Year Zero for OFFF Barcelona

I will be attending and speaking at OFFF Barcelona 2011 in June of this year, which I’m really looking forward to. Not only is it the second time I’ll be visiting Europe, but it will be an excellent chance to meet up with people in that part of the world whom I only know through the web. Can’t wait.

As part of the festival, the OFFF team will be releasing a book based on the theme of the event, entitled Year Zero. The above image is what I created for them, playing on the idea of a modern day digi-pop version of the all-seeing eye, wrapped in an 80s rock vibe. I even went as far as to create a companion piece, the ’80s magazine advertisement promoting a television that “thinks for you”. It’s based on a real ad. Yeah, creepy.

I had lots of fun working on this one, even though it took me a little while to really get the concept visualized. The inspiration for the main piece was simple, I wanted a kind of Bladerunner atmosphere mixed with the typography from the poster for They Live.

I spent a great deal of time messing around in Illustrator, trying different color schemes, layouts and elements as I tried to find the proper combination before moving to Photoshop to assemble things. One of the errors I tend to make is moving to Photoshop too early without having a good direction in mind, so this time I put in the hours to ensure that wouldn’t happen. Here is a sampling of my vector sketches.

That final sketch was the one that set me on the right path, so I began putting things together in Photoshop where I added all my lighting, effects and textures. The one elements that I wanted to spend some time on was that digital eye, it had to look sinister and big, and ultimately look electronic. I used a hexagon pattern I built a while ago in Illustrator and used a simple eye design as a rough guide. This took a little time to get the curves right, but pretty fun when it all came together.

The final elements added to this design were actually the people. I wanted something to add a sense of scale to this thing, to make it look larger than life. I already had the staircase built, so the silhouettes were added to make everything feel far bigger and ominous. I spent a crazy about of time adding spot lighting and glows to this one because the pyramid structure itself isn’t made of very many shapes, and I wanted some interest in there.

So, if you are attending OFFF Barcelona this year look for this in the Year Zero book. I’ll also be looking to get posters made of this in the near future once I have it properly re-scaled for the larger format.







27 responses to “Year Zero for OFFF Barcelona”

  1. Martin Avatar

    Nice vectors… I don’t buy the lightning from a clear night sky, though. I also find a bit odd to combine stars and clouds… What’s your intention behind that?

  2. james Avatar

    But the giant floating pyramid is totally acceptable, huh? Haha, kidding.

    Given the content of the piece it’s obviously not a rendition of a scene that would exist in the real world, so messing with the elements of reality (in my opinion) is totally acceptable. I like the idea of lightning coming from a clear sky, it’s powerful. And the stars were added simply because they brought interest to the top portion of the design.

    I totally see where you are coming from, but I’d rather bend the rules a bit to convey the idea. Basing everything on reality can be, well, a bit boring.

  3. Leandro Rafael Avatar

    Really nice. I like the hexagons details.

    That TV and control theme reminds of Orwell’s 1984 (book).

    How many time have you spent on this work?

  4. Leukocyt Avatar

    If it looks good it doesn’t have to make sense :)

  5. Jack Russell Avatar
    Jack Russell

    Nice idea but couple of comments:

    – The perspective of the bottom part is out of whack man just looks odd.
    – What is Year zero – none of it makes any sense (TV ad confuses more)?

    Keep it real James!

  6. Fulton Hawk Avatar

    LOVE IT!!! The magazine ad is a brilliant touch… I spend a lot of my time soaking up retro ads and posters, and you nailed it.

  7. james Avatar

    Jack, Year Zero is the theme and title of the OFFF book they are publishing for the event in Barcelona. I mentioned this in the post above. We were tasked to create a concept and image based on the idea of the book. See here.

    My concept was to take the name Year Zero and spin it into an apparent branding for control, and playing off the idea of obedience through broadcast. The first piece is a more symbolic art piece (using the pyramid and Eye of Providence) while the second is a more “real world” application of reaching the public through magazine advertising.

  8. DAN O SAUR Avatar

    LIGHTNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  9. Chris Avatar

    Kind of like an evil Deep Thought. So maybe the answer to you is 42.

  10. Drew Gilchrist Avatar

    I imagined the lightning coming from a higher power. not necessarily from the “sky/clouds”. Like something opened up the cloudy night and unleashed this powerful pyramid, lightning and all. I like it.

  11. Patricia Avatar


    Perspective/lighting is off. How can all those light sources create that? It’s like they’re behind and on top at the same time. What?

    The old tv isnt retro enough so the idea feels lost. Gutter in advert distracting. Lines around zero logo inconsistent with SNORING use of grid.


  12. Carlos Avatar

    Not usually into posting, but after reading a couple of comments above I just have to say I´m stoked by the opinions of such talented and wise designers such as Jack and Paricia, whose work I´ve never seen in my life.

    The above was sarcasm, since you seem to take everything so literally.

    Thanks James for all your generosity and the broadcasts, wich are amazing. Best of lucks with all your endeavors. Inspiring work man.

  13. J Marsh Avatar
    J Marsh

    I have been to that Temple (the Temple of Rock) and I can report for everyone that James nailed the perspective. On the real temple the main stairs are very steep and they angle outward from the main chamber because, well, they’re stairs. The floating triangle/all-seeing eye has a flat front, but I can see why people might have been confused about the perspective.

    Also, the jet propulsion required to keep the triangle aloft creates water vapor (steam) underneath; hence the clouds and stars simultaneously. And when a high pressure system rolls in it is not uncommon to get some lightning strikes, like any tall building. The original builders elected not to have a lightning rod because it increased the awesomeness exponentially (obviously).

    This is a shockingly accurate illustration of one Rock’s greatest achievements, and I am amazed at your attention to detail! Well done!

  14. Simon C Page Avatar

    James this is one of your craziest posters!

    Jack / Patricia where are your portfolios to give your comments weight?

  15. Chris Olimpo Avatar

    Whats up with all the hatters on your site James?lol

    Maybe they’re all just pissed about the poor audio from the “Montreal Meets” broadcast? haha jk

    I love this piece! your textures and lighting effects are top as usual and the concept is bone chilling, I hate even thinking of the illuminati and an electronic version of the all seeing eye that well executed only fuels fire to the fear haha ….You wouldn’t be a freemason by any chance ? If so.. will there be a mason brother discount available? because I’d be interested…

    Jack // Patricia : this isn’t a rennaissance painting, its a friggin poster; Were color choices, lighting and style reign over realism

    There is a difference between graphic design & fine art, if you are going to comment on an artists blog u should know that.

  16. charleyquest85 Avatar

    James, this is great. I think you nailed the vibe you were going for. The vectors are amazing as usual. Awesome use of Serif Gothic, haha.

  17. Jordan Gray Avatar

    haha. Just read Patricia’s post. are we sure it’s not satire? It’s almost too perfectly idiotic to have come from a serious human being.

    Love the poster James.

  18. paul_pants Avatar

    Love the poster James, great work as usual. Patricia is obviously having a bad day, otherwise she wouldn’t comment in such an inane and distasteful manner. Her ‘critiques’ are pretty weak.

  19. Etienne Chaize Avatar

    A question about the ZERO type: did you paint your own letters with a chinese brush or used some existing type resource? I remember Dafont has a “Gantz” type a bit like that. Just curious cause I went in a similar direction some time ago.

  20. Pascal Avatar

    James I really love that one!
    I cant understand the comments about the ‘wrong’ perspective…
    The whole poster gives a real retro feeling so you did your job great.
    Keep on going like this bro ;)
    Greetings from Germany

  21. Fernando Avatar

    I love that ad as much as I love Alex Varanese’s. I love those broadcast lines in the lightning and the distressed texture. Awesome man.

  22. Fill Avatar

    James its awesome! the bright orange pink palette looks so fresh and new. I wonder how you made ZERO type? I mean that “they live” effect, do you paint it by hand in Photoshop using some artistic brush or something like that?

  23. seamz Avatar

    I appreciate that there is some negative feedback, it’s impossible to please everyone and it’s nice to see they’re analyzing the work like that. Anyone in this industry knows that critiques are important… especially honest ones.

  24. alex varanese Avatar
    alex varanese

    I love the ad! I can’t get over how great the combination of cold blue/black and hot magenta is. Shaping up to be a great series.

  25. Marcos Cortes (Dominican Republic) Avatar
    Marcos Cortes (Dominican Republic)


  26. Maxlefun Avatar

    Where do you find your lightning picture ?

  27. Nobby Avatar

    Yo, where can I find dis pic to fill ma whole screen? Yo, I wantz to see dis thang BIG

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