Flipping through his thick, hardcover sketchbook, Caleb Beyers stops on a page dense with plant and seed illustrations, graphic wordmarks and a detailed web of information.
“It’s the concept architecture for the fibre company I’m working with,” he says. “I’m trying to imagine where it goes — how to think about it and categorize it. When I did their branding, I came up with this matrix, the big questions and illustrations of a few ideas.”
We’re sitting in the office above Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters, one of the many local companies Beyers has collaborated with over the years through Caste Projects, the creative think tank he ran with his wife, Hanahlie Beise.
From consulting on branding and storytelling to designing interiors — some projects even involved designing furniture and lighting — their clients included Habit, Hoyne Brewing Company, Big Wheel Burger and Victory Barber & Brand.
With the family’s move to Pender Island in 2018, and Beise’s focus on Hinterland Farm — an alpaca farm and wool business — they are retiring the Caste Projects label. Beyers’s work has also expanded beyond Victoria, taking “on a much broader scope,” with clients outside of the region.
Bast Fibre Tech is one such client. It’s a business that develops usable fibres for industrial, technical and fashion purposes, out of hemp, flax, jute or any kind of bast fibre plant.
“It will be seen in a very niche market for a while, and hopefully it will infiltrate the bigger consciousness,“ he says. “The goal is to supplant a lot of synthetic fibres that are currently used in the marketplace.”
Along with helping run the farm, a major focus for Beyers is trying to get his TV and movie projects made (he previously sold an animated series to Netflix, which was not developed).
To cover the range of his creative endeavours, Beyers simply describes himself as an artist.
“I used to say I was a designer, but I think language is a slippery thing,” he says. “If you say designer, people understand it in the context of how design exists in the culture that they’re a part of. I work in a lot of different fields and in a lot of different ways. In some fields, I’m far more technical, and in others I’m far more creative. In some fields I’m far more singular and in others I’m collaborative.”
Beyers is often described as “self-taught,” and while he has never formally studied design, he studied psychology as an undergrad at Harvard and has taken classes in both art and design. He describes himself as very hands-on, “loving the process of taking things apart, understanding how they work and putting them back together,” then trying to make other versions of the same thing. This extends from physical objects to art.
“Good design comes from understanding use cases,” he says. “Understanding that it’s going to end up in lots of different hands — and it’s going to be used totally differently, depending on who’s using it. So it’s thinking about how to make something, so that when it comes out, one, people understand how to use it, and, two, it can be used by all sorts of different people.”
This article is from the February/March 2020 issue of Douglas.