Sunday, November 27, 2011

local font find #1

This "local font find" will be a regular installment, maybe twice a month. As I come across awesome lettering or strange attempts at stylish signs, I'll post them along with a rant or two and a general location.

This high-contrast gem has me asking "why?" way too often. The sign maker was terrific at measuring but lacked any real knowledge of how letters are built.... especially if it has curves. The S's resemble wrenches. They are so bizarre that I don't know where to begin. If the sign maker would have just looked at a Steelers jersey and checked out how the numbers are built, they would have had little problem straight-edging out some quality S's. The rest of the problems arise when the painter had to fit all the letters into the same size spaces. The A's should not have been angled inward....they look sad and pitiful. The I and E look enormous surrounding the V. And the M.....that M!!!! The M is why I stopped the car at the Westfield Big M to take the picture (nothing to do with the Big M!). I guess the painter didn't want this letter to feel bad next to two O's that have angled corners. Those O's are designed perfectly. Also, maybe he/she couldn't go back and angle the bottom of the U once those O's looked so good. The M just looks like it had to be made with a few of the leftover pieces. Certain letters require more space. W's quite often are wider than M's.....WM....see! The painter counted out the letters, decided on a border width, and did the math. He measured himself into the proverbial corner!!!! Maybe instead of making the I's wide at the top and bottom, how about just a vertical rectangle?...Yikes!

The viewer is left remembering this sign but not for the intended reasons. It has this comic feel and I find myself wincing quite a bit. I can image the owner saying, "we fix cars, PAL!"  "Get the heck outta my garage before..." You get the idea.

All in all, I give this sign maker a big thumbs up. I probably wouldn't hang it in my house (it's way too big), but I always give it a glance when heading through Westfield, Pa.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


WARNING!...graphic design

For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed these little black stick persons getting squashed, slammed, pinched, electrocuted, explosives to the face, sliced, poisoned, torqued around a drive shaft, etc. Who was the designer that finally got us to these simplified and awesome designs? I'd like to see what else they designed as well. All the fat is stripped from the best Warning stickers. They have to immediately convey what NOT to do and explain this danger in simple and serious terms. I went through a phase, back in the early nineties, when I was photographing them whenever possible. I'm sure that some nut somewhere is cataloguing all the Warning stickers but I haven't done the simple google search as of yet. If I wasn't married and raising two kids, that "nut" might be me. 

The orange and black (above) work so much better in my opinion. The red just isn't as cool. The red isn't horrible, just not as good. The black background and the white lettering also ad some visual balance and unifies the layout. In many of the older stickers, WARNING! was forced into a rectangular black box (like the !DANGER below). Visually, i don't like this newer, larger WARNING!, but I can understand the reason for changing it.

The sticker below fails to hold my attention to a point where I finally read all the text. The strength of the crane warning sticker is the all-caps subtitle below the cool image that reads THIS CRANE IS NOT INSULATED. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

designing for a pug-lover down the hall

I have the good fortune of having a generous and intelligent neighbor teaching with me at R.B. Walter (I have to be kind because she brews the coffee for all us folks at the far end of the building). Mrs. Heatley has one fault, a genuine major flaw, and that is this love of pugs. I have made an ongoing joke of their lack of beauty for a few years now. Most of the jokes show up in the form of small ink and watercolor drawings that depict the odd appearance as well as strange quirks that pugs possess.

This year I am attempting to have the pugs adorn a Christmas card for her to send out. Here is a bit of the post-brainstorm clean-up process.

She settled on this design and this language. (the purple crayon is a hand tracing of my daughter Clare)

Here are some alternate phrases that I brainstormed to accompany this image:

I don't possess a shut-off mechanism.

Hey, Santa does it!

...a little help here!!!

I'm a sucker for stuffing.

I'm already a pug, what's the difference?!?

Just turn on the Lions' game already!

No, I didn't eat an ornament.

I'm even cuter now, don't ya think?

Haven't ya ever seen a bad hair day before?

There's no denying the importance of genetics.

Full?... I think not.

To a pug, "help yourself" is a dangerous statement.

I feel as though the term "disorder" is a bit extreme.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

my son's beginning a poster for his cousin

Matt has about a third of the alphabet done for his cousin Sophie (my brother Gregg and sister-in-law Amanda's baby girl). He is arranging a set of shells into caps to help Sophie learn her letters as well. Matthew has always been interested in letters and numbers (especially digital numbers....unique to say the least). My brother is located in Florida so we thought the shells might look nice on the wall. We spread some sand from the turtle sand box onto the top of a large plastic tote lid. The shells were supplied by my mother who has been shipping up boxes for Matt and Clare over the last few years. Matt is doing all the choosing of shells and the lettering design. It sure is fun to watch his decision making.

We miss them all very much.

Friday, November 11, 2011

a great space at R.B. Walter

Our terrific Elementary school has some great places to show student artwork as well as a few prime locations to present some of my own teaching artwork. At the end of one of our main thoroughfares there is a bulletin board positioned where all the students in the school can see it. It is 4ft x 8ft wide. I have slowly taken over the use of this space (without resistance). The site has been used to show multiple art ideas as well as some Life advice. I am currently constructing the board to show perspective/vanishing point along with general illusions of depth on a flat surface. The students love watching it unfold as each of these designs take many hours to bring to a finish. The last one I designed was for this idea that came to me "Live a Life of Learning". I really believe in what Bob Dylan described perfectly as "he not busy being born is busy dying". The last 5 years of my life have been extremely enjoyable in the "being born" sense, mostly due to my wife and kids, but also due to how teaching has me exploring art so much more than in my life prior. I am submerged in it all. Not all that modern Art stuff, but the ideas that make Art special. Art for the sake of making something beautiful. That thing that separates us from the animals. Art is getting more and more simplified in my mind and I like that.

"Live a Life of Learning" was my way of trying to do that very thing myself. A way to really practice what I'm preaching to students. You've got to dive in and then dive right back in again. It should never end.

I wanted it to show that we all should be sharing in this idea like the two characters shown above. I used magenta and cyan and their combination to render the image. I figured any of the graphic design nerds in the audience would understand. No one at the school really got it but they loved the image (which was the whole point). I'm considering some design changes to the layout and maybe seeing if our principal will allow me to make this a permanent mural in another location.

angry at the deli

Saturday, November 5, 2011

angry vents on modern art

ash's illustrations a hit

CD cover 

3 panel insert w/cover

dancers for insert

inside of insert

I am hearing some very kind things about Ashley's illustrations for the latest CD project out of the Mansfield University's Music Department. They are a talented bunch up there on the hill. I'd like to thank Dr. Sheryl Monkelien for the opportunity to do some design work in the area. She has been great to work for...wide open to any ideas and always upbeat and cheerful. I'd also like to thank my wife for her original sketches of some hipsters playing instruments. I new right away that this was the direction needed for the title of this project as well as the style of the music presented. Ash will say she did very little but without that initial spark of inspiration, any design project becomes a big ball of stress. Instead of countless nights of brainstorming ideas that eventually fill the trash, we were off and running very early on.

I used photoshop to color the scanned-in line drawings that Ash supplied and arranged them in a circle for the cover. Ash was supervising all the color choices as I would have dressed everyone in dull earth tones. I shifted the colors a bit to give them that slightly-off screen printed look. I wanted the inside of the insert to open up into its own mini-poster that would display most of the important information.

Hope you all like it and please support MU's music department. They're a hard workin' bunch!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

new t-shirts for my brother down south at WildFly Charters



My brother has taken me fishing about 50-75 times in the last two decades. If I were to multiply that by his half and full day charter rates I'd have to sell the house to repay him. Instead, I try and level out this huge trade deficit by drawing anything he wants. He didn't really ask for this one but thought I'd cobble something together for an updated look for his apparel. (The fish shown above is a tarpon.)