Monday, December 21, 2009

The Harder They Come

This saturday (26th)- the day after Xmas, I will DJing the annual Joe Strummer tribute show at the Mohawk Place entitled The Harder They Come. This is a great gig organized by Mr. Wolf Tickets, Chris Malachowski that includes a several bands playing Clash and Joe Strummer songs (mostly Clash songs). The headliner being a conglomeration of some of Buffalo's best musicians going under the name Rebel Waltz Orchestra and last year they had some Great Train Robbery horns to really flavor it up.

This gig was a packed house last year- some come early. Doors open at 8:00 PM and I will spinning the tunes between sets and prior to the 1st band. My set list includes a lot of dub, reggae, punk rock and various other grooves inspired by the late great Joe Strummer. Joe had a great liking for a variety of musical styles which his bands, The Clash and The Mescaleros incorporated in their groove.

A portion of the proceeds do go to Strummerville- the Joe Strummer Foundation For New Music (info here).

This year's poster (above) tries to pull the flavor of the title of the event (the Jimmy Cliff classic) and The Clash's love for NYC street music of the 80s- rap, dub and reggae with the boom box and the mohawked Strummer images. Always a sure bet with red, this years poster looks a bit minimal as compared to the past event posters. The fonts include the new P22 font, LTC Winchell and hand-cut looking face, and the chunky Poplar- one of my fav rock poster fonts.

POSTER GALLERY- You can see the full gallery of JS Tribute posters here I have created over the past 8 years by click here.

Hope to see you kids on the 26th, shaking off those Christmas day cobwebs.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fantastic Voyage

Happy Holidays from us all at the Roam Buffalo blog, Where to Roam and OtherWisz Creative. It is the holiday season- aka Clobberin' Time. Nuff said.

Classic 1974 Marvel Treasury Special- Giant Superhero Holiday Grab Bag courtesy of NateTrax.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Rapping

The PANIC! Sale was not really panic-driven. I think it was still too ahead of Christmas for panic shopping. The throngs of shoppers who strolled through the main gallery of the Western New York Book Arts seemed pretty calm during the this second annual sale of WNY crafters, screen printers, jewelry makers, book makers, t-shirt designers, and artists alike.

I shot a few snap shots of the crowds in the gallery for you out-of-towners to see. Bonus props for Eric Morse, in-town for the holidays on vaca from his job in Hong Kong. First storm rolls in to remind Eric about BuffaloSnow!

We are working full steam ahead into the holidays with a lot of stuff going on. Gotta be careful to not slip right through the upcoming holiday with head buried behind the computer. The kids would be mad. I'll try to post some neat holidays photos as I might not have a lot to say. Rock on!

Shoppers shop & the boppers bop.

Super Rich and his accomplice Carima.

Crowd chatting, shopping & more. Out-of-town Eric and his glowing alien backpack talks with Kevin & Val.

More crowd with Sunnyoutside David in front- holding court, brewing espresso, selling books.

Jill runs the WhereToRoam booth (with Rich making sure all vendors are chillin', makin' buttons, brewin' joe & hot chocolate, etc.)....

Shopper approaches the W2R booth with hand on wallet.

Shoppers under high ceilings, big windows and joy in their hearts (I think).. See Hero booth across the way.

Looking West across the gallery space from Marti's head.

Crowbiz and her wares.

Crowbiz's Capitalist Pig was coated in Russian text during the show. Ready 4 sale!

Happy Holidays to you! Support & join the Western New York Books Arts Center!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brand New Cadillac

Last Minute Panic Holiday Marketplace- the revenge!

Panic! Revenge!
Sounds good?
Friday Dec 11, 4-8 pm &
Saturday Dec 12 12-6 pm.

Once again, we will be selling our Where To Roam tees, hoodies and scarves at the Western New York Book Arts Center's Last Minute Gift Buying Panic Marketplace. Buffalo artists, crafters, bookmakers, printers and graphic artists will be there. Come on down, it was very cool last
year. This appears to be the final run of these particular W2R Tees- so get 'em while you can before we run out! Collect them all! Trade with your friends!!

The event is being promoted with this super great hand printed poster designed and printed by P22 (& WNYBAC's) Rich Kegler. The poster is red and blue ink on an awesome silver card stock. I captured some details below (click for VERY large views). I am not sure if it was worth the $30 parking ticket I scored today? Go Buffalo!

The event will be at the main gallery, 1st floor of the Western New York Book Arts Center 468 Washington St at Mohawk in Downtown Buffalo on Friday Dec 11, 4-8pm and Saturday Dec 12 12-6pm. Free admission and open to the public- come for Friday Happy Hour or Saturday afternoon shopping. Perfect gifts for giving or hoarding. Hot item for this year? The W2R scarf- get it!

This year's Vendors include:
• Elizabeth Leader
• Donald Trainor/ Shiny Object Media
Where to Roam (Us, yeah!!!!)
• Amy Greenan
• Rene Hoover
• SunnyOutside Press
• WNY Book Arts Center Shop and More!

Cool Poster Details: Click for larger view!

The Mix- the overlapping letterpressed blue and red make purple (kinda)....

Some cool detail art from the right hand strip of objects, knick-knacks and other graphical nuggets.

Windings, eat your heart out! Nice gourds, Gord.

Panic on the street of Buffalo! ha ha! Smiths! Ha!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beat Dis

dejablu, Scotty and I, are named-checked in Craig Reynolds piece about Buffalo, NY's DJ history, post 1990. It was very cool to get the little plug as our place in Buffalo DJ-history is noted.

When Scotty and I abandoned our rock-n-roll bar DJ gigs to started spinning records in Oct. 1997 on the corner of the bar at the Kingsnake on Chippewa, we would have never thought a whole scene was going to blow up around us. Delving into, what was later to be known as acid jazz, we played records on a Tuesday night. In our primetime we played such cool spots as the Kingsnake Lounge, 658, Osaka's Blu, O, Off The Wall, old Pink, Rendevous, Calumet Arts Cafe, the Tralf, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Mohawk Place, Daemen College Gallery, WNYBAC, CEPA Gallery, Allen St. Hardware, Third Room, Central Train Terminal, old Burchfield Penny Art Center, many more that I have long forgotten, and had a drink named after us, the dejablu martini!

The older I get, the more I wanna rock! Excerpt from the AV article:

"Atomic Cafe and the Kingsnake Lounge in the early years of the Chippewa Street resurgence were ground zero, attracting fashionistas and Elmwood’s denizens of cool, and later, Club e (formerly the Icon), 658 on Main Street, where the Knowmatic Tribe held residence once the Kingsnake closed, and the Opium Lounge, all opened their doors to electronic music. By now, there was a healthy community of experienced DJs, all pursuing their own personal styles—like DJ Zuk of Deep Soul Plug, who started playing cosmic lounge, and Dr. Wisz and Scotty, who as Deja Blu spun acid jazz."
> Read extensive AV article here.

> Click here for dejablu discography.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let's Pretend We're Married

Finding the right typeface for a logo takes a lot of courting before a commitment can be made.

There a lot of fonts out there to choose from when designing. Too many, some might say... But the subtleties that get missed by your average viewer are what make a font special. When you are designing a logo and you are making some logo-typeface decisions, you really start to notice those subtleties. By paying close attention, you notice the way a letter has it's own personality, each letter being a small part of a bigger family- which is more than just the alphabet but includes numbers, character, punctuation and assorted what-cha-ma-call-its.

When a typeface is being explored for use on a logo, you are really only concerned with a limited number of characters. For instance the 'OtherWisz' logo is built from Century Gothic- the 'less-square' cousin of Avant Garde. I need only worry about the o,t,h,e,r,w,i,s and z. I don't really need to care about the remainders- I simply didn't need to be bothered with the 'a' or pesky 'q'.

Let's Get Together
Certain letters that often follow each other in common words are build (originally drawn) to balance with each other, fitting within each other, often nestled together. But you can't rely on the set kerning (the space between the letters) of characters when building a logoface. When letters and words are set into a block of copy or paragraph, you are often at the mercy of that font's set kerning. And that is fine it this situation. But when you are dealing with a microcosm of each individual letter up against another letter- you can and should move them yourself. By moving the letters closer, or further from each other, you can work to achieve the right balance between letters and (even as important, if not even more...) the space between the letters. When an inexperienced graphic artist sets headlines or letters in a logo that often just type it 'as is' and let it be. Often ignoring the fact that certain letters just have to be moved manually-- for instance an 'A' next to a 'V'- newbie designers often leave enough space that you can drive a truck through.

Big In Japan
I am working on a logo design now and find in interesting some of the very subtle elements to the typefaces that I have chosen to work with. Some little things you would never notice until it is blown up HUGE! You think a character has a straight edge until you see it big and then notice it is all wavy. Is this done on purpose to add personality to a font or poor, sloppy design?

When I view newer fonts against the classics- and I mean fonts originally hand drawn, eventually converted to digital-- it seems more care may have been put into those old design. Now I don't mean every new font obviously- I have friends that are type designers and they put a lot of care into what they do, agonizing over every last element of a font. But often I will look at a recently designed FREE FONT and find it to be of poor quality when viewed in close. Free fonts are usually worth that, next to nothing. As well I should note that 'classic fonts that have been digitized' are at the mercy of the digitizer and the foundry that made them, certain subtleties have been known to get lost in the translation at times.

When designing a logo, take care to choose a typeface that has the personality you want and explore the font's history to get a sense of what the designer may have been thinking. Choosing the right font is a combination of character, style, quality and history, but sometimes it is just a lucky crapshoot. And of the million of fonts out there, you will find just one that is right for the logo you are designing.... or at least a half a good dozen alternatives!

The attached graphics are few of the latest logos we have designed at OtherWisz Creative. The top is the logo built from Baker Signet, Aurther Baker's 1965 slight-calligraphic face. The second logo is for a new catering service for daycares, Cater Tots and it is built using a fatty- Rudolf Koch's Kabel (this is the 1975 computerized version). Lastly, we have the Tracy Diina Communications logo which is designed using Stone Informal, a font originally designed in 1987 to look good when printed on laser printers plus a subhead set in Adrian Fruitiger's wonderful Avenier 35 Light.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Between Something and Nothing

or Behind The Wheel (Route 66)....

My work space goes from really messy to really neat in a few hours when planned company is set to arrive the following morning. We normally keep a pretty clean & tidy (dusted and swept) office space, but we got a lot of stuff and each working job has a folder (or several piles of folders) of stuff. If we are heavily into a few things at the same time, that means that every available flat space- and some not-- are covered in drawings, sketches, books, meeting notes, hand-written notes and well, just stuff. The bigger the job- the more stuff there is to it! Things get misplaced often with so much stuff around here.

So when we have a potential client paying us a visit, we have to spend a few hours dusting upstairs and down, vacuuming, mopping the concrete floor in the lower level, putting away records & CDs, and filing the stuff. This is good on two levels: 1st- it makes the office look snazzy in it's own cool design-studio-in-a-barn way, all sparkling, shiny clean, and 2nd- all the stuff gets reorganized. The 3-level bin on my desk being the happiest, as it gets de-stacked, un-crammed and filed. It is nice to have several meetings on the clean-the-office level in a row. More bang for your vacuuming-buck, for sure!

Everything Counts (In Large Amounts)

Though I have always heard it said that a 'clean desk is a sign of a sick mind' I must admit, I have felt it to be true. I don't have time to neatly organize things on a day-to-day basis. My daily desk grows to be piles over the week. Taking the time to plow through the piles, throw some things in some folders, throw some folders in the file cabinets- makes a world of difference in the long run. So I might be preaching a sort of 'messy-in-the-short-run' with a dose of 'neatness-over-time' method to all this.

I guess some people must see the value in everything organized all the time. Visually they may go as so far as to have cork or magnetic boards with everything evenly spaced, nothing overlapping. I think that would make me a bit nuts.... but I guess if I could find that phone number I thought I tacked up here... somewhere.....hhhhhhhmmmmmmmmm. Shoot.

Groove Me, baby

Being the creative type I am stimulated by visual clutter. I like walls of postcards, photos, posters and stickers. I like shelves with miniature figures, knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, gadgets and geek toys. I really like books and magazines and listening to music (but I think I am digressing...). I need to see samples of colors combinations and moods set in photos and graphics around me, reminders of typefaces and design elements, techniques, styles and grooves. I guess my office gets the full mixmaster treatment - samples and clips of different things, unrelated visuals- existing in harmony- like a good mix tape that has a lot of different types of music.

I think most people/future clients that are looking for some sort of graphic, design or web service-- and have never been in a design office-- still know what to expect. A lot of people get a real charge about coming over here to the graphics company and some are, quite frankly, oblivious to it. No one has been shocked, so far (that I can remember).... Your average lawyer, doctor, etc. expects us creative folks to be a little nuts and wouldn't be surprised if they walked into our space and it looked like Pee Wee's Playhouse or a set on the '60s Batman TV show with a lot of angled windows and doors. So I think this attitude has given designers worldwide the right to have a nutty office- and it's expected! I don't think I could trust a neat and tidy designer with nothing on their walls... would you? What about a messy, colorful, movie-postered, rock-flyered lawyer's office?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Know Your Chicken

Confessions of a Graphic Designer- part 45:

I was talking with a designer friend about why a smaller, 'boutique' firm is better that a larger agency-type of company. I have always heard freelancers say they 'can often juggle more that one ball at a time..." In our little firm, we are always working on multiple projects at the same time- sometimes juggling them. I was born into my work-life multitasking- circus-like!

Homefries For Church Folk

I've had a job ever since I was able to get my work permit at 16 (some 25+ years ago). At most of them, it was a balancing act of working on many things simultaneously. I am talking about my pre-design jobs, including my very first job of packing and un-packing trucks that took new clothing and sold it to senior citizens at old folks homes. Hey, I thought it was a kinda slow business model, but it gave the residents an afternoon of shopping and they were fashion conscious! Though we often spend time waiting around for trucks to show up, we were always packing, unpacking, pricing, counting, re-hangering... well you get it.

With a few jobs in between-- including lawn work, furniture delivery guy, pizza delivery guy for one day-- I found something I could do for the full 4+ years I went to the 'ol alma mater, Buff State. I started out as a dishwasher at the Sheridan Family Restaurant and worked my way up to a closing line cook. It was crazy fast-paced, and I learned to organize, evaluate hierarchy of importance, delegate tasks to my team and cook a breakfast steak in mere minutes. It was all about teamwork, moving fast, thinking fast and doing everything at once over and over again for several hours! Things could get hairy on a Sunday morning--post-church with a lot of hungry church-folks waiting in line outside to follow a helping of the Lord with a helping of homefries! Learning to think under pressure and solve problems was a valuable skill I learned while slinging soulvaki.

Computers Make Ya Go Faster

Once I moved into the now extinct, yet glorious world of digital pre-press- things happened even faster- it was the computerized '90s after-all. At The Retouchables, owned by airbrush master Dan Schuder, I would balance a slew of customer's jobs, checking files, troubleshooting, outputting film and making matchprint and dylux proofs... all while promising deadlines! It was early in the computer age & things moved at the speed of 800k floppy disks, all happening at once: Pow! Zoom! Click! Whirrr! I was born into the design business running as soon as I hit the ground and my restaurant experience really got me prepared to do so (Thanks, Nick!).

Better, Faster, Meaner, Leaner

So do you get a better, faster version when you use a small shop vs. a larger shop? In our case, I think you do. Often we have to switch gears on the fly and we are equipped to do so. You can go from sitting, thinking and writing a proposal (estimating time and doing math), to writing headlines for the ad we have to design right now because "...we forgot that was due today and we forgot to call you about!" But we'll do it, we like doing it. The next hour you are meeting with potential clients dressed up in a tie (the "Superman Suit," as Dan from The Retouchables used to call it), sitting, listening trying to impress. You can go from adding content to website template pages, resizing a large batch of photos, to suddenly having to slow down, clear your head, sit down and create with a pencil and paper. You know, really design.

I try to make it sound real exciting, and sometimes it is, but the point being is having the ability to keep it all organized, being able to switch gears to attend to a clients needs, and working on 2-3 things at the same time is a skill I am not sure I have seen in every designer I have met. I see it more in a smaller agency, where the owner is doing a lot of the work and see it less in larger agencies where a lot of people are good at doing a single task. They have experts that can do this and ones that can do that- but can they do more that one at the same time? How fast can they switch gears? Are they allowed to? Do they have to have it approved, fill out a change order, etc....

I guess I never realized when I was either inventorying blouses or deep frying fish on a Friday night that was learning skills that would become useful in your local octopus-limbed, ambidextrous graphic design team!

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

Streetlife 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!).