If you’re like me, you have piles and piles of notebooks filled with half-baked name ideas for firms, bands, and the like. When I was in college, I think I went through about 30 pages of (truly) terrible names before settling on something for my former band*. Basically I’ve never really perfected this technique. Whether it’s for a new band, new client, or my own (eventual) design studio, it is always a long and arduous process to think of the perfect name. (Herein lies the problem — looking for the “perfect” name is often the creativity killer for me.)
My process generally starts with a pencil, thesaurus, dictionary, and my iTunes playlist (pieces of song titles have served me well). It’s worked in the past, but for a recent project, I decided to try something new. I based my exploration off of Josh Levine’s useful chart that divides naming styles into six categories. You can see the chart above for examples and read the full descriptions here. I tried to go through the list three times, thinking of a potential name for each category on every rotation. What ended up happening was I thought of about 30 names in the metaphorical category, avoided the descriptive, and thought of one or two for each of the others. After about two hours I had my name, at the bottom of my metaphorical category list.
Of course, my normal process is not unlike this most recent one — but the added structure and formulaic approach really seemed to help me in this case. I just hope to be able to replicate it in the future. I would recommend giving this chart a try if you are looking for new brainstorming techniques. Just switching things up is really all you need to spark something cool. I’m sure everyone has their own strategies and I’d love to hear some if you’ve got them!
*Crazy story actually — the name I eventually decided on (Running Lights) was the same name my Mom had sent me in response to my plea for suggestions. We had thought of the exact same name, on the same day, without any direction or communication. I told this story to my band mates and that was that — how could we go with anything else!
As Scott mentioned, the ISO50 studio recently added the hulking Epson 9900 to its arsenal. We purchased the printer through Kirk Economos of Meridian Cyber Solutions, and he was on hand to help us set things up and make sure everything was working properly. I filmed the set up procedure and a trimmed down version is displayed above. Many thanks to Kirk for helping out! If you are in the market for a large format machine or other print supplies, we would highly recommend the guys over at Meridian.
In case it doesn’t come across on screen, this is one serious machine. I’m used to working with the much smaller R2400 and there is really no comparison. It’s been pretty exciting to have the ability to output such massive prints with the 9900. We had a few color profile and paper issues initially, but everything is working smoothly now. Look for a detailed post about color management and calibration next week.
Hatch is a San Francisco design firm founded by Joel Templin and Katie Jain. Since its inception in 2007, Hatch has developed innovative campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Coca-Cola, Apple, and Target. They are known not only for their exceptional work, but also their distinctive business model, which allows them to be a launch pad for their own products. Most recently, Hatch was at the World Series of Poker promoting their first “hatchling”, JAQK Cellars.
I had the chance to sit down with Joel and Katie last week to discuss their work, process, and the recent goings on over at Hatch. With the launch of their new website and the success of JAQK, and they have their hands full! Check out the interview after the jump.
Be sure to check out Part Two of this interview over on Grain Edit!
Note: I wrote this process post a while ago about a project I completed last November. There has been so much going on these days that I forgot about it in the depths of my terribly cluttered hard drive. As I have transitioned to thesis mode now, there are less of these sorts of projects in the pipeline. This is one of my favorites I have completed at the Academy thus far and it was interesting to revisit. This is the article in its original form, as I wrote it last December.
This semester we were asked to immerse ourselves in one topic and research it through a series of week long projects. The content of each project would be the result of our extensive research, and we were expected to pick a topic robust enough to be worthy of 15 weeks of study. Each project encouraged us to explore different design solutions and helped us hone in on a visual style that we could use for the final project, which would synthesize all of our work into one deliverable.
For the last month of the semester, we were tasked with compiling all of our research into a book that we would write, design, and bind ourselves. It was to have a minimum of 48 pages (6″ x 9″), a hardcover, and provide some meaningful insights about our topic which we uncovered during our semester of research. In addition to providing a worthy and refreshing commentary, it was to be a covetable piece of graphic design that felt visually appropriate for our topic.
The topic I chose for the semester was Mega Cities (urban areas with a population over 10 million people). The original focus of the project was an examination of what makes a city successful — what it is about a massive city that makes it unique. It eventually dovetailed into an exploration of the ways these cities are confronting the problems they face and how increasing populations make solving these problems more complicated and time sensitive. These problems are becoming increasingly relevant as the world’s urban population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. I flirted with numerous other topics, some of which I thought were quite interesting, but I found that Mega Cities would provide me with the most interesting and engaging material.
I have 39,447 fonts on my computer. Or at least I did, up until about 30 minutes ago when I cleansed my machine of all the typographic nonsense that was polluting my list. I had thought about doing this font purge for some time, but hesitated, just in case I might one day need to design a document using the official Jedi Knight font, or something similarly ridiculous.
I remember hearing Massimo Vignelli say in the Helvetica documentary that he only uses about three typefaces. I was embarrassed at the time, thinking of my infinite list compiled over many years of dafont downloads and “BEST FONTS!!!” torrents. I guess I considered myself a typeface collector and I worked hard to “get them all”, even if I had no idea of what use some of them would ever be.
As I progressed through school, I noticed that just about everything I had ever designed used the same 5-10 typefaces. Every time I opened Illustrator I scrolled endlessly past hundreds of handwriting fonts, “distressed” fonts, you name it; always searching for the same go-to options. When I did deviate, the work usually suffered.
After much deliberation, I widdled my list down and trimmed the fat as it were. No longer will I be tempted to use weird knockoffs of Gotham or Helvetica clones. I consider myself much better off because of this — not just because it’s easier to manage a smaller list — but because the typefaces I kept are good typefaces. They’ve stood the test of time, and are the result of a tremendous amount of hard work and development by expert typographers. I know something about each one; who designed it, where it came from etc. In this way it’s a bit like my iTunes library; I probably have about 60,000 songs, but mainly listen to a few selected playlists. I have thousands of songs with a play count of “zero”. Why I keep them around I have no idea.
The book pictured above is 30 Essential Typefaces for a Lifetime by Imin Pao and Joshua Berger. It’s a good place to start if you are considering a font purge of your own. (Though I disagree in a few places; for example I would not include Trajan on my list). My final count is now about 50 typefaces; a much more manageable number I’d say. It’s not Massimo’s magic number — I don’t think I could survive on three alone — but scrolling through 50 sure beats scrolling through 39,447.
note: I, and and many designers I know, tend to use the terms “font” and “typeface” interchangeably. Technically this is incorrect as they are not the same thing. Both this and this article do a good job illustrating the difference. Old habits die hard for me; I didn’t actually know there was a difference until about a year ago, so it’s taken some time for me to change my language.
As of this summer I am officially halfway through my graduate design program at the Academy of Art. Unlike a BFA degree, the MFA requires the completion of a thesis, and the second half of the graduate program is dedicated to the development of this. The most recent checkpoint I had to clear was Midpoint; basically a review of your work and skills to date, as well as a clearing ground for your upcoming project. It’s a pretty exciting meeting actually; you place all your work on the table, in front of a faculty committee, and they determine whether you are fit to continue. The main focus of the meeting is your thesis proposition. Before they allow you to embark on a 1-2 year thesis project, they want to make sure your idea is viable and worth pursuing.
I am past the Midpoint stage now and am in a class called Thesis Development this summer. It is a very different class than those that I’ve written about previously. Rather than creating a series of graphic design based projects, we are spending all of our time researching and strategizing how we are going to go about the next few years. I always picture that scene in Apollo 13 when they are trying to get back to Earth and only have one chance to fire their rocket boosters to enter the atmosphere at the correct angle. It is extremely important that they get their aim correct, else they bounce off the atmosphere and careen into space and die. I think of this class as that moment in the space flight; we are aiming where we want to go before firing our boosters over the next year and trying and pull off a successful project.
Above you see a piece created for the class. It is a piece of design, as everything we bring to school must be, but the main purpose of the document is to chart my progress over the next year. It divides the weeks up into sections and outlines what I should be doing when. I expect it to change many times over the course of the coming months (it’s already way off base), but it really helps having a checklist like this to keep tabs on my progress. I have never pursued a project of this magnitude before and the planning involved is unlike any design challenge I have been faced with previously. Most of the time I just open Illustrator and start drawing lines and scribbles until things look cool.
A graphic design thesis is a very interesting concept. The biggest thing I struggled with, as I decided on a topic, was whether my thesis would implement graphic design, and pursue an issue outside the field, or whether it would be about Graphic Design itself, and aim to make waves within the design community. Most projects do the former. We are lucky in this way — because design really can be used to solve just about any problem — but there is the concern that this strategy will be of no relevance to the actual field of study. I still don’t know quite what to make of this dilemma. I have tried to meld the two directions with my project (I’ll discuss details in later process posts), but I am unsure whether it will end up being that much more effective because of this, or if it will fail because I never decided which path to pursue. I guess it’s still too early in the process to know.
It’s done! The semester came to a close last week and my hypothetical Wes Anderson Film Festival went off without a hitch. On the final day, the project consisted of a presentation box, DVD set, poster (30″ x 44″), fold out schedule, identity system, catalog book (63 pages), website, soundtrack packaging, tickets, billboards and outdoor signage, iPod/iPhone skins, a trailer, and a few other assorted doodads. It was crazy to see it all in one place. I was very happy with the way it all turned out and am relieved to have made it through successfully. This semester was a particularly intense one (as we were also presenting our thesis proposals), and it’s exciting to have made it halfway through the graduate program. Next up will be thesis development over the summer.
This semester’s project really helped us develop our conceptual and technical skills, as we were challenged to create a integrated brand system across a variety of mediums. Everyone had to work with a number of vendors (easily my least favorite part) and be able to coordinate a massive design effort on a strict schedule. My process was not without its speed bumps; color calibration issues at the printer, boxes delayed by weather for weeks, and unfortunate stylistic meanderings early on, all contributed to periodic frustration along the way. Thankfully, once I knew how I wanted everything to look, the implementation of the brand became systematic. The last couple weeks were just a matter of hammering things out.
Above I’ve included some of the pieces that I have not written about previously. First is the presentation box which housed all of the other materials for the festival. It was constructed by Wood Box Supply and is branded with an irreverent slogan. I liked this, but still wish I would have thought of something a little funnier. Next is the DVD set which came in a similar wooden box. These were created out of paper folds and a plastic DVD tray. You’ll also see the catalog, which was one of my favorite things to design, as it allowed for the most copy to be written. As usual, no one will probably ever read most of what is contained within, but it was still fun to put together. Next you’ll see the identity system for sending things to and fro, and which classified my rank as ‘marginally important person.” The rest of the project, in its entirety, can be seen here.
The last image is one of the final versions of the poster (there were many color variations). This was one of the first things I designed for the project. After I completed the rest of the system, I really didn’t feel like the poster fit as well with the other elements. The photograph, especially the dominant color palette, didn’t mesh very well with the warmer tones at work elsewhere. I was aware of this as I worked through the rest of the system, but had unfortunately already printed the poster very early on. It can be a real nightmare printing at the end of the semester (due to the student rush at the vendor), and I always try to finish early and get the printing out of the way if possible. In this case, I would have liked to switch out the photo for something more consistent with the rest of the project. I really had a hard time seeing my picture of a Tokyo skyline (tilt shifted as it may be) conjuring Wes Anderson.
Given that the photograph didn’t really feel like the festival, I tried to at least bring it a little more on brand with the language used. The original title of the poster was “I love you too but I’m going to mace you in the face”, a line from The Darjeeling Limited, but this was determined to be “too violent” and I changed it to a Fall Out Boy lyric that possessed the same dry wit. This title fit with the rest of the identity marks and I was happy with the tone it set. The last issue was finding an appropriate text lock up to fit in the sky section. Eventually I settled on one that didn’t fill out the whole space. In the empty area below I wrote “Here is an awkward space where we weren’t sure what to place. For now it just looks like this, we don’t care if you don’t like it.” That made me laugh and I figured it was as “Wes Anderson” a solution as I could muster. It was that or leave it blank, but on a 30″ x 44″ poster, there needed to be something there. I like the poster as a stand alone piece, but as part of the system, I feel like it is the weakest link.
So that’s it, all done! As I’ve mentioned, the project is for a hypothetical Wes Anderson Film Festival and there is no actual event. I got more than a few confused emails after the trailer was posted. So just to be clear, this doesn’t actually exist. If Mr. Anderson is reading this, and would like to actually hold the festival, that would be fantastic for all involved.
It’s hard to believe, but somehow my spring semester is coming to a close this week. The film festival project, which I’ve written aboutpreviously, finally has all pieces completed and accounted for. The last element added into the mix was a festival trailer (shown above). Originally, I planned to create a few more ancillary products to flesh out the brand, but these fell through and I had to move on the trailer option late in the game. I teamed up with my friend Phil Mills, a local actor here in San Francisco, and we set about writing, shooting, and editing the film last Sunday afternoon.
We were allowed to base the trailer on just about anything we wanted, so long as it advertised our hypothetical film festival and carried through the visual style of our brand. There were a multitude of directions this could take; we thought the most fun way would be to shoot a Royal Tenenbaums-esque short, and then just throw as much craziness as we could at it. Phil plays T. Allen Fenway, a fictional character we made up to live in our Wes Anderson film festival world. We wanted it to remind you of Wes Anderson, make you laugh, and eventually turn you on to the festival. The 3rd person narrator, use of Futura Bold for all titles, extravagant setting, and full blown randomness were all utilized to aid in conjuring this look and feel.
The equipment for this project was sort of all over the place. I luckily had a video camera lying around (usually relegated to filming stationary Youtube videos) and I figured I might as well take it out for a real test drive on this project. I used the Panasonic PV-GS250; an older handheld consumer camcorder that doesn’t have much in the way of image quality, especially compared to the newer HD models. I considered renting a Panasonic HPX-170, but was deterred by the expensive daily rental rate. I figured I’d make it work with the little guy and try my best to fix things up in post. I had also recently purchased a continuous tungsten lighting kit and this helped with the indoor shots greatly. (I am planning to do a post on video lighting after some more tests.)
I edited this project using iMovie ’08, the disastrous upgrade to iMovie HD. I had never used the upgrade before and was very disappointed to find that the program had basically been downgraded into an almost unusable trainwreck. (No waveform mixing!?) I had to stick with it, for the increased flexibility with titles, but it was not a pretty sight. Once the project was edited and all cut together, I procured Final Cut Pro (sadly too late to edit with) and Color. I sent the final output through Color and it was a great help in getting the trailer to look the way it does. Color is an amazing application and I feel like I just scratched the surface of its capability. It basically provides the same color editing functionality you have in Photoshop for still images, but for video. I worked on each shot individually, and first tried to clean up the stale color the camcorder captured, and then tweak it just enough to provide that timelessness of Wes Anderson films. Of course, the program’s power is limited by the image quality of the camera, so some edits weren’t possible without destroying the integrity of the image. (Exposure or saturation edits for example looked terrible.) The basic color editing functions (below) were enough to give the final product the look I was hoping for.
I had done a few test shots and some basic story-boarding prior to the shoot, but we were pretty much shooting from the hip the whole time. Phil is a great actor and he knew exactly what I was going for with this project. As we are both avid Wes Anderson fans, we didn’t have to do too much in the way of research or planning prior to the shoot. The order in which we completed the trailer was probably completely backwards (we wrote it after we shot it) but it ended up working out and provided us with many a happy accident. Despite the fact that this part of the project was not “graphic” design in the traditional sense, it was definitely the most fun, and my favorite part of the semester.