Archive for October, 2010

Should You Watch?


For the second time this year, Kelly Doe has called upon me to dismember an athlete on the cover of the Week In Review. Back in August it was this classic Olympian and now, behold, an American footballer. The corresponding piece for this new one is, in some ways, an inverse to the previous article which I illustrated for back in August—especially considering that both pieces were written by Michael Sokolove. His earlier piece from August explored the public’s shifting perception of what makes a modern heroic sports star. This current one (which can be read here), inquires what it says about the viewers who so eagerly demand and relish in such a purposely violent game. As is often the case with most arguments in which Joyce Carol Oates gets pulled into, her opinion within the piece is difficult (though not impossible) to contest. Even though her commentary is placed in the middle, it reads like a closer.

Art direction: Kelly Doe.

Blowing Smoke – Da Capo


This one was a journey.

Da Capo creative director Alex Camlin and I got together on this book project back in January when the original title was: How Bill O’ Reilly Saved Christmas: A Fair and Balanced Account of Right Wing Persecution Fantasies. As one could likely deduce from the final, approved jacket above as well as the initial Bill O’ Reilly comps below, the book is an extended exploration of the journalistic practices of FOX news, slippery slope arguments, Bill O’ Reilly, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, etc. The opportunity to work with Alex on something was a no-brainer for me, and being impressed as I was (and am) with Rex Bonomelli’s handling of A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity, however opposite in tone I imagine that book to be, I set off to work.

Having Bill’s name in the original title was a fairly obvious point of departure from which to assign visuals so the earliest comps for this went as follows:







Alex and I both championed the title-less pencil rendering of Bill in the Santa hat, but in those early rounds, the collective favorite proved to be the final comp above with the pencil drawing incorporated into the stripes of the US flag. We went through multiple variations on that one before the title was changed up.

When we received word that the title was changed, it was a bit of a doozy. The original title, already a bit lengthy, had now been transformed to: BLOWING SMOKE: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas and Turn Junior Into a Raging Homosexual—quite a mouthful. Also of note was that Bill O’ Reilly’s name was nowhere to be found amidst all of those words, which meant that we’d be starting from scratch. Our quest began anew with a brand new crack at it:










The whole conceit of the final ‘BS’ idea felt more like an interesting thought which would never see the light of the day in the real universe, so it was mighty exciting to have Alex return from his editorial and marketing meetings telling me that the crew was all behind BS—the only catch being the common concern that buyers might not make the conceptual leap quickly enough if the complete title wasn’t on the cover. At this point, the challenge then became how to make an interesting cover around two huge letters while juggling a handful of other, smaller ones. In exchange for lessening the graphic impact of a big, fat ‘BS’ standing alone on the cover, Alex encouraged me to experiment with die-cut and transparent jacket options as well as the standard ones. With that, we were back to work:




(My first crack at a transparent jacket option, with the complete author & title printed on the book proper).



(Die-cut option #1)



(Die-cut option #2)


The final treatment above, which would eventually lead to the final, chosen cover, was arrived at in no small part to the perks that one benefits from by working in the same office as a design ninja like Joe Spix. Joe came into my office one afternoon apropos of nothing and asked plainly:

“Hey, you want to play with some photo emulsion transfer markers?”

Joe’s far too talented and responsible for me to ever interpret such a question as an invitation to huff those markers’ noxious fumes, so I obliged. As he was using them for a wholly different project at Motown, when we ran a few xeroxes and applied them on some raggedy newsprint, the germ of a possibility of a notion of a new comp was born. Once I had submitted it and received the go-ahead from Alex, the only remaining requests from the whole crew were that the title be somehow integrated into the giant ‘BS’ so to avoid confusion and also to include some color variations. We were close.




And there you go.

This would have been non-possible without Alex’s guidance and Joe’s conveniently timed experiment. I thank them profusely.

Op/Ed – Home Economics


This past Sunday’s Op/Ed in the Times took the form of four different ‘economic postcards’— four writers chronicling four separate slices of life in various parts of the country which share how people have been managing in the wake of the ongoing economic slump. The piece above is perhaps the most optimistic of the four, describing a couple in Boise, Idaho who when faced with a serious gopher problem in their garden, meet a wildlife coordinator who’s exceedingly efficient at solving problems of that kind. This guy is far more capable than, say, Carl Spackler.

This one accompanied a piece about a young woman in Portland, OR who’s found a way to purchase organic produce using food stamps. However resourceful, such shopping is kept in check contextually with a brief detour through comparable markets in Las Cruces, NM.


This one went along with a discourse on the paradoxes of the Dallas real estate market.


Lastly, this one went along with the page’s final piece about a Providence, RI theater owner who’s switched his bills up to all comedies all the time in order to drum up business which has fallen off sharply.

The four of these images went through multiple incarnations and at least one fast last minute change within a very short window of time before locking in to the common pictorial cohesion that we arrived at for the finals. Also worth noting, this was wrapping up at the end of a particularly lengthy week and I was tired. I would credit Aviva ‘Nothing-Is-Over-Until-We-Decide-It-Is’ Michaelov for goading me into digging deep and pulling out a batch of images which ended up in a far better place than they were in when we began.