So “shakin’ them pots” is an expression I grew up hearing from my mom, grandmom, aunts etc.  It usually meant they were in the kitchen cooking up a storm.  But, at its very core, it means a lot of hard, passionate work is getting done.  And right now it’s the only expression that comes to mind when I think about the projects I’m working on right now.

The very first post here on A & L was the business card I did for my girlfriend’s blog (which is awesome by the way, check it Here ) and once again I’m cookin’ something up for her.  She and a two super-talented ladies own & operate Triple Gloss Productions, which is a nightlife event planning throwing thingamabob.  Basically they do big-ass parties.  Oddly enough they have little or no corporate material.  No business card, no letterhead, no envelopes…nuthin! They have a website, which it seems they used dilithium crystals to go back to 1996 and steal.  Sorry Ladies, but you all’s website is hurtin’ ! Anywho, Erin enlisted me to develop a business card for Triple Gloss and I jumped on it.  And by doing so she also signed up total visual revamp because, well, they need it.  Hopefully I can knock this one out of Citizen’s Bank so I can do the visuals for their giant ( and I mean GIANT) Halloween party.  I absolutely love doing dark n gritty stuff so I’m aiming to land that project HARD.

Another project I’m workin’ on is a personal favorite and i get giddy every time I think about it.  I happen to be a big fan of classic cocktails.  And a big fan of Gin… Ok I just like drinking. But specifically I like drinking gin cocktails.  In addition to comic books, I have a serious thing for old liquor bottles.  I love product design as a whole but there’s something about designing a liquor bottle that’s satisfying beyond belief.  So what the hell, I decided I’m gonna develop a classically inspired bottle of booze.  I mean, this is a portfolio blog. I definitely need to show some diversity as far as my capabilities go. Annddd it means that I get to empty a bottle for, ahem, research purposes.  “Scuse me for a sec…..Ok I’m back.  Had to make myself a drink.  What? Blogging makes me thirsty…

What else…oh yeah! In the coming weeks I’m gonna create a feature here at A & L, appropriately titled “Throwback Thursdays”.  Every other Thursday, I”m gonna try to post some work that I’ve done as a student.  I, personally, don’t like the idea of filling a portfolio with work I’ve done as a student. Mainly because I consider school work to be an exercise in training and understanding, not generating quality, super-polished work.  I know, no one else sees it this way.  But I do.  So that’s why I’ve been creating all-new work for the blogfolio.  Is that a word? But there are a few things that I’ve done as a student that I think are worth sharing, for any number of reasons.  Also, its nice post old work and compare it to what I can do now. Kinda like when you were a kid and your parents would mark your height as you grew up, you know?  So keep a look out for that one.  Should be pretty interesting.

One last thing I promised myself I’d do.  I promised myself to post some design objectives so that I’d have to live up to them.  In the coming months I really need to focus on logo work, or more accurately simplified shapes and colors.  And overall more commercially viable work.  I like making purposeless stuff that’s just good lookin’.  But that’s not gonna get me any freelance work.  So I have to focus on work and elements that are commercially realistic.  I’ll always find time to satisfy my whimsical daydreams and napkin sketches.  But more professional work is an absolute must.  I’m not gettin’ a pair of Generic Man kicks makin’ pretty pictures for myself!  Alright enough with the jabberjawin’ I need a refill and my sketchbook.

“Big tings a’gwanin” as an old friend used to say!


A stylistic expansion inspired by the opening credits of "Mad Men"

“…It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”

Just when I thought I was gonna make myself out to be a liar, here I am meeting my quota a week earlier.  For those of you just tuning in ( shame on you) , A few posts back (?) I made a little guarantee that I’d have 2 new posts by August 22.  Well here it is, August 17 and POW! Two posts before my self-imposed deadline.  And once again, DAMN it feels good to post new work.  Lets get on with it then, yeah?

So, as I’m sure you can tell, this project here is a poster inspired by my favorite tv program “Mad Men”.  The opening credits are phenomenal in a quite a few ways.  One of which is the fantastic use of the simple, yet refined silhouette of a man as he falls from atop a skyscraper.  Utilizing simple shapes to accurately depict a human form is not an easy feat, by any stretch of the imagination.  There are few tricks to it, but all-in-all you really have to know what you’re doing to pull it off successfully.  The opening credits without a doubt crushed it.   I love it so much that I really wanted to take the same concept and put a personal spin on it.

Like I said I took the basic concept of using a simplified human form and using line and color contrast to create a believable figure.  Now what I chose to do was add a singular layer of detail, seen in the detailing of the slacks, to give the legs some slight definition and weight.  It also happens to add a bit of texture, which was one of my main goals right from the beginning.  Adding texture is one of those little tricks I was talking about earlier.  The slightest amount of texture can bring a silhouette to life in no time flat.  Speaking of texture, I had to figure out a way to incorporate some into the figure without drawing every ounce of attention to it. So I created a granulated, almost scratchy, feeling in the shoes; Not only to set them apart from the hand but to give your eye a reason to move down the figure, and hopefully to the quote and right back up again.

I really focused on retaining the overall feel of the opening credits so I kept the color palette simple, yet masculine and approachable.  I knew right from the beginning that using a lot of black in the figure was not an option, as it would’ve been a little too close to the opening credits, stylistically speaking.  So I did what most guys do when black isn’t an option: Go with Navy.  I chose to use Navy with a grey-ish hint to it as my base hue and then picked a few shades and tints that paired well with it.  Contrast is huge when creating depth and separation and placing the colors together, while fun, is not easy. I feel pretty good about it, though. I think everything is where it needs to be in order to be effective.

With a lot of the (potential) print stuff I do I set out to create a weathered, aged, imperfect feel in the piece.  As with the SOJA poster I did a ways back I added some detailing to create a somewhat damaged feel and to give the impression of a somewhat poor printing job.  I absolutely love doing this, as I believe it can add a certain grit or physical feeling to digital work that you only see in analog work, so to speak.  To some, adding this weathered, damaged feel has become a cliche but for me I think its a great little touch that really adds yet another point of intrest for the viewer to examine.  If you’re lookin’ hard at it, then I’ve done my job!

As I usally do I listened to a specific type of music when working on this project. I actually have the OST to the 1st season of the show so that was a no-brainer.  But I mixed in some Serge Gainsbourg, some Bonobo (do yourself a solid and look into this guy) and some Big Bopper with just a touch of Frank Sinatra.  It really put me in a headspace to create something that captured the essence of the opening credits, yet expanded on it. Something simple, refined , masculine yet has texture and a believable, yet parred-down, level of detail.  I’m not even gonna lie and say I didnt have myself a few Old Fashions while workin’ this project out.  As you can probably tell, I’m real big on creating a vibe when I work.

Ok I gotta rap this up:  I took the concept of the simplified figure from the “Man Men” opening and expanded it by adding a layer of detail while also adding color and texture and spicing it up with some decorative elements.  All in all it was super fun and a great learning experience.

Man, I really gotta work on keepin’ these posts brief.  I’ve worked up a thirst with all this typing. Its time for another Old Fashion…

simple and grungy.

Well that was fast, wasn’t it?  New work, snitches!

So about a week or so ago (my memory is god-awful) me and my ol’ lady went to see SOJA play the electric factory.  She’s a die-hard fan and I’m…well…let’s say that I went and I had a good time.  That’s a lie; I had a GREAT time.  I’m not even remotely into reggae (not angry enough for me) but this band is phenomenal!  They’re from DC so there are some things about their music that are very familar to me, as I proudly hail from the DMV.  But all in all, not really my bag. But like I said, I had a great time. So much so that I was inspired by their performance to whip a lil’ somethin’ up.

With this project my design objectives were a tad loose, as all I really set out to do was to replicate the worst possible screen-printing job you could possibly imagine.  However, as time went on I remembered that for all of its chaos, so to speak, it should be balanced with order. So as I worked it through I focused on keeping the forms very loose and grungy, yet solid and focused.  As inspiration, I thought back to the brief time I was really into wheat-pasting. I really wanted to create something that you could imagine seeing haphazardly glued to the side of an abandoned warehouse.  As always, simplicity was a major focus for this piece as well.  I did the best I could to keep the overall composition simple and parred down, using simple “brush strokes” as the background.  I always try to create a certain degree of depth in a composition, so I set the “brush strokes” off at an angle, to give the feeling of them receding and coming towards you at the same time. Nothing extreme, but just enough to get the effect.  Overall, I set out to create something simple, gritty, and basic.  Something street-level and authentic.  Big shouts to Sam Friedman for the source material.  Hope you don’t mind duder!

Now I’m not one to blame my tools for a failure or anything, but the original image has a subtle, but sweet, red and green gradient over the figure to give it some warmth and to chill that black and white contrast out a bit.  But for some reason when I converted it to  a JPEG (which was necessary for posting it up on the web) the gradient high-tailed it outta there and disappeared.  So what you’re looking at isn’t true to the original.  I’m still thinking about how to get the true-to-form version up on here but it may take me a while ( the original file size is close to 300 mb!)  If you’ve got any bright ideas, do please send them my way.  It’d be greatly appreciated.

As usual, whenever I work on a project I listen to music that’s in the same vein, thematically speaking. This time it was easy, as the subject of the project was a band.  I cranked their album “Dub In A Time of War” super-hard.  I listened to most of their discography throughout the entire process, but that particular album got some extra spins.  Not a whole lot of jabber-jawnin’ just good music.  Even if you’re not into reggae I strongly suggest you give this band a look.  Great stuff.

Alright I’m sick of typing. Hopefully you get the gist of it all.  I’m a pretty well-spoken guy ( growin’ up with a dictionary and comic books as your best friends will do that) but there are times when words fail you, and communicating your intentions doesn’t come easy. This particular post happens to be one of those times.  So, instead of painstakingly crafting this post into a damn thesis I’m gonna stop writing and let you look at the picture. Figure it out for yourself. I’m outta here.

Man…this sucks.  Its been at least, what, a week since I’ve posted any new work?  And I’m feelin pretty crappy about it.  I’ve been workin’ on a little somethin’ for a couple of days but  I just can’t seem to find time to finish it.  Its more self-initiated work and I’m feelin’ it for the most part.  But with working a 9-5 and personal obligations I just can’t find the time.  24-hours just isn’t enough anymore.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know… “you just have to make time”.  Has anyone ever sat down and analyzed that statement? Take a second…go ahead.  Think about it for a minute or two.  Yeah.   See?  Doesn’t make any sense does it?  You can’t make time if you don’t have any, can you?  Can’t make a cake without flour now can you?  Exactly.  I don’t wanna seem like a crybaby or anything, but it’s remarkably frustrating when you just can’t find the time to pursue your passion and career.  It’s even more frustrating when you have lots of people around you that seem to have no trouble pursuing what it is that they want.  But nnnoooo…. Dre’s gotta go to work.  I know there are plenty of people out there who never enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Moreover, I know that there are quite a few people who never even have the opportunity to pursue their passion.   I know that; I get that.  Hell, you’re probably one of the very people  I’m talkin’ about.  But it’s a real bummer when you’re sittin’ at your desk, ploddin’ along with your day, all the while being aware that you’re completely wasting your time. You’re just treading water, not moving any closer to ‘land’, so to speak.

I sure do wish I could pay my bills with IOU’s.  Because if i could I’d hand ’em out like monopoly money  and stay home to work on this wonderfully bare portfolio-blog.  That, and work on my collection of deconstructionist “indie” comic books. Shuddup.  Don’t judge me.

I really do try to anchor  a negative with a positive so I’ll end this whine-fest with a guarantee:  There will be 2 new posts of actual work I’ve done by no later than August 23rd.  You’d think that a deadline wouldn’t be a positive thing for an aspiring designer, but what can I say? They make me happy.

I love ampersands...I love thunderbolts...

POW!! Some new work to post! I tell ya, there’s absolutely nothing better than sharing your passion with other people. So this is some self-initiated work ( like all my work (un)fortunately) I did super early this morning.  I, like LOTS of designers, am obsessed with ampersands.  You know, that curly jawn that your english 101 professer used to give you crap for using. Mine did, anyway…jerk.  Anyway, I love ampersands and I doodle them all the time.  I have no idea why I love ’em so much but I do.  I’m always trying to create a custom one or incorporate one into a project. So I figured I kill 2 birds with one stone!

As you can probably tell from the new banner image I put up ( you did notice the new banner, right?) I’m really focused on this throwback distorted VHS tip right now.  I was inspired by, of all things, the movie “The Ring”.  You know how in the movie they watch that tape and a bunch of spooky and down-right funny shit happens in it?  Well its the quality of the tape that really makes it spooky.  And that’s what I wanted to replicate.  There’s just something kinda sorta awesome about it.  It took me a while to figure out how to make it a reality but now that I have, I’m gonna run it into the damn ground!  Be prepared to see a series of pieces utilizing this style.  I don’t want it to be my signature style, as I believe that a signature style makes you a one-trick pony.  But I will use it until it I can’t stand to look at it anymore.

When I work on a project I try to listen to music that fits the theme of the piece, so as to really put myself in the right head-space to communicate a feeling or message. For this piece I had a few things on blast and on repeat. The album from heavy-duty electronic producer Lorn, titled “Nothing Else”, got quite a few plays.  And the OST to the movie “Inception” was sprinkled in there too.  What a great soundtrack. Hans Zimmer is a music God. Yeah, I said it.  And just to cover all my bases I threw the new(ish) album from O.Children in there too.  Great stuff to get down, dirty and dark to.

As far as my design objectives for this piece, I really didn’t have anything concrete.  I just wanted to make a custom ampersand and make what I call a “flash” piece.  It doesn’t really mean anything or have some message to be communicated. It’s just nice to look at.  And I think I did just that.  Its pretty slick lookin’ and  now I got an ampersand that I can throw up anywhere and know it’s mine.  Although, I will say that its a design I plan on tweaking in the future…I like it and it works but I think I can make it better.  Not quite sure what I’d do to it but I know somethings getting tweaked.

Ok I told myself I’d keep this post short so I’m done.  On to the next project!

Both versions here.

So this is the first post of work I’ve done for someone other than myself.  And, DAMN, does it feel good to post some work!  About a year ago or so my girlfriend, and all-around classy gal, Erin launched her blog No Love More Sincere .  It’s a foodie blog. It showcases her adventures in cooking (and my eating), our date nights out to fancy-schmancy restaurants, and all sorts of stuff related to her genuine love of the culinary world.  From day 1 she had every intention to get her name out there in the foodie bloggin’ world.  And what better way to get people to check your site out than to hand them a business card, right? So I cranked one out for her.

Waitaminute…I’d be lying outta my teeth if I were to say I just “cranked”one out, like it was a latte or something.  No, it was a Process, with a capital ‘P’.  Nothing earth-shattering or anything.  But it definitely wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  And it wasn’t difficult because I had designer-block or anything. No, it was difficult because I was breaking one of the very first, and arguably the most important, design rules I ever learned: Never do work for friends, family or loved ones.  This rule is, like, the first of the 10 Crack Commandments (do yourself a favor and go look them up).  It often gets overlooked, but there’s a reason its #1.  And this experience definitely reminded me of why it’s so important to follow the design rules I’ve been taught, both the academic ones and the lifestyle ones.  And it’s not to say that Erin was super difficult to work with. I mean, we had our moments, but it wasn’t like she behaved any different than any client would. The Nit-picking, the indecisiveness…all of it. But she’s not a super-difficult women so, therefore, she wasn’t a super-difficult client.  (Love you baby!)

No, what made this project so damned difficult was the pressure to make it absolutely perfect. I’m talkin’ about making something that’s exactly how she wanted it. And that totally appeased (?) her.  Sometimes you have a bit of wiggle room with clients about the final product.  But when the client is your ol’ lady and she’s the one  feeding your broke ass, you get it right. EXACTLY RIGHT. And eventually I did. But what’s more important than getting it exactly right was producing work that really made someone happy.  She loves them and whenever she gets the chance she crams one in someone’s hand. I gotta tell ya, it feels soooooo good to have a piece of your work in other people’s hands.  I’ve done a little bit of freelance work before. And to be honest, it sucked. Not the work itself. It was OK. The process and the outcome sucked. But this…this felt great. Still does, to be honest.  I honestly consider this project to be my very first successful design project.

Ok so I left a HUGE chunk of the project out of this post. It involved a ridiculous timetable for completion of the project, which I nailed (pats self on back), and an experience with the printer that was…special.  But everything worked out OK so I don’t feel to bad about leaving all that rubbish out.  I’m all about focusing on the positives these days so that’s what I’m doing here.  Below you can see both versions of the card individually.  I decided on two different colorways because I really liked the idea of a little variety in the product. Ideally, every single person that ever got one would get a different one, so to speak.

The Seafoam one here:

Seafoam-y goodness.

And the Salmon one here:

Soft, elegant, sincere salmon

The main design objective here was simplicity, clarity, and earnestness.  And in satisfying these particular needs I believe I created a really pretty design.  Cute, but not saccharin.  Simple, but not lacking.  Can you really ask for anything more?

Wait, don’t answer that…

Farewell Kindness, Humanity and Gratitude! Farewell to all the feelings that expand the heart.  I have been Heaven’s substitute to recompense the good.  Now the God of Vengeance yields to me his power to punish the wicked.”

This may seem a tad dramatic but I think it’s quite fitting for this, the very first post on Air & Light R//D.  This is, or will be I should say, my online design portfolio.  As a young designer who has been met with marginal success the above quote perfectly  conveys my deepest, most earth-shattering desire and soul-wrenching need to live, work, and exist as a designer.  For too long I have told myself that ‘one day‘ I’d get my sh*t together and get serious about my career. That, ‘one day’ I’d start displaying my work and seeking to establish myself as professional.  That ‘one day’ I’d be good enough, either in my own eyes or everyone else’s , to hand someone a business card and no longer fear telling them what I do and that I can do what I do for them. And do it well.

Well ‘one day’ is Today.  No longer will I be afraid to put myself, and my work, out there for any and everyone to see, critique, judge etc. Today, with the establishment of this blog,  I set my fears, my inadequacies, and my bullsh*t aside. As time goes on I hope to not only display my design work but to share a bit of Me with everyone. And as anyone who knows me knows that I’m a No-BS kinda guy. I’ll never lie to you or purposely mislead you. And in saying that I can say that there is a great deal about the professional design world that I know jack-sh*t about.  But what I lack in knowledge and experience, I more than make up for in true, pure, unbridled passion.  I may not have done it before but I know in my heart of hearts that I can learn it, do it, and crush it.

So Fare-thee-well to all the doubt, the uncertainty, to the cowardice and to everything in me that made this day impossible until Today.

And in saying farewell, I’d like to say Hello & Welcome to Air & Light Research//Design.