Global Gear: Air Wear's Jason Solarek talks world travel, art, and love of place

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Aug 13, 2008 / 0 comments

Always on the lookout for cool products for our Wandering Educators, we recently partnered with Air Wear Designs. Created by artist Jason Solarek, this is such a fun product line - airport codes on hats, tshirts, messenger bags (my personal favorite), notebooks, tote bags, and mugs. Jason has personally designed over 90 airport codes for these products. I am wondering which one to get next - NRT (my favorite), or SEA (my favorite food), or ATH (my mom just got back), or FRA (my dad seems to always go through there), and have asked for Glasgow, next...but I digress.

I got on the phone and called Jason, and just had the best time talking and laughing. He's really a great (and funny) guy. It was the best laugh I've had this week! Jason graciously agreed to an interview with us, so that we could learn the background behind the fantastic designs.  As we were talking, Jason discussed the emotions that these products can draw - based on your experiences around the world. I have to say, when I think of the airports I have been through, I have emotions of place that I can identify quite strongly - places I love, people I love, food I love...I think that Jason has a winner of an idea on his hands!

Jason Solarek - Air Wear


Here's what Jason had to say...

WE: Please tell us about Air Wear...

JS:  Air Wear is a new product line that celebrates traveling to far reaches of the world. Each product features one of 90 different global airport codes, from Tokyo to Tierra del Fuego. We plan to offer all 4,000 airport codes in the world. Whether it's your favorite city, where you vacation, or the place you met your first love, Air Wear helps you share your special location. Each Air Wear design is custom made for the location, and our trademarked design includes the city's airport code, city name, and latitude.  We offer the 90+ locations on: - Travel bags - Travel journals - Baseball caps - Beach bags/totes - T-shirts. 

Our product line has been featured in: - National Geographic Traveler - CNN Traveller - Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, among many others.

At first, the design is sort of a puzzle. You don't know what IST, BKK or HGK is...but you see the plane and the barcode, and your brain is put to work. It's sort of satisfying to try and guess what IST is. Traveling can be a puzzle, and in a way, this series echoes that. Since I was born in Rochester, NY, ROC was one of the first designs that I made. Other early designs also had personal significance, and include: IST (where my first love lives), NRT (where I attended college and learned judo), AZO (where my brother lives), and JFK (because it's home). I have also always wanted to be from an exotic many of the cities for which I have made a design.

WE:  Where did you get the idea for designing Air Wear?

JS:  I had the idea for Air Wear while working as a newspaper reporter in Venezuela, and then at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina. I wanted to give gifts to friends and family while traveling, and I couldn't find a Caracas or Buenos Aires t-shirt or souvenir that I was happy with giving. I thought that more people than myself may be facing this issue, and thought they too may want a cool memento to remember all the cool places one can visit. So I set about finding a design language that could communicate all the locations in the world. I realized airport codes were a universal 'language' and had not been used yet.

WE: You're an artist - can you please explain some of the artistic concepts behind Air Wear?

JS:  There are many ways to communicate in visual design. You use different objects, colors, and textures as languages to convey a location, a feeling (such as hope or sadness), and time. In making the design, it was important to me that the design be contemporary, artistic, abstract, sexy, and universal. The black and white design is contemporary, the barcode brings abstraction, and the plane silhouettes within the barcode lines the artistic. The planes suggest traveling, and therefore bring some sex appeal. Mile high, baby.

The information at the bottom (that says the name and latitude) brings function to the item, balancing the artistic reverberations of the barcoded airport code. With this design, I am not using pictures, or famous buildings from the location. Only about 0.1% of places have a visual que that someone will recognize. NYC has the Empire St. Building, Paris the Eiffel Tower, but most places do not have a notable visual que. This design benefits from that by using a different 'language' to convey the spot. With this design, any location via its airport code can offer a memento - even the most remote.

WE:  What is important about airport codes? Why do people identify with them so strongly?

JS:  Airport codes are a cipher, and people like to be in the know, and share where they're from.

WE:  Where will you travel next?

JS:  Iran or China. We don't have to like the leadership of the location we travel to, only appreciate the difference that exists in their culture and our culture. That difference is exciting and wide between us and these countries.

WE:  What is your travel background?

JS:  Spain was my first destination abroad when I was 14 years old. I studied abroad twice in college, for a semester in Japan, where I studied Judo, and then for the sumer in Ecuador (in to pass Georgetown's rigorous foreign language proficiency exam, which was required to graduate). Then I worked in Caracas for a newspaper, where I interviewed Hugo Chavez, and then interned at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina in the Commercial Service Office.

WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

JS:  I have always enjoyed international relations, which plays out in the cities for which I make designs. That's my enduring passion. S


WE: Thanks so much, Jason! I love our Air Wear, and plan on getting it for everyone in our family for the next big round of gift-giving!



To learn more about Jason's fun Air Wear Designs, please click here.