The Dynamic Duo: Justin Erickson and Paige Reynolds, the pair behind Phantom City Creative.
It’s a scene straight out of a movie: one stormy Friday the 13th, two young design hotshots decide that they’re going to take on the big guys…and win.
When alumni Justin Erickson (Illustration ’05) and Paige Reynolds (Fine Arts ’09) decided to team up in 2010 to form Phantom City Creative, a Toronto-based independent studio, they had no idea that they would find themselves working on promotional materials and packaging for subjects ranging from Jaws to Batman: The Animated Series. Their work has won many accolades from the Key Arts Awards for entertainment marketing, including, in 2016, a gold Clio, the Key Arts’ top honour, for their creative take on the Jaws poster that captured a sense of menace without showing the shark. “It was such an accomplishment,” says Reynolds. “It’s just the two of us going up against companies with hundreds of employees.” Recently, Erickson’s work on a Godzilla movie poster graced the Sunday edition of The New York Times, as part of a feature on up and coming designers of alternative movie posters.
Both Erickson and Reynolds cite their time at college as formative to their careers. “I still use skills that I learned at Sheridan today,” says Erickson. “It was a good balance of the real world and purely artistic elements, and laid the framework for what I do now.” Upon graduation, he worked as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer, then at Rue Morgue magazine as a graphic designer.
Reynolds took a slightly different path. She studied political science at the University of Guelph before heading to Sheridan for a fine arts certificate. “Sheridan really helped me with technique — I had been painting throughout university, but this really gave me a good grounding in subjects such as colour mixing and portrait theory,” she says. Upon graduation, Reynolds also studied 3D modelling and visual effects at Humber College before going freelance as a visual effects artist and illustrator.
After a fateful meeting at an art show in Toronto post-Sheridan, Erickson and Reynolds decided to start Phantom City Creative in 2010, working 12-hour days, seven days a week. “I didn’t have a backup plan,” says Erickson. “I didn’t want to have something to fall back on. It took a lot of time and dedication to get to where we are now, and if we didn’t hustle that hustle when we started out, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Now, the pair can rest a little easier, with advertising and packaging clients in film, television and music under their belt ranging from Mondo to Sony, Tiff Bell Lightbox, Marvel Studios and CBS Films, as well as offering a wide variety of limited edition prints on their website. They plan to expand their company to hire contractors and find a studio space for their work. And, perhaps most importantly, they’re also now taking time out for fun and their movie-style happy ending — Erickson and Reynolds got married in October 2016.