A conversation with Clive Hacker


    We spoke with Clive Hacker about boiling down a complex idea into a simple image, the dissatisfaction of working for a living, why there may be no significance to our dreams and waiting for his ship to come in.

    I like the challenge of creating a simple representation of a complex idea and often find myself removing elements that don’t have a reason to be in a composition.

    We gave Clive a list of numbers one through twenty and asked him to describe what immediately comes to mind with each one.

    I’ve mapped these numbers to the first 20 songs I played during my latest DJ set. My fiancé, Katrina, runs a screen printing shop and gallery in Berkeley called All Gold and recently hosted an opening for a show called Young Wizard by artist Felix Talkin. I was tasked to come up with a set of songs that matched the wizardly vibes of the show, so I started my set with “Plantasia” by Mort Garson from the album Mother Earth’s Plantasia. As soon as the song started, Felix came up to me and explained that he listened to this album constantly during the creation of his work for the show. It was kismet!


    Morgan Enos

    From your record label It’s Just Great to your work for Dark Cubed, Mood Media and more, I’m intrigued by how you’ve used your design talents in really versatile ways while keeping your style so simple and consistent. For someone like me who likes to think he has an eye for this stuff but can’t put it in words very fluently, can you explain your method? Is it a challenge to balance addition and subtraction while designing something?

    Clive Hacker

    I’m not sure I have a tried and true method, but I have a sort of north star that I look towards when I’m in the depths of a design project. In a way, design is like any other form of communication. While I craft this sentence I’m attempting to take a complex idea and boil it down into something that simply makes sense. But unlike the design process, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of iteration. Anyway, that is one way I like to look at design and that is probably why I often tend to go the minimalist route.

    I like the challenge of creating a simple representation of a complex idea. While I’m in no way against decorative elements or embellishments, I often find myself removing elements that don’t have a reason to be in a composition. A common mistake is that it’s really easy to create something minimal. I’m sure a lot of folks see Ellsworth Kelly paintings at museums and think “I could do that!” but it’s never that simple. In order to get to a place of simplicity, one has to start with a lot of pieces and eventually pare down from both a formal and conceptual standpoint.


    From there, I’d like to talk about the struggles we all go through to get to a point where we’re happy with our life’s work. Please relate the story of one issue you ran into in the course of your design career and how you overcame it. And on the other side of the coin, what about your luckiest, most out-of-nowhere break you ever got while working?

    I think the biggest struggle I’ve run into in my career has to do with the age-old battle of doing what I want to do creatively versus working to make ends meet. At least in my case, I don’t think working for someone else will ever totally fulfill my desire to create art. But anything could happen, so I should never say never.

    Early on when I started doing design gigs, I realized that just because I was doing creative work didn’t mean I was being creative, if that makes sense. Not that it’s unenjoyable, but there are always compromises when designing for someone else and rightly so. I’m not designing something for myself, I’m designing something for someone else.

    I started to get pretty burnt out on work and realized I needed to do something in addition to my day job. I needed to do something of my own to be creatively fulfilled, and that’s when I started It’s Just Great. It started as a creative outlet for myself and grew into a publication and now a record label.

    In terms of my biggest break, I’m still waiting for my ship to come in.


    Please briefly meditate on these three objects: vessels, chapters and wine. What does each subconsciously, immediately remind you of? Can you relate each to an anecdote, memory or thought?


    Speaking of waiting for my ship to come in, this provides me a nice segue into vessels. When I was a little kid my grandma would visit and bring the most random gifts. Why would a six year old would want housewares? The bratty young me would ask for toys or something that was probably out of her budget. She would sometimes say, “I’ll get it for you when my ship comes in.” At the time I imagined that she had a huge ship full of cool things that was forever on its way. I wondered why it was taking so long. Whether she said that to shut me up, I don’t know. But I like to think of it differently. My grandma was always a very positive woman and I’ve always aspired to reach her level of positivity.


    This immediately reminds me of the chapters in one’s life. Instead of life being just one vast timeline, I like to think of it in terms of chapters. I think our subconscious minds use big life events as checkpoints for memories. It’s easier to remember certain things when you have a frame of reference for it. In the book of my life, I’d say I’m at about chapter 13.


    The first thing that comes to mind when I think of wine is the episode of I Love Lucy where she tries her hand at stomping grapes in Italy. Per usual, antics ensue. That’s all I’ve got, but I loved that show growing up.


    Do you think humor equals intelligence? Regardless, how do you think the two relate and balance each other out? What sincerely cracks you up about the world?

    Does humor equal intelligence? I can buy that. I think it takes a very astute person to write a good joke. Being able to pull something funny out of thin air isn’t easy. In some cases the harder you try to be funny, the less funny you are.

    There’s a certain amount of cleverness in saying the right thing at the right time to make people laugh. It’s a fundamental way of looking at things. A humorous person has a unique lens. Ultimately, it’s the way they use that lens that shows their level of intelligence.


    Can you describe the last event that truly, sincerely irritated you? And from there, what about something that brought you pure, uncomplicated joy? Are you more prone to one of the other in your daily life?

    The last event that truly bothered me was being scratched to pieces by my cat. We have the cutest cat named Trixie, but she is so temperamental. If the slightest thing bugs her, she will attack and not let up. This happens once in awhile and I must say it is sincerely irritating. There is no rhyme or reason.

    The first thing that comes to mind when I think of pure, uncomplicated joy is the feeling of riding a bicycle in Europe, particularly Copenhagen. I just got back from a trip there and absolutely loved the fact that so much attention was given to the bike lanes. I felt like there was no better way to explore the city.

    My main agenda items each day are getting ready for the day and getting ready for bed. The rest is improvised.


    I know a lot of people who dutifully write down everything they dream and attribute some Jungian importance to what they experienced in sleep, but I don’t completely buy that. However, I do think there are clues to our subconscious in there. What was the last gnarly, memorable nightly vision you had, and what is your understanding of the significance of dreams?

    I’ll preface this with the fact that I don’t regularly dream. I probably have about one to two dreams a month. And when I do dream, it can sometimes be extremely mundane. For example, I recently had a dream about being profoundly hungry, and hen I woke up, lo and behold, I was hungry. If that’s not a connection to my subconscious, I don’t know what else it could be.

    While I don’t really know how much philosophical importance can be drawn from dreams, I think they do offer an uninhibited window into our minds. Without the restraints we have when we’re conscious, our brains seem to sort of run free in the dream world. A dream often latches onto something in our subconscious and goes from there.


    Finally, please describe your daily schedule in as much detail as possible, hour-by-hour. Are you generally a very structured person with your time, or do you prefer to throw your responsibilities in the air and trust they’ll land correctly?

    During the week, my mornings and nights are fairly structured, but everything in between sort of falls into place. I don’t necessarily wake up or go to sleep at the same time, but I always set my alarm early enough to be able to snooze a few times. My main agenda items each day are getting ready for the day and getting ready for bed. The rest is improvised.

    But now that I think about it, my schedule is also pretty dependent on meals. I pretty much always have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unless I am so busy that I forget to eat, which doesn’t happen too often. I guess one could say my schedule is defined by necessities. Rest and sustenance drive my day and I try to fit all my tasks in between. I think having these segments provides a pretty structured guideline with checkpoints. Like, “Can I get this done by lunch?” etc.

    When I have deadlines to meet, I’m more focused on how many days I have. In terms of knowing how long something will take within a day, I think it’s internalized. I like to think I have a pretty good internal clock, similar to George Michael Bluth.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 91
    Curated by: Morgan Enos
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: December 18, 2017
    Total questions: 20 + 7
    Word count: 1819
    Reading time: Six minutes
    Hyperlinks: 24


    Tunes: 20
    Meals: 3
    Lens: Utilized
    Kismet: Yeah
    Ship: Waited on
    Dreams: Insignificant
    Housewares: Unwanted


    About the subject

    Clive Hacker is a graphic designer and the operator of It’s Just Great.

    About the curator

    Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.

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