A few months back, we were asked to participate in the Canada Line Public Art Program. The result was an exhibit organized by Working Format and presented at the Waterfront Station’s Platform Gallery. The theme of the show was “Intersections“, as interpreted by various Vancouver graphic design studios.
“Great cities are defined by great intersections; Locations that play host to significant historical events, define the culture of a neighbourhood, and are the meeting point for diverse groups of people. Intersections invites seven Vancouver-based designers to explore seven essential locations throughout our city.”
Through luck of the draw, our Intersection was Broadway & Granville.
What a great project to be involved in. I have many fond memories of the Broadway & Granville intersection. Early in my career, I had a run at another design start-up (before I was fortunate enough to partner with Sue) that was located in that neighbourhood, and I used to grab my coffee at that intersection almost every morning. Years ago I had taken some photos of the historic Dick building with the spinning neon Kaplan Education Centre sign (while it still worked). We also dug up some historic photos of the long gone Aristocratic dinner that used to be a late night go to staple while I was in art-school. All that is left of the dinner is a faux neon sign in the window of the Chapters bookstore that is on the same corner. The shopping along that stretch of Granville is great, and only getting better. So many aspects to focus on. However, in the end, what it really came down to was public transit.
“The focus for the Broadway & Granville poster was the prevalence of public transit found at the intersection. Six major bus routes converge on the intersection and the 99B-line along the Broadway corridor moves more people than any other transit route in North America. The layered, abstract photograph of the trolley cables creates visual texture in the background of the poster. The custom typography is reminiscent of the hand painted shop signs and storefront windows from the high society days of the neighbourhood.”
Other posters on display are by Glasfurd and Walker, Post Projects, Seterah Shamdani, State Creative, Working Format, and Zach Bulick. Great company indeed. Please visit the exhibit, up until later this summer.
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.
I usually take a lot of photos. There is something about quickly being able to capture a moment or creating a scenario that really appeals to me. Photographic images compliment our graphic design work, and the two disciplines often merge. I’ve lost track of how many times our Vancouver design studio has been transformed into a makeshift photo studio. However, the past year has been crazy busy and my usual photo output has dramatically dropped off. The wind was taken out of my sails when all my camera gear got ripped off earlier in the year. Although it was an opportunity to update my equipment (even if it was a little forced), I had a comfortable history with many of those items and it felt hard to get back into the groove with new photographic tools.
Regardless, I managed to shoot some images I was happy with. Here are some of my favourites from the past year that haven’t been “published” before. 12 for 2012!
Heading out the door for some holiday cheer? Looking for a last minute Host gift on the way? Well look no further. Arrive in style with some festive treats; sweet sweet sweet macarons from Soirette Macarons and Tea. Last year around this time we were putting the finishing touches on packaging (and signage, and other materials) for our friends over at Soirette. At the time we did some holiday variations, however, Soirette didn’t open their doors until after the holidays, so the packaging variations we designed have not seen light of day until this month.
To celebrate the season, Shobna has launched into Christmas with a macaron collection including Gingerbread, Orange Spice, Roasted Chestnut, Mulled Wine, Cran-rosemary and Santa’s Milk & Cookies.
…And Soirette has also opened a cute little pop-up shop inside Holt Renfrew. Drop by while you are downtown wrapping up your X-mas shopping.
We’re happy to announce the exhibit we designed for the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society titled “One War, Two Victories” and hosted at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa has been extended an extra month… until February 3rd, 2013.
“The exhibit explores the experiences of Chinese Canadians who served in the Canadian Military and Volunteer Services and in Allied war efforts during the Second World War. Though denied rights and subjected to widespread discrimination before the war, many Chinese Canadians volunteered for military service and related duties, helping to secure victory abroad and greater equality at home. The exhibition presents fascinating wartime stories of unforgettable men and women, and their remarkable contributions to Canada and to the Chinese Canadian community in war and in peace.”
It was an honour to be asked to design this inspiring exhibit. If you are in the nation’s capital over the next six weeks, please check it out (the rest of the museum is spectacular as well).
images courtesy of the Canadian War Museum
A few years back I discovered that I was colourblind. I was well into my design career at that point, and the revelation came to me as a massive shock. How could I have gone all this time without knowing!?! I had taken art classes all through primary school, attended two different post secondary institutions to study art & design, held jobs at multiple graphic design studios and advertising agencies, and it had NEVER come up!?! How could this have happened? I used to mock people who had “bad” colour sense and now the karma police had come calling.
My loving Mother dropped the bomb on me during a family vacation (“we had you tested when you were a toddler and you came up as colourblind”) and when I got home I did some digging online. I found a few examples of the Ishihara Test and sure enough, failed miserably. Those frustrating circles filled with various sized dots didn’t look like anything other than that. Guess I’ll never be a pilot now, let alone an astronaut… gee, thanks Mom.
In hindsight, maybe that is why I have always been drawn to bold, high contrast graphic work. Maybe it is one of the reasons my preferences skewed early on towards graphic design instead of fine art. I’ll never know, but I do know that being colourblind has never held me back. I learned early on never to trust my eyes anyway. I was taught to look at the numeric breakdown of CMYK process colours, spec pantone numbers and never to believe the colours represented on potentially poorly calibrated computer monitors. Perhaps that is why I got really good at two and three colour solutions. As every good designer knows, in order to create a successful piece of work, it MUST work in black & white before you even consider the application of colour. I always take pride in the fact that my designs would really pop in black and white (it will be great on a fax!).
Of course Sue will never let me live it down, and loves to rub my nose in the fact that “I can’t possibly spec anything to do with colours, because I’m colourblind”. Nevermind the fact that I had created award-winning designs all while never even knowing that I had trouble distinguishing between the darkest shades of red and green.
Besides, I figure if Graphic Design master Herb Lubalin could build such an illustrious career all while being colourblind, there might be hope for me yet.
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 is 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.