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Five Ideas: Keith Scharwath

My name is Keith Scharwath and I’m a designer, illustrator and art director based in Los Angeles.

Five Ideas is a collection of work from GOOD's favorite artists, illustrators, and designers. Some of the of the work you've probably seen, some of it has never been published. Each week, we'll showcase five pieces of work that tell a short story about our most creative friends.

My name is Keith Scharwath and I’m a designer, illustrator and art director based in Los Angeles. I was trained as a graphic designer but I’ve been able to incorporate some of my other loves—drawing, painting, and photography—into my work. I was lucky enough to be invited to guest art direct the latest issue of GOOD, the Neighborhoods Issue, which just hit newsstands.

Beautiful Losers

Poster, title, and graphic language design for a documentary film about street art and DIY culture

Client Sidetrack Films

This poster was a creative breakthrough for me. The idea to use a butterfly came from Aaron Rose, the director of the film. I designed literally hundreds of posters but none of them seemed to work. What I eventually realized is that the insect itself wasn’t enough to tell the story. When I switched out the body of the butterfly for a person, I managed to convey the idea in a much more meaningful way. The poster connects with people, and that’s become really important to me. I knew right away that this was the kind of work I wanted to continue doing.

Open Door for Manifest Equality

Enamel on reclaimed wood door

In February I was asked to submit a piece of art to Manifest Equality, a group art show supporting full and equal rights for all Americans. Before being contacted, I had never participated in an art show, and I hadn’t touched a paint brush since art school. With just two weeks to work, I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone and created this crazy door. It felt good to be taking a risk like this for a cause I feel strongly about. It was an amazing show attended by hundreds of people in a former Big Lots in Hollywood over Oscar weekend. I got to see my work alongside many of my heroes like Barry McGee, Chris Johanson, Harvey Pekar, and Ron English.

90 Statements on Sister Corita

Title graphics

Client Director Aaron Rose

I have a thing for numbers. Numbers serve a strict utilitarian purpose in our lives, but they can also have secondary cultural meanings. Numbers were the perfect organizing concept for a short documentary film about Sister Corita, a radical nun who ran an influential screenprinting studio in Hollywood during the 1960s and 1970s. The short documentary is divided into 90 statements for which I created corresponding number frames based on her work and life. I just tried to make the church lady proud.

If You Lived Here You’d Be Urban By Now

Illustration for GOOD 019, The Neighborhoods Issue

Client GOOD

This illustration for GOOD combines some of my favorite things: hand-drawn illustration, textures, bright colors, and typography. Living in Los Angeles, I feel like I see these developments every day. I was excited to expose the absurd nature of so-called “urban” living. Using my previous experience working in advertising I was even able to write most of the marketing messages.

Dollar Bill

Limited edition print, currently circulating worldwide

What's the value of a dollar? If you think about it, money is just numbers on paper. In a time when I and everyone I knew was worried about money, I decided to try using money itself as a delivery system for this message. I printed 100 one-dollar bills and planned to introduce them into circulation.

What I wasn't prepared for was the intense reaction I received from complete strangers all over the world who requested the dollar bills. Some of them even sent things they made back to me. I spent a hundred dollars and it was the best investment I’ve ever made. This is one of my favorite projects to date.


My inspiration is my garage. I get to paint, play music, build things, and work on my car, all in this tiny, dirty space. Every garage is a miniature laboratory, and mine is no exception. Having a this space to experiment in has made a huge difference in my creative life.

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