Archive for the 'Wayback Machine' Category
Authors Note: Yes, I’ve previously done posts on this work, but there’s always intense interest in this subject, and I’m presenting some new material here.
When I was asked to design and do the art for KISS’ 4th studio album Rock and Roll Over, I was fairly ignorant of the culture that was forming around the group. I was unencumbered by any preconceived ideas as to what the group and their music was about. Many are surprised to hear that Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter had to explain their different personas to me before I started working on the design.
I’d love to be able to show my working pencil sketches, but over the years they’d gotten lost or destroyed, and the only record left was the original colored pencil comp that I used to explain my concept to the group. A few months earlier I had done a cover for IDEA, a Japanese art magazine that had done an article about my work, and for whom I had created a cover. I really loved how that cover had turned out, so my thought was to try to emulate the look I had come up with on this new cover for KISS. My cover for IDEA had certain gamelike, and very graphic elements that I thought would work well telling the story of what KISS were about.
Since their makeup reminded me of classic Japanese Kabuki players, I thought the look would be appropriate. So I created a little story around each character and put them all together in a sort of “mandala” motif surrounded by a sawtooth blade with lettering. I kept the colors simple and bold as I had done with my IDEA cover. Here (yellowed and a bit worn with age) is the original colored pencil sketch I created for the group’s approval:
The meeting went particularly well, since I was expecting outright rejection of my idea—which at the time was pretty unorthodox for an LP cover. The changes gthey asked for, I felt, were fairly minor—adjustments to the faces (with the exception of Peter Criss), and rotating the lettering 90°.
The KISS logo already existed, but I felt it needed some help to work better with my design (Paul told me he had drawn it on his dining room table). So I redrew it, making the design more consistent, and adding the lightning strokes to help give movement to the sawtooth blade.
After the cover was done, I didn’t think about it very much. It was only years later that I came to understand that this cover had taken on a life of its own and become sort of a cultural icon. I started to realize that when I discoved all the incredibly blatant and poorly done rip-offs of my design. Rather than upsetting me, seeing all that was quite amusing . . . after all, isn’t imitation “the sincerest form of flattery”?
Another indicator to me of how pervasive this design had become in the culture was that people were having it permanently etched onto their bodies. This both horrified, and delighted me at the same time! Personally I would never have anything tattooed on my body—especially one of my own graphics: I’d get bored with the design way too quickly, and then it would be too late to do anything about it. Here are some shots of the process of one lucky soul having the complete Rock and Roll Over art permanently engraved on his right flank. The tattoo artist did a pretty good job, if you ask me!
And below, for your viewing pleasure, a few more of my favorite RaRO tattoo shots. I especially like the one of the guy getting his back autographed by Paul Stanley. Now that’s what I call Kiss Kommitment!
Speaking of Paul, he contacted me again recently. It seems that KISS were about to record their 19th studio album. They hadn’t done one of those for eleven years, and he told me they wanted to recapture some of the magic that the Rock and Roll Over design had provided for them when they were starting out. So, in a way they kind of wanted Rock and Roll Over All Over Again—the same . . . but different.
Attempting to recreate the success of an iconic image is a thankless task. You can’t realistically have that as a goal. The most you can do is to give it your all and try to do the best piece of art you’re capable of doing. Here are a series of rough sketches that led up to the finished design
The hardest part of this process was figuring out what to do with the four faces. This time Paul wanted them to be photographic instead of just plain old graphic—as they were the first time around. And I couldn’t get new photography—it had to be taken from existing files. The approach I decided on was to take the best photos I could find with the most contrast and shadows, and translate them into flat graphics that I could make work with the rest of the art. I’ve simplified the steps a bit, but here’s an example of what I did with the faces, using a photo I found of Gene’s face:
Everybody’s got an opinion as to whether the art for Sonic Boom is better or worse than that for Rock and Roll Over. Being so close to both designs it’s difficult for me to say. As far as Sonic Boom is concerned, I did the best I could within strict limitations provided by Paul. I think it solved the problem, and I’m quite happy with the results.
I’ll leave it to time, to posterity, and to others to decide if Sonic Boom becomes as much a cultural touchstone as Rock and Roll Over did. If it does, we may soon start seeing . . .
Purchase an original “Rock and Roll Over” press proof HERE
PowerStation is my one font that specifically evolved from a prior design assignment. I had been tasked with designing signage for Hershey’s Times Square flagship store. The signage needed to be designed in the spirit of a retro future-machine, à la Jules Verne or other Victorian “Steam Punk” aesthetic. So I came up with the following sketches in which I combined various lettering and type styles:
In the tighter version I designed the word “Hershey” to have a feeling of faceted letters, similar to what you might see on an old theater marquee:
Ever since I first became aware of them I’ve been faxcinated by the tactile qualities of these extruded plastic letterforms, and how they reminded me of candy. I’ve always thought there was something “delicious” about them.
So it seemed entirely appropriate to me that the word Hershey should be rendered that way, giving it a chunky, almost chocolatebar-like flavor. Note that in the final signage we needed to change the lettering of the word “Chocolateworks” to read “Chocolate Machine”.
I loved how my art turned out, especially the word “Hershey”. After this job was over it occured to me that I wasn’t aware of any fonts that successfully captured that particular faceted look. So I thought I’d try and see if I could make that work as a typeface:
I started sketching out various letters to see if it could be viable. As the font developed and it’s strong industrial and moderne qualities became more apparent, I decided to name it “PowerStation”.
As I developed PowerStation, it evolved from the one version I had adapted from the Hershey’s assignment into four different versions. These I decided to call Block, Wedge, Solid, and Outline. Then I thought I’d expand those into another four “Wide” versions. Now I had a family of eight different fonts.
But I guess I wasn’t able to leave well enough alone. Why not provide the added ability to set PowerStation in two colors? So I took the basic four faceted versions of PowerStation (Block, Block Wide, Wedge, and Wedge Wide) and broke each of them down into two separate fonts which, if set on separate layers, could provide 2 color typesetting. The solid “base” of the letters would be formed by setting the “Low” version of the font, and the facted part of the letter would be formed by setting the “High” version of the font on a layer directly above the “Low” version.
In other words a two color version of PowerStation Wedge could be achieved by setting PowerStation Wedge High over the same copy which would be set in PowerStation Wedge Low, and applying different colors to each layer.
Setting words like this in two colors can provide richness and variation when used imaginatively.
Some time after the release of PowerStation I discovered the next step in its evolution—that you didn’t have to be limited to two color typesetting with this font. I found that by combining the various PowerStation fonts in different ways one could set this font in three colors as well. The instructions for doing that may be a little long for this article, so if you’d like to see what’s involved with that, you can download the free PowerStation User Manual.
I originally created the serigraph above to celebrate the release of PowerStation. The signed and numbered edition is limited to 100 copies, and there are still some left. Click HERE to find out more about this offer.
License the PowerStation fonts HERE .
Purchase the PowerStation Serigraph HERE.
My friend José Cruz recently posted this LINK on my Facebook page, reminding me about one of my earliest, favorite projects—one which set the tone for much of my work that followed. In the page that was linked the reproduction my cover was so tiny that I figured it might be time to unearth the real thing and tell its story.
I had only been freelancing for a couple of years when the Japanese magazine “Idea” contacted me, wanting to do an article about my work. I proposed doing a cover for that issue, and they agreed. Rather than designing a standard 4 color process cover, I prepared the art for 5 flat Pantone colors. Overlapping the transparent inks would create even more colors, and I hoped to achieve a richness and depth of color that approached the look of a silkscreen. It all worked out really well.
Starting with a few thumbnail pencils, I developed the look for the cover, which was based on an arcade/shooting gallery/metal target game look:
’m sure there were a couple of pencil drawings between the ones above and the next one, but it’s been many years, and things tend to disappear. This next drawing demonstrates how I used to work pre-computer. I needed to work out the drawing in the finest detail, because once I inked the linework on prepared acetate, there was no such thing as ⌘-Z: making changes was difficult. You’ll notice in the detail, the great care I used when drawing—this was extremely painstaking work (the yellowing of the vellum is mostly due to the aging of the rubber cement used to glue it to a board:
Next I worked out rough color with Prismacolor pencils on a piece of tracing paper over the tight drawing. I was tryng to approximate how transparent Pantone colors would react when laying one over the other. For example laying the blue/violet over the burgundy would get me a very dark—almost black-ish color. There were probably other color studies, but this is all I have left:
After working out the color, all that remained was to create the finished pre-separated art, inked in black with technical drawing pens (Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph). In this case the art consisted of seven inked, prepared acetate overlays, plus the base art that was inked on vellum and glued to an illustration board. Below is a representation of just one of the overlays in position over the tight tracing—where it was when it was inked—this represented the dark blue ink:
When all the inking was done, all the overlays were registered to each other (note the register marks), and the whole was prepared for the printer in Japan with detailed instructions written on a vellum overlay with a more accurate representation of what the finished piece would look like (rendered in colored pencil). Pantone color chips were taped alongside for color matching. It’s a hell of a lot easier to render art like this today using Adobe Illustrator!
Below is the actual printed cover. It remains one of my favorite pieces. It also served as the design and color model for how I executed the album cover “Rock and Roll Over” for KISS just a few months later that year: