Friday, February 28, 2014


I recently rediscovered this project after going through some older files that I had lying around. This might have been the first CD design that I had made for someone other than any one of my own bands. The Reckless Hearts were an awesome power pop mod band from Milwaukee that operated during the latter half of the early 2000’s. By far, they were one of my favorite local bands. The song writing was top notch, the overall sound had a great punch, and they really put on an exciting show. They were certainly a little more polished than most of the bands that Milwaukee produced. At least from the basement culture standpoint. They were punk, but they had slickness to them that seemed to set them apart from the lo-fi bash bash punk that was really popular at the time. 

Off the Hip Records out of Australia had agreed to put out their full length and my buddy Thomas who fronted the Hearts asked me for some design input. I had never done a CD layout of this magnitude before so it was a big learning experience. It taught me the finer points of working within a template and to pay attention to how the files needed to be prepared for printing. These things are like second nature to me now, but back then, it was all really new.

I honestly can’t remember the initial direction of this project. Thomas had a variety of other covers that he really liked and I tried to take as much from them as possible. Most notably, there were some Buzzcocks singles in there that was really appealing. I think we tried to follow that sort of late 70’s pop art angle. Whatever that may be. From there, I just tried to create a really eye catching cover that would appeal to the mod punk audience. I used some cool blues and some stark black and white imagery. The pictures really seemed to pop off that background color. 

The band provided nearly hundreds of photos too. So it was a a little time consuming to go through them and pick out the ones that would work best in this layout. Thomas  helped out big time in weeding out all the photos that we ended up not using. 

The halftone effect was something that I had always cherished, so it was no surprise that I would try and incorporate it here. I was also a big fan of type that was specialized or unique to it’s branding counterpart. In this example because there was so much text to include, I chose a simple font and then rounded all the edges in illustrator to give it a specialized spin. It was sort of a cheat outside of actually creating my own font. 

The rounded edge shapes used for the background also hinted at that sort of 60’s pop art kind of motif. As conservative as the initial layout was, it does have a nice inviting warm feeling. It’s playful without coming off too kitschy. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cutting edge video technology! ……Well, for 1986.

Here is a recent project that I've been working on. Essentially, it's a camera filter app that replicates the nuances of a VHS tape. Remember when the camera bag app came out a few years ago and everybody was flipping out about how cool and easy it was to make your photos look like they were taken in 1972? Well, here is a version of it where you can make your home movies look like they were filmed in 1987. 

The recent wave of antiquated media has been flooding the market lately. Cassette tapes are selling again and VHS tapes are being collectors items. Hell, there were three documentaries released this year just on the recent VHS revival. So why not transform some of that charm onto your mobile device. 

It works pretty simple and operates just like all your favorite camera apps. Just point and record. The app automatically filters your footage with a wide variety of presets that you can select. Say your looking for that distant cruddy 100th generation tape playback with all the glitchy tracking lines. Well, that's as simple as setting the effect and filming your subject. There is also an option to add more tracking manually if you wish. This is to ensure that you get the results that you want. The user experience plays right into that 80's nostalgic look and feel. Big clunky buttons. Grey exterior. Aged plastic. You'll be magically whisked away to that that wonderful year of 1986 when mullets ruled supreme, everyone whore ripped jeans, nintendo was king, and camcorders well exceeded the thousand dollar mark. It's like having cutting edge 80's technology right in your pocket. Tacky for sure. But that's the whole idea!

I've been experimenting with a couple different filters for the footage. Here's an example of a straight forward effect. The photo is just some generic thing from that I had laying around. Here, we have the vertical hold lines well established with just the right about the color adjustment being manipulated. And don't forget those glitch lines. It's imperative that we keep this dirty and scrambled. You can almost hear the VCR spinning those VHS spindles. 

Currently, I'm tightening up a few things and making sure every piece the UI is accounted for. There are a variety of pop-ups that I've created to ensure the best possible operation for the user. Things like how to export your video, sound adjustments, ratio settings, etc…… It's not as simple on the backend to simply shoot and record. I'll post some more later!

Friday, September 6, 2013


Here is a poster that I created a couple weeks ago for a show that I am helping out with in Oakland. This was a really great project to work on. It allowed me to showcase more of my illustrative side and gave me an opportunity to work in way that was more hand rendered. Although, don't be fooled. This poster was still done 100% digitally. Most of the composition was traced from pictures in illustrator. The type was done freehand in my sketchbook app. The sketchbook app is a great drawing app for the ipad. I use it a lot. The only downside to it is that it is essentially like drawing in photoshop. Which isn't bad per se, but if I want to work in vectors, I have to import the files into illustrator and trace it out from there. Which is okay, but you definitely get some discrepancies in the quality. For a project like this however, it doesn't really make a difference. 

I'm not sure where I got the inspiration for this. I was sort of as looking at those old Dubonnet Liquor advertisements and wanted to somehow capture that look and feel. But as you can clearly see, when I got to work on it, the design took a radical turn. I mentioned this in my last blog. I always take certain things with the intent of copying them but I end up taking other directions somewhere during the process. What started as a straight and narrow design turned into something of a bleak psychedelic mess. 

I was also able to incorporate my new permanent press photoshop plugin from mister retro. It's a great little tool if you want your design to mimic some organic silkscreening qualities. Although, I kept it at a minimum here. It does add a nice little grungy touch.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


It's been awhile since I've had the opportunity to play around with collage elements. This was a medium that I used heavily in my younger days as a punk poster/flyer maker. Since I've been getting more aquatinted with digital illustration, I've pushed it aside for more modern conveniences. For a recent project, I decided to try my hand at combining the two. It's really the best of both worlds here. You get the ease of manipulating images through a digital realm while still maintaining that hand crafted cut and paste look. 

Here is a poster I made for an upcoming show that some friends of mine are putting together. When they asked me to be on the bill, I took it upon myself to create the poster. This poster was actually a strong departure from the inspiration that I had originally picked out. That happens a lot with me. I'll see something really cool and plan to rip it off to a complete tee. But somewhere during the process I began to shift towards something totally different. The outcome is usually nothing like what I set out to steal. I suppose that's a good thing though. It's all just visual experimentation in the end. 

So with this piece, I scanned in a picture of a model I had found in some 60's fashion magazine. What I like about this process is taking a small picture, scanning it in, and blowing it up. It reveals a lot of those grungy halftone patterns that completely drive me crazy. The more the better. Then I illustrated some green slime, created a comp for the text, and manipulated the original scan just enough to take it to another level. After implementing a few elements such as texture and color adjustment, it was ready to be slapped on the the social media outlet of your choice! ….or printed and distributed among various record store windows and telephone poles. 

As a side note, the image of the woman was pulled from an old sewing magazine from the 60's. When I was about 21 or 22, I had a job working for Goodwill. It was awesome. I was able to go through a bunch of old junk and take whatever I wanted. I scored some amazing stuff working for that store. Someone had actually donated a box full of old magazines from the 60's and 70's. Normally we'd throw those out, but I hijacked them and took them home. Those magazine fueled a ton of art projects that I made through the following years. This was before I had an access to a computer so I would cut and paste images and type right out of those magazines. It's a practice that I miss sometimes. 

Anyway, Here is the color version as well as a black and white xerox version. I actually sort of like the black and white version a tad more. If really only for the fact that it creates a a very stark and effective flyer. It's rough and grungy for sure, but holds a special kind of charm.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


One of my biggest design pet peeves is a record cover ruined by an absurd amount of legal mumbo jumbo. And this doesn't go for vital information like track listing, producer credits, and label information. All that is okie dokie. But I've seen a fair share or record covers completely covered in copyright info, an endless barrage of 'thank yous' and that new dreaded FBI warning icon. You know the one. That hideous huge monstrosity of a logo warning you not to rip and share the record. Of course, this type of design has mainly operated in the mainstream. I don't think I've boughten a record in the last five years that's even had a bar code. That reminds me, bar codes are ugly too. I don't really have a point here. I suppose I'm just griping for no good reason. 

Anyway, I did happen to stumble upon a variety of "In Stereo" logos that I thought were pretty neat-o. I'll let this one slide. For starters, it's an outdated design motif that rarely graces any record covers anymore. At least not intentional for the purpose to telling the record buyer that, "Hey! This is in Stereo!". I suppose stereo is a given anymore. No one really thinks about it. I remember my first four track where I discovered that you could actually pan the tracks to either the left or right speaker. That blew my mind and every recording from there on out sounded like some George Martin produced psychedelic stereo circus. I'm still a huge fan of it. 

Where was I? Oh yeah… So these Stereo icons are something that have always appealed to me. They don't take up a lot of the cover and most of them are pretty creative and colorful. I tried to dig up some more info about these icons, but I haven't found much. I'm assuming that they were tools of the label rather than the artist to communicate to the buying public that the record that they were about to purchase could be played on a stereo machine. I mean, did the artists specifically dictate how they wanted their record cover designed or was it in the hands a few creatives for working for whatever label. "So I want my face real big on the cover with some trees in the back and oh, by the way… Put one of those big "in stereo" icons on there. That will look nice." 

Here are a bunch of Stereo labels that I was able to pull from the world wide web. Some of them are really great and will no doubt influence a number of future projects for myself. I just wanted to share some of them here. Any history or behind the music type info on these things would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I've always felt that there were two sides to my creative output. One is graphic design. The other being sound production. I went to school for graphic design and it ultimately turned into viable career, but sound design is something that has always been treated more as a hobby. I don't love one over the other. They are both equal in their own rights. I just happen to make the most money designing websites than I do producing records.

About four months ago, I was looking for a decent digital audio workstation to write and record on. Because I had become so familiar with Garageband, the next logical step would be to dive into, well….. Logic. Logic is a great program because of its intuitive control and easy set up. 
Logic also comes fully equipped with a wide array of amp modelers and effects processors. There must be at least a billion different sound configurations that you can play with. Because I live in such a tight space with little room for real musical equipment, the ability to plug my guitar into my computer and gain a plethora of great sounds is essential in crafting a solid recording. The pedalboard is personally my favorite thing to explore. From there, I took it upon myself to design a mock of what the pedal board would look like if say, a company like BOSS, had implemented their own plugin. Think about it. There are thousands of third party plugins out there that all do different things. A company like BOSS has been making high quality effects pedals for many years now. Isn't it time they jump on the digital bandwagon. 

This project was more of an exercise in understanding UI when it comes to plugins and sound generation. The basic idea is that the user can have all their favorite BOSS pedals at their fingertips without dealing with the inconvenience of setting up a pedal chain and getting tangled up in a variety of patch cables. Here, it's as simple as plugging your guitar into a channel strip, activating the plugin, and combining your favorite BOSS sounds. 

The user also has the ability to select from a variety of presets. And of course, they have the option to create and save their own. I added a level/pan section to the interface so the user can specifically pan their desired effect to either the left or right speaker. This goes for the level as well. Say you want a subtle flange effect in the hard left speaker…… Select the flanger pedal, dial in your specific sound, and then pan it to either the left and right speaker. This will specifically target that pedal while keeping the rest of your sound centered. This can be done multiple times over with a plethora of different pedals. Flanger on one side, digital delay on the other? Easy!

Okay, so I really just wanted to give you a little run down of what I created here. Like I said, this is more or less an experimentation of what a plugin like this would look like. I wish this really existed.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


All this talk about flat design and the new IOS7 look has really been heating up lately. I actually wrote a pretty lengthy blog about my reaction to the new apple flat look, but decided to scrap it as it came off very critical without much logical evidence to support many of my arguments. Essentially, my point was that the whole design looks unfinished and could have easily been whipped up in less time than it takes to boot up photoshop. I don't want to get into it, but some of the accusations that I had committed to paper came off pretty amateurish and weak. It wasn't really something that I wanted to publish. However, I took some of that energy that I poured into that essay and designed up a few "flat" icons of my own. Think of them as more than fun experiments. Nothing more. 

This new metro flat trend really does have me intrigued. I suppose we can blame the rise of windows 8 for a lot of what we are seeing in modern UX. Maybe Google can take some of that blame too. In my essay, I had made an observation that as we move forward as a technological society, we will rely less and less on tangible objects. Take for instance the skeuomorphic qualities that apple had demonstrated. Their UX is very much tied to things that we recognize from the physical world and therefore play a huge part in how we interact with navigation. A button should look like a button. That is how we know that it can be clicked on. But I sort of sense that we are moving away from that idea because we are now trained to better understand how navigation works. After all, the internet as we know it today is well over 20 years old. Smart phone have been around for five years or more. By now, we should have the hang of it. Right?

In the end, I realized that all art and design is subjective and designers have a multitude of way to describe the directions that they take. So who really cares? Will this flat trend stick around? It's hard to say. In the meantime, dig these browser icons that I created. It was certainly a fun exercise and it forced me to trim down a lot of effects that I would normally use. I think we can all agree that embellishment in web design is so easy because photoshop allows us to see our visions come to life with only a few clicks of a mouse. Sometimes, it's kind of refreshing to scale back a bit and work within a few strict guidelines. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


From the age of about 15 to about 19, I had spent nearly every weekend going to punk shows in my hometown of Peoria Illinois. During the late 90's and early 2000's, the city was well established as a hot music hub. However, it was never really portrayed as a scene that could operate on a national level. I often wondered why. It was certainly bustling with activity, It just never gained the kind of notoriety like some secondary cities like Minneapolis, Athens, Austin, or even maybe a place like Portland received. 

Was it the fact that it was being overshadowed by the much larger metropolis of Chicago? Was it the fact that no real major highways intersected with Peoria, thus making it harder for touring bands to come through?  Was it the fact that many of the bands that Peoria bred didn't play much outside of their central Illinois surroundings? There were exceptions, but the average lifespan of a band only lasted for about three years. Plus, one should take in account that there wasn't really any local record labels championing the scene like some cities do. Again, there were exceptions, but it never quite reached passed the confines of a particular clique. Was there even a signature "local scene sound" to begin with? 

Whatever the reason was, Peoria in itself was an isolated bubble breeding a lot of bands that were ultimately left to their own devices. In that regard, it produced a lot of interesting talent. I would almost go as far as to say that some truly original sounds came out of that town. As cookie cutter as Peoria was, there is no underestimating some of the ingenuity and quality that it produced.  

One could argue that that were hundreds of second cities operating on the same wavelength. What was Akron Ohio up to in the summer of 1999? What was the Spokane Washington scene like in 2000? What bands existed? What shows were taking place? What clubs were open? Were there any labels documenting their neck of the woods? This is a discussion that could span an entire encyclopedia of long lost bands and records. 

I had an arsenal of old flyers that I had collected through the years of my youth. I was recently able to scan some of them in to share them with you fine folks. Perhaps they don't communicate anything more than a standard xeroxed punk flyer. It's a certain art form that although primitive and crude, holds a certain charm that could never be reproduced in a more professional arena. There is a lot of mysterious storytelling in these flyers. Who made them? What was the thought process like behind some of these designs? So many unanswered questions lost to the ages. Like artifacts from an ancient forgotten scene.