Getting up

Laxalt & McIver

Peter Laxalt and Matt McIver maintain a presence in both Reno and New York City.

Peter Laxalt and Matt McIver maintain a presence in both Reno and New York City.

Photo/Matt Bieker

In graffiti writer parlance, “getting up” means leaving your tag somewhere easily seen. Peter Laxalt, of the design studio Laxalt & McIver, used to apply that mentality to his actual graffiti writing as a teenager. For the past four years, however, Laxalt and his partner, Matt McIver, have been putting their mark on the city—and the rest of the world—through branding.

“I think that kind of established that baseline introduction to something I didn’t even know was right in front of me,” Laxalt said. “Like graffiti—it’s like its topography, its geometry, its layering, its color, its style.”

Laxalt’s interest in graffiti led to a few criminal charges on his record even before his freshman year at Reno High School. After attending a local vocational training school for graphic design, where he won multiple state-wide design awards, he graduated in 2012 and found work at Branded, a screen printing and design shop.

McIver attended Douglas High School, where he discovered a love of photography and design, In 2014, he returned to Northern Nevada after he abandoned his formal education at the Seattle Institute of Art when he realized he wanted to pursue branding and business management.

“So I’m just like, you know, dropped out of high school, dropped out of art school, and then I’m sitting here like they’re telling me to go to business school,” he said. “And I’m like, ’Well, the best way for me to learn is by doing.’”

McIver found Laxalt through his online work and invited him out for coffee.

“That was the first intro to McIver,” Laxalt said. “We went to Coffeebar, who’s one of our clients now.”

In the four years since, they have designed logos, fonts and artwork for brands all over the world. They attribute their success to a fluid style that’s minimalistic, yet still recognizable. The point, they said, is to design work for clients to use and for designers to reference for other projects.

“It’s a double win, because then the clients are interested in us because we now have a problem that they can reference and they can see that we’ve solved it before,” Laxalt said. “And then there’s other designers that might work at other agencies or other agencies might start following us, which is another part of the engine.”

Some notable local examples of Laxalt & McIver’s work include designs for Shawarmageddon, The Depot, Magpie Coffee Roasters, and the City of Sparks, but they have produced artwork for companies in San Francisco, New York and in other countries around the world.

“We currently have 40 clients,” Laxalt said. “We’re literally integrated in companies like in New York City. One of the clients that we work with, like, I am their design team. … It’s brought us all over the world to do this.”

Laxalt moved to New York full-time this year and travels back to Reno every few weeks, while McIver manages the operations from the Reno location, 119 Thoma Street in midtown, which houses their small team of designers. Neither Laxalt nor McIver plan to grow the company beyond maybe 10 or so employees, but they do intend to start offering more in-house coding and app development. One of their previously designed apps won Shopify’s 2017 Global E-commerce award for best User Interface.

Both Laxalt and McIver have their sights on the New York market. One such project will potentially feature Laxalt’s artwork on the trains and billboards of Brooklyn. To a graffiti artist, it’s the chance to “get up” in an entirely different way.