Monday, January 28, 2008

Bent Out of Shape

USPS Preview of New 2008 Stamps Includes Eames Set

Among some of the cool stamps coming out this year is a tribute set to my favorite design team: Ray and Charles Eames. The 16 stamp sheet includes chairs, furniture, a portrait of the husband and wife team and some of their abstract designs. Way ahead of their time (post WWII) the Eames created some stunning design in furniture, architecture, graphics, films and more. They pioneered new industrial design techniques and had great vision.

I always thought stamp design was a really neat medium as the designs have gotten better in the recent past (I really liked the superhero stamps from the last two years with the mini covers!). The brilliant color on these little canvases are seen by millions. Stamp design needs to be expression, tight and dynamic!

Other stamps for 2008 include: the young Frank Sinatra, vintage black cinema, Betty Davis (and her eyes), a really nice Latin jazz design (by graphic artist/illustrator Michael Bartalos) and a series of nutcrackers for Xmas 2008!

View the Eames stamps on the Print magazine website- click here.

See all the new 2008 USPS Stamps on their site- click here.

"In recognition of their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, manufacturing and photographic arts, designers Charles and Ray Eames will be honored next summer with a pane of 16 stamps designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC. If you’ve ever sat in a stackable molded chair, you’ve experienced their creativity." (Print magazine)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Where It Began

A peek into the past sometimes can drop into your lap. Literally!

As my appetite for rock biographies deepens (I am on by 3rd bio this year!), I have moved on the 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky By David Henderson. It is a book I have owned for ages, purchasing to read probably back in 1982-83 or so. Not a very good book, but I'll try and slog through it...

I found the book tucked away with a few others that I had forgotten about. As I open the book to begin reading, the homemade, yellowed bookmark fell out. It was a pencil sketch that I did when I was a lad (early 80s) of Jim Morrison! When I was a rock loving youth I used to spend a lot of time drawing. The budding artist that I was, that was all I did. Finding this Lizard King drawing was quite a blast from the past- so you can see my love of all things design/art and rock had started at a very early age.

I guess this was a sign that the next bio I have to re-read will be Danny Sugarman & Jerry Hopkin's No One Here Gets Out Alive. This is the book that was my bible as a young impresonable lad. Maybe my love of excessive excess was born because of it- who knows?

I am the lizard king, I can do anything!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Super Bad

Being a comic book guy from old, I enjoyed this T that I found while while perusing the latest winning designs at Threadless.

All the cliché super villians in the comic book world pretty much fit into a category, from the Mad Scientist to the Evil Genius, from the Big Boss to the Lab Monster. Captain America was always fighting the Red Skull, ya know. I think this Threadless tee covers them all.

The artist, Joshua Kemble, states he was inspired by looking at one of my fav artists from the 60s & 70s, Jack 'King' Kirby- A Marvel legend!

The League of Cliché Super Villians Tee by Joshua Kemble - click here. Scroll down on the page to see the larger art.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Too Much Too Young

Well my foray back into live DJ-mix recording has had mixed results.

I had gotten a home-stereo system based CD burner- which is great. The sound is incredible and the base sounds better that most CDs. The 2 mixes so far are from vinyl records, mostly 12"s and they are thick and chunky, not tinny like store-bought CDs- with too much 'high'.

The trick to this process is that you need to track the songs so they are registered on the final CD as individual songs- a number of songs instead of one long track. Not such a bad thing, you just have to reach over and hit the little red record button every time you start a new song. Well, the tricky part is when you are attempting to mix out of one song and simultaneously fading into the next. See, the pan slider doesn't work on my mixing board so you have to fade one song up as you are fading the other song down, at the same time you have to reach over to hit the button and track it! And since I have been doing this myself, I have to, hopefully, have the next few songs picked out, all the while scratching down the song titles on a scrap of paper. (I could really use an 'engineer' to help me with this process!)

The appeal of the live mix is the spontaneity and the mistakes (as long as there are not too many!). The final CD represents a moment in time. I have boxes and boxes of cassette tapes that are the same thing. The dated ones help to explain a bit about what was happening at the time of the mix- putting it in context. These live mix CDs are what it sounds like when you are DJing at an event. When you are out DJing live you can't stop a song you don't like and play another one. If you make a 'bad' choice you usually are stuck playing it through, maybe fading it out early if the song lets you. It is different when I make a mix on the computer, I put in a bunch of songs, fool around with the order, burn a copy, listen to it in the car (the best place to listen to any mix is in the car, ask anybody...), swap around the songs, burn another copy, listen to it, etc. etc. You get the picture.

The live mix is a real 'what you get is what you get' it is an 'as is' mix; warts and all. So far I have made 2 mixes, and they are a bit rough. Now do I take these CDs and use them as a guide, remix them them by doing it again and trying to clean it up? The both have a 'dog' or two- these are songs that sounded like a good idea at the time, but after listening in on the final mix, don't seem to fit in. The 'dogs' sometimes appear when a track is short and I don't have time to look for another, so I grab the closet record (see The Selector) , which may have been an 'on deck-maybe' song and toss it in to keep the flow going. Do I re-record the mixes using these versions as a guide and replace the 'dogs' on them? Don't get me wrong, there are some highlights where the mix is perfect-- is it possible to recreate the good spots exactly the same the second time? Or do I leave the mixes as is as is, and except them for what they are; live and rough- like doing in in the niteclub/house party.

Do I go ahead and make cool cover art and hand them out to all my friends? I have to listen to them a few more times and see.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Torn and Frayed

I got turned on to this great article by a friend about the making of the Replacements 'Pleased to Meet Me' album that they recored in Memphis in 1987. Great cover including ripped off Elvis lettering, tattered rock guy hand shaking business guy hand, but that yellow color- ugh!

Most of it is recollections with producer Jim Dickenson (Tommy: ‘Look Paul, he’s got a flannel shirt. He’s just like us.’ Paul: ‘I don’t care what his shirt is. He’s not like us.’) and it has some great antidotes and stories about the birth of some of the song's on what is probably one of the best rock and roll records from the late 1980s! I know, I know... it's a 'Slim' record... and it's no Let it Be, but it's a damn good record.

The articles was written by Ted Drozdowski and it appears on the Gibson guitar website.

A great quote from Jim talking about Westerberg getting all emotional at the end of The Ledge:

Hell, Quincy Jones sits there and listens to Michael Jackson sob; what’s the difference?
>> Read the article online here.

Dose of Thunder

Designing in the rain. A rainy, dreary dark Friday can make you rather unenthusiastic about your work especially in the creative field. Time to pull out some mood changing bright colors and see if we can sweep some life into this morning. Yellow, anyone? A Sabres losing skid at 8 games isn't helping anyone's mood either. The jubilation following a win would be nice on a morning like this.

Does mood effect your designing, your creativity? Do you design better when you are in a good mood? Is it harder to come up with fresh exciting ideas if you are in a bad mood? Psychology experts will tell you (and there is numerous articles online about this) that good health and good moods go together... so it would seem to reason that a good mood promotes good design. But when your are a design professional (did he say 'professional'?) it is hard to fit your mood into your schedule. Sometime you have to produce whether the weather (or your current mood because it it) promotes creativity.

So how do we change our mood to promote good design? Play some upbeat music? Turn on all the lights? Go for a walk? Call it a day? Peruse some design books and look at some good designs... will that be enough to change the doldrums into exciting and fun design.

While working on some print ads I reminding of something I read on the AIGA website a few months back- "Good design connects with people." It is more than catching someone's eye as they page thorough a newspaper or magazine-- once you caught their attention can you change their behavior? Good design makes the viewer take action. Marketers like that the 'call to action' statement in advertising. Good ads, and good design make people take notice, make them want to buy a product, employ the service or think differently about a thought or idea.

So it would make sense that designing while in a good mood will make the process more successful. What about photographers? Do they take better pictures when they are in good moods? What about illustrators or computer programmers? Does a good mood enhance their code writing skills. Can a good mood promote better problem solving?

Monday, January 7, 2008


What inspires you?

I am currently finishing up another book (2 so far this year, I bet you are thinking 'boy, is he s-m-a-r-t!') and this one is about 'inspiration' and what inspires some leading designers. A bunch of designers were interviewed for Inspirability- 40 Top Designers Speak About What Inspires Them by Pash (Matt Pashkow) and it gives you some insight into how some of these designers come up with their ideas. Designers interviewed include Michael Bierut, Stefan Sagmeister, Modern Dog and Milton Glaser. What inspires them to create?

For some designers it is looking at old design books and for some it is walking on the beach, not thinking about design. For some it is playing loud music while sketching in a notebook and for others it is watching old movies, going to the flea market or even mountain biking.

For me it involves walking away.

A lot of times I will be wrestling with a design problem looking for a solution (as I am right now for a website layout) and I find it best if I step away: to get away from the computer, get out of the office and just get away from all distractions. I think I do my best thinking when I am in the shower, at the gym or walking the dogs.

Since I am immersed in the business of this design business, and J. and I are the main conceptors, we are always talking about the business and designing. When I am doing these solitary things, I am trying to not think about design. I think it is the elimination of design that makes me think about the problem and the solution and usually it will come to me then- the inspiration, the solution.

I like to look at design annuals (Print, How, InStep, etc.) and read about design. I will look at things on the internet but sometimes it is so hard to weed through all the crap to find anything inspiring online. I like to play records and look at LP cover art. I also have a big collection of old magazines and clip art from by-gone eras (lovingly titled the Box o' Many Graphics) which I find very inspiring. A lot of my design has been influenced by the past- when everything was done by hand.

Why inspires you to design? Let me know.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Who Loves The Sun

By writing this I have already violated #09, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Here is my list of resolutions (or better, yet 'plans') for 2008. A lot of these all work together, but the pieces will make a better whole (I think).

10) More Design.
Always can work harder at what I do, eh? The more I read about great design, the more I want to be a better designer.

09) Less Procrastinating.
Less wasted time, no more killing the clock (like I am doing right now....).

08) More Sleep.
I want to try and stay away from those 1:00AM work nights... I can always use the rest & besides Hunter is on RTN at midnight.

07) More Quality Family Time.
Goes without saying.... better for all.

06) Less Beer, More Wine.
This is basically a calories thing, my health-kick took a major blow this holiday season as the party doesn't seem to stop. I finished reading the Replacements book and it made we want to drink a lot of beer and play loud rock-n-roll.

05) No More Cookies & Candy.
Note: same as above. I have been over-sugared the past 2 weeks.

04) More Money.
This will make my luxurious lifestyle even more luxurious! Ha!
I want to work smarter, not harder.

03) Less Complaining.
Can I stop being the old grumpy guy? We shall see- it may just be destiny.

02) Less Buying Things.
Less consuming! All I seem to be doing this past month is spending- I think I have way too much STUFF!

01) More Happiness For All Involved!
I think if everyone around me is happier, maybe I will be as well. I am already pretty happy, but like I said above ... we shall see.