Braving the Woods with Brad Woodard

Brave the Woods

Krystal and Brad Woodard

If it’s true that Texas is the new California – Austin must be the new San Francisco. No trolley-cars, but the town has a vibrant community of independent businesses, and some very creative design houses (a symbiotic relationship). In other words, it’s a hothouse for creative signage. Today’s post takes us to sunny Austin to meet up with illustrator Brad Woodard, one half of the husband and wife design team known as ‘Brave the Woods‘. Though not in the sign industry, this duo has produces a never-ending stream of beautiful posters and typographical creations.

I haven’t had the chance to design an actual sign yet. You better believe it is on my bucket list, though – someday!

Logo Sign Brave the Woods

Not a sign, but definitely inspired by the roadside signage of the fifties and sixties – a logo for The Make Den

logo pencil sketches

Original Pencil Sketches

Why ‘Brave the Woods’?

I chose the name, Brave the Woods, for multiple reasons. One, it shares my initials. Which was actually quite important seeing as I was re-branding myself, and I didn’t want there to be too much of a disconnect initially between me and the new brand. Two, it comes from the etymology of my surname, Woodard. Which actually means “guardian of the woods”. And lastly, number three, I like that it is a call to action. It is our logo and slogan all wrapped in one.

Business Card Letterpress

Does Brad go after projects, or do the projects find him?

Today I am fortunate enough to have a bit of both. Many times I will contact companies who create or sell awesome products, and shoot them ideas for new products in my style. But yes, people come to me asking me to do a project in the style of one of my previous works. That has been the biggest testament to me, to make sure the work on my website is the type of work or style I wouldn’t mind doing again.

Poster by Brad Woodward

My process varies almost every project. Each project I try something new with colors, technique, the tools I use, whatever. I have a hard time getting into a routine process for creating because I am too curious and rarely satisfied. Currently I have been working a lot more in Photoshop. I tend to create and scan in a lot of my own textures and create brushes out of them. And the Wacom tablet is becoming more of a friend to me than ever. I love the clean shapes and edges that vectors can provide, but right now I am in the phase of experimenting with a more loose style. Check again in a few months, and I will probably be doing something completely different.

Poster by Brave the Woods

Brave the Woods started in Boston. Why the move to Austin?

We have wanted to move to Austin for four years now. My wife visited Austin back when we were in college, for a journalism conference, and she fell in love with the town. From then we have been researching and asking everyone about the town. The biggest things we liked about Austin were the excellent schools, creative culture, low cost of living, warm, and just a great place for small business, though we would only move here once we were ready to start our own business. Then last year we decided we were ready after building up a client base and stocking our savings account. So here we are. Living in Austin so far has been exactly what we hoped it would be like.


Oh yes, all the beautiful signage here is so nice to see. Signage says a lot about your company right away. Effective signage attracts and excites the onlooker. Signs are meant to capture your attention and provide you with a small glimpse of what you will experience with that business. The first impression is everything when people are deciding which business they are going to choose over the myriad of others just like them. A solid brand, displayed creatively and boldly out front goes a long way.

signs in Austin

A great example of Austin’s signage; Frank Sausages & Beer, by Helms Workshop

At the moment I am working on a lot of fun projects. I am illustrating a children’s book, creating a logo for a clothing company, making dinosaur toys, creating science posters, and more. I love that I get to work on something completely new every day.

The older I get, the more I appreciate things. For example, I love certain music from almost every genre, because I can appreciate the talent and skill that goes into a specific song. Same goes for most everything else. I used to solely search out my inspiration from the era of mid-century modern design. Though I still very much love the work that came out of the era, with Alvin Lustig, Charley Harper, Ray and Charles Eames, and so many more, I like to glean inspiration from a larger pool. It is changing how I approach my work, and helping me discover my own unique approach to design and illustration.

Charles and Ray Eames Blocks

Eames-inspired Alphabet Blocks, by House Industries.

Making connections, collaborating on projects, doing people favors and cross-promoting are just some of the things I have tried very hard to do as a professional in the creative world. Other creatives inspire me. I look up to them and admire their work. By sticking close to them I learn a ton and I make good friends. Not to mention, when we put our heads together we can make something ten times better than if I just did it myself. Now that I work alone in my studio, it is important for me to stay connected. Good things happen when you have talented friends. I just do my best to make sure I am being genuine and giving as much as I take. I am not the best or smartest, so I make friends with people who are.

Speaking of collaboration, take a look at the Brave the Woods Blog, in which Brad and Krystal generously feature the work of dozens of other designers and makers. But here’s a bit more of their own work:

Mid Century LA Map

A Map & visitor guide to ‘Old L.A.’, for Herb Lester

Map design

Map Detail

Branding for Camp NaNoWriMo Brave the Woods

I enjoy any project that let’s me play and experiment. I feel fortunate to have a whole host of those on my plate at the moment, so I can’t complain. But if I had to name one that stood out, I would say one of my more favorite projects to work on was the Camp NaNoWriMo poster and swag. It was a mixture of everything I love: camping, colors, animals, lettering, promoting education…so fun. – Brad

Finally, if you are interested in hiring Brad to design a sign, we’d be happy to make it!

3 thoughts on “Braving the Woods with Brad Woodard

  1. These guys are great. Just visited their blog and there’s just a ton of stuff to look at there. Love their clean, bright style. Thanks for this.

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