Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wedding invitations

I've found wedding invitations to be a fun little project—not to mention a cheap wedding present! I've had occasion to do two sets of invitations, for two sets of very good friends of mine, and both came out pretty good, if I do say so myself. Both couples, at various points in these processes, took pains to apologize for being too "nitpicky" or "difficult," but I think if you compare this blog to almost any other blog I've written, you'll see that both went just about as smoothly as a design project can go.

I'd assumed I'd have to think of these in a very different way than other kinds of design I do, but actually, they wound up being less of a departure than I would have thought. As it turned out, I basically thought of the event itself as "plot" and the friends involved as "characters" and attacking these much like I would have a DVD or book cover.

For example, the first invite I did was for Melissa Ahart and Chris Murphy. Melissa is a poet and a school librarian, and Chris is a rock star and a music teacher, and their wedding was going to be held the weekend after Thanksgiving, so they wanted to emphasize fall colors.

After a couple false starts that were pretty much purely decorative and pretty conservative, we wound up here:

To clarify what you're looking at, this is the front and back of a single unfolded card. (I've changed the addresses and such to protect the innocent, because Melissa in particular doesn't need any more internet stalkers—apparently there's a whole MySpace contingent obsessed with the fact that she did "devil horns" during the credits when she was on Jeopardy.)

Here's the reply card that came with it (again, front and back):

The fall colors are obviously present, but the big innovation is the ampersand, which I liked because it evokes both literature (it's a big typographical character) and music (it kind of looks like a treble clef, if you squint), while the literal meaning ("and"; i.e. linking two people) couldn't be more appropriate for a wedding.

Originally, I was thinking of that as a smaller card pasted onto a larger piece of heavy kraft paper, but budget concerns led us to print it as all one piece, which actually came out looking pretty nice, and maybe even slightly less clich├ęd for a wedding invitation. Melissa found these great kraft paper envelopes to mail them in, which tied everything together nicely. Everyone seemed pretty happy with the results.

That was about a year ago now, but this next set of invites I finished up less than a week ago, this time for my friends Dan and Betsy. Now Dan and Betsy are world travellers—in the course of their graduate studies over the past few years, they've been hopping back and forth across continents, most notably to Dublin and Edinborogh. So they do a lot of communicating through the mail—or email, really, but snail mail has more evocative imagery. (I particularly enjoyed the fact that, since I wound up dropping the invites in the mail for them, people from London to New Jersey received mail from a couple in Edinborogh, with a return address in Cleveland and a New York postmark.)

Again, I showed them one purely decorative option that was attractive but unspecific (which I won't show here in case I run out of ideas the next time someone needs a wedding invite and I want to reuse it), and then this one, which is what they chose:

The postmark obviously references the travel theme, birds seem romantic (and mobile!), and the brown just kinda felt right—Betsy said it reminded her of the ink on the 14th century manuscript she'd just been reading, so that worked out. Though, looking at the two final invites together, I'm not sure why I seem to find brown to be such as romantic color...

Anyway, like before this was a two-sided, unfolded piece, and I managed to talk Dan and Betsy into getting them screen printed, so the actual printed things look really gorgeous, particularly the front where the two colors overlap. I wound up stuffing the envelopes myself this time around (the happy couple being overseas), and it turned out I couldn't get my inkjet to print return addresses on the back sides of the envelopes without chewing them up, so I came up with what I thought was a pretty fun solution: I bought a package of circular stickers at Staples and printed little "seals" with the return address on them to close the envelopes with:

And that was that! Dan and Betsy tell me the RSVPs have already started rolling in.

Now, as a special bonus treat, here's the save-the-date card I did for Melissa and Chris. I did it before the invites, and if I had it to do over again I'd probably connect the type a bit more between the two pieces, but how do you not love this concept for a wedding the weekend after Thanksgiving? (If I remember correctly, the idea of the hand turkey was Melissa's.) I spent more time than a grown man should in tracing my own hands to make crayon hand turkeys, none of which looked quite right, so I did a quick google search for "hand turkey," just for reference, and stumbled across this hand turkey done by some anonymous child at some elementary school. It is the platonic ideal of hand turkeys.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Long time no see...

I've clearly been delinquent about updating this site. But don't worry, I haven't run out of things to say yet (I've still got at least five or six decent designs to talk about before I really start scraping the barrel...), I've just been swamped with work. Which is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but if anything's going to suffer, it's probably going to be this blog. So, sorry!

In my defense, I'm currently working on three (or six, if you count the three that are in their editorial loops now) major Criterion projects, a couple book covers, an assortment of ads and newsletters and such, a wedding invitation for some friends of mine, and the early stages of a very cool project I'm not even going to hint at for fear of jinxing it. I don't think the latest Criterion projects are announced yet, so I probably shouldn't say anything about them, but since you've all been so patient I'll give you a sneak peek of the amazing illustration Bill Seinkiewicz did for Robinson Crusoe on Mars:

I'll try to get a legit post up here this week sometime...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Digital Destiny

I saw this book on the display table at Barnes and Noble the other day, actually. I've pretty much gotten used to seeing DVDs I designed show up in stores, but for some reason (probably because of its infrequency), seeing a book I designed in a store is still kinda exciting. That said, this design isn't a shining moment, exactly, but I figure there might be something interesting in talking about a design that didn't wind up being one of my favorites. So with all due humility...

The book in question was described to me as an examination of the way "new media" is being consolidated and corporatized. Quoth the jacket flap: "instead of the 'global information commons' that many of us dreamed of, we're facing an electronic media system increasingly used to sell rather than serve the public." So my first though was to really play up the commodification angle, and the most obvious symbol of that I could think of was the omnipresent shopping cart icon. I first had the idea to try to relate this in the simplest, "non-design design" way I could, and came up with this:

Unfortunately, I'm no good at "non-design design," and it tends to end up looking a lot more like "bad-design design." I later reworked it into something much more design-y, using a strange bit of Corbis stock art—it was never entirely clear to me in what circumstance an icon on a computer screen would be so aggressively foreshortened as that, but it's better than the first option, at least. (And if I ever get around to posting my Wages of Fear comps, you'll see that the foreshortened type was part of an ill-considered phase around that time.)

The search for shopping cart icons led me also to the below image, which really has nothing to do with digital anything, but which I liked the colors of, so I tried linking it with the images of monitors and a clumsy DOS-prompt title treatment.

Surprisingly, the publisher initially liked that one, but rightly pointed out that the monitors looked a lot more like TVs than computers. So I tinkered a bit, but could only come up with these two, which are just much too "Martha by Mail," and were thankfully rejected.

I had a half-baked idea about trying to take pure binary code (i.e. ones and zeros), which should be able to represent almost anything, and add a dollar sign to the front, to symbolize those who can't see any potential in the internet other than to make money. I still feel like there's the germ of a good idea there, but I could never really make it work. Here's the closest I got, but it's much too obscure to mean anything, and again is falling into some kind of "non-design design" trap:

The last theme I latched onto was the idea that control of these new media outlets is being consolidated into the hands of the corporate "few" rather than the democratic "many." I envisioned a series of cables, representing the various independent thinkers and websites, being ominously wrapped up into one centralized mega-cable, representing corporate media. A little obscure, maybe, but I thought it had the potential to be a nice visual. Plus, I figured the best way to represent this would be to set up a tableau and photograph it, and I always get the most excited about my arts-and-crafts ideas (with decidedly mixed results, admittedly). So I went out and bought some wire and electrical tape at a hardware store, and took a bunch of photos like these:

(And let's just pretend those are out of focus for some on-purpose design-y reason, and not because it was a new camera at the time.)

But they didn't feel quite ominous enough, so I played around with the color a bit and photoshopped in a eeeevil-looking serpent head onto the the electrical wire. (I thought this also made it more clear that it was meant to be multiple wires being collected into one cable, rather than a cable breaking into many wires, though others have told me that's still not really the case.) At any rate, I thought it was a pretty cool, sinister looking image, and I actually like the type on this one, too.

I pushed pretty hard for that one, thinking then (and now) that it was head and shoulders above the rest. And it was in the running for a while, too, (or at least Maury was kind enough to string me along for a bit), but ultimately it was probably too obscure to fly, as seems to be a not-infrequent occurrence when I try to apply my art-film-honed methods to non-fiction. Which, honestly, is the main reason I try to do non-Criterion design work when the opportunity presents itself; to make sure I don't let those other design muscles atrophy.

So finally, all of the above were rejected (along with a couple variations on the above themes I'm too embarrassed to show), and another trip to Corbis yielded this next comp:

It's a pretty cool photo—I like the blues—and the fact that it's clearly TVs and not computer monitors didn't seem to bother anyone this time, for whatever reason. And actually, I think it could have been a pretty fun jacket if I had enough of that photo to really wrap all the way around the whole thing, but unfortunately what you see is what you get with that photo. (The rest of the jacket is very plain.) As for the type... well, obviously I wasn't kidding when I said I can't pull off non-design design, though this is less egregious than some of the above, at least. All in all, a serviceable, if unremarkable, cover.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Designs I Love: Classic Comics Collections

Lavishly designed reprint collections of classic comic strips—it's an honest-to-god trend, and I'm all for it.

I would love to get my hands on one of those deluxe reprint series. Actually, I was halfway through an unsolicited letter to Fantagraphics asking them to let me have a crack at the Pogo archives before they announced the new Jeff Smith-designed editions. I can't be too disappointed, though, because Smith is a guy who clearly knows his Pogo. I'm not the only one who always figured "Boneville" was just another name for the Okeefenokee Swamp, right? Plus, I'm pretty sure Albert and Smiley Bone smoke the same brand of cigars...

(And yes, I'm absolutely posting this now because I noticed Jacob Covey linked to this blog over at FLOG. Thanks, Jacob! You ever get overworked over there, you know who to call...)