I was meaning to post a book review as a follow up to the one I put up a while back, but we got busy, and didn’t have time to read as much as I would have liked (aside from the typical weekly haul of comic books). Luckily, the Christmas holidays rolled around again, and I was able to find some free time to lay on the couch with a stack of books. As usual, I got some good ones as gifts over the holidays, some arrived from the local library, and others finally found their way into my hands after gathering dust on the office shelf. Here is a recap of what I spent time with over the holidays and into January;
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;
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of our good friend and studiomate Loki.
When Sue and I started 10four back in 2002, there was never a doubt that Loki would play a role in our new graphic design studio. Being your own boss has a few perks, and one of them is being able to bring your dog with you to work. Having Loki around in our office has always conveyed the kind of work environment we want to promote, and the casual, easy going attitude we express. Our clients enjoyed seeing her in our space and often asked about her on the days she stayed home. Even the mailman was happy to see her.
Over the last 12 years, we’ve moved the design office for 10four 3 times (four if you count moving offices within the same studio space), and every time Loki has had a desk to curl up under and a pillow in the corner. Last week I took that pillow home from the office for the last time, and it broke my heart.
Loki was with us from the start, and she will be missed… very, very much.
A few weeks back I did a quick trip from Vancouver to Los Angeles. It was a jammed packed, over-the-top four days, but I managed to find time to admire the typographic diversity and craftsmanship of the signage on display in the various neighbourhoods that I visited. Although I wasn’t enamoured with the local design offerings as I was when I visited the East Coast, there was still plenty to appreciate. In comparison to New York, Los Angeles is far more spread out and sprawling, so there is more distance to be covered to experience different signage opportunities. A great deal of the architecture is Art Deco and International inspired (at least in the neighbourhoods I spent my days), and the best environmental typography I found reflected that style. Neon was everywhere (which really fit with “LA”), along with the standard, mundane corporate light boxes. Not as prevalent as I would have expected, there was some “hand done” typography to be found. A somewhat unexpected surprise was a plethora of mosaic treatments. The light is unique in LA (maybe it is the smog?), and it gave the architecture and the accompanying signage a charming quality that is hard to describe.
Here are some samples of a few of my graphic design favourites;
Many more images from my field trip here…
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;
Prior to Christmas holidays I was busy styling Danica Studio’s Fall 2013 catalog.
In October I was very fortunate to see Sibella Court when she spoke at Maiwa on Granville Island. She is a stylist, designer and collector who I’ve really come to admire. She has an eye for finding the extraordinary in everyday settings and objects. The timing of her lecture was perfect as I was in the beginning stages of planning and I found her talk very inspiring.
In late November, I was on the prowl for new and interesting props. Some of the things on my list were: vintage perfume bottles, metal trays and vessels, fancy utensils, feathers, fish, nuts, fall foliage, bristle brush animals, pearls, spotted eggs, trophies and small things in shades of blue. When I wasn’t shopping, I was painting and distressing backdrops and searching for small, portable pieces of furniture.
Early December we embarked on a three week photoshoot. To make the most of everyone’s time and resources, three catalogs were shot simultaneously. For part of the shoot we rented the upstairs apartment at Le Marché St. George. The dark wood floors and vintage doors and hardware made for a lovely backdrop. I was very fortunate to work with photographers Tanya and Meghan of Sweet Heirloom again. Here are a few of my favourite shots.
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
I’m very fortunate to have not one, but two creative parents. When it came to school projects, sports day, birthday parties, Christmas concerts and Halloween, I felt we had the upper hand. Despite their hectic schedules, mom and dad always had time to help us with our science and art projects, or plan and make the perfect Halloween costume.
As a kid, part of the thrill of a homemade costume was the process; seeing a burlap sack and some Jiffy markers turn into an Indian costume; watching my dad “cast” my brothers arm when he and my older brother dressed up as Patient and Doctor; hanging out in my dad’s shop as he attached a wooden Pirate’s hook (that he cut by hand) to a Glenfiddich Whiskey tube.
As an adult, I reflect upon Halloween with very fond memories. Today most costumes are bought on eBay or at Old Navy for $29.99, with little thought and no creativity. This weekend when I pull out my sewing machine and glue gun to put the final touches on our Halloween costumes, I’m hoping to show my daughter the value of family traditions and the importance of doing it yourself.
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.