Newsweek cover: unreleased

Last week on Twitter I was talking about my recent commission by Newsweek Magazine to design the cover for their July 4th issue. I got a call early last week straight from the Newsweek HQ which I was pretty excited about. I’ve done a few covers in the past, but Newsweek has been on my radar and the “it’d be cool to work with them” goal list for quite some time. I was tasked with bringing a cover from scratch to final in a few days. Not easy, but the team there wanted big fancy text relating to the cover story. Just what I like doing. Rock n’ roll.

But the magazine industry, more specifically the NEWS magazine industry, is a turbulent beast with fluctuating focuses and news items. Things change at the last minute all the time, including stories that land the cover. Unfortunately that’s what happened and they had to go with a different story … and different cover. Bummer. Shown above is what I did for them in a few days.

The kind folks at Newsweek told me up front that a few covers were in consideration as they put together the issue, so the outcome is totally understandable. One of those things. In the end I had a great time working on this, it was an honor to be considered and I’m proud to add it to my portfolio.

Fun fact! Back in March my Help Japan poster was mere hours away from landing the Newsweek cover as well. Last minute change rendered it unusable too. History repeats!

Album art of Boris

It’s no secret that I like my metal, so I wanted to post a little something outside of the regular Signalnoise content stream. If you’ve been into metal for any length of time you may have crossed path with the Japanese 3-piece drone, sludge, psychedelic rock outfit Boris. These guys have quite a history and seem to put out 100 records a year.

Now I’m the first to say, Boris is certainly an acquired taste. I was introduced to them by my friend Ryan Grant some time ago, at which point I had the “what the hell is this?” look on my face. Noisy, confusing, fuzzy. Made no sense to me back then. But I never stopped giving them a chance and eventually I came around. Now they’re one of my favorite bands, nothing sounds quite like them, and I dig that.

But let’s get back to design. I have to give Boris some huge respect for their album artwork and band identity. They never seem to sit still on a design or theme, constantly re-inventing their look and logo every time they release something. When you hear rumbles of a new Boris album, you never know what you’re going to get. Crazy generative artwork, a beautiful painting, a sombre photograph, hand-drawn something-or-other. Yet it all works, somehow. Coming up with new and wildly different artwork just CAN’T be an easy task. You gotta respect that.

And look at those Boris logos. All different, all awesome. The albums above are just a handful of their releases.

So here’s to you, Boris. Keep building your walls of sound. Visit their Myspace for some musical samples, and check them out on Twitter.

A moment for a beard

Today is the day. My pal Ian “Jerko” Cann, national treasure, international man of metal, collector of toys, sayer of funny things and Foosballer extraordinaire has laid down the law. Halifax will be losing one of it’s most famous and beloved landmarks, his trademark beard. Anyone that has met Jerko remembers his laugh and his beard. Just look at that thing.

The plan was made ages ago and he’s not backing down. 6 years in the making, it comes down to this. His reasons are his own and maybe he’ll share them here. Or maybe not, he’s a complex man. Either way, today the beard is coming off and the Signalnoise HQ has his back.

A moment of silence for Jerko’s beard, and another moment for the poor pair of shears that will no doubt be destroyed by that behemoth.

Signalnoise website updates

With the launch of the revised Signalnoise identity and wallpaper last week, I’ve been working hard to implement the switch across my entire online presence. No easy task. It wasn’t until I dove in that I realized just how often I use my logo on stuff. Mastheads, buttons, banners, profile pictures, backgrounds … it’s all changing. One by one.

As I started messing with my graphics across the board and staring at my site for hours, little issues started catching my attention. Things that I meant to do ages ago, stuff that was added which never felt right, and other things that I clearly didn’t think through. Most of these things only I would catch, but they needed to be taken care of. So I’ve been adjusting stuff over the last few days here on the site. Little stuff, nothing major, but stuff that will make your viewing and reading experience a bit better. I hope. General housecleaning, which I think everyone should do from time to time.

One major thing on the go is the Signalnoise Store. It’s been under maintenance for the past while as I make some decisions behind the scenes, getting some product research done, and generally getting my ducks in a row to offer a far better selection then before. Many of you have asked about my store and I assure you the Signalnoise HQ is on it. There is a store live now, but it only contains my Help Japan poster so far. More to come. So much more.

Thanks so much for the continued emails and encouragement, gang. You make work not feel like work, and that’s alright by me.

Signalnoise identity wallpaper

I’ve had a few requests to launch some wallpapers of the new Signalnoise identity, so here we go. I like my wallpaper to be clean, tidy, organized, tough and reliable. No crazy designs getting in the way of the folders on my desktop. I launched my previous logo as a wallpaper set about 2 years ago, so it’s about time we got the new one into circulation. Here are the sizes.

2560 x 1440
1920 x 1200
1680 x 1050
1440 x 900
1280 x 1024
1280 x 800
1024 x 768

Feel free to have a download and add some color to your device of choice. My apologies to Abduzeedo, I totally stole their device preview shots because I was too lazy to make my own. Sorry Fabio!

Halifax Design Meet

That’s right, Halifax. The second Halifax Design Meet is scheduled for tomorrow night. The last time I organized something like this was back in March, so we’re long overdue to kick back, have a drink and talk about fonts. Here’s the details:

When: Wednesday, June 22, 7pm
Where: Gatsby’s Bar and Eatery, 5675 Spring Garden (map)
Who: Artists, designers and everyone in between

Swing on by and say hello to a friendly crowd. Hope to see you there!

Signalnoise identity revision

Here is something that has been inevitable and has been on my mind for about a year or so. When I launched my t-shirt line a year ago it was my first big attempt at printing in a new medium, more specifically, paying for each color when screen printing. If you’re not laughing now, you should be, as it’s clear that wasn’t taken into account when I designed my full-spectrum logo in 2008. So as I went about designing things for the t-shirt line I realized how inflexible my rainbow sun was.

Not only did it involve 6 colors, but all those colors overlapped creating an additional 6 colors, 12 in total. In screen print land this is a nightmare to deal with as the t-shirt company needed to overlap the 6 colors manually to create the full 12. While it looked okay, this created inconsistencies with my brand colors which I always had a problem with. I started looking at brands such as Johnny Cupcakes, Coudal Partners and Draplin Design Co. to see how their identities worked and it was obvious that I needed to make some adjustments in order to get the Signalnoise identity more flexible. Something that will still look cool with the spectrum, maintain the overall shape that has been mine for a few years now, yet be more usable in different product areas.

Also, the 1-color version of my logo. I’ve been wanting to get into producing other Signalnoise products (such as pens, key-chains and other cool swag) but a big factor is printing in 1 to 3 colors to reduce cost. When I flattened my logo it looked like a flower. Lame. Can’t deny that. All the circles blended together into one big flat, uninteresting shape. I never liked that 1-color version of my logo, to the point where I was reluctant to use it anywhere on the web and printing. It had to change, and that was that.

And lastly, my Signalnoise wordmark. I’ve been using the Agostina wordmark for just over a year now and I still love it. The nice swooshes look pretty ’70s while maintaining that cool modern vibe. It’s a fun typeface to work with for sure and I still really dig it. But I started to reconsider recently when going over the new product ideas. Would it look good printed really small, like on a pen? Does it center well on a shirt? Does it work properly as a title with additional content below? The answer to those questions was mostly “no”. The stylized Signalnoise wordmark was always a bit awkward to work with on stickers, shirts and other stuff which is why you rarely saw it outside of the website masthead. It all comes down to function, man.

Over the last 3 years I’ve been adjusting the typefaces used across my brand, starting with the website. I used Egyptienne for quite a while because I always liked that face, but slowly moved over to a san serif, standardized design. When I felt the need to redesign my Signalnoise wordmark, the selection was clear. My beloved Akzidenz-Grotesk. Sturdy, reliable, practical and readable. Also, this was the first time I spent a considerable amount of time kerning the wordmark to have it flow properly. I was taught what kerning was in school, but never HOW to do it. Huge thanks to all the kind folks on Twitter who helped me out and gave advice as I tweaked it up, specifically to those who referred me to this article. Mega help, thanks gang.

The one thing I never like to standardize is how the logo and wordmark play together. I like having the flexibility to move each element independently in consideration of where it’s being displayed. Here are just a couple of combinations and I’m sure others will present itself as I continue:

In conclusion, I need to make one point clear. I love my rainbow sun. I love the colors, how they blended, and it’s basically the only logo I ever designed for myself that I liked. Feeling the need to adjust it was painful. I knew it was coming, I knew it was necessary, and I thought long and hard before moving in any direction. I did it delicately, and stared at the final for a week and a half before making a decision. This was a sensitive process. In the end, I feel I hit that elusive middle ground of new flexibility while maintaining the elements and form I loved most about it. And all it took was shifting the circles. Weird how the simplest approach is sometimes the best, huh?

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

Design shots from Barcelona

No Parking. I saw this sign everywhere, love the colors.

Saw this on a napkin at a small bar. Look at that Dachshund. Proud.

Fantastic sign made of wooden triangles and blocks for a Japanese restaurant.

Not sure what this sign was for, a bank maybe, but I love that bear. So good.

Spotted this intricate thing on a Gaudi building at Park Güell. Pretty metal.

Drawing in the museum at Sagrada Família by Josep Maria Subirach. Beautiful, love his linework.

The Correos logo is awesome. I think they're a post office or courier.

Badass sugar packet courtesy of Lufthansa Airlines. Great type.

We flew Condor over the Atlantic. Love their logo.

When I’m in a different part of the world I tend to keep my eyes open for cool design-related stuff. Signs, logos, packages or whatever. Each city I visit tends to have vastly different aesthetics then what I’m accustomed to in Canada, and Barcelona didn’t disappoint.

Here are a few quick snaps I took with my iPhone and camera as we walked around the city after I finished my duties at OFFF. Some great examples of design and typography, I even liked their “No Parking” signs.

I’m busy gathering photos and writing my OFFF Barcelona recap post. Had a great time, stay tuned for that one soon.