Talking shop with graphic designer Blake Suárez, an F&B-community fave who works with brands both local and international
Blake Suárez (with pup Frankie) works from the downtown home he shares with his wife, photographer Olivia Rae James.
Be glad Blake Suárez didn’t stick with biotechnology in college. If he had, some of the city’s beloved food-and-bev companies—Bittermilk, Pink Bellies, Leon’s, and Cannonborough Beverage Co., to name a few—might not have such irresistible logos and labels, posters and menus, T-shirts and hats. Not that he only works locally: companies like Patagonia, Google, and Warner Music Group have also made it onto the former Fuzzco designer’s client list. Since striking out on his own two years ago, Suárez has exploded his design portfolio, but also taken up gardening, oyster farming, and a quest to replicate Minero’s El Satánico cocktail. That’s biotech-y enough for us.
Starting with art: I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, and in high school I sold homemade shirts with political themes—anti-this, anti-that. It made money and helped me realize maybe there was a future in this.
Studying science: It was a toss-up between biotech and marine biology at the University of Florida. But the more time I spent in those classes, the more I realized they weren’t for me. I switched majors and graduated with a BFA in graphic design.
Suárez’s stack of sketch books
Building brands: A perk of working for myself is getting to hang out with my clients, whether driving through corn fields with Geechie Boy Mill, walking through the salt tents at Bulls Bay Saltworks, or tasting new kombucha with Dalai Sofia. These meetings give me an idea of how I want to approach projects, and I start sketching right away.
When an idea isn’t working: I try really hard to make it work. Hobbies like gardening and bird-watching can help me step away and come back fresh. If I get too frustrated, I push the design in another direction. Or I may resort to something I’m more comfortable with, which is alright because clients are starting to hire me for a certain style.
What’s new: My friend, Stephen Rockwood, and I started a side business called “No Thanks.” We work with environmentally conscious organizations and companies and have been consulting with current clients to shift to more eco-friendly papers and packaging.
(Clockwise from top left) Artwork for a Leon’s Oyster Shop tee, a Bulls Bay Saltworks hat, condiment company Burnt & Salty’s logo, and Dalai Sofia’s kombucha label
Outside chances: Cyrus Buffum began Seaborn Oyster Co. around the same time I left Fuzzco. I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day, so he taught me to work his leases just beyond Breach Inlet, and now I join him when I’m free. I find nothing more inspiring than nature.
Kitchen projects: I’ve been trying to recreate Minero’s chilaquiles, with sweet potatoes instead of chips. Now I need to learn the proportions for their El Satánico and get a frozen drink machine.
Images by (Suárez & notebooks) Olivia Rae James & courtesy of (designs-4) Blake Suárez