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Christian was a very picky eater. Only rice‌ with butter, noodles‌ with butter, and naked hot dogs.

mimi


It’s a fitting analogy: that of a common everyday Frank who, through naked ambition, becomes a sophisticated top dog. Notably, however, this Frank never loses touch with his Frank-ness—that is, that inextricable meaty goodness of who he is. After his recent Communication Arts feature, it’s easy to think of Christian Helms as somewhat of a star on the rise, frank-ly though, Helms’ successes run much deeper than the platitudinous Deeper than honorable mentions, building a design shop and meat shrine from the ground up, or any of his other ventures. Truly, it is not the companies, or the steaks—er, stakes, he’s raised, but, rather, the company he keeps that reveal his most notable triumph, and his most estimable tool-- his spirit. Through the perspective of friends and family one gets a clearer picture of the spirit Helms has been pioneering since he was a child, the resulting camaraderie, and the curiosity he champions and inspires. Interviewing some of his closest and dearest felt more like meeting friends out for a drink and bawdy banter than a journalistic process. Some stories are told through beer-filled goggles, sometimes cups overflowed with juicy insight, but, ultimately, so as not to mar the sweet and salty jewels I dug up, what follows are the naked quotes that tell the frank story, relished with some narrative.

VIVIAN RODRIGUEZ


Phillipe Starcks, in a TED conference, reminds us that the human story does not end with the individual. The human legacy, Starcks points out, is vast.  We set ourselves up for mediocrity by allowing ourselves to be constricted by our subjective empirical gaze. After all, one who perpetually walks with his eyes glued to the floor can’t ever truly see what lies ahead. Thus, Starks claims, true visionaries look to the horizon. And an exceptional designer does just that. Sees the larger vision—seeks out challenges: looks for solutions. They realize that the search may raise more questions than answers, but they push on, towards a larger design. Whether it is through Helms Workshop, Standard Grit, the Timmy Bob boot, or home improvement, Helms’ constant thirst for knowledge expands not only his horizons, but the horizons of those around him. It’s this thirst that informs his influence on life and design, both of which are interchangeable. Ultimately, family being the most important thing to Helms, his son will certainly be his most inspiring legacy, but, as a designer, his eyes set on horizons as if they were infinity pools. His passion to create not only lends itself to a vast community of peers who respect him, but a vast community of individuals who treasure his friendship. So, while good design may boil down to technical skills, it seems to me that what makes design such as Helms’ pervasive is one of those things that, while ethereal in character, elicits something very real, physically. Something you can’t bottle— or, simply, as Daniel Northcutt so eloquently put it, “Heart, Heart.” 

VIVIAN RODRIGUEZ


Christian´s Feature in Communcation Arts


I think it’s delightful. I especially enjoyed that the story of him getting carded at the Drafthouse was the lead. Also, Pappenhagen looks a bit like a serial killer in the group photo, which is nice.


I thought it was tacky for CA to edit out the whole part about Christian's chronic bedwetting.

Chris Bilheimer


I'm sure it's pretty good—I haven't read it yet 'cuz I'm not a design geek.  I do not have a subscription and I haven't decided if I really want to pay $5.95 for a 30 day trial for one dang article that I know I'll thumb through the next time I think about it and happen to be at one of my design geek friend's houses. I sat in on an interview with Xian, Geoff Peveto and Mathew Porter (I just call him Matt)—pretty sure that if Matt quoted me instead of Peveto on anything in the article then it's probably a phenomenal piece of literature.

daniel northcutt


WELL DESERVED. Christian has worked hard and is one of the smartest designers I have ever known. 

GEOFF PEVETO


I think it’s terrific and he deserves every bit of credit for all of his hard work and talent. I AM SO PROUD TO KNOW HIM!

Amanda Summers McCauley


I think it focused a little too much on how young he looks and gave me a bit of a complex since I’m the only one in our relationship who never gets carded. But other than that, I think it was outstanding and I’m looking forward to the next article! Especially since I’m betting he’ll be on the cover for that one.

Jenn


I think it is fantastic!

Christian's accomplishments never cease to amaze and inspire me. Having seen his evolution as a designer over the eight or so years that I have known him, it was an especially proud moment to see Helms Workshop on the cover of Communication Arts.

SUSAN


I THINK HE DESERVES EVERY BIT OF IT. He is so driven and focused on his craft and his work ethic is admirable.

MATT


I loved the feature on Christian in CA and it is spot on with the way he works. It's great to see so many of his projects and accomplishments in one place. It really does capture much of who Christian is and what makes him work, which really is a key to his success—work, and he does.  

Brian + Cindy Hatley


The feature in CA was wonderful. Through the years I have been aware of the things he has been doing and the recognitions for the good works but to see them all in capsule form was overwhelming to say the least. I’ve always known the boy had talent, even at an early age, and it’s nice that he has been recognized for his efforts.

Tim


Hey, it's about my #1 son! What's not to like?‌ He's an awesome son (as is his brother). Seriously, the article showed the real Christian, someone who doesn't boast or brag about what he does or is doing, but will tell you if you ask. The article also gave some insight into how he picks the clients he wants to work with. He really cares about his clients and wants them to do well.

mimi


The Things people learn MOST from Christian


What I would like to learn from him is how he is so socially adept and calm and charming in group situations, even though he is a mass of anxiety and neurosis inside. Oh, and always use Futura Bold.

Chris Bilheimer


How to be a leader and a team player at the same time.

Amanda Summers McCauley


Christian has taught me mostly by ignoring the stupid shit I say and politely encouraging me when I accidentally voice something of relevance. He’s a great teacher that way. Through this method, Christian has taught me how to look at a piece of paper, space, or wall and know whether whatever typography or visual reference the designer has chosen to place there properly represents the brand or not. The content, sizing, the angles, curves, color, placement, etc., it's all relevant to the brand. That's what anything and everything pertaining to a brand is— either an example, summary, or a definition of said brand.   Anyone can slap a name up but the identity is what makes it a brand and identity makes the brand work (or not). A brand might identify the product but the identity shapes the brand. Mind you, this does not make me a designer but does allow me the privilege of enjoying and appreciating really good design. 

daniel northcutt


DON'T SETTLE FOR AVERAGE. You can always make an idea better. 

GEOFF PEVETO


Design created by Christian


His design almost always encapsulates two of his greatest personality traits: SINCERITY AND HUMOR. Or at least the ability to feign sincerity. 

Chris Bilheimer


Aesthetic is following a feeling first instead of the rule—that's what Christian does.  His work speaks for itself because it is emotional first and then falls into design protocol. That’s Christian, all heart, and by the book. Unless he decides to reinvent the rule. (Fuck, is that a Yogi Berraism?)

daniel northcutt


IT'S ALWAYS SMART. The concept is always well explored and then he also executes it. A rare combo. 

GEOFF PEVETO


HIS DESIGN SENSE IS AN EXTENSION OF HIMSELF— beautiful, playful, charming, retro and modern, too. His aesthetic always looks so easy, clean, and uncomplicated—A true sign of talent and skill. Amanda Summers McCauley


His design can be appreciated from a superficial standpoint because it’s always cool/pretty/interesting, but VERY much like him if you pay a little more attention, there’s so much more to it.

HE’S A THINKING MAN’S DESIGNER, BUT HE’S ALSO FUCKING HILARIOUS. Every single thing he does has those elements to it—from what he wears, to what he designs, to what he listens to.

JENN


CLASSIC AND SIMPLE. Christian's love of yesteryear and the ideals and icons that represent them shine through to me in so many ways, from his design to his own personal style. SUSAN


His design is smart, thought provoking, and it delivers a certain message both directly and indirectly.

MATT


Christian's design aesthetic is keeping things simple—no unnecessary clutter. Meat and potatoes if you will... and he knows what he likes. He isn't ambivalent about how he believes things should be.   Brian + Cindy Hatley


Chris has always liked looking at antiques and collectables because we have drug him through enough antique stores while growing up. I see a lot of old script/type in his designs and a leaning toward an old, simple, but eye catching finished product.

Tim


Christian sees things differently. His designs are intricate, clever, thought provoking, but they are never boring.

mimi


Heart Isn’t just an adjective that describes Helms’ work—it describes Christian.

A conversation with Chris Hill sums it up:

“I ended up respecting him and liking him as a person well before I knew his work,” Chris Hill drawls on the other end of the line. A volunteer at the 2002 Creative Summit, Helms never mentioned to Hill that he had entered. So when Hill won that day he not only garnered a great deal of respect from Chris for his design, he garnered an even deeper respect for his humility and sincerity. It quickly became evident through the interview with Hill, and the ones that followed that, for as many professional successes as Helms has seen to date, his personal relationships are by far his most cherished accolade. They all spoke of his kindness, his ability to be a teacher, as well as a friend, and the respect he’s garnered along the way— but, mainly… well, mainly, they spoke of his ability to drink. Yeah… especially his ability to drink.

VIVIAN RODRIGUEZ


THE MOST SURPRISING THING about Christian


HIS FEROCITY. He's like a honey badger. What Christian lacks in stature, he more than makes up for with flailing limbs and unhinged fury.


His humility, his sense of humor, and his privately enjoyed cross-dressing.

John Bielenberg


HOW MUCH COLD BEER THAT DUDE CAN DRINK… and then he'll disappear with out a trace.   

daniel northcutt


Nothing surprises me about Chris anymore—

HE IS UNSTOPPABLE!

Amanda Summers McCauley


HOW MUCH THAT ‘LIL DUDE CAN DRINK.

GEOFF PEVETO


Rel ationships with Christian


We have a secret passage between our offices. Make of that what you will.


DEEP RESPECT AND FRIENDSHIP COMES FIRST, then a mutual passion for bat-like canines.

John Bielenberg


He is phenomenally easy to stalk and to be around.

Chris Bilheimer


BUSINESS PARTNERS, PALS, BROTHERS.

daniel northcutt


I adore Christian. Always have. Always will.

Amanda Summers McCauley


KICKING ASS AND TAKING NAMES.

Jenn


I am so fortunate to have gained such a wonderful family when I married Matt. I may technically be a sister-in-law, but Christian, and Jenn, have always made me feel loved like a sister. Not having any brothers or sisters of my own, that is a relationship I am so grateful for.

SUSAN


Christian and I have always been really close. He is my best friend. We are very different in certain aspects and it makes our relationship special because we always have something different to talk about.

MATT


Christian is our son-in-law. He is a good provider, a loving husband to our daughter, and an amazing father. He gets excited about each new discovery or accomplishment Hatley experiences, and he wants to be a hands-on part of each and every one. He also is an honest, hardworking young man who makes his own luck in this world by working harder and doing more than the other guy. He doesn't complain. He just does it. There are many creative, talented people in the world, but Christian seems to have the more rare combination of creativity and great business sense. He is always looking for interesting new ventures and figuring out ways to benefit both parties. He comes from great stock, and was raised well.

Brian + Cindy Hatley


When growing up Chris and I were often like oil and water. Two Type-A personalities, butting heads. There could be only one leader—and I was it, when he was younger. As he spread his wings and left the nest, we have become much closer and are now good friends. We now discuss all sorts of topics, and I very much respect his opinion and insights without finding it necessary to be a guiding force.

Tim


A J OKE that commemorates your relationship with Christian


He had beautiful hair! (He’ll know.)

John Bielenberg


Two guys walk into a bar. One orders a coke with no ice.

Chris Bilheimer


Hell, any one liner—especially one directed at Peveto's expense... i.e. first response, last line.

daniel northcutt


HOW MANY OF THOSE CAN YOU GET UP IN THERE?

GEOFF PEVETO


He would be telling ME the joke and I would be the one laughing most likely.

Amanda Summers McCauley


SHOW US YOUR TEATS!

Jenn


SUPPLIES!!!

SUSAN


Something about Steve Urkel, he loves that guy. He also likes it when I tell people what they can go down the street and do.

MATT


PIONEER PRIDE!

Brian + Cindy Hatley


ONE MEMORY THAT STANDS OUT with Christian


When I first saw him smoke meth. A habit he hides well.

John Bielenberg


It involves a cab ride and chemically induced paranoia.

Chris Bilheimer


Standing at the Continental Club watching Redd Volkhaert and having a few cold beers. We discussed the Battle of Gonzalez and the "COME AND TAKE IT" flag. We thought that replacing the cannon with a sausage would be funny because, well, sausage is funny. I assured him that it would be legit because I was a Son of the Republic of Texas so I had that authority (beer talking).

I'll be good God damned if he didn't send me mock-ups the next day of the flag that now proudly hangs above the Frank Bar. Not sure I would have remembered that conversation if he hadn't designed it and sent it over. Now, I can't imagine Frank with out that flag—it's a huge part of our identity. Funny kid, that Christian. 

daniel northcutt


Standing in the rain at 2AM at Tuman's Alcohol Abuse Center in Chicago realizing we had no idea how to get to Jay Ryan's house. Then realizing Jay had written directions on our arms three hours earlier knowing we were too drunk to ever find our way home. 

GEOFF PEVETO


The comical illustrations he would draw during PC seminars.

Amanda Summers McCauley


FLY AWAY, ME! (It never actually happened, but involved a bat suit with floppy feet and bat ears and is the best visual memory I will ever have of any human being ever in the history of the world.) Jenn


Alley beers. ‘Nuff said.

SUSAN


I'VE NEVER SEEN HIM HAPPIER than when he proposed to his wife in Montreat by the creek.

MATT


This is hard, but a few years ago, Christian and Jennifer spent Christmas in CA with us at my mother's home with aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, most of whom he had never met. I remember seeing him sitting quietly in a chair at the edge of chaos, enjoying a beer and an old book, with a quiet smile on his face. He was enjoying it all from a short distance, and taking it all in, which can be a little intimidating at times. He was gracious with it all.

Brian + Cindy Hatley


One of the many moments that stands out in my mind was when Christian quit his job in NY and sold all of his belongings and arrived at our home in Gastonia. I was wondering how he was going to attack this hurdle in his life and was amazed at his tenacious approach. Every morning he was up as I left for work and I got up pretty early in those days. He would get on the computer and telephone and begin contacting and conversing with friends and associates in the design world. He was still working tirelessly when I arrived home in the evenings only taking a break to eat with the family and then back at the task of finding his next position. Within two to three weeks I helped him pack the car for his trip to Austin, TX to find a job. Again within two weeks Chris had a job and has never looked back.

Tim


Even as a young child (4-5 years) he always had a crayon, (or pencil, as he got older) and paper with him. That was all he needed to entertain himself. He would draw pictures, write his name, color his pictures. As he got older, he would write stories. Skits. Draw caricatures of people he knew... He was always writing or drawing.

mimi


WHAt keeps your rel ationship teathered to Christian


AGAIN, SECRET PASSAGE.


Shared secrets from the Claremont Lounge.

John Bielenberg


iChat

Chris Bilheimer


Sausage... that and I tend to bug him a lot with dumb ass ideas. Because we own a business together, he eventually has to answer my calls.

daniel northcutt


We own a couple of business together for one and we have more of a family relationship than a business relationship.

GEOFF PEVETO


Our time spent together at PC.

Amanda Summers McCauley


PIZZA NIGHT!

Jenn


Family is very important to Christian, so he is never more than a phone call away. I am also fortunate enough to work with him through Standard Grit. Though we are miles apart it is always exciting to come together on a project.

SUSAN


I can't go more than a few days without talking to him. Family is very important to us both, as well as our friendship.

MATT


Jennifer and Hatley... BLOOD IS THICKER!

Brian + Cindy Hatley


The Helms family has always been close. I'm not just talking about Chris, Matt, Mimi, and myself. I'm talking about my brothers, their wives, their children, etc. Chris is big on family and spends as much time being with us, and, now, the Hatley's (Jenn's parents) as he possibly can. He loves family and all the benefits thereof. He has always been taught that when times get tough he could count on his family being there for him.

Tim


THE MOST Important part of your friendship with Christian


Drinking, mostly. But seriously, I can't stress this secret passage thing enough.


SHEER SEXUAL TENSION.

Chris Bilheimer


Knowing that if we don't talk for a while, we'll always pick up right where we left off.  That, and the fact that we have each other’s back no matter what—that's family. 

daniel northcutt


That it exists.

GEOFF PEVETO


Respect

Amanda Summers McCauley


I have never been and will never be as happy as I am when I’m with him. Even when he’s being a butthead.

Jenn


He is such an inspiration to me. I feel so lucky to have him in my family.

SUSAN


Respect

MATT


It's honest, mutually respectful and we enjoy being around each other. We have learned so much from him about things we had never considered and he is eager to learn what ever he can about anything and everything.

Brian + Cindy Hatley


WHAT WE LOVE MOST about the man


OH, MAN‌ No comment.


Heart, Heart. 

daniel northcutt


He's super funny and practically a genius. 

GEOFF PEVETO


HIS DEPTH AS A MAN, AND HIS BREADTH AS A DESIGNER.

Amanda Summers McCauley


He’s hilarious! And thoughtful.

And a great dad to the most important child and dog in the universe. Jenn


What's not to love? He's a loyal friend and brother, a brilliant designer, and a loving husband and father. 


The way he sees the world and his value in truth, hard work, and character.

SUSAN


Christian is so open to seeing someone else's point of view. He doesn't always agree, but considers it. He looks at the world with "fresh eyes," and interest.  He also gets and appreciates Jenn. They have their own world of humor and wonder, and understanding. It's a beautiful thing.

Brian + Cindy Hatley


Love the man, the son, the designer: Chris is unselfish, honest, and very talented.

He also has good taste in that he chose Jenn. And thank God she accepted. He is always looking for various talents in others and relishes the chance to help that person succeed.

Tim


What I love most about Christian, other than the obvious: Christian is a good person, ethically and morally. He treats people well, he's very open-minded, and he's a good friend. He's grown up to be a person I really like.

mimi


Let's say we're stranded somewhere, he and I. Now, I'm not going to want to break down and eat him. I'm going to want to be strong. I'll put up the pretense of foraging, trying to sustain myself off the land and whatnot. But as much as it pains me, I will probably kill and devour him—likely within the first couple of hours. I suspect he will be gamey, tough and overly salted by my tears. Unless he kills me first, which he very well could.


ONE MEAL to share with Christian


I don't know, but it would probably end up being at Frank.

Chris Bilheimer


It would have to be good steak, good wine, and good company.

Brian + Cindy Hatley


We'd get burgers and beers and talk about music and art and nothing important. JUST LAUGHS. 

GEOFF PEVETO


I know he loves hot dogs, and beer. Or pizza and beer. Or just beer.

Amanda Summers McCauley


Beer and BBQ.We wouldn't need anything else.  It will be the same as always—awesome.

MATT + susan


I can't quite decide what the one meal with Christian would be, especially the menu. The meal itself would have to include pasta, bacon, and pork. I'm thinking pasta Carbonara with some sort of beer around the family table. On the porch. Overlooking the creek in Montreat, NC.

Tim


Chef’s tasting at Uchi! It would consist of him talking through every single nuance of every single flavor and me giggling over his subtle jokes. After the fourth round of drinks, I believe the conversation volume would be substantially elevated. Which I love.

Jenn


As a child, Christian‌would swallow veggies whole so he didn't have to chew or taste them. The meal I would want to share with Christian now is sushi. We both love it— especially at Uchi.

mimi


Christian As A CHILD


He had FANTASTIC hair.

Jenn


He was skinny, artistic, and sneaky. You never knew exactly what he was thinking. I still don't.

MATT


ISN'T HE STILL?

Brian + Cindy Hatley


Chris was a well-behaved young man as a child. He grew up playing outside with his brother and our three goddaughters who lived up the street. He enjoyed his hot wheels, bike, and Star Wars toys but the one thing we could always count on was giving him a pencil and paper and watching him lay in the floor and draw, draw, draw.

Tim


Christian was a delightful child. He loved to talk, ask questions, he was interested in lots of things. He attended a pre-school program when he was 4 and shortly after he started, he came home one day with a note pinned to his shirt that said "I TALK TOO MUCH."  He did learn to follow the rules, but it didn't change his personality.

Mimi


CHRIST I AN as a hot dog or beer


He is a person, and I should show him enough respect to at least acknowledge that he's not a hot dog when I eat him.


PROBABLY GROSS.

Chris Bilheimer


Is this a gay rag? If so, I'm cool with it—I'm a board member for the largest Gay and Lesbian film fest in the southwest… a GLIFF. 

daniel northcutt


If you cut him open, he'd bleed IPAs. He would like to think he's complex and bitter like the beer he drinks mostly, but he'll pound a shitty PBR any day, so he's not that deep. The dog is easy: Carolina Pork It. 

GEOFF PEVETO


Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap. He has enough of it coursing through his veins. And I’m avoiding the hot dog conversation because I can already hear Thomas in my head. Pervert. Jenn


If Christian were a beer he'd taste like a Mexican Martini and on that note the one inside joke to share with him is, "Well son, what bar do we need to visit to see if they make a better Mexican Martini than the last 20 plus that we've visited over the last 7 years.�

Tim


Smooth, crisp, frothy rich, with a delightful buzz and plenty of snap. (Beer, hot dog combo platter.)

Amanda Summers McCauley


HOW CHRISTIAN WILL CHANGE the world and how he has changed yours


Chris changed my world the day he arrived and continues to change it with each stride he makes.

Tim


THE PH BALANCE OF OUR YARD.

Jenn


Chris influences everyone and everything he touches. Like I said, he’s unstoppable.

Amanda Summers McCauley


By producing the most amazing grandchild, and by making our daughter’s world a happier place to live.

Brian + Cindy Hatley


I think through design he will bring awareness to whatever he works on. He will set the bar for others in his field and challenge them to be better. He has challenged me to be better.

MATT + susan


Christian’s spirit is fresh and pure. His passion is infectious. He inspires everyone around him. I’m so glad that our paths crossed. It’s an honor and privilege to have him as a friend. Christian is a great designer BUT AN EVEN BETTER PERSON.

CHRIS HILL


Well, it looks better when he's done with it, so there's that. In my world? I like going into the office a lot more now than I did a couple of years ago. Secret passage!


Ideally, appreciation for thinking through visual expression. He changed the way I approach design.

GEOFF PEVETO


Whether folks know it or not, his design changes their thought process daily‌ my thought process on design‌

daniel northcutt


AND BEYOND


Christian Helms: Gift for a Designer