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Variable Magazine

Art Director and Illustrator

How do you embody the uniqueness of the designers at IBM, the work they do, and the topics they care about? You do it by providing a platform for those designers to be creative, uninhibited, express their opinions, and share their passions. Thats where Variable Magazine comes in.

Variable Magazine was designed to be a vehicle to read the culture, thinking, and love of design to the IBM community. It is designed by designers within IBM for all of IBM to enjoy. Creative direction is free, and often the magazines will include a diverse set of visuals, experiences and stories. Variable was lovingly created by Adam Lehman and Patrick Lowden, both of whom are dear friends.

Variable is a subset of the IBM Makes initiative, which is a platform for creators throughout IBM to express themselves and the hobbies that enrich their lives, while also bringing more creative energy to their careers. Other IBM Makes endeavors include printmaking, crafting, and radio. My role within the Variable team is as an illustrator, art director, designer, and super fan. 

Variable Team
Abdullah Shaikh, Amanda Shearon, Collin Vaughn, Derek Bressler, Emma Bostian, Jenny Sanchez, Jose Paez, Josh Troyer, Kylee Barnard, Maranda Bodas, Meg Mulholland, Natalie Caudell, Patrick Lowden, Polly Adams, Randy Gregory II, Seth Johnson, Sofia Gutierrez, and Zack Causey.

Variable Magazine - Issue 5

Design | Art Direction

When Editor-in-chief Patrick Lowden and I set out to create this volume’s cover, we soon uncovered how difficult it was to convey “spirit” in a singular visual direction. As we talked things over and sketched, we realized that the ambiguity of “spirit” was what made it so compelling. IBM Studio culture is the same way. We have so many studios across so many different locations—all with their own traditions and cultures—it would be hard to represent them all individually. Instead, we decided to capture the “spirit” of the studios themselves.

We asked ourselves, “what does that hustle and energy of a studio look like?” I perceived it as a blur of energy fueled by the people around us and the space we inhabit. I wanted the cover to be accurate to that blue of physical and human space; it needed to be a feeling more so than an image. Looking at how the people and architecture in our studies give off a creative energy, we ended up designing a piece which evoked a sense of “creative heat”. Walking through the Austin studios and other studios, I have felt that level of energy. Whether they exist within ourselves, our work, or our environment, these heat spikes combine to form our spirit. 

Included are sample of spreads included in the issue, all designed by IBMers from around the world. 

Variable Magazine - Issue 4

Illustration / Art Direction

I created the cover illustration for IBM’s Variable Issue 4, Consume. I worked with editor-in-chief Patrick Lowden to conceptualize an image that would represent what consume means to us in 2018. The issue dealt with all manners of consumption in modern day life, from technology to political. We viewed this as an ever-crashing wave on us people at all times, and visualized that literally. The cover was designed to be overwhelming at first, but once picked up, was comprised of everyday things we all interact with. The cover is comprised of snapshots of modern life.

Patrick and I spent time shooting rough illustrations back and forth looking for the right way to show this concept. We knew initially that “the wave” was a powerful and accurate image for what we were going for. You can see that evolution visually below.

Editorial | Art Direction

Variable Magazine - Issue 2


I was asked by Variable’s editor-in-chief Adam Lehman to create an illustration for an editorial interview with astronaut, speaker, and entrepenaur Ron Garan. Ron is an American icon and heroic individual. Because of the line of work he partakes in, and the nature of the issue itself, I set out to illustrate this piece more sculpturally. It was intended to have the textural effect of a location, and the roughness of a planet out in space. This specific issue of Variable dealt with the idea of “spaces”, whether that be the space we inhabit, the space in our minds, or literal outer space, it was all up for discussion.

© Zack Causey 2019 All rights reserved.