Visiting artist Jeff Barfoot’s exhibit, “I Don’t Sleep,” is named for its insomniac creator and is a fun romp into a land characterized by bright colors and clean lines. Barfoot’s personal work, produced for his small business Bee Things, brings to mind modern children’s book covers with its geometric patterns and vivid hues. His commercial work is similarly cheerful and fun.
The spring visiting artist is chosen by one of MSU’s student guilds each year. For 2019, the Graphic Design Guild put forth Barfoot’s name, citing his dual career in personal and commercial work as the reason for its choice. Jessica Hays, the director of Arts and Exhibits for ASMSU, partnered with the Guild to bring Barfoot to the Exit Gallery in SUB 212. The Gallery will host Barfoot’s exhibit every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Feb. 22.
Barfoot is the managing principal and creative director for RBMM, the brand identity group linked to the Richards Group. He is also a past president and board member for the Dallas Society of Visual Communications and runs his small business with his wife, creating designs and screen-print paper products and home goods.
Barfoot himself is as engaging and clever as his work. He sports a short, spiky haircut that elegantly describes his sharp and funny personality. During the artist reception, Barfoot told anecdotes about the compositions of his work, laughing throughout a story about drinking with friends during a poster shoot. Throughout his lecture, Barfoot interspersed photographs of his wiener dog and joked about his “stupid, silly” work.
While Barfoot’s may tend toward self-deprecation, he does graphic design for many influential and important companies. During his career with RBMM, Barfoot and his team have worked with such brands as Target and AT&T and developed brand identities for the Dallas Theater Center and Texas Live.
However, Barfoot’s larger commercial works don’t outshine his smaller, more personal ones. The inspiration for Bee Things came out of a baby idea. His wife was pregnant with the couple’s first child, and Barfoot prepared snack bags for her to satisfy her cravings at work. Each day, he tucked a small doodle into the bag. Eventually, the pair began screen-printing these doodles out of their garage. Eventually, their side hustle bloomed into a flourishing online business.
As an insomniac, Barfoot has faced multiple obstacles in his life. However, he always keeps a positive outlook. In response to a student question about self-doubt, Barfoot said, “It never stops, but you just have to keep going. The fear of failure keeps you humble and driven.” In this turbulent second semester, there’s no better motto than that.