The
CalArts Alumni Magazine
Nick Steinhardt joined the Touché Amoré when he was a graphic design student at CalArts. Nick Steinhardt joined the Touché Amoré when he was a graphic design student at CalArts.

To the Beat of a Dead Horse

When the hardcore band Touché Amoré played its 1,000th show last year, its members were feeling nostalgic. Nick Steinhardt (Art BFA 09), who has been the band’s guitarist since its start in 2008, had an idea. He wanted to design a retrospective book honoring the 10th anniversary of the band’s first record. The result is Dead Horse X Deluxe Vinyl Book, a limited edition, 148-page work with writings, lyrics, photos, and ephemera from the band’s archives, along with the original LP from 2009 and a re-recorded one.

What fans of the band may not know is that Steinhardt’s career in graphic design is as storied as his music career. In fact, his path to design was choreographed by his love of music. Playing in a band as a young teenager led him to design CD covers and T-shirts. “I was the only one that had any kind of art background, because I took painting and drawing classes most of my life,” he says. Word spread and he began designing CD covers and merchandise for other bands around Southern California. When he applied to CalArts, those designs filled his portfolio.

As a student, he relished learning all things design oriented. He says the school helped push him beyond digital design, led him to

experiment with collage and silk screening, and to express moods through typography. “A lot of people think that design school is a four-year Photoshop class, but it’s the furthest thing from that,” says Steinhardt. “It’s very conceptual and you’re learning how to think and problem solve.” That helped prepare him for an internship with the boutique design firm Smog, which hired him upon graduation and where he still works today.

Just as his design prowess has helped him to best visually represent bands and musicians, his understanding of music helps shape his design concepts. At Smog, Steinhardt has worked with a who’s who of pop musicians— Cher, Tom Petty, Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Pink—to design albums, advertise tours, and market merchandise. “I think my point of view as a musician helps me communicate to others when speaking about their art, and the art direction/design work I do for Touché Amoré has become a platform to showcase that,” he says.

When it comes to his band—whose style he describes as “loud,”—he’s created the graphics for almost everything it’s released in the last 10 years. Steinhardt admits that when he was at CalArts, he didn’t expect that his band would still be together more than a decade later. Back then, he saw school as an opportunity to learn how to design items for the band, and the band pushed him to expand his visual vocabulary. Designing the Dead Horse X Deluxe Vinyl Book gave him the chance to reminisce about both worlds, and he loved every minute of it.

Touché Amoré, Dead Horse X Deluxe Vinyl Book designed Nick Steinhardt.
Touché Amoré, Dead Horse X Deluxe Vinyl Book designed Nick Steinhardt.