As a busy father of two frenetic girls, and a busy graphic design schedule, I don’t have much time to sit down with a good book. When I do, I usually trying to catch up on my pile of unread comic books. So when the Christmas holidays roll around, I try to soak up as many pages as possible. It is my goal to catch up on the books that piled up in the studio over the past year, as well as the gems that I acquire as X-mas gifts. A well designed book is always inspirational (even if it isn’t specifically about “design”).
Here is a quick rundown of what I caught up on over the holidays and into January;
My love of comic books is no secret. I have been purchasing funny books on a weekly basis since I was eight years old, and much to the dismay of my wife, my collection has ballooned to almost 20,000 issues. There is little doubt that my love for the comic book medium lead directly to my involvement in the graphic arts. When FanExpo was held this past weekend in Vancouver, anyone who has ever met me knew where I could be found.
I love comic books, but the fans that attended FanExpo really, really, REALLY embrace pop culture. The variety of costumes on display helped pass the time while waiting in the ridiculously long line-up to get into the convention centre. So many characters pulled from comic books, cartoons, anime, movies and video games… kudos to the amount of effort that Vancouver fans put into their costumes.
For anyone associated with the visual arts, events like this just can’t be passed up. It was visual overload and a great opportunity to be exposed to some really interesting material. The work that our graphic design studio produces is primarily based in print, and there was no shortage of interesting print matter to ogle. Great vintage posters, exciting books, wonderful packaging, and cutting edge illustrations; many created right in front of your eyes. Aside from an opportunity to find obscure comics or hard-to-find toys, it is a good chance to discover new inspiration. I was lucky enough to chat with the creators of some of my favourite comics and I even had Stan Lee sign one of my back issues. The guy is in his 90’s and he has more energy than my kids!
If comic books aren’t your thing (What!?!), FanExpo does a great job of offering a variety of pop culture interests, and the programming takes advantage of the TV, Film and Videogame talent that is a huge part of the industry in Vancouver. Great fun for kids of all ages. Maybe next year I’ll even bring mine along.
I’m a sucker for good graphic design books (what designer isn’t?). A pile of books showed up around Christmas time. Some of them were X-mas gifts, others arrived from the library. Luckily, I was able to dig into them over the holidays and become inspired by what I read. Here is a quick rundown of what was awesome on the book pile;
Anyone who has talked to me for more than fifteen minutes knows that I am a HUGE comic book nerd. Ever since I was eight years old, I have spent a good portion of my weekly disposable income on funny books. A good friend pointed out a long time ago, “Just imagine if you had invested that same money into mutual funds”. True, I would be in a much better financial position, but I would have lost out on thousands of hours of reading and visual enjoyment, as well as one of the main influences that directed me toward my career in the Graphic Arts. And although I would definitely have a lot more storage space available, I would not be the repository of useless superhero trivia that I am today. The visual language of comic books often creeps into my professional work and it is so ingrained into my being that I usually don’t even notice until someone else points it out. One of my favourite comic elements that sometimes shows up on our brainstorming sessions is “Kirby Krackle“.
Kirby Krackle is named after an effect created by Jack “the King” Kirby. Kirby would bring his pages alive by simulating the visual appearance of energy through the use of layered black and white dots. Similar to how a corse half-tone pattern generates the illusion of a photograph in a newspaper, Kirby would arrange dots in a way that created the crackling effect of electricity or powerful flowing energy. Once he figured out how to harness the power of those dots, he used them to create a dynamism within his work that has rarely been matched even to this day, almost 45 years later. Another of my favourite comic artists, John Byrne also utilized Kirby Krackle with great mastery.
Unfortunately Kirby Krackle is such a niche comic books visual motif, that most people who are not versed in comic’s visual language do not understand it. As a result, my heroic attempts to implement Kirby Krackle outside of anything remotely comic book related never make it past the concept sketches. I’ve kept my eyes open to see if anyone else has used a similar effect in the traditional work of the graphic design industry, but I have yet to see anything beyond the comic book medium. I swear, one day it will be the perfect visual solution for a design problem that I am struggling with… and what a truly great day that will be.
The Silver Surfer by Jack Kirby © Marvel Comics
Ever since “Art” college I’ve carried around some form of sketchbook, and I’ve always held onto a romantic stereotype of the artist’s sketchbook. I’ll never forget purchasing that first sketchbook before my first year drawing class. Our semester long assignment was to lurk around back alleys downtown and draw whatever we found (interesting on so many levels). Whenever I pick up supplies, I always get side-tracked looking at the variety of notebooks available, and I usually get at least one sketchbook for Christmas or birthdays every year. I’ve even taken a stab at book-binding and made my own books and journals. I know lots of graphic designers stick to the same brand and size format all the time (consistency is the key to strong branding!), but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to try out something different every time. I’m infatuated by the endless possibilities a new sketchbook presents (and I like flipping through friends and other designer‘s sketchbooks).
Unfortunately, my habit of filling pages has dropped off considerably and it has been a long time in-between starting a fresh book. I used to religiously carry my sketchbook around Vancouver, jotting down notes, whipping off quick drawings, cobbling together layouts, and taping in clippings and photos. There’s always a sense of accomplishment when all the pages are filled and I can crack open a fresh blank book. However, most of our “professional” 10four concept sketches, research and layouts for graphic design studio projects are done on loose, letter size pages and stuffed into numbered docket envelopes. Now my sketchbooks are mostly for personal projects (which are few and far between), or taking notes during client meetings (which are not few and far between). Even less now that I carry my iPhone everywhere and just snap off photos whenever I want a reference or need to remember something. Maybe if I get my hands on a very expensive calligraphy pen (or dig out the rapidographs) it will reboot my sketchbook output.