Project 2 :: Kickoff

Welcome to round 2 of my efforts to become a better art director. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for the continued interest and making the jump here from Tumblr. If you’re new to this you can check out Project 1 in it’s entirety here:

Kickoff // WIP 1 // Status 1 // WIP 3 // WIP 4 // Delivery

What the hell is this again?

For those just joining who don’t feel like reading the essay that Project 1 kinda turned into, this is an ongoing monthly series where I work on one project at a time with the goal of making up for shortcomings in my skills as an art director. Every month I pick a project based on submitted suggestions and work through it in my free time. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post a work-in-progress with Fridays being MUCH more in depth. A the end of the month I post the finished project along with the entire project directory used to create it. I’m literally showing all my work.

You can expect to see a lot of my scattered thinking and even more of me reconciling shit I kinda already knew with new experiences I’m having to actually support lessons I’d taken for granted in the past. I spend a lot of time talking about grappling with self improvement, both practically and emotionally (yes this is one of those self indulgent projects where I talk about my feelings. You’ll be fine. I promise.). I’ve only been at this 2 weeks (project 1 started in the middle of a month)but for me it’s been as messy and emotionally trying as it’s been encouraging and inspiring.

I’m not sure what you get out of this. For me it’s like career therapy where I can fuck up all I want and no one looses money or gets hurt. I imagine half of you guys see some of my struggles in yourself and the other half find my emotional and logical flailings just slightly less funny and stimulating than FailArmy.

This month’s project

In total, I got 8 suggestions for possible projects this month. If you’re in the first wave you have my undying gratitude. As a token of said gratitude you can bring this post up when we meet in person to remind me that I owe you a giant hug, dirty joke, or adult beverage of your choosing.

Suggestions ran the gamut from the simple and nebulous (“A music video.”) to HIGHLY specific and challenging assignments. By far this was the most challenging:

“Sometimes you have to take on work for a client you don’t see eye-to-eye with. As an art director, one of your biggest challenges is to see through the preconceptions and cliches of your client’s brand perception and pull out a truth that perhaps even they can’t see. For this month’s project, I challenge you to redesign the graphics package for Fox News — that reviled, hated, overblown “news” station.”

I have every intention of getting back to that one…but it’s not gonna be right now. That one’s gonna be tough and require researching into mindsets I’m not ready to deal with. I’m also starting up a gig next week that’s going to require some demanding hours as it gets close to delivering so the time and emotional commitment of that one is just too much for July/August.

The project I’m going with is a mish-mash of 2 different suggestions.

First from Barry McWilliams (via the Motion Design Slack):

You said illustration-based at one point, right? I’m too lazy to scroll back through the feed :)
And you like bikes, I think.
So how about a documentary about the Tour Divide?

And the second was a lengthy but insightful musing from my buddy Cosmo Ray:

High level stuff:
Since there’s nothing major on the line here, I think one thing that might help to develop some design strength is to constrain yourself to something very graphic and minimal. Like you said in your blog, you’re adept at technical art and animation, but if you’re really looking to improve design from an aesthetic position — and you’re on a great track in terms of conceptual development an design thinking — it could be useful to pair things down to their most elemental form. Think about creating a graphic language with just one to three colors. How do you define a system that meets the expectation? Do you constrain yourself to specific shapes, angles, and visual density? How can the requirements of the brief define that system?
This sort of stuff may not be the aesthetic that you normally associate with yourself or the super sexy frames that the big names make, but I think it’s sort of akin to when you had your bike professionally adjusted before the century ride. You told me that it seemed like an insignificant change, but then you started riding on it, and realized that you were using entirely different muscles. This is a similar idea, but for your creative brain. Ingrain those design foundations with a very limited toolbox — not worrying about rendering passes, compositing, etc. — and you’ll reap the benefits when you go back to the more complex working process.
I realize this may be out of your comfort zone, and likely even out of your preference zone, but I know you’re a strong illustrator, and I think this stuff is living inside you right under the surface. It might help to think of it as pure exercise, instead of a potential portfolio piece.
Specifics:
-Think Paul Rand, Michael Schwab, Saul Bass, Charley Harper, Dan Matutina, Jason Munn, maybe even Eran Hilleli or Olly Moss. Your approach doesn’t have to be as minimalist or geometric as these guys lean towards, but I think something really interesting could come from the merging of your aesthetic instincts and their compositional ideas.
-Think NOT Gmunk, Ash Thorp, Danny Yount, Beeple.
-FOCUS ON form, composition, type, figure, silhouette, scale, depth
-Try to AVOID photography, 3D, post effects (flare, glow, maybe even blur?)
TL;DR Define constraints!

Barry’s right, I like bikes and camping and everything the Tour Divide is the apex of. Cosmo is dead right (and smart enough to use bike metaphors on me). I should restrict myself in terms of stylistic tools and really focus on communicating with less. If it’s good enough for Jørgen Leth it’s sure as fuck good enough for me.

This month I’m going to pretend that there’s a documentary about riding the Tour Divide (and there might be, I haven’t looked yet) I’ll be assembling a treatment deck for a graphics package for that film that would apply to the film itself and any analogous marketing materials. I’m going to restrict myself to a flat illustrative design style. I’m also going to only focus on 1 direction this month with the goal of build more thoughtful frames, a better deck, and, depending on how I do managing my schedule, possibly animation tests.

Is this a little bit of a cop out? of fucking course it is. Once again I’m going with something I’m already a little familiar with. I am however going to be working in a style I’m not familiar or comfy in and this is the 2nd of what will hopefully be a long series of projects. The long term habit is way more important than any 1 project.

Yes, that’s me on the bike. (photo by Brad Wenner)

I’ll be posting everything, just like last time, on Friday July 31st.

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