BEFORE SAGMEISTER ERA

Before Jessica Walsh's 2012 project 40 Days of Dating was blowing up your newsfeed, before she was littering her shelves with countless design awards, and before she ambitiously knocked on Stefan Sagmeister's door for a simple portfolio review, she was student at the
Rhode Island School of Design. Graduating in '08 with a BFA in graphic design, Walsh has been turning heads and killing the game since she was a tiny stylus-toting design baby. 

Photo by Mario De Armas

Photo by Mario De Armas

As a high schooler, Jessica became enamored with web design, teaching herself to code and eventually creating a tutorial site for others interested in making websites. Upon enrolling at RISD, she broke up with code and started holding hands with the design side, summering at Apple in 2007 and moving to NYC upon graduation to intern with Paula Scher at Pentagram (turning away a handsome offer in Cupertino in the process). It was Scher that helped Walsh prepare her portfolio for an interview at Print Magazine, where she worked for a year and a half before her encounter with Sagmeister. 

Sagmeister's decision to make Walsh a partner in his legendary and elusive firm, Sagmeister Inc. has in many ways defined her career, but before Sagmeister swapped the "Inc." for "& Walsh" Jessica was racking up an impressive anthology of work. I was originally interested in publishing some of Walsh's student work, but it's understandably difficult to track down. Instead, I've gathered some of Walsh's pre-Sag work, a glimpse into the designs that got her the job:

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Poster series for the RISD "Shared Voices" Seminar, 2012.

Poster series for the RISD "Shared Voices" Seminar, 2012.

Photo illustration for the April 2011 RISD alumni magazine

Photo illustration for the April 2011 RISD alumni magazine

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Some of Walsh's typographic experiments, 2009.

Some of Walsh's typographic experiments, 2009.

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Photo Illustrations for the Regional Design Annual, depicting different design epicenters across the country, 2009.

Photo Illustrations for the Regional Design Annual, depicting different design epicenters across the country, 2009.

Check out Mario De Armas' "The Creative Influence," a short peek into the life and work of Sagmeister & (namely) Walsh:

MAKE YOUR FRANKLIN

Continuing this currency kick, I came across a cool collaboration spearheaded by a trio of French designers in 2011.
Make Your Franklin is a community art project tasked with reimagining the iconic $100 bill. The founders' call for submissions simply requests that participants "free" the bill through their creativity and imaginations. The submissions run the gamut, broaching everything from the political, humorous, blasphemous and believable.
Take a peek below or submit your own entry here!

Axel, Toulouse

Axel, Toulouse

Adrian Lota , Bucarest   

Adrian Lota, Bucarest

 

Seaiby, Beirut

Seaiby, Beirut

Loup Delpierre ,  Bruxelles

Loup Delpierre, Bruxelles

Sergio Rodriguez ,  Caracas
Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma

Rattiel Brown

Rattiel Brown

ACE & JIG ATELIER

I teamed up earlier this year with Founders & Followers, an online inspiration and shopping destination based in NYC. The ladies behind F&F feature a carefully curated selection of clothing, shoes, accessories and art with the intention of exposing their makers' creative processes and inspiration sources.  

I designed their Atelier spread featuring up-and-coming design team ace&jig. Check out some of my spreads below and the full feature here.

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NEW SCHOOL CITY

This summer I was recruited by the New School Department of Communications to bring some of my hand-drawn lettering to an ambitious poster project designed to promote the New School in high school classrooms all over the country. The objective was to share some of the exciting options offered to students graduating from Parsons The New School for Design. Within the hand-drawn cityscape, each building represents an individual major and the diverse career paths to which each discipline could lead. 

I did the lettering for each building in the cityscape on 24" translucent marking paper and the entire finished piece hangs at 24" x 36". Over 30,000 of these were printed and distributed throughout the U.S.

I had a great time working with this talented team and definitely hope to collaborate in the future. Below is some of my process work the and the very exciting finished product.

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CLEVER PERSON WITH TIME

Ballpoint Barber, a stop-action animation by Peter Simon (Petey Boy). Simon created this video using over 300 digital stills and a whole lotta foresight. Wooly Willy 2.0.

THE EULOGY

A talented friend, journalist and former presidential speech-writer, Gena Feith, approached me in May about an exciting project she was working to complete this summer. "The Illustrated Eulogy of Herman Katz: Spaniel, Lover, Snackaholic" is Gena's humorous and touching memoriam to her deceased pooch, Herman, who was something of a legend in the Katz family. Herman, a King Charles Spaniel, was originally adopted to serve as a distraction to Gena's heartbroken brother, but left a legacy much larger than his little doggy frame. The story was written and illustrated by Katz, who recently earned her MFA at Columbia in creative writing. I helped Gena polish her beautiful handiwork and brought her stacks of drawings to the digital world.

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Gena was nice enough to answer some questions and give a bit more insight into the making of this project:

Where did the idea come from and what inspired you?

I was inspired by the death of a good dog and a deadline. The assignment was for a class I was taking in the Columbia MFA program called "Thickening the Plot," on unconventional ways of telling stories. 

I hadn’t drawn in a number of years – since High School – and as I stood in Pearl art store Saturday morning before the assignment was due Monday, I thought what an impulsive and probably terrible idea this was.

I was inspired by all my favorites who’s work I mimicked in the piece. I love Pierre Bonnard and I love his dogs. There is a dog in my building named Bonnard and I feel we have a connection.

I am inspired most of all by Maira Kalman. Who isn’t? I saw her at a reading recently and woke up with a terrible feeling the next morning that I’d Justin-Beibered her. I told her the story of my whole life and I gave her a pencil. I comforted myself with the thought that she’d probably do the same to Nabakov.

Where did your brilliant friend Caitlin come in?

I think the short deadline certainly helped make it happen. Even though I was surprised and very pleased with the outcome, I had assembled some of the images haphazardly, collage-style via a makeshift analog photoshoppy approach. I had drawn many of the images within the image on separate scraps then arranged them in to scenes on the photocopier. When scanned they were less than high quality resolution-wise. They included a lot of extra visual noise that Caitlin meticulously helped tame – image by image, line by line. We liked some of the extra static, for one, the snow scenes, which was actually snow from the photocopier and accidental, though it helped lend more depth somehow to the picture.

Do you want to do more illustrating in the future?

I’ve recently begun taking drawing and painting classes again. I hope to illustrate a mini World-Book for my daughter who arrives this January.

 

The complete piece is not yet available online, but I've included a small excerpt to get you excited about the release of Gena's opus:

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More on this as Gena and I find a home for this story online and hopefully at bookstores near you! 

YA BUNCH OF YAHOO!S

Last Thursday Yahoo! unveiled their first logo redesign in 18 years. Created by a small internal design team including Marissa Mayer and the most buzzed-about intern in the second half of the first week of September 2013, Max Ma, the logo was intended to reflect a sense of "whimsy" and "evolution". 

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This redesign has received its fair share of negative criticism; people were anticipating drastic changes based on some of the excitement stirred up during Yahoo's 30 Days of Change project. My main bother is its resemblance to Optima, a humanist font that teeters on the line between serif and sans-serif and is often seen representing beauty brands. Optima is a conservative face that swears she's cool but chases you around sliding coasters under your beers at house parties. I could've done with less restraint, but I understand the team's desire to distance itself from the original design (who can be found doing kegstands in the kitchen with the existing members of Jimmie's Chicken Shack).

Love or hate this redesign, the blueprint video assembled by Max Ma is beautiful and provides some impressive insight into the complex decisions that went into creating this innocuous symbol.

Click here to join my change.com petition to send Max Ma to Dancing with the Stars 2014!

HELLA FINE

Congrats to friends Tobin, Eddie and Jomaree, the dapper dudes behind Hella Bitters, who were recently featured by Tanqueray for their new campaign, "The Pursuit of a Higher Craft." They've been perfecting their citrus and aromatic varieties for years, but decided to share these babies with their adoring public starting in 2010. You can purchase on their site, West Elm, and Whisk.

Props to my brother Lucas and his business partner Banks Noel, for their beautiful brand design and copywriting work for Hella Bitters.  Check out their new commercial here and lookout for Tobin on Tanqueray billboards throughout NYC!

 

PRIMARY GOODNESS

Wired Magazine art director Tim Leong's infographic, featured in his new book, Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, breaks down the costume color ratios of popular superheroes and villains. Pooling from over 40 characters, his results identify that we associate primary colors: red, blue and yellow with purity and heroism, while secondaries: orange, green and purple are reserved to project evil.

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FRESHENING UP

I recently worked with the very talented Ed DeWitt of Cumberland, MD on a refresh photo shoot to capture some of my past and current work. Click below to check out some new pieces and new perspectives on older projects.

SURFLAND

Jodi Sternbach's monograph, SurfLand, captures contemporary surfers in their element with the use of the tintype photographic method. This wet plate collodian process has changed very little since its invention in the 1850s and lends this series a timeless, anthropological sensibility. Sternbach has been shooting on the coast of California and on the shores of Montauk since 2006, capturing these often stone-faced adventurers in their natural elements. Sternbach's efforts culminated in the (now out of print) 2009 release of her book, SurfLand.

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MASTERING DUTCH

Gathering inspiration from the color and density of the Dutch Masters' iconic floral paintings. Fantastical and hyper-realistic, these decadent beauties are just asking to be translated into wallpaper or a hipster's boxer briefs. Check out some of the beautiful reapproprations I came across during my research:

 

P.T. van Brufel, 1792

P.T. van Brufel, 1792

Jan van Kessel, 1679

Jan van Kessel, 1679

Cornelis de Heem, 1600s

Cornelis de Heem, 1600s

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The Little Flower School in Brooklyn teaches a floral arrangement class called "Dutch Masters," inspired by the 16th and 17th century painters. Spend the day learning about the flowers and compositions made popular by these artists and take home your own Brueghel-esque creation.

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Inspired ink.

Credit unknown   

Credit unknown

 

Credit unknown   

Credit unknown

 

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Contemporary Dutch photographer Bas Meeuws achieves these painstakingly detailed still lifes by individually photographing each flower and splicing them into these digital compositions. 

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Bas Meeuws, 2012

Bas Meeuws, 2012

HIGH FIVE!

My winning entry for the New School 2013 Commencement Cover contest. These were produced and distributed for the graduation ceremony on May 24 at the Javits Center in NYC.  Mine was one of four winning entries, including one by a very talented friend, Luiza Dale.

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My and Luiza's covers getting jiggy. Last three photo credits to  Luiza Dale .

My and Luiza's covers getting jiggy.
Last three photo credits to Luiza Dale.

EL COSMICO DESERT OASIS

Liz Lambert, creator of the beautiful Hotel San Jose in Austin, opened El Cosmico in 2009 on an 18-acre plot of land on the plains of Marfa,Texas. 430 miles west of Austin, Marfa is only home to around 2000 residents, but has become a destination for art enthusiasts and adventurers from all over the world.

Lambert and several teams of architects, artists, builders and students designed El Cosmico with a mission of sustainability and communal interaction, "El Cosmico is part vintage trailer, safari tent and teepee hotel and campground, part creative lab, greenhouse and amphitheater - a community space that fosters and agitates artistic and intellectual exchange."

Rates range from $40 - $170 depending on your roof/night of choice

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Oh and did I mention?

 

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COLOR THEORY

Silkscreen poster for a conceptual furniture store in SOHO: Color Theory. 
Three-color process with metallic type.

Layer 1: Magenta

Layer 1: Magenta

Layer 2: Magenta + Yellow

Layer 2: Magenta + Yellow

Pulling Layer 3: Cyan

Pulling Layer 3: Cyan

3 layers down, preparing for type

3 layers down, preparing for type

Mid-metallic

Mid-metallic

And a table on top

And a table on top

Voila!

Voila!

H E L L O : S U N S H I N E

Silkscreen series, "HELLO: SUNSHINE" printed on blank notebooks, 6" x 8.25".
For sale:  $16, email me if interested! caitlinowens@gmail.com
More coming soon! 

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The Pursuit of Happiness

For the last decade, typographer and designstein Stefan Sagmeister has been exploring a most satisfying and universal curiosity. Researching the work of Penn professor Martin Seligman as well as psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Sagmeister has been collecting his own list of personal truths in response to the question: "What makes us happy?"

He has recently parlayed his responses into a playful dreamworld of typography, motion, color and sound. In addition to his feature-length documentary "The Happy Film," Sagmeister turned this exploration into two museum shows: "The Happy Show," which is touring the country until early June, and "Six Things: Sagmeister and Walsh" at the Jewish Museum in New York City until August 4.

The latter, a short but sweet entrèe into the mind of Sagmeister and his young partner Jessica Walsh, is wrought with bubbly typography, upbeat symbology and some captivating video work achieved with the help of a high-speed camera. He explores his six revelations:

  • If I Don't Ask, I Won't Get
  • Keeping A Diary Supports Personal Development
  • Be More Flexible
  • It is Pretty Much Impossible to Please Everyone
  • Now Is Better
  • Feel Others Feel

each with its own tactile and interactive typographic manifestation. 

Thoughtful, colorful and spot-on, Sagmeister and Walsh's "6 Things" should appeal to anyone with an imagination or an over-the-top fangirl shrine to Sagmeister in their closet. 

I'm looking at YOU Stephanie! 

Enough talk go here now.

PS I don't know any Stephanies but I do know a thing or two about DIY temples. Most of which I learned from curling up in front of a fireplace with a few boxes of Kit Kats and a good book.

stills from "Six Things"

stills from "Six Things"

Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan Sagmeister

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from "The Happy Show"

from "The Happy Show"

from "Six Things"

from "Six Things"

from "The Happy Show"

from "The Happy Show"

from "Six Things"

from "Six Things"

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from "Six Things"

from "Six Things"