The Illustration & Design World of Zach Johnsen

I am co-founder of the Portland, Oregon based tshirt and apparel company, Tank Theory. I acted as the main designer, art director and overall aesthetic motivator behind the brand from its' inception in 2001 until the spring of 2009.  Fast forward to 2016, I am now, not only still the main designer, but also the owner and operator.

Spring 09 - ToylandTshirt design and art direction for the spring/summer 2009 season, Toyland.  The idea behind this season was basically and in essence.. toys... Toys, toons, and the infiltration of the cute and cuddly to represent the oftentimes harmful.  I wanted to dissect the tendency of using cartoons and cartoon characters as national and corporate spokespersons.

Fall 08 - Sign LanguageTshirt design and art direction for the fall 2008 season, Sign Language.  This season I focused on the prevalence, or should I say over abundance, of signs that bombard us on a daily basis.  I wanted to use the language of signage, billboards, and otherwise huge and obtrusive outlets for public advertising and kind of poke fun at it...or better yet take back some of that space for myself.. one way or the other.

Spring 08 -SpiritusTshirt design, conceptual and art direction for the spring 2008 season, Spiritus.  This season was dedicated to all things not of this world. I wanted to explore in concept and design the undefinable, the unattainable realms that exist all around us, yet somehow elude us.  I wanted to take some of the more popular signs and instruments we use to represent these 'other' worlds and re-represent them.

Fall 07 - ConquestTshirt design, print design, conceptual and art direction for the fall 2007 season, Conquest. This season I went full battle mode.  Wherever I look, it seems war is all around.  History is defined by battles fought and won or lost.  Hollywood and TV seems obsessed by it. Much of the world seems to be engulfed in it.  So I honed in and focused on fighting.. fighting between peoples and cultures that mark history and continue to write history to this day.  I wanted to pay homage (or at least recognize) the role that violence plays in life.


Spring 07 - SideshowTshirt design, print design, conceptual direction, street team, and art direction for the spring 2007 season, Sideshow. Although graphically abrasive, this season was one of the most fun to work on.  I wanted to take the garish circus poster style and apply it to my all out graphic assault on the media, TV culture, consumerism, freakshows (the circus itself of course), and even the streets themselves.

Fall 06 - Thief's ThemeTshirt design, poster & print design, photo and art direction for the fall 2006 season, A Thief's Theme.  This season went out to all the real crooks out there.. to the investment bankers, the insurance companies, the wall street thugs.. to the capitalists and the manipulators.. the Bernie Madoff's of the world.. the real big crooks who seem to run the show.. Here's to you fellas..

Spring 06 - Army of DarknessTshirt design, print & poster design, photo and art direction for the Spring 2006 season, Army of Darkness.  This was an amazing season to work on, due to all the fun ideas and material to work with.  The theme of this season basically was the revolt of the office worker.  Tired of "casual" fridays, water cooler gossip, and being treated like shit, the workers take up heavy weaponry and terrorize their superiors.. I'm pretty convinced that sooner or later, most everybody who works in your 'typical' office will snap.  I feel your pain and this is my homage to you.

Fall 05 - Belly of the BeastTshirt design, print and accessories design, and art direction for the Fall 2005 season, From the Belly of the Beast.  This season I created almost all the artwork based on the theme "to hell in a handbasket".. Generally, I wanted everything to be dark and sinister, but with a very ornamental, prim and proper appearance.. Kind of like if you sat down for dinner with the devil...Surely, you would dine in elegance.. 

ARCHIVEThis section is dedicated to the tshirt design, print work and overall art direction from Tank Theory's inception in 2001 to 2004. Additionally, check out a talk I did at Carnagie Mellon University, chronicling the history of Tank Theory from its' beginning to the present.. Link to a Google Video of the entire CMU design lecture to watch and learn..