Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Cover Design

Just finished my latest homework for my Publication Design class, and thought I'd share it with you all on the blogosphere. The assignment was simple; choose any existing book and redesign the cover. This one was fun--and pretty fast & easy, too!

I chose the book Red Harvest, by the great Dashiell Hammett. It's probably my favorite of his novels and if you are not familiar with it, and you claim to be a fan of hard boiled crime fiction, I suggest you buy a copy NOW! (shame on you!) This book was first published in 1929, and has had many printings with different looks. Including these:

For my version, I wanted something modern looking, but still "pulpy." Here's what I came up with...

What do you think? I kinda like it!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Speaking of Polio...

Okay, you got me. I wasn’t speaking about polio. Not too many people I know speak or even think about polio these days. The reason is obvious; the crippling (and deadly) disease has been largely eradicated from our planet.

Older generations remember all too well the common sight of the polio stricken; walking with crutches, wearing those clunky exoskeletal braces on their legs, and the horror of those forced to live within the tomb of an iron lung. Less than 60 years ago, 59,000 Americans alone were crippled or killed by a polio epidemic. Thanks to the vaccines developed by Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin during the 1950s, we’ve been blessed with a nearly polio free existence since.

However, there are a few places left in the world that still struggle with the virus, and the people of Rotary International are among the few who continue to talk about polio, spreading awareness and actively raising money to finally destroy the disease completely. Their effort is straightforwardly called End Polio Now.

As some of you know, in late 2008, Rotary International contracted me to draw the first in a series of educational comic book stories. “Amazing Stories of Polio” depicts the history of the poliovirus and the fight to eliminate it. The story appeared first within the pages of the February ’09 issue of the Rotarian magazine, and soon after was printed as a stand-alone comic that has been widely distributed, and admired by Rotary Club members worldwide.

One such person is Steve Root of Canterbury, UK. Steve is a member of the Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise , a group of about 30 men and women of different backgrounds sharing a strong community spirit. A year ago, Steve contacted me with an interesting idea. He wanted to take my comic book pages, enlarge them, and display them in a storefront’s window in Canterbury. His idea was to draw attention to Rotary’s End Polio Now program and share the story with as many passers-by as possible.

I forwarded his request to my Rotarian contacts (who commissioned me) and after many months of discussions, and more time finding an appropriate venue, Steve has finally made his idea into a reality...

Here on the corner of Butchery Lane and Burgate, a busy UK high street and tourist destination (right by Canterbury Cathedral), the Rotarians have conspired to transform this storefront into one giant comic book...

Steve Root and his amazing giant comic book!

Putting up the second panel

Steve Root and fellow club member, Jim Gascoyne

Ta daaaa...!

Why did Steve Root spend a year on this project? In his own words...

“Polio has been eradicated from the UK for a long time. Many people now don't know the effect polio has on a person, having never seen it for themselves. I'm one of those people. I'm in my early thirties and, until reading your comic, I really didn't have the first clue about what the disease does. I have vague recollections of a sugar cube vaccination in primary school, but no first hand knowledge. Using the comic as a piece of artwork educates passers-by who stop to read it.”

In addition, the campaign will increase local awareness about Rotary in general, and their local club in particular. They also plan to try to raise some money by selling the comics in an adjacent shop and collecting donations.

How long will this display be up? “Until the next tenant arrives. That could be
tomorrow, or a couple of months, we don't know for certain.”

From my point of view, one thing is certain: this is extremely cool! It’s like having my own gallery opening in the UK! “Amazing Stories of Polio,” was a very gratifying story to work on as an illustrator. It’s not often that I get to work on projects connected to a really good cause, and I am very pleased to see my work appearing again and again in different creative ways. (Thanks, Steve!)

P.S. If you happen to be in Canterbury, Kent and see this thing in person, drop me a note here--and send me a photo of yourself, if at all possible! Wish I could be there myself!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Expanding Horizons

Back in May, I mentioned that I'm currently attending a program at UCLA Extension (for a certificate in Advanced Print and Graphic Communication). It's been great to stretch the old creative muscles, reacquainting myself with design principals I've forgotten, and learning many new tricks, as well as the latest trends & technologies. It has been especially fun to work outside my comfort zone, applying my art & design skills to areas that I have little or no practical experience in--this was certainly the case in the Spring semester, with my Production Design for Film & TV course.

In that class, I had to design fake websites, stage settings, show logos, title sequences and even fake products and advertisements. The instructor, Geoffrey Mandel has an impressive resume of movies and shows to his credit, including his current enviable position in the Art Department of Mad Men (love that show). Before taking his class, I had no concept of what, exactly, a "Hollywood" Graphic Designer's job entails. I must admit that I was quickly taken with the idea! His job looks pretty damned fun--especially on a show like Mad Men.

For that class, we had many interesting homework assignments. I've posted some already, but here are a couple other pieces. First, is a fake, 1960's style magazine ad...

It's okay, I guess. The shampoo looks a bit like dish soap, in retrospect. Below is a another 1960's influenced design for a floor polish bottle...

That was fun. Perhaps even more fun than creating these designs was doing the research beforehand.

While I was taking this class, by coincidence, I had the opportunity to actually do some freelance design work for a TV show in development. This is the show logo for a cooking show that will hopefully be coming to a major network soon...

It's funny. At the same time I was working on this Pizza Quest logo, I also had two other completely separate "pizza" related freelance projects come my way. I've never worked in the pizza business before, so I have no idea why they all came to me at the same time.

Anyway, that was a great class. Interacting with so many talented creative people was so stimulating that I find myself really wanting to get back into that kind of work environment. Freelancing has many wonderful benefits, but I think I'm ready for a day job!

Meanwhile, this summer I've been taking a class in Publication Design. Unlike the last class, here I'm in familiar territory. My whole career has been involved in publishing, starting on staff in the editorial & production offices at Marvel Comics in New York. There I was lucky enough to work in their Epic Comics division, where we had to package a huge variety of books & periodicals in all sorts of formats. Years later, I took those skills, as well as all I'd learned as a freelancer and as the head of a couple digital art studios, to publish my own magazine. Comiculture magazine was such a small operation that I had my hands in everything; including much of the graphic design.

I may not be learning a vast ammount of new information about publishing in this current class, but I have been challenged to apply my knowledge to create designs outside of my usual area; comics & graphic novels. So far, my assignments have included more "respectable" work, like magazine & brochure designs. I'll share a bit here, though I consider these a bit rough. Think of them more as "sketches" than finished work. or, as "works in progress..."

First (and this is really rough!) is a concept for a magazine spread, based solely one the word "paranoia." My idea is that this is an article about terrorists living among us, as represented by the Red Man. He'd appear throughout the article, if it were for real...

Next, I had to grab a bunch of images & text and create book or magazine designs with them. The timing of this coincided with my family vacation to Bonaire, so I used that as an inspiration. Most of the photos are were taken by my wife, my In-laws, or me. This was a fun and meaningful assignment because I got to relive my trip while doing my homework! Here are a couple of the spreads...

Below was another fast & dirty assignment. The instructor provided a bunch of random images, words & phrases. The task was to design a magazine spread using one of the pieces of text as a headline, and whatever art worked thematically with it. The results from the class at large were pretty varied. For mine, I took the phrase "Sky High" and the picture of a ballerina on a blank background, and took off from there. So to speak...

That was a quickie, but I'm pretty pleased with the it, though it could use some finessing.

My latest assignment was difficult. I had to take the content from my "Bonaire" project, and re-purpose it into three tri-fold brochures. The limitations were 2-color printing only, and no more than 3 font families. Here's what I came up with. Still waiting on feedback from the teacher & class, but I know this needs work!

Being in the classroom has been a blast. So much so, that I've signed up for TWO classes in the fall. In a couple of weeks I'll be starting courses in Advertising Design and Advanced Typography. I'm really looking forward to them both. I'll let you know how they go. Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment on any of this. Especially if you want to offer any constructive criticism--the whole point of my taking these classes is to improve myself, after all!