Archive for illustration

Thinking in Icons

Icons have become such a ubiquitous way of life for most of us, that we don’t often think about them. And the point is, we shouldn’t, unless they misguide us or leave us confused. In Felix Sockwell’s new book, Thinking in Icons, he walks readers through the process of designing icons and the subtle nuances that can make or break the design.

“Icons affect our daily lives, similar to typography. It’s something we don’t take much notice of until it’s wrong,” Sockwell says. “For instance, in Penn Station—a place where millions of commuters pass through—there’s an icon in the main hall that denotes ‘gift shops,’ showing a pipe, a gift (with ribbon), and a book. It makes no sense to most people. And no one sells pipes–you can’t even smoke outside in many New York City public spaces–but that icon has been there forever, and it probably always will be. I find strange pleasure pointing out odd things like this to people. It’s one of the reasons I’m no longer married.”

He’s also fascinated by the evolution of some icons, such as the “share” icon. “It started out clunky, within a box and with rounded edges. Now it’s a 3D arrow, and it’s quite effective,” he notes. “A lot of mistakes turn into good, useable icons. My book is an honest conversation about how icons are used, designed, conceived and understood. Designing icons isn’t a sexy or even known practice within the profession. Most designers take it upon themselves to either use an old system or tweak things to feel new or proprietary. I’m more interested in the bigger steps and mistakes that lead to workable solutions.”

And he shares it all in the book, admitting in the introduction, “Ninety percent of the work shown within these pages is completely fake—drawn up in the sidebars of actual assignments. Some of them are redrafted explorations, staged buffoonery cloaked in optimism.” Even so, you get a front row seat into the thought process, and the many considerations that go into a simple mark. To see two projects featured in the book, click here.

Jeff Kleinsmith on the New Wave of Music Design

In the last three decades we’ve witnessed the demise of cassette tapes, the rise and fall of CDs, and the near end and now re-emergence of LPs. And through it all, Jeff Kleinsmith, creative director at Sub Pop Records, has pivoted at each turn, adapting and changing with the times.

He started at the Seattle-based record label when bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the airwaves. Not only was the music transitioning from hair bands to grunge, but the way music was played and packaged was changing dramatically, and it still is. Here, we talk to Kleinsmith about how his job has shifted and transitioned over the years, and what it’s like to work with musicians on their albums.

You’ve said that working in rock n’roll is a dream job some days and some days it’s the same as any other in-house gig. Tell me a little about that.

Well it’s funny. I do talks and I teach students, and I always get asked if this is my dream job. It is a dream job. I still feel that way after 23 years, frankly! But, I have to laugh at the notion that all we do is design album covers and go to rock shows. We’re doing a ton of behind the scenes stuff like creating very specific digital marketing tools or designing shrink wrap stickers, or editing catalog pages for a distributor. I think that’s not what these students are thinking of when they ask about the music industry. They’re thinking of Nirvana or Father John Misty covers or something. But that’s actually a pretty small part of our day-to-day job—creating the cover that is. Look, we deal with meetings, and last-minute crap, and clients not liking our mockups, just like anyone else. It’s the same stuff you would complain about if you were in a corporate job. Read the rest of the interview here.

Building a Narrative Through Branding

It can be tricky designing an identity for a new company, while alluding to a history that just isn’t there. Because of his distinct style that has a kind of old-world aesthetic, Chad Michael is often called for these types of jobs for spirits and distilleries. His logo designs employ elaborate, ornate details providing the illusion of a rich back story for his clients, even if they are a start-up.

One such case, is his recent branding for whiskey distillery Hopes & Dreams, who’s hopes and dreams, literally went up in smoke. “This is a company built on trial and failure. The founders initially built their own distillery, but due to lack of experience and sheer fate, they ended up accidentally burning it down,” Michael says. But that didn’t deter them, and it was this experience that the designer capitalized on in the label design, which features a burning building.

He was given complete freedom when it came to the package design. “The overall label takes cues from traditional whiskey packaging in order to make it seem like a legitimate, run-of-the-mill whiskey, but the non-traditional logotype treatment is one of the aspects that gives consumers a second thought,” Michael explains. “‘Old Enough’ was a tagline I had always wanted to use on a spirit but it never seemed appropriate until H&D came along.”

Read the rest of the story here.

A Duo of Glitschkas

Von Glitschka has been in the logo trenches for more than 20 years. His illustrative logo solutions are as varied as his clients—from local brewers, pubs, and mechanics to national artisanal brands, sports monikers, and software companies – and no doubt you’ve seen his work right here at LogoLounge over the years. We’re thrilled to have him as one of our esteemed judges for LogoLounge 10. In addition to designing logos, he also does lettering, patterns, characters, and icons, and he has authored and illustrated several how-to books on creating vector-based art.

Although he’s done quite well on his own all these years, he took on a partner of sorts last year when he hired his daughter, Savannah, as a full time designer and illustrator after she completed the two year design program at Chemeketa Community College. Here we talk to him about going from a solopreneur to working with his daughter.

Was it an easy transition?

While she was going through school, I’d hire her on a freelance basis to work with me on some projects, and it worked really well. She helped in the exploration on the Dungeons and Dragons brand mark I did, and she helped me create all the art for my Take and Make book.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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Edel Rodriguez Doesn’t Melt in the Face of Adversity

The political discourse in this country has been at a fervent pitch for months, up until the shocking outcome November 8. Political cartoonists and illustrators have been having a field day, but none more so than Edel Rodriguez who has created two of the most talked about cover images in recent times. As a Cuban immigrant he has a great appreciation for the artistic freedom he is allowed in America, and he has a lot to say in his work.

Rodriquez immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, when he was just nine years old. He studied art and design at Pratt Institute, where he graduated with honors. He then received a Masters of Fine Arts degree in painting from Hunter College. His illustrations have graced the covers of books and magazines like TIME, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and more. In addition to his commercial work, Rodriguez’s fine art paintings voice human concerns, mortality, and cultural displacement.

Here, we talk to him about the influence art has played in his life and life work, and how visual ideas play out in the media. Read the interview here.

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Illustrations: Edel Rodriguez

Brian Singer: Not Just Any Guy, But Some Guy

Brian Singer has been employed by some of the most progressive design thinking companies in modern times including Apple, Facebook, and Pinterest. Most designers would cut off their right arm to work for these companies, but Singer—although grateful for the experience—walked away from his most recent gig at Pinterest to pursue personal projects.

Singer, aka someguy, has become widely lauded for his pet projects which have netted national publicity, not only in the design community, but among mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, the Today Show, CBS News, Huffington Post, and more. From inviting strangers to collaborate and share their sentiments in a blank journal and pass it on for the 1000 Journals Project, to exposing people who are driving and texting by placing their photos on billboards, to his #pileoftrump campaign, Singer has created controversy and discussion about what is and isn’t tolerable—or with the case of texting and driving—what is safe. (bio photo: Skyler Vander Molen.)

His main goal with most of his projects is to connect with strangers and to have strangers connecting with each other. Here, we ask him about his experiences, his personal projects, and what’s next.

You’ve worked for some high profile, design-driven companies. What’s the biggest takeaway from those experiences?

Every company (design driven or not) has real, challenging, business problems to solve. And no matter the company, I think it’s safe to say that design isn’t easy. Probably the biggest takeaway is that while design skill is important, it’s not the only thing needed to succeed and have an impact. You need strategic thinking skills, empathy, holistic problem-solving, leadership, great communication, the ability to hire and motivate talent, and of course, you can’t be an asshole. You know, all the things they don’t teach in design school. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Featured Maker: Sarah Lovell

Sarah Lovell Art
Wimborne Minster, Dorset, UK
Business founded in 2012

Sarah Lovell started her art print business after having her second baby. She drew and painted in her spare time, so she figured she’d take a go at making greeting cards, art prints, and coloring books. She says, “I am inspired by wildlife, my three small children and the magic all around us. I try to capture some of that magic in my illustrations.”

I hand illustrate/paint the original pictures with watercolor, gouache or acrylic and black ink. Then I send the originals to my printer (also in Dorset) who scans them in and digitally prints the cards and art prints or assembles the coloring books. The paper used is all ‘Carbon Captured’ and the inks used are biodegradable, so they are all very eco friendly products which is important to me. Read the rest here.

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From Vacation to Vocation

It started in 2010 with a crate of figs, some fetuccine, butter and balsamic vinegar.  The next thing they knew, they had spawned a community of food and illustrations around the word. Salli S. Swindell and her brother Nate Padavick of Studio SSS—were on vacation.

“Nate was cooking fettuccine with figs in butter balsamic sauce—sounds amazing, right?” recall Salli.  “While he was cooking, I was at the counter drawing the crate of fresh figs and sipping wine. It was an ‘Aha!’ moment. Drawing food is fun! I told Nate we needed to find more food illustration jobs.”

They Draw and Cook first began as a printed book of illustrated recipes they’d give away to friends, family, and clients. Nate had the idea to invite other  friends to contribute to the book. Weeks and months passed. While awaiting one submission for the book,  Nate grew impatient. On a whim, he posted eight of the illustrated recipes to a blog he and Salli decided to brand They Draw and Cook.

Word spread. Others began submitting illustrated recipes. In a short time, they had hundreds. Then thousands: more than 250,000 follow the blog on Facebook; more than 40,000 follow it on Instagram. Schools are using these sites for classroom assignments. “Some of our finest illustrated recipes are from students attending MICA, CCAD, and SCAD,” adds Salli. “We welcome a range of styles and skill level, and especially like it when we see an artist improve their skills one recipe or map at a time.”

The site’s popularity has inspired Nate and Salli to think of fresh ideas to unite illustration and personal interests. The compiled a list of “They Draw and …” variations.  Nate’s love of travel includes an interest in map design. The brother and sister added a map feature to their site to enable visitors to find other illustrators around the world.  Then they created They Draw and Travel—a companion site that is just as fun as their food site. Read the rest here.

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A Bearded Lady & A Hoarsefly Walk Into a Bar

Whoa, Nelly!
Zombies, Cannibals, and Blood Lust Bambie?
Abi Daniel  is Out There. Waaaay Out There.

Whether mixing inks at Bearded Lady print shop or crafting logos at Hoarsefly Design & Illustration, Abi Daniel is constantly refining and reimagining her creative output. You’d never know that illustrator/designer Abi Daniel started her career drawing zombies, wookies, and spaceships, as a concept artist at Sony Online Entertainment, as much of her work now has a broader, more ephemeral appeal.

After leaving Sony to find her own creative voice, she discovered that she really loved printmaking and etching. She eventually met and married designer Josh Chalmers in Austin, Texas, who runs Bearded Lady, a screen printing shop. She now helps him run the print shop and does client work under her moniker, Hoarsefly. Read the rest here.

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Featured Maker: Alexia Liatsos

Alexia Liatsos
Stamford, CT

Business founded: 2015

Alexia Liatsos creates playful abstract paintings on canvas, wood, and paper, working mainly with acrylics and oils. Growing up in Greece, she was always an artist at heart, but when it was time to decide on a college major, she went the practical route and studied engineering, although it didn’t last, as she explains, below.

How did you get started as an artist?  

I gave up a promising engineering career in Europe, moved to the U.S., got married, went back to school to pursue art, textile design, and fashion and had my two bundles of joy at the same time. I attended the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and Parsons School of Design in NYC. I am very thankful to my husband for his immense support. He always says “You shouldn’t wait to chase your dreams.” He is my biggest fan.

After graduation, I interned and worked for established NYC brands including Michael Kors, Christian Cota and Children’s Clothing Companies, where I gained extensive experience. Being driven by the need to feel free, I immersed myself in painting full-time and set up my studio. Nurturing my own creative life, while staying committed to my children’s needs has been a dream come true. Read the rest of the interview here.

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