I'm Joe Wirtheim and here at my studio, I love what I do: think, draw, make and do. It's my passion to communicate graphically and put creative ideas into action that drives me. I use illustration, type, color and layout to excite the viewer's imagination.
My design work has been recognized by The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living Magazine, by Organic Gardening Magazine, by the Portland Art Museum, the Design Museum Boston, the NBA Portland Trail Blazers among others, and our goods can be found in fine shops and homes across the United States.
More Bio on Joe
I'm originally from a working-class suburb of Dayton, Ohio. In high school, I took lots of industrial arts classes, wood shop and drafting. I also worked as a grocery store cashier after school, and a bicycle shop in the summers. A scholarship took me to Sinclair Community College where I eagerly studied industrial engineering, while working as a CAD design detailer for tool designers doing manufacturing tooling—automotive mostly. Then a lucky connection brought me in contact with a pipe organ maker in Columbus, Ohio. The craft and novelty of the operation, with its many facets, both charmed and interested me for several years. I worked as the Design Engineer, making the production drawings of new pipe organs. It was at this time that I became interested in photography and printing, not to mention zine-making and the arts in general.
I was 26 when I quit the job and struck off on my own—back to school earning an AAS in Graphic Communication from Columbus State Community College, where I was mostly interested in studio photography. I painted houses and worked at a food co-op to make it happen. By 2007 I had become hooked on screen printing posters. The screen-making process is similar to the darkroom photo-printing process, so that I understood, but what hooked me was the power of ink and color on paper. The fascinating stories that a single poster—made of only word and image—conveys is just a lovely exercise in poetic brevity. I began searching my own feelings about my life in central Ohio, and began creating posters that were retro yet modern and spoke to an alternative narrative for Americans. The food co-op experience just caused me to see consumption differently and I wanted to enjoy making something positive, which is why I focused on the story of the Victory Garden movement in the 1940’s.
A move to Portland, Oregon enabled more school: a B.S. in Communication, with further studies in Urban Development and Journalism from Portland State University. The key experience at PSU, for me, was editing a student-run magazine, where we rebuilt the publication from the ground up to create a successful local glossy magazine full of original news and opinion (not to mention great design and photography). Leaping out of the school experience, I had the lucky break of a small feature in an issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, which really marked the founding of my own design studio.
J. Wirtheim Design is where I work today, turning neat ideas into action. I currently live in NE Portland with my lovely wife, Taylor who is an elementary school teacher. Follow me on Instagram.