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Because I travel a lot, I decided to use old postcards for my Valentines this year. I sent about 480, and the cards range over about 90 years: from 1901 to the late '80s, I think. They are from all over the world and they went all over the world. About 100 of them had writing on the back and had been posted before.
Then, they're all overprinted in silver with my image, which says "From me wherever I am / To you wherever you are."
Sometime this summer Hemlock Printers contacted me to design their annual set of wrapping paper. I agreed provided they give me carte blanche over the design and they decided to trust me. I wanted to create something that was festive, but completely non-denominational, and not even "Seasonal". So no snowflakes, or Santa, or bells etc., and no red, green or gold. So I decided on a very bright yellow as my dominant colour, with silver.
I had a number of ideas for the theme of each wrapping paper, but I decided on doing something with kittens, trucks and big machinery, cake decorations, and flames. I figured that would cover a wide range of tastes and sensibilities.
They have a standard die of the container/box it comes in, and I designed that too. In the spirit of a surprise gift, there's very little indication on the outside of what's inside. It's very simple, plain white with four symbols on the front.
When you open it up, yellow, silver and black flames come from the sides, while the top and bottom flaps have perforated tags: again something to suit everyone.
Open it further and the whole thing is on fire on the inside, revealing the first of the wrapping paper sheets.
The box contains 2 sheets each of all four wrapping designs:
I've made a separate post for each of the designs so you can see them in more detail here:
Hemlock sent about 2700 of these out to their friends and clients across North America. If you're on their mailing list, I hope you enjoyed this year's wrapping papers. I had a lot of fun making them. Oh, and the good folks at Hemlock tell me they've received an overwhelming positive response!
After doing a poster for one of my favourite bands, The National, last year, I was happy to be asked once again to do another one for them. This time they were playing in my home town of Vancouver at the Orpheum. The 3-light-condition design of the first poster was hard to beat, but I've always wanted to print on a mirrored surface, so I worked with Jake Sorensen at the silkscreen printers PrismTech Graphics to source the right material. Vancouver has become known recently as a city of glass, so this isn't as whimsical as it sounds.
This is not just "shiny," it is mirrored, it reflects everything. This is my best shot of the whole poster: that's me reflected in the bottom (this copy is signed to my friends Cindy & Rory).
I printed on it in white ink.
See how perfectly it reflects my hands and the ceiling above me?
It's a limited edition of 225. The National got 1–175, and I got 176–225.
The only difference between the first 175 and the last 50 is that 1–175 were laminated with a clear laminate to protect them, as they were sold at the concert. Mine are unlaminated because they are slightly more reflective than the laminated ones.
They sold for $50 at the show on November 28 & 29th. (Sadly, I was away and couldn't go!) I may sell some of mine in the future but not yet. It is currently impossible for me to get around to put anything in the mail. One day I hope to have a system, but until then it's not for sale.
OK, this is it. This is the best thing I've made in a while ... that wasn't rejected, anyway. When the good folks at Lynda.com asked to do a documentary on me, that was fun enough, but when they asked for me to do an animation for the end credits, I was super happy, because not only did I get to do something I'd never done before, but I also got to honour the great people who worked on the video. (Original music by Reg Powell, as noted.)
I made it by creating all the frames in illustrator, and then handing those files over to Lynda.com to compile into a moving image. Magic! People often ask me about doing animation but usually they're thinking of something that grows organically ... you know, that growing swirling thing. I couldn't be less interested.
However, what I did want to do was show how I work with systems and parts. So the animations on these evolve into and devolve out of letterforms that are created from a pattern system.
The lettering is pretty much illegible until the last frame, when it comes clear, pauses, and then starts to disintegrate again.
There's alos a pattern transition between each credit.
Piles of fun, with thanks, as always to the folks at Lynda.com.
This is my latest piece for my regular "column" with Varoom Magazine. The theme for this issue is "Next", which is one of my least favourite subjects these days, as it's been on my mind. So I created a piece that shows the direction that some of my work is taking, with bold, unusual layouts, and mixed media. Then I wrote a small diatribe about my fears of the subject of "next" and printed them in tiny type in the design.
With this issue, Varoom went to a tabloid size, and as this is on a double-page spread, it's quite large.
This detail shows my true feelings about "next" with "I DON'T KNOW", which i embellished onto a fan with nail polish.
Another detail which almost—almost!—shows the type.
In this, the 2nd of my regular "column" for the UK Illustration magazine, Varoom, the theme was "Knowledge". So I decided to create a map which refers somewhat to the "known" beyond which lie monsters.
I had a lot of fun making this ...
It's fun to give directions on the map. There are places of elation and places of despair.
All sorts of destinations and paths we end up in in the pursuit of knowledge.
Including Brain Town ...
This was typeset in the font Absara by Xavier Dupré.
It's that time of year again, and herewith are my 2011 Valentines. Because this Valentine thing has gotten a little out of control in a covetous way, I thought it would be nice if I was able to give people multiple valentines that were all similar but slightly different, so they could keep one or two for themselves and still have a few to give away. So I created a modular heart with which I could easily make 10 variations, and as well I made a heart that says "Remember when we were young, we used to give Valentines to all our friends." (My best friend's 7-yr-old did not get this at all, repeatedly saying "But we do give Valentines to our friends." Yeah, wait 'til you're older, kid.)
So here's the press sheet:
Each person got one of the following in either blue or pink:
And then they got 4 or 5 different Valentine hearts. As I said, they are supposed to give them away, but it seems people like to hoard them! These are Kim Berlin's at Sterling Brands:
Kirsten Skipp has added one to a shrine:
Mark Mushet might have given the rest away like a good boy ...
Nik Hafermass has added his to his growing collection:
Stanley Hainsworth has made an odd justaposition:
Darling Tan Le is ready to cash in:
But the amazing Stefan Bucher really knew what to do! ... crazy kid!!
The process for making these was documented by Lynda.com. in this VIDEO!
With big thanks to David White and Scott Erickson and all the folks at Lynda.com.
You might be wondering how you get on my Valentine list. The answer is it's tough. This is a monumental effort for me each year so I'm not anxious to expand the list. However, hiring me and paying me gobs of cash is a pretty sure bet. ;)
This cover for Creative Review has my name on it because they wanted it, even over my slight objection. Well, there is a profile of me in the mag, so ...
The theme of the issue is "Dream Studios" so I imagined my dream studio, which is similar in location to what I have, but in a sleek modernist building with lots of windows.
It's printed on an uncoated textured paper with silver foil, so it's pretty bitchin'.
(btw, on the CR site you can also see a page spread which shows a photo of me by my friend Mark Mushet.)
Each year, for the Alliance Graphique International (AGI) congress, members are invited to contribute something to an exhibit. This year, for the Porto Congress, the theme was "Process" and we were asked to make a map of our process. So I documented each step of a project I was working on at the time, and compiled the whole thing into a step-by-step map of my process.
It was a tragedy when this cover for a Canadian magazine (name changed to protect the innocent) was rejected.
Given carte blanche to design a special edition cover in red, black and silver, this was my intended design. The job was killed part way through, but I liked it so much I decided to finish it.
Wallpaper* Magazine asked me once again to be a part of their exhibit at the Salon del Mobile in Milan this year. They approached me to apply graphics to a Laser Sailboat.
It just so happens, I’ve always wanted a Laser.
I decided to avoid the obvious of working with organic forms to go with wind, water etc., and instead work deliberately against those forms. I wanted to make something that was incredibly distinctive in the water, and which would disguise its speed and versatility. To create an optical illusion of sorts, of something that looked like it didn’t belong in the water at all, much like the cubist patterns of WWI & WWII “dazzle” naval camouflage.
This is the finished boat, and the photo as it ran in the August 2010 “Handmade” issue of Wallpaper*. The photo is by Benedict Redgrove.
I worked with Sarah Douglas at Wallpaper*, James Lund Lack at Laser Performance, Alastair Goodall at Inchmere Design in the UK, and John Brooks at Hyde Sail in the Philippines.
And here’s the transom:
The sail, being a one-off*, was hand painted:
And here is someone in the UK taking it for a spin on a sad little English day before it was shot for Wallpaper. (Thanks to James Lund Lack for the photos.)
But here’s the good news! YOU CAN BUY ONE! Wallpaper is making a limited edition of 12, each for the small sum of £10,000. How can you resist? Order yours from Wallpaper* now!
It’s been making some … er … waves in the sailing community, too.
I’m a big fan of the band The National, so when I got a call to do a gig poster for them, I was very excited. This wasn’t to be a poster that would hang on the streets, but would be more of a commemoration of the event, for sale at one concert only: at the Wiltern in LA. I’ve never been to The Wiltern, but I’ve admired the building from the street and I knew it by name. It’s a beautiful Art Deco building, and while I didn’t want to do a Deco poster, I did want to reference the geometry somehow.
But also, I was thinking about how it would be dark in there, and maybe hard to see. Thinking about concerts, etc., I decided to make a poster that was actually 3 posters in one. By using Black, Flourescent pink and Glow-in-the-dark inks, I made a poster that would look one way in daylight (above), another way in Black Light (or ultraviolet light):
and different again in the dark:
The poster was screen-printed by Delicious Design League; great poster designers in their own right.
For this year’s Salon del Mobile in Milan, the highly inventive, active and innovative company droog decided to buy various lots of remaindered items from liquidation sales, and then offered the batches of unusual things to 14 designers to transform in some way. Things like glassware and safety vests and dog baskets and wooden spoons … none of it particularly nice, so it was a challenge.
From the lot I chose 2 items: a single wooden table, and 80 wooden folding chairs.
For the folding chairs, well, I had this wacky idea. I had just had my fingernails done in LA for the first time, and I was fascinated with how quickly and nicely the manicurist put designs on my nails. So I proposed to droog that we get 80 manicurists and get one each to decorate a chair. Incredibly, they went for it. In the end there were only 4 or 5 manicurists, but still.
This is the first time ever that I have done something that was only concept, in which I designed nothing, and touched nothing with my actual hands.
These were my instructions:
bright colours: pink, red, yellow, etc.
opaque colours: white or nail polishes with a lot of white in them: light blues, greens, etc.
neon colours (a whole chair in neon colours would be cool: it would glow in blacklight!!)
metallic colours: the more shiny-metallic they are, the more they will stand out on the dark surface. Silver, copper, glitter .. .I have found that even metallic dark greens and blues look quite good.
They can choose a colour “theme” or make it multi-coloured.
I’m not looking for works of art. Keep the designs simple and easy to make.
Flowers are very easy to make: 3- , 4-, and 5-petaled flowers
or little grasses, stars, abstract things with shapes and dots (I like this a lot).
Maybe there is some design they have learned that they are good at: a little butterfly or ladybug or something. Whatever they are, they should be small and simple, as though they were done on a fingernail … but there will be lots of them. I would prefer that they pick one or two little designs and just do that over and over, over the surface of the chair. Something they get good at and can do quickly and easily. NO big design pictures, no scenes or designs that would not fit on a finger nail … it should look pretty and delicate.
The Centraal Museum Utrecht bought one of these chairs, but droog still has a lot. The plan is to ship them to the droog store in New York, I believe, where they will be for sale, and more will be made.
Photos by Stefanie Grätz, courtesy of droog.
Wooden folding chairs
OK, for this year’s Salon del Mobile in Milan, the highly inventive, active and innovative company droog decided to buy various lots of remaindered items from liquidation sales, and then offered the batches of unusual things to 14 designers to transform in some way. Things like glassware and safety vests and dog baskets and wooden spoons … none of it particularly nice, so it was a challenge.
From the lot I chose 2 items: a single wooden table, and 80 wooden folding chairs.
For the table I had the idea that I wanted to print an overt “call to action” message on the table. Droog items can be pretty expensive so I imagined someone with quite a lot of disposable cash, and what it is I wanted to say to them … how I might possibly be able to influence them or their guests.
So the table says “Get up from this table and go make a contribution to Doctors Without Borders. Donate enough that it hurts a little. Then come back to this table and enjoy your meal. Really, really enjoy your meal.”
(Choosing DWB as a charity was a tough call. I like what they do, but I hate the awkwardness of their name. Oh well.)
But no one likes to have an overt message in their face all the time, so it’s disguised as an attractive pattern. This way, I imagine visitors coming over for dinner, looking at the table, figuring out what it says, and then, yes, maybe … do you think they might …?
However, on the first day of the Salon, the Centraal Museum Utrecht bought one of everything in the droog collection … and there was only one table. So, now it’s in a museum, which is great, but it kindof defeats the dining purpose of the message.
Stay tuned however, for possibly more editions of the table.
Images courtesy of droog. Top image by Stefanie Grätz.
Chip Kidd recommended me for this project to do a poster for the Academy of American Poets to promote April as National Poetry Month. I worked with Christina LaPrease and Tree Swenson on this (interestingly I used to do typesetting for Tree, a million years ago), and they gave me several poetry quotes to choose from. I chose, “We make a dwelling in the evening air / In which being there together is enough.” from the poem “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour,” by Wallace Stevens.
Being a visual person I interpreted this as a romantic space which is both interior and exterior. But Tree knows more about poetry than I do, and in a very kind and complimentary letter to me she said, “You’ve created a most fitting visual pairing for the Stevens excerpt—giving a clear sense of of the ‘intensest rendezvous’ in the poem. The centripedal energy in the poster also gently urges one to go where ‘we collect ourselves,’ as Stevens advises.”
For me, I am happy that 200,000 of these are printed and being distributed to schools across the U.S. Promoting poetry is something I am more than happy to do.
Printed in CMYK + Gold.
This year I had the idea to make my valentines from old Christmas cards.
I solicited my friends to send me all their used Christmas cards, and I started getting exciting envelopes of cards in the mail. Many, many cards. This must be what it’s like to be popular!
I created the design of the heart for laser cutting … I wanted most of the card image to be cut away, but there to be enough left that some semblance of image remained; that you could tell it came from a christmas card.
I then consulted with Arkwel Industries here in Vancouver about the production. They got totally behind the idea, and Nancy Lock and her boss, Bill, also sent me a huge batch of used cards.
The laser cutter is fussy, so then I had to sort the cards, discarding any with multi-layers or glued-on bits, and sorting the rest into card weight, which I did just with a primitive snap-test.
Then I trimmed them so that the heart would fall in the most interesting part of the card.
The final result exceeded my most hopeful expectations.
I simply couldn’t believe how transformed the cards were …
How these cards (most of which were, in their original state, nothing special, or even downright ugly) gained so much more from the process.
How abstracted the designs became.
And how incredibly attached I became to each and every card. They were very hard to give away.
I made about 500, and every single one is different.
Here’s Ed Fella’s card, hanging in his office:
They looked so great all together:
Vector Art / Laser cut
For New York Magazine’s end of decade issue, Chris Dixon asked me to create a full page illustration of the words “The 00s” with the most emphasis on the 00 part. Other people were creating title pages as well, and they would be distributed throughout the magazine to separate the sections.
This piece is officially dedicated to Henrik Kubel, for giving me the idea of working in foil. This assignment conveniently came up shortly thereafter and I was overjoyed with the results. Depending on how I shot it, it reflected colours, had different hues, and was just generally all-round pretty.
This is the one I chose in the end for the mag, because they wanted it to be “punchy.”
However … as it turns out, editorial ran over and many of the title pages didn’t run. Well … it did, as a 1×1.5-inch thumbnail on the contents page.
This time, I was invited, along with 10 other designers (including Milton Glaser, Louise Fili, Neville Brody, Chip Kidd, among others) to design one of 10 special covers for GQ Italia’s 10th anniversary issue.
Of all the things I’ve done recently, this is my favourite. It’s structured, manly yet pretty, n’est-ce pas?
(printed in CMYK + silver)
John Gall at Random House invited me to take part in a project whereby 21 designers are invited to create a cover for reissues of Nabokov’s books … but within the prescribed format of creating a specimen box (Nabokov collected butterflies) with pins and “paper”, to create the cover.
Ten of these new designs are just being issued now, with wonderful covers by Carin Goldberg, Sam Potts, Michael Bierut, Stephen Doyle and the ever-amazing Martin Venezky, among others.
My book was “Transparent Things” so I used the pins to suspend 4 layers of acetate, with dots of transparent ink on each later.
And below is the picture I took of it, in sunlight.
You can view all (or almost all) of the covers here, at Design Observer. (Including a more eloquent description of the project, by John Gall.)
Emilie Lamy of the design magazine étapes in France, asked me to contribute a piece for their upcoming book celebrating 15 years of the magazine.
She asked me to create something for the 15 years, but also to reflect my process in the piece.
The tiling unit for this piece is a “15”, and the piece then shows how it goes from one little sketch, to a repeated pattern which evolves and changes from left to right. Plus of course, there is a “15” in the larger, resulting image.
David Huyck asked me to contribute something to Vol 1. Edition 3 of his Cloudy Collection, on the theme of “Scarlet Lettering”. Printed letterpress in red plus blind deboss, this is perhaps the most difficult-to-read piece I’ve made yet.
This, along with 6 others by various artists, are for sale at the Cloudy Collection website for $40US (for all 6 incl. free shipping to the US and Canada), with part of the proceeds going to the Nature conservatory.
The original, in pen and ink, is a little easier to read. Sort of. It’s two poems, or odes regarding my complex feelings for a certain individual … though, to make matters worse, there is a typo in one of the lines. Oops.
pen & ink
After attending Design Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this year, I was asked to do the cover for the next issue of the Design Indaba magazine. It’s a great conference, by the way, if you ever get a chance to go, do!
Todd Falkowsky of Motherbrand in Toronto approached me to design a … a … well, see, there’s this machine that squishes pennies, just like we used to do on the railroad tracks when we were kids (only it’s safer) and it has the ability to impress a new image into the penny, turning the penny into an oval copper thing. So Todd wanted to get 4 designers to make designs for this machine, and then set the machine out somewhere and give the proceeds (I think it costs $2, plus the penny) to an art studio for street youth.
I just liked the idea of squishing pennies … though, isn’t there a law against this? Doesn’t it come under “defacing the queen” or something?
Anyway, So I thought about what one might conceivably want to have on a copper thing that might mingle with your change in your pocket. Ultimately I decided on “Empathy”, because really that’s all the world needs is a whole lotta empathy, and I imagined that you might look at that Empathy penny from time to time and it might actually influence how you viewed a situation.
Then, for the design, I was interested in putting the “round” back in the distorted penny. Or maybe I’m just into circles right now (yes.)
Where can you get this? Only one location: at the Design Exchange in Toronto.
The three other designers were Douglas Coupland, Burton Kramer and Paul Butler, so if you want my design, make sure you turn the dial to the right position!
Vector Art / Copper
My 2009 valentines were a bit of a departure in a number of ways. They were more “conceptual” than previous years. Where previously I sent a nice or pretty something that was either straight forward or easy enough to figure out, this one is a bit more mysterious. This year I wrote 4 fragments of letters; each has no beginning and no end; and each is carefully crafted to hopefully have some resonance with most people. Each recipient got one fragment.
My expectation is that the first, predominant feeling would be confusion. I neither addressed nor signed the letters (though the mailing label said “Happy Valentine’s Day from Marian Bantjes”). They look like they could be an original, by hand. Is this meant for the recipient? Is it from Marian Bantjes? Did Marian forget part of it? Or is it some kind “found fragment”? The prose is over the top, in that love-letter kind of way … yeah, you might say it’s purple.
My hope is that the recipient will read the letter at least twice; and that on 2nd or 3rd readings they will find something in it for them, something that makes them believe that somehow through unknown means, I have known something about them all along.
Happy Valentine’s Day (belated).
... also written up on Eye Magazine’s Blog.
Pen & Ink
Michael Bierut at Pentagram hired me to draw some thistles for a new mark for Strathmore Papers. I did various versions, all designed to work as repeating patterns as well, and this was the one they chose.
Katie Barcelona, at Pentagram, worked on these ream wraps with Michael … I think there’s more stuff to come.
I am having the first show of my work at the University Art Gallery (Dept. Art and Design) of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, from Jan 9–Feb 20, 2009.
Oddly enough, this is the first time I’ve made a poster for myself. I originally planned to make the whole thing in fun fur, but it didn’t work out so well, so I used scraps of fun fur, including making my name … which turned an elegant hand-drawn script into something that looks a lot like a tarantula. I threw in some patterning, some vector art, some pencil drawings, including a sketch for the poster itself and a little drawing of me, and the result is kindof a mix of what I’ve done in the past plus what I’m interested in in the future. It’s precise, and a little odd, and a little funny … I hope.
The show itself has over 100 pieces, including some video, 25 or so original drawings, some paintings, posters, photos, etc.
Big, big thanks to Jeff VanKleeck, who invited me to have the show, and who is working his ass off to get it ready.
I’ll also be speaking at CalPoly on Jan 16th, 2009.
Oh, yeah … details typeface is H&FJ’s Acropolis. One of my faves.
Vector, Fun-fur, pencil
This one of my favourite pieces so far.
R-Wines, from Australia, wanted a poster with the names of all of their suppliers, to give to them as a present.
I drew 30 grapes, of different varieties (who knew they were so colourful?) each hiding a letter of the alphabet. But then I had to place them … a total of approximately 2,130 grapes!
Here’s a detail:
This is a groovy isometric patterned cover I did for the “Signs, Symbols, Ornaments” issue of the German mag Slanted.
Oddly, something happened when the file was processed. The red (now pink) overprinted instead of knocking out … or is it the black? Anyway, my original design is below, but I’m not sure which i prefer.
And here’s the front and back cover together (before it was printed):
When I was asked to speak at Pop!Tech this year, I was also asked to create a poster for the attendees. I knew that Pop!Tech is an eclectic conference and there would be many kinds of speakers presenting on different topics. So I didn’t want to include specific words that might mean something to some but nothing to others. The theme of the conference, however, was “Scarcity and Abundance” so I decided to visually work with that at a concept. The result is sortof “Mondrian goes to Tehran”.
This poster is narrow so that it could easily roll up into a small tube and fit in anyone’s suitcase.
Many people at the conference told me they really love it.
This is my latest poster for the GDC/BC. I’m not on the board any more, but occasionally I like to get a poster in. This one is for a speaker series talk on Sustainability, only they wanted it to be different from the usually “green preaching” ... so this design signals something different, allright.
I LOVE it!