The other day while I was looking at the ol’ Star Spangled Banner I thought to myself, it’s also spangled with stripes, so why isn’t it called the Stripe Spangled Banner? And then I thought, why do we ever call it the Flag, which is the most boring term of all for the national symbol? So, here is a list of nicknames I’ve adopted for the red, white and blue. Happy Independence Day, everybody!
- Broadstripe & Brightstar’s Excellent Adventure
- The White Represents Sarah Palin and the Red Represents Michael Moore and the Blue Field is All the Rest Of Us Waiting for Them to Shut Up
- Suck it, Yellow, You Symbolizer of Stupid Stuff
- Navajo Nation (NOT! HAHAHA!!)
I recently worked at a meeting inside of TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, on the campus of the University of Minnesota. They like their M’s! The U of M ‘M’ is branded on virtually everything in the stadium offices. Chairs, doors, mirrors, you name it:
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As any graphic designer knows, Photoshop tools have always skirted around the edges of violence: Twist, Flatten, Spatter, and more. Part of the design process is trying to wrangle unruly images and dope-slap them before they get the best of you. So I’m glad that Adobe has finally embraced this trend and released the Professional Wrestling version of Photoshop, where all the powers of humiliation are at your disposal, and nothing less than worldwide image domination is the goal. Here is a screen grab:
Was Jim Rice too black for Coca-Cola? Is A-Rod a cyborg? Why is Cal Ripken wearing dreadlocks? And did Gary Allenson ever exist? If you’re interested in the answers to these and other questions about the awkward greatness of baseball card design in the 1970s and 1980s, then head on over to the piece I wrote for Print magazine online. Then follow the link over to Imprint (the Print blog) for the interview I did with author Josh Wilker, who wrote the terrific Cardboard Gods, a memoir told through the lens of 1970s baseball cards. Unfortunately, a stale stick of chewing gum will not be included.
I just finished reading Nicki Greenberg‘s tremendous graphic adaptation of Hamlet, and I can only hope that it gets a worldwide distribution. It’s a monster of a book at over 400 pages (it was delivered to me not by postal truck but by forklift), but they’re lush and glossy and striking pages, with the characters’ action set against a wildly colorful montage of what might be called “psychedelic Victorian” imagery, laden with thematic symbolism. If you’re a person who couldn’t ever picture yourself saying to somebody “Hey! I’m reading this book by this guy called Shakespeare and I can’t put it down,” then I urge you to get your hands on Ms. Greenberg’s Hamlet. But you will have to have big hands.
What I liked about Nicki’s version was the way she combined the unorthodox with the conventional. Hamlet is apparently an ink blot, and when we see him conversing with Barnardo and Marcellus in the opening scene they are wielding brushes, bringing to mind the old saw about the pen vs. the sword and foreshadowing Hamlet’s choice of using lines spoken by an actor (the actors consisting of red ink, not black) as a potential murder weapon. The characters are all living ink blots dancing across each dazzling page, as they sometimes dissolve, like Ophelia, or bleed into each other, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The King and Queen’s attendants are octuopus-like blobs. Each character is some slightly mutated beast, whose personality is partially revealed by some physical attribute that Ms. Greenberg has given him (or her, or it). I loved the inventive way they were conceived of and drawn.
Whereas many graphic novels (and admittedly the ones I am naturally drawn to) are laid out cinematically, employing close-ups, panoramas, and multiple vantage points in conveying the story, Nicki more or less uses the frame of the single panel as the stage. I would normally think of this as a weakness; the advantage of the graphic novel being that one can manipulate the viewer’s experience in ways that one can’t in the written word or on the stage. But this was definitely one of the strengths of the book. It is a play, after all, and Hamlet is the one thing that does not need a wholesale reimagining, especially when the book presents itself as such a visual feast to begin with. I give her a lot of credit for that.
The bottom line is that I didn’t just “appreciate” this book, the way I have sometimes felt after reading Shakespeare. I very much enjoyed it. Imagine that! The Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, is here, so stay tuned to them for publication details in October.
Here is a blog that goes under the category of “I Wish I’d Thought of That! But, On Second Thought, If I’d Thought Of That, Then It Wouldn’t Be Nearly as Good.” At Better Book Titles, Dan Wilbur redesigns the cover of a well-known piece of literature with what would have been a more honest or direct title. They’re the ultimate “spoiler alerts,” like this alternative title for The Professor and the Madman, below. A lot of them will make you cringe and laugh at the same time, which is gold. And it’s expert Photoshopping as well. See for yourself.
James Cameron has been printing money out there in Hollywood for the last dozen years, and now he is doing the next logical thing: designing it.
That’s right. Cameron’s first post-Avatar project isn’t a movie, but something a lot bigger: he’s designing the 100 dollar bill. It’s scheduled for release in February of 2011, and it’s going to be huge. Check out this teaser video.
Don’t think it’s true? This is really a no-brainer. In the Na’vi, Cameron created a world of people who at first glance appear to be like us, but who in reality are preoccupied with strange rituals and who speak an incomprehensible language. Hello – what’s so different about the aliens of Wall Street (or, for that matter, Hollywood)? Cameron truly knows his material. Consider all of the ways that this bill takes everything to the next level for the director:
- Like Avatar, it’s got 3D woven into it (the blue security ribbon), but this time you don’t need the idiotic glasses.
- The color palette is so gaudy it makes Pandora look as about as kaleidoscopic as a cinder block.
- You can run it through the washing machine with no problem. Try doing that to your Avatar DVD.
- The bell silhouette actually changes color as you turn the bill in your hand. Does it change color to reflect your mood? Does the bill know what you are thinking? Are your palms getting sweaty? This is a visceral piece of currency, people.
- Is there a better action hero than Ben Franklin? In addition to being a politician, printer, Postmaster, scientist, musician, beer brewer, and world traveler, Franklin could also stone cold act, as witnessed by his role as curmudgeonly female author and Harvard-basher Silence Dogood.
- It’s got raised printing – you can feel Franklin’s left shoulder, and rumor has it that in later releases, you’ll actually be able to smell his warm sausage breath.
And that’s just the front. If you study the back of the bill from left to right, you will view a panorama that that is traditional and regal and then – BAM! T-Pain drives a Hummer full of bling right through the thing in the form of that ridiculously outsized golden “100.” It’s what Cameron does best – the obvious, but spectacular, plot twist. I don’t see very many $100s, though, so here’s hoping Kathryn Bigelow can step up and really rock the redesign of the nickel.
You often hear people say, defensively, that they can’t draw a straight line, as an excuse for not drawing at all. I usually reply that I can’t either: that’s what rulers, or the sides of cereal boxes, are for. Drawing requires looking and thinking and experimenting. If you can do this then the physical process of representing an idea will become immeasurably easier, and you might discover that you don’t even need to draw a straight line. They’re overrated anyway.
The April issue of Print magazine has a graphic representation of the story of Jack and Jill (based on a classic assignment given by Richard Wilde, chair of the Advertising and Graphic Design department at SVA), done by New York-based designer Joe Marianek. The story is told with a single heart shape, using variation and repetition to communicate the essential characters, events, and even emotions of the story (even the “hill” is merely an upside-down heart, enlarged and cropped). It is simple and brilliant:
You’ll want to pick up the issue in order to see the other graphic assignments and solutions, in addition to Marianek’s comments about this particular one. I unwittingly did the same thing a few years ago with this cartoon (below). I arrived at it backwards because I was going for comic effect, but the principle is the same: taking a single symbol and manipulating it in a way that tells a clear story. It could have been accomplished with an even simpler drawing or with photographs. And if I can do it…