Friday, December 04, 2015

Vue project 1049

Saw this week's  cover and thought it should be more fun. The subject matter is off putting, but fun in an alternative-weekly way. Parts of a horse that make a horse: horseshoes, horse neck, horse legs, horse tail, horse nose. Parts of horse on view in this illustration: horse legs, horse tail and horseshoes. But the hand and the sandwich kinda take over this illustration.

I thought I'd tighten up the headline a bit and put the whole horse on display. And believe it or not there are horse meat butcher charts much like this available for view on the internet. I constructed my own, so the all-Cheltenham type would make a unified cover.

Logo this time: Antique Olive condensed bold lowercase with a few alterations.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vue project 1047

Vue Weekly introduced a new section this week. Named, "Pop." When I hear the word "Pop," my brain jumps to Pop Art. Specifically the work of Andy Warhol (high contrast silkscreen images) and Roy Lichtenstein (the guy who did the versions of comics with the black lines and the big dots) come to mind. One other thing that this cover brought to mind is the Batman television sound effects lettering onscreen. Particularly the one reading "KaPow!"

Photo credit:

Here's the original Vue Weekly cover. I like the bright colors of the type and the large, white "Pop!" really pops out of the background color. Didn't like the cryptic, unlabeled photos connected with a blend. What are the two photos about? Are they from the same pop culture niche? 

I took all that and made my own version of this cover. Reducing the art to high contrast black and white made it easy to combine the two separate images into one -- taking some care to make the people the same size. But then I labeled the two separate things so the reader knows there are two subjects. Perhaps they are combined into one article, perhaps not. Logo is Gill Sans with mutated letters for "e" and "k."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Vue project 1043

Canada's latest national election just ended. Justin Trudeau is now the Prime Minister of Canada. It's a big switch. It's big news. So all the newspapers are making a fuss.

Here's how the Vue Weekly did it.

I like the National Enquirer vibe of this original cover. I like covers that have a lot of headlines on them. Looks newsy. But I thought it could been taken further. So I did this version.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Vue project 1032

I like the Schwinn Sting Ray. When I was a kid, my dad told me I couldn't have one because the wheels were too small and the wheels would wear out faster than big wheels. But I still wanted one. And I still kinda do.

This week's issue of Vue Weekly features the Death Spoke Bicycle Club -- which despite its scary name, has a large percentage of Sting Ray riders. The published cover is actually very nice. The colors are strong and simple. The type is pretty cool. And I like the headline.

But when I read the story inside, Sting Ray bikes are mentioned in the first paragraph! And I liked the inside headline better: "Swell on Two Wheels." So I thought I'd shorten that headline for the redo, and also include an image of that iconic bike (stolen from the internet). I just couldn't help it, Dad.

This week's reworked logo is Franklin Gothic, with a couple twists.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vue project 1030

Nice cover. Great image by Ivan Otis. Lots of inviting white space. A fun and furry treatment for Vue Weekly logo. Looks good.

Minor quibble: Even though there are four "A"s in the artist's name, the most interesting part of any word containing a capital "Q" -- is the capital "Q." So I'd include it in the artistic treatment of the name. Kinda like this.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vue Project 1024

This Vue Weekly cover is okay. But the back cover is pretty fantastic.

Imagined meeting notes

An imagined meeting shortly before the release of the new Simpsons tie-in, Duff Energy Drink.

BEVERAGE PROFESSIONAL: We made the color like you wanted -- it's between the color of Budweiser beer and the color of Orange Crush. But frankly, this seems like an ugly color.

MATT GROENING: I approve. How about the taste?

BEVERAGE PROFESSIONAL: It's just as you asked, Red Bull crossed with Okay Soda crossed with Mountain Dew. Again, we're not sure that's the direction we'd recommend you go in.

MATT GROENING [Taking a sip]: Whew! That is terrible! Again -- I approve.

BEVERAGE PROFESSIONAL: So . . . we proceed with this? Actually release this -- this stuff?

MATT GROENING: Yes. Proceed.

Note: My photograph doesn't capture the urine-like color of this stuff. It's quite an astonishing hue.

Monday, May 04, 2015

It was a dress, but it could be a cape

This image on Twitter got my attention. Because I couldn't figure out what it was trying to say.

I searched the internet using Google, and eventually Tin Eye, and found that it was a promotion for a software-writing company. And the thing that wasn't a dress was -- a superhero cape. And there is even website. It's all in the cause of promoting women as superhero software programmers. Or something. And that's cool. 

But I think the poster could use some improvement so it's a little more clear in its message.

Here's my redo.

I did a couple specific changes for clarity. First -- bigger scoop on the neckline so the top of the cape is more visible. And then I made the superhero outfit more obvious -- adding full-body spandex with a logo on the chest. Plus boots and pants. Now there is a superhero outfit.

Then I thought perhaps the cape isn't emphasized enough with the colorful outfit -- so I made one with the colors muted. 

Now it's obvious enough so that even I get it.

Update: Jake Seamans, in a comment, pointed out something: "What about getting rid of the 'It's a cape' line in your redesign? It seems to have more impact when you leave that line out and let the audience fill in the rest themselves."

Jake, I agree. I was over-explaining with that added line of text. Here's the reworked design minus the extra text and plus the company tagline.

Update #2: Changed the headline from "It was never a cape" (which doesn't make sense).

Thursday, April 23, 2015


In looking at old Twin Cities Reader covers, I find I'm ashamed of a couple of them. Too much color, too many colors. Misuse of type. So I've decided to do a couple of them again.

(I've been giving the Vue Weekly grief lately, so I thought I'd give myself some of the same.)

As always, click on the pictures for closer.

First off: Trying to do something here, but getting lost in my love of bright spot colors. The red bits are just distracting.

In the redo, I went with a spot-color gray instead of green. A subtle treatment for very big type.

I got really carried away with colors and blends on this one. The typography stinks. And the color separation of the tiny photograph is amazingly awful.

So I thought I'd simplify. White space to the rescue.

Too many tints on the black and white photos here. Nice photos, mistreated.

I'm attempting to let the black and white photos be black and white.

Not sure I could get away with these at the time. There was a big push to make the covers colorful. But I think these reworked covers are more attractive than the originals.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Twin Cities Reader covers, late 1995 into early 1996

Hey, here are some more Twin Cities Reader covers. Other posts with old Reader covers are here and here.

Designing the cover of a free weekly -- to me -- meant working with black plus one spot color. Maybe two spot colors. Almost always a black and white photograph. Sometimes using a duotone to jazz it up. This was hammered into me during my days as art director of Sweet Potato -- and eventually City Pages -- in the early 1980s.

But by the time I got back to doing a free weekly in the mid-1990s, a couple of things were changing on the production side of making a paper.

First big change: I was designing on a Macintosh using Quark Xpress, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. No more speccing type and using wax-backed phototype for pasteup. No more having someone else making halftones of photos. No more gang of people hunched over paste-up boards. The production of the entire editorial section of each edition went through my computer. That was both exhilarating and tiring. Total control and total responsibility.

One other change: Full color. Or four color. After the first couple months of working on the Reader, the publisher, R.T. Rybak, was delighted to tell me that we would now be printing the paper using full color all the time. Every cover would be full color. He thought I'd be excited about it. And I tried to be enthusiastic. But honestly, I thought the covers were stronger when using black plus one or two. The colors were brighter. And they could be any color, not just soupy, brownish CMYK mixes.

Eventually, I got over my discomfort and took to the challenge of four-color covers. But not without way too many ugly color experiments. It took me a while to get comfortable with full color on newsprint.

My first cover. Black plus three (count 'em, three!) spot colors.

Twin Cities Reader. August 23, 1995. Photograph by Sari Gordon.

Black plus two colors. That logo is very big.

Twin Cities Reader. August 30, 1995. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Black plus two colors. As much as I like the pure bright green spot color (it's impossible to get tha brightness using 4-color process tints), looking at it now I think a nice spot-color gray would have been a better choice. And the subhead type is too big. And the bottom type color is not resolved. I thought the Foshay photo jutting up into the white space would be cute -- but it doesn't work. Not a successful cover.

Twin Cities Reader. September 6, 1995. Photographs by Anthony Brett Schreck.

Black plus two. No photo to work with, I just went with type. One of my favorite "something out of nothing" covers. The bottom type is more to my liking. I struggled with just how light to make the color bars to have the color but not distract from the readability. I must have liked the challenge, because I kept that treatment.

Twin Cities Reader. September 13, 1995.

Full-color special edition cover. Brown. I think the color separation was done by the printer. I think I was expecting something more orange and red. I like the artwork by David Rathman, but I must have felt it needed some spicing up -- hence the little colorful icons down the edge. Icon art by Twin Cities Reader Copy Chief Ruth Weleczki.

Twin Cities Reader. September 20, 1995. Illustration by David Rathman.

Black plus two. Look at those day-glo colors. Oh, yeah! I meant to reverse the date of publication out of the left edge of the "R" -- but I screwed up the overprint and so, there is no date on this cover.

Twin Cities Reader. September 27, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

Black plus two. A little bit of photo abuse here. I'm bashing away at the logo.

Twin Cities Reader. October 4, 1995. Photo by Jeffrey Rabkin.

Starting with this issue, it was four-color covers all the time. No more day-glo. Boo-hoo, poor me. Another case of the logo being big. Note how the green is not as bright as it could be. Why did I make it green? I think I was trying to say "Look at how dull full color can be!" Why would I do that?

Twin Cities Reader. October 11, 1995. Illustration by Tom Dolan.

Four-color covers can be a struggle, but when the cover photo looks like this one, by Marc Avery, I had nothing to complain about.

Twin Cities Reader. October 18, 1995. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Here's the inside spread of this issue. In glorious black and white.

Twin Cities Reader. October 18, 1995. Photographs by Marc Avery.

Another "something from nothing" cover. I was going for a dirty, gritty look inspired by the scary movie, "Seven." But the cover just turned out muddy brown.

Twin Cities Reader. October 25, 1995. Type illustration by David Steinlicht.

Black and white photo with duotone. Nice photo -- unnecessary duotone. Unnecessary duotone on the bottom photo, too. Unsuccessful page design. Using as many colors as I could. Plus, I started putting a drop shadow on the logo. I look at that drop shadow today and say, "Ugh."

Twin Cities Reader. November 1, 1995. Photograph by Diana Watters.

Joe McDonnell comes to the rescue with a swell illustration for a winner of a cover. Solid magenta logo. I'm still longing for those spot-color logos. (I choose to not comment on that drop shadow.)

Twin Cities Reader. November 8, 1995. Illustration by Joe McDonnell.

A big miss. A failed "something from nothing" cover. Somebody take the colors away from the art director! Where's the white space? On this cover, I'm apparently attempting to learn how to do color separation. Very bad color. One more thing: Mark Odegard, my boss at the Science Museum, used to say that type on an angle is a dead giveaway that the designer is out of ideas. Guilty! But remember, if you're gonna tilt the type, tilt the picture.

Twin Cities Reader. November 15, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

Attempting to make the logo appear smaller by covering part of it with the illustration. I think it works. A more successful brown cover.

Twin Cities Reader. November 22, 1995. Illustration by Andrew Powell. 

A nice cover.

Twin Cities Reader. November 29, 1995. Illustration by Anthony White. Courtesy Native Arts Circle.

Finally a four-color photograph that looks natural. Now, was that so difficult?

Twin Cities Reader. December 6, 1995. Photograph by Jeffrey Rabkin.

When I took over the Twin Cities Reader art director chair, I told the editor, Claude Peck, one of my main goals was to change the logo. This idea didn't go over well.

1995, the year of three art directors -- and three logos.

I started at the Reader in August. The paper had just changed its logo in April. And if I made a new logo it would be one year with three logos.

But I really felt that changing it was necessary because the Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed logo made the cover of the Reader too much like the cover of City Pages (their logo was Futura Extra Condensed Bold, always red on white). The two free alt-weekly papers were always confused with each other and I felt this made the confusion worse.

Claude relented and I was able to make the change in December, for the big holiday issue. So the change wouldn't be too radical, I suggested making the logo out of another condensed sans serif font. I used Gill Sans Extra Condensed. I also designed the logo so that it would usually be in the brightest color available to me: newsprint.

Twin Cities Reader. December 13, 1995. Photograph by Ann Marsden.

A something-from-nothing cover that works fine. The logo and page format is now in place and -- for better or worse -- the whole thing stays in this configuration for remaining life of the publication, another year and three months.

Twin Cities Reader. December 20, 1995. Illustration by David Steinlicht.

Fun illustration, slightly mistreated by the art director. I was working too hard to make the colors go with the illo. And the "Cultural High Fives" art is -- also trying too hard.

Twin Cities Reader. December 27, 1995. Illustration by Brian Barber.

Very straight-forward four-color photograph treatment. That looks normal and nice. Black and white photos top and bottom allow the color photo to be the star of the page.

Twin Cities Reader. January 3, 1996. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Big type. Maybe the biggest. I think there's some very light tints under some of the type that could have been eliminated.

Twin Cities Reader. January 10, 1996. Illustration by David Steinlicht.

Another successful full-color photo. Is the art director getting the hang of it?

Twin Cities Reader. January 17, 1996. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

A misstep. Full-color photo color balancing trouble. Some white space would have helped. Too many blue tints.

Twin Cities Reader. January 24, 1996. Photograph by Sevans.

One of my favorite covers, even though I crapped out on the color balancing of the color photo. A typography joke about tightness. Or something. I had fun monkeying around with the new logo.

Twin Cities Reader. January 31, 1996. Photograph by Brian Pobuda.

The publisher was requesting more use of color on the inside of the newspaper. So -- there you go.  Oddly enough, the inside color looks better than the cover color.

Twin Cities Reader. January 31, 1996. Photographs by Brian Pobuda.

I was on vacation during this week so Twin Cities Reader Copy Chief Ruth Weleczki pitched in with a cover design. Looks good. Nice photo, too.

Twin Cities Reader. February 7, 1996. Photograph by John Noltner.

An okay cover. The deck type is too big. I like the colors.

Twin Cities Reader. February 14, 1996. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Not a great one. This one would have benefited from less color in the logo and the secondary art.

Twin Cities Reader. February 27, 1996. Illustration by Mike Waraksa.

A tough photo to work with. Not particularly successful.

Twin Cities Reader. February 28, 1996. Photograph by Eric Altenberg.

Pretty good cover. Fun photo. I like the treatment of the secondary art.

Twin Cities Reader. February 6, 1996. Jeffrey Rabkin.

Again -- I was trying too hard to coordinate the colors with the artwork.

Twin Cities Reader. February 13, 1996. Illustration by Carl Wesley.

Okay. Good color separation. The secondary art and type treatment is . . . not good.

Twin Cities Reader. February 20, 1996. Brian Pobuda.

Unusual photo for the cover. I think it works.

Twin Cities Reader. February 27, 1996. Photograph by Michael Dvorak.

Really nice artwork.

Twin Cities Reader. March 3, 1996. Illustration by Lisa Blackshear.

This one works. Excellent Ward Sutton artwork. Not sure why I didn't make his artwork bigger. I think I was just trying to be contrary.

Twin Cities Reader. March 10, 1996. Illustration by Ward Sutton.

Very busy photograph. I kind-of like that there's lots of type in the photo. I think I should have used a sans serif font for the deck. The secondary art is too busy to be next to all the other busy stuff.

Twin Cities Reader. March 17, 1996. Photograph by Dan Marshall.

I'll post more covers later.