Andy and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamspace

Andy Gregg’s exuberant palette has captivated everyone from Microsoft to Beck. It even required a name change.

Andy Gregg, super designer, Watkins alum

“Andy Gregg” has a nice ring to it when you’re a mild-mannered illustrator by day at a global marketing agency. But bold artist riding the chromatic spectrum by night to create a vividly colorful look of the future? That needed something more.

“My name is a little ho-hum,” Gregg says with a chuckle. “I never liked operating under just my name, so when I was still doing full-time work I started operating under the Super banner. At first it was just a way to kind of house my freelance work under one title, but slowly I started getting repeat customers, and potential clients would identify me as Super.”

There is decidedly nothing ho-hum about Gregg’s art, and over the last three years his freelance side business evolved into Super, a design, illustration, lettering, and motion company that he runs with his wife, Lex, in Chicago. The “S” is in the logo instead of on Gregg’s chest, and though he can’t fly across the city fighting crime, business is so good Gregg recently left his position as a senior designer at Digitas North America to give Super a go full time.

It’s a great place to be eight years after graduating from Watkins with a design degree, and Gregg admits he finds himself a bit surprised sometimes at how things have worked out. Not as surprised, however, as some people from his youth might be—probably because their memories are of an aspiring punk rocker with a hairstyle that didn’t exactly scream nose-to-the-grindstone professional.

You talk to any of my classmates at the time and they’ll recount to you a vibrant red Mohawk with leopard print on the side of my head.

“I get into a bad workaholic habit where I have trouble slowing down. I don’t know if any of my high school teachers would have predicted that,” Gregg laughs. “I never had enough talent to play an instrument. I was the singer, which in the punk world is the yeller. I was doing the band thing at Watkins for the first year and a half or so. You talk to any of my classmates at the time and they’ll recount to you a vibrant red Mohawk with leopard print on the side of my head.”

In retrospect, however, the look was more predictive than it may seem. Once Gregg began to unlock his talent at Watkins, he found himself drawn toward creating visuals dazzling with arrays of brilliant colors. Think sensory overload at a mall arcade, if you’re old enough.

“I tend to gravitate toward a few different aesthetics, but the broadest things I can categorize it as is I tend to be a ‘nostalgist’… A lot of my work is built around the video games of my youth—old-school, 16-bit video games. Another aesthetic I’ll pull from is really sloppy, bad airbrush art from the 70s and 80s,” he says. “My color palettes are very 90s. They tend to be vibrant and neon-focused. As far as inspirations go, those are my wheelhouses.”

Turns out, vibrant and neon-focused were what legendary rock star Beck was looking for when he was making the video for “Wow,” a single off his 2017 album Colors. It wasn’t the first time Gregg has been approached by an anonymous client, but it was the first time the client turned out to be a childhood hero.

“I’m a kid of the 90s, and Beck was the man for us. That was part of the soundtrack when I was in school,” Gregg says. “There was a lot of secrecy behind it, kind of like a lot of the projects that I work on. You first get a message from somebody at a video-editing agency, and you get this mysterious non-disclosure agreement that you have to sign before they’ll tell you anything about it. I always get excited when I get those, and luckily I was not disappointed.”

Gregg was asked to submit his five favorite video installations that he’d done on his rather unusual preferred medium: Cathode-ray tube (CRT) televisions. Ultimately, three were used in the video, which can be seen here.

“In my spare time, which isn’t a lot, I work on illustration and animation and video installation,” he says. “I tend to focus as my medium on pixel art, and I often project those on old-school CRT televisions, those boxy TVs that kind of died out in the early 2000s.”

Beck is certainly Super’s most high-profile client, but Andy and Lex have built a healthy base out of their live-work space on the west side of the city. Gregg has found a niche creating animations for mobile device video-game companies, and for big jobs like a recent one for Microsoft, Super brings in freelancers.

Andy Gregg, illustrator and designer known as Super

For everything Super does, however, Lex—also a 2010 Watkins graduate—is a key part of the operation. Her full name is Alexis, and her last name was Hicks until the two married about a year ago. “She’s a really good writer, so if we need copywriting I’ll work with her on that and she helps concept a lot of stuff. We tend to work really well together with brainstorming,” Gregg says.

Lex isn’t the only piece of Gregg’s Watkins past still helping him today. He points to graphic design department chair Dan Brawner and associate professors Judith Sweeney O’Bryan and Steve Wilkison as being “incredibly instrumental” to his development.

Brawner taught the importance of being skilled in both design and illustration, while O’Bryan’s patience and positive feedback when Gregg was first starting buoyed his confidence. Wilkison, meanwhile, instilled a basic knowledge of coding that Gregg has found surprisingly useful when talking to development teams.

Super gives Gregg the unique opportunity to meld his personal and professional creations as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up art for art’s sake. For example, in February he’ll unveil a piece at Typeforce, an annual typographic art show in Chicago, for the second time.

“It helps to have shows,” Gregg says. “They asked me to return for their 10th anniversary, so that’s a good way to force me to do personal work: A deadline.”

Examples of Gregg’s work can be seen on the Super website or his Instagram page.