Determined to find out the history behind these beautiful posters, Frederico Duarte did some extensive research and learned how “Pan Am’s short-lived Helvetica dream” came to be. He chronicles this process over on the Eye Blog and in an article for Eye Magazine. These posters are incredible and their story is well worth the endless emails and phone calls he had to make to determine their origin.
Pan Am is no longer. But the story of its redesign, as told by the people behind it, proves personal connections, proximity and chance are all makers of (design) history. How many other great design stories are left untold?
Fredrico’s post reads like a design mystery and I lamented how little of this research I do, or even curiosity I possess when I come across work that interests me. For example: I wake up, see something amazing on FFFFOUND, then I bookmark it. End of story. If it’s especially awesome maybe I blog about it, but I rarely dive deep into whatever visual universe I’ve uncovered. I usually just absorb it quickly, then move on with a slightly augmented sense of visual understanding. This is why I both love and hate sites like Dropular or FFFFOUND. While they allow me to quickly consume lots of high quality design, they remove context and discourage the exploration that would otherwise go along with finding out about a new artist. (Of course there are many benefits to sites like these, but the removal of the ‘story’ that goes along with the work is one of the primary downsides.)
As Fredrico mentions in his article, the research was done for an SVA class where the rule is “No Google”. I thought this was interesting because I tend to use Google and “research” interchangeably, especially when thinking about design. To be stripped of my only research tool! Of course this makes sense these days, as most of us young designers primarily exist on the web anyway (which is a scary thought if you think about it…if the hardrives go, so do I). What the story hammered home for me was the importance and overwhelming benefits of a design education. What allowed Fredrico to take this much time plunging into the depths of design history (and what allowed me to spend so much time with Playboy) was the freedom and time provided by the design education environment. While you could always try and inspire yourself to do this on your own, it’s hard to beat limitless boundaries coupled with external motivation.
Albert Exergian created this series of posters depicting popular television shows boiled down into their most simplified forms. He describes them as “A HUMOROUS VIEW ON TV CULTURE” but they don’t strike me as being particularly humorous. Intriguing is a better word, Exergian’s sense of efficiency is uncanny. This would make a great set of screen prints, if only he were selling them. I guess he might have some legal issues though. Although, he’s only really putting words on a page; does writing “Dexter” (my favorite poster by the way) constitute copyright infringement? I hope not. Anyways, if anyone knows where to get prints of these, please let me know.
Update: Found better images over at Blanka, but the following gripe still stands! Major tangent here: Sorry for the white lines around the edges, I got these directly from Exergian’s site and that’s how they came. This brings up a HUGE gripe I have with Photoshop: If you don’t flatten a file before you resize it, the edges tend to show through to the transparent background so when you save as JPEG, it ends up with these annoying white lines. I have no idea why this is so, but it is. I guess it’s time for another “Dear Adobe” post.
As promised, here’s the final poster for the Analog Visions show on Friday in Toronto. In case you missed it, I’ll be doing a solo show at Function 13 Gallery this Friday, November 20th. I’ve been working out concepts for how to hang the posters throughout the past week, I’ve decided against frames and want to go with something a little more raw feeling for this one. The work that I’ll be showing are all printed on Hahnemühle German Etching paper which has this incredible texture. I don’t want anything to get between the viewer and the piece. I have been working with Bulldog clips and nails, spray painting the clips matte white and using longer nails to let the piece stand off the wall a little. I think it’s going to look nice, but I’m still open to any suggestions, if you have any ideas for alternative poster hanging methods, let me know in the comments.
As for the poster design itself, I spent way longer than expected on this one. It was meant to be a quick promo poster for the gallery but the deeper I got into it the more I realized I had to finish it off properly. Once you hit on a concept you kind of have to decide whether to go all the way with it or save it for when there’s time to do it right. It was a stretch, but I was able to get it done in time (deadline was this morning) so it’s pretty nice to finally see it in it’s completed form. As you can see, this is another take on the Nocturne poster, featuring the same model. Seeing as how these events are the same night I wanted them to be related, but not exactly the same. I wanted the Nocturne design to be a little more divergent from my earlier work while this one was meant to sort of bridge the gap between new and old given the nature of the gallery show. You can see a larger version of the image over at the studio site.
The version above is probably the fifth or sixth, not counting the various in between states. The final file ended up around 4GB, 24×36″ at 300dpi but I did most of the heavy lifting with low resolution smart object stand-ins so it wasn’t too slow. In case anyone was wondering, this is the project I was referring to in the Photoshop Question / Problem post. All of the circles were smart objects based on the same photograph. As stated above, I worked with a model I shot here in the studio for the silhouettes, but I worked with another photographer for some elements of the background. I used some shots from Jacob Sargeant’s beautiful Experimental Set on Flickr for the detailing and color shifts. Thanks to Disign Police for turning me on to Jacob’s work.
Time for a day off and some much needed rest, hope to see you out in Toronto.
The work of Tom Balchin stopped me in my Google Reader tracks this evening. His Pax Europa project was my initial favorite, for the bold simplicity and terrific layouts, but there is a ton of terrific work in his portfolio. I came across the phrase “talent turbine” in the NYT Magazine the other day and have been itching for an opportunity to use it, so here goes; Tom Balchin is a talent turbine.
This poster is sort of an alternate take on the gallery show poster (which will be released tomorrow), they are both based on the same subject but have very different aesthetics. This is the first time I’ve worked directly with a live model for a project — I shot her against a light bouncer with a flood light coming from the back to get the silhouette. Although rather time consuming, it was a pretty fun process and I learned a lot. You may notice that this piece in similar to the Coastal Brake cover in it’s use of negative space. I’ve employed this concept in various ways throughout my career (the Past is Prologue cover [2004-2005], for example) but have only recently found the time to truly explore it to the extent that I have with these recent pieces as compositions in this style are the most time intensive of all my work. When creating these, I treat the process more like painting than graphic design and so things can become much more complex. This particular piece is not quite as complex as some of the others, it’s a composite of about 20 image layers overlayed using various blending modes and masked by the silhouette image, the negative space was then filled with photographed paper which was colored using color balance. It will be on display at the Function 13 ISO50 Gallery show on the 20th.
Tycho Show Details
ISO50 Toronto Art Show After Party
TYCHO (Live Audio / Visual Performance)
With Guest DJ’s
Aarnio (Ghostly/Moodgadget, New York)
Noah Pred (Thoughtless Music, Toronto)
550 Queen Street West Toronto
ON MSV 285
$10 Advance / $15 Door
This series by Simon Page is great. I’m always a fan of this retro minimalist look. I think he does a great job making it feel aged without going overboard. The color and texture is spot on and the vintage feel is skillfully conjured. Sounded like what started as a personal project turned into a successful client job after they saw the work. Got to love when that happens!