Happy Holidays from Signalnoise

I’m currently parked on my parents kitchen table and will be working from here on and off over the next week or so. Just a small note to send out a big Happy Holidays to everyone. Hope you all have a great and safe Christmas!

A Fistful of Wicked 80’s Print Ads

The 1980’s were wicked-awesome and the print ads of that decade were par for the course. They were playful and sophisticated, the focus trending toward less copy and more imagery. Ads often consisted of a bold, catchy headlines with a single large product shot bathed in a spectrum of color. Doesn’t get much better than that.

After sifting through thousands of these 80’s ads, the layouts and type choices can admittedly become quite predictable; but they never become tiresome to me. It’s true that we often romanticize the past, and that’s very possible what I’m doing here, but I can’t help but feel coming up with these ads thirty-some years ago was a lot of fun. I can’t say I look forward to doing any ads in this day and age.

You have to admire the strong grid foundations these ads are constructed on; so solid. Desktop publishing really didn’t make a strong push until the end of the decade, so I’m assuming these ads were created using physical layouts. Rubylith anyone?

I’ve got folders teeming with this stuff, more to come…

Vintage Film and Television Trading Cards

Back in the 70’s and 80’s, there seemed to be a set of trading cards for every mildly successful TV show and movie. Even the cringeworthy Mork & Mindy had trading cards. Each pack usually included ten cards and a cracked piece of petrified chewing gum, which mostly served to make the cards smell good. No kid is his right mind dared to chew it.

Looking at these things for the first time in years is hilarious, the registration was guaranteed to be way off on every card, you could play connect the dots with the halftone patterns, and the cards weren’t trimmed straight. But that’s what makes them so awesome. All these imperfections added up to whole pile of personality in every card. You can’t find that today, everything is printed so perfectly that there isn’t any discernible difference from card to card. I can remember getting doubles or triples of the same cards back then, but each one was printed differently. Each one had it’s own unique quirks…loved that stuff.

Primarily for me, the E.T. and The Empire Strikes Back cards were what I was most into back then. I posted a collection of ‘Empire’ cards over on Swivelarms, give them a look if you’re interested in some Hoth-sized adventure.

Looking back now, I realize there were so many good sets of cards ( the Superman the Movie and Star Trek the Motion Picture cards were truly wicked ) that I wish I had collected more of them. At the same time, however, I’m glad that I can discover them now as if they were new thanks to Flickr users who upload gobs of this stuff.

Nothing can quite compare to the rush of excitement I got as a kid seeing this stuff for the first time, but it’s important to me as a creative person to remember how that feels, and to try to find ways to experience it still.

Signalnoise from the Year 2000

• Why anyone would hire that weirdo, I have no idea.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen these posted late last night. I wandered home after hanging out with some friends and started rooting around in some old archive CDs of my past work, way back from the year 2000.

I was working with my friends at Internet Solutions at the time, the company that gave me my first real design job in the web industry. They took a gamble and hired that spiky-haired punk right out of school and put up with my loud music and nerdy antics. Good, patient people they were.

That said, I was always trying to dress up my computer to look all cool and stuff so I made a bunch of custom desktops for my screen. Just another way to do something creative and explore some trendy design. I came across 3 of them last night. Fond memories right here. Just look at that weird yellow Japanese-looking Signalnoise wordmark. Yikes. Lots of jokes waiting to happen there, along with my online moniker ‘James Evil’. Good god.

The computer I used to make these is long gone, but the pixels live on. Great memories.

Oh, and that photo was taken around the same time. That’s me and my friend Lisa having what I’m SURE is some deep/hilarious conversation about something we hate. Or she’s just disagreeing with me for some good reason.

Battle Beasts

Fire! Wood! Water! Hasbro licensed these wicked dudes from Takara Japan to sell in the States and elsewhere in 1987. They were a Transformers spin-off in Japan, but Hasbro decided not to tie into that continuity with their own marketing. The mid 80’s was a time when many toys had some sort of gimmick to help sell them, in this case, each Battle Beast had a heat sensitive sticker on its chest that revealed either fire, wood, or water. A sort of paper, rock, scissors in toy form. Fire beat wood, wood beat water, and water beat fire…if you were a super lucky kid, there existed rare and mythical Sunburst figures; find one, and you could beat anyone. Bad ass.

Battle Beasts came packaged in pairs, which was strange at the time. I remember thinking how cool it was to get “two for the price of one”, although it’s a pretty commonplace tactic these days. I always considered the pairings to be like pro wrestling tag teams. My first pack consisted of the Rhino and the Fox; whenever there was a Beast Battle Royal in my back yard, those two always found a way to come out victorious. Still my favorites to this day.

My brother and I collected every one of these pint-sized animal warriors along with their many play sets; looking back, we had some really fun times with them. Unfortunately, somewhere along the road to adulthood my collection must have landed in the trash. The same old sad story. When I took a quick peek on eBay for some of these figures, I was astonished at how much they are going for. Like adding salt to the wound. While it doesn’t seem as if I’ll be scooping up any replacements anytime soon, at least I’ve got the memories.

Awesome figure photography by =Disney-Stock on DeviantArt.

Pepsi Cool Cans

Back in the summer of 1990 Pepsi released some limited edition “Cool Cans.” I was 14 years old, and I clearly remember going nuts for these things. I was firmly entrenched in the Pepsi camp of the Cola Wars and we had plenty of bottles in my parents fridge, but I also needed these cans. The nearest vending machine was just passed the woods in my backyard at the local community swimming pool. I used to ‘borrow’ some change from my dad’s coin bucket and sprint through the trails leading to that Pepsi machine. There were days I made many trips to that pool just for a cold can of soda.

There were only four different can designs, however it took me the entire summer to collect them all. I was sure Pepsi had staggered their release just to prolong my agony. I ended up with tons of the surfer dude design, which ensured that it became my least favorite of the bunch. That guy used to roll out of the bottom of the vending machine and taunt me, I’m telling you.

The design I most coveted was the neon one, it was the most unique of the group and was downright badass. Some internet psychologists may claim that I was somehow subliminally drawn to the neon design because it contained a hidden message. When stacked 3-high and positioned just right, the larger letterforms on the can kinda-sorta spell out the word “SEX.” So even though I never saw the cans stacked that way, and getting them from a vending machine assured that I didn’t know which one I was getting, I still must have been brainwashed by Pepsi into unconsciously choosing it for its “sexiness.” Hogwash.

These designs, paired with Pepsi’s most iconic logo, are my first memories of a true marketing campaign. Stepping up from toy packaging and advertising, I began to recognize there was a larger world of design and branding out there for me to explore.

Oh, and a little Young MC never hurt anyone hurt either…

Happy Halloween!

I love it when a costume comes together.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Have a safe one.

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.