Illustration of Joe by Katherine Sullivan

Hello, my name is Katherine Sullivan and I am a Sophomore in Comm. Arts specializing in Illustration. I have been inspired by the journalists Nardwuar the Human Serviette as well as Louis Theroux, to begin interviewing members of the Otis community. Although I am not quite a reporter of their caliber, I am hoping that you will find these interviews interesting nonetheless.

This week I had the privilege of interviewing one of Comm. Arts teachers, Joe Potts. He teaches basic Typography courses as well as Communication Studio and Experimental Type.

KS: Who are you?

JP: Starting things off with an existential one! I don't know how to answer this directly. Hopefully answers to subsequent questions will shed a bit more light on this one.

KS: What do you do?

JP: I make books; I make art; I make art books; I make serigraph / stencil / riso prints; I teach graphic design and typography; I play music; I take photographs; I read; I write; I listen. I try to notice things around me, to stay in touch with people; to not spend too much time on the internet.

KS: Where are you from?

JP: All over the northeast, mostly... Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts primarily. Stints in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.

KS: Where did you go to school?

JP: I went to undergrad at a small liberal arts school called Connecticut College, and got my MFA at CalArts.

KS: Who is your role model? and why?

JP: I feel like maybe Duchamp is the ultimate role model: challenge convention, subvert everything, transcend medium and m├ętier, completely alter the course of your field, then quit your job to play chess for 25 years, and ultimately leave one last amazing work for the world to find after you die that you'd been secretly working on all along.

KS: Who are you listening to?

JP: Lately I've been listening to a book on tape by Alan Watts. And records by Charles Cohen, Alessandro Cortini, Andy Stott, Galaxie 500 are the ones that have been in heavy rotation recently.

KS: What have you been watching?

JP: The last few weeks I was watching many hours of Olympics. Now that that's over I'll have to return to the Netflix queue and the video store across the street from my house. Other things I've enjoyed lately have been the show Top of the Lake that Jane Campion made, a comedy from a couple years ago called Party DownFriday Night Lights. True Detective.

KS: What have you been reading?

JP: I just finished a great book called Bluets by Maggie Nelson. Other things that have jumpstarted my brain recently have been Programming and Meta-Programming the Electro-Organism by the composer Allen Strange. Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse.

KS: What projects are you working on right now?

JP: I'm working on an essay about analog synthesis and tape music and ways that their principles and approaches can be applied to design and design education. I'm also working on a series of images looking at unconsidered spaces within online images, filtering out the focal points and re-casting glances towards the surroundings. I’m also working on a couple of musical projects.

KS: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

JP: Definitely teleportation.

KS: What motivates you?

JP: The desire to capture or translate into form (whether auditory, visual, textual) what I like to think of as transcendent mundanity, pathos, and absurdity, all rolled into one. Also, teaching students how to give form to their own ideas. The energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and brilliance of the students that I work with never ceases to amaze and inspire.

KS: How is your home like you?

JP: My home is unassuming, warm, flawed, lived in, lots of light, a little awkward, a little messy, full of surprises; a nest of books and wires. It's a place that people gravitate towards despite being a little rough around the edges. It's not without its charms but they may not always be readily apparent, especially to the uninitiated. It has a lot of potential, both realized and unrealized.

KS: What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

JP: Hopefully similar things to what I'm doing now, only better and deeper. Hopefully also some things that I can't even imagine at this moment that will reveal themselves at the appropriate moments, and then I won't ever know how I got on without them.

KS: What advice would you give to young graphic designers?

JP: Keep your eyes open, pay attention to the world around you. Try to notice something new every day. Go for walks. Read a lot. Read the news. Get off the computer. Make things about the stuff in the world that interests you. Look at, think about, and read about art. Don't wait until the last minute. Everything is lighter than it seems.

KS: What is something you would like to see more of? (Design related or not.)

JP: I would always like to see more beautiful typography. Also more seasons of the TV show "Party Down," and the 6th (and 7th) Game of Thrones books.

KS: Where do you go for inspiration?

JP: Lately, the mountains. Historically, the library.

KS: What design publications do you read?

JP: There's always great things to be found in the Serving Library Bulletins. Others I like checking into periodically are Idea Magazine from Japan, and Graphic from Korea.

KS: What are you excited for right this instant? (Design related or not.)

JP: I'm excited about the work the students in my Experimental Type class are doing.

KS: What predictions do you have about the graphic design field?

JP: I think interesting things are going to happen in digital publishing. I think that the borders of the field will continue to become more porous.

KS: I heard that you are in a band, is this true? If so could you tell us about it?

JP: I'm not sure where you heard this, but it's not untrue. It isn't really a band, though, per se, in that I don't have any bandmates, but I do make music. The project is called Drums of Myrrh. It's sometimes hard for me to describe the things I make, but I suppose the most concise description would be that it's dark, damaged pop songs.

KS: Who critiques your work for you?

JP: My colleagues here at Otis always offer some of the best feedback. Also some of my old teachers.

KS: Do you have any hobbies?

JP: I do! Some of them are pretty nerdy. I'm pretty into pinball. Also into coffee, in a way that goes beyond just liking to drink it in the morning.

KS: What is your favorite thing about Otis?

JP: I love the students here, and I love my fellow faculty. I feel extremely lucky every day that I get to spend my days teaching with and having conversations with such smart and engaged people.

KS: What is the best advice you ever received?

JP: It's a question, rather than 'advice' per se, but one of the most useful statements, and something I would offer as advice to anyone who feels stuck: "could it be another way?" so simple, and obvious, but applicable to almost anything, any problem, ailment, perspective, rut. 

If you would like to be interviewed or know of someone that should be interviewed (and even have questions for them), please contact me at and I will try to make it happen. I am also interested in inviting people to illustrate parts of interviews so if that sounds like something you would like to do, feel free to contact me as well.


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