I worked with the Facebook Business team to create a suite of illustrations that could be used in sales presentations, in house communications and online tools. Many of the illustrations needed to appear in multiple states and be flexible enough to mix and alter on the fly. The style needed to align with the existing Facebook look and feel, but also have a bit of its own identity, utilizing a fun relaxed approach and incorporating some texture. Big Thanks to Matthew Carlson and the team for bringing me on board.
Along with a great group of artists and designers, I had the opportunity to submit to a special Pinterest Valentine's Day board. Pinterest supplied a fun list of phrases to illustrate and the rest was up to us.
I had recently been exploring vintage firecracker labels for a packaging project and decided I wanted to do a take on those for one of my pieces. As far as the other one, I picked a phrase that referred to a car, because then I could stick a VW in there. Deep thinking, right there. Go check them all out and share with someone you love.
I worked with Elizabeth Gilmore and Kyre Osborn, both on the Communication Design team at Facebook, to create a new sticker set. The ever-expanding set of messenger stickers is really diverse and impressive and Facebook wanted to utilize their well known "thumbs up" as a foundation for a new set.
The challenge was to create a set that utilized the simple hand, performing different tasks to express different messages and emotions. The set also needed to stay consistent with the style of the original, including line weight, color palette, and a consistent light source.
It was a really interesting challenge to reinterpret this iconic graphic and thanks to the team for bringing me on board to do it!
I thought it would be fun to dive in and share the process behind a few of the pieces of my Panthers branding exercise.
The main element I knew I had to nail was the original mascot design. For the project, I set up the Panthers hypothetical founding date at 1955. The first step was to research and get the tone and feel for what was the prevailing style at the time. Football teams were not "brands" as you think of them today. They weren't highly polished, consistent and coordinated. Because of production methods at the time, the typefaces were often very different from one medium to the next, but many teams had mascots. These were very illustrated and often had a real sense of exaggeration and fun. For the Panther, I didn't want him to feel goofy, but wanted to go after a bit of exaggeration and a wild-eyed look.
This was one of those cases where I could see it in my head, but didn't completely trust my ability to work in this style. I actually had the thought to contact the amazing comic artist and writer Jason Latour, who lives in Charlotte to see if he wanted to collaborate. He has a really unique, but classic style and knew he could pull off something great. After thinking more about it, I decided to take it on myself. A huge part of doing a personal project is doing something you are unsure of and trying to learn something new in the process. I began with a really crude sketch of the general proportion and shape.
A little sidebar about sketching here. I think the importance of the sketch is that it be a seamless part of your process and function uniquely for you. Some people like to work out every detail and arrive at something very tight. I often find it's just enough to get the general composition and move on to the next phase. Do what works for you. You can see that my sketches were very crude, but got me down the path far enough. I have always been a pencil sketcher, then onto mouse and keyboard. I recently purchased a Wacom pen that allows me to draw on my iPad using ProCreate (per the recommendation of Joey Ellis). This has been an inexpensive way of exploring whether a tablet would work for me or not. I'm liking it so far.
I did the basic pencils, then worked with a thicker ink brush. Again, the sketches are nothing special, but I knew this needed to have a hand drawn quality to them, so this foundation was important. I then live-traced my sketch in illustrator and refined vectors from there.
The ultimate test was to make sure this guy felt at home amongst all the early mascots. I felt like he could really belong, so I felt good about where I ended up.
The other part of the exercise was to create lots of ephemera that would have been created in support of the team. I did an image of "first game" memorabilia and one the primary elements was the game day program. Again, research is key.
I found an image I really liked and wanted to achieve something in a similar style. The date was wrong, in the 40's vs. the 50's, but I thought it still evoked that era. I did a simple sketch in my car while waiting for Hungry Howie's pizza to take home to the family on a Friday night (not kidding).
I liked the pose of a runner looking back and extending his arm. I also wanted to do something more geometric and hard edged. Often times these program covers were just generic art with customized type printed in one color, so they could be used by multiple teams. I wanted to reinforce the "C" helmet design I had done, so I made mine more custom.
I have gotten to know Panthers Center, Ryan Kalil over the last few years and besides being pretty darn good at football, he's a really creative guy. He knows my love for personal design projects and we were chatting one day and he had an idea that I thought was pretty intriguing.
The Panthers were founded in 1995. What if it had been 1955? How did the brand start? How would it evolve? It is a graphic game of connect the dots. I've tried to imagine this evolution, all the way from the 50's up through the 70's and early 80's.
The City of Charlotte is buzzing about the great season the Panthers are having, so as a fan, I thought what better time than to take this on. This is a "just for fun" exercise, done as a fan. This is not affiliated, endorsed or commissioned by the NFL or the Carolina Panthers. I had a blast doing all the research and trying to capture the essence of the NFL through the years and how the Panthers brand would have fit into that universe. I hope you enjoy. Go Panthers!
UPDATE: Bad Cats shirts up for sale at the Cotton Bureau
I've been doing a lot of illustration work for Pinterest over the last few months, but one of the first projects to break cover is the illustration and design for the new "Place Pins" feature. It's a great new tool allowing you to tag and search by location and really adds a new dimension to an already great tool.
The first phase of the project was to create a seamless illustration that would appear in the Pinterest product at launch. The proportion of this illustration was really unusual in it's width and the goal was to take the viewer through 3 locations via a "helper" header on the Pinterest site. I did early rough sketches based on the brief. We were going to take the viewer through the Irish countryside, past the Positano and then through a romantic European mountain vista.
We ended up replacing the first scene with a Japanese garden and then I began developing the final renders of these locations.
These illustrations then ended up in the Pinterest product, complete with a few fun pieces of interactivity. You can see it in action here.
For the big launch event, we then reworked these 3 illustrations to produce a set of vintage style postcards. I produced several layout ideas, using classic postcard design as inspiration. The final pieces had the balloon embossed on the front, with foil stamped stars.
I worked with Stravinsky Pierre at Esquire Magazine on a new political article, "The New American Center." The brief was to create an intro graphic and set of accompanying spot illustrations that captured these important political issues and also created a red/blue dualistic element to support the main idea of the article.
I've been working on this series for a while now so I'm excited to announce these are finally available as prints in my store. The concept behind my Junk Drawer series is to to take some of my favorite characters from pop culture and create a space full of items that tell their story (you have a junk drawer at home, right?). Every object in these are meant to reference something about these characters. These are printed by the good people of the Half and Half. They are 6 or 7 color prints and are produced in a series of 50 each. Each is signed and numbered. I've included a handy list below to see everything that I've included. You can grab one of your own here!
I worked with the in-house design team at Pinterest to create a family of illustrations for their online hub for Fashion Week. It was fun to try and nail down this style. It called for a hand done sketchy quality without feeling like a literal drawing of the cities they depict. We took a "greatest hits" approach to the skylines and emphasized the most signature buildings of each city (London, Paris, Milan and NYC). We also created a general piece for Emerging Designers. Thanks to Matt Brown & Victor Ng for bringing me in to collaborate on this. I have more coming with Pinterest in the next few months, so be on the lookout.
I had a blast creating this identity for my buddy Joel Kuehn of Firefly Camps. I created a streamlined version of a firefly for the primary mark and used colors that brought in some of the warmth of the outdoors. I'm really happy with how all of this came out and wish Joel and the team much success.
I was commissioned by Ebony Magazine for their September issue to create a fun map of Memphis, styled after old diner placemats. The research for this one was just about as fun as creating it. Thanks to Ebony for the chance at this one. I got to illustrate a pig with sunglasses...does it get any better? (click for bigger view)
Sneaker Freaker commissioned me to create a portrait to accompany an in-depth interview with Tinker Hatfield. It was fun to capture the likeness of such an important figure in sneaker history and the primary inspiration for my MAX100 project. Thanks to Woody for bringing me on board for this one.
I've got several opportunities to speak, coming up in September and October. Definitely come out to one of these if you can and say hello.
Blend Conference / Sep 5-7 / Charlotte, NC: I'm really glad to see a conference fire up right here in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. This conference is focusing on user experience, design, and web development. This is a really impressive line up of speakers, especially for a 1st year conference and I'm excited to be a part.
AAF-Charlotte / Sep 26 / Charlotte, NC: I'll be participating in a joint session with Jon Luther & Brandy Newton of JJ's Red Hots to talk about the process behind the development of the brand. It's a great opportunity to get both the design and client side perspectives and should be a fun time of sharing some behind the scenes of building a brand from the ground up.
AIGA Design Conference / Oct 10-12 / Minneapolis, MN: I will be participating in an Affinity Session with Jessica Karle Heltzel and Tim Hoover from Kern and Burn and discussing design entrepreneurship and self initiated projects. This is a massive conference, so I hope to get to see some great speakers and meet a lot of folks.
I've heard a lot of dialogue lately regarding unsolicited redesigns of everything from major brands to operating systems. People downplaying self-initiated projects as completely indulgent and a waste of time. I think the criticism tends to fall into a few categories. Some say it's destroying the industry, others say that this is not even design because it has none of the components of a real design project. No client feedback, no brief to satisfy, no design by committee to suffer through and no approval hurdles that client work typically includes. At best these projects are like an answer to a question no one asked and at worst a shallow attention grab by fame seeking designers. I can't say that I disagree entirely with this criticism, but would like to offer up my perspective based on the last few years of my life, pursuing personal projects of all kinds.
Back in 2010, I was a Creative Director of a small brand firm in Charlotte, NC. I was 37 years old, creatively burned out, wondering why I was still doing design and wondering what was next. The economy was in bad shape, and like many companies in the creative industry, we had just let some good people go. As a father and a provider, I was worried for my job and as a designer, I had a hard time remembering the last time I felt passionate about what I was making. As per my usual morning routine, I was grabbing coffee at the Dunkin Donuts near my office and noticing the 60th Anniversary materials displayed throughout the store. As most of you in design have experienced, the constant internal dialogue fueled by a critical eye kicked in and I found myself assessing and critiquing what had been done. This time I asked myself "what would you do?"
Not only did I ask myself the question, but I began to actually answer it. I started executing the design all the way from reviving an old mascot to a full suite of packaging and apparel. I rediscovered an energy that I hadn't felt in a while. It was a freedom and spark that woke me up. I couldn't wait to work on it. Even as I showed friends, no one quite seemed to know what to make of it. "It's good, but what are you going to do with it?" I honestly didn't know and somehow it didn't matter.
I had submitted the work to Brand New, knowing this was not their typical type of content. But by a strange turn of events, the timing worked out perfectly that they had interest in using my work for their April Fool's rebrand post. I didn't even have a personal website at the time and had to get something up so there was a place for people to see my work after the big reveal.
This project was based on concept and thought but wasn't real, and maybe this kind of work would have never made it through the process. Without having contact with the client directly, there may be very valid reasons why it was completely off the mark. But it served a huge function for me. I had proved to myself that the passion was still there and I had a renewed energy to take on what was next.
You Make Your Own Momentum
More than anything I had created some creative momentum for myself. I had not done illustration since college and began to think of ways to explore style and materials and reconnect to those roots. I took on the Personal Shoe Museum. I simply used all the Nike shoes I had ever purchased in my life as a way of exploring style of illustration and documenting eras of my life. That led to my Air Max 1 a Day project, which expanded to become the MAX100 book project (funded via Kickstarter). That led to many other opportunities, including recent engagement with the mothership and a project for Nike Sportswear.
The MAX100 project, something I began with little to no plan and no client involvement, attracted the attention of Nike and they saw a possibility in it. The project for them, although similar in approach, was a completely different animal. With MAX100, I could do whatever I wanted, on any timetable, only to satisfy myself. With the project for NSW, I had to present and explain concepts, meet deadlines, deal with feedback and meet the demands of a brief. Anyone that puts an unsolicited redesign or personal project out there and gets an opportunity from it, will eventually have to produce the goods. When I see those criticizing personal and unsolicited redesign exercises, I feel myself wanting to defend. Maybe that person is like me. A designer wanting to stretch their legs, raising their hand. If the opportunity is eventually granted to them, they will have to sink or swim.
Pay vs. Possibility
I gave a talk to the DSVC back in 2011 and called it Work for Free. There is so much talk in the design community about pay, lack of pay and everything in between. As an industry we are often undervalued and my intention with this title was to grab onto a bit of that buzz and then talk about throwing away the time card and throwing yourself into something you love. Jessica Hische did a really good job of spelling this out even further here in very practical terms. There is this delicate balance between payment and possibility. When deciding to take something on, figure out if that ratio makes sense for you. Maybe the pay factor is low on a project, but the possibility to do something great is high. With a personal project, the pay factor is zero, so do something great and really explore what's possible. Decide to do something or not to do something for your own reasons.
Exposure = Opportunity
We are in a connected world, with the opportunity to get just about anyone, anywhere to experience what you're working on. No one can pursue you for their project if they don't know you exist. There may be nobility in creating work in secret and not telling anyone about it, but the reality is, if you're doing this for the love AND to make a living, getting the people with the projects to see what you're doing is vital. I come from a smaller market, so I have to raise my hand even higher to be considered. ( I'll write a future post about the slippery slope of exposure vs. affirmation )
The Clarifying effect of Personal Work
If you love your day job, doing personal work will only enrich that experience. If you hate your day job, the work you enjoy will either make that experience more tolerable or make you realize you need to move on and pursue what you're more suited for. Either way, the explorations and thinking done in those extra hours will find it's way into the work that you are doing.
Connect the Dots
I left my job as Creative Director and I've been on my own since June of last year. One of these days I'm going to do some kind of complex chart, showing how all of this personal work is connected to my client work. I can say though, that just about all of what I do now, I can trace back to things I did not get paid to do.
My ongoing engagement with the JJ's Red Hots restaurant concept was a direct result of the Dunkin Work (thank you Google image search). Engagements with editorial clients like WIRED and Money Magazine have sprung from my personal type explorations. Indulging my nerd tendencies has led to current identity and branding work in the world of comics.
I believe there are valid critiques to be considered when it comes to these kinds of projects, but if you're burned out, frustrated, not getting the opportunities you want. Design it. Redesign it. Explore it. Get a cease and desist. Go after it. Pour your heart into it and put it out there. You might be surprised what will come your way.
A huge congrats on their 1 year anniversary in business (as of July 4 2013) to one of the greatest clients I've ever had the pleasure of working with. I've been working with JJ's Red Hots for well over a year now and one of my favorite recurring projects with them is badge designs for their featured product. This is a collection of custom logos for each of their signature dogs and dogs of the week. The amazingly clever names come from the JJ's team themselves and my challenge is to come up with a simple graphic that references the concept and/or the special ingredients and usually pretty quickly.
We enlisted the help of The Half in Half in SC to print these gorgeous 2 color screened posters. There is a limited, signed run of 50 that is available at JJ's (not currently doing online orders). If you're in the area, go by and grab a dog or three and get one of these beauties for $20.
All 28 pieces of my #Airmax series have now been posted. This project led to some fun extensions of the program including a current install at 21 Mercer in New York City. I'll share a complete wrap up post soon.
A series of letters as exploded diagrams. I'll be adding them semi-daily as I work my through the alphabet. Once I reach the end, I'll be doing a limited edition screened poster with all 26 characters. I've had a lot of requests for these as prints, so I've added them to my Society6 store. Available as prints, stretched canvases and throw pillows. Check them out here.
I had the privilege of contributing an illustration to the Kern and Burn book project. This book dives in with design entrepreneurs and the list of contributors, both writers and artists, is impressive. Tim Hoover and Jessica Heltzel have put together something really special and it all began as a passion project, something I have a soft spot for. I thought this would be an interesting project to take a look at, because honestly, it was one that I struggled with.
The brief I was given was to illustrate the concept "design is in demand." I started as I usually do, with lots of very rough sketches. Working in a group project like this where you know the other artist's work, can be tough. For me there is definitely an intimidation factor and the pressure to do something really good can work against you. That was the case on this one. Despite the slow start, I hit on an idea I liked a lot and thought was worth exploring. A shelf of products expressing the idea of "in demand." Like the mad rush to the grocery store when everyone hears that the snow is coming. I worked from a really simple sketch, but dove into vectors pretty early, because the style I was going to use was very simple.
Once I got it this far I realized it was not illustrating what I wanted it to. I was trying to juxtapose fluff and style versus real design and problem solving, but it was becoming a different idea and was clouding the core idea. Visually it didn't express "demand" but rather emptiness or missed opportunity. In the middle of this I had another idea and thought it was worth the detour to see if there was anything there
I wanted to explore the idea of designer as superhero. Like Batman, equipped to solve the problem and being urgently called. Despite it just about always being a good idea to work in a Batman reference, at about this point, I was really struggling. The brief was so simple, but all of my ideas felt off the mark. I was pressuring myself to do things that were more showy. Every simple idea I had, I discarded because it didn't feel like "enough." I went back to a few earlier sketches to see if there was anything there.
I grabbed a book off my shelf and tore out one of the pages. I added half of the word "design" in post. I thought this was pretty cool visually and getting closer, but didn't quite feel on the mark either. "GN" is in demand? I wanted to push a little farther.
I had an early idea of these butterfly nets, reaching up to try and capture a paper airplane. I worked over top of some thumbnails in rough vectors and did a few different takes on it. I really liked the simplicity of this. There was a feeling of pursuit or capture that I thought was really strong. I did a final execution.
I actually sent this to Tim and Jess as a final. About an hour after I sent it, I wasn't happy with the final composition. The directions of the nets felt haphazard and the piece didn't have much energy or direction.
I liked the feel of this much better. I submitted this as my final. I think the lesson for me here was not to over-think. Trust your gut and do what you do well. If you get a minute, please go support this great project.