Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Not To Be An Art Thief.

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a.k.a. The Ballad of Thomas Porostocky vs. Dave Warren

First, don't steal another person's artwork. Second, don't lie about stealing another person's artwork in a public forum while belittling the original artist and boasting about your apparent legend.

Further, when not stealing their artwork, don't arrogantly state that you came up with it yourself via "free clip art" only to later admit that you had someone else at your agency in charge of this – and that they obviously did steal the artwork. So there you go, a lesson on how not to be an art thief.

Enjoy, and follow the paper trail…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dawn Of The Modern (Caffeinated) Santa Claus

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Thomas Nast, famous illustrator and cartoonist, is credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus. He first drew Santa Claus for the cover of Harper's Weekly in January 1863. He was shown clothed in the Union flag, memorializing the sacrifices made by the north early in the Civil War, and bringing gifts to the troops encamped on the battlefields. Nast is also often credited several Santa Claus traditions, including his workshop, writing letters to Santa, etc.

Essentially, Nast combined the tradition of Saint Nicholas with another German folk tradition, elves, to draw his Santa. Luckily for Coca-Cola, Nast chose red and white for Santa's "color scheme" and they began integrating Santa into their holiday advertising in the 1920s. Up until this point, Coca-Cola was considered a summer drink but Coke's "Thirst Knows No Season" campaign quickly changed that forever.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010: A Reading Wish List

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From the legendary Alvin Lustig and the beautifully agitating James Victore to Cees De Jong's collection of Typography from the early 20th century, I'm filled with consumerism-based desires for these three books released in 2010. Admittedly I'm not as much of a reader like I used to be, but I never tire of visual inspiration and I'm thinking we all need to hop on these for 2011.

"Graphic design is a big fucking club with spikes in it, and I want to wield it."
– James Victore

"I make solutions nobody wants, to problems that don’t exist."
– Alvin Lustig

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thin the Herd, the Great Cull is Coming Down…

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While I worked this past week on my brush lettering typeface, I found myself inking the name "Killing Joke" (and later, the cover graphic) while playing their outstanding new album, Absolute Dissent. There's nothing quite like the feeling of putting that brush to paper and seeing the ink come alive. It's something a Wacom tablet never will – no matter how hard it tries – be able to replicate.

"Thin the Herd, the Great Cull is Coming Down…"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

In Memoriam: Peter Christopherson

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Peter Christopherson – legendary commercial artist, designer, photographer, videographer and musician – passed away last week on November 25.

In 1974, Christopherson joined forces with Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powerll at Hipgnosis and went on to create many famous album covers including Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, Animals and Peter Gabriel's first three solo albums – most notably the legendary "melting face" artwork. For the record, Christopherson said this regarding his time at Hipgnosis:
"I worked as a free-lance photographer and contributor, then promoted to an assistant to Hipgnosis before becoming a partner, and continued to act also after I officially left the organization. So my contributions range from attempted but rejected artwork or design work, to partial contribution in either/both as an assistant, to being fully responsible for all design and artwork, such as the Peter Gabriel LPs. What you wish to document is up to you."
Christopherson went on to form Throbbing Gristle, early pioneers of industrial music, only to later join Psychic T.V. before forming his own group, Coil. As a music video director, he worked with Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Robert Plant, Rage Against the Machine, Sepultura, Paul McCartney, The The, Van Halen, Yes, and many more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Information Graphics: Government Style

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a redesign of its Fuel Economy and Environmental Comparison labels that are legally required to be posted on all new vehicles for sale in the U.S. Information graphics are a challenge on any given day but especially so when it's dealing with such a hot button topic.

All new cars and light-duty trucks sold in the U.S. are required to have a label that displays fuel economy information that is designed to help consumers make easy and well-informed comparisons between vehicles. Most people recognize the current label (or “window sticker”) by the gas tank graphic and city and highway Miles Per Gallon (MPG) information. EPA has provided fuel economy estimates in City and Highway MPG values for more than 30 years.

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are updating this label to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all vehicles types, including electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and conventional gasoline/diesel vehicles. The agencies are incorporating new information, such as ratings on fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and other air pollutants, onto the label as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

The agencies are proposing two different label designs (see right) and are eager to gather public input. Specifically, which design, or design features, would best help you compare the fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts of different vehicles.

I voted already! For your chance to do the same, go here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The House That Nat Built.

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While working for Capitol/EMI as an in-house Production Designer, our Creative Services department was eventually moved into the legendary digs of the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood. I couldn't have been more thrilled, of course, especially when I was granted my own office on the 8th floor with windows and a full view of the Hollywood sign and its rolling hills.

And not unlike Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with Devil's Tower, I had a penchant for drawing the tower during meetings, at home, etc. Thankfully, of course, I never worked into mashed potatoes or worse. Included above is one such drawing of mine from 2008, done from memory.

As a buff of both history and music, I reveled in the every square inch of its circular interior, as designed by architect Welton Becket. From attending staff mixers in the historic Capitol Studios having access to Frank Sinatra's microphone and Nat King Cole's piano to seeing the likes of Barry Manilow and more in the lobby and thinking of every artist who walked those halls from The Beatles, Beach Boys and Les Paul to The Band and Beastie Boys. Indeed, the tower and its past were a constant source of inspiration for both me and my design.

* All photos by yours truly except lower right, taken by Steve Silvas.

To download a 34 page, 4.5mb PDF I created featuring historic images, postcards, beautiful pages from the grand opening booklet from April 1956 and more – simply email me at and I'll send it your way.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


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Looking ahead to a new calendar year, I wanted to create a PORTFOLIO-specific site that would allow my work to be viewed with ease while also allowing the blog to stand on its own exclusively as a blog. New work, along with a weekly blog, will continue to appear here at the Blogspot address of course. To visit the portfolio in the future, feel free to click on the links to the right to access the portfolio site at any time.

While always a tedious venture, going through one's professional archives is a fun experience to see what pieces stand out after all of these years. Naturally, I focused on work over the past 3-4 years but occasionally an oldie-but-goody will appear now and again for good measure!

Check it out at your leisure and, as always, thanks for stopping by. – Cheers, Tom b.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Roger Gorman & I at PCA&D

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On Friday, November 12th at 10:00 a.m., I'll be hosting an open-to-the-public Q&A between Roger Gorman & I in the Atrium at PCA&D. Roger's work has been honored with design awards from the Art Directors Clubs of New York and Los Angeles, the Society of Publication Designers, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, ID magazine and Print magazine. His music clients range from Metallica and Helmet to David Bowie and John Lennon while his corporate clients include MTV, VH-1, Coca-Cola, Bacardi, Exxon, and more.

As the founder of Reiner Design, graduate of St. Martin's College of Art & Design in London and Grammy-winning designer of David Bowie's Sound + Vision box set – Roger & I worked together on several projects, most notably the highly-acclaimed coffin box set for The Misfits where Roger brought to life my vision for the packaging as I cared to my A&R duties.

Together Roger & I will be discussing his entire career, sharing anecdotes of designing for the music, corporate and publishing industries, and delving both verbally and visually into many works from his archives..

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 Collage Annual Report

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Featuring cover art by students Sean Marley (left) and Julianna Jordi (right), the 8-page, the 2010 Collage Annual Report is complete. Front cover art is above while the back cover is below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Momentary Gap In Reason

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Regardless of whatever Marka Hansen, Gap North America's President, has to say – the idea to update the Gap logo isn't the problem. In fact, the idea makes perfect sense after all this time. It's the design itself, however… well, that's another story altogether. Whose fault that is, be it Gap's, the agency who drafted the logo or a combination of both, is not mine to decide. Only those involved in the process will ever truly understand where the blame lies. And in a design sense, there's plenty of blame to go around.

A logo that has more to do with "actual student work" than an iconic clothing retailer has no business seeing the light of day. As a teacher, I wouldn't have accepted its cold, bruised blue and black scheme, its pedestrian use of Helvetica (including the bastardized "G") and its overall lack of imagination from a 2nd year design student – let alone an art director and subsequent team of designers doing work on behalf of a multi-billion dollar company.

In the end, Gap Inc. clearly don't get what happened here. “We’ve learned a lot in this process,” Hansen added. “And we are clear that we did not go about this in the right way. We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.” No, Ms. Hansen, you went about this the right way but did so with the wrong design. It's that simple.

With that said, good luck to Gap Inc. as they pander to their customer base with both withdrawn crowd sourcing and statements like the one above. They've started sliding headfirst down a very slippery slope and I, for one, applaud the public for bashing this horrendous work of design.

For more, go here and here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In The House Industries Cul-De-Sac…

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WHAT: Field trip for the History of Communication Arts studio class
WHEN: Friday, October 15th, 2010
WHERE: Brandywine River Museum, House Industries

The classroom can be a bubble if you you don't get outside of it once in a while, of course, and this field trip created a powerful combination of traditional applied arts, materials, techniques and contemporary work steeped in tradition. After a morning spent at the Brandywine River Museum, soaking in American works from both the fine and applied art worlds, our group moved to House Industries for a personal tour of their offices. Although I've had a relationship with the House guys for 13 years and even had them to PCA&D as guest speakers back in 2008, I hadn't visited their headquarters. So, for me as well as for the students – this was a treat.

The ever-gracious Andy Cruz (co-founder, co-owner and art director) and Brian Awitan (security, muscle and all-around ambassador) were joined by Ben Kiel (type master, teacher) for both a 2:15 and 3:15 tour for our students. During the 3:15 tour, we were joined by Rich Roat (co-founder, co-owner and operator) and Ken Barber (type master, teacher) as well. Hijinks ensued throughout the afternoon, for sure. Stories, laughs, inside jokes and memories of grandiose mistakes made along the way were shared with the students. There's no one single path to success and it's safe to say that House paved their very own unique one.

As a collective, the students were presented with a variety of image and business-based concepts including press sheets, illustration originals, type design, printed finals, the soon-to-be-launched Photo-Lettering website and – most importantly – the passionate philosophy that made House Industries one of the elite studios of our generation.

It was a lot to soak in, for sure, but hopefully everyone left looking at typography and illustration in a whole new way. For as much as I already knew about House already, I know I did…

"You had better watch your back
When you're in my cul-de-sac.
'Cause there ain't no goin' back
If your mom's Volvo gets a scratch."
– Badneck "Suburban Curse"
(taken from the Blaktur font package CD)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A "Double Elephant" Folio for the Record Books

(above images by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP)

As both an environmentalist and a vegetarian, I consider John James Audobon's illustrated works in Birds of America to be both inspiring artwork as well as works of reflection. Bold and brilliant in every way, Audobon's beautiful pieces showed the world what natural and mesmerizing beauty inhabited this country's shores – still largely free of human influence.

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Published as a series of sections between 1827 and 1838, No. 11 of the 100 or so remaining copies is going up for auction on December 7th at Sotheby's London. The collection of 435 hand-colored prints, created from engravings of Audobon's illustrations, measures more than 3 feet by 2 feet because Audobon wanted to paint the birds life size. By doing so, Audobon was quoted as calling this edition the "double elephant" folio.

Interested? Expect to bid between 4 million and 6 million pounds, or $6.2 and $9.2 million. After all, a copy sold at auction in 2000 for $8,802,500, which remains to this day a world record for any printed book.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This Boy Loves Country Design…

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Hitting the stores on October 12th on Capital Nashville is Trace Adkins' The Definitive Greatest Hits: Til The Last Shot’s Fired 2xCD collection. Please note that for anyone buying the album on iTunes, I created a digital booklet featuring the full package art for this release as well.

Overall, I wanted the collection to have a cohesive look and in order to help me achieve that, I worked exclusively with a beautiful photoshoot by Kristen Barlowe. Without question, the quality of the images allowed me do so much more with the design as they truly captured the essence of Trace's character and image.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Field Trip, NYC-Style (2010)

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Every year the students and select faculty of PCA&D's Graphic Design department venture to NYC for a day of art in the big city. This year, we arrived a little early so I led some of the students through nearby Times Square. Sadly, due to limited time, we had to turn down an offer from Extra who invited our group to gather around the set of their upcoming interview with Motley Crue's Vince Neil. Only in NYC, right? We missed you, Mr. Neil.

The official festivities, all rock and roll escapades aside, began when Pam Barby started the day off with a visit to the offices of multi-media giants, Firstborn. Dan LaCivita, President of Firstborn, gave everyone a fantastic presentation of their cutting edge work – and the process behind it – for Doritos, Sobe and the Titanic. Coming from a self-proclaimed "visual engineer of the printed matter," my brain was exploding at all the cutting edge, multi-media experience conceptual work the agency creates. To say the least, the students truly enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look into how the marketing of major brand products is both conceived and executed.

After we departed Firstborn, I took a group of 15+ students with me on my "Chelsea Experience" tour of the city's storied and art-filled west side neighborhood (and my former home). It's my opinion that designers should be artists first and foremost and the goal of my tour was to expose students to a balance of design and fine art.

Art was put aside for the moment, however, as our first stop was Patsy's Pizzeria on 23rd for lunch. So much for the starving artists, right? Patsy's, while very different than St. Mark's Pizza on the L.E.S., bakes up some of the best crust and sauce in the city.

Our second stop was Printed Matter; the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of publications made by artists. For those interested in the avant-garde, the alternative printing processes and the feeling of unique books and packaging – Printed Matter is a dream of a book store. Next, we took in Pace Gallery's "50 Years at Pace" celebration. Pace have 5 spaces throughout Chelsea and each featured a unique look at the work they've represented over their five decades of art in NYC. Between the 2 spaces we stopped in, we were able to observe iconic works by Close, Johns, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Steinberg, Pollock, DeBuffet, Nevelson, Oldenburg, Warhol, Lichtenstein and beyond – most of which were on loan from the Tate, Whitney, MOMA, National Museum of the Smithsonian and beyond, unlikely to ever be hung together as a singular show again.

And finally, everyone on the trip was to reconvene at MOMA for Target Free Friday nights there. Thankfully my group was able to soak in legendary mid-20th century art at Pace because MOMA's 4th floor exhibit of their work from this period was closed. MOMA's highlights included the "Shaping Modernity: Design 1880–1980" and "Underground Gallery: London Transport Posters 1920s–1940s" exhibits. After a couple hours at the museum, it was time to head home and while I was loving the day of art, my body was telling me it was time to rest.

Overall, NYC offers up so many unique experiences and I was happy to share some of my favorite places with my students. I'm already thinking ahead to next year's trip and what we'll be able to put together in 2011. Until then…

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Week In The Life…

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I, like 10 quadrillion people before me, hold Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr close to my heart. Since first entering the ranks of the music industry, my life has been full of fantastic moments that brought my childhood adoration full circle. From meeting, working, eating, drinking, designing for and traveling with musicians I grew up idolizing – I've lived a blessed life.

The latest moment for me was being granted the privilege of doing production design on CD + T-shirt box packages for The Beatles and John Lennon that will hit the stores later in the fall. To have Apple Records come back and say that these "look really good" is a truly surreal moment for me. After all, as far back as the early 70s, I can remember holding The Beatles records and staring at the green apple on Side A and the exposed, white apple core on Side B. And now I'm placing that very apple into a production design of my own. Life is pretty good…

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Photo-Lettering, Revived

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In yet another unique endeavor, the certifiable type nerds over at House Industries have purchased the archives of Photo-Lettering and plan to launch a design web-service where designers will be able to build custom headlines, logotypes and more. Here's more information on the venture, from the H.I. press release:

"House Industries, a Yorklyn, Delaware-based independent type foundry, purchased the entire physical assets of Photo-Lettering in April of 2003. Through a partnership with Ken Barber, Christian Schwartz and Erik van Blokland, House Industries is carefully digitizing select alphabets from the collection and plans to offer them through a modern web-based interface.

"Photo-Lettering was a mainstay of the advertising and design industry in New York City from 1936 to 1997. PLINC, as it was affectionately known to art directors, was one of the earliest and most successful type houses to utilize photo technology in the production of commercial typography and lettering. It employed such design luminaries as Ed Benguiat and sold type drawn by the likes of Herb Lubalin, Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast as well as countless other unsung lettering greats. The company is best known by most of today's graphic designers for its ubiquitous type catalogs."

Look for the web-service here later in 2010 and sign up to be the first to know! In the meantime, there's a great set of 20" x 26" plywood prints and serigraphs available here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2010 PCA&D Faculty Biennial

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Although open to the public since August 6th, the artist reception for PCA&D's 2010 Faculty Biennial exhibit was held on Friday, September 3rd. I had 3 items on display: the Century Media 20th anniversary series of CD covers, a photograph taken at Spring Grove Hospital and the Misery Obscura: The Photography Of Eerie Von (1981-2009) book.

Thanks to everyone for coming out on First Friday. It was a gorgeous night to see fellow faculty, friends, family and students out on the town in support of the arts.

(The 3 photos below were taken by Jennifer Martin.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2 Artists, 2 Portraits

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Whilst digging through my archives of works on paper, I came upon a couple portraits from the early 1990s. One of a great artist and inspirational figure in my life, illustrator Ralph Steadman (above), and the other of an old friend and neighbor in New York City, photographer Horacio Salinas (below).

I sent the work of Mr. Steadman to his home address in England around 1993, along with a photo of myself, in hopes of exchanging portraits with him. Instead, I received a letter from his wife, as well as my drawing and photograph, politely declining my request stating that, "Ralph doesn't do this kind of thing." If only I could find that letter some 10 moves around the country later. Anyway, I digress…

Horacio's portrait was based on a photograph I took of him in around 1994 during our time as neighbors in my first apartment in Chelsea, NYC. Horacio and I lost touch many, many years ago now but I recently found his website packed with truly inspiring, high-end work. I'm not in the least bit surprised, mind you, even in his youth he was a ridiculously talented photographer.

For more on the artists themselves:
Find Ralph's work here and Horacio's here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Out of Print Clothing

(click image to link to shop)

I saw a few of these in an Urban Outfitters store in Philly a couple years back but inexcusably forgot about them until my friend Gregg recommended the Out of Print Clothing site to me. Low and behold it was the same folks only with more classic designs by the likes of George Salter, Paul Bacon, the utterly brilliant illustrator Rockwell Kent and arguably the 20th century's greatest graphic designer, Alvin Lustig. The problem is picking just one or two to buy, you know?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PCA&D Admissions Viewbook 2010-2011

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Also receiving a 2nd go-around this year is my design for the PCA&D "viewbook" for the Admissions department. It features the same proportions but different imagery than the 2009-2010 version, of course. As with the accompanying poster, a brand new design concept will come together for next year's edition.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PCA&D Admissions Poster 2010-2011

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A set of new imagery combined with an alternate, vertical layout resulted in the PCA&D Admissions 2010-20011 poster. The 2009-2010 edition was horizontal in composition but Natalie & Co. wanted to change things up this time around. The process resulted in a shifting of the title copy and, naturally, a new alignment of student artwork. Overall, the poster is folded into 6 panels per side with the front being full color and the back being B&W with the latter broken down by the folded panels for both mailing and reading purposes.

All told, I'm very pleased with how the original look is holding up in its 2nd full year of use. With that said, however, watch for brand new design concepts to come together for next year's PCA&D Admissions materials. I'm looking forward to it already…