Ethan Bodnar: Author, Student, Overachiever

In early 2007, Ethan Bodnar started working on what would be his first published book, which he envisioned would be a “visual collaborative book about trying something new and exploring your creativity. A book of visual creations by people from around the world, that will come together through the exploration of new things to create something beautiful.” By late 2007, Bodnar had announced that F+W Publication’s HOW Books would be the publisher.

Meanwhile, Bodnar was busy contemplating life… after high school.

“For the first time, I recently took some time to think about what I was planning to do with my life. I asked myself whether I truly wanted to become a graphic designer, and the answer was yes.” So posted Bodnar on his blog on March 17, 2008.

He was soon accepted into a number of prominent east coast schools — The School of Visual Arts, Maine College of Art, Art Institute of Boston and Massachusetts College of Art among them — but ultimately landed on Connecticut’s own Hartford Art School. “The big question that I would always ask was whether it was a process (focuses on theory of design and how you go about design) or portfolio (focuses on having a book of work to get job placement) school. Process was the answer I was looking for.”

Bodnar’s portfolio and academic application.

In October of 2008, as Bodnar entered his first semester, Bodnar announced, “The completed manuscript was sent off to my wonderful editor over at HOW Books. I have received initial feedback on everything and they are very pleased with the outcome of the book and the direction we are moving forward with it.” And in July of 2009, Bodnar reflected, “I received two advance author copies of the book in the mail today. It was a remarkable experience to be able to hold the book in my hands and flip through it.”

Creative Grab Bag is a collection of work from artists, illustrators and designers from around the world, both well-known and up-and-coming. Bodnar created over 30 unique tasks and gave each contributor a task that was different from their typical work. Tasks include “Make a Self Portrait,” “Create a Comic Strip,” “Design a Piece of Furniture,” “Illustrate a Memory.”

The book contains images of each artist’s creative task, typical work, and a biography with a short reflection on their creative process. Together, they capture the spirit of exploration and innovation and challenge readers to break out of their usual work.

The book even includes tear-out cards, so you can do the creative challenges yourself.

Bodnar gave props to his home state by including Gluekit, an illustration and design studio, and CO:LAB, a branding and promotions company. “When Ethan presented this concept to us, we were immediately intrigued. Ambitious, insightful and a great catalyst for discussion. Well done,” said CO:LAB’s Rich Hollant.

CO:LAB’s spread…

… And Gluekit’s.

Besides the book, Bodnar has been keeping quite busy. He is the president of his school’s Student Art Council as well as their AIGA Connecticut student chapter, and acts as the student representative on the Board. He is also spearheading a blog for the Hartford Art School, called Synthesis, that will cover all departments of art-making and feature inspiration, news, interviews and more.

He will speak on the main stage of Make/Think, the 2009 AIGA Design Conference, with industrial designer Charles Harrison. The two will co-present their career and work — a student beginning in an age of blogs and InDesign, juxtaposed with a successful designer who began his career as a military cartographer in the 1950s. While focusing on the importance of a formal education, they will share stories demonstrating how their education truly never ends.

So what’s next for the already-accomplished Bodnar? “I would love to do another book; there is something special and remarkable about making a book. I have a couple concepts that I am working on a bit and thinking about recently.”

“I hope to start my own small studio some day. I really enjoy projects such as books, blogs, small companies — the kind of things that are self-initiated, not client based.”

We have no doubt he will accomplish all that, and more.


Dave 9.11.09

I can’t wait to get my copy… What little I’ve seen looks amazing!

rich hollant
rich hollant 9.13.09

Glad to see you featuring Ethan, Dave. He has a good head on his shoulders and displays significant design enthusiasm straight out-of-the-blocks. We’re all watching carefully at how his design skills and range mature out in the public view. It’s a very daring way to learn and I applaud his moxy (sp?).

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