Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wisdom Is Wasted On Me

(More of my videos)

For the final assignment in his class "Can Design Touch Someone's Heart?", Sagmeister decided to forego the humanity phase of the project and give us the opportunity to design a phrase similar to the work his studio creates in the "Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far" series (Example 1, 2, 3, 4). The basic idea is to pick a truth or sage bit of wisdom that you've identified over the course of your life so far and design that phrase. As usual, huge emphasis is placed on making a beautiful composition, putting effort and thought into the form of said composition and using original, well-composed typography.

I originally settled on a sentence (the exact phrasing of which escapes me now) during an early comp presentation, but was unable to recall where I'd written it down. It was rubbish anyway. I'm not terribly comfortable generating these little pithy phrases because I think they can very easily veer into preachy advice-mongering. After much hand wringing and brainstorming, I settled on the phrase "Wisdom Is Wasted On Me," which is both a piss take of advice in general and aptly expresses my reluctance of settling on any single bit of sage wisdom. I think that, at this time in my life, advice and wisdom go in one ear and out the other for me. I'm much more apt to try and fail than heed the advice of someone in advance of someone before said failure.

For the presentation, I wanted to experiment with audio and video, using long and short consonant and vowel sounds from trite cliches to actually derive the final bit of wisdom. The overall result has grown on me. Several technical complications during filming and post-production have ensured that I will need to re-shoot this project. The final presentation was well-received in class and should be appearing on the site that Sagmeister, Inc. is launching in February to host user-submitted pieces.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Source of Light

(project originally completed on 10/17/07)

For an assignment two months ago, coming off a streak of straight forward, design-minded projects, Milton gave us the following brief: “Bring in something of your own making which is a source of light.” We weren’t allowed any clarifying questions and were told that we shouldn’t discuss our ideas with or show prototypes to our classmates.

The exercise was a wonderful departure from the work we’d been asked to create up to that point. Having no specific methodology or outcome in my mind, it was a chance to do whatever we pleased, to think as far outside of the box as possible and risk embarrassment and failure.

My initial idea had to do with illuminated thought bubbles. I thought it might be interesting to create single color, plastic, injection-molded thought bubbles that would float above the users head. The bubbles would light up and be customizable with a dry erase marker. I imagined employing one when I was working at the studio and didn’t want to be disturbed: fuck off, I’m busy.

I ran into problems due to shape and lack of time and resources. I don’t know much about plastics and know even less about how to get an injection-molded prototype built. As an alternative, I thought it might be nice to make macabre nightlights and mobiles. Still into the idea of plastic and customization, I settled on the nightlight idea and set to work building forms out of crystal clear packing tape.

While watching a bunch of old Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, I balled and folded and smashed and grew the tape. When I stuck a bunch of wads together and shone a light behind the result, the tape bounced and reflected the light back in on itself, creating this trippy mirrored ball effect. I continued to grow the shape organically until it began to resemble this menacing demon with a protruding lower jaw. The final step was to add gnarly fangs and dainty little horns.

I initially left the face blank thinking that, should a mass-market version be sold to a kid, they might like to customize their own version. But the more I stared at the demon head in the dark, it’s center glowing bright, I started to see shapes in the folds and creases of it’s packing tape core. Staring at the demon has the same end effect of cloud gazing or looking up at the popcorn texture on the ceiling: you begin to make your own shapes, see warts and scowls that are unique to you and you alone.

Milton enjoyed the end result, thought it was an ingenious use of materials, but wasn’t fond of the shape. “What can I say? I like devils and demons,” was my reply. My source of light sits on my desk at the studio to this day.

Demon Light
Demon Light
Demon Light
Demon Light

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Guest Lecture Poster: David Rees

One of the most rewarding learning opportunities in the MFA program is the weekly guest lecture series. Steve Heller plumbs his social and professional connections and gets the best illustrators, designers, filmmakers and authors working in the States and invites them in for a chat and Q&A. Each week, a first year student in the program designs a poster for the event and hangs them about the studio.

I was assigned the poster for David Rees, the artist responsible for the comic strip Get Your War On and My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, various alternative weekly newspapers and several comic collections.

I’ve always secretly assumed there was a connection between the lecturers and the design students chosen to create the posters. Rees’ lectures are infamous around the studio because he’s “so fucking hysterical.” There was no shortage of people coming up to me and telling how funny he was, how the lecture wasn’t to be missed and how all the second years were sure to return for this one.

I’m pretty sure I got the gig because I’m “the funny one.” I would’ve laid waste to a pile of babies to design the Paul Budnitz poster (Kid Robot), but I got the lo-fi comics artist with a chip on his shoulder and a pension for using the word “fuck” as a punch line.

Nevertheless, I’m really pleased with what I designed. I digitized the clip art characters used in many of Rees’ comics, incorporated an upside down American flag which seemed apropos given our current distressing sociopolitical climate, and managed to condense a 3-panel joke into one poster.

Everyone kept asking me if I wrote the strip myself. I just shrugged and nodded. Comedy isn’t for the faint of heart.

David Rees Poster
(Click above for a larger version)

David Rees Poster

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Treehead Seed Bombs the System

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This test short was created as part of an assignment for an abbreviated lecture that just wrapped up at school. Jeff Scher, an illustrator and filmmaker, came in on Tuesday afternoon over the past month and gave us a crash course in experimental filmmaking and animation. Historically, this session was longer and students created a couple of films of varying mediums (stop motion, flipbooks, etc.). This year was a bit like drinking from a fire hose, owing to the smaller number of meetings and the volume of material to cover. For the last class, we were supposed to make a short flipbook for The Green World Campaign, an environmental non-profit. The inspiration/message for the video was Green World's tag for a current campaign: From one seed, a forest grows.

Many of my classmates embraced a more direct approach for their shorts. I'm not much of an illustrator so I played to my strengths, mainly humor, music, loud graphics and anthropomorphic freak out characters. The grenades were originally supposed to explode and cause trees and branches to take over dilapidated city buildings but we had a short window to complete this and I ran out of time. Solution? Blow up the city and grow more trees. Treehead is so awesome, I've decided to create a few 10-minute web shorts and flesh out his world, using some of my accented classmates for vocal talent. Respect.