Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Agnostic Blues

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but the Wolf Tickets CD artwork finally showed up at my door, and I gotta show it to you. I know I wrote that piece about the poster for the CD release gig and how I made the masthead graphic by hand, but I thought I would post some photos of the final CD packaging since I was pleased with the way it came out.

The graphics tell a sort of story as the front cover illustrates 'defiance' (man vs. tank), the inside j-card is the 'retribution' (cop beating kids) and finally the under-the-cd graphic illustrating the 'penance' (man in jail). I am not sure that's what I was thinking as I first began to work on this, but something made me link these images together and it fell into place as I was desiging it.

This CD job went through a lot of changes, as did the music and the band during the process. The back cover image was suppose to be the front. I was never keen on using the baby as the cover, but maybe it plays into the story as the beginning phase (the baby as early troublemaker...?)-- proceeding to the cover 'defiance' stage of life? I don't know. The whole thing just gelled in the end- the band, the music and the artwork.

Here Comes The Hell!

Front, inside flap and CD. What is black and white and red all over? Wolf Tickets!

Front with back.

Masthead on CD starring P22 Typewriter font.

Close up of masthead created with presstype (details here).

CD with inside flap with a snatch of title track lyrics (plus stars, and lots of 'em)...

Lyric sheet.

Back cover. Love vs. hate.

Tray card graphics. Oi!

BONUS BEATS- Nate's photos from the CD release party at the Mohawk Place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brand New Way

We have tried to be very proactive with moving our design company full steam ahead- we have some new clients this Fall, some others on the horizon and a few prospects. My goal is to reduce my stress and time in the office. Ha! Do I really need to work nights besides working all day? I am hoping not. I think most people aren't used to working 9-5, stopping to have dinner and then going back for another bunch of hours. I am not complaining, that is just how it is. I am used to it, but I think it is starting to wear on me some. I am starting to see the value of getting good sleep nightly!

To reach this goal- we got to think ahead. I think what keeps this design boat, afloat is the continual planning, refining and just plain fine tuning. J. and I are always trying to improve our plan of attack to make sure it all runs smoothly. As we officially enter Autumn (yesterday)- the kids are back in school (I miss them already...). The balancing act of baby-stitters, summer fun (one minute an honorary Marshall at Fantasy Island Theme Park, the next in someone's board room) and kids hanging around the office-- is no more. It is just our team spending all our time creating good design... plus a lot of paperwork that makes this so-called "time creating good design" possible.

As a business, we have to attend to the things that are business-- I thought graphic design was going to be all fun and games! Coming up on 10 years as our own company forces us to look back on what has made this successful, but we have to look forward as to what will keep it successful. We have to stay ahead of the trends in marketing and design, make sure our clients are happy and make sure we aren't killing ourselves in the process.

The elusive free time is a really good goal.... and if we plan correctly, maybe it can be obtainable. Suggestions...?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


...me and my Buffalo Sabres, yeah, yeah, yeah...
-- We're Gonna Win That Cup

While designing an upcoming exhibit for the Buffalo Hockey Experience and Museum I have had access to some great hockey memorabilia. We are trying to brand the exhibit with some appropriate graphics, so I have been doing my research through the collection's archives. One of the first things BHEM's founder, Dr. Joe, handed me when I met him last year was a 1972 program from a Sabres-North Stars game.

This old blue program, this one treasure (it was a keeper, sports fans) had been a big part of the inspiration when working on the initial logo and the overall brand of the museum last year. It is full of great poorly printed photos, stats and hand typeset stories of the 1972 Sabres' hockey club.

This program has also been a great look into the Queen City herself in the early '70s. The ads for Buffalo shops, department stores, bars and restaurants give you a peek into nightlife in general. These are places I have only heard about and one that is still here: No Names (at right). The ads sure are pleasingly retro, baby! So I scanned a bunch of them to share.

More on the upcoming History Museum event later...
but for now- Ladies & Gentlemen- Buffalo, NY 1972.

Wild West Saloon in the Statler Hilton Hotel. "Bring the Bunch for Brunch!" Yee-ha.

This is kinda wild west as well, did 1972 Buffalo have a lot of saloons with spitoons?

I love this one, this guys outfit just says 'hockey player' (or Doug Henning)... outfitted by Ron, Frank and Gino.

Every other drink is 1/2 price... care to join me for a 'businessman's lunch?'

The Keyhole for the fashionable young man. They have it all: flare slacks, blue denims and belts!

The finest in what we used to call 'professional entertainment' for your dancing and listening pleasure...

The legend, Twin Fair, there used to be one in my neighborhood across from the whale car wash.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mohawk Riot

The Hell Cometh

My latest rock poster design is for the upcoming Wolf Tickets CD Release Party at the Mohawk Place on Friday, Sept. 25th, 2009. I was pleased as to how this one came out, so I thought I would write about the process of creating it.

This design was based on the CD artwork which I developed earlier in the Summer. The CD art will see the first light of day (or should I say, dark of the inside of the 'Hawk) the Friday of the show. All the stuff I have done for head-Wolfer Chris Malachowski have 2 things in common: stars and the color red. It just always seem to fit what I do for the band.

The CD title is Here Come The Hell and I played around with creating a title graphic for some time for this project starting with the CD. I tried to find a font that was punky and sans serif. I use serif-less fonts often in rock posters, often relying on the Futura family (love that Extra Black!). From a distance, I think they are more readable. 

I couldn't find a font I wanted to use for this and I was getting tired of manipulating the typeface in photoshop- so I decided to go old school. I pulled out some old decrepit Lettreset Presstype (Helvetica Medium) and started to hand-set (or rub, I should say) the album's title. The sheets were old, crackly and the letters didn't stick very well- but I loved it!! I overlapped a few characters which a second burnish to cover pieces that fell off after not sticking. Kerning characters by eye, as well as lining up/overlapping them manually created the offset to the characters that I was looking for. Once I was happy with this built up art, I scanned it into Photoshop and adjusted the levels so the background became white and the characters solidified tonally. Also I filled in some of the missing pieces to hold together the integrity (ever so slightly) of the letter forms. I made a 600 dpi bitmap TIF file and dropped it into my cover image on the CD of the tanks. It was reused on this poster design.  And there you have it- by hand, punk rock!

The use of P22 Typewriter font was exactly what WT requested. This typewriter-themed font style has become popular with punk rock designers for ages so it fit the bill. It also has a hint of a quasi-military feel-- M.A.S.H. did the same thing for Stencil fonts. When I stared to add elements and text to the piece I decided to make the CD title art huge (it is proportioned about 400% larger that on the CD cover) to draw attention to this catchy name 'Here Comes The Hell' (no exclamation point needed). So if you can imagine this full size (see link at bottom), you can read the title from 15 - 18 ft. away. I added a few more stars to keep with the WT brand and decided to give the whole thing a rougher look by framing the large, manipulated, color-tweaked photo in a sharp-edged frame giving it the 'viewed through a broken window pane' aesthetic.

I took a few extra steps to further distress a couple elements. I upped the font size of a few characters and added a bolder stroke to others.   Some of the letters moved up a hair and a few down a hair creating some motion, some uneasiness and a bit (ever so slight) of drama. The main manipulated image borrowed was a square photo so I had to do something to fit it in the 11 x 17" format. By simply copying a chunk of the top of the photo, flipping it and pulling it out like taffy, I was able to fill the space with a ghostly shadow which almost looks like smoke. If you notice above the 's' in 'comes' there is a repeat of the tank antenna. I didn't bother to stamp it out as it looked natural as part of the background behind the large title.  Happy accidents, eh?

There you have it. Click here for a large PDF (4.2 MB) of the the poster or go authentic punk: go to the show and tear a poster from the wall of the 'Hawk as a souvenir. That is the greatest compliment to any poster designer.

Oi! See ya on Sept. 25th at the Mohawk!!

BONUS BEATS: Wolf Tickets on MySpace (hear 'em!).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Autumn Beds

I 'heart' work.

Holidays seem to stunt the growth of the business. I know I have been writing a lot about 'not' working lately, but I have been working a lot... really... well, as much as I can-- what with vacation, days off, long holiday weekends, etc... This is the time last year when things seemed came to a screeching halt, due to a lot of unforeseen circumstances. Somehow we survived and trudged on.

This year I am trying to be proactive and stay focused as the year approaches it's close. I have been looking at this week the same way I approached the start of a new year. By this I mean, I am trying to concentrate on prospects, I am trying to stay psyched, and I am trying to look to September like a new beginning. Why not?

How, you may ask..? I am doing this by calling a lot of clients- trying to see what they have planned for the rest of the year- pulling the 'duds' off the lead board and just keeping some of the likely prospects up there and cleaning my desk. That last one is a tough one. This means I have to find a place for everything from the trays & piles on my desk. This includes bits of paper with phone numbers, stray job notes and graphics, post-it-notes, phone log slips, photos, and other assorted what-have-you-nots. I hate cleaning up.

So as I sit in the office on a holiday Sunday (against my better judgment), I think I can wrestle some success from the remainder of this year. By trying to stay focused, not slacking, and keeping the boat afloat, I think we will successfully ride out the waning tip of this recession with a good year. This time, 2010 begins with Sept. 1.

NOTE: Illustration by FEW ©2009.