Some old artwork I dredged up from an archived project.
I know… it’s been a while. Instead of spending time making excuses (there really are none to make), I’m going to share a preview of a soon-to-be-released project.
A while ago I did a branding project with Toronto-based DJ & techno producer Cosella. This involved the creation of a logo & logotype, graphic standards (brand colours, fonts, etc), and the implementation of the new logo in a number of social-media and web based assets to be used in an upcoming re-brand. The re-brand, which is to be timed with the official EP release, will roll out a Facebook page, website and official EPK.
In the mean time, however, he was so happy with the outcome of our branding project that he asked me to design the artwork for a number of his upcoming mini-releases - a series of hour-long mixes. At the top of this post is a preview of the first one. The artwork will feature a series of patterns - the first of which (as you can probably tell) is a leopard pattern - reflecting a series of different sounds that his mixes will contain.
The popularity of the square format is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to certain make-your-own-artsily-colored-photo services such as instagr.am.
The hasselblad-inspired aspect ratio is becoming was initially conceptualized by the 1600F, a medium format camera put out by the company in the late 1940’s that produced square photographs instead of the rectangular aspect we are all used to.
But Sasha, you are probably thinking to yourself. Why are you giving us these useless photo-history lessons on a design blog? What does this have to do with design?
There are two answers to this question: The first being that as a photographer, I am genuinely interested in photographic history and current trends in photography. Ha!
It is relevant to you, however, because of the useful lessons we can all take away from square-format of photography. The first, and probably most important take-away, is…
With a square image, the eye moves in a circle instead of left to right (as it does in rectangular images). Thus, elements can be placed in the center, or balanced on either side of an image or design to create interesting composition. Square images typically benefit most from center-alignment because the spacing is equal on all sides (as opposed to rectangle aspects, in which one dimension has more negative space then the other). This shouldn’t limit you, however, as off-center and even off-frame compositions can still look good within square aspects.
Another great thing about the square aspect is that it contains the eye in a way that the rectangle cannot. As the eye moves in a circle around the square image, you never run off the canvas. The opposite is true of the left-to-right or top-to-bottom rectangle. The eye tends to run off the page. Thus, you can experiment with putting an image or element anywhere on the canvas, without ruining continuity. This also means you can get frisky with sizing and placement of your elements, perhaps letting them run off the page. Since your negative space is all even and equal, the square image has a natural balance.
Tons of rad and awesome things come in square aspects: the pixel, the iPod Nano, the beer coaster (they may be circular sometimes, but you don’t see rectangular coasters), and the grilled-cheese sandwich, to name just a few. And although the aspect ratio is not always something that you have control over in design (as you many times you will be designing for a specific ratio), it is always a good thing to keep in mind, and it is good to get into the habit of thinking about how your aspect ratio affects the space, balance, and composition of your design. It is also good to understand how the eye interprets elements within different shapes, as this can have a definite influence on how and where you place the elements within your design.
Anyway, get out there! I’m going to go have a grilled cheese.
-Your friend The Chemist
Want to know the secret to getting people so stoked on your design skills that they literally fall over each other trying to get at you for jobs? I’d share it with you, but I don’t know it. This is most likely why I spend my time sitting around writing these things instead of making money or doing other productive things .
I will, however, share a sweet little knowledge nugget that I extracted from somebody else’s design project file a while back. Ready for it? How to Create Simple gradient backgrounds that you can fine-tune on demand. You can see it in effect here and here, for example. They work very well as a dynamic background for your designs - and with this technique you wont have to re-create a new radial gradient with the paint bucket tool every time you want to change it.
Step zero: make a new document.
This isn’t really even a step. Any resolution, and dpi - whatever makes sense for your design. In this tutorial I used a 500x500px, 72dpi canvas
Step one - Creating the Fill: create a solid fill using the paint bucket tool and fill your canvas with it. Any colour (with the exception of white or black, or greys) will do. As you will see later, the colour you choose is completely arbitrary, and doesn’t have anything to do with the final output. I used red.
Step 2 - Turn your layer into a smart object: First double click your background layer (the layer with the color fill) to turn it into a regular layer. if the Styles panel comes up, just cancel it. Now, right click your background layer and select “convert to smart object”. See why on the next step.
Step 3 - Add a non destructive noise adjustment: The nice thing about smart objects is that any filters added to them are adjustable and non-destructive. This means that, just like layer styles, you don’t have to undo and redo the adjustment to change them, and you can easily turn the adjustment off at any time without affecting the rest of your image. For now, Add a 1% noise filter (via filters -> Noise -> Add Noise), with Guassian distribution, and monochromatic checked.
Step 4 - Make the Gradient: Now, you’re ready for the gradient. Double click the layer to bring up the layer styles, and add an inner shadow with Distance at 0, Choke at 0, and size at 250px. I have the opacity turned up to 100%, but you can leave it at 70 or lower, depending on how strong you want the gradient to be. Leave everything else at default.
Step 5 - Create an adjustable light source: Create a new layer (I named mine ‘Light’), and add a radial gradient going from white to transparent white. If you start in the middle of your canvas, and your cursor to the top edge, you will get a perfectly centered and sized spotlight. Now, change the blending mode to ‘Overlay’, and the layer opacity to 70. You now can fine-tune the lighting for a more dynamic background by moving your ‘Light’ layer around or changing its opacity.
Step 6 - Hue Shift: Finally, add a hue/saturation adjustment layer above your background layer but underneath your light layer (this is important if you ever want to make turn your gradient white, black, or grey - if you don’t do this correctly, the layer won’t adjust right). Ensure that the ‘layer clipping’ option is turned on. Now you can change the color of your gradient dynamically by dragging the ‘Hue’, ‘Saturation’, and ‘Lightness’ sliders.
Step 7 - Sit back and enjoy the sweet, non-destructive, adjustable gradient you just made. Rad!
Re-branded. For the second time in three days (just a minor adjustment this time).
I think I’m good on this one. More to come, but for now…
Design for real life.
James White’s 2010 Odyssey:
Canadian designer James White is taking retro color to the next level with his designs. This is the kind of stuff most of us (alright, maybe it’s just me) dream about being able to do. Check out more of his work on his website.
This one took me a while. I had the idea for the big ‘S’ and the masked out ‘erpentine’ early on, but incorporating the day was harder, since I couldn’t really use any of the negative space outside of the big ‘S’ without drawing attention away from it. I experimented with more masking and different placements around the ‘S’, but nothing worked. Finally, I realized that the first problem was that I was using a light version of Serpentine for the ‘Sunday’: Instead of creating balanced contrast (as I originally intended it to), the light typeset was not filling enough space, therefor creating imblance. This light vs. heavy tactic might have worked if the words were similar sizes, but the bold copy was so much larger that it overpowered the lighter copy completely. I switched the ‘Sunday’ to bold, and things immediately started to work themselves out. I was left with the choice of which part of the ‘S’ to place the ‘Sunday’ in. This was easy, as the logical decision to keep it visually balanced was the bottom (since ‘Erpentine’ was already on top).
If you don’t know what’s going on, check out Week Project rules here
Anyway, that’s the conclusion of our first #weekproject. Stay tuned for more fun, when I get around to it.
Type: Say It Fat
Deciding to take character/shape masking one step further today, I set out to make a character out of characters (I know, trippy of me, right?) - settling on the exclamation point as it seemed to be one the simplest characters. I used the phenomenal free typeface say it fat from dutch designer Timo Titzmann… which I strongly recommend you all download. I used the font as it was nice and dense, and looked good large - but legible small. Due to the huge areas of positive space and the fact that all of the letters conform to roughy the same line-height, it is easier to mask without mutilating letterforms.
…At least, that’s why I would have chosen it in retrospect. To be honest, I just liked the font, and didn’t even come up with the exclamation mark idea until I’d mucked around for about a half-hour (spoiler: this, also, is how I come up with most of my ideas)
Type: Futura (Condensed and Medium)
After seeing somebody else do it (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?), I decided to experiment a simple rectangular mask to modify the shape of the text - most importantly turning the regular ‘A’ in friday into a sweet-looking designer triangle. Sci-Fi movie poster, anyone?
Check out Week Project rules here