Kyle Ramsey Interview: Getting Creative, Skating and NoCoast
I first met Kyle iotamsey years ago while helping manage Rayne. We connected through a mutual friend, Gbemi at Thane Magazine, and Kyle was going to do some product reviews. He was polite, well spoken and very easy to get along with. Since then, Kyle has really taken his energy and flourished, developing his own identity along with those of brands he was working with. Now, leading the NoCoast charge and helping skaters from all over get down and have fun, Kyle has also developed some new creative outlets and printed the first NoCoast Magazine, and then hand-bound it at home with his partner – it’s a beauty of a magazine and a real piece of quality art and craft. I’m stoked to help you all get to know Kyle and NoCoast a bit better, please read on!
Hey Kyle. Can you kick it off with some specs? Height, weight, wheelbase… ha ha… how about name, age, location?
My name is Kyle Ramsey and I’m originally from Dallas, TX but moved to Oklahoma City, OK in 2002 for college. I’m 31 years young, 5’8” and 160 lbs. My wheelbases range from 2.5 to 3 Aussie shakas depending on if I’m riding my Double Dark Side or Baby Killer. #gnomestature
I know you as the NoCoast guy in so many ways these days, but you’ve been around a while doing a bunch of different things. When did you get skating?
Ninja Turtles had a huge impact on me wanting to skate, that was my first deck as well. I saw them skating on morning cartoons as a little kid, the deck was plastic I think, was probably from Walmart or something. Fast forward 15 years, while I was in college around 2007 I met a guy named Steven Baylis that had a long skateboard. He took me to a poorly lit, steep neighborhood, and let me ride his Dervish down with no helmet or pads. I haven’t stopped skating on a daily basis since then.
Why downhill? Always interesting to me, why not street, or vert?
I’ve always been somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. In high school I really wanted to be a fighter pilot, but wasn’t stoked on having to go to the military and follow all their rules. I’ve always found a way to release that desire, whether it was racing my high school car at the drag strip or rappelling down cliffs, I’ve always enjoyed getting outside my comfort zone. As soon as I felt the freedom of downhill skating it just made sense to me. It was the perfect combination of freedom and speed. There is a documentary somewhere that talks about the bones in your inner ear moving, sending dope signals to the brain that comes from acceleration. That feeling of endorphins and oxytocin that are released in the brain when you are moving is very addicting. I have the utmost respect for street and vert skaters, but it just didn’t appeal to me in the same way.
You have some serious non-skate talents – civilian skills, ha ha. What’s your day job?
Haha thanks Les. My day job is working as an Art Director for VI Marketing and Branding in downtown Oklahoma City. I’ve been working in the design industry since 2009, creating meaningful communication design for big clients is rewarding and helps me keep my skills sharp.
You need some formal training for your work right? Did you go to school?
Short answer is yes, you need training in one way or another. Once programs like Photoshop became widely available everyone instantly became a designer, which just isn’t true. Having a tool doesn’t make you a master of anything, there is a lot of thought process behind every design decision we make that only comes from being properly trained. I received my training from the University of Central Oklahoma where I achieved a BFA in Graphic Design, the best design program in the state of Oklahoma in my opinion.
You apply these super-civilian powers to skater stuff too right? What is NoCoast? How long has the idea been around?
I’ve always enjoyed finding ways to explore both passions simultaneously. When I was in college I started a blog, KR Longboarding. It was a pretty straight forward blog at first, just a way to document my early skating experiences and a platform to showcase photos and videos. Back then I was watching stuff like Adam Squared videos and being inspired to make skate videos. At the time Tumblr was a great place to meet other skaters, that’s where I met Gbemi, the guy behind Thane Magazine. He was instrumental in finding companies that wanted reviews done of products. When we started doing reviews for companies like Rayne, Loaded and Otang, I knew it was time to expand the name to include a broader group of skaters that were helping with the reviews. We were looking for a name that instantly explained our location, so NoCoast just made sense. Afterwards we found out some guys from Wisconsin had actually used it first. They didn’t do much with it and were kind enough to let us run with it. That was probably around 2012 or 2013.
Is there a specific NoCoast crew?
Yes and no. We encourage anyone in a state without a coast to feel like they can relate to our scene. I encourage guys from other states to send us content to post so that it can include a huge group of skaters. However, do have about 30 skaters from Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas that make up the majority of our media we put out there. If you’ve ever seen media from our “meetups” those are the main homies.
Tell me about printing and binding the No Coast magazine? Print’s not dead right?
Wow, what an undertaking that was. For those that don’t know we recently published 80 pages of original content featuring local NoCoast skaters. The project was mostly funded by donors and by my wife and I. We spent about 8 months curating the content for the magazine by traveling to the various states to capture the local scenes from the inside. After the images and stories were curated I spent about two months designing the magazine around the stories we had to tell.
When it came time to publish it I quickly realized that I did not have the capital to mass produce it. Over the course of the project the page count doubled and I refused to kill any content. I worked with local printers to help keep costs down and asked a few favors. The binding was a hole other project. I hadn’t ever bound a book by hand so quite a few YouTube videos were watched. I built a really simple setup using two pieces of wood that would allow me to bind three magazines at a time. I couldn’t have done it without my wife Kristen, who I taught the process to. We would get up early every morning and bind three to let them dry during the day and then do six more at night after work. We did that for a few weeks until we had about 70 copies. Print is definitely not dead. We have so much immediacy around us that taking the time to properly execute an idea is why I became a graphic designer. The instant gratification of having a photo from a session on Facebook for a few likes doesn’t do anything for me. Holding a physical printout that can be seen in context of other skate photos really makes me smile.
Do you plan to print more mags? Will you bind them at home again?
It’s an interesting question that I’ve asked myself quite a few times. I know that the cost that I had to sell them at probably quickly narrowed the audience that would enjoy them. I think there is something to be said for hand-made products, but the price is always higher than something mass produced. It would be great to get it in as many hands as possible, but I just haven’t seen the desire to do a re-print of the large magazine. I did recently do a small release of a smaller version that sold at a fourth of the original price. We did about thirty of those in time for last Christmas. They were staple bound versus glue, so the production time on my end was much less.
No Coast is your project, but you’ve had a hand in some branding for skate brands too right? Riot and Rey?
I’ve been really lucky to be able to use my skills outside of the work environment and work with Riot and Rey. The owner of Riot, Madison Atwood, came to me wanting a new logo and brand for his company Riot Boardsports. We worked together for a few weeks and came up with what you currently see as their new logo identity. Nothing gets me more excited than seeing that logo as a patch or sticker being used by skaters across the world. One of my favorite abilities as a designer is to design great brands and products for companies that maybe couldn’t afford the design agency prices.
Rey is a little different in that I started riding for them before doing design work. Once they found out I did graphic design they very nicely ask me to do projects now and again. I’ve mostly worked on t-shirts, banners and media projects. I love working with skate companies on projects, it’s really the best of both worlds for me. If there are any out there that need some love give me a shout!
Creating a brand is, well, creative… how do you find motivation? Where does the vibe come from to then create the package around it all?
Creating brands is my absolute favorite part of graphic design. It allows me to explore an idea from a lot of different angles and create a visual language that represents how the company or organization wants to be seen by their customers. Before I start designing anything I do a lot of research on what competitors are doing and how I can make them stand out. Exploring is a huge part of it as well. Looking for something that is special or specific to the product that customers can relate to. For examples, with the Riot logo, I knew the client wanted something vibrant colors to reflect their urethane and a versatile logo system to work in multiple uses. The gas mask reflects the rebellious attitude of skaters and the name. It can be pulled out to be used by itself, or in the word mark and also in a bad ass flag. That was a really fun project to work on.
What’s next for you? How do you see 2016 shaping up?
2016 is going to be about finding more ways to explore our surroundings and stay involved in the skate community as much as possible. I spent about 12 years in Boy Scouts so being outdoors is in my blood. We have some backpacking trips in the works as well as hitting up as many Midwest and local skate events as possible. Camp. Skate. Repeat. Everyone be sure to check our NoCoast pages for info on local outlaw races and freeride events that will be popping up through out the year.
Kyle, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. What have I missed?
Les I really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. I still remember how stoked I was when you were at Rayne and we were working on some Thane Magazine product reviews together. Now you are killing it with Skate[Slate] and things seem to be coming back to full-circle. I hope that this interview along with the NoCoast Skate magazine have shined a light on our scene. We have some really talented skaters with a lot of unique places to skate that deserve the same attention as West and East coast skaters.
Shout outs. Famous last works? No Coast links?
I spend a lot of my time at home on the NoCoast brand and I’m truly grateful to have a wife that supports what drives me. I get so stoked any time I see a homie making a big slash or land a brand that wants to help them push their skating. Given the small numbers of riders in our scene, we are very much like a family and I couldn’t ask for a better group of people.
Let your passions guide you through life.
I can’t forget the brands that make some great products and keep the skate community stoked: Rey Trucks / Team NO BULL Longboarders / Riot Boardsports
Thanks again for the stoke!