Always thinking. Always making. That’s the mantra of the award-winning design studio The Heads of State. Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers founded the Philadelphia-based studio in 2002 and, along with Woody Harrington, they’ve been creating posters, book covers and branding campaigns ever since. “The long and the short of it is that we’re our happiest when we’re doing a lot of different things,” they say on their website.
They’re doing a lot of different things and for a lot of different clients. Apple, Starbucks, Subaru, IBM, Penguin, American Express, Wilco, R.E.M., and The New York Times are just a few of the names on their list.
Heads of State has tackled branding efforts for Wondermade, a company that is as well known for its unusual flavors of artisan marshmallows, as it is for its colorful logo and packaging. The Heads of State created the company’s memorable branding with custom letterpressing, a bold color palette and whimsy inspired by Willy Wonka and Jules Verne.
Since 2004, the studio has been commissioned to create concert posters for Wilco. “Combining the elegance of theater posters and vintage movie one-sheets with inside jokes, lyrical references, and other winks and nods that speak directly to us first and foremost as fans of the music, we’ve created some of our best known work for a client that respects graphic design and illustration,” they say on their website. As Wilco’s music has transformed over the years, The Heads of State has managed to capture the band’s brand in each of their illustrated posters.
“There is nothing like the adrenaline rush of rolling out a large campaign, the satisfaction of bringing a storyteller’s vision to life, and the creative intimacy of a passion project,” they say on their website.
One of those passion projects is the retail subsidiary they launched in 2012. The aptly named Pilot & Captain is a design venture built on a mutual appreciation for vintage travel ephemera. “The first thing they worked on were the travel posters, which were so well received that they decided to branch out and create more products that speak to the universal love of wanderlust,” says Pilot & Captain brand manager Chelsea Solitrin.
The shop is full of city-specific shirts, carry-on totes and model cargo ships all inspired by the golden age of travel. Their line of shirts feature the airport codes of cities around the world printed on crew necks “for that well traveled feel,” and their carry-on totes are printed with similar designs.
The products available from Pilot & Captain definitely have their own style and theme distinctly different from the work being produced through The Heads of State. But, the shop’s series of travel prints are where you see (pun intended) layover in design elements. The prints feature destinations from New York City to San Francisco, depicted with bright colors, iconic images and lettering that embodies The Heads of State brand.
The Heads of State is a studio to follow, whether you actively choose to or not. You’re likely to see one of their designs pop up as a concert poster for your favorite band, on the cover of a book you’re reading, or on the shirt of your well-traveled friend.
You can see more of their client-based work on The Heads of State website, or shop their products at Pilot & Captain.