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Live @ The Steve Allen Theater - My pal, actor, and all-around good egg Damian Maffei asked me to put together this flyer for the show he appeared in on November 12, 2011: a staged reading of two plays, By Bizarre Hands and Suckerfish.

Even though the deadline was very tight (Damian told me about it on Friday, and the flyer needed to be done the following Monday), I had the time of my life putting this together. I love doing pure graphic design pieces like this, where putting all the elements into a pleasing, attractive layout is like working on a puzzle--a really, really fun puzzle.

It only took a couple of hours to put it together, and after some minor tweaks here and there, the final version was ready to go by late Saturday. Damian showed it off on his FB page, and all the participants seemed to be happy. I told Damian that I'd volunteer to do any and all flyers like this in the future, absurdly-tight deadline or no!

   
 

Koen Book Distributors Catalogs

Science Fiction and Fantasy - This was my proudest achievement during my year at Koen Book Distributors, the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Titles catalog.

I had been given a list of all the catalogs I would be designing shortly after I started at Koen, so I knew when the Sci-Fi one was coming and I had always planned to make it really special. I would work on it in bits and pieces in between other duties.

I wanted the cover to be a rip-of...er, homage to my favorite movie poster of all time, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. I even grabbed a piece off of that poster, and used it as the crowd running amok in the foreground. I took the monster from some old comic book ad, and then dropped all the Koen-specific text on top.

I wanted some sort of graphic theme to run through the whole thing, so I had clumps of little flying saucers streaking through the text, as well as brief intro about the wonders of science fiction on the inside cover. The final page even featured the classic "The End...or is it?" gag.

When I look back on this now, of course I think I could do better, but at the time this was fairly ambitious of me to put this much thought and effort into the design, and I was really, really proud of it. We got some positive word back from some customers saying how much they liked it, and that meant a lot to me. It remains the highlight of my time and work while I was at Koen.

Loose Canons! - Loose Canons! was Koen's big catalog of the year (half-year, actually, since we did two of them)--a hodge-podge of books from all different genres, a lot of marketing and sales effort was put into it, so much so a Koen employee who was some sort of alt. book specialist would come to NJ twice a year to help guide the catalog's creation.

For all the eyes that were on the catalog, the overall graphic design was surprisingly little commented upon--maybe because everyone was so busy worrying about the rest of it. This was the second of two Loose Canons! I designed, and by this point I was sort of punchy so I decided to just go totally goofy and make up all sorts of crazy fake newspaper-style stories, most of them featuring in-jokes that only other Koen employees would get (click the image to see a readable version).

I remember submitting this to my boss at the time, who laughed a lot and said he loved it (not a total surprise, since that's his daughter pictured at bottom). It then went to the head of sales, who only had one small revision, a joke I had made at a competitor's expense. I thought that was eminently reasonable and changed it, and the cover--and catalog--went out just like you see it..

Gay and Lesbian Interest - Doing the graphic design work for Koen was a great learning experience and one of the creatively satisfying jobs I ever had; my boss had no pretensions about how the catalogs should look, so he simply made sure they met certain standards ever Koen catalog needed; the rest was up to me.

So after a few weeks of getting up to speed, I really poured my heart into making these catalogs as visually arresting as possible--I think I ended up producing about two dozen different ones, and out of that group there's a handful that I think rank as some of my best work, even now.

This Gay & Lesbian Interest Catalog was one of them; I wanted a sophisticated, fun look, appealing to a literate, engaged demographic. This ended up printed on a nice, thick, slightly rough cardstock, making for a really sharp final product.

Civil War Titles - Since this collection of titles was such a narrow field of books the catalog itself was only about 16 pages; leaving not a whole lot of room, time, or motivation to get too fancy with the design.

The thing for me that really brought this off was the paper--I mentioned the feel I was going for to the outside printer we used (a delightful man, always a blast to have around, full of great stories), and he suggested a sort of parchment paper they had in stock that wasn't too expensive.

My boss ran the numbers, okayed it, and so the whole catalog ran on the type of paper you might have seen during that era (though not as fragile, of course). I was thrilled with the result and even though the graphic design by itself is nothing spectacular, it all came together perfectly.

   
 

Famous Monsters of Filmland Underground - The magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland: Underground debuted in 2011, and leading up to its release then-editor of the mag April Snellings asked me to design a logo for FMOFU, which you see at left.

Below the final set of logo designs I worked up for it. Most of the other logo treatments had been rejected, so I got rid of all the concepts I had been playing around with earlier, and tried to come up with some other looks. Of this group, I really loved the last one--it looked really cool to me, dark and claustrophobic.

The one that was ultimately chosen--#3--I thought was cool, too, with the little drawing of a skull I had lifted from a previous poster I had done. Not only was it used on the logo, but it was included on the inside as a "runner", indicating the end of any given article.

 

 

   
 

Comedy Film Nerds - Last Christmas, I ordered an item called a "Chillpak" (a pad that keeps your laptop cool) from the online store of Comedy Film Nerds, a movie/comedy podcast hosted by Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini that I subscribe to.

When the package arrived, it came with a promo postcard for the show, and for whatever reason I got in my head that I wanted to redesign it. I got the overall concept in my head (such as it is), and finally just got around to putting it together over the weekend. The loose idea I hung the design on was that Graham and Chris both featured the same nerdriffic quote (which they end every show with) in their HS yearbooks, meaning they were destined to come together years later and do a show.

As I do with all these graphic design-only pieces, I had a ton of fun putting this together, and I was so happy with it I sent it to Graham and Chris. I don't expect them to do anything with it, I just figured they'd get a kick out of seeing it.

Han shot first!

   
 

The Wolfman - My favorite still from the 2011 The Wolf Man remake was this one, featuring Emily Blunt's character hiding in the woods from the Wolf Man. Its classic Universal, and the scene featuring it in the preview gives me hope this movie will get what makes the Wolf Man story so compelling.

I first tried to do this as an illustration, with all the other design elements you see here in place, but it just didn't look right. Maybe I didn't do a good enough job on it, I don't know, but I liked the idea too much just to give up.

So I decided to do this as a pure design piece, and after fiddling with the photo a bit (the original still is much more horizontal; I had to press the two main elements closer together), it all fell into place and looked exactly like I wanted it to.

   
 

The Razor's Edge #1- I've mentioned here before that W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge is my favorite book; I've read it a few dozen times and it never ceases to enthrall me.

I like it so much, in fact, that I created a whole blog devoted to my collection of Razor's Edge editions (called Principles of Psychology), and I've even tried my hand at designing a new cover for the book.

The first time I tried it, I thought I did okay but in retrospect I think I was a little heavy-handed with the whole "man on a spiritual journey" motif, so I had it in the back of my mind to try it again, the result of which you see above.

The picture is from the collection of my late, Great Uncle Fred (1901-1997), who I've also mentioned here before and whose stories and photos of his adventures thrilled me as a child.

When going through some old photos my parents had down in their basement, I saw this one, and it immediately struck me as the perfect image for The Razor's Edge. Not only does it feature the kind of "man looking into the horizon"-type image that's perfect to represent the story, but the photo itself (which I had to crop a lot here, since its horizontal) is simply a beautifully composed image--I love the heavy darks at the top and bottom, with the strong white of the water in the middle. Uncle Fred was a damn good photographer. (An aside: none of us are sure, but that might even be my Dad in the pic!)

I saw no need to use any of my illustrations in this cover, preferring it to be a simple graphic design piece. I had a lot of fun figuring out what font to use, and where to put Maugham's name, the title, and the book's epigram ("The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard").

I think with this version I hit a nice balance between making the book look like the enduring classic it is, but not making it look like a museum piece. I find The Razor's Edge just as relevant today as it (presumably) was when it debuted in 1944. The fact that its still in print to this day I think proves that.

So, I really like this new cover I worked up, but who knows? I might feel the need to create another one, just like I'm always compelled to re-read the book...


The Razor's Edge #2- I hadn't planned on doing another one, but then I saw the sky photo while Darlin' Tracy was surfing teh interwebs. The photo is by Edward Dullard and is a shot of Ballycotton Island Lighthouse in Ireland, and I was immediately struck, thunderbolt-like, that it would make the perfect main image for another edition of The Razor's Edge.

Graphic design-wise, I wanted the typography to be a little more modern and rough. Classic books when they are reissued tend to look a tad stuffy because they are classics, esteemed examples of literature with a capital L. So I wanted to go the other way, and make it look a little more current.

I added a half-tone effect over the photo to give a slight old-timey feel (in contrast with the type) and make the image feel more like a memory, which I thought was in keeping with events in the book--the entirety of The Razor's Edge is told via multiple flashbacks, primarily those featuring the main character, Larry Darrell. Larry's story is told to the book's narrator, so even within the flashback structure we are beholden to how Larry remembered the events he's recalling.

I just love doing these Razor's Edge covers, they're pure artistic fun. I'm sure this won't be my last...

   
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