Interview: Against Youth Violence



Felix Sockwell, who goes by Sock, is an editorial illustrator and identity consultant. He holds the record in PRINT and Communication Arts for most awards in the category of identity design in the United States (most accepted entries in one year in PRDA and over a period of 10 years in CA). His clients range from Facebook to Poetry Magazine.

But he advises young people not to focus on awards.

“Don’t bother with award shows unless someone else is paying the entry fees,” Sock said in a written interview. “Do what makes you happy, as best you can.”

“I entered the field of advertising for many years before design, then illustration and animation. There are always people out there ready to take your ideas, if they’re any good. But the best ideas can’t be stolen. Work hard, stay focused, and you’ll find your own rewards.”

In The (White) House

Perhaps one of Sock’s most relevant projects today was a collaboration with Erik T. Johnson, who also goes by Lobrow and is based in Minneapolis. Their work became the identity for the National Campaign Against Youth Violence. The program was initiated by President Clinton and subsequently brought to an end during the Bush administration.

“I make a point always to credit those I collaborate with. Our industry is an ethical one.”

A design firm Erik was freelancing with, Templin Brink, had an inquiry from an agency in San Francisco called FCB. Sock remembers:

“They had already hired and fired Craig Frazier (a friend) and they called me on Friday and needed stuff by Monday. Typical, right?”


Sock doubts President Clinton had much direct input on the design, at least to his knowledge.

“When I got the email I started plowing through old reference books and came across a bird and quickly sketched fingers to make the hand,” Sock says. “It wasn’t my best idea, or so I thought. The next day I sent it in and that was the chosen mark.”

“Erik tweaked the rendering and we did some posters and items that were given to board members (apparently Oprah framed and hung hers).”

The Design, And The Aftermath

“The design was easy. Me and Erik have always seen eye to eye.”

Several of the design outtakes are shown below.


Their design was “the single most award-winning piece of graphic design in 1998 or 1999.” But the problems arose “when the awards started rolling in,” according to Sock.

“Templin Brink started using me to draw more logos and there was some contention on one particular job,” Sock recalls. “They took it out on me by leaving my name off the credits on this logo design and poster.”

“It taught me not to trust people with phone conversations and to read over the contracts.”

These days, Sock would like to develop a wayfinding system for airports and roadways.

“I’d like to design something useful. Something like the bathroom sign that we all see but take for granted.”

Advertising And Public Safety

“When I was young we had a red hand sign in the window to show kids and the community who was able to help in emergency situations. Remember those?” Sock asks. “I don’t know if they worked for everyone but they were visible.”

Since the Clinton administration, the national conversation about public safety has shifted. Gun control, in particular, enjoyed far more public support in the year 2000 than it does today.

For the first time since President Obama took office, more Americans prioritize gun control than the right to own guns. But support for gun control remains lower than before he took office.

Moreover, the legal landscape has changed following the Heller and McDonald court rulings on gun rights.

“Gun ownership is a right in our nation,” wrote Mike Walker, a legal scholar familiar with the rulings, self-described as a gun owner in favor of gun owners’ rights. “But not a right sans tache (unblemished): like anything from cars to nuclear power that can cause harm, it requires due regulation.”

The fact is:

Public attitudes tend to not change much after a mass shooting.

Maybe by four or five percent – and not for very long.

There is also usually a spike in gun sales, around the idea that gun access could become more limited when the country is converted into some kind of Socialist wheat farm. That's why New York Governor Andrew Cuomo preempted a surge in gun sales, when he enacted the nation's most stringent public safety legislation on January 15.

So that's what happens.

There's a mass shooting. There's national shock and conversation. There's talk of getting tough on guns – which leads to a spike in sales.

Attentions wander, and people forget.

Until it happens again.

And again.

Whether much will change this time – and to what extent, with expansions in Medicaid poised to address mental health concerns – depends less on public feelings about the massacres. It depends much more on whether people will work together to find common ground.

Because frankly, I can't think of any sportsman who is in favor of youth violence.

Share your thoughts on the interview, youth violence, gun control and the sweet science of nicknaming artists with @adamrotmil and @advertisingweek.

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