Alphabet Soup Blog


The Blog of Michael Doret

A Stellar Poster for Simon & Garfunkel

A Stellar Poster for Simon & Garfunkel

A Stellar Poster for SImon & Garfunkel
A Stellar Poster for SImon & Garfunkel

Back when I was doing fairly regular work for Time Magazine, one of their ADs—Irene Ramp—asked me if I wanted to do a poster for a reunion benefit concert for Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel that was to be held in Central Park. Irene was a friend of Paul Simon, and so putting Mr. Simon and myself together was fairly easy. Because of the many intervening years, I don’t anymore have my preliminary drawings or sketches for this piece, so here I would like to talk about my inspiration and how my ideas for the poster came to be.

Even as a young boy growing up in Brooklyn one of my passions was star-gazing. I remember saving up my meager allowance for months until I had enough saved ($42.15) to buy my own telescope. With my trusty “Jupiter” telescope (Made in Japan) I charted sunspots, gazed upon the craters and mountains of the moon, and saw the rings of Saturn. To help me find and recognize the constellations in the night sky I used a wheel chart I bought at the Planetarium called the “Star Explorer”. Apparently I was a young nerd in the making!

Star Explorer
Star Explorer

In addition to its usefulness I was fascinated by the graphics and the design—the representaion of the various star magnitudes by differently sized circles, and the seeming randomness of the star map in contrast with the beautiful geometry and design of the mechanism that made it all work. This strange beauty, born of utility, would stay with me for many years.

I had purchased the Star Explorer during one of my visits to the Hayden Planetarium. At my insistence, my parents took me there many times. The Planetarium was attached to Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!), and I just couldn’t get enough of it. Whether it was seeing how much I weighed on Jupiter, or being able to touch an actual meteorite—or even just admiring the wonderful black light murals—I loved it all! But the best part (of course) was the sky show under the Planetarium dome.

Inside the Planetarium
Inside the Planetarium
The Hayden Planetarium
The Hayden Planetarium

Since 2000 the Hayden Planetarium has been housed inside the new Rose Center for Earth and Space, and has been completely revamped and brought up to date.

The Rose Center for Earth and Space
The Rose Center for Earth and Space

While the changes were needed, reflecting all the new technology and discoveries made since I was a kid, much has been lost, and I greatly miss all those things that had initially attracted and charmed me.

One of those things was the incredible look of the Zeiss Mark II projector. To me it looked like an alien spaceship or some sort of insect/monster. The new projector is a bit more high-tech and to my mind a little more visually nondescript. The other is that the projection dome is lacking one feature which I thought was great—and that is the wonderful silhouetted NYC skyline that surrounced you as the lights went down, simulating dusk.

Zeiss Mark II Projector
Zeiss Mark II Projector

I’m not the only one who thought the interior and projector were beautiful—it was the subject of a Fortune Magazine cover by John Cook.

Fortune Cover
Fortune Cover

Note the prominent role played by that skyline silhouette in his art. When you settled into your seat for the sky show, having that skyline surround you really made you feel connected to both the sky and to the city—it was as if you were laying down in the middle of Central Park (which is right across the street) at night, and were gazing up at the stars surrounded by the city. For me that was really magical. Actually adding the local environment to star charts and such was nothing new as is clearly shown in vintage charts such as this:

Star Chart
Star Chart

All these things were in the back of my mind when I met with Paul Simon to discuss the direction the poster would take. Just the fact that the concert would take place in Central Park on a warm Fall evening led me to start thinking about what it might be like to be at the concert, listening to music under the stars. That led me to thinking about how much I loved the Planetarium (just minutes away from the concert site) and how it felt to be there, about my telescope, about star charts, but most of all about that magical NYC skyline. I knew that I had to incorporate them all into my poster. Luckily all parties agreed! The concert was a great success, attended by half a million, but the best thing was that despite the fact that it had rained all that day, the clouds parted and the stars came out.

Simon & Garfunkel Poster
Simon & Garfunkel Poster

The posters had been sniped up all over NYC before the concert. If you were lucky, you were able to snatch one off a wall without destroying it. Despite the fact that T-shirts were produced and were for sale at the concert, there actually were never any officially sanctioned posters for sale anywhere. Over the years I’ve had many, many people write to me wondering where they could find a poster. I never had that many myself, having given away to friends and acquaintences what few I had. But luckily I kept one. Now I am very happy to be able to say that I am producing a limited edition of the poster myself, which I am making available through my Illogator site.

These posters will be 18” x 24”—the original size the poster was produced at, and will be signed by yours truly. I scanned the original poster myself, and spent days retouching the scan until it was absolutely perfect. These digital prints (or giclées) actually look better than the original. The original printing was done on fairly inexpensive paper, but the edition I produced is on a much better stock—which allows much more depth of color. If you’d like to find out more about the new edition, just click HERE, and you’ll be taken to my store—where you can also see other items I have for sale.

Simon & Garfunkel w/T-Shirt
Simon & Garfunkel w/T-Shirt

"And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people maybe more"

Alphabet Soup
Alphabet Soup

10 Years Apart—The Posters for “Revolutions: The Art of Music”

10 Years Apart

10 Years Apart

In 2005 I was asked to create a promotional poster for an exhibition of music-related graphics that was to be held at the Forest Lawn Museum in Burbank, California. The show was to be called “Revolutions”, a name that was a stroke of genius from the fertile mind of my friend Brad Benedict—creator of Capitol Records’ “Ultra-Lounge” series.

“An art show held above a cemetery?” one might ask. Attending events at cemeteries is nothing new for Angelenos who for years have been picnicking and enjoying movies outdoors on warm evenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Actually the Forest Lawn Museum is a wonderful venue, set atop a hill in Burbank with incredible panoramic views of the entire city of Los Angeles—not unlike the sweeping vistas one experiences from atop the Getty Museum on the other side of the city.

The View from Forest Lawn Museum

The View from Forest Lawn Museum

The challenge was to create an iconic image that could represent all the incredible diverse types of art that have been—and continue to be—created to accompany the prodigious output of the recording industry. I felt that a representation of the human eye (even though to some it might seem a bit clichéd) should play a prominent role in the design. So, with that in mind, I started thinking about the work of two of my favorite artists: A.M. Cassandre and Renée Magritte, and the work that they had done with the motif of the human eye. One of Magritte’s most famous and intriguing paintings is called “The False Mirror”:

Magritte: The False Mirror

Magritte: The False Mirror

When I took a look at this famous piece, I realized how powerful one simple image like this could be. Next I took a look at some of Cassandre’s work and realized that he had returned time and again to this highly symbolic motif. Here are two magazine covers he created for Harper’s Bazaar:

Cassandre: 2 Bazaar Covers

Cassandre: 2 Bazaar Covers

It then occurred to me that the pupil of the eyes could be made to represent a vinyl record label and the iris represent the LP itself. What better way to represent the visual art of the recording industry?

I wanted to “frame” the poster to help amplify the idea that this was an art exhibition, and I remembered a series of album covers that Capitol Records released between the late 1940s and the early 1950s that all used a very graphic “frame” on the cover over which they would attach a smaller label containing the graphics for that particular recording. I believe it was a kind of an early “branding” that Capitol Records was attempting so that people could immediately identify the recordings as belonging to Capitol. The covers with the frames appeared on Capitol’s 10” extended play recordings which usually contained three to four songs per side, as opposed to the one song per side that was commonplace up until then. These 10” recordings were the predecessors to 12” long playing records. Here are a few examples:

Capitol EP Series

Capitol EP Series

To accomplish this “framing” I decided to photograph a wooden door in my studio, cut the photo up into strips, and then alter the color and make it more graphic through the magic of Photoshop. Here’s the portion of the frame that runs along the bottom of the poster:

Wood for Frame

Wood for Frame

The idea for how to treat the headline, the title of the show flowed directly out of the word itself: “Revolutions” I would treat it in a very graphic way, but I would reference the brush lettering of hand-painted placards that are often seen at "revolutionary" demonstrations and protests. Although I would not follow it stylistically, the banner for the Polish “Solidarity” movement that helped bring about the fall of Communism came to mind:

Solidarnosc

Solidarnosc

So with all the elements of my design firmly in hand, I began assembling them into a pencil drawing and presented it to the Museum:

Revolutions Pencil Sketch

Revolutions Pencil Sketch

My design was quickly approved, and so I set about the work of putting it all together. The most difficult part in creating the finished art was how to render the “pupil” and the “iris” of the eye. Working in Adobe Illustrator made it fairly easy, creating it in sections and using the gradient tool. Below I’ll contrast the sketch I did with the finished art—it’s a very tried and true method for rendering a shiny vinyl recording:

Record Disk Sketch and FInal

Record Disk Sketch and FInal

As I mentioned, like most of my art, I created the final in layers in Adobe Illustrator. Creating the art in layers allows a lot of flexibility when designing a complex piece like this one. Here is a representation that demonstrates how the different layers all fit together:

Revolutions Poster Layers

Revolutions Poster Layers

Revolutions Poster -2005

Revolutions Poster -2005

Earlier in 2014 the Forest Lawn Museum contacted me again to let me know that they were going to hold another exhibition “Revolutions 2” on the 10th anniversary of “Revolutions” in 2015, and asked if I would prepare another poster for the upcoming show. I told them that my idea for that would be to suggest a continuity between the two shows by literally repeating the first poster. I explained that giving the second poster a new color palette would provide enough differentiation between the two shows. The folks at Forest Lawn agreed, and I began work on “Revolutions 2”.

To help make the new palette more coherent I created a gradient between two of the dominant colors I selected, then was able to pick out intermediate colors for the background:

Color Palette for Revolutions 2

Color Palette for Revolutions 2

The new poster would have abbreviated copy, so I needed to slightly reorganize some of the elements and add a “2” to the title. I also needed to change the subtitle to “The Art of Music” from the more cumbersome “Artists Who Rocked the World of Music Industry Graphics” (quite a mouthful!). Finally a shadow was added behind the title to help give the piece a little more depth, and (for reasons I cannot recall!) I reversed the direction of the shadows on the frame sections.

Revolutions 2 Poster

Revolutions 2 Poster

Below are the two posters—separated by a decade and side-by-side. To be honest, in my opinion the later poster is more successful. I think the colors work better and are more pleasing.

Revolutions Side-By-Side

Revolutions Side-By-Side

As you’ve no doubt noticed, as of the date of this writing the show is up at Forest Lawn. But the big star-studded event opening will be held at the Museum on Saturday February 28th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. It’s quite a bit larger than the 2005 show with over 175 paintings, photos, sculpture and prints from over 30 artists (including five pieces by yours truly). If you are a lover of album covers or posters, this is an event not to be missed!

OpeningNight

OpeningNight

Opening Night at Forest Lawn Museum.

Kiosk at the Americana/Glendale

Kiosk at the Americana/Glendale

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

12 Years in the Making — Fruit & Vegetable Stamps for the USPS — Part 2 of 2

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BlogOpener[600px]

Ten years had slipped by since I completed my work on the Fruit and Vegetable stamp series for the USPS back in 2002 (read Part 1). But then in May of 2012, when I was contacted by Art Director Antonio Alcalá of Studio A in Washington DC about another stamp project, I started thinking about the ill-fated Fruit and Vegetable stamps that I had done a decade earlier. To make a long story short Antonio agreed to re-present my original Fruit and Vegetable stamp comps at his next meeting with the USPS. It didn’t take long for him to get back to me with an emphatic “Yes”—the Post Office was indeed interested in reviving this theme for a new set of stamps!

Of course I was hoping that the USPS would pick up the designs I had done without any changes—but that was not to be! Of the six different fruits and vegetables that we had chosen in the first go round the only one to survive was Sweet Corn. The new list was this: Cantaloupes, Squash, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, and Watermelons, and the series was to be called “Summer Harvest”. One thing that worked in my favor was that we kept the same overall size for the new stamps.

When I started working on this new project I wanted to differentiate the stamps from each other as much as possible. I started by trying to have fun with different elements such as the “USA” and the denominations, and by choosing different color palettes. You’ll see that in many of the earlier stages I was trying to design these graphic elements differently from one another. While the earlier stamp designs held together because they all shared my aesthetic vision, it became clear that the new stamps were going to need to be much more uniform in approach, sharing similar design elements and color palettes. This made the challenge a little more difficult than the first series, but I decided that despite the uniformity challenge, I would still want to differentiate them as much as possible. So one thing I did was to give each of them their own distinct lettering style.

Sweet Corn—4 Preliminaries

Sweet Corn—4 Preliminaries

Sweet Corn/Final

Sweet Corn/Final

It turned out that because we were keeping the basic design for Sweet Corn, that design also served as a template for the others as well. Starting with the original Sweet Corn design from 2002 (below at upper left), here are a sampling of a few of the iterations as they progressed—with the final approved design at the bottom. In the end the palette changed to one which could be applied to all the stamp designs. Also, note that the Sweet Corn lettering is a bit bolder on the final design (below), making it a bit more legible at the stamp's small reproduction size.

Squash Roughs

Squash Roughs

Watermelon Roughs 1

Watermelon Roughs 1

WatermelonRoughs2_X_3

WatermelonRoughs2_X_3

Watermelon Color Comps

Watermelon Color Comps

Watermelon Final Version

Watermelon Final Version

Before I had gone that far with it, the stamp depicting Squash was (pun intended) squashed. This was as far as I got before Squash was eliminated from the group. The Watermelons design was a bit more problematic than the others. For some reason the layout depicting a vertically oriented watermelon with a slice in front did not meet with USPS approval. So I opted for the more traditional approach with the watermelon leaning at an angle. Another problem was the length of the word “Watermelons”: I needed to really condense and overlap the letters so that they would be legible at the tiny size they would reproduce. Also, it was felt that in the earlier iterations the letters were a bit too pointy, and so you can see those modifications in the later stages.

Cantaloupes Roughs

Cantaloupes Roughs

Cantaloupes Comps

Cantaloupes Comps

Cantaloupes_Final

Cantaloupes_Final

The biggest stumbling block for Cantaloupes was how to render it—what to do about its textured skin. You’ll notice that the texture went from fairly realistic and finely detailed earlier on to a much, much simpler depiction by the time we got to the final approved design.

Tomatoes Roughs

Tomatoes Roughs

Tomatoes Color Roughs

Tomatoes Color Roughs

Tomatoes Final

Tomatoes Final

In addition to re-using the Sweet Corn design from the ill-fated 2002 set I also saw the opportunity to recycle the earlier design for Persimmon. It seemed perfectly suited to adapt for Tomatoes. This design then came together fairly quickly. The two smaller color versions (below at lower right) may seem quite similar, but they have several important differences: 1) the background color on the later design is brighter, to be more in line with Sweet Corn, 2) the shading on the two tomoatoes on the right changes a bit, and 3) I re-did the leaves with more detail where the branches meet the tomatoes. A significant difference in the final version of Tomatoes is that I reversed the colors of the type so that now all four of the stamps had white type (for consitency).

Summer Harvest Roughs

Summer Harvest Roughs

Summer HarvestTight Pencils

Summer HarvestTight Pencils

Summer Harvest Label

Summer Harvest Label

Finally we needed a label for the booklets that the stamps would be in. Working with the title “Summer Harvest”, here’s how I worked that out.

I think the similar palettes, the bold white lettering, and the consistent nature of the borders and the other design elements create a group whose individual members stand out as unique. But they all seem to work together as a family as well.

Summer Harvest Complete Set

Summer Harvest Complete Set

Here’s the series together in their booklet form—which will be available in June 2015 (just in time for Summer), and will be sold in booklets of 20.

Summer Harvest Booklet

Summer Harvest Booklet

You can also see these stamps on the USPS website. If you happened to miss Part 1 of this article, you can read it HERE.

Award Winning Alphabet Soup Fonts

Award Winning Alphabet Soup Fonts

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12 Years in the Making: Fruit & Vegetable Stamps for the USPS — Part 1 of 2

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BlogOpener[600]

Reference-1

Reference-1

Reference-2

Reference-2

We all know that some projects can take a bit of time to come to fruition (no pun intended!). It’s not uncommon for some projects to even take months to see the light of day. But with these stamps for the USPS I never anticipated that the approval process would span over 12 years! I was first contacted by Art Director and design consultant to the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee Richard Sheaff back in 2002 to work on a series of stamps celebrating American fruits and vegetables. There were to be six different designs in the set. We had a list of possibilities to choose from including Avocado, Cherry, Grape, Persimmon, Pineapple, Plum, Prickly Pear, and Strawberry. The final selection was Cabbage, Grape Lemon, Persimmon, Pineapple and Sweet Corn. We decided that as a point of departure I would reference vintage seed packets, catalogs and fruit crate labels. Here are a few choice pieces of vintage reference that served to help inspire my designs: What I gleaned from all the reference was not so much layout and design, but more the attitude of these graphics—and how the various fruits and vegetables were represented.

I was not trying so much to do faithful renditions of seed packets or fruit crate labels, but to create graphics that might be seen as contemporary versions of their earlier cousins. So I never borrowed any of the elements from the earlier graphics verbatim, but attempted to update them to a more current sensibility. Also the small size and scale of these stamps prohibited using the reference in a very literal manner: reducing any one of them to the size of one of these stamps would have rendered much of their fine detail unreadable. So I needed to play loosely with the idea of referencing these graphics, making them much bolder and simpler than one might have imagined.

Grape Roughs

Grape Roughs

Grape Color Comp

Grape Color Comp

CabbageRoughs

CabbageRoughs

Cabbage Color Comp

Cabbage Color Comp

LemonRoughs

LemonRoughs

Lemon Color Comp

Lemon Color Comp

Pineapple Roughs

Pineapple Roughs

Pineapple Digital Comp

Pineapple Digital Comp

Sweet Corn Roughs

Sweet Corn Roughs

Sweet Corn Digital Rough

Sweet Corn Digital Rough

Persimmon Roughs

Persimmon Roughs

Here are the six stamp designs I created in 2002 preceded in each instance by a couple of the pencil drawings created in their development. Of the six, these first three—Grape, Cabbage and Lemon only made it to the colored pencil comp stage (yes, back in 2002 I still occasionally did color comps the old-fashioned way—by hand!). The following two designs—Pineapple and Sweet Corn—were developed to a more finished, digital stage, and so were more refined and worked out than the preceding three designs. Finally, the sixth subject Persimmon, which was the last to be developed never made it past the rough pencil stage. If memory serves, the project at that point was kept to the previous five designs .

6 Color Comps

6 Color Comps

Below, the entire series as we left it back in 2002: But things don’t always turn out as you would imagine. I never felt that I should have given up hope for these designs . . . so in 2012 an opportunity presented itself with regard to these designs that I couldn’t ignore. If you’d like to know what happened, please check out Part 2 of this post.

Alphabet Soup Type Founders

Alphabet Soup Type Founders

DC Comics 75th Anniversary Book Jackets for Taschen Publishing

Comic Books were once considered throwaway trash aimed at adolescent boys. Now comic books are considered one of the premier art forms of the 20th century. So it wasn’t surprising that Benedikt Taschen decided to enshrine this art form in “75 Years of DC Comics - The Art of Modern Mythmaking”—one of his Extra Large scale books: “…in honor of the publisher’s 75th anniversary, TASCHEN has produced the single most comprehensive book on DC Comics, in an XL edition even Superman might have trouble lifting. More than 2,000 images—covers and interiors, original illustrations, photographs, film stills, and collectibles—are reproduced using the latest technology to bring the story lines, the characters, and their creators to vibrant life as they’ve never been seen before.”I was tasked by Taschen AD Josh Baker with helping to create letterform graphics for the cover of this monumental edition. These graphics needed to integrate seamlessly with the vintage cover image so that the new cover design might appear to have been “original”. The publisher came up with an incredible image of two sign painters painting a monumental protrait of Superman. They also found some vintage lettering of “DC COMICS” which I was to design around. Also included was an original “DC” logo in a circle which I needed to balance off on the other side of the cover with wording that read “Over 700 Pages in Color”. What I came up with seemed like the only logical layout for this. I looked at dozens and dozens of pieces of vintage comic lettering from DC’s past and distilled them to what I felt would work the best: 75 Years—Design Development I decided to create the final lettering not digitally, but with pen and ink, to try to approach the less than perfect forms that these letters would have had—here are the various elements: 75 Years Completed Book Jacket 75 Years Elements

“75 Years of DC Comics” is divided into five sections, each covering a time span of between 1½ to 2 decades. Taschen decided to expand each of those five sections into its own separate, more reader-friendly sized volume, with much more artwork and commentary. Each volume then needed its own special cover art and graphics, and I was again tasked with trying to integrate titling with an appropriate look for each of the five new volumes. The jackets for each volume were to be made of metallic stock matching the contents—so the Golden Age was to be printed on gold metallic stock, the Silver Age on silver stock, and so on. DC Comics Book Jacket Panorama The process for creating the graphics was much the same as what I did for the “75 Years” jacket—creating five different titling units, each in keeping with the time period it represents, and four more “slugs” to play off opposite the various DC logos (we kept the same slug for “Golden Age” as we used on “75 Years”), each also in an appropriate style to its context. Lest what you see below not confuse you, on the first and last volumes Taschen changed the cover art they selected from what they originally supplied me with. To date, only the first two volumes have been published, “Bronze Age”, “Dark Age”, and “Modern Age” will follow, released one at a time.

                                      THE GOLDEN AGE OF DC COMICS Golden Age Design Development Golden Age Rough/Finish

Golden Age Book Jacket

                                      THE SILVER AGE OF DC COMICS

Silver Age Design Development

The Silver Age Silver Age Book Jacket

                                      THE BRONZE AGE OF DC COMICS Bronze Age Development Bronze AgeBronze Age Book Jacket

                                      THE DARK AGE OF DC COMICS Dark Age Design Development Dark Age Lettering Dark Age Book Jacket

                                      THE MODERN AGE OF DC COMICS Modern Age Design Development The Modern Age

Modern Age Book Jacket

 

Alphabet Soup Type Founders

In the Works—New Blackletter/Hybrid Font

I have an aversion against taking the easy road. These days many font designers create their designs by referencing designs from the past. Make no mistake—there’s a goldmine of vintage designs out there waiting to be rediscovered. But there are a few of us font designers still left who want to create something that’s not been seen before . . . but that’s not that easy to do. Most of my fonts (with the exception of Steinweiss Script and DeLuxe Gothic) are completely new inventions.

I’ve been working on the font design shown here for the better part of a year—ever since I completed the Dyna-Fonts. The beginings of this font can be traced back to a project I worked on many years ago: a logo I was asked to design for the Califonia Angels baseball team. The work I did for them never saw the light of day, but I always had a soft spot in my heart for one of the logo designs I developed. The letterform portion of my design was comprised of what I called a sort of “blackletter/hybrid”. So I took the basis of that design and expanded it into a full working typeface design. Its working title is currently “Dark Angel”, derived from the project it had originated from.

My intention is that this font be more versatile and more legible than most other blackletter fonts. It’s going to have many, many ligatures, alternates, and letters with tails, and free-floating swashes, giving designers many opportunities to create one-of-a-kind graphics and titling.

It will also come in two versions: a regular solid version and an “underlit” version with a sort of hand-tooled effect.

By the way, did you notice that there are virtually no verticals and no horizontals in this font? I would not have been able to execute this design as you see it without the incredible vector plug-ins from Astute Graphics—particularly VectorScribe. These plug-ins have definitely filled many of the gaps I found in Adobe Illustrator, making it possible for me to do many things that I wouldn't have attempted without them.

This font is currently in its final stages of programming and production, with a tentative projected release date of June or July 2013. The name “Dark Angel” isn’t yet set in stone, and I’d like to consider other suggestions for the name. If I end up using the name you've come up with for this font, you will be the first to receive a complimentary copy of it as soon as its released.

To send a name suggestion for this font, or if you’d like to be notified when the font is released, please drop me an email and I’ll put you on my list to notify.

 

Kiss Kulture Klash

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

COMMENTS WELCOME! 

 

The Evolution of PowerStation

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.

COMMENTS WELCOME! 

 

 

60 Second Green—An Eco-Friendly Logo

This logo was selected for inclusion in Graphis Logo Design 8 Much of the design work I do tends to be seen by many as “vintage inspired”. I do frequently look to the past for inspiration, but it would be wrong to categorize all my work that way. Case in point: the logo I designed for “Sixty Second Green”. This website will have a series of tips presenting simple ideas and products that are “green” and eco-friendly. The site will propose simple yet powerful ideas on how people can save money and at the same time do good things for the environment—all within videos no longer than 60 seconds. My challenge was to create a memorable logo that would be reflective of the green/sustainability movement.

Working with Mark Pruett, owner and senior editor at Storyville Post (whom I had previously worked with some years back designing their logo) I came up with several loose ideas:

Many of the roughs used the obvious element of a leaf as a motif, but one was reminiscent of the design of the Universal Recycling Symbol, designed back in 1970 by USC student Gary Anderson.

Fortunately this rough was what the client reacted most strongly to, and we were able to develop a unique logo that didn’t resort to the usual visual clichés.

So to develop this design I first had to figure out its geometry by placing my original rough drawing in Adobe Illustrator and working over it:

Then I created a new drawing using the inner mechanics derived from my Illustrator sketch. One really cannot set type around a circle without it looking somewhat awkward, so you can see that the verticals in each letterform I’m creating point directly towards the center of the circle, and are marked in the pencil drawing with angle notations:

Using the angles I had earlier jotted down on the drawing, I started building the letterforms and the logo.

Note that the letterforms in the upper portion of the logo flare outwards at the top, while those at the bottom are pinched in at the their tops. Yet they’re all consistent within the logic of the design and don’t read as different sorts of letters:

I then created a version with a bit of shading and a black background:

This iteration was used for the animated version that Storyville Post created from my art for the Sixty Second Green videos:

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

Alphabet Soup Font Guides and Manuals – Free Downloads

Many people have asked why I have only 9 fonts available for purchase. Part of the anwswer is that I’m sort of a perfectionist, and it takes me quite a long time to design, execute, and test a font to make sure it’s working properly. Also, all that work must be sandwiched in between design and lettering assignments—which must always take precedence. But there’s another reason why, at best, I can only turn out maybe one font design a year—and that is for me there’s a bit more to releasing a font than just having the font itself ready to go. There are a ton of supporting graphics that need to be created, and each font reseller has different requirements.

But more importantly, I decided early on that included with each font I would supply a full color PDF Guide or Manual (all 9 pictured above). From these multi-page PDFs one can get a very good idea of what these fonts look like in use, and gain an understanding their special features and how to access them. For example, the PowerStation Manual explains how to set layered copy in 2 or three colors, and in the Deliscript Manual you’ll find out how to access the special “t-crossbar” feature (among others). You’ll also learn some important “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for each font and (if you’re interested) read about how these fonts came to be.

Originally these manuals were only intended to be included with the font download at purchase, but I realized that they should also be available for prospective buyers as well as others—they might help with a decision, or just serve as inspiration. I’ve put links for all 9 PDF downloads together on one page, together with several case studies of some of my design work. So feel free to go the DOWNLOAD page and click on 1, 2 or all 9 of them.

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

Japanese Time Machine

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:

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

“Sweet!”/A Logo Project–Part 5 of 5: TINSELTOWN

Please read Parts 12, 3, and 4 of this series before proceeding!

Finally, we arrive at Tinseltown, and the last of the logos I created for Sweet!

Being the beating heart of Los Angeles, Hollywood is Tinseltown. And Tinseltown is, of course, the movies. So it’s only fitting that the Tinseltown boutique is the beating heart of Sweet! In Tinseltown you’ll find all your movie theater favorites in theater sized boxes, plus more Hollywood memorabilia and nifty trinkets than you can shake a stick at.

Gary felt that this logo should look like a classic theater marquee. I had an image in my head of what that might look like for this logo. But for something like this I always need do some research, to help me get the right attitude and not to just rely on my memory. There are some fantiastic theater marquees in downtown Los Angeles, but I found one that really was going in the direction I was visualizing in, of all places, Erie, Pennsylvania—The Warner:

Although this marquee was a bit too intricate for my taste, and there was no neon (I must have neon!) I loved the whole sun-ray thing going on behind the letters, and decided that this marquee—although it would not be my only point of reference—it would be my main inspiration point. So I started puttin my thoughts to paper:

In the first rough above, I was heading in a direction, but still groping around for specifics. By the second rough, I was firmly on my way to solving the problem. And by the third rough, more or less nailed the basics of the design:

At this point, the design was approved, and I went on to build the design in Illustrator. I do it in values of gray before assigning color, just so I know that certain shapes are separating from others properly. Below I’m building the graphic over a template of the rough pencil drawing (above). To be honest there were many, many more steps than what you see depocted below, but it would be impossible to show them all, and very difficult for a viewer to decipher exactly what’s going on. Suffice it to say that I built this art in layers, and in many ways it may have been similar to building an actual neon sign:

I didn’t want to literally appropriate the color from the Warner marquee, so I started doing my own color solutions, but I didn’t think they worked the way I wanted them to:

So I pretty much went back to a color palette more reminiscent of that Warner marquee:

Building the art like a real sign apparently had its advantages because Gary loved the art so much that he decided to have it made into a real lifesize neon sign for inside the store.

To do this would be quite an elaborate project, and so Gary and his Store Architect Richard Altuna enlisted the services of SignMeister Robert M Fitch (who was already working on other signage in Sweet!) to oversee the implementation of this complicated project which included three types of sign illumination: chasing light bulbs, neon script and internal LED illumination. So together with Robert’s assistance I’ve put together a very abbreviated photographic synopsis of how this sign was assembled and finally installed in Sweet!. I think the sign really turned out well, and ended up looking surprisingly close to my graphic.

This is what’s called open face channel lettering which, in the case of a connected script type, becomes a “sign can” which defines the letterform and houses the neon. It's constructed from sheet metal, the returns (sides) are hand formed and welded to the letterform back plate. My Illustrator vector art was used to cut out the basic shapes. As in my art, the letters were formed out of only four separate pieces:

Robert specified different colors for the inside and the outside of the can lettering. Here the different planes of the letters are being masked off and painted:

Here the sign box in which everything goes is being created. The sheet metal sides are being pieced together, and you can see some of the specialized tools—the sign hammers—in the foreground:

These are routed Sintra pieces that are applied to the sign face and perimeter details to help create dimension. The scale of the sign wasn’t large enough to form some of my details out of sheet metal, so this non-traditional material was used since the sign would only be used indoors:

At the site, the final sign box is hung, awaiting it’s innards...

…which are finally placed in the box:

Robert designed and had fabricated side extensions for the marquee, nicely picking up some of the design elements of the sign graphic:

When the sign's neon and chase lights are illuminated, its color appearance changes dramatically:

That's all Folks. See you at Sweet!

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

“Sweet!”/A Logo Project–Part 4 of 5: YUCKY

Please read Parts 1, 2, and 3 of this series before proceeding!

Whether or not you are aware of it, there’s a #%@*load of gross and disgusting candy out there—either in form, or in content—or both. How much there is—is incredible. Who’s eating it? Juvenile boys and immature adults! So Gary Shafner thought: wouldn’t it be fun to gather all the gross candy together under one roof? And thus “Yucky” was born. In this boutique you will find every form of revolting, sickening and nauseating confection imaginable. Eyeballs, severed fingers, blood, snot, maggots, poop, insects, zits, scabs, worms and earwax will be among the delicacies you’ll be able to choose from—and many of them dispensed directly from toilets!

So the design challenge in doing a logo for Yucky was to capture the gross nature of what this store was about, doing it with a sense of fun, but not to create a graphic that was itself repellant. This was a true challenge!. Then I remembered one of my favorite illustrators from when I was growing up: Basil Wolverton—the self-professed “Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People who Prowl this Perplexing Planet”! If his name isn’t on the tip of your tongue, his “outrageously inventive” work (below) may be familiar:

It occurred to me that to design a logo in the spirit of his illustration might just be the ticket. After pondering this for a bit I decided that the central letter in YUCKY—a “C”—could be created as if it were a Basil Wolverton head, mouth wide open, and hurling over or through the letters to its right. The other letters surrounding the “C” could contain or support other items expanding on the revolting candy idea. And so I began my “homage” to the great Mr. Wolverton, starting with some very rough sketches:

I liked where this was going, so I got a little tighter, developing the drawing a bit further:

This was the point that I presented this idea to Gary, not knowing how he’d react. Fortunately, he was familiar with Basil Wolverton, and was totally in tune with my idea:

I felt I needed to refine some of the detail in the drawing and develop the character a bit more, making it more “Wolverton-esque”, so I did some pencils like these:

Then finally I had the pencil drawing base on which to build the final art of “Yucky”:

At first I believed I could create the art as would have Mr. Wolverton, with pen and ink. My first feeble attempts only proved to me that he had incredible control over the drawn line, and I had virtually none. So, with my tail between my legs, I went back to my Mac and started drawing the logo in Adobe Illustrator. Gary decided that the character at the center of the logo should be appropriately named “Chuck Dupp”:

I tried to imagine what sorts of colors Wolverton would have used, that all at once could be disgusting, yet “candy-freindly”. I couldn’t come up with a good reason to NOT make Chuck a sickening shade of green:

 

A further development of the color, adding bloodshot eyes, a background color and dropshadows:

And finally some stippling all over, and highlights in the barf—giving the whole thing a bit more dimension, grit, and Wolverton appeal:

The back wall of Yucky is tiled, very much like a public restroom. And like a restroom it is fitted with toilet bowls (as I mentioned earlier) from which candy will be dispensed. Here’s the wall as it was when the space was being built:

Gary figured that what could be better than to bring back the idea of the old arcade photos—you know, the ones where you could get a photo of you (and your pal’s) head(s) popping up behind—and apparently on the body(ies) of—some life-size painted, ridiculous looking figures:

 

Gary’s reinvention was that here you could get a photo of yourself sitting on one of the toilets, and in front of your legs would be a painted cut-out of a pair of legs with pants around the ankles. To cap it all off and make this Kodak Moment more memorable Gary wanted to have painted on the tile overhead a large version of the “Yucky” logo. Sounds good to me!

So Gary hired the very multi-talented sign-painter, fine/guerilla artist, and sculptor Richard Ankrom. Not having any talent at all myself for doing this kind of difficult handwork, I decided to look in on Richard as he worked on this and brought my logo to life. I couldn’t have hoped for this to be done any better than what Richard did. Below, a few shots of the logo as it materialized on the tile wall, starting with a shot of Richard in the space, in preparation mode (notice the "1-Shot" sign painters' paints):

A shot of the paper roll, taped to the tile wall, and through which Richard will pounce the linework he’ll need to follow:

The pounced linework can clearly be seen in this shot before any painting had started. Also clearly seen in the reflective tile is my hand taking the shot:

Gary uses all sorts of various methods and techniques to achieve his results, from laser or hand-cut friskets, to airbrush to regular old old-fashioned handwork with paintbrushes:

Here we are at about the halfway point, the pounced lines still visible:

Richard said he really got into painting the bloodshot eyes:

One of the later stages was when the black linework gets added in. Here Richard is doing some of the stippled, textural brushwork using a “mahl stick” to keep his hands off the wall and prevent them from smudging the wet paint. The paint can take up to a day to fully dry:

Finally . . . it was worth all the hard work! When I selected color for this logo, I had no idea that a color had already been selected for the tilework. Fortunately everything meshed together beautifully:

And here’s the “Yucky” photo-op minus, of course, the dropped pants cutout—picture yourself here:

Next up . . .  in our final installment we’ll take you back to where it all began—Part 5: “Tinseltown”.

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

“Sweet!”/A Logo Project–Part 3 of 5: Route 66 / Candy Americana

Please read Parts 1 and 2 of this series before proceeding!

“Won't you get hip to this timely tip / When you make a-that California trip / Get your kicks on Route sixty-six.” Well, If by “California trip” they meant the Sweet! candy shop in Hollywood, and if by “kicks” they really meant “candy”, then there’ll be plenty to be got in “Route 66 – Candy Americana”.

The real historic Route 66 still runs through Hollywood only a few blocks south of Sweet!, on Sunset running west down to the ocean ending at the Santa Monica Pier. But the Route 66 in Sweet! harkens back to a sweeter, simpler time. In this shop you’ll find an actual, built-to-scale gas station built out of porcelain enamel, just as you’d see if you were driving down the original Route 66 back in the ’50s, before the Interstate system made the road obsolete. You’ll also find a scale reproduction of the famous Wigwam Motels—you know, where you could have stayed on your road trip across America (“Sleep in a Wigwam!). All this to house the finest selection of classic American candies, some that you may not have seen in a while.

Obviously the logical place to start a Route 66-ish logo would be to use the iconic road sign as a base. So with that as a given (which I gave myself) I started with some very rough sketches like these:

One of the most critical parts of this direction was to figure out how to successfully integrate all the different elements. I had a sign, a map, and several different styles of lettering/typography. I also felt it had to have the authentic look of classic American Automobilia, yet be playful and colorful enough to represent a candy store. So I started to work out exactly how all the elements might fit together. After combining a map of the USA and a standard Route 66 sign I started designing my own “66” numerals and the words “Candy” and “Americana”. Not only was I trying to integrate the two words , but to do so with the right amount of playfulness in “Candy” and the right amount of gas station-y feel in “Americana”. As you can see below, there was a lot of drawing and redrawing before I felt I was close to how it should be:

Once I was happy with the balance, In tightened up the drawing in preparation for redrawing the whole thing in Adobe Ilustrator:

To help give this logo a bit more candy store appeal, I envisioned the individual states in five different “Good ’N’ Plenty” colors (which I’ve always loved):

So first I needed to create an accurate (but graphic) map of the USA in Adobe Illustrator where, for separation purposes, no two states touching each other were the same color. So as a working model I did the file in black and 4 grays, then made it the “Good ’N’ Plenty” USA map in 5 colors:

. . . and here are the map, sign and lettering all put together in my first draft:

But to me it was all feeling way too flat. I decided that I wanted to give the states a soft, dimensional “marshmallow-y” feel. So I first added a darker extrusion on the right and lower portions of the states (left side of the map, below), and then a lighter area on the upper and left portions (right side of the map, below)—the Marshmallow States of America:

. . . also adding a dropshadow to the word “Candy” and to the Route 66 lettering and badge, and an outline to the map:

I wasn’t too happy with the mauve-y color, so I gave it one last tweak, warming it up a bit. Everybody loved the way it now looked and felt:

This graphic will be used in the store on packaging, T-Shirts, bags, etc.

Tomorrow we’ll move from the sublime to the ridiculous, from Route 66 to Part 4: “YUCKY” – the most disgustingly delicious candy shop logo in the world!

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

“Sweet!”/A Logo Project–Part 2 of 5: Peace of Candy + AS IF

Please read Part 1 of this series before proceeding!

According to Sweet!’s founder, Gary Shafner, all the world’s countries have their differences—they either love or hate each other—but truth be told, we all have one thing in common: everyone loves candy. Gary wants to share that sentiment by finding some of the wackiest, and some of the best confections from around the globe and making them available in his "Peace of Candy" shop. World Peace through sugar rush!

Take Japan for example. In the US Kit Kat is licensed by Hershey, but it was originally created by Rowntree’s in England, and is now a Nestlé product there and in most of the rest of the world. But the Japanese have turned Kit Kat into something that is both uniquely their own and immensely popular. Over the years they have developed over 200 flavors of Kit Kat. The all-time favorite Japanese Kit Kat flavor is Orange. Gary says that among the many, many other candies from around the globe you will find in Peace of Candy of course there will be those Orange Kit Kats, packaged in a special “Tokyo Tower” commemorative box:

How will you find Peace of Candy when you’re in Sweet! you might ask? Just look towards the center of the store where you will find a giant relief globe (below)—7 feet in diameter—originally salvaged from Chicago’s Historic Rand McNally Building. There’ll be Peace signs placed over each and every country.

Inspiration for creating a logo for Peace of Candy was not hard to come by. Medallions extolling the virtues of Peace and Goodwill may easily be found. So it was not much of a stretch to take our design cues from some of these many and varied metallic coins.

The first pencil sketch pretty much summed up the direction I wanted to go…but then it was decided that we needed to add the tagline “Sweet All Over”:

Once the direction was approved I needed to start fleshing out the look of the medallion, giving it depth and life. At the beginning, everything was pretty flat. Then I added dimension and texture—all done in Adobe Illustrator:

We tried different iterations of how to treat the “Sweet All Over” tagline panel:

 

And the final selected version:

I’m told that they’re actually going to make chocolate medallions with this design in relief!

AS IF – Shop for Spoiled Girls

Because at least one of the shops (Yucky—coming up in Part 4) is mainly directed at boys, Gary didn’t want girls to feel left out, so he created a shop just for them: “AS IF – Shop for Spoiled Girls”. The theme of this shop revolves around two characters: Amanda Sugar (initials AS) and Isabella Fairchild (initials IF). These are two pampered, coddled, rotten and snobbish little girls. The back story is that both have a boarding school background, but have different (but indeterminate) ethnicities. Amanda is more into the club scene, while Isabella is more into period design. But over time they both realized that they had more in common than not—fashion being their common denominator—and begrudgingly became friends.

Gary, having become familiar with the illustration work my wife Laura Smith had been doing, decided she would be the right person to create a graphic of these two characters for this very girly boutique. So having been briefed by Gary on what these two were about, Laura set out to bring them to life.

The first thought was to have Amanda and Isabella back-to-back, kind of like bookends—as are these two Mudflap Twins:

But Amanda and Isabella really aren’t refusing to acknowledge each other, as this type of arrangement might suggest. But Laura decided to keep something of this back to back, belligerent attitude, only a bit less contentious.

To capture a bit of the attitude and indeterminate ethnicity of these two brats Laura looked at many, many fashion shots of female models—only these were a bit older than her subjects were supposed to be. She looks at reference like this not for any specific details, but to get a better feel for her subject matter, possibly combining many separate features into an interesting composite.

Here’s Laura’s concept sketch of these two characters. Can you guess which character is which?

First she roughed this out in pencil and went over that with pen. She usually go through more stages, but felt good about this direction:

Here’s a tighter pencil drawing, where Laura starts working out some of the details:

Once it was clear that Laura wanted to contrast the darkness of one girls hair and oppose that with the a lighter or blond color on her counterpart the piece was easier to visualize and I was able to flesh the rest out on computer. For Laura, it’s an organic process. Value or color against color, making sure that eveything reads properly:

Finessing the eyes of Amanda Sugar (on the right) was a little trickier. Laura had to play with that a little until she was satisfied. Laura wanted Amanda’s eyes to have a slightly more “Asian” look to them:

Color and background needed tweeking in a way that made them both equally important and not overwhelmed by the background pattern. And Laura decided that the two girls should be in “AS IF” order: Amanda Sugar on the left, and Isabella Fairchild on the right:

So here they are, visualized in their perpetual love/hate relationship—unwilling to see eye-to-eye, yet unable to live without each other.

Tomorrow our global trek comes full circle—back to the US and ending up in Part 3 on “Route 66 – Candy Americana”.

COMMENTS WELCOME!

 

“Sweet!”: 6 Logos for a New Candy Store Opening in Hollywood/Part 1 of 6

So . . . what ever happened to the corner candy store—do they have a future? For the answer, please keep reading!

Photo courtesy of Mod Betty/Retro Roadmap

I recently worked on a wonderful project—designing logos for a new concept in candy stores—and this is going to be big! It’s just about to open in the Hollywood and Highland Center in the heart of Hollywood. It’s called “Sweet!” and is the creation of Gary Shafner—the brains behind NPA (National Promotions & Advertising), one of the first guerilla marketing companies. It’s a collection of 12 boutique candy shops, each with their own identity—but all under one roof. When I met Gary at his headquarters, I was blown away by his crazy inventiveness: the only way to gain access to his office/warehouse/printing plant was to enter through an actual vintage Greyhound bus that is built into the facade of his building, the interior of which also formed the reception area.

As you enter the NPA headquarters it becomes apparent that this playful attitude continues throughout the building, as the bus depot theme gives way to a ’50s diner theme, an auto showroom theme, an outdoor city street theme, and on and on as the interior morphs into a very personal kind of amusement park, and a kitchy, friendly environment for Gary’s employee’s to work in.

Gary found my work through a friend of his: Chris Nichols, Associate Editor at Los Angeles Magazine had directed him to me. Chris brings a historical perspective to the magazine, being a passionate advocate for historic Los Angeles, and serving on the LA Conservancy’s Modernism Committee. Mr. Nichols, being familiar with my work, understood what Gary was looking for and saw in my work an understanding for Gary’s playful, eclectic vision.

So why Sweet! . . . and why now? Gary grew up in this town loving what Hollywood was, and realizing that the Hollywood of days gone by was no more . . . and that once tourists were done with the Chinese Theater, after they had seen the footprints, the Hollywood experience was basically over. He decided that he wanted to build a magical place in Hollywood, and that perhaps he could bring back a little bit of that experience by opening this boutique of 12 different candy shops—each staged differently with a different fun theme, and all about the joy of candy and of being in Hollywood—in Tinseltown . . . in a word: “Candytainment”!

I ended up designing graphics for five of these shops—each completely different stylistically from the one before. My wife, illustrator Laura Smith also created a more illustrated logo for a sixth shop. Right here, over the next few days I’m going present a case study (one or two a day) of each of the graphics we worked on, and describe briefly the inventive fun that Gary has in mind for each shop.

The first stop in any candy themed tour of Hollywood would of course be . . . Lollywood:

Lollywood

As far as anyone knows, Lollywood will be the only, first ever store in the world that sells only Lollipops . . . and there will be lollipops of every shape, size, taste, and description. Gary has gone out of his way to make this shop totally unique, building into it both a life-size Sugar Plum tree and, for the counter . . . The Good Ship Lollipop! While shopping, sugar lovers will be serenaded by clips of both Shirley Temple and The Lollipop Guild. And Gary promises there’ll be more surprises as well.

As far as the logo was concerned, the obvious way to go was, of course to reference that darned Hollywood sign. To my mind it’s been overused commercially to the point where it’s lost any design relevance. So I felt I had to bring something fresh to it while still maintaining its recognition factor. The direction I decided to go may seem obvious, but I think it actually works pretty well. I decided to embed those letters inside giant lollipops, and have this scene appear inside a giant Cinerama shaped screen in front of an even larger lollipop swirl.

This was how I presented the idea to Gary. At this point I didn’t know how I was going to render any of this (especially those hills). but I felt inspiration would come to me.

Getting the go ahead was easy. The hard part was figuring out how to do it! Here is one of the early stages in Illustrator.

Then I had a brainstorm (or at least I thought so): I’d take a photo of the Hollywood sign, then I’d manipulate it in Photoshop making it really flat and graphic. I’d use only the portions of the photo that were the actual hillside under the sign. Why go to this extreme when I could probably take any hillside photo and make it work? I’m just a sucker for “the real thing”, I guess.

I thought this was working pretty well, so I put it into the art . . . and voila!

I had already been working on the lollipops—my thought was to make the letters kind of like large fossilized insects caught in amber.

But with some further development, I still wasn’t thrilled. It didn’t seem colorful enough—in fact it was starting to feel a bit  gloomy.

This is one thing that I love about working digitally—you can almost design “on the fly”. If the colors aren’t working the way you want, just keep shifting things around until you get to where you want to be.

Please check back here tomorrow, and I'll post two more designs in Part 2: "Peace of Candy" + “AS IF / Shop for Spoiled Girls”.

COMMENTS WELCOME!