Young Guns 21: Max Amato

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 01, 2023

Get to know the phenomenal class of Young Guns 21

After 85 incredible finalists and intense deliberation, the Young Guns jury has narrowed it down to the 29 winners that make up the class of Young Guns 21. An astounding collection of animators, illustrators, film directors, typographers (a few Ascenders 2023 winners as well!), graphic designers, and photographers make up YG21.

Every year we interview the Young Guns winners to get to know them better as artists and people. And as always, we are welcoming another class of outstanding individuals into the highly coveted Young Guns community.

Now that you know the YG21 winners better, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating them in person at NYC’s Sony Hall on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, at 6:30 PM. See you in two weeks and get ready to party!

Max Amato


Brooklyn, NY


Silver Spring, MD


What were your original impressions of the Young Guns competition, the award, and the community?

I first heard about Young Guns from professors at Tyler School of Art where I got my BFA. I really looked up to some people that had won in the past, and I thought it seemed like a total pipe dream to win. It was both inspiring and intimidating to see people not that much older me working on dream projects and building the type of career that I wanted to have.

How did you end up in the creative field anyways?

I have been an overly hard-working, perfectionist, artsy type since about the age of six. I've always enjoyed drawing and making things, but found that I made better work when there was some kind of tangible goal or commercial purpose to what I was doing. For example, in high school art class, I created a fictional t-shirt company instead of making paintings. That kind of tendency led me to graphic design, a field where you can be artistic and creative, but in a way that has a responsibility to communicate something for someone else.

Over the last few years, I've embraced and am pursuing my pure artistic side much more, but that pragmatic mind was the genesis of how I got started professionally.

Congrats on the win! Why did you decide to enter this year?

I had thought I'd probably enter at some point, but I only wanted to enter once. So, I figured I'd wait until the last possible moment when I had a more clear idea of who and what I am working towards as an artist, and when I had most projects to choose from.

You only get to submit six projects that embody you and your talent. The best of the very best. So, how did you decide which pieces were good enough to make the cut?

It was difficult to choose the projects, because I am more of a swiss army knife than I am a specialist. I do branding, illustration, 3D rendering, animation, illustration, children's books, and I definitely wasn't sure how to package all that. Some of those areas didn't get represented. But after chatting with a couple friends about my work, it felt like the recurrence of sports and culture as a theme was something that ties a lot of my personal and professional work together. I grew up playing soccer and basketball, and have forever been fascinated by the collision of art and athletics. Expressive movement and energy are key to what I do, so I tried to make sure that everything I shared had that spirit.

" Expressive movement and energy are key to what I do, so I tried to make sure that everything I shared had that spirit."

Knowing how difficult it is to actually win Young Guns, what was your reaction when you discovered that you won?

My email was bugging out at the time, so I actually discovered that I won by receiving a slightly concerned follow-up email asking me to kindly hurry up because I was late in sending a headshot, answers to these interview questions, etc. I was at my studio in Bushwick, stoked, but with a dash of irrational panic that I had missed the deadline and that they'd take it away.

In what ways does your hometown inspire your creativity as an artist? What about your current city?

My upbringing in Maryland is a big part of who I am as a person and as an artist. Silver Spring is a super diverse, eclectic area, so you're exposed to all different kinds of people. My friends in high school and I were obsessed with sharing music, playing soccer and basketball, reading streetwear blogs, and collecting sneakers. I think in my brain, New York felt like it would be all that on steroids.

And it kind of is. New York feels like where I was always meant to be. For me the enemy of my own creativity is stagnation, and New York is always changing. There's always a new gallery to check out, a new artist to look up to, a new concert to go to, a crazy storefront to walk by, new people to people watch, and new food to try. I think that feeling of constant change and growth has seeped into my own practice. I want my work to feel as vibrant and alive as New York does.

I am also someone who goes through intense swings of extroversion and introversion, and this city is amazing for that. I can tap into and be a part of immense energy with my talented friends and creative community at any given moment. But the next day, I can wander through the city alone, and take in all the chaos at my own pace.

Now that you’re a part of the Young Guns community, which past winners do you look up to and admire? What is it about their work that you love?

Justin Thomas Kay, (YG6). I became aware of Justin because he worked at Doubleday & Cartwright, which was my favorite studio when I graduated school. He, Kimou Meyer (another major inspiration of mine) and the D&C team created an amazing rebrand of the Milwaukee Bucks. To me doing the branding for an NBA team would be an absolute dream project, and I wanted to work with people who could teach me how to do that. Although we didn't cross paths at D&C, he was doing the kind of work I wanted to be doing, and I was lucky to end up working at that studio, to which I owe a lot of early success in my career.

Mario Hugo, (YG7). Mario is one of my favorite artists. I look at his work and have no idea how he made it, which I think is so impressive. I go back to him and the amazing collection of artists he represents at Hugo & Marie as a source of inspiration often throughout my career, and I would love to be on that roster one day.

Michael Freimuth, (YG8). Michael is incredibly talented, having founded the studio Franklyn, which has done great branding work for a while now. Michael sticks out because he combines all that talent with the most generous and humble demeanor. He was nice enough to meet with me early on in my career when I was looking for advice, and we've stayed in touch ever since.

Grand Army, (YG9). Grand Army is another studio that I look up to as a benchmark for the kind of branding studio I am planning to start. Their work is experimental and full of soul, they work with extremely intriguing clients, and most importantly, they put a ton of time into side projects and non-client work, which has always been the same for me.

Chloe Scheffe, (YG17). Chloe and her partner Natalie Shields are the best editorial designers I know. Mad respect.

If you could create a new Young Guns tradition, what would you want it to be and why?

I would create a partnership with high schools to educate and give mentoring opportunities to high schoolers, so they can learn about creative careers. A lot of times, kids and their parents think that being creative for your job would mean being a starving artist, but it doesn't have to be that way. There is a lot of practical demand for what we do, and I'd love to inspire artistic kids with real life concerns that you can really build a life and a career around your creativity.

Name a creative and professional dream project that you have yet to fulfill — maybe Young Guns will propel you in that direction!

Easy answer. My absolute pinnacle project is to design the branding for the Olympics one year. It's the world's biggest tradition, it transcends time, location, culture, and creates a moment of connection for everyone on Earth. I remember watching London 2012, designed by Wolff Olins, and discovering the branding for Mexico 1968 by Lance Wyman. Getting the chance to work on something of that scale, with that much emotion and human spirit tied to it is my biggest goal. Mark my words, I'm going to make it happen!

This is YG21, but what do you imagine you’ll be up to when YG31 rolls around in 2033?

In 2033, I will have a retail space that sells art and objects, some that I make myself, and some curated from other people whose work I admire. Above the storefront is my boutique branding and design studio that focuses on risk-taking clients in sport, music, and fashion. We just happen to be working on a big presentation for the 2036 Olympic Games.

I split my time between upstairs and downstairs, but still have plenty of time to play basketball a few times a week, go to shows and concerts, draw in parks, and hang with friends.

Will we see you at the YG21 party in NYC in November?

I've been working hard and could use a drink. I'll see you there.



Come party with us and celebrate all the Young Guns 21 winners on Wednesday, November 15 at Sony Hall! See you at 6:30 PM in NYC!

Get tickets! It's party time!

The class of Young Guns 21



Fire + Fragility: Zuzanna Rogatty's YG21 Cube Design
Young Guns 21: Justin Au
Young Guns 21: Tess Ayano
Young Guns 21: Caroline Bagley







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