Thursday, January 27, 2011

Since I like writing letters...

I was experimenting with ink and watercolor while trying to make a card for my friend. The only drawback is that the watercolor wrinkles the paper, even if it is 100 lb. linen. The quote is by D.M. Dellinger. I think the card could have done without the skeleton key this time, but that was part of the experiment too.

I love doing things by hand!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Trust in what is difficult."

Jocelyn Glei writes a post on The 99 Percent about one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke. His book, Letters To A Young Poet, is easily in my top 3 favorite books on creativity. Glei notes the wisdom within Rilke's advice, including passages from the book about solitude, patience, and difficulty.

This past summer, I came across Letters on Life, which I found similarly enriching. Reasons to love Rilke? (As if you need them): He's brilliant, he valued correspondence, and he was great friends with Auguste Rodin.

This may be my all-time favorite quote:

"You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Then draw near to Nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose."

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet.

33 years, over 375 sketchbooks!

This is a great video posted by Pentagram where Daniel Weil discusses the importance of sketchbooks and drawing in his process. He walks through many of his projects (Mothercare, Benetton, the Israel Museum, United Airlines, the Savoy Hotel), demonstrating that a good knowledge of art history can do wonders for influencing his designs. He's had more than 375 sketchbooks since 1978! If you don't want to watch all 7.5 minutes, make sure you don't miss from 5:30 on.

Daniel Weil: Drawing the Process from Pentagram on Vimeo.

"The nature of drawing is changing... The fear for me is the accumulative benefit of process is disappearing. I think technology brings us phenomenal advances and great opportunity in reinventing the way we do things, but maybe it is a reinvention too far, as certain things cannot just be reinvented without... losing the benefit of the culture that they bring with them. So I hope that the more we go into a technological world, the more we'll keep on investing in the analog one. The artistic heritage... is something that i think designers are as responsible to keep on enriching as they are in developing things for the future."
(Daniel Weil)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

(I don't know who drew this type, but I find it quite amazing, and it's Rage Against the Machine lyrics; how can you not love it?)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Design encouraging healthier food choices?

Interesting article by Alexandra Lange from Design Observer.

Can changing food packaging entice people to choose something healthier? The blog entry covers several interesting points about choices and packaging. Not only does the design have to be great and stand out from other competitors, but class is a factor as well.

"I started to think about what food packaging says about class in America. Where you shop, and what the bag, bottle or box looks like, is as good an indicator of your class and what you think food is as any survey." (Lisa Miller, Newsweek, Divided We Eat).

There's clear separation between upscale, minimalistic packaging and organic paper bag, chalk, simple illustration within health food design. It sets it apart from tacky potato chip bags or cookie packaging, but is it approachable within the same class who would buy generic because of price or habit?

It's an interesting creative problem to approach.

(Packaging by Rick's Picks)

(Tasty Pot Co. packaging by New Zealand's Beyond)

(Innocent packaging by Pearlfisher)
*I had the fruit smoothie in London a few years ago and bought it specifically for the adorable packaging.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Matthew Freel

Warrior-Preacher (Theodore Roosevelt), watercolor on paper, 54x74"

In the recent past, I had the privilege of seeing the work of Matthew Freel at his studio located at Studio 33 Arts Center in Baltimore. I was drawn to his work after catching a glimpse of the large (54"x70") watercolor, Warrior-Preacher (Theodore Roosevelt), from the hall. The work was magnetic. I had to get closer and examine the brushstrokes and the exciting movement on the enormous paper. As I looked at the many other works he had displayed, I felt a passion for the work welling up inside me. It was so inspiring!

I noticed several themes in the subjects of his work. He seemed interested in Theodore Roosevelt, boxers, Superman, and Hindu gods. His drawings are well crafted with careful and interesting marks. His paintings are passionate- I love the aggressive use of movement in them. There's an excitement in the work where they seemed to come alive and the figural struggles felt tangible. It is truly great work by a talented artist.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pacific opening sequence

Jivan Dave posted this in his blog a couple months ago, and when I saw that The Pacific was nominated for a Golden Globe, I wanted to show this awesome title sequence designed by Imaginary Forces. It was also nominated for best main title design in the EMMY's. The inspiration was taken from "the history of battlefield sketchers". The charcoal is so sensual, leading into poetic procession of images. I like how the crumbling bits of charcoal visually represent explosions throughout the scenes.

Imaginary Forces is also responsible for the Mad Men opening sequence, and the spectacular Paul Rand short film (designers- if you haven't seen it yet, YOU MUST. It's worth it).

The Pacific Opening Credits from Steve Fuller on Vimeo.

Got Morning Breath?

The exciting duo of Doug Cunningham and Jason Noto began in a skateboard design shop in San Francisco and evolved into a business located in Brooklyn, NY called Morning Breath Inc.. This team has worked beyond skateboard designs into posters, books, and records. In December they opened a show of 20 medium and large paintings and 49 smaller works, mostly silkscreen on wood panel. Photos of the show can be found on their blog.

I really love their work. I'm intrigued by the simplicity and character of American kitsch, ads and design from the 1940's-1950's era in the U.S. There's something innocent and nostalgic about it. Morning Breath is inspired by work from the past decades, but they make it their own and put a new spin on it so it functions as a contemporary work. The functionality of 50's ad references in the work makes the overall paintings seem juicy in a grungy or slightly obscene way, as provocative as gossip feeding curiosity. They remind me of the great Art Chantry, another favorite of mine.

"In their own words, the Morning Breath signature style is 'a dismantling of classic American typography and illustration,' constructed in a way that preserves the retro look and feel, only 'broken down in a way that would never have taken place 40 years ago.'” (Diana Salier interview) See more about them on their site.

On the process:
We just start building, layering and layering. Jason primarily does the typography and design, and I’ll do the illustration part. Sometimes we’ll block in areas with acrylic paint and silkscreen on top of that, bring in some hand-drawn elements, working with inks to create more overlap in the imagery. Whereas in the past we’d do things that were very random, more of an accidental coming-together, now we’re pushing it deliberately, but still in a way that the aesthetic stays and looks very accidental. (Doug Cunningham)

On the concept:
A lot of old advertisements promised things to people that were false; they had a very strange way of going about it. So we change the lettering and juxtapose different words — strange, bizarre words — that when pushed into the middle of an ad almost become religious. It’s flipping the context of the ad, so all of a sudden the viewer is looking at it and almost feeling kind of grossed out...Even in the scheme of our whole jumbling of words and imagery, it starts to make a visual sense that is wrong in its own right way. (Jason Noto)

Oh yeah- and their portfolio is pretty boss. I tried to find a link to one of my favorite pieces, but honestly, I had too much trouble choosing. I like them all.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Comedy Central rebrand

Comedy Central launched the new brand at the beginning of January. The new logo and sleek typography was incorporated into all routes of media, from television to the web and apps. The decision for change was lead by Bob Salazar, the Creative Director at Comedy Central, who noted that the Comedy Central brand "has never been so robust and so relevant in the comedy zeitgeist". The new double "C" logo with the upside down "Central" is "the irreverent wink of Comedy Central". He adds in another interview:

Ten years, that was the last time we did anything this meaningful. If you think of social media, videogames, and the conventional competition, it has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Even though the brand has never been as strong, we felt that refreshing it in our promotion and our branding, was something that we felt this moment in the network’s history would be the perfect time for."

Comedy Central Brand Transformation from thelab on Vimeo.

The Lab in NYC also worked on the brand. Alicia Johnson and Hal Wolverton gave some insightful thoughts when approaching the problem of the rebrand:

The team at the Lab invented a branding device that they felt could live in any medium. Alicia explained “the idea of this packet” which would shorten the distance between the viewer and the channel by delivering a packet to the audience through digital media, leveraging social functionality to connect the right comedy to the right audience. The goal, Alicia said, is for the packet to “behave as an object that you could share, and the object would retain branding while being screen agnostic”. This lead to a discussion on how Comedy Central could become more visible outside of the television screen: on the street, in advertising, online, on mobile platforms, tablets and smart phones. Hal cited one of the biggest challenges, “How do we get our identity to travel along with these clips that end up on YouTube?”

The solution kept restating itself. As Alicia explained “Being screen agnostic was something that just we kept going back to them on.” thelab’s solution included pages of web, tablet and mobile design comps with new navigation models demonstrating how a viewer might find the packets of content they’re looking for and what was trending, tagged or even popular amongst friends. As this structure became clear, they needed a way for viewers to identify them.

"In their pitch, thelab created the comedy mark as a branding device. The C is derived from a slide carousel of “packets” viewed from above, not unlike the Kodak Carousel Projector. This C becomes the playful center of a 3d explosion of screen caps and colors in a muted palette with elegant typography. When the action rests, the flat gothic round c, is met with a second C at the same line weight to form an incomplete circle, resulting in a c surrounded by a larger backward C. In its final representation, the mark looks not unlike the © symbol with a chunk cut out of the left side. The new symbol works in a similar spirit, effectively attributing and tagging every content packet as Comedy Central’s wherever it appears."

My opinion? I like the new rebrand. There's some resistance to it, saying that it's bland and doesn't hold enough personality for Comedy Central. I agree with Suzanne Labarre in her FastCo. blog about the logo:

"One of the chief complaints about the new logo is that it’s too corporate and looks exactly like the copyright symbol. (It also looks a lot like the Copyleft logo.) Duh, that’s the point! The copyright is the ultimate emblem of the corporate world. Here, Comedy Central is literally turning it on its head. The joke is subtle but clever. You don’t need comic sans and a brick backdrop at the Ha Ha Club to say “funny.” The new logo brands Comedy Central as funny -- and subtly suggests that they've got a lock on laughs."

The new logo incorporates an underlying irony while giving the polished look of a successful company that will translate well in all forms of media. I like that the logo isn't as obnoxious and tacky as the old- besides, with something subtle, they are letting the comedy and the shows speak for themselves. Well done, Comedy Central, you have my applause.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How the Recession Changed Us

Fast Company's Co.Design posted this cool infographic that puts the U.S. recession in perspective. Follow this link to better see the chart. It was created by The Atlantic. Apparently, Americans are reading less, and for some reason that troubles me just the same as the unemployment rate.

Moleskine ads

My favorite line of notebooks came out with a new line of helpful diaries directed toward the interests of the individual. Moleskine Passions feature 6 different themes: Recipes, Music, Film, Books, Wine, and Wellness journals. I thought the advertisements for them were pretty neat, but I really geek out about anything having to do with journals.

More about the notebooks.
More Moleskine videos.






Monday, January 10, 2011

"The Art of Drowning"

Diego Maclean is an animator from Vancouver. This is a lovely hand-drawn short with nice textural surprises. It's impressive how well water is portrayed- the floating and crashing motions of it. The Art of Drowning is by the American poet, Billy Collins.

The Art of Drowning from Diego Maclean on Vimeo.

Have some ice with your sculpture.

Check out the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan! Google it!


Snow days are very rare in South Carolina, so naturally, everyone freaks out at the smallest hint of snow. Surprisingly, we got 4-5 inches (and more in Spartanburg). I find the reaction to snow in the South pretty comical. If we're expecting even 2 inches, most people rush to the store and buy milk, bread, and eggs. ALL the milk was gone from Walmart yesterday, even the buttermilk! Then, when it snows for sure, EVERYTHING closes.

My sister and I played in the snow for awhile. The last photo is of her peeking through a space she carved under the ice that formed on the top of the car. The snow was fine and powdery this morning- wouldn't even stick- then it sleeted and a layer of ice formed on top.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Do you know what today is?

Happy [76th] birthday, Elvis Aaron Presley! (My sister and I always celebrate his birthday.)

And by the way, the Wertheimer exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery was AMAZING. It was better than I expected, 56 huge black and white photographs spanning 6 rooms and a full hallway! I had a rough couple of days in D.C. by this time, and seeing the Elvis photograph exhibit really lifted my spirits. It was along the way from one of the places I was interviewing at, and I decided to stop by after everything was done. After asking the helpful lady at the front desk, I headed straight for the exhibit and was immediately impressed by the setup. Nice typography, layout of space, and great explanations of each photograph. I took my time and walked through each room slowly. It was very nice.

The exhibit stays at the National Portrait Gallery until January 23, then moves to Doylestown, PA. Find the other tour dates on Facebook if you can't make it. A companion book, Elvis 1956: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer, was made for the show, and can be found here or on Amazon. Bob Colacello of Vanity Fair covered some great stories from Wertheimer about the portfolio of Elvis in this article.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Starbucks logo redesign- lukewarm?

The Starbucks brand has arguably one of the most recognizable logos in the U.S.; why would they want to change? The brand has evolved through some adaptations in the past, but is planning on unveiling their latest to mark their 40th year in business. From the beginning, Seattle designer Terry Heckler developed the image of the siren inspired by an old Norse woodcut, and the green ring was added when the owner of Il Giornale (Howard Schultz) bought Starbucks from the original owners in 1987. Today, most of the redesign (87% according to Terry Davenport) was done in-house.

AdweekMedia asked Terry Davenport some great questions in this interview:

Q: How big was the challenge of modifying an iconic mark, given the negative reaction consumers had with the recent redesign of another well-known logo for the Gap?

A: Obviously with a brand with such a huge profile as Starbucks, we approach this change very sensitively. We actually explored a very wide range of options and when we stood back and looked from afar as well as looked close, we all unanimously gravitated toward the images that freed the siren from the word mark. We really took inspiration from companies like Nike where at one point they separated the word "Nike" from the "swoosh" in their logo. This allows us to bring our identity to life anytime and anywhere. You’ll see it as we apply it to our white cups that will be showing up in stores around the 40th anniversary.

The logo has been simplified with the omission of the wordmark, which is a bold move. Some say that it shows that Starbucks is ready to move up in status with brands such as Nike and Apple, where the logo is recognizable on its own without the name. Others add that the influence of social media and the prevalent use of icons and apps have spurred the change in this new, simplified direction, and that the new logo will allow easier transfer into new media developments.

There are a lot of haters though, and anticipation of a backlash from designers, as there was with the terrible Gap logo last year. A lot of people feel that the 'old' logo embodied more of the feeling of a warm and comfortable coffee shop lounge, rather than this present corporate icon, cold and less approachable.

Personally, it is difficult for me to get used to change, but I'm going to take a breath and trust my beloved Starbucks on this one. I can see the need for the new adaptation in the contemporary market, fast paced and easy, but I hope this doesn't make them appear too corporate. Yes, I know they're about as corporate as you can get with a coffee shop, but my love of their brand overlooks that.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"After one glass, you see things as you wish they were..."

I know I've posted quite a few alcohol packaging on here, but some are just too good to pass up, like this Christmas Absinthe from Stranger & Stranger, the same company that brought you the lovely Kraken Rum branding. I love the Victorian lettering and the detail of it all (nice touch with the gold foil too). They make a batch of spirits every year as a special Christmas gift for people, and this year they gave absinthe. Unfortunately, it cannot be purchased.

The label on the cork reads:
“Nectar, bitter-sweet - like the last kiss on the lips of a discarded mistress, is the secret charm of my existence; green as the moon’s light on a forest pool it glimmers in my glass; eagerly I quaff it, and, as I drink, I dream.” Marie Corelli, 1890.