Stories from middle America

steve gordon, rdqlus creative

Calling Steve Gordon Jr. a graphic designer only tells part of his story. In fact, it doesn’t even come close. Known best by his other moniker, RDQLUS Creative, Gordon is a constant observer of his surroundings and their textures. His creative client work is various and wide-reaching. His modest clothing line emphasizes clever messaging. And he is unabashedly unapologetic about his ongoing (yet carefully curated) love affair with shoes.

In a profession where much of his work is spent focused on the visual, it only made sense to dig a little deeper into Gordon’s background and ask about printed words on the page. We recently sat down with Gordon and asked what six titles have stuck with him over the years.


On Adolescence 
The Hunger Games
Sure, I know all of these post-apocalyptic epochs are aimed at high school girls in need of empowerment and desiring dreamy co-heroes. But the truth at the core of this one struck me. Introduced to this trilogy by my wife —who is a brilliant grade school teacher—so many things rang almost painfully true, based on my childhood, my neighborhood, and the things I’d seen growing up. This apocalyptic future was my past.

On Leaving Home
The Chronicles of Narnia
Idealistic fantasy was just what the doctor ordered. Displaced by the good-intentioned—but foolish—act of forced desegregation of schools, I was lost in a world 100 blocks away from my familiar hood. Not that my hood didn’t set itself up for some prime escapism; but, having nothing but a wasteland of shiny, clean things and judging faces to escape to was just as scary. The story in these books was just that: kids who became royals in a land far from home and unfamiliar to anyone back in their own place and time. Again, another parallel.

On Perseverance
The Great Gatsby
This was my original playbook. Judge not the shady moves made, the end justified the means. Integrity in the intent. Fight, claw, grind, dream, reach, and yes, fail—gloriously. All of it for a singular purpose—none of it mattering without the same. Gatsby had his reasons, his dreams. I had mine. “My life has got to be like this. It has to keep going up.” Amen.

On the World
The Art of War
Written in nearly indecipherable, enigmatic prose, this book amazed me and pushed my boundaries of understanding. I began reading this book while working in corporate America and it shines such light on how the world truly operates. Confusing at times, crystal clear at others, it was like having a precursor to understanding—the answers before the questions. Even now, something will happen and my mind goes, “Ohhhhhh! I get it now!”

On Hustle
Complex Magazine
Oh, yes! The hood done made good! Graffiti artist-turned-fashion mogul Marc Ecko created something that spoke like me, thought like me, documented the hustle that I grew up revering. But there was a difference; it was glossy, happy, boastful, sharp, and elevated. Complex showed that you didn’t have to leave your authentic self behind to progress into new realms of style, fashion, class, and world-view.

On Hope
Marvel Comics and Image Comics
Not necessarily a book, but no less literature and award-winning in their own right, comics fueled my imagination and my ability to see a way out. Bleak circumstances and the odds stacked against me (and many like me), life often seemed as if I would need to be super-human, insanely powerful, and even lovably villainous to survive. I can’t say they were wrong (and I still believe I have unexplainable powers). What can I say? I’m a true believer.

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