Elton John announced to the world that, after fifty years of performing and touring, he will retire, but not before completing a climactic two-year world tour. Recognizing that albums are simply musical forms of story-telling, I thought to bring a twist to the idea of packaging and apply it to Elton’s music, rich with story. What better way to accompany a farewell tour than to re-release some of the best-loved albums that launched a life-long career as an iconic rock star? And who better to design them than me?
My personal interpretations of the albums, integrated with relevant 2018 design, inspired and informed the direction for the designs. Impactful yet sparing use of soft gradients and transparent colors placed these designs firmly into the 2018 aesthetic. Carefully-chosen script type for Elton John that evoked the ‘57 Chevy ideal paired with the swirling hem of a poodle skirt reinfoced the ‘50’s theme for Don’t Shoot Me. Metallophile’s rough-hewn edges evoked the feel of chiseled bricks in Yellow Brick Road. I created an original typeface for Honky Chateau to reflect the never-been-seen-before journey of Rocket Man—one of its most iconic tracks.
Album labels were designed within a system to unify them, and expanded images from the jacket designs created the backgrounds which served to differentiate them. All together, these labels and covers emanate a cohesive retro/modern feel.
OBJECTIVES, RESEARCH, INSPIRATION, DRAFTS
Inspired by Joseph Duffy, a little research, and my own proprietary typeface for my Elton John Honky Chateau album, I chose to create a present-day display font that expresses with its very lines the complex relationship between our emotional humanity and the mathematic and scientific principles which inhabit our minds and drive our existence.
Circles and rectangles in geometrically matched, expanded, contracted, and rotated proportions were spliced and merged to create upper and lower case letters, numerals, and punctuation. Flourish elements were applied to upper case letters to create a secondary upper case set of even greater emotional and visual impact. Three typefaces were created based on thin, regular, and heavy weights. Also designed were additional flourishes which have the ability to be added to nearly every letter in a build-it-yourself system to augment further the typefaces illustratively.
While Rocket Man is a highly-structured font, it expresses a graceful beauty. Its strength, flexibility and illustrative qualities should appeal to any typographic project that wishes to reach a highly educated and creative demographic. Guided by past and present design work of Herb Lubalin and Jay Fletcher, Rocket Man might carry us into the future in ways we yet cannot imagine.
OBJECTIVE, RESEARCH, INSPIRATION, DRAFTS
My objective was to create an identity and packaging for an original brand of artisan chocolate bars. My conceptual invention, Bumpity Bump Chocolates, was inspired by the sledding hill of my childhood, a long, steep, and thrilling run over and surrounded by jagged boulders of iron ore.
Illustrative elements of mineral-colored triangles tumble down a mountain set against a vast background of open space and create the visual setting for the piece. Three delectable flavors—almond, cherry, and cinnamon—were dubbed Snap, Zest, and Tang, and were differentiated from each other by their ivory, rust, and charcoal backgrounds. Sans serif fonts meticulously typeset in the colors of the mountain created clarity and visual interest on the front, back, and side panels.
The brand name, Bumpity Bump, was set in bold sans serif in a badge configuration that mimicked a boot-print in the snow. Carefully-written descriptive copy underscored the story of the brand. A stylized star adorned the top and side panels of the packaging identifying them from the smallest sides. The result is a playful yet sophisticated presence that commands attention through its clarity and conceptual uniqueness.
Waterbirch is the name I ascribe to the collected works of my original giclée and hand-printed designs. These prints reflect many disparate influences — my middle-school art class, children's picture books, mid-century modernism, travel, lazy summer days, crisp winter afternoons, autumn trees, plants and birds, animals and bugs— that drive and inform my sense of process,color, composition, and theme.
Although whimsical, sometimes nostalgic, and invariably explorative, these images carry themselves with an elegance and sophistication that unify them, that tell a story, yet they all existed in different times and spaces. Therein lay my challenge—to unite them in time and space and to ground them with written story.
My solution was to create a personal art book to compile and organize the images and their stories into a usable and accessible system. The published book can be used for enjoyment purposes, or it can be used as a reference catalog from which those interested might request cards or prints of their choice.
OBJECTIVE, RESEARCH, INSPIRATION, DRAFTS
Sophisticated young professionals who read intelligent, contemporary, and relevant magazines are the target audience for the ads for Candyland, a retro candy and treats store based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Conceptual, clever, and simple ads resonate best with this demographic. Nostalgic, whimsical, and slightly off-beat, my concept was simple, visually appealing, and easily digestible—pun intended—and operates on the conceptual tagline of being “wild about” Candyland’s gumdrops; so much so, that the wild Minnesota animals who consume them evolve into the color of their favorite drop.
Picasso-inspired continuous-line illustrations and loose, watercolor-esque colorations inspired by one of my favorite childhood picture-books created the illustrative focal points for the ads. Taglines Get Wild—Get Your Wild On and There’s a Little Wild in All of Us – Get Yours are the calls to action in the single and climactic full-spreads, respectively.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so they say, and the necessity to incorporate Candyland’s logo motivated me to revamp, maintaining its essential design, but updating it to a more clean, agile, and flexible image. Surprisingly, it has become one of my favorite elements of the project, along with my dear blue mouse.
OBJECTIVES, RESEARCH, INSPIRATION, DRAFTS
The purpose was to design and produce a type-dominated poster, with little to no illustration, that evokes my interests and personality. My chosen topic was the worldly popular comic book series, Tintin, about a boy detective and his sidekick Snowy, an adorable, brave, smart and funny wire haired fox terrier pup. It was my goal to portray them and their global, cultural impact in an informative, compelling, appealing, understandable, and visual way.
To introduce the protagonist and his faithful sidekick, I illustrated tiny portraits of Tintin and Snowy and tucked those within the letters of the title. Colors, mined from the books themselves, were kept to a playful yet minimal number of four, creating mood, unity, and clarity.
Type choices reinforced the tone of sophisticated playfulness. Everything from pie charts, fever charts, tables, and radial graphs to text blocks, lists, and over-sized numbers were employed to tell the story of a boy and his dog and how their adventures that spanned half a century educated, entertained, and delighted audiences world-wide. Meticulously measured and considered alignments, line-weights, character styles, and leading, along with carefully-applied type and color hierarchy function as a well-oiled machine to bring this team of fun players together in a winning way.
Sunlight dapples through the branches of the birches that tower above me. Tender leaves flutter overhead. A lone sparrow sings. A breath of lake breeze floats past. Lying on the grass, I become earth, and I gaze up and away into a blue universe that is endless, and I am held, like a precious stone, in an omnipotent hand.
With only a few exceptions, at the lake is where my childhood lives. Endless days with bare toes spent digging in the sand, wading through water, scrambling over rocks, running through the grass. Here there were no walls, no lines, no borders, no rules, no hours or minutes—just endless days of exploring the world and discovering me.
It is also where I discovered what was beautiful to me and what inspires me—a blade of grass, a drop of rain, the wing of a butterfly—all the simple elements of matter that comprise and sustain our world, that color our lives.
As I grew older, the scope of my adventures and experiences also grew. New landscapes, creatures, and perspectives contributed to my designs.
Whether microscopic or distant, my renditions portray the pure simplicity of peace, joy and beauty always to be explored and discovered in the outdoors.
AN ODE TO PRINTMAKING
There is no sound but the clock ticking on the wall, marking time. Every drawer, every surface, every tool, every thing in this room has a purpose, a job, a role to play in the making of art and of history and of humanity. It is a place of creation and ritual, belief and patience, respect and honor. In this world, time matters, care is essential, and process is key. Here it is as much about the community as it is about the self; about the journey as it is about the destination, And that, my friends, is what renders this space and this type of image-making so supremely sacred.
Ancient and timeless are the tools, the methods, the materials, and the wonder that inhabits the world of hand-rendered printmaking. The pencils and erasers, tape and pins, rulers and mesh screens, wing-nuts and screws, water and light, darkness and air all connect our minds to our bodies, our present with our past and our future. The paper and the ink are not simple seen, they are also felt. Each step requires attention to time, space, and order. Fluctuations arise and problems are solved. Experience and faith drive our process.
But there is nothing like that split-second moment of wonder and anticipation where process meets revelation and the paper is peeled from the screen or the press or the water-bath and the image you hold in your hand is always a surprise. Unique, real, and forever.
The challenge was to redesign with a modern appeal packaging for four items from an existing line of packaged goods that contains multiple varieties, or flavors and appeals to a sophisticated, upscale demographic.
What better way for young urbanites to connect than over artisan ice cream made by a socially– and environmentally–conscious local business? My goal was to systematize and beautify Izzy’s ice cream packaging in a way that would match the quality and care of the ice cream that was to be found within.
Well designed whiskey bottles and craft brew identities were mined as inspiration for my new Izzy’s aesthetic. Graceful and geometric linework created both stylized graphic ice cream cones and organized spaces for the front label, edges and a tremendous amount of pragmatic and descriptive text. Flavor icons created in similar lines, along with flavor-matched background colors, identifying flavor strips, and newly-written copy provided four methods of flavor identification. The Izzy’s identity itself was modified to work better with the new typography, yet it’s iconic big dot on the I for Izzy’s was retained in outline. Izzy’s packaging is now an appealing system that embodies both sophistication and fun and is able to hold a prominent and notable place in neighborhood and in the freezer aisle.
A modern chap book is a small collection of writings, often hand-printed and usually hand-bound. This chap book contains a healthy mix of traditional text and stylistic and relevant typography.
The Moon on My Wings is a compilation of my original prose about moments and experiences, almost unnoticed, that nevertheless grab hold of our hearts or imaginations in some deep and meaningful way. Four short stories, each with a theme—funny, scary, betrayed, and tender—were meticulously typeset and kerned in Freight Sans Pro. Type as illustration was employed as section headings to reinforce the respective themes. A title page, forward, and table of contents were included, utilizing Freight Text slab serif and sans serif Ingra WD to impart typographical hierarchy.
Care was taken to rely on anchor elements to ensure consistency from page to page, applying my typesetting skills to a dynamic space. It required deep research, sketching, solid grids, and multiple tiny dummy books to get the layout, pagination and the binding right. How nice it is to hold in my hand a piece that is wholly mine from both a design and writing perspective.
My chosen issue for this branding and identity project for a social cause was the lack of positive, meaningful, fun, and constructive guidance and connection for neighborhood youth and teens.
My solution was to create a local hip-hop dance company dedicated to providing a sense of belonging, pride, and purpose to teens who otherwise might not have access to positive guidance and community. The four prominent tenets of KIKIT are commit, connect, involve, and secure and reinforce the objective to strengthen the neighborhood through participation and support from all its residents.
The KIKIT logomark features my originally-designed letters that mimic the configuration of shoelaces laced in a hip-hop shoe. Brand colors are subdued neon — bold, vibrant, and refined — and were inspired by The Emotional Colors Project by Tokyo Dawn Records.
A secondary circular 4-quarter badge portrays the four tenets and can be used on KIKIT printed and digital publications. Wearable buttons, each featuring one of the tenets on a brand-colored similar grid, reinforces the mission in a real-life, real-time way. Hats and T-shirts round out the collateral for a clear and committed branding system.
I was challenged to choose a social issue of importance and familiarity to me, and, through design thinking, devise a systematized brand strategy to address the issue in a clear, compelling, and accessible way.
The problem chosen was required and hospital-proximity housing for stem cell transplant patients who are at extreme risk of death for three months following treatment and who require scrupulous care-giving and monitoring. From a medical and psychological standpoint, an appropriate housing environment is crucial to a stem cell patient’s survival.
My solution was to design a service that provides private living space for patients and their caregivers where they and their families can focus on what matters most: care, healing, and getting back to life. The imagery of a turtle as identity was created to embody all the ideas of home, shelter, protection, self-sufficiency, life, longevity, and careful and methodical steps to an ultimate goal.
Cheery, warm, and organic colors were chosen to uplift clients and counter the austerity and sterility of medical environments. A vertical and horizontal logo was designed to address different collateral needs designed around the idea of creating welcoming and practical gifts tied to the needs and comfort of the patient and to the significance of the nurturing and healing experience.
Demonstrating solid typography skills with the addition of color was the recipe for this early typography project. Conceptual work was to be derived from the style of the bands or their music.
Layout, typefaces and colors reflected the personalities of the respective bands. Gritty tones of charcoal and steely grays paired with rust and crystal blue made up the color palette for Frankie Lee, an indie-rocker with a cowboy-edge and a cool and aloof yet sensitive persona. Bold sans serifs given plenty of real estate evoked the harshness and beauty of wide open spaces. A warm-toned second poster evoked the more humorous, approachable side of Frankie Lee.
Chris Koza, who is known for his deep and evocative lyrics and rich harmonies, was treated with subtle gradients of organic, overlapping gradient colors in one poster. And in another, for his basketball-playing, boy-next-door alter-ego, Industry Inc typeface was chosen for its team varsity image.
Being a 2016 cover for a 1970's band, All Tomorrow's Petty was treated with reflective type, copied and flipped.
Because the assignment was so compelling, I created five posters instead of the required three. Most challenging was the background pattern I created from Frankie Lee's name. Adjusting the tracking and leading so that the type color and bleed worked with the margins and the figure-ground issue of overlapping text was a complex and gratifying feat.
As a concept-driven advertising campaign promoting the St. Paul-based Pearson Candy Company’s Nut Goodie candy bar, these five ads were directed to a sophisticated demographic of college-educated young professionals for placement in demographically-sorted weekly magazines appearing sequentially over the course of five weeks.
I chose to capitalize on the fact that the Nut Goodie has been around since 1912 and the idea that what is old is new again. Since the targeted demographic was just beginning to embrace all things vintage and considers itself authentic above all else, I created iconographic imagery of Rayban sunglasses, Chuck Taylor shoes, an LP turntable, a necktie with a tie-bar, and a vintage cruiser bicycle, and wrote the tagline, Keeping it Real. Extensive poster research from the 1930s to today inspired my aesthetic, especially those from the 1930s WPA Federal Art Project Posters, a 1960s New York Times and a 2014 award-winning Netflix print ad. Extensive relevant font research informed my font choices. The result was a rich and creamy chocolate, peanut, and maple-nougat-colored ad with bold images and simple but intelligent copy; Enjoy Unparalleled Excellence in a Candy Bar.
These four single-spread and one double-spread ads are playful yet elegant and sophisticated which are characteristic of my goals as a designer. It was a very satisfying project. Loved this one!
A friend asked me to devise a systematized brand identity for a new landscape design and gardening business whose basic tenets are rooted in Permaculture environmental philosophy. The identity needed to enable immediate brand recognition and stand apart from its competition, reflect the personality of the owner, and evoke the three basic ethics on which Permaculture is based.
My logo solution was a combination mark comprised of a grouping of three organically-shaped circles of three analogous colors of green, each outlined in a thick stroke of scarlet. Attached to the imagery was the company name, set in a scarlet lower-case Humanist typeface. The three circles were evocative of flower blossoms, garden stones, and Permaculture's three ethics and were bright, cheerful, and straightforward, much like Molly's personality. The serifed, Humanist letterforms evoked the stability and longevity of the family-owned property from which the business was named. I wrote the tagline design, plant, bloom and set it in small, uppercase sans serif letters underneath the mark.
I was asked to design and prepare for production an original image and identifying typography for the annual apparel for St. Olaf College's student dance company, Companydance, that is reflective of their identity as a vibrant modern dance company.
Three red and orange stylized dancers were created with vibrant and dynamic geometric shapes leaping in synchronized movement against a field of black. Hyperbolic negative shapes between the dancers created an intense effect of movement and dimension. Mimicking the reflective phenomenon of lights on a stage, the word Companydance, tightly set in thin-lined, wide, upper case sans serif letters was reflected upon itself in red and orange. It evoked strength, unity, and energy and adorned the back of the shirts and sweatshirts to be worn as a sort of company uniform.
The same letters, reconfigured in a tight block formation was created for the front lapel area of the shirts and read, St. Olaf Companydance with the letters of St. Olaf overlapping over itself in smaller type and the twelve letters of Companydance tightly set in four lines of zero leading.
The solution successfully and simultaneously featured both the individual dancer and the company of dancers in such a modern, sophisticated way. The colors were sizzling, and the typefaces I chose worked marvelously to create interesting negative shapes when paired with their reflections. Since modern dance is so often about implication and perception, I felt this treatment did a great job of reflecting that dynamic. Creating interesting relationships between the positive and negative shapes was probably the theme of this project.
Just a bit of fun playing with floral patterning.