Monday, February 28, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Make Way For Tomorrow

If we at Criterion have yet had a more perfect pairing of artist and film than Seth designing Leo McCarey's* Make Way For Tomorrow, I'd be hard-pressed to think of it. I was privileged to work with Seth on this project, but apart from my one half-formed idea about a dusty photo on a mantle that was quickly (and rightly) discarded, conceptually, this was entirely Seth's show, so I won't write too much on the "process" in that big picture sense. The only "revision" to his cover concept was to ask him to tweak the title treatment in his original sketch: accommodate the Criterion branding:

But I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at the technical details of how this project was created. Anyone familiar with Seth's work** will probably not be overly surprised by the fact that he doesn't design with a computer. Instead, for this project at least, he would send me sketches of how he'd like the layout to be organized, along with finished art for each color of ink that we'd be using. So, for example, here's the sketch for one spread in the booklet:

And here's the component art:

And blue:

I combined all of that in InDesign, added the film framegrab imagery, the body text in Stempel Garamond and headlines in a font I built from letters that Seth made for us,*** and here's the result:

And here's how the booklet cover (probably my favorite bit of art in the package) came together:


Black, silver, and purple plates:

And final assembled art (wraparound front and back covers):

The process was the same for the menus (except in Photoshop rather than InDesign), from early color rough to final execution:

Thanks again to Seth for allowing me to show these bits of process, and for a fantastic design!

*Apropos of nothing, isn't it absolutely bizarre that the same man directed this quiet, heartbreaking film and my favorite movie of all time, Duck Soup? I still can't quite wrap my head around that...

**Seth fans in the crowd may also be interested in his Criterion Top 10 list.

***Interesting (?) side note: that font ("Seth bold") has since had a second life in Seth's excellent redesign of Canadian Notes and Queries. They were kind enough to send me a few issues of the magazine, and I have to say, in addition to being well-designed, it's also a pretty interesting magazine, even if, like me, you are not Canadian. (Though, to paraphrase Tina Fey, growing up in Rochester, NY, I was able to "see Canada from my house.")


From Liar's Kiss, by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano, available for pre-order now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

More LK stuff...

I really enjoyed this little promo thing that Jhomar put together, repurposing a page out of Liar's Kiss.

Also: a glowing review over at Giant Fire Breathing Robot.

I absolutely appreciate this very generous review, but it does remind me of something worth mentioning for the record: this book isn't "Liar's Kiss by Eric Skillman." It's "Liar's Kiss by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano." We put my name first because, for whatever reason, the standard convention is writer-then-artist, but Jhomar is absolutely an equal co-author and deserves the credit. I don't mean to single out the fine folks at Giant Fire Breathing Robot, who obviously have excellent taste--just wanted to mention it while I was thinking of it.

(Also, my name is spelled with a "C," but, y'know, whatever.)



From Liar's Kiss, by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano, available for pre-order now.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our First Review!!

From Joanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading! Awesome!

"[...] an enjoyable escapism that puts a fresh twist on the private eye yarn."

EDIT: Also, I learn from this review that for those interested in pre-ordering Liar's Kiss through your local comics shop, the Previews order number is apparently "FEB11 1167." (Or there's always Amazon.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

REJECTED: Stumblebums

I did some designs for the new album by the Stumblebums (formerly the Stumblebum Brass Band) a while back. But since their mailing list just got an email announcing the release of the record with another cover entirely, I'm guessing the Stumblebums decided to "go another way." To "downsize the design department." That the covers I did "sucked." But I dunno, I kinda liked 'em.

This first one I did before I knew what they were considering for the album title… obviously there's not much connection there. Visually, it was inspired by a song of theirs (that didn't wind up on the album, funnily enough), called "The Ghosts are Gonna Get You", and is a blatant--blatant!!--rip off of Jordan Crane. (Particularly this one.) Had that actually been published, I might have felt a little bad about the obvious theft, so that's for the best, probably.

The second is a pretty literal take on the title, but I kinda dig it. In case you're not familiar, that's literally a photocopy of the cover of Lady Gaga's first album, with some scribbling on it. Ideally it would have been printed with silver ink (reality check: no one was going to pay for specialty printing!) on the scribbles, to give a sense of pencil marks on paper… but again, neither here nor there.

At the end of the day, I get that probably neither of these was quite raw enough for the Stumblebum sound. (ahem.) C'est la vie! I got to show 'em here, at least. The album is still worth picking up, especially if you've ever wondered what the misbegotten love child of Louis Armstrong and Iggy Pop might sound like.


From Liar's Kiss, by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano, available for pre-order now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Broadcast News

This was not an easy one. I really like Broadcast News, but it's a film whose appeal is primarily in the characters and dialogue, rather than its visual aesthetic. So finding a visual to represent the film was no easy task. Plus, what angle to approach it from? Media critique? Love triangle? Morality play? Straight-up comedy?

At the briefs meeting we settled in on a particular moment between Holly Hunter's character and William Hurt's character, their first newscast together. It gives you the setting (behind-the-scenes of TV news), and a sense of the connection between these two characters. In the film, it's a moment where, despite the action buzzing around them, Hunter and Hurt start to seem like the only two people in the room. So, good: an important moment for the film.

I took a couple swings: first, a pretty straightforward take, and one with some color bars added to give a little color and visual interest to the top of the frame…

Plus a couple not-particularly exciting directions…

But I worried that all of those privileged the "serious" aspects of the film over the comedic aspects--an the film is funny, after all! There's a moment in the film when Albert Brooks describes William Hurt as "the devil," and you could make a case for that as the big question of the film: is that character an innocent, or an immoral manipulator, or somewhere in between? Is Holly Hunter's character naively self-righteous or the last bastion of integrity? So I came up with this slightly goofy idea:

I like it because you can read it as an indictment of William Hurt, or you can read it as Albert Brooks' character off to the side, childishly scribbling over his rival's head. This was probably my favorite of the bunch. (Though admittedly, breaking "BROAD-/CAST" like that does sort of imply it's some weirdly sexist movie about women in the newsroom—that wouldn't have been a terrible alternate title for Anchorman, now that I think of it.)

But James L. Brooks wasn't happy with it. So I went back and simplified a bit:

But now it's getting REALLY somber. So I tried to add a little energy by taking another angle on the same scene, this time from inside the booth:

And yet another variation on the theme:

That last was a bit TOO cheeseball. The ones above got a better reaction, but the concern was that the reality brooke down too much… why would Hurt ever be on camera from that angle?

So I tried tweaking some earlier versions again, trying to get a title treatment that would say "NEWS" more clearly, and hopefully bring a little more energy to those.

Ultimately I was working at cross-purposes with the image… that shot, that moment, is about the quiet connection between the two, so adding "excitement" to that just makes a muddle. So, how about trying a new "onscreen" image in the "from the booth" shots? Many tweaks later…

…we had a final cover.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From the comments...

I was catching up on comments and found that my response to this question from commenter Jason was getting a bit long, so I thought I'd bump it up to an actual post. Here's his comment:

"[…] I'm curious at what point in the process you decide to go with an illustration as opposed to a photo/still, and how soon you decide on an artist once that decision is made. Also, does the idea of matching a favorite illustrator to a certain filmmaker ever precipitate an illustrated cover over a photo cover?"

I thought that was an interesting question. My probably-less-interesting answer is: it depends.

Sometimes the idea of illustration precedes knowing exactly who should illustrate it--like, for example, Wise Blood or Topsy Turvy, where the concept ("'50s-style literary paperback" and "topsy-turvy head made up of Gilbert and Sullivan," respectively) came first and we had to find someone to execute it. Of course, Josh Cochran and Yuko Shimizu both made those projects their own in fantastic ways.

Sometimes we don't have a specific idea of a concept but we know a particular artist will be a great fit and we can trust them to do their thing--like Seth on Make Way for Tomorrow, or Darwyn Cooke on Monsters and Madmen.

Sometimes it's a combination of the two--I had a very specific idea of what I wanted for Divorce Italian Style but it absolutely depended on Jaime Hernandez to execute it.

And finally, sometimes it's a practical decision first--we just don't have any decent photographic art elements so some kind of illustration (or at least photo-free design, if you want to make that distinction) is the only way we'll get a cover we like. That happens less since the advent of HD transfers for everything--back in the SD-only days using framegrabs any bigger than 1/2 a page was pushing it. These days we routinely use framegrabs (with a little digital magic applied) as full-bleed pages.

And to your point asking if the opportunity to pair a favorite artist to a particular filmmaker or film has ever pre-empted what might otherwise have been a photographic cover... sure, yeah, absolutely. I always love the opportunity to create a new icon for a film, to add something lasting to these great legacies, and illustration is often a great way to do that. Not to mention: the chance to work with so many artists whose work I've long admired is unquestionably one of the great perks of my job.

Also, some housekeeping: apologies to the folks who've been commenting on older posts and not seen their comments appear, that's a Blogger thing designed to cut down on spam comments (which otherwise get out of control on older posts). I've just updated and responded where appropriate. And to the multiple folks who've written requesting posters of various covers: apart from the deluxe art prints available here, most Criterion covers are not currently available as posters. But it never hurts to make suggestions to!

Also, have I mentioned yet that Amazon seems to have lowered the pre-order price of Liar's Kiss to $10.17? (which I particularly enjoy because 10/17 happens to be my birthday!)

Should have a new design post ready for tomorrow…


From Liar's Kiss, by Eric Skillman and Jhomar Soriano, available for pre-order now.