If you’ve seen K2 Fujatives or Public Enemies, everyone would agree that the graphics are some of the best in the industry. Some of you are probably wondering, who’s in charge of the graphics on the skis? Where do these ideas come from, and what can we expect for the future? Newschoolers.com journalist Nick Iwanyshyn caught up with Ryan Schmies, the man filling the K2 sketchbook.

What is the exact job title you have on your business card?

It started out as “Janitor�, or “Septic Coordinator� rather. I got this call to come and work last October with the belief that the ski graphics already under my belt would yield me a graphic design position. Boy, was I wrong. After proving my worth as a master of the custodial arts, they allowed me to do graphic design. I started out doing stuff for a bunch of our divisions, but now focus solely on Ski Marketing Graphic Design, the primary love.

What are some of the projects you have worked with K2 on?

I was first able to do my design internship with the original Public Enemy. My last year in school I designed the current Factory Team skis, (except for the Pistols, done by Seth’s recently deceased friend Josh Malay) and some skate decks for Europe. It was a challenge trying to do my finals and senior design show along with numerous skis. Study, draw, study, draw, drink and draw, study, drink more. Many all-nighters, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. Upon my arrival here, it was lots of various stuff for different divisions, but again, it is now one focus on skiing.

What are you working on right now?

All of the 2005-2006 Factory Team skis. Chad Anderson, the other designer and fellow kook from Wisconsin, and myself are also figuring out all the ads, brochures, hang tags, packaging, stickers, accessories, signage such as posters and banners, and promo swag. I now look back on finals week in university and cackle with a maniacal laugh, as it was simply preparatory.

Can we have some hints to what we might see next?

Monkeys, many monkeys actually, some with wings, perhaps others throwing their feces. You’ll also see various barn creatures, assorted street urchins and crackwhores. Oh yes, not only economically and mentally depressed individuals, but sea urchins as well. And maybe lemurs? That will be the hot shit. I want the new skis to tell a story or have meaning beyond aesthetics if you take the time to figure them out. Visual metaphors for relating different life experiences or the stark realities of our current state of being.

Sounds Very interesting, How do you get the inspiration or the ideas for a project?

From life and the world in which we live. It can be spontaneous. I am always very curious of my surroundings and try to take in as much as I can. Observational experience is education.

Who’s the most fun pro, or ski industry person to work with?

That is a difficult question as I’ve been fortunate to meet lots of great people. I met Mike Gutt at High North four years ago and I’m stoked he came in-house to be team manager about two years back. We work really well together and share the same insights on where things are going in the sport. He got me the initial break to do the Public Enemies. On a non-art note, Shane Szocs and the whole High North crew have been great to work with every summer, and without his invitation to come up year after year, none of this would have fallen into place.

How does the graphic find its way from your paper to the top of a pair of skis? What is the process like?

You have to scan the imagery, tweak it in various applications, piece it together in large files, separate the colors (for screen printing) make plates, start initial prints on large sheets of top material and fine tune and trouble-shoot along the way. Quite the process.

What do you feel when you see someone riding skis with your drawings on the top?

It is still strange, slightly surreal since it was a youthful dream, but I’m happy for sure. It is great if people respond positively to whatever you’ve worked hard on.

10 years ago did you know you were going to be sitting here today?

It sounds weird, but in a way, yes. We always talked about how cool it would be to have the chance to design our own skis. I guess I didn’t realize I could make a living at it until high school. I always previously thought I would be an art teacher.

Have you always been into graphics?

Well, there used to be that utter fascination with Kimi Gibler from Full House.

Not so much graphics, as much as art in general. I had never used any design programs until I started studying design in university. That, in conjunction with classical arts, obviously opens a plethora of doors into further realms of creative possibilities. I enjoy putting a human touch on everything, so as it is not fully contrived on a screen.

What are some future graphic art goals you have in mind?

I want to make K2 as cool as it was when I was younger, and even better for sure. I also want to develop personal styles more, and to make people think a bit.

When you are not working the pen for K2 what are you usually doing?

Skiing, taking pictures, biking, skating on fruitboots, traveling and chilling with friends, enjoying barley pop, working the pen for myself or my friends.

What about your skiing history, what have you accomplished in the past?

My friends and I were on our own program in the middle of Wisconsin (350ft. of vert) when the Candians were getting it started amongst themselves in Quebec and BC. Met them back in the summer of 98’ at the first High North ever. Learned from them and also compared some notes. Never saw a minute of sun and it was still one of the best weeks ever skiing. Got kicked out my home hill at 18, broke my face and had it put back together with 13 titanium plates, four fake chompers and bone from my hip at 20, skied seven weeks later. Got a job at High North, and I’ve also competed for the past six years, winning some and losing others, having a fucking blast on the whole journey. Oh, and Cascade recently welcomed me back with open arms. Super cool.

What do you hope to accomplish in your skiing future?

Be pro-active and find out before-hand when there are comps around here instead of just reading about them on Newschoolers when I get back to work. Keep improving, skiing the goods, and staying healthy.

Do you have any words of wisdom you can share that helped you get to where you are now?

Keep a good head on your shoulders, surround yourself with positive people, a steady diet of cheese curds, bratwurst and High Life, and as cliché as it is, work hard, because it will pay off if you want it to.

“Keep on dreaming boy, ‘cause when you stop dreaming it’s time to die.�

-blind melon

Before we finish up, do you have any shout outs?

My parents, my brother and my family for always believing in me, Shane Szocs for being the man, getting me out to B.C. year after year and playing an instrumental role in getting me where I’m at, Gutt and K2 for handing me a chance to prove myself, Tag and Chris Daniels with Smith, Rachel, all my friends, the Cascade Posse and the Midwest All-Stars, and my professors for never ever being excited for me through any opportunities with skiing or art. Thanks to everyone for supporting what we do here.


Interviews/Profiles