A journey in to the mind of Paul Maniaci

Long-Form Interviews

Graphic Design with Rob Dobi

Rob Dobi

Graphic Designer
New Jersey



Rob Dobi has always loved drawing and majored in Illustration at RISD. A friend introduced him to a band and he ended up designing some tour merchandise for them. After this initial connection he was able to do work for other musicians and a graphic design career unfolded. He has been self employed since 2003 with his company Full Bleed where he makes T-shirts and posters. Rob is a great example of succeeding by taking the chances you are offered and running with them full steam ahead. He’s earning a living on his terms. If you feel unfulfilled in your profession no time is better than now to go find your calling.

CCB: When did you realize you wanted to work as a graphic designer?

RD: It is funny; I don't think I ever really wanted to work as a "graphic designer”. I always wanted to be an illustrator but once I graduated college finding work doing my silly drawings didn't quite go as planned so I had to take up more graphic design related jobs. Right now I try to balance my work between illustration/graphic design/ photography so on some jobs I have to actually ask, "Were you looking to have this done as an illustration or more in the realm of my band work?" 
CCB: How did you break into the industry?

RD: Sort of by accident, my friend Steph introduced me to the guys in Thursday (As well as Fall Out Boy) and they liked what little work I had to show them.They asked if I could send them some ideas for their band so within a few days I sent them something like fifteen ideas for shirt designs. They ended up accepting a few of them and wanted me to create a tour poster for them as well. From there other bands would see the work I had done for Thursday and they wanted me to give it a shot as well. So bands would go on tour and they would tell their tourmates who did their merch (merchandise) and it just kept branching off. 
CCB: Are there certain things you learned as an Illustration major at RISD that have been helpful in your job?

RD: I think the most valuable thing I learned from RISD was how to cram an insane amount of work into a small amount of time and how to function without sleep. 
CCB: How did you learn about graphic design?

RD: Everything graphic design related I do was self-taught. I took very few classes on it in college which was quite a mistake. I majored in Illustration and looking back I should have transferred to GD because my illustration style didn't change that much in those four years so I could have benefited from some additional training in the GD field. 
CCB: Has anyone influenced the work that you do?

RD: Sure! Growing up I was big on the work of comic book artists like Arthur Adams and Mike Mignola. Once I hit college my main influences were guys like Norman Rockwell, Shepard Fairey, Derek Hess and John Heartfield. Lately I like more conceptual stuff. I think the work that Billout and Banksy do are out of this world. 

CCB: Is there a typical day on the job?

RD: Wake up, fruity cheerios + OJ + emails, shower, work, lunch, work, dinner, videogames + bad reality TV + some work, sleep. 

CCB: Are you self employed? If so what are the benefits and drawbacks?

RD: I have been self employed since 2003 and proud of it. The benefits are that I work my own hours; if I want to take a day off to go out and shoot some photos I definitely have the freedom to do so. The main drawbacks are not having actual "benefits" and freedom can kind of become a drawback since your day isn't always that structured and you tend to lose track of what you are doing. 
CCB: Can you talk about Fullbleed (fullbleed.org) and its mission? If it's "not a clothing company" what is it?

RD: The whole "not a clothing company" thing really stems from there being an emergence of T-shirt companies in recent years priding themselves over "sponsoring" really bad bands and leeching off of their success in an attempt to sell really crappy merch. I have never been a big fan of branding and can't stand to see these companies sell shirts for $20 with little more than their logo slapped on it. Fullbleed is really just a way for me to offer my own designs free of branding. I guess it might be a T-shirt company, but don't tell anyone that, it'll be our secret. 
CCB: How did you get involved with so many musicians?

RD: Again, I did some work for Thursday and it kept branching out from there. Word spread fast about me amongst a bunch of bands and at certain points it got overwhelming and I almost felt burnt out on doing stuff for the music industry. Luckily I've learned how to pace myself and not take on so much work that I lose sleep over that (Although my girlfriend might disagree with me on that). 
CCB: Can you give us a quick overview of a project that you might work on and how that creative process goes?

RD: Usually I'll either be contacted by a band’s manager or someone in the band, they'll say they need something and usually give me a brief description of what they are looking for. From there I'll send a few sketches, the client usually chooses one to go with and I'll send them images as the work progresses, making sure I don't get too ahead of myself and make sure they actually like the way the project is turning out.
CCB: What are your philosophies on work?

RD: Always make sure whatever work you do has some of your voice in it, or else you are just being one of the "yes men". If it has been done before, don't do it again.  
CCB: What qualities do you need to succeed as a graphic designer?

RD: I think you definitely need to have your own aesthetic, it always feels good when people recognize my work and say "I knew it was a Dobi". You also need to be a chameleon at times, not everyone wants the same thing you've done 50 xs over and over again. Clients expect you to switch it up once in awhile. You also need to be someone who can get things done fast. 
CCB: Have any advice for people interested in becoming graphic designers?

RD: Develop your own style, get used to being criticized/not having everything work in your favor. Get used to many sleepless nights, get used to changing things 13xs to please clients. 
CCB: What is the most difficult part of your job?

RD: Dealing with clients who don't know what they want, feeding them a million different ideas, and then they ultimately go with the first idea. The absolute pits is dealing with a client when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. The band might like something, and their manager might like it as well, but their label might not. 
CCB: What has been the most rewarding thing about the job so far?

RD: Just seeing kids walking down the street wearing a design of mine is cool enough. It also doesn't hurt when I see Fall Out Boy performing in front of a 30 x 40 foot illustration of mine with pyrotechnics going off in an arena. Seeing people who have tattoos of my work blows my mind. 
CCB: What are your career aspirations and where are you headed?

RD: Ultimately I'd like to continue to do what I'm doing. I'm rather happy with what I've accomplished in a short amount of time.

Check out Rob’s work here: