Burton Kramer

Presented here are some of the posters created by Canadian graphic designer, Burton Kramer. If you have lived in Canada for any length of time you will have certainly seen his influence, most importantly being his CBC “exploding pizza” identity design created back in the 70s. We’re real proud of that CBC logo, one of the best in the world.

In a nutshell, the RIT Graphic Design Archive states “Burton Kramer (1932- ) is a graphic designer who trained in the United States, pursued an influential career in Zurich, and then moved to Toronto, where he revitalized the design community with bold interpretations of the Swiss and International styles of typography and image.” That really sums it up. The guy learned from sources where it counts, then brought it to my country. His reach is long and he created the Canadian design culture for an entire era. The posters above are merely a sampling, and doesn’t even dive into his identity work.

A book was recently released of his work, titled Burton Kramer Identities, A Half Century of Graphic Design.

Design by Tom Muller

Back in 2002 or so I really got into the work of comic artist Ashley Wood. Sure, I liked Wood’s painting style at the time, the way he illustrated cool robots and good lookin’ ladies. But it didn’t stop there. In all of Ashley’s works he had his art coupled with a typographic and logo style that made his work incredibly unique, set him apart. I browsed his website all the time and finally came across the name of the person responsible for all that cool design. This guy named Tom Muller.

Over the years I’ve frequented Tom’s website, Hellomuller, to see what he’s been up to. He never ceases to amaze with precision type and identities, excellent book cover design and all the other stuff he’s done. There’s a certain level of professionalism in all he does, but his work is very much all over the map. Seems like he can do anything, including Nagasaki, a custom typeface.

After being a fan of Tom’s for almost a decade, I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was in London a couple of weeks back. Awesome guy. Heard some stories about the old days, discussed work and type, and discovered he uses a trackpad for all his work. Yeah … I know. After several drinks we managed to get a photo taken outside the pub, seen here are  (l to r) Ollie Judge, Franz Jeitz, myself, Tom Muller, and PJ Tierney in the front.

Don’t take my word for it, get yourself over to Hellomuller and check out the full extent of Tom’s work, and say hello on Twitter.

PS. Sorry Tom, I had to cut off your awesome Coenfographic. That thing would have crippled my blog!

Obsolete Computer Book Covers

I have some vivid memories of random computer books kicking around the local library around the time I was in High School. Most of them were about a decade old at that time, dating back to the early 80s. Many were obsolete, but for some reason they were all readily available to loan out, whereas more relevant material was nowhere to be found. I always wondered if computer nerds had donated these books to the library the minute they became useless to them. I also recall thinking how strange it was that these books looked both old and new to me at the same time.

There seemed to be no hard rules when it came to creating cover art for these kind of books: computer generated images, drawings, paintings, photography…they were all in play.

Back then, I knew nothing about computers at all, but the covers of these books always piqued my curiosity. Some were awesome, some were pretty awful, but they all rocked an 80’s vibe. The personal computer boom of the 80’s led to an enormous amount of published material on everything from basic learning to programming languages. The internet hadn’t even been invented yet, but there was a sense of “living in the future” that created a kind of innocent excitement I can’t quite explain.

Signalnoise talk: GDC Atlantic

Here are some shots from my ‘Back to the Future’ talk last week, presented by the kind folks of the GDC Atlantic. Had a great time, and the venue at The Hub Halifax was an excellent stage, packed the room but was still intimate. Met some awesome people, got some stickers into people’s hands and had many laughs.

Big thanks to my pal Chris Toms for snapping these shots, and thanks to everyone who came out.

Robo Force

Robo Force Magazine

Maxx Steele & Hun-dred

Robo Force Packaging

Ideal Robo Force 1984 Toy Fair Catalog

Robo Force Read-Along Book

Robo Force Fan Club Certificate

Remember Robo Force? Didn’t think so. Even if you grew up in the 80’s there’s a pretty good chance you missed out on these radical robots. Ideal Toys debuted them at the 1984 Toy Fair; unwittingly pitting them head-to-head with the Gobots and the Transformers, both of which apparently caught the company by surprise. Without the power to transform and very limited poseability, Robo Force simply couldn’t compete with rival toy lines. Ideal pulled the plug on Robo Force in 1985, a planned second series was prototyped, but never saw the store shelves.

Ideal put a huge amount of marketing muscle behind Robo Force for its initial launch, with a one-shot cartoon special, commercials, story books, board games, lunchboxes, a magazine…and that’s just the short list. There was even a Maxx Steele telephone and an official Robo Force fan club. They really went all out, unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to overcome the toys inherent shortcomings.

My brother and I had a few of these, he started out with the mighty leader Maxx Steele while I went for his evil counterpart, Hun-dred. My fondest memories of these toys was in the early summer of 1984 when we left Western New York to live in sunny Florida. My parents packed us up in the Chevy Monte Carlo and we were off on a three day journey to parts unknown. Keeping my brother and I company in the back seat were our Robo Force guys, mini command centers my dad carved out of solid styrofoam, and a cooler full of Dr Pepper. To this day, with the potent combination of indestructible robots (these things were built like tanks), squeaky breaking styrofoam, and a seemingly endless supply of caffeine, I have no idea how my parents retained their sanity. By the time we had settled in Orlando, Transformers had taken over our robot play time and good ol’ Maxx and Hun-dred were relegated to the dustbin. Sorry guys.

My Robo Force figures are long gone and trying to find quality images of them on the web can prove to be insanely difficult. Thankfully, there are a couple of sites that helped me put this post together: BattleGrip & Roboplastic. Give them a look, they are both bursting at the seams with awesome stuff.

Signalnoise in Halifax, tonight!

You and me, Halifax. Tonight is the night. I will be speaking at 6:30pm sharp at the Hub Halifax presented by the kind folks of the GDC Atlantic. All topics will be covered, including art, design, toys, comics, drawing, inspiration, community and a whole lot more. This is the first time I will be speaking publicly in my home town. Lets make it count.

When: September 22, 2011. 6:30pm
Where: The Hub Halifax, 1673 Barrington Street, 2nd floor
Cover: $10 at the door. FREE with RSVP

I’ll also have new Signalnoise stickers on-hand for those who are attending. Lots of colour. Can’t wait. See you there, Halifax.

80’s Transformers Box Art

Transformers: 1984 Box Battle

Transformers: 1985 Box Battle

Transformers - Decepticon: Soundwave

Transformer - Decepticon: Ravage

Transformer - Decepticon: Buzzsaw

Transformer - Decepticon: Frenzy

Transformer - Decepticon - Insecticon: Bombshell

Transformer - Decepticon: Beastbox

Transformer - Autobot - Dinobot: Grimlock

Transformer - Autobot: Wheeljack

Transformer - Autobot: Ratchet

Transformer - Autobot: Jazz

Transformer - Autobot: Hoist

Transformer - Autobot: Prowl

Transformer - Autobot: Hound

Transformer - Autobot: Mirage

When I was growing up G.I. Joe and Transformers were a lethal one-two punch for my imagination. The toys were cool, the cartoons were awesome, but the box art was the catalyst for daydreaming. Seeing that stuff on the shelves, looking at the hand-crafted portraits of the characters really got my mind going. The fact that these were actually painted, with all the textures and imperfections that come along with that process, really drove home a certain personality that is all but lost on kids today.

You can scope the entire series of box art over at Botch the Crab.

GDC Atlantic presents Signalnoise

I’m very proud to announce that I’ll be doing my ‘Back to the Future’ talk in my hometown on September 22. The kind people of GDC Atlantic asked me to present to local friends and colleagues, the first time I will be speaking to the public here in Halifax. Here are the full details:

When: September 22, 2011. 6:30pm
Where: The Hub Halifax, 1673 Barrington Street, 2nd floor
Cover: $10 at the door. FREE with RSVP by September 21.

Check out all the information right here, and tell your friends. There will be slides, stickers and other goodies available. Huge thanks to the members of GDC Atlantic for arranging this event. Truly honored, you have no idea.