Welcome to the Vacuum

The time between Christmas and the New Year is something I like to call the vacuum. It’s really the only time of year when phone calls are sparse, email calms down a bit and the amount of responsibility tends to be a bit lower. A lot of people have vacation around this time that spans the week. Not all, I realize.

Since my parents live only an hour away, I go home for the annual White Christmas and hang out there for a few days before heading back, leaving me with around 4 days to do what I want. The vacuum. I started using this little time period a few years ago to relax a bit, think about some new projects, anticipate the new year and tinker around with some fun little designs I’ve wanted to do for a while. I stay up late, listen to music, and fire around some graphics.

This year is a bit different. I spent the last 2 days breaking in my new iPad which I’ve lovingly named Yeti. I want my iPad to solve problems in my workflow and general communication, so I’ve been using it to do research on creative flow, idea generating, brand focus and all kinds of nuts and bolts stuff. Reading Seth Godin’s Blog has been a huge help. In short, lots of note-taking.

I found it difficult during 2011 to keep up with everything. My email inbox is a damn mess and has been for months, resulting in missed opportunities and delays which I’m not happy about. Huge problem. Recognizing that weakness, I’m focusing most of my energy on a remedy or rhythm. Something that will use my time better

Welcome to the vacuum, everyone. Hope your holidays have been going well.

Happy Holidays from Signalnoise!

As of tomorrow I’ll be getting on the road to head to the parents place for the White Family Christmas celebration. Updates to the blog will be slow over the next week as I’m away, but I’ll still be on Twitter from time to time.

To all my friends, clients, new pals, arch-enemies, colleagues, agents and all in between  … wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday as we bring 2011 to a close. Have fun!

Burton Kramer Film trailer

You don’t even know how excited I am to see this film. Burton Kramer. The man.

Kramer began working in the late 1950s and his work was prominent at Expo 67, where he designed the wayfinding system, among other contributions. His work from this period shows the influence of Op Art. He has pieces featured in the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress. He is well known for designing the distinctive 1974 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation logo, consisting of a stylized letter “C” (for Canada) radiating in all directions, representing broadcasting. In 1966-67, he worked for Clairtone, including a redesign of the logo and other aspects of their graphic identity. In 1971, he designed the logo and corporate identity for the new Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Coming in Spring, 2012. O Canada.

December 21

1 year out.

The Best of Signalnoise: 2011 wrap-up

As 2011 comes to a close, I wanted to post a kind of “best of” wrap-up article that’s relevant to the content of my blog. I know 2011 brought some new readers to my corner of the internet so presented here is a rapid fire, pared down summary of favorite projects from this year and the stories behind them. A rough outline of this year’s work. 2011 seems to have blown by at hyperspeed, but it was a big year for all of us.

Here we go, the Best of Signalnoise 2011.

January 2011: Year Zero for OFFF Barcelona – I was asked by the kind folks who were organizing OFFF Barcelona to contribute a piece to their publication which was available at the conference. I decided to take an ‘illuminati’ approach to the idea and put together this futuristic, neon-clad pyramid. It landed proudly in the Year Zero book, and was the first big appearance of hot pink and “brush text” in my work. Something I would revisit throughout the year.

February 2011: Signalnoise Poster for The Sword – After seeing a tweet from my favorite metal band looking for an artist to create some visuals, I jumped at the opportunity with ferocity. I set aside some hours one weekend and created this poster for The Sword, playing off some of the ideas of their latest record, Warp Riders. Without having any previous contact with the boys, I fired it off to them and they loved it. The poster was used for their Australian and European tours, and they commissioned me shortly after to design a t-shirt for their tour with Kyuss Lives.

March 2011: Hobo With a Shotgun poster – It was a big year for Dartmouth. Hobo With a Shotgun was unleashed on the world by Jason Eisener and his crew, and I was asked to design a poster for them. I spent a lot of time learning new digital painting techniques for this one, really pushed myself into uncharted territory. The guys were thrilled with the result, and this was used as a little promo tool for the premiere here in town. I also designed the Hobo logo.

March 2011: Help Japan – After the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged northern Japan on March 11th, I created the Help Japan poster in order to sell online to raise money for relief efforts. The design quickly went viral and spread all over the world in a few days. It was used by fundraising events around the globe and sparked an array of design efforts online to raise money for Japan. My poster raised $20,000 for the Canadian Red Cross.

June 2011: Signalnoise Identity Revision – I went through an identity crisis in the middle of the year and decided to do a refresh of my rainbow sun and Signalnoise wordmark. It was scary upon first launch because I’ve become so used to my previous version, but after using the new mark for the last 6 months I can honestly say it was a good move. Much easier to use, and much more flexible for print.

August 2011: The Explorer – This image popped into my head while I was running in a rainstorm to catch the ferry. Not really sure where it came from or what it was for, but certainly a poster design that I was proud of. It brought together a few new techniques I learned this year and was a fun, abstract concept to explore.

August 2011Tutorial Culture vs. Two Goldfish – An article I wrote concerning the friction between learning vital skills on your own through experimentation, and the saturation of online tutorials we see today. I talk about some of the issues that have come up, and how I relate that to my own creative development throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. The article sparked a very interesting dialogue between new and veteran designers, a wonderful exchange of outlooks and ideas.

August 2011: NASA Mission Patches – I decided I was going to challenge myself to do some logo/patches for NASA. This was a self-initiated endeavour to get me out of my comfort zone and dive 100% into Illustrator for a period of time. I’ve been using Illustrator consistently since ’95, but the last few years it’s always been in conjunction with Photoshop. This project got into the vector world and, even though I couldn’t get NASA’s attention with these, they were super fun to create.

October 2011: Sad Mac in Steve Jobs Commemorative Newsweek – After hearing the news of Steve Jobs passing away, I created this little Sad Mac icon while I watched the tweets go by paying tribute to the man behind Apple. What started as my own little tribute, ended up being used by Newsweek magazine in their Steve Jobs commemorative issue gracing the entire inside front cover. This little guy still chokes me up a bit.

October 2011: DRIVE movie poster – After seeing the film DRIVE I knew immediately I wanted to create a poster for it. I got to work and after a few days I finished my hot pink tribute to the movie. After it’s launch I was buried with comments, tweets and emails from people wanting a copy of the unofficial poster which was all very unexpected. After a little while of negotiating, my agent and good pal Ollie Judge inked a deal with Film District to make this poster official. I will be offering copies very soon, which I’m pumped about. Stay tuned …

November 2011: The New FITC Identity – While working on the creative for FITC Toronto 2012, I designed a few logos along the way. The crew behind the event liked one of the designs so much it became the new official FITC logo being used across all events. It’s not often that I get to design logos these days, so I’m very proud of this one and was happy to help out my friends in the process.

November 2011: Jay and Silent Bob Get Old Canadian Tour poster – After seeing a tweet by director Kevin Smith asking Canadian artists to submit any artwork they may have to be used as a tour poster, I jumped at the opportunity and designed this Jay and Silent Bob Get Old piece. It landed in front of Kevin who loved it, and it immediately evolved into a working relationship directly with the big man. I was commissioned to create a poster for his Plus One Live II event in London and am currently working on a big project with him involving 10 original posters.

Conclusion
So what can be synthesized from all this? I worked with a bunch of great clients during 2011 on some enjoyable projects, but everything I listed in the post shares a very important detail. All of these projects were born out of self-initiation. I started these because I wanted to work on them, because they meant something to me. I didn’t think any of these projects would grow into anything substancial, I just threw myself into them because it’s what I do. If you love what you do, it shows in your work, man. I believe that.

All of these projects (and subsequent results) are examples of what can happen if you take a chance, if you cultivate work using unconventional methods. These days, you need to be a renegade to achieve your goals.

Sad Mac in Steve Jobs Commemorative NewsWeek

When Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th, like most designers I was watching my Twitter stream the entire evening. Parked in front of the computer watching tweets go by, dominated with news, stories and tributes to Jobs. I popped open Illustrator and created a little Sad Mac icon … my own little tribute. Nothing original, obviously, but my own little version.

I ended up sending the icon to Newsweek magazine which was used it in their Steve Jobs commemorative issue, which just landed on my doorstep. My little Mac sits at the center of the inside front cover, on full black. A perfect spot for the little tribute, now seen by people worldwide.

Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes in Halifax

• Jason Mewes and myself after the show. Photo by Chris Toms.

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The past 3 weeks have been an absolute blur. As you can see on the blog and Twitter I’m doing an awful lot of posting and jawing about Kevin Smith and everything that has been going on. This all started with that one Canadian tour poster I designed on a whim after seeing a tweet from Kevin asking Canadians to show any art for a potential tour poster. Being a fan and always trying to do things a bit differently, I set some time aside to design up something cool. Something fun.

Well, Kevin was all over it and I was contacted within hours by his troop. That little tour poster hit that mark, and the following week I was hired to design the Plus One Live II poster for a gig in London, England, working with Kevin directly on the goods. At the same time, a much larger project was thrown my way, he asked me to design 10 Jay and Bob posters … one for each Canadian province. Being a fan of his work and a proud Canadian, I can’t think of a better project to be taking on. So pumped. In production now.

Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes were in Halifax this past Monday for their Jay and Silent Bob Get Old show, and near the end of the show Kevin Smith gave a wonderful shout-out and told the story of the posters, how it all came together, and what we will be working on next (see MP3 above). He nails all the points, especially the part about doing what you love. Chasing those projects you truly want to do. That’s just a clip above, be sure to listen to the entire Halifax show.

This post isn’t meant to be self-serving. I want to tell the story as it’s evidence that you should be doing those personal projects, the things that mean a lot to you as an artist. It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing work for other people, but it will always be the stuff you do for yourself that shouts the loudest. You never know where these things might lead, and the only way to find out is to give it a shot. Build your own reality, man.

Thanks to Chris Toms for the photo above.

Jay and Silent Bob: Colouring Contest Winner

The winner has been selected! It was a really tough decision given the stellar entries, but I couldn’t get past the smooth Letraset Marie-Michelle from Gatineau, Quebec. Lovely tones in there with a great cloud addition to the background. And there’s something about that bright red on the hockey stick, really sets everything off.

Congratulations Marie-Michelle! Send me your shipping address via email and I’ll get all your prizes shipped out asap!

Honourable Mentions!

Here are a few of the great entries I received. All of which I liked for different reasons. I also wanted to include the youngsters who got into the colouring as well. A real bunch of heroes, here we go …

• Adorable 4-year old Genevieve, real proud of her entry.

• A very leisurely 7-year-old Andrew, showing off this skills.

• Lianna rocked the TRON style! You know how much I like that action.

• 4-year-old Alex is getting to work!

• Some acrylic paints coming from Rob Michaud.

And also …

Here are a pair of entries that couldn’t make it into the ranks of judgment, but were darn good efforts all around.

• Nebraska's own Nick Evans comes in with some Photoshopped TRON action. Glows!

• Buffalo-correspondent Paul Pants threw it down hard. Check those shirts!

A big thanks to everyone who showed such enthusiasm for this little contest. I was thrilled to see so many people stepping away from their computers to do some old school colouring. Warms my heart. Well done, everyone.