John Coulter: Graphic Designer, Artist, Writer, Science Fiction Illustrator

John began sketching at an early age. When he was 8, his parents put him in a drawing class at the Chicago Art Institute. After lessons, he wandered through the museum’s galleries, admiring its renowned collections. Sitting spellbound on the floor, he copied the iconic lines and shapes of many masterpieces, filling his sketchbook and hotwiring his brain.

Years later, after attending the University of Illinois and UCLA, he settled in Los Angeles, where he became a well-known graphic designer, creating albums, CDs, logos, tour books and advertising campaigns for the world’s foremost recording artists.

A partial list of John’s clients includes Madonna, Elton John, Janet and Michael Jackson, Shakira, Barbra Streisand, Enrique Iglesias, Josh Groban, Paula Abdul, Steve Winwood, Wynonna, Neil Diamond, The Doobie Brothers, George Michael, Crosby Stills & Nash, Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

During the 20 years between 1984 and 2004, the ad campaigns and souvenir apparel that John designed for his clients’ international tours produced over $2B in ticket revenues and ancillary merchandise sales – a world record for a single designer. John designed the Elton John Aids Foundation logo, and for 8 years, he designed all the materials for the EJAF’s fundraising Academy Awards parties. EJAF has raised over $450M for HIV prevention, treatment, and anti-stigma programs across the globe. John also designed the USA For Africa / We Are The World album, which has raised over $70M for African Hunger Relief.

While studying at UCLA, John met George Lucas. The director was looking for student artists to create character sketches for Star Wars, in early development. John figured the best way to do this was to teach himself how to draw comic book action figures. Taking time off from school, he copied the work of Marvel Comics geniuses Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott, two renowned sci-fi character renderers. John presented 30 drawings to Lucas, who used some of them in his presentations to studios. The project greatly deepened John’s admiration for science fiction, so much so that he began to write and illustrate his own sci fi stories.

Years later, when Jack Kirby stopped by John’s design studio, an inspired conversation took place. Jack and John agreed that creating iconic new heroes by writing about them AND graphically sketching them out provides a resonance and legitimacy which writing alone can’t achieve. “If you can do both,” said Jack, “it makes the end result far more realistic. Your drawings inform your writing. And your writing gives your drawings wings to soar.”

John was surprised to hear that the comic book innovator had taught himself how to draw by tracing newspaper cartoons. In addition to learning freehand sketching at the Chicago Art Institute, John had repeatedly traced Tarzan figures out of books his father had given him to read. Hearing this, Jack said: “Copying someone else’s style is the best way to develop your own style. You can’t go wrong imitating the masters.”

During the time John’s wife was the Head of Business Affairs for Ridley Scott, Ridley showed John his Blade Runner storyboards and the drawings he’d made for his 1st student film. He explained in great detail how directors gravitate to stories that transport viewers to other worlds. That stuck with John in a major way.

Being a graphic designer, John thinks in highly visual terms. All of John’s novels are written with films in mind.

In 1996, John was invited by his cousin to a NASA/McDonnell Douglas Blended Wing Body Design Review. The BWB is an advanced long-range ultra-capacity airliner with major aerodynamic efficiencies and military transport applications. Its unique boomerang shape creates a 28% fuel-burn savings. John’s cousin, Robert Liebeck, a senior aerospace engineer at McDonnell Douglas, was one of the BWB’s lead designers. Attending the Design Review impacted John greatly, stimulating him to write an outline for a First Contact novel – Time Doors – based on an interstellar version of the BWB.

John is one of the founders and the CMO of CURRENT EV, an innovative car-shopping website that helps EV adopters lease or purchase the correct electric vehicle, hybrid or plug-in hybrid for their lifestyle and budget. Customers “build” the car they’re interested in on the website and submit it for bids. Dealers provide their lowest possible offers, which CURRENT EV submits to their clients. CURRENT EV’s handling of every detail from the early car selection process to signing paperwork and taking delivery saves customers time, money and hassles. For 8 years, John has written more than 100 EV reviews and stories about the Electric Vehicle Evolution/Revolution for the website’s blog, EV CURIOUS.

John’s work – including his recording artist graphic designs, his photography, fine art, and illustrations for his other novels – is at: