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.
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.
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.
Von Glitschka has been in the logo trenches for more than 20 years. His illustrative logo solutions are as varied as his clientsfrom 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.
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.
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.