Matt is a graphic designer, photographer, and fashion enthusiast living in Santa Cruz. He tells us about his experience with school, how he's stayed busy during the global pandemic, and reveals the best spots in Santa Cruz.
I went to school at San Jose State University. As a commuter I felt my rural lifestyle in Santa Cruz juxtaposed against the ever-shifting landscape of Silicon Valley. Initially, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of startups, tech companies, and other designers bringing their A game to an established space. But the change of scenery was welcome. I learned to be at peace amongst the chaos, and I'm thankful to have San Jose nearby because of its unique place in the world. My studies at school echoed this: new design technologies build upon familiar and foundational design concepts.
Having graduated less than a year ago, I’m hoping to mesh my love of graphic design with what gives me lifeblood in my day to day. Ideally, that would be something to do with fashion, music, and other work within the creative realm. All graphic work is fun for me: the corporate and far-reaching, or the more intimately creative. It’s puzzle-solving with variable artistic flair. As for specific projects, I had the opportunity to develop the brand identity for “Dry Clean,” a second hand store in Oakland, and I got to do graphics and video campaigns for an LED company I helped start up throughout my college career. I feel like the world is my oyster, and I could not be more excited to see what the future holds.
My photography is typically nature-centric by virtue of being in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Hiking felt like one of the only appropriate things to do during this pandemic. I decided that I wasn’t going to stay computer bound. So I spent much of my time in my local woods, snapping photos in a variety of ways and at different times of the day. Being in the thick of the woods, light comes in when it can through layers upon layers of branches. This creates extreme contrast between pitch black knolls, the forest floor, and whatever the light decides to beam down upon. I'm lucky in that I can bring my camera out at any time of the day, rain or shine, and get gorgeous, studio-like lighting in my shots. The state park that I frequent has some phenomenal fauna, and I’ve got a place ripe for photography that I can be proud of. Nature is doing the work. I’m just there to document it. The process is meditative for me.
Fashion being a big interest for me, I love outfit pictures. I especially love the range- they can be playful or dramatic. My own emotion around them is usually lighthearted. Putting together an outfit is like the real-life version of a “character select screen.” Photos can transform an otherwise casual and everyday garments into something imaginative, or vice-versa, turn an outlandish silhouette into something approachable and grounded. That dichotomy between experience and appearance makes fashion as a whole in our ever-growing online landscape interesting to me.
I was an only child, which meant I could think out loud when no one else was there. And honestly, being an only child also meant vying for attention. That tendancy led to me doing theatre from middle school to my initial years in college, eventually falling away from performance to concentrate on my studies. But I still had that knack to create and talk about my passions. looking back, I thoroughly enjoyed just being able to talk to others about what I love ad nauseum. And YouTube is the perfect medium for that kind of thing.
The first steps in my fashion journey were informed by some of the OG fashion YouTubers. Jacob J Keller, Sangiev, and Fernando Rangel, to name a few. I always felt like I could give my spin on the subject of fashion, but I didn't have the equipment to produce videos to the bar of quality that I would want. Originality is also important to me. I didn’t want to be redundant. It turns out timing was key. The coronavirus hit as I finished my last semester and I got a new camera. making videos gave me solace in the darkest and most aimless time of my life so far.
I initially started creating videos around Acronym. The brand’s detail-oriented approach and 20+ year catalog creates a clandestine world, equal parts enthralling and convoluted. “How is something so cool not more widespread?” I thought. I wanted to bring into focus three things: the history behind a piece, the intricacies of all the user-oriented functions, and how it could be incorporated into a wardrobe. And Acronym was the perfect subject.
It was hard to stay tied to one brand. I quickly expanded into shoes, other brands I felt passionate about, and whatever else I happened to pick up. There's something ineffable about articulating and sharing one’s passions, and I hope to keep doing that with my channel. I don’t expect anything to come of it, but It’s been a phenomenal outlet for myself.
That's right- born and raised. I've been here 24 years and counting.
I wasn't always so keen on Santa Cruz. When I was in college, the quaint downtown and familiar scenes didn’t foster much excitement. I would always drive to Berkeley, San Jose, or San Francisco to be with large friend groups I had met online or through hobbies. But ultimately the many positives outweighed this small bout of rebelious angst.
First, the nature. The ocean and woodland are literally life-giving. We have one of the most diverse marine life areas in the world, somehing the community wears proudly on their sleeve. The human population is diverse as well, hosting residents of a wide variety of age groups and backgrounds. Santa Cruz can be insular, but it never feels sheltered. Besides, I have many nearby options for travel.
The proximity to Silicon Valley and San Francisco is a plus. I feel like I have my own space in Santa Cruz without being too far away from the hustle and bustle of global superpower urban environments. I don’t mind commuting either, especially when it’s so pretty outside.
Anywhere steeped in nature. Nicene Marks State Park is where I get a majority of my photography done. It’s so lush and expansive, you can go every day of the week and see something new each time. Pleasure Point has been a recent favorite as well. On a clear day, you can look out and see the rest of the county. It hosts a myriad of world-renowned surf spots for beach rat locals. In addition, Pleasure Point Market has one of the best breakfast burritos and tuna melts you can get. After your burrito, you can go down the street to Verve, a Santa Cruz mainstay third-wave coffee shop. Verve has since gone global, with stores in Japan and throughout California, but the original is still here in Santa Cruz.
On the topic of food, Zoccoli’s Delicatessen downtown has one of the best pesto chicken sandwiches you can get, and it’s also right next to a Verve. Finally, one of the recent places I’ve loved to go is a shop called Moon Zoom. While Santa Cruz is otherwise fashion-starved, Moon Zoom is a tried and true vintage place that smells like hell but is wall to wall with interesting garments. I’ve found many a gem there.
Right now? I’m surfing. I first learned how to surf when I was in middle school, but pretty much stopped ultil recently. With more time on my hands and an itch to get outside, surfing is a means of exercise, a hobby, and a social experience all at once. Getting in the water feels good, and it reconnects with something I had almost forgotten. Surfing is the reason a lot of people move to Santa Cruz in the first place, so it feels great to hop back into the big local hobby.
I've also been playing tabletop games. I enjoy playing Magic the Gathering with one of my friends, and I'm really trying to get into Dungeons and Dragons. Hopefully I can play more campaigns when larger groups of people can meet again. It’s been a while since I’ve been excited about something like that.
You can check outMatt's work on his personal portfolio, his fashion-focused channel on YouTube, and follow his misadventures on Instagram at @goon._.matt.