rick valicenti portrait


3st founder, rick valicenti (RV) tells designboom (DB) about his work…


DB: what did you do before you founded 3st?RV: my real on the job training as a designer followed an MFA in photography and two years of agency production work at bruce beck design.


I opened the design practice in 1981 with a most un-inspired title ‘r. valicenti design’. In 1988, I was compelled to change the direction towards creating ‘art with function’, and was seeking out a new moniker. while in correspondence with phillipe starck, he let a typo slip (‘3st’ instead of ‘3rd’) , which inspired the expression I was looking for: ‘thirst’.



rick valicenti (3st) interviewset of four posters for the 10th annual chicago creative exposition, 2013



rick valicenti (3st) interview




DB: how many people work at 3st and how do you divide your workload?RV: the emphasis of the design is led by myself, john pobojewski, and bud rodecker. there is collaboration between the three of us, but the individual client interaction is usually personalized by one of us. five other talented folks also reside within our studio, from graphic designers to industrial designers to musicians to programmers.


DB: which have been your most significant and satisfying projects to date and why?RV: for me, ultimately, the answer is personal!for significance, I feel the FLUIDITY identity seems to speak on the spirit of invention that lies within our studio. we were tasked with discovering a meaningful expression of water, and ultimately found that it was not one expression but an infinite number that were one with the subject matter.


as such, we created a piece of software to generate expressions of the mark that aligned with water’s dynamics, from ‘refracted’ to ‘rippled.’ no two marks are ever the same, much like the medium itself. of course, this becomes evident on the website and in other materials…


for personal satisfaction, last year’s self-initiated design intervention/exhibition ARK OF THE ARCHETYPES, THE PROJECTION OF POLITICS, I painted portraits of president obama with images from pop culture, expressing 50 unique ‘archetypes’ that the american public demands of our leader-in-chief. it’s the sum of these impressions that paints the portrait of US. we trust our elected individuals to be of the people, for the people.


as for ‘why,’ it just felt like a meaningful thing to do!




rick valicenti (3st) interview

‘fluidity’ corporate identity system, 2012




rick valicenti (3st) interviewpublic design interventioninland steel lobby, chicago, 2012the ark of the archetypes, the projection of politics



rick valicenti (3st) interviewpublic design interventioninland steel lobby, chicago, 2012the ark of the archetypes, the projection of politics



DB: what is your favorite type of project?RV: I personally enjoy working across all media platforms and at many different scales. My least favorite projects are the ones that look and feel like those that I have already been engaged. I prefer those that challenge us to present a window to a solution that fuses intelligent problem solving with the surprise of the unexpected. I suppose that is why the portfolio looks the way it does.


DB: who or what would you say influences you the most?RV: the tradition of graphic design is peppered with designers who led studio practices field by curiosity, play, and invention. on any given day I am inspired by the corpus of laszlo moholy nagy, herbert bayer, april greiman, etc.


DB: besides your professional work – what do you have a passion for and why?RV: I love listening to all kinds of music that lives on the edge of its time and place, however, I never remember who the artists are! at the end of last year I was in the front rows for cat power, okkyung lee,  and david behrman. next month in chicago I will see the tame impalas. and a few weeks ago while in LA I caught a john cale performance. needless to say, I am just curious and like the night out.



rick valicenti (3st) interview

obama on the occasion of the nobel peace prizepromotional alphabet book, 11 x 14”, 2011stop the violence





rick valicenti (3st) interviewarcheworks contribution to the 2010 venice bienalle3-minute animated video and sound designgive gather grow


gather, give, grow: archeworks MFC from thirst / a design collaborative on vimeo



rick valicenti (3st) interviewcolumbia college media production center, 2010



rick valicenti (3st) interviewcolumbia college media production centerunder-stair lounge, 2010fictitious TV test patterns



rick valicenti (3st) interview

enforcer- type manipulationtypeforce catalog forward, 2010



rick valicenti (3st) interviewidentity logotype for wright auctions, 2008



rick valicenti (3st) interviewbusiness card for wright auctions



DB: what is the best piece of advice you have ever been givensomething that I always remember was told to me by morton goldsholl, a chicago design legend and student of moholy nagy’s first class at the new bauhaus:


on a rainy night some 30 years ago I drove to mort’s office to meet the man with a friend, michael glass, and together we stood soaked, knocking at his front door. when he answered, we were both completely tongue tied. out of panic, I asked, ‘if you could share any wisdom with two young designers what would it be?’  mort answered with, ‘I have three words for you both – take a risk.’ then he closed the door, and we left!


DB: what is the worst piece of advice you have ever been givenIn my early days of trying to figure out how the design practice worked, I was often told: ‘DON’T BE SO CREATIVE.’




rick valicenti (3st) interviewabacus – representative project official selection sundance film festival limited edition commemorative poster series, 2012



rick valicenti (3st) interview




rick valicenti (3st) interview

showboat commemorative poster for lyric opera of chicago2012



rick valicenti (3st) interview

‘outlaws + icons’ commemorative poster for gravity free international design conference2012



rick valicenti (3st) interview

 lecture series poster for the illinois institute of technology, college of architecture




rick valicenti (3st) interview

the loeb fellowship, harvard universitycommemorative poster 2007



rick valicenti (3st) interview

the loeb fellowship, harvard universitycommemorative poster 2009