Creator Spotlight

Calvin Ogden

Interview: Mike Alexander

Media: Calvin Ogden


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Photo: Calvin Ogden

“I’m Calvin Ogden, and I’m a 24 year old graphic designer based out of Brooklyn, New York. I grew up in North Carolina and moved to New York to pursue a degree in Communication Design at Parsons.”

Calvin Ogden, a 24-year-old Brooklyn-based graphic designer, has crafted a distinctive career trajectory post-Parsons graduation during the pandemic.

His collaborations with diverse brands in fashion, music, and media showcase influences ranging from underground designers to cultural icons like Virgil Abloh.

With a commitment to meaningful design and community engagement, Ogden's work, exemplified in critiques of gentrification and impactful projects like the "Stay Home" drop and the senior thesis "SOUP," reflects his adept navigation of the dynamic intersection between commercial art and personal expression in graphic design.



Tell us a bit about yourself…


I’m Calvin Ogden, and I’m a 24 y/o graphic designer based out of Brooklyn, New York. I grew up in North Carolina and moved to New York to pursue a degree in Communication Design (fancy way of saying graphic design) at Parsons. I graduated out of the lovely pandemic of 2020 and from there spawned an accidental design agency out of my senior thesis project.

Since then, I have worked with a wide range of brands in the realms of fashion, music, and media. I also am very passionate about collecting (hoarding) vintage clothes.

I just helped my friends set up a store down in NC called Cape Fear (@Capefearmarket), where a lot of those years of hoarding lives today.

Photos: @capefearmarket


Who have been the biggest inspirations in your life?


I really look up to those tucked away, graphic designers-turned-creative directors like Eric Elms, Geoff Heath, Rob1970, and Beth Gibbs.

Also, the biggies like Virgil Abloh, Andy Warhol, James Jebbia, and Dapper Dan. From a scale of style and influence, I also really like cartoonists like R. Crumb, Bill Watterson, Jason Polan, and Daniel Johnston - people who were seen as underdog artists with work that was a little rough around the edges. They were so individual to who they were, yet their work found its way being recycled into other means of commercial art.

Vintage clothing/paraphernalia is another huge inspiration for me, especially based around advertising.

Most of my interest in design as a kid came from going to my local comic bookstore, sifting through the dollar bins, and pulling stuff out to draw my own. In high school, this stemmed into going to flea markets or swap meets and finding the most insane shit (shout out Starway Flea R.I.P). These weren’t like the pretty flea markets you see now popping up in LA and NY, people were selling whatever they had laying around to make ends meet.

Being from the home state of NASCAR, Michael Jordan, and a bunch of old pro skateboarders, that usually meant racing shwag, old NBA merchandise, and a crazy amount of old Skateboarding stuff (Stüssy, Hookups, Creature, you name it.) Encountering unique gems like an ‘80s basketball flier from my high school spirit club with our mascot dunking on Jesus was just the best.

I think growing up around this and then finding a crowd who share these interests with me are my biggest forms of inspiration.



You created a short film in 2019, titled “BUSHWICK – A video about Gentrification,” tackling the idea of how the Bushwick Collective, an outdoor gallery of artwork on the sides of dozens of buildings in the neighborhood and the effect it had on its residents.

If given the opportunity, what message would you try to convey on a side of a building in Bushwick to people who go to appreciate the art that echoes your sentiment in the short film you created?

Photos (in order): Simone Armer, Bkylner,

The Brooklyn Eagle, Incarcerated Jerk Faces


My biggest problem with Bushwick today is less to do with the art on its walls going from small tags to paid murals, but more so with the developers’ abuse of it for profit.

Bushwick is so rich with culture, and as a gentrifier there’s not much we can really do to help it besides support local businesses and contribute to keeping or growing what’s already there.

I think the concept around paid graffiti tours and private murals as an apartment selling point, “only to be seen by building residents” is the biggest form of selling out. It’s trying to privatize street art, which is the antithesis of what street art stands for.

So, if I was really trying to make a message, I'd probably just find a way to take those private murals used as selling points in newly built buildings and wheat paste them everywhere.

Shout out to Noam Nayberg, an insanely talented person who I worked on this project with.


Also, in 2020 during the pandemic, for your 21st birthday, you had your first ever clothing drop.

All the profits you made from this drop were selflessly donated to Feeding the Carolinas, a charity that donates meals to food banks for those unable to eat due to the detrimental financial impact of the virus, protests, and political climate.

What inspired you to act during such a confusing time in the world and give back to the community?


This project came out of an anger towards what was happening in the world at that time, mixed with the urge to make something meaningful out of the time I was otherwise wasting away in my small apartment.

I originally made the design for youtuber Kofi's (IcyKof) brand at the time, Sohokids. It originally said, “Soho Kids” and was for a charity in London, but that whole project ended up getting scrapped, so I said fuck it, let me just do it myself.

I was able to do basically everything for free. I pitched this idea of a non-profit based drop to blank manufacturers inspired by everyone stuck at home, and to make the best of it versus risking yourself to be immunocompromised.

Everybody-World was down to donate some of their unused sample blank hoodies and tees, and I got a local printer I knew in NC to screen print them.

Photos: Calvin Ogden


I chose Feeding the Carolinas, because it was a charity where I was raised in Wilmington, NC and at that time the city’s homeless population was really struggling to find food, because central Wilmington was a food desert in addition to Covid. It was coming up on Thanksgiving, so I thought it could help towards giving that opportunity to people who struggled to get food.

It definitely influenced my direction mainly towards where I wanted to take my thesis for college.

Ari (Ari Saal Forman) also helped a lot in guiding my ideas after doing this into focusing my career more towards working with brands that took a more intentional approach towards the cultures and ideals they represent.



Your senior thesis project from 2022, “SOUP,” was created under the mantra of, “A design guide made from the world around it.”

It challenges the industry, stating no design nowadays is original, everything has been done before, art is derivative, and asks the question of, “How can a new artist pave their way in an industry filled with copycats?”

How did this project translate/align when you worked for real-world businesses?


Soup was a nod to some of the people I was inspired by career and workwise and what inspired them. I felt like I got an opportunity to study the cultural intents of some of the creatives I look up to and this thesis gave me the ability to explore that more.

I also have always been fascinated by this concept of commercial art, which is really just advertising, but back then it used to just be so much better, and it was so much more intentional since a lot of it was advertising products that were bad for you. Today it just feels like a time capsule into what was.

Also, that statement that no design is original, I definitely agree with that more and more as I continue to work for more brands. People love buying what they recognize or can relate to. To work for a brand is to mold your taste around the vision of a brand’s front man which is always translated through references.

Everything I’ve ever made has had a reference and I think that's true for almost all design and art now. I think the way you pave a path through that is by finding references that fit both the vision of the brand you are designing for but also something that’s still in the taste or style of your own interests.

“I think the way you pave a path through that is by finding references that fit both the vision of the brand you are designing for but also something that’s still in the taste or style of your own interests.”

a man and woman standing next to each other holding a bucket

Photo: Calvin Ogden


What were some contrasting aspects and similar aspects between work you had to do for school and professional design work?


Oh man, real work is way different, and you were never taught how to do your taxes in art school, especially as a freelancer which might’ve been the biggest learning curve for me. School definitely pushed us towards more of a career-based job versus working freelance which was good and bad.

I kinda fell into freelance initially as an accident, which was fun, but I found it really difficult figuring how to set my own rates, setup invoices, all that stuff. Also, I never knew how common things like kill fees, or NDAs were so that was a weird adjustment. Also doing in-person critiques still exist but are much different with clients versus professors.

Since there’s a few lanes post-college where one could take a graphic design degree, like coding an app, or designing book layouts, I found myself into a weirder, less popular lane that as a result got less ironed out in school.




You’re currently working for NC-based Cape Fear Market and NYC-based Stay Cool NYC.

What would you say is the most important piece or aspect of keeping a brand’s identity intact in your designs, evaluating what is best for the community, and reflecting on it?


Through working with brands in a bunch of different places, I think the biggest aspect of a brand’s success is their ability to build a community based around the place or space they want to exist within.

I used to have these marathon calls with Bradley Carbone of Sneeze Mag, coming out of school when work was slow and finding my place was still hard. Throughout those calls he would tell me about the most important aspects of brands, which is their community.

One thing I really latched onto was how a brand’s consumer contextualizes the brand. That changed my entire view on how to design for a brand. Where to look for references, collaborations, everything comes from who the

brand wants its consumer to be.

“Through working with brands in a bunch of different places, I think the biggest aspect of a brand’s success is their ability to build a community based around the place or space they want to exist within.”

This feels obvious, but thinking more into it, the brands I see having the most success are those doing these things intentionally. I think Born x Raised in LA and Andrew in Miami, as well as Supreme of course are amazing examples of this. They do collabs with places that build upon where they exist and push the culture of those places forward.

With Staycool, that place to the founder has always existed as nostalgia, so we are pushing into that more than ever before. Think of some brands you might find nostalgic to your childhood, or what you saw on tv growing up, because you’ll start to see it more in Staycool’s product soon.

Photos: Calvin Ogden


Your Design Studio, HUMAN RESOURCES, has done impressive work for companies like 4WORTHDOING (4WD), A New York Thing (ANYTHING), Rowing Blazers, Bruce Glen Collection, and

Warm and Wonderful to name a few.

Photos: Calvin Ogden


What are some of the coolest moments/highlights/stories you’ve had working for these brands?


I mean there's the obvious like getting to work with brands like Supreme or Gucci. For sure the time I accidentally made a custom set for Maluma’s Madison Square Garden concert would be up there. The photos of him wearing it on stage also turned out so good too.

There are those little ego boost ones like seeing people rocking with what I've made, like Emrata,

Pete Davidson, or

Timothy Chalamet.

But for me, I think seeing people I personally look up to wearing it is cool too like Kunle Martins of Irak and Hank Korsan being shot by Ryan Mcginely for the collection I designed with Aaron Bondaroff for his art practice/brand, 4WORTHDOING.

A cool moment for me was seeing Alastair Mckimm of I-D repost a tee I also did for Aaron a few years back.

Photos: Calvin Ogden


There are also weird ones like seeing A24 make shirts with the same Hex colorway of a t-shirt I put as a link in a job application I sent into them and never heard back from lol. I’m not really sure if I’m to be flattered by that, but it was cool to see.

My favorite thing to come out of my career I guess you can call it so far is befriending the people I looked up to in college.

Just the other week for example I ended up at Ari’s apartment and we just sat on his couch and watched the MTV music video channel on his TV for hours after buying matching hats at the Polo Mansion. He lowkey has become like my New York uncle and it's so fun.


How has working for these different brands changed your personal style?

Have all of them influenced you in their own way?


I don’t know if per se they’ve changed my personal style, but more so I kind of adapted where I want to work around my own. I never really applied or reached out to any place I didn’t want to work with; knowing that the worst that could happen was being told no kept me going until stuff started picking up.

I think having the personal freedom to work with the clients and people I wanted to work with post-graduation was the biggest career goal of mine and I’m happy to be getting there slowly but surely.



What’s in store for you in the future?


Hmm, there's some career decisions of mine I don’t necessarily regret, but ones I’d be happy to see roll around again in a different form. I had the chance to work with a few of the biggest brands out there and I dipped out of them because I wanted to stay in New York, and I am happy with that decision but to work with them again would definitely be a milestone for me.

Also, to continue building out my personal random studio practice while also helping my friends in NC is a huge goal of mine. I’m gonna start up making merch with them themed around some pretty insane stuff we’ve been finding so I’m super excited for that. Other than just meeting new people, finding, and growing with new and bigger opportunities until I can eventually launch my own studio is the main goal.

Also, to get out of this country eventually would be nice lol. Maybe make a movie too, who knows.


Advice to future creatives?

Reach out to those who inspire you!!!! The worst they can say is no (or steal your work I guess but just be more careful about that one than I was lol). Also, learn about taxes, and how to set your rates before you get a job.

Current song you have on rotation?

I just watched a movie called The Sweet East directed by the cinematographer of Good Time and the title track of it is amazing. It’s called Evening Mirror by Paul Grimstead and Talia Ryder. Also, the new Mt. Kimbie stuff is really good.

Media: lenvi & thesweeteast

You have a wide variety of playlists on Spotify. Which one holds the best memories and why?

I try to make a playlist based around the different trips I’ve gone on, the Utah one is probably my favorite one so far, that was one of the prettiest trips in recent memory and I feel like the playlist played a big part in that, driving through places like Antelope Canyon blasting it. Also, I love the act of making playlists to find new music, sometimes I just add a single song I like to find more music like it. Spotify will forever be the best.

If it were my first time going to NYC, which restaurant is a must on a checklist?

Roberta’s but only the one in Bushwick. Preferably around Christmas when it’s Grinch themed.

Also, Ludlow for coffee, I’m there way too often.

If you could create a candle out of your favorite smell, what would it be?

I’d just copy whatever is in the Kuumba Sweet Rain Incense, I don’t know what it is but it’s perfect.

What item do you think everyone should have, but not enough people do?

A tide stick, I always have one of those on me, you never know what may splash onto you in New York. Also, a cat.

What is your biggest non-academic, non-work-related accomplishment?

Probably the Stay Home capsule. I organized that whole thing solo for as little money as possible in peak covid and seeing it sell out and raise more than my goal for a charity that was very personal to me felt like a huge accomplishment.

Favorite Calvin and Hobbes book?

My favorite book is probably It’s A Magical World but I love all of them. There’s a line in it where he says, “I pragmatically turn my whims into principles” and I can relate to that like nothing else. I think my favorite individual cartoon is Bad Calvin, also with how it’s been adapted into modern day, it’s the epitome of what I’ve been saying about no design is original, you can’t escape him and his antics. I wonder what Watterson thinks about it all the time.

a comic strip about a cat and a dog

Creative you should be on the lookout for?

Seth Fountain, and Leisure Centre as a whole, those guys are cooking up some crazy stuff and I love it. Also, I have to shout out the Parsons friends, Skylar Hertz, and his brand Skyco Studios, as well as my friend Izzy Kostrzewa and her brand, ISABOKO, both of them have such powerful energy, expect to see more of them soon.

What is the significance of

Calvin in your designs?

Has there been a Hobbes in your life?

Everytime people hear that my name’s Calvin they jokingly say “Klein,” as if that’s who my name stemmed from based on where I am now, but my parents actually named me after the comic book strip funny enough. I got into fashion too through comic books, that’s always been a weird life parallel that’s fascinated me.

Watterson's cartoon is so nonconsensually intertwined with commercialization through pop culture and bootlegging just like how I view the art world, it’s like how if the shoe fits, wear it. The way comics fit in between the worlds of art and advertising, the area I feel like my individual work in fashion so far has mostly lived in, a form of wearable mass printed art to be consumed by wearers like how books are bought to be read.

Maybe the comic itself is my Hobbes. But outside of that, I don’t think there’s necessarily a literal Hobbes in my life, but it’s definitely marked down at the top of my list of name ideas for my next cat.

Thank you for reading!

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