About a year ago, I began corresponding with Arturo Bozeman Hernandez, a California entrepreneur who shares my love of 1980s design. One of the many things that impressed me at that time was his knowledge of ’80s graphic design. Then I became aware of the impressive level of detail Art puts into his own creations, particularly when it comes to the graphic design for Rocksteady Fitness, the business he owns with his lovely wife Melissa (he is the Marketing and Operations Manager and she is the Head Trainer). With locations in Ventura and Oxnard, California, Rocksteady offers personal training, group classes and massage therapy.
Then there’s his brilliant marketing plan… Not only is Art aware of the connection between the ’80s and physical fitness, he celebrates that connection, recreating the retro magic in vivid detail on a regular basis. Art’s design reflects his deep knowledge of 1980s style, and he’s racked up quite a portfolio! In fact, even the Facebook announcements he creates for Rocksteady Fitness are infused with the design elements of our favorite decade. But I’m getting ahead of myself… Let’s get to the interview:
First of all, Art, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with Mirror80 about how the 1980s have influenced your life and your business. Let’s start with some basics. Tell us about your connection to the 1980s…
Me and Melissa, my wife and co-owner of Rocksteady Fitness, are children of the 80’s. She was born in 1984, and I was born in 1982. So the 1980’s were a part of of our lives. She’s more of a “right here, right now” person, so I don’t think she has the same affinity for the 80’s that I have (plus, I lived two more years of it than she did). But I’ve always been a huge fan of the 80’s, and my interest has only grown as time has passed. So, as the marketing director of Rocksteady Fitness, one of the reasons that I decided to mix fitness with 80’s is because I wanted to share my interest. It’s fun for me– and for Melissa, it turns out, as well.
Can you talk about your inspiration for the ’80s-style marketing concept of Rocksteady Fitness. (It’s genius, by the way…)
The genesis of the idea was something that just kind of happened. Back in 2010, when Melissa and I were initially planning what would become Rocksteady Fitness, I discovered a little movement in electronic music that was being called “dreamwave,” which could best be described as original music by contemporary artists that is a synthesis of 80’s new wave sounds and modern electronic music. Basically: it’s new 80’s music– as if it never stopped being made. So, I would listen to this music as I would work on developing our business. I started to get these urges to make our marketing 80’s themed as a result, but I initially fought it, thinking it was a dumb idea. Starting a business is a big risk in the first place– you don’t want to increase the risk of it failing by having weird marketing. But I still found myself doodling ideas for logos and conceptualizing artwork and photo shoots, saying to myself, “It’s a dumb idea, but if it could work, this is how I would do it”. It was around this time that I came up with the name Rocksteady Fitness– initially as a placeholder for the business name because I couldn’t commit myself to the 80’s theme.
As Melissa and I did our soul-searching about the purpose of our company, we got stuck on a big dilemma: A lot of people do not enjoy, are intimidated by, or in some cases actually hate exercise. When a person’s perception of caring for their health is to see it as a chore or fear, they won’t likely find much success. So one of our missions was to create a company that would take the dread out of the experience of exercise. With this in mind as I developed our marketing plan, I knew it would be essential for us to grab people’s attention with something different from the norm of fitness marketing. We want people to know up front that exercising with us is not like “that.” So my job as marketing manager became to communicate to people that we make exercise fun. Because so much fitness marketing is all the same– weights, buff bodies, and lots of abs– I could have gone in almost any direction, but everything seemed to lead in a certain direction.
At some point I took the leap and decided to go for it. I designed a logo and printed business cards that said Rocksteady Fitness, and came up with a design aesthetic that was 80’s inspired. We opened in October 2011 and soon after had an 80’s styled photo shoot for promotional photos. Even during the photoshoot we had doubts, wondering if people were going to “get it.” But when the photos went online, people loved them! After that, it all seemed natural and we never questioned it again.
How have the ’80s influenced the various facets of Rocksteady Fitness, such as design?
The 80’s have most heavily influenced our graphic design. We have several motifs that have become cornerstones to our image, which are consistent from our Facebook page and website to our printed class schedules and price sheets. For design work, I find a lot of inspiration from my image collection that I’ve compiled over the years from findings on tumblr blogs, listings on eBay, and other places around the internet. I could spend days scouring ebay to find images of vintage t-shirt designs. My favorites are 80’s and 90’s tourist T-shirts. I also have a small collection of my own 80’s magazines, catalogues and books. I draw some things from memory as well.
Color is also huge for me in terms of design. A lot of my use of color is drawn from memories– but not of anything specific. It’s strange, but I sometimes have these really lucid visions of color combinations in my head that seem to come from a long time ago, and I turn these inspirations into color palettes. Rocksteady Fitness’ color palate is called Miami Beach 1984, consisting of a bright seafoam green, pale yellow, bright white, hot coral, and soft pink. I almost never deviate from those five colors when I design for Rocksteady Fitness.
Have the ‘80s influenced any other aspects of Rocksteady Fitness design, such as company merchandise and interior design?
Our company merchandise is 80’s inspired also, from the print design to the style of the garment. Our members loved the off-the-shoulder sweatshirts that we made last fall. I would like to get some retro-style water bottles, duffle bags and foam/mesh trucker hats printed with our logo.
We haven’t had much of an opportunity to style our fitness facility interior at this point because we’re currently sub-leasing. However, when we eventually move into our own facility, you can bet it will be like nothing you’ve never seen. We are in the process of fixing up our off-site massage studio with some 80’s inspired touches. This branch of Rocksteady Fitness is called Rocksteady Massage Therapy, and it has it’s own branding and look, which is a little more sophisticated, clean, and sleek. The color palate that I created for it is called Synth Bass and includes various shades of purple, neon pink, and light gray. I’ve used a lot of modern pieces of furniture for the interior, a lot of white and glossy black, with accents of colors from the Synth Bass palette.
Let’s talk about your amazing retro-style photo shoots! Tell us about your process for putting them together and making the magic happen…
Our promotional photos are most obviously 80’s themed. Our models from previous shoots are our trainers (my wife, Melissa, and our friend Ariela). We shoot indoors at our fitness facility and our off-site massage studio. Our outdoor shoots are done around the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California, an area that has a very vintage look. My favorite place to shoot is at an abandoned hotel at one of our local harbors. It was probably built in the 60’s, and probably wasn’t updated since the 80’s, by my estimation.
I do the bulk of the behind the scenes work for our photos including location scouting, shopping for wardrobe, styling, and directing the shoot. This helps us to keep a consistent look. I also do all of the post-production work of adding our signature vintage look to the photos. The one thing that I don’t do is the photography. Our official photographer, Billimarie, has done two shoots for us, and we’re hoping to get another one together soon.
Are there specific 1980s design motifs that you are drawn to, either for the business or for your personal style?
For the business we’ve always had two design styles that I move back and forth between. The one that I used initially was an 80’s new wave style of bold colors and abstract shapes. This is mostly inspired by art and graphic design of the mid-80’s through early 90’s. Influences for this style include the design work of April Greiman, 80’s ska style, and the California surf culture of the 80’s/90’s. Our primary logo, which is a palm tree with three lines through it, is most commonly used for this design style, and you’ll also see lots of black and white checker patterns used. I have a strange way of describing styles by associating them with other forms of media: for this style, I would say it looks like Saved by the Bell and Miami Vice, and sounds like Duran Duran’s Rio and DeBarge’s Rhythm of the Night.
The second style that I utilize often now is a late-70’s/early-80’s athletic theme. This is inspired by vintage sports print ads from companies like Adidas, and also by the rollerskating culture of the time. The most common motif for this theme is a counterpart to our checker pattern design from the new wave theme: a three-stripe design inspired by old-school, striped tube socks. For this style, I will more often use our secondary logo, which is a sun setting over the ocean. Something about that imagery just seems era-appropriate. I would describe this style as looking like the T.V. show Threes Company and movie Roller Boogie, and sounding like Lipps Inc’s “Funky Town” — more of a disco feel.
Overall, my intent is to have Rocksteady Fitness feel very California and beach-y, which is why our logos are a palm tree and sun. Regarding the palm tree, it took me a couple of tries to get it right. I had originally designed our palm tree logo to look very jagged– as if it had been torn into form out of construction paper. This was inspired by the palm trees on the cover of The Cure’s Boy’s Don’t Cry album. I decided that it looked too similar to every other company out there that used a palm tree for its logo (especially In-N-Out Burger– which is a bad association for a fitness company), so I decided to redesign it into something more unique. While the first design was distinctively a palm tree, my goal the second time around was to create a palm tree that was so minimalist and abstract that it is barely even a palm tree. With our final logo, if you removed any single element of the design– even as much as a point or curve– it would probably not be recognizable as a palm tree. It would probably look like a skinny bird, a hammer, or a pair of scissors.
Why do you think so many people are currently embracing 1980s art and graphic design?
It’s our generation coming of age. We’re now at an age that can appreciate a time in our culture that, less than a decade ago, was thought of as tacky. But over the last 5 years, the 80’s have slowly crept back into mainstream society– first in fashion, then in music, then in movies. People are more receptive to it now because we’re surrounded by the 80’s. And with social media services like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, a vintage or vintage-looking piece of art or design can spread quickly for many people to see and appreciate.
But I think art and design are still the final frontiers. Peoples’ arms are open, but I’m not sure most of them are embracing art and design. I don’t think people appreciate art or design as much as they do fashion, music, or movies because they can’t do anything with it. They can’t consume it. Plus, as with my work, a lot of design work is for commercial purposes– and people are very aware of when they’re being marketed to, so they shut it out. There aren’t too many designers out there that are immersed in 80’s design for art’s sake, though I have come across some.
In your opinion, why were ’80s art and design slower to be rediscovered than 1980s fashion?
There really aren’t many resources available on 1980’s art or graphic design (in contrast to design of the 60’s or 70’s), which means that people have to really dig to understand the history and context of what made 80’s art and design what it was. I think that hampers the potential for a real revival movement because the heroes of art and design of that time, along with their influences, are probably not well known or understood by anyone other than people with degrees in art or design.
I think this is the case in general with popular culture of the 80’s– we’ve been exploring it for some time now, but not much has been written or published about it in a historical or theoretical context. As a result, people who weren’t old enough to actually remember the 80’s don’t have a very clear understanding about the culture of the time. What they’re left with are very cliche ideas about what the 80’s were like. They cherry-pick and embrace the extremes of 80’s culture because they are fun, but there’s a lot that gets forgotten. The same thing happens to every decade, though. If I were to ask most twenty or thirty-something year olds to free-associate words about the 1960’s, I think many of them would say “hippies”. Our concept of an entire era that we didn’t experience gets boiled down to very simple ideas that are detached from the context that gives them meaning. As a culture, I don’t think we can really appreciate past eras, including the art and design of the era, without context, whether we’re talking about someone who actually lived through the era, or otherwise.
Another reason that art and design are slower to be rediscovered has to do with the qualities of the mediums themselves. It’s generally easier for an artist to communicate with an audience through forms like music, T.V., and movies because they are more complex art forms. A good example of this is The Wonder Years, which did a phenomenal job of giving context to a past era and, as a result, the show is a very rich and satisfying experience.
I was reading an article about filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) in Time Magazine where she recounts a conversation she once had in the 70’s with Andy Warhol comparing art and film. Warhol’s assertion was that film is populist, whereas art is elitist and excludes a large audience. Bigelow concluded: “[Art] requires that you come in with a certain amount of information, a context. And you don’t necessarily need that with film. A movie is accessible, available.” I agree with Warhol and Bigelow. I also think music, T.V., and fashion (with the exception of “high fashion”) are generally populist as well. However, with art and design, if you don’t have context, you end up only able to interpret works based on the fragments that you identify with, which could be little or nothing at all. In the first place, I don’t think most people are terribly interested in art and design in general, much less “old” art and design, because it’s not as accessible as other forms of entertainment or media. At a time when big, flashy, and interactive media tends to win the most attention, audiences don’t often give artists and designers a chance to engage them.
Why do you think so many young adults are immersed in ’80s style at this time (as opposed to people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who have clear memories of the decade)?
It’s a decade that really stuck in the consciousness of our culture in a way that is only comparable to the way that the Baby Boomers remember the 1960’s. But for our generation, the Millennials, the 80’s was our childhood, so we’re always going to go back to that time. My Dad, who is in his 50’s, loves to reminisce about the 60’s and 70’s– the time when he was a kid and teen. As for the Generations X’ers in their mid-30’s and 40’s, I think it’s a toss up as to whether they want to remember the 80’s or not– because those were their teen years and not everyone wants to remember that time.
The interesting thing about the current 80’s resurgence is that there are younger people, some that were even born after the 80’s, that are embracing the 80’s. For them, I think that the 60’s and 70’s are too far back, and far too different from current times to be able to identify with. In contrast, the 80’s were the first “modern” decade, so it’s easier to grasp onto. Even though we laugh about how outdated some aspects of the 80’s are, they are still within the modern realm. In a lot of ways, all time since the 80’s has just been a sharpening and perfection of the 80’s. Also, the 80’s was the last decade to have it’s own distinctive look and sound. Nothing has really changed all that much from the mid-nineties up to now. So if you want to go back in time to explore a different era’s culture, but still stay within the margins of what is relatable to a teen or 20-something of today, you have to go to the 80’s. Plus, it helps that the 80’s were so fun and colorful.
In your opinion, what made the 1980’s experience so unique for the Millennial Generation?
I think it comes down to a contrast in the childhood experience. In that respect, there are some major differences between the Millennials, and of generations past. I know that a lot has been written about the Millennials and the way we were parented, and I find those kinds of sociological studies very interesting. The general consensus seems to be that we were very spoiled by our parents, with the epitome of that spoiling being that we were told “you can be anything you want to be.” Of course, there are a lot of negative traits that come from that kind of ego inflation– but the good thing that came of it was that we had really kick-ass childhoods because our parents tried so hard to make that time special for us.
Something else that I speculate about is that 80’s consumerism had an interesting effect on us as children that made their childhoods unique from others before ours. There was this nexus of marketing and media in the 80’s that led companies to develop and master this idea of corporate synergy, and they hit us kids hard with it. They would introduce these intellectual properties to us through TV with shows and commercials, and get us hooked. That part was nothing new from marketing tactics used in the 60’s and 70’s. The difference in the 80’s was that they took those intellectual properties and made them into a line of toys, clothing, a breakfast cereal, a theme park ride, a video game, a feature film, a VHS tape, and a themed happy meal at McDonalds. We ate it all up– and the strange thing is, to this day, we have no shame about it– and, in fact, we embrace it and crave it. We still look back fondly at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Little Mermaid, Star Wars (to name a few examples), and have no shame because it’s weaved into our identities. That’s why it’s so easy for us to embrace the 80’s. Really, what more do you need in life than Saturday morning cartoons, a bowl of cereal, and the Toys R Us newspaper insert with a pen to circle stuff?
Are there certain ’80s (or ’80s-inspired) bands that you enjoy featuring in Rocksteady Fitness classes/workouts?
I don’t normally interfere with the music that the instructors use in our fitness classes, since that’s a big part of an instructor’s style. But since my wife, Melissa, teaches most of the classes, and because we share the same iTunes library, a lot of my 80’s and 80’s-inspired music ends up finding its way into our gym. I have a series of nu-disco & dreamwave playlists that I make for myself (currently working on my 36th mix), and she likes to borrow them for Pilates classes. We try not to go too heavy on the 80’s music for workouts, though. I wouldn’t want our members to get sick of it.
I’ve just recently started doing more video work for the company, using nu-disco and dreamwave music as a soundtrack, so that’s a fun way that I’ve been able to integrate 80’s-inspired music into our marketing, which reinforces the feel of Rocksteady Fitness. I would like to find more ways to work it into what we do because it fits our style, and because it can bring more exposure to those artists. I’m always certain to give credit and provide links so that people can track down the music.
Let’s talk about your interest in Dreamwave music, reminiscent of ’80s soundtrack scores. You have an incredible knowledge of the Dreamwave movement. Why do you think so many people have connected with this music?
On a superficial level, I think people enjoy it because there is a novelty aspect to it. It’s different from anything out there. On a deeper level, I think dreamwave music is attractive to people because of the nostalgia aspect. Our generation has become more sensitive to nostalgia– which, I think, tends to happen as people get older and end up with more responsibilities. People connect with the music because it takes them back to being a kid or teen. It fulfills a longing for simpler times. And it’s not just the sound of the time that we are experiencing when we listen to old-sounding music– the sounds are just the surface of it. It’s also the memories and experiences of that time in our lives that come along with that sound. It evokes feelings that cause us to relive those times on a conscious, and even subconscious, level. I think the artists that create dreamwave music do so to achieve that, and I also think that people who appreciate the music recognize and relate to the artists’ need to fulfill the nostalgia. That’s a very unique way for an artist to connect with an audience– to satisfy a yearning to get in touch with a lost piece of an individual’s identity. It’s a much more emotional connection than one could get from listening to the latest pop hit on the radio.
Also, some of the artists that are making dreamwave music are extremely talented. It takes a tremendous amount of skill to just make a good song in the first place, but it takes an extra level of talent to have an ear for music that is a quarter of a century old and to be able to reproduce the sound and texture of it, while still making it fresh. And some of these artists are putting out a half-dozen EP’s per year– which is an insanely crazy output. I sometimes fear that the well will eventually run dry– the skeptical side of me wondering how many 80’s-inspired songs can be made before it’s all been done. But the movement just keeps feeding itself with artist collaborations, and as new artists, inspired by current dreamwave artists, emerge. So it’s easy to fall for a movement with so much good music by such amazing talent.
Now let’s talk about you! Tell us about your…
Favorite ’80s movies:
Flight of the Navigator
Miami Vice (You didn’t ask for TV shows, but I had to get that in there)
Like Father Like Son (With Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron)
Fast Times At Ridgemont High
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Stranger Than Paradise
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
The Breakfast Club
Favorite ’80s bands:
For me, the 3 most important songs of the 80’s are Enjoy The Silence, Bizarre Love Triangle, and West End Girls. So, no surprise that Depeche Mode, New Order, and The Petshop Boys are at the top of my list. I also love Duran Duran, and Wham. The Clash, The Cure, The Smiths. Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, U2, Hall & Oates. The work of Giorgio Moroder, Vangelis, and Tangerine Dream.
Favorite ’80s memory:
I must have been about 5 (around 1987) when my Dad took me to the video rental store and suggested that I pick Star Wars, A New Hope to rent. I remember looking at the cover, mostly occupied by Darth Vader’s mask, and telling him that it looked scary and that I didn’t want to see it, but he insisted. Of course, I fell in love with it, along with the rest of the original trilogy. Every time we went back to the video store I insisted on renting a Star Wars movie.
Rather than pay to rent Star Wars every single week for the rest of my childhood, he rigged our VHS video camera to our VCR and made copies of the Star Wars movies. The copies needed to be made in real time as the movies played, so I would watch them on the TV while they copied. I would get so into the movie that I’d forget I couldn’t mess with the VCR while it was recording. When my favorite parts would come on (usually the lightsaber duels, or dogfights and explosions), I would get really excited and jump up and hit rewind on the VCR so that I could watch it again. Then I would realize that I messed up the recording process. I didn’t want to get in trouble, and I knew my Dad was holding the remote and not paying attention, so I would just yell, “Dad, what did you do!?” It would take him awhile to sync it up before he could get it going again. He never got mad– which I’m surprised about now because I did that at least three times during The Empire Strikes Back, always yelling “Dad, what did you do!?”
Aside from being an important part of Rocksteady Fitness, how do the 1980s play a role in your day-to-day life?
Not a whole lot, unfortunately. Aside from co-owning Rocksteady Fitness, I also have a day job with our county government that requires me to dress up in slacks, button-up shirt and tie– it’s not really an environment where I can show up in 80’s inspired clothing. When it comes to casual dress on the weekends, the 80’s do influence my style to a degree. I prefer slimmer cut jeans (not “skinny”, please) that were more in style in the 80’s. I have some pretty cool shirts that are either vintage or are vintage-looking. I’m almost never without my bright red, satin-ish baseball jacket that looks really 80’s– and I actually just ordered a blue denim jacket, which is a very 80’s style to me. But the real touch that completes the style is the footwear. I like to go to our local Camarillo Premium Outlets and check out the Nike, Adidas, and New Balance stores, where I always find unique, vintage-style shoes. I usually end up leaving stores with cool shoes for $20-$30 because they are the shoes that no one else wants. But I always get compliments on them!
The area that we live in, the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California, is very cool because many of the buildings were built in the 60’s and 70’s, so it has a retro-beach feel. Our apartment complex was built in 1969, and although it went through some renovations a few years back, they kept the integrity of the vintage style. Our apartment is not furnished in a vintage style, unfortunately. If I had the time and money to do it up, I totally would. However, right now it’s just very practical and modern.
Aside from that, I immerse myself in 80’s music and dreamwave, although I do also listen to tons of other kinds of music as well.
***A special thank you to Arturo Bozeman Hernandez of Rocksteady Fitness for his thoughtful interview answers! We end with a Rocksteady Fitness video that Art shot and edited on his iPhone 5: