Sunday, April 26, 2009

U Got The Look

How does a graphic designer/artist dress?

When I was a kid, my first impressions of an artist included a beret, black turtleneck, and probably glasses. I think that idea came from cartoons and '70s TV-- remember the beatniks on Happy Days when Ritchie was going to run away with the poet girl? Those guys were 'artists', I thought.

While I got to high school I started to realize that I could maybe get a job as an artist and probably make some sort of living. My thinking was that I could get into graphics and I would NOT have to wear a tie everyday. I didn't like them, so that was one of my main influences in getting into design- not having to wear a tie. Lawyers, doctors, office workers wore ties, NOT graphic artists!?!?! I wasn't a big turtleneck fan (they were itchy), but I figured I could manage.

Hairdresser On Fire

In college when I began to immerse myself into alternative music and the designer lifestyle, I wore a messed-up mix of eighties outsider fashion and my Tonawanda (bad '80s sweaters) roots on my sleeve. Dragging myself across the Psych Center grounds (now know as the HH Richardson Complex) to Buff State, I had my ever present Sony Walkman cassette player, black sweatpants (or patched jeans), Converse high tops or unlaced work boots, a Salvation Army dress shirt and a Goodwill old man's rain coat (flasher style). I am sure I looked like a freak smoking cigarettes with my mushroom head haircut. I am sure I thought I was cooler than I actually was.

As I got my first graphics job as the in-house designer for a chain of appliance parts store, I found I had to dress as a somewhat professional guy. My office was between the warehouse and the office-offices, so I could straddle the line between work attire and I wore jeans most of the time. I spent my free time drinking, painting and writing-- I was living like an artist-- and my dress included a lot of groovy thrift store shirts, love beads and hand painted and often ripped jeans. I started freelancing some and the jobs that followed-- working for a few pre-press companies in town-- never required me to get really gussied up.

Here Comes a Regular

Next I moved on to the assistant designer position for Steve James Design, a small marketing and design firm downtown where we did a lot of Tops packaging (hand mechanicals with ruby lith, baby!). There were two of us in the office and Steve has us both wear a tie everyday. He wanted us to have a professional appearance, in case clients came in (we were early nineties Mad Men). That was the first and last time I ever had to wear a tie full time.

After that, it was all web-design companies and at the turn of this century, no one dressed up at all for work. It was always super casual. Programmers and designers wore shorts, sneakers and t-shirts to work. Though my friend Paul always wore a white dress shirt, often short sleeved- he was the exception. It was a cool rock, uber-geek thing, I think-- he was in a band called The Disappointments and they were suits on stage.

Moving on to owning my own company for the last 9 years- which has seen me working from home in the front bedroom to moving out to our current offices in the renovated barn behind the house-- leaves the dress style completely up to me. I have settled on, what I call, a 'funky chic, business casual', mostly gear from Banana Republic. This includes a lot of sweaters over dress shirts, slacks and dark shoes. First time meetings with new clients warrants a tie usually, and often I am the most dressed up person in the room. Our clients include large corporations and small mom and pop operations, and rarely do I see anyone wearing a tie. Though some of my old school clients do wear ties, jackets, even suites everyday, but they are far and few between.

Jane Says

I know a lot of the way I have dressed has changed as I grew older. I still wear a lot of t-shirts (as evident by my weekly t-shirt features) but I tend to dress up often. And I think having that artist gene deep within has always kept me a bit on the outside. My hair often stands on end like a wily Paul Westerberg or David Lynch.

I know a lot of younger designers sport their tattoos and piercings with pride as the 'badge of the outsider', but as those become more common, they are not so different anymore. Since I deal with a lot of business type people, I think a big barbell through my nose might turn them off. I had a vendor describe to a client, his first impressions of me-- of working with a real artist-- he was going on and on about my purple tie and blue hair. Now, I have never had blue colored hair, it is currently salt and pepper gray (more towards the salt), but that's as colored as it has ever been. But to him, the color of my tie made me seem different, an artist type. I guess a little goes a long way. And then again maybe it is the attitude, the first impression that shines through, and not necessarily the clothes. I have always thought the graphics guy was the rock star of the art world. You always have to still look somewhat cool. That always seemed important to me. And as I grow old gracefully, at 42 I still always want to look cool. Damn what the kids think, eh?

Upon seeing a movie like Helvetica, and seeing a lot of famous designers being interviewed, you realize that there doesn't seem to be a graphic's guy (or girl) style that stands out anymore. Everyone seems to wear what they want to wear- it may be a tie or polo shirt, but often it is button down with jeans, tee with high tops. So gone is the Mad Men 1950's advertising look, gone is the body art and the 12 earrings, and as long as I can still hold onto to my Chuck Taylors, I think I'll be alright. Even if I have to wear a tie every now and then, at least it will be purple.

Photo credits (top to bottom): 7 yr. old mark in my parents basement, 80s Mark at the first Earth Day and a headless, modern Mark-2009.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Richest Man In Babylon


I am DJing for a silent auction at the CEPA photography gallery tonight (Sat. April 25, 2009). déjà blü has been the CEPA DJs for ages now spinning tunes once a year for various fundrasiers. It is all always a good time, good people, good art and a good vibe all together. Come on out, you don't have to bid on the art, you can just l0ok, have a few drinks, talk and listen to the smoove grooves. Assisting me will by DJ Jill, my awesome wife and collegue. Come on by and wish her a happy anniversary today (#12).... Yeah.

CEPA Gallery Visions of Greater Buffalo 2009 Tonight, Saturday April 25th, 7:00 PM

>> Click here for the online catalog of images

"The Visions of Greater Buffalo benefit event is scheduled for Saturday, April 25 at the historic Market Arcade Building in downtown Buffalo’s Theatre District. An audience of over 200 guests will be present at the event, including the VIPs and other influential business leaders, community members, arts supporters and many others from the Greater Buffalo region.

Admission to the event is $10 per person and includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres catered by Amy McCarthy and Fredi and music by déjà blü; cash bar. The reception begins at 7:00 pm in the Market Arcade; the silent auction takes place from 7:30 to 9:00 pm."
The images are taken by local 'celebrities' who are not necessarily artists.... well some of them are. Heck, we are all artists, aren't we? The image above is by my friend, font-maestro (artist) Rich Kegler. View others here.

Hope to see you all tonight!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Steal The Crumbs

Adventures in Small Business, Part 24

My trip to visit a client in South-East Buffalo (ethnically named 'Kaiser Town', to be exact) is always an adventure. K Sisters Pierogi is on Clinton Street, a family business that has grown to become one of the best makers of authentic pierogi in Buffalo. We have helped this company build a brand from the ground up-- starting with a logo, business cards (folded pierogi-shaped cards, mind you...), advertisements and soon to be launched website ( Once the site goes up, K Sisters' Polish delicacies will be available to the entire world.

Even though they are soon to be 'open to the world', for now, they are still a little Clinton Street shop where the food is made by a bunch of ladies in the back, hands pinching pierogi (just like Grandma used to make...). When I went today, they was a bit of a setback as my meeting was delayed when my contact there got pulled over by the police for speeding in Alden on her way in. They told me to come back in 20 minutes so I decided to grab a cup of coffee in the neighborhood traveling up to the intersection of Clinton and South Rossler to the Macedonian Family Restaurant. This is a little diner my Grandma used to like patronize. After a breakfast of eggs over easy, hash browns, toast and coffee (peppered with the family of the 'Family Restaurant' bickering in a language I can only guess is Macedonia), I paid my tab of $4.70, which was added up by hand on a napkin, and went back to the pierogi shop.

After a brief meeting, I decided to help out by delivering a shipment of K Sisters pierogi to the Lexington Co-Op. Vice President of international design firm one day- delivery boy the next. What the heck, it's a nice sunny day with a temp of 67° and it's Friday, I didn't mind helping out. As I am driving, I think about some of our large clients that have 100 of employees as compared to the small staff at K Sisters. I love helping out our customers, but am I going to run errands for the large ones? I have a certain bond with the small, family owned businesses since we are one ourselves. Maybe that should be a selling point? Let OtherWisz design your logo, brand, website, promotional material.... let us help with your marketing strategy.... and I'll deliver your pierogi for you. Today I got paid in:

  • pierogi
  • 'lazy man' pierogi
  • a fresh Placek and
  • 2 butter lambs
... seems like a fair trade. Don't you think?

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Grouchy old guy grumbles, record store losses sale.

I was all excited about Record Store Day. I simply love the record store- I have a hard time buying CDs online, I would much rather pick up a slab of vinyl, examine the cover and buy on site. I mean, 'I yam what I yam' 'cause of hanging around in the records store. I bought all my great, now vintage, hip-hop 12" at Apollo and Record Theatre- back in the day.

Yesterday was National Record Store Day and I decided to take a trip to one of the last remaining stores in town, the Record Theatre at Main and Lafayette which I frequent often. The girls hopped in the car to go with me and we took the short trip to the store. As soon as we walked in this band started playing. Now I like an in-store appearance as much as the next guy, but they were too loud. When I say loud, I mean blaring, midnight-at-the-Mohawk-Place-loud! It was two in the afternoon and the band was blaring! It was too much, I couldn't hear my daughters speaking to me, one inch from my face! So maybe I am getting old, but I have always preferred a quiet record store trip... like perusing stacks at library. I like music playing in the store while I shop, but I like background tunes. The song you sorta hear, and if it catches your ear, you go up to the counter and say, "hey, what is this playing, this is cool..." This was not that kind of music, it was so loud we left and my ears were ringing (I kid you not)!

I had three 45s in my hand: a Smiths re-issue of Handsome Devil b/w Oscillate Wildly (A fine instrumental), the MC5 Kick Out The Jams 45 and a Springsteen 45 for my brother-in-law. I put them back in the racks and we left. My record store experience was ruined and they loss a sale-- a small one mind you, but a sale, never-the-less.

Record Theatre- do yourself a favor- no in-store events- unless they are unplugged, please!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Everyday I Write The Book

Time launches reader-customized magazine venture/experiment

I just received my first issue of my free subscription to mine. It is the future of 'printed' magazine publishing, according to Time magazine.

I read about this new project on the New York Times website a few weeks back and signed up online. Time magazine is letting readers customize their own magazine content. By picking five from eight different magazines, you as the user are building your own issues of mine. The first 5 issues are free and my issue reads like 5 magazines condensed into one. My mine. came in today's mail.

Each of my five choices features two articles by each chosen magazine and are layed out as they would be from the mags they originated from. The Real Simple pieces look like they came from that mag and the two Time pieces look they are ripped right out of a recent Time magazine. Though the articles have a different layout style something keeps it all cohesive. Maybe the trends of magazine layout are so similar that the differences from mag to mag aren't really so far apart. The cover is generic, the table of contents is customized from my choices and there is only three ads: the inside front cover, back inside and back cover. They are all for Lexus who paid for this venture.

Is this indeed, the future of magazines as they gasp to stay alive in the digital era, where many proclaim print to be dead? Is this condensed magazine the way of the future- instead of five fat zines, stuffed with ads, what about a condensed version all in one, with only a few ads.

Did I get the best from these five zines or will I be left wondering what I am missing? One thing for sure, it is neat and clean and will work well for strategic placement in the bathroom... it takes up a lot less space than 5 different magazines. Who suffers here? the public or the advertisers?

Sign up yourself while the limited subscriptions
expire: and judge for yourself.

FOLLOW UP (...after reading it)-

The issue is light. A good magazine gives and gives and gives and is good for several reads. It sits around and can be enjoyed more that once. This truncated magazine was all read in about 20-30 minutes.

There are a few mistakes in this first issue- a jump to another feature, which doesn't exist and a content mix up. I received an apology email last night stating that "I may have not received the content I selected and this would be worked out in my next issue" ... which makes sense, I don't remember picking "Golf." I'll cut them some slack though, they did produce literally thousands of custom issues.

Other points: the section breaks between types of magazines are a white page with the mag's masthead on it- kinda lame, like chapter dividers in a bad business report. The lack of ads make thew few Lexus ads in there stand out. Magazines that are full of ads have a lot of ads that are well designed and subtle that sort of sneak up on you. These ads with it's variable data of my name and "Buffalo" added into them are too obvious and slightly obtrusive (what is in a Lexus that makes it "more mark wisz.." I ask you....??)

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night

T-Shirt Of The Week #9: Polska!

This is my weekly feature on a favorite t-shirt that I own, number nine. This one is my newest Tee- I bought it last Monday at The Broadway Market. Not too often can you by this type of quality tee- 2 for $10! Oh yeah.

I am showing my polish pride-- especially today, which is Dyngus Day-- with a white Polish falcon in a crest on a traditional red tee. The tee is screaming "Polska' in an old timey blackletter font. J. wanted to buy me this shirt after we saw polka-rock band, Those Idiots play last Summer at the Music is Art festival. We finally found it at the market last Monday, and now I am properly geared up for today's Dyngus Day festivities. Polska!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Finest Worksong

Most friends and clients know that M. and I run our business from our home, that is, from our barn in the back. Our work schedule was developed in the early years while our family and the business was in its infancy, by working any 12 hours of the day that we wished.

We felt that it worked for our clients as well as our family- I had the ability to be home for the girls while they were up and adjusted my work hours to their nap time and that wonderful block of time bewteen 7pm and 1am, when I would get most of my work accomplished.

Now the girls are older, I can work the traditional business (er, bank) hours, plus some (from 9am to 4pm AND 8pm to 1am).

I have to admit, vacation always throws me off a bit. Figuring out how to get the work done while a couple of princesses are dancing around to Hannah Montana and asking me for red pencils, paper, string, snacks and extra hugs is nice, but distracting at times. I am back to completing most of my work late night. But to sit my kitchen, take advantage of the wireless and the sun that streams through the window having just completed easter eggs and a load of laundry while the girls create books in the dining room is more than satisfying. But the work (or the family) can often slip in priority, depending on who is more in need. And the days are less a balance of my time and more of a juggling act. But I actually enjoy my days more.

In times of recession many people decide to hold their fate in their own hands and start a business. That is what we did 9 years ago. Newly minted entrepreneurs call on us every week, and I anticipate more as the current economy grinds on.

I think of how many people who are in or may be contemplating the same position- that of work-at-home-parent- and wonder how a flexible schedule can bring out the best (and worst) of daily roles. Does it make me a better boss? employee? parent? partner? Or do I just think I am?

Mountain Song

T-Shirt Of The Week #8: The Invaders!

This is my weekly feature on a favorite t-shirt that I own, number eight... This tee was given to my comic book store owning friend. As I mentioned, on an earlier T-shirt post, he used to give me all sorts of cool comics related merchandise including this tee.

This tee is an illustration of one of may favorite, yet little known super-hero teams, The Invaders. For those that don't know, they are a WW2 era team consisting of the Human Torch, the famous Captain America and Prince Namor, known as the Sub-Mariner. They are an interesting bunch as Namor wasn't always a good guy, in the classic sense, the reluctant hero, I guess. They originated in the 1940s and this Human Torch is not the same guy that was later in the 1960's Fantastic Four. The Invaders were revived in the 1970s and this shirt depicts that era.

The graphic on this tee is art by Jack 'King' Kirby one of the best of Marvel Comic's artist and the best Captain America artist (next to Jim Steranko). On the tee, the gang is coming at you-- ready for battle.

This is an old tee-- has some paint stains on it-- but still a favorite, it makes me feel mighty!

Monday, April 6, 2009

This Life Makes Me Wonder

Pussy willows, polish sausage, placek, hand painted Polish eggs, peeps and everything you can think of dipped in chocolate- The annual family trip to the famous Broadway Market in pictures!

Today the family and I took our annual Easter trip to the Famous Broadway Market. As a kid, I spend many a Saturday morning with my Grandpa at the Market and I have many fond memories. I have made sure my girls will know this experience and I have been taking them for all their years so far. It is not the same as when I was a kid, but in some ways it is a snapshot of a history captured in time.

This is the best time of the year to go as the stalls are filled with vendors and the place bustles with people. We actually go to the market often, but it isn't as exciting is it is this time of the year.

Below are some snapshots of out trip. A great way to beat the rainy (snow, wha?) blues of a Monday, plus it gets really busy at the market as the week progresses. Click for larger views!

Army of rabbits, and my Grandma's favorite treat, the chocolate cross.

Candies & more candies....

The guy at the end is wearing a 'Polish Mafia' T-shirt.

Peeps- some of the hundreds of 'things dipped in chocolate.'

Handcrafted Polish gifts.

Hand-painted wooden eggs.

More Polish gifts.

The ever-popular butter lambs (side facing and front facing).

Pussy willows ready for Dyngus Day, coming up the Monday after Easter.

Sausage fest.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Part Time Punks

New punk rock poster!

I designed this poster and handbill for a April 11th Mohawk Place show filled with smokey punk rock goodness. The show features some of Buffalo's best punk bands including the Chosen Ones, The Clockers, The Inebriates, and the one and only Wolf Tickets, the senior punk rockers of the bunch.

The poster features the first time I had used the Zebrawood Fill font which has an old-timey carnivalesque, wild west sort of thing going for it. I don't know, I was a bit skeptical when choosing it, but I kinda liked it, kept it on, and was overall pleased with the results. I thought it went good with the exhaled smoke. I cropped the image of the goateed dude blowing smoke, posterized the graphic by destroying the color levels. The image ended up being reduced to a few colors: white, red, orange and yellow and the background disappeared into blackness.

Usually I will distress the typeface- chopping it, overlapping it, blurring it, hatching it, etc. to 'punk it up.' But this time I left the font 'as is' which left the overall poster simple and effective. I think it came out pretty punk still, don't you?

I am currently working on the artwork for the second release from Buffalo's punk kings, Wolf Tickets. When that is done and printed I will give you a lookie-see... but not until it officially released...

Click on the above images for a larger version. Oi!

BONUS BEATS- Wolf Tickets rock video on YouTube- Oi! Oi!