that again. We had our other Aussie friend, the Yok, illustrate a board with the only restriction being that it was limited to three colors.
We were sharing a lot of ideas back and forth over emails while we worked our regular jobs and we started leaning toward a WWII propaganda vibe. Like a lot of skateboard art, our earliest stuff is just ripping off and repurposing things we like. We started to learn a little more about how the files go to print since most of us don’t come from print backgrounds. The ‘friends for the good times’ board lost a lot of detail because of color space issues. It had the WWII propaganda feel we liked, and then I started looking into more of that time era because I liked the look of what they were able to accomplish with the limited tools they had at the time.
The US National Parks posters have always been well designed given the limited color palate they worked with on each print, and we tried to recreate something in that style without just ripping off another graphic. I thought about making a series in the National Park style of all the public parks in NY, but ended up with just the Kill Trees graphic and a few other shelved graphics in the same style.
One of our friends, Terry Urban, who is a really talented DJ & artist, had a residency in Tokyo for a few months, and hooked up a place for us to crash for a week, so we cashed in some frequent flyer miles and jumped a flight to Japan. There was so much cool stuff in Japan that could have been made into board graphics, but I’m a terrible illustrator and we ended up referencing other imagery we brought back to create the Kamikaze board. It still had the WWII vibe we were going with, but with the printing knowledge we gained from the other boards, we were able to get this one to turn out a lot nicer. Evidently it was pretty popular because all of a sudden we had the same graphic in a different colorway.
Parts of the Internet & a few shops were still requesting the Keep Calm graphic, and since we really didn’t have to build any new art, it continued to live on. There was a miscommunication and there was a very small run of the maroon on natural colorway when it was supposed to be white with see thru to stained wood.
We have some really talented friends, and they all have jobs outside of skateboarding. Dan Forkin came to us while he was recovering from knee surgery with the Golf graphic. We used this graphic as our second attempt at a CMYK print, and it went a lot better this time. This was also one of the first boards to break away from the usual graphics we were making. We liked the graphic, and some people might not see the relationship between skateboarding and golf, but we liked it, so we printed it.
Dan came back with another idea that we ran, which was the Lager graphic. He had an idea, which started to get into some weird committee designed graphic, and I ended up spending an entire evening in Mexico getting drunk and arguing the case to not change the design from Dan. We resolved it by building the Lager the way it was designed, and building a Stout version, which was a definite second to the lager graphic. It was a lot easier shooting the image for the lager than the stout. Trying to shoot a stout in a bar with a homemade lightbox was rough. We ended up pretty drunk.
Terry had been posting some of his art on his Instagram, and had a series of these really simple spotlight drawings, and we asked him to send us the Pee-Wee image and put that one on a board right away. I felt like the Pee-Wee in the spotlight and how the world turned on him back in the day was the epitome of a fairweather fan.
The bauhaus board is reaching a little further back to the WWII era, but it’s also another experiment in graphics for me. I was really into bauhaus for a few weeks while I was playing around in 3D software when I found a dropdown menu item that said, “export to illustrator” and was geeked out on that option. It didn’t work the way I wanted it to, but it was still useful. Bringing the basic flat bauhaus elements into 3D world is a little odd, but it’s only a skateboard.
The ‘see-thru to stain’ thing was fun to do because you get one graphic, and the variable of the different stains creates options. We went with that idea from our previous see thru graphic and tried FreshOut & Lloyd. The original Lloyd board was shot down because the pattern that was on it ended up looking very much like a graphic motif from Alien Workshop. It can be difficult sometimes to keep your influences from influencing you too much. One thing that I noticed on the see-thru graphics along with the unpredictability of what stains we will get, is that edges can get lost easily. I set a rule that the transparent edge can only be bordered by black or white. These two graphics ended up only being black & white, but the color options was what the focus was on these. We tried to request color preferences for the FreshOut graphic, which were green (for the money) and gold (for the honeys) along with purple because it’s fucking awesome.
I spent last weekend with some people working on some board collaborations. We have also been talking to a few people about other products & collaborations. We have a solid crew who are always pushing ideas. I usually feel like I’m the one holding things back because it takes time to create this stuff from shooting photos to designing ideas to getting it print-ready, web-ready and am always looking to find help with things that I’m not great at. I shot the lager beer board, but Bryan, our main sales, finances, and social media guy is married to an amazing photo retoucher, Rose, who made it look way better. Rob, one of the big motivators behind Fairweather, has been trying to get me to print some sticker ideas he had for a while, and we just got those back last week. We had a short run of shirts that we did with one of our friends print shops that sold out way faster than I expected. Creating more soft goods are something that we have talked about, and I’m pretty big on avoiding shitty materials, so we have been trying to figure out a few options in that direction.