Welcome Shogo Ota

We are excited to announce that local artist and designer Shogo Ota will be joining SCCA to teach the second year Poster Design class. If you don’t recognize his name, you’ve seen his work somewhere around Seattle: on the Stranger, in Starbucks, or at your favorite restaurant. Shogo was kind enough to answer a few questions about his life and perspective. Join us in getting to know the Creative Academy’s newest professor!



artist Shogo Ota viewed through a painted window

Shogo Ota will begin teaching at SCCA in Winter Quarter 2021. He is pictured here at work on a custom mural project at Starbucks.


How did you become interested in graphic design?

My major was business economics. I went to University of Idaho and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after I graduated. First year, I was thinking: “I’m going to take business classes for the rest of three years…I don’t know if I can do that.” And one of my friends told me I looked like I could be a designer and I thought “that sounds so cool!”

I was thinking, “there’s no art companies when I graduate, but there are graphic design companies—a bunch of them.” So I did more research and learned programs—you know, the Adobe programs. Luckily, I got internship opportunities in Seattle—at Modern Dog—and that was my best experience to become a better designer and I could start my own studio because of that.


How was that your best experience?

Just working for a company is totally different from a school experience. You guys have a much better system and curriculum than a four-year college—I think—because I was taking painting classes and a printmaking class. Skill-wise, that’s good. But, if you belong to some company, if you do a bad job—it sounds really bad—but you get fired. You always have to get A’s: every day, every year, every month. And there are other coworkers who might be better than you and you think, “I’ve gotta be better than that guy!” Or, you know, “I’m gonna be the one who gets laid off in a couple months.” That’s kind of a scary feeling, you know? But that kind of “good pressure” and also being a really, really professional field.

And I was trying to pay attention how this company was running: how to invoice, how to communicate with the client, how to make revisions. I was trying to pay attention to those details that I didn’t have a chance to do at school.



Colorful mural on Starbucks New York by Shogo Ota

Shogo’s most recent mural project for Starbucks, in New York. His lively illustration covers both interior and exterior surfaces.


Shogo Ota spray painting colorful mural in New York

Shogo is known as an artist who is as adaptable as he is prolific. He experiments constantly with different media and techniques. Image: Maciej Glac.


Was there something in college that changed your view of graphic design?

Yeah, when I started, I didn’t even know the difference between art and design, for example, oil painters versus graphic designers, you know? Graphic design is more commercial, you have a client. And it’s not like you can do whatever you want to do. There are lots of different parts that I have to think about. What kind of direction, a target audience, and define the ideas, how to present. Those kinds of small things were pretty new to me when I took that basic class.


How old were you when you came over from japan?



What brought you over?

Well, this is another funny story. I was going to go to college in Japan. It’s like SCCA: there’s only one time a year that you can enter. And the exam is really hard. You have to study the whole year for three to five subjects, but I failed everything. I failed at five or six schools—I just didn’t pass. So, my mom used to study abroad, somewhere near San Francisco. Before I even took those exams, she said, “If you fail, you should go to the US and learn a different language and culture.”



Lighthouse Coffee poster by Shogo Ota

Although he is from Japan, Shogo might as well be a Seattle native: his style has become an integral part of the city’s visual landscape.


Have you taught anywhere else before?

Yes, I was an assistant teacher at Cornish a long time ago, because my old bosses—Mike and Robin—they both used to teach there. I was an assistant there a couple of times. And a couple classes at SVC. I did that for two or three classes. And then I taught at AI. That school is gone now: that’s why Marc invited me to do the [SCCA] class and I was like, “A music [poster] class, it sounds really fun and actually pretty deep.”


How are music posters special for you?

I have been doing lots of music posters, starting 10 years ago. At the time, I was just making them for Sasquatch Music festival as part of my job. It’s really good exposure as an artist because lots of people pay attention and buy prints. And then, suddenly, bands start asking you, “Hey, can you make a poster for us?” or “Can you make a logo for us?” And I’ve made a bunch of friends by now, pretty big artists in Seattle—and nationally. That creates really, really good connections. If—only if—you are doing well, as a good artist and also as a good person, I believe. And if anyone is thinking of becoming an independent artist in the future, after the experience of working at a company or something, that really helps: good connections and people knowing you, you knowing people. Music posters connect lots of different jobs and people.

I want to share this kind of story with students, too: I don’t know if you’ve seen the Starbucks cup I created. That, actually, came from a really small, local poster and that became the green cup, for me. That [small poster] project brought me a bunch of projects. Still, right now—on a weekly or monthly basis—I still get gigs from that. Any small or big project…if it’s small and you do it half-assed, I don’t recommend that. All in—or all out.



Thunderpussy local band poster by Shogo Ota

One good thing leads to another. Music and event posters are a crucial part of Shogo’s business.


What’s the story behind your Tireman logo?

That’s Stranger newspaper cover art. I just made random art when I was working for Modern Dog. Just, making some collage or mixed-media art. And I just thought, “This kinda looks cool,” and I sent it to the Stranger. And they were like, “That’s cool! Can we use that for the cover design?” And I said, “Yeah! Go for it!” and I made it my company name. It’s a bunch of tires stuck together and it has arms and legs. I was too shy to use my own name for my studio. My website says “Shogo Ota” right now, but my actual company name is Tireman Studio LLC, so I decided to use that guy as the logo and name.


Who do you look to for inspiration? Who’s going cool work?

So many great artists, even just in Seattle. I’m obsessed with this Korean-American guy, David Choe. He does really good graffiti—spray painting—to watercolor, oil-painting and mixed media. He’s out there, he’s a crazy guy—in a good way. Great artist, he does everything. For the brush drawing side, the Gonzo guy, Ralph Steadman. Actually I have a print with his autograph on it. I like his style as brush drawing—a crazy, brushy style.



pink halftone Melanie Martinez concert poster

Shogo rarely does the same thing twice. He hopes to encourage students to dare to explore new territory in their projects.


What do you want to bring to the table for the upcoming poster class?

For this class, I’m thinking: I want students to explore and try different things. Because students are still students and I think there are so many opportunities—and time—to try different things. There are so many things you can do just making one poster, so I want students to try. I may even make my curriculum like that: if you use pen drawing, next time, you cannot use it. Just use, maybe, brush, maybe watercolor, maybe mixed. Just try to make different things to connect, to have fun. They might be able to find really cool things. I still, sometimes, go outside and pick up some branches and dip them in ink and try to make some interesting textures. There’s so many opportunities and possibilities. So, hopefully, students can see that, see what I do. I want to bring actual posters in and show students how I built it—from sketch to finish. Maybe screen printing, too.


Cool, thanks so much!

Of course!



Portshowlio 2017 Announcement


The second year students have been hard at work putting together Portshowlio 2017. The event is scheduled for June 14th (Professional Night) and June 15th (Friends & Family Night).

The web team also recently launched the 2017 Portshowlio splash page.

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 8.56.04 AM

In the coming weeks, the full website will launch along with additional promotion pieces.

Follow Seattle Central Creative Academy on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.

Seattle VR Hackathon 2017



Stephanie Hawn is a 2014 SCCA Design graduate. She currently works as a VR interaction designer at HBO.

Stephanie and her team of 6 recently won the Microsoft/Boeing Passenger experience challenge at the Seattle VR Hackathon.

Her team was tasked with addressing several problems:

• Current inflight experiences are two dimensional and provide little to no detail about the passing geography or flight updates.

• A view of landmarks and geographical regions are not currently available from any seat on the plane. A passenger cannot see outside of the window easily when sitting in a seat that is located in the middle of the plane. Even when sitting by the window, the view is limited.

• The passenger has a passive experience from points A to B, reliant on the Captain’s updates for temperature, visibility and potential upcoming turbulence.

Their solution was to develop HoloFlight which displays a 360 degree view of the earth from any seat on the plane and utilizes a “glass bottom” concept to provide an aerial view of various points of interest. The experience is completely immersive from both a first person and third person point of view. HoloFlight engages the passenger in the flight experience, supported with visuals regarding geography, points of interest, future travel suggestions, flight updates, etc.


HoloFlightThe experience was built for the Microsoft HoloLens using Unity assets and other free online resources.

Check out the Github Repo

Featured Design Student Gillian Levine



First year design student Gillian Levine has already begun to make a name for herself. What started as a homework assignment turned into the back cover of the nationally recognized publication, Resist! during the Women’s March in January. We talk to her about her design process and the emotional connection to her work.


You’re in your first year at Seattle Central Creative Academy. What brought you here?


Although I’ve always enjoyed making things, I never considered a career as an artist. I grew up surrounded by a lot of creativity (my mom is an illustrator and my dad is a printmaker), but fine arts never really resonated with me. I worked as an administrative assistant for many years, and I finally reached a point where I knew I needed a change. My colleagues at my last job were very supportive of my art, and they pushed me to pursue a new career in design. Thanks in part to their encouragement, I found this program and applied. I looked at several schools, and Seattle Central Creative Academy seemed like the right place for me.


How has graphic design school been so far?


It’s been the best experience of my life. My classmates are so supportive and talented and inspiring, and I feel like I’ve already found kindred spirits. The teachers have been incredibly knowledgeable and encouraging, and I’m amazed by how much I’ve learned in the first quarter. I always thought of myself as an underachiever, but now I realize that I just wasn’t doing what I loved. It’s the most amazing feeling to love what you do, and to get positive feedback on hard work. If I didn’t have to sleep, I would probably be making art 24 hours a day!





Your poster for the Women’s march is phenomenal. How did you come up with the concept? What was your process? 


I was assaulted by a man in my early 20s, and for many years I struggled with feelings of anger, resentment, and fear. I have also experienced sexism and misogyny in the workplace and in my personal life. I feel very passionately about women’s rights. When Donald Trump won the election, I was devastated. I felt like every man who had ever disrespected me was being validated. I began hearing stories of women all over the country being harassed by emboldened Trump supporters, and my devastation turned to anger. I created this poster for my Intro to Design class, and I wanted to used my frustration and anger to make something positive. I wanted to create an image that was bold, empowering, and playful. I believe that women will grab back our rights, our bodies, and our country. The image itself is a paper cutout. I actually did 5 iterations before settling on this final image. The process was really satisfying, and creating this image was something of a catharsis for me.


How did you feel throughout the steps of submitting to the publication? What did you learn from the process? 


The submission process was pretty straightforward. I submitted my poster to the Resist! Publication after getting a head’s up from someone else in the program. When I learned that my image would be used for the back cover, I was totally shocked! It was really cool to communicate with the editors of the publication to ensure that the image was exactly to their specifications.



front and back covers of the Resist! publication


Now that you’ve got your first publication under your belt, how do you feel about the results and do you have any future graphic design projects you’re excited about?


Aside from the fact that I wish I never had to create this image in the first place, I am really happy with the results. I have three main career goals as an artist: to delight people, to make them feel something or think about something in a new or deeper way, and to use art as a means to help the planet and all of its decent creatures (human or otherwise). My career hasn’t even officially begun yet, and I’m already on the path to achieving these goals. I’ve found my dream career, and I’m so excited to continue to use graphic design to make the world more beautiful.


See more of what Gillian is up to on her website: gillianlevine.com

or on Instagram: @professional.baby