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your days are numbered_120312


about this time a year ago i was back in england with my brother wandering around london buying gifts and the like. at some point somewhere between the various shops we’d been to, i ended up with a tabloid sized newspaper in my bag with an drawing of iron man on the front, bleeding from his eyes. just above his head in a circle read the words, your days are numbered.

sitting down to grab a bite somewhere in soho i pulled out the paper and spread it across the table in front of us. immediately i was taken aback by the design of the layouts on every page. it’s long been a great sadness of mine that so few seem to have learned from magazines like the ray gun and the face, that one should endeavour to design layouts in response to their content, rather than the other way around. of course to find that this?free publication was being braver than the majority of expensive mags weighing down the racks in shops worldwide, should of course have come as absolutely no surprise. free fanzines and their brethren have been developing their punk aesthetic this way for decades now, and this new beauty in front of me was clearly no different.

in their own words, your days are numbered?is an independent graphic fiction magazine documenting the world around creators, comics and pop-culture. a world that whilst i have a huge respect and appreciation for, am absolutely ready to admit i’m not involved in as much as i would like, or perhaps should be. this ostentatiously designed thing lying spread-eagle over my burger and fries however, was about to pull me in deeper into that world that i ever thought i’d go.

arriving back in new york i found the issue in my bags and immediately pinned it to my bedroom wall. if anything it was simply going to remind that there’s still hope. however, over the next few days i kept looking at it and eventually pulled it down from the wall, opened it up and flipped to the masthead. i was going to write to these guys. they had to know how brilliant i thought they were, and as is my curse, i was absolutely going to offer to work for them, at whatever cost. it’s one thing to think something’s great, another thing to encourage them to continue – but if you really believe that what they’re doing is great, you have to work to take them to another level in whatever capacity you can.

firing off an email into the void, it was quite a while before i got a response. eventually i got a very nice email from their editor steve turner who immediately pointed out the humour in the fact that i was an english guy in new york writing to an american in london, and pretty soon we were talking about all of that and more. they immediately asked if i was interested in doing a layout or two for the next issue. not just that, they were asking if i wanted to layout an interview with alex garland?about the script he’d just written for the new judge dredd feature film. as a fan of dredd from when i was kid, and a big critic of alex garland’s work, it was perhaps more than i could have ever hoped for. certainly as my first shot at designing a magazine layout of any sort.

they were very clear about the fact that i could absolutely do whatever i wanted, and simply sent me text and images to work with. i couldn’t really ask for more.

then another serendipitous thing happened. a parcel had arrived in our studio during the spring containing a big brick of a comic book with the title king city. i had no idea who had sent it and during some time off in los angeles this summer to edit a short film i’ve been working on, i started to read it. it was captivating to say the least. the artwork, whilst not typically my style, married so beautifully with the playful dialogue, characters and science fiction concepts, that i was a quick convert. in fact i had to take care to not read it too fast, as comic books in my experience are too easily ripped through and thrown in a pile never to be visited again, and i’d not enjoyed one this much in a while.

after emailing around, curious as to where the book had materialized from, i soon discovered an old friend and comic book enthusiast had simply thought i might enjoy it, so had fired it off at me from his amazon account.

well of course then i get an email from steve at YDAN saying that they had another layout they were interested in me doing, an interview with the creator of?king citybrandon graham. once again i’d been blessed with that sacred thing in design – a great love and understanding of the content i was being asked to lay out. furthermore after being put in touch with brandon so that i could get some of his artwork from him, he offered to do a custom drawing just for the interview. i was over the moon. i set to work immediately, once again on two double page spreads and whilst this was definitely a tougher layout this time, am happy with the results.

afterall you can only do so much before the words have to take precedent, but i felt the balance between what was readable and how much character i got to put into the layouts in order to make it a memorable and exciting reading experience, was good.

the brandon graham issue is now on the shelves and i’m told doing better than any issue they’ve had before, in their admittedly short life thus far. you can find it in london at rough trade, brick lane coffee, eggs milk butter and gosh comics. i’m told it’s gonna be winging it’s way into various comic book stores in new york in the not too distant future too. so you know, if you have the means, it is?free afterall. whether you’re a comic book fan or not, steve and his team are doing the most fucking fantastic job of covering all sorts of relevant content.?most importantly of all however, they are trying to make every issue powerfully different, entertaining just to flip through and fully immersive once you get reading.

sitting back and looking at the various issues laying now on my desk and talking about the whole situation with steve, and some other friends, i am beginning to see the incredible potential of what these guys are trying to do here. more so than i perhaps did at first. it’s been too long since i’ve been excited by any publications of this kind (excluding of course the mighty little white lies), and i feel like?your days are numbered could comfortably be a part of any new vanguard movement striving to show people what a little free will, free press and design fundamentalism can achieve. i am very happy to be a part of this team and am excited to see where they steer this ship to next. i’ve been asking to be involved in magazines of one form or another for a long time, and in many ways i think i may well have found the most perfect spot to exorcise all the demons i have haunting my thoughts about the printed publication world.

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beyond the black rainbow_101312


the feeling you get watching panos cosmatos’ science-fiction film?beyond the black rainbow?is akin to what alex delarge must have felt when subjected to the ludovico technique in anthony burgess’ ferocious novel,?a clockwork orange. even if just to cleanse your palette you should subject yourself to its wiles at the nearest opportunity. it is of course not an easy watch. it will test your patience. however it will also leave an indelible mark on your brain. it’s coercive, narcotic audio-visual dictum will remind you that off the side and not so far away, there are those slaving away on the unforgiving, relentless and duty-bound task of making things that change the way you look at the world. things that take great pleasure in revisiting and cherishing the smallest details about the cultural carcasses we leave in our wake.

after seeing the film?here in new york, i found myself back in that familiar late night haze of coffee, loud music, sore back and twitching eyes, carving out the pieces you see above and below. whether you’re a fan of the results or not, we hope you are so moved at least to see the film and perhaps understand why we were so compelled to publicly display our affection for it.

you can watch a trailer for the film here.

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not fade away (part 1)_101012


we’re stoked to announce that we recently started working with paramount pictures.?the first fruit to bear is a website for the debut feature film from?david chase, creator of the sopranos. pictured is the teaser trailer site we were asked to create whilst we work on a larger website for the film. details are of course secret for now, but we’re excited about how its looking + where things are going. stay tuned for further updates in december, around the time the film is released!

you can view the teaser site here.

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where ideas go when they die_100312


the aurora movie theater shootings on july 20th of this year compacted with a series of events in my own life, and ultimately lead to me writing an article about it all for the IFP. i realized that what these events really bring into question is the difference between ideas and reality, and where you choose to draw the line. here’s an excerpt from the article –

“march 23rd, 2012.
two kids get in a fight on the platform of an L train stop in brooklyn, new york. both fall in front of a train coming into the station. one of them leaps from the tracks just in time and flees the scene. the other is dragged down the platform by the train, right in front of my eyes. his body half under the train, his arms grabbing at the side of the train, his torso spinning like a propeller, his blood smearing down the side of the carriages. i turn away in disbelief, my brain numb as people run past me screaming in tears, vomiting as they run. there?s one girl standing still in front of me as everyone rushes past both of us. she?s looking at me, her face all wet, her eyes pleading at me as if somehow i can provide an answer. the best i can do is not look at her.

the kid is still alive. there?s a woman crouched down by him trying to help him in whatever way she can. unsure about what i can do i turn and leave. halfway up the steps i curse at myself, and turn back. a few of us gang together try to push the train away from the body, so we can get him out. it?s a hopeless exercise. soon the fire department arrives and we are all ejected onto the streets.

people are opening their front doors and letting those clearly in shock come in and rest a while. i call my friend, whose apartment i?d just left 15 minutes before, and he talks me through it. he invites me back over to his, but it seems to make more sense to walk home alone.”

you can read the rest of the article here.

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booka shade_081412


based on our work with big black delta, the fine folk at nerve management asked us to work on an aesthetic revamp for the german, minimal-house duo booka shade. we knew of the band in part because of their music, but also because HORT had handled their look up to this point. for the record HORT are one of the few design houses out there who’s work we look at on a regular basis for inspiration. therefore, as you can imagine, the prospect of taking on this mantle was both terribly exciting and very daunting.

that said, it turns out booka shade themselves were fans of the sleeve design + logo work we’d done for big black delta, and were keen for us to reproduce that very textured approach in a fashion more suited to their sound. we were given demos from their new record and spoke to the band about the sorts of aesthetic ideas they had in mind. the end result was a push by us to simplify their previous geometric logo type even further. we wanted to add an elegance, softness and wear to it, in order to create a more established and timeless feel. a feel that perhaps spoke as much of their origins as to where they were going next.

the first piece of work we produced for them you can see above. it’s the single cover for their forthcoming release?honey slave, and focusses mainly on the new logo we created for the band. the single will be out on DIM MAK records, and we’re more than a little excited to hold a 12″ vinyl copy of it in our hands.

you can hear samples from the honey slave single here.

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polinski wins color in design award_043012


we’re are thrilled to announce that our record sleeve for polinski’s debut album labyrinths has won a color in design award. this is the first time we’ve ever won an award for any print work we’ve produced. quite a thing.

winners will apparently be featured in?HOW?magazine (july issue), and?PRINT magazine?(august issue) as well as their websites, the pantone website, and celebrated in a newly created online color in design collection, appearing in later summer.

a huge thank you once again to kim at monotreme records for producing the project, to?branislav cirkovic?for his fantastic typography, and of course to our long-time friend and collaborator paul wolinski for making the incredible music that inspired it all. to commemorate the occasion – below is a previously unreleased digital copy of the poster we produced for the cd + vinyl versions of the release.

in other?polinski?news, we’re hard at work on visuals for the forthcoming future everything show in manchester england next month. stay tuned.

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aesthetically speaking_042812


my latest IFP article is a call to arms to designers and those employing them, to raise the standard in terms of what is aesthetically acceptable. it’s very easy to dismiss the need for a good looking visual design, when money is short and the immediate gains are negligible. the article strives to point out however that the long-term affects of these decisions can be quite damaging, both psychologically and sociologically. here’s an excerpt from the piece –

“to reiterate once and for all, it?s our responsibility as human beings to remember there?s a lot of people on the planet who have no control over the look of the world around them and who are ruled by those who want to ?make a buck?. those of us that must suffer living beneath billboards towering above, promising soulless dreams, the garishly coloured junk food wrappers sitting in the gutter, the television commercials selling drugs for pains that don?t exist, the dying buildings built with cheap materials slumping under the weight of their own short lives, the angry faces and the lack of respect for anything. these people aren?t idiots. they know better than anyone that the look of the world around them massively affects their subconscious state of mind. they know it when they walk out of their rotting front door, glance at the grey sky, the paint peeling from the walls of their neighbour?s house across the street, scrape the ice from their car?s windshield with the splintering lid of a margarine tub, curse as the car won?t start and their foot goes through the rusted bottom of it as they lash out in anger. they know it when some of them later get drunk and walk around smashing windows, keying car doors, spray-painting church walls, and beating people up ? all scenes I?ve witnessed in my years growing up in england in the suburbs of cambridge, 3 years at university in manchester and later living in bedford-stuyvesant in new york city. It?s a level of rage that I can support and forgive when places like that?are?your reality. try getting mugged at 8:30am on your way to work, as i was in 2008, and being told by the cops that there?s no point in reporting it.

some of these people?hate?the world around them. they know what the end-game is better than the thoughtless assholes who make the products, create the ads for them and leave those ads gathering mould on some rusted old bus-stop sign, 23 stops out of town in some relentless nightmare of a burnt out suburb. the sorts of places that otherwise only filmmakers dare frequent in order to make their gritty melodramas. we have got to remember that every small gesture toward making things simply functional, that disregards how much ?greyer? you are making the user?s day, is a very valid negative point.”

you can read the rest of the article here.

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film posters (part 1)_042512


here’s the first in a series of blog posts grouping together some work which is pretty new to us – that of film poster design. it’s taken us a long time to get to the point where we trust ourselves (let alone others trusting us) to venture into this world, but so far things are going okay.

future weather poster
pavilion poster

needless to say but there are more in the works, for some pretty cool projects too. stay tuned.

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the carbon war room_041612


in july of 2011 i was staying in los angeles with some friends, needing some time out from everything. the one thing i had on my plate during my stay out there in the breezy dry heat, was a pitch document for a job we’d been put forward for by some collaborators of ours.

the job was to revamp the carbon war room?website. the carbon war room is a non-profit organization set up by richard branson?for the facilitation and realization of investment in sustainable low-emissions industries and technologies. in other words, an enterprise setup to help investors and entrepreneurs realize the financial benefits of ?going green? on a vast scale in today?s market.

version industries’ MO from the outset has been to fight to work for clients that we believe have something worthwhile to say or offer the world. this job was consequently very attractive to us as we knew we’d be able to put a good deal of work into helping, even in some immeasurably?small capacity, to change the state of the world today.

the trick of course was that we were pitching against 6 other companies for the job, a good deal of whom already worked in the environmental sector or?were already working for the carbon war room in some capacity. furthermore we’d never done a website of this kind before. this is something that always lets us down initially with new clients, as if we actually have never done any website before. by which we mean that we try with every job to do something entirely different every time. so the odds were against us, plus i was sort of on holiday and back in the new york studio everyone had 100 other pressing issues to attend to.

i talked it through with giles over the phone and we came up with a plan. he produced the words to describe our approach to this, and i sat down and started drawing some pictures, so to speak. the understanding we had of how best to handle this project (and as it turned out, this would be our advantage over everyone else competing) was that we needed to make this site engaging (they were getting horrid bounce-rates), less business-like (the current site felt like it was for some london law-firm, with ‘small print’ everywhere) and more enjoyable on the various new computing platforms out there (i.e. let’s make it big, fun, easy to scroll and hit buttons with your fingers on an ipad). for a company trying to offer a fresh approach to tackling the world’s major environmental concerns, their problems seemed clear to us in terms of design.

the key element we were shooting for in our pitch was something that later became known as the engagement component. this was very simple a colorful, quick, javascript driven tool that determined what type of person you the user were. it would then direct you to the part of the site that was relevant to you, explaining what the site had to offer to you, in your own terms.

the other elements we were suggesting in our pitch were conveyed by a series of quick mock-ups of our vision for the site using large format photography, a very spacious design and bold use of typography.

we packaged the whole thing up and sent it off. i went back into the sun with a sense that overall we possibly could have done better, but not sure how. it was just that feeling you have when you’re in someone else’s house in another part of the world, and you don’t quite have the same focus as you do when you’re in your own studio.

a week or so later were informed we were in the next round and that we’d caught their attention. a few weeks later, after some further interviews we were told we’d been selected to do the job. it was the first of a few radical changes for our company around this time, and was deeply affecting our general outlook. after almost 10 years of being around we were now getting the work we felt we were always made for. this meant of course that in return we had to thank them for doing so. we had to thank them in the only way we knew how – by doing the best job we could.

it was a vast task, encompassing initially a large main website completely integrated with their already blooming business forums on linkedin, and a smaller subsidiary site for one of the their latest active operations,?renewable jet fuels. there were many meetings with a great deal of back and forth over the various approaches we should take. a lot of new ideas were developed in this time that went beyond our initial pitch. the filter we provided, as they were so fond of saying in meetings, was to give their content a rock ‘n’ roll feel. not to be taken literally of course, but it simply meant we needed to make this attractive to people like us as well as people like them. this included providing infographics throughout the site with a certain wide-eyed, humorous and na?ve aesthetic –

and making the home page of renewablejetfuels.org look a little like the interior of an airplane –

one of the final elements to fall into place was their ubiquitous sonar.?they wanted us to translate their company logo and how it represented a map of the carbon war room’s various facilities into an interactive site navigation tool. this is the kind of thing we rarely get to do, and is always a pleasure. it involved sitting around, arguing the difference between ‘what would be cool’ and ‘what would annoy the hell out of people’ and finding some middle ground therein. you can see the results of this if you click on the company logo when you first hit the site.

it’s not often you get paid to make a difference. often you just have to do that kind of thing for free. embrace it when you get the chance. we’d like to extend a huge amount of thanks to mark grundy, david schwartz, peter boyd and the rest of the carbon war room team who made this project such a great pleasure to work on. there is of course more work yet to do, but right now seemed like an appropriate time to raise a glass to the experience.

cheers,

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caspar vs. black book magazine_021612


caspar was recently interviewed for black book magazine. here’s an excerpt from the piece –

how do you go about your creative process?
i?d say for me, it?s just read / watch / listen to anything you’ve been given a hundred times over until your brain is utterly saturated with and then just lie on your back and let your brain subconsciously do the work for you, and it will. it will tie, much the way dreams do, all manner of strange elements together based on personal experiences of old and the new elements you’ve introduced to it. in this way, i love the way david lynch?s writes his films. he?ll have one scene that?s just come to him out of nowhere that for some reason means a lot to him, and then another scene after it that?s this completely different — an unrelated thing that he also loves. he?s then compelled to put them in a film together and somehow find another scene that will perhaps connect them or explain why that was happening. it was the power of the two original scenes that lead to this new scene being made, rather than any sort of linear thinking process where you start with one scene and try and think of what might happen next. this is a hugely important way of approaching things because people don?t necessarily think ideas work like that.

you can read the rest of the interview?here.

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