Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Not a lot to say about this one, but it’s worth posting for two reasons: first, as an example of those times when you really can just hit a design straight out of the gate, no muss, no fuss—it’s not always a long hard slog. And second, because this project is a film directed by my girlfriend, (and as of yesterday, co-habitant), the lovely and talented Mariel P. Isaacson, and she deserves the plug. So if there’s any middle- or high-school history teachers out there looking for a great supplement to your unit on Pennsylvania steel, unions, Pittsburgh, or deindustrialization generally, then check out mpifilms.com for more info on the film. (Okay, plug over.)

So like I said, this was an incredibly easy project. Mariel had a wide variety of great still photographs she’d taken in the course of filming, and we went through and picked out the best ones, like so:

That last shot is especially amazing, by the way—I believe that’s the side of the Carnegie library in Pittsburgh. The actual color of the building is white, which you can see at the bottom of the photo, but that grey color (which is almost black in real life) is from all the soot and ash that was just floating in the air when the steel mills were at their peak. Once all the mills closed, they cleaned off most of the building, but left this little section as a reminder.

(A tangent: that story always makes me think of the story from Rochester, where I grew up, that during the 80s the Genesee river was so polluted from the Kodak facility, that an artist (whose name the internets seem determined not to let me find) was able to develop photographs directly in the river.)

Anyway, that photo is great, but maybe requires a little too much explanation. The lone steel press, too heavy to be moved when the mill was destroyed, was also a potent image, but the smoke stacks, also left as a monument when the mill was torn down around it, was even better. Plus, I like that it's cropped tight enough to obscure its time period—maybe there’s the smoke of a working mill rising up out of the stack just above the frame? The title of the film has that slash in it, the notion of tying the title treatment to the slanting smokestack seemed obvious. I played around with the type for a bit, but it didn't take much to get to the final cover, which was simplicity itself:

Since that covered “Steeltown” we thought the inside should represent “Hometown,” and so used the residential shot on the disc label:

And that was that!

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