Sign Painters Book

Stephen Powers, New York
Just came across these great images on The Morning News - photographs of hand-painted signs.  These all come from a new book from Faythe Levine and Sam Macon called Sign Painters (from Princeton Architectural Press): a collection and anecdotal history of America's best sign lettering artists. These make me feel like I rely far too much on digital tools. I'm in awe.

Josh Luke, Boston

Phil Vandermart, Minneapolis

Information is Beautiful Awards

Michele Mauri's winning data visualization in the Infographic/Infodesign category: this infographic visualizes the most-covered songs, by artist and year, from 1958 - 2010. (Hint: green is The Beatles).

Found this today: The Information is Beautiful Awards, "the world's first open contest to celebrate excellence and beauty in data visualizations, infographics and information art." The winners have just been announced, and you can see them and a larger version of Mauri's winning entry here.

Some of my favourite designs on the site actually came from their regular Challenges - the judges propose a topic and provide the dataset - and award the prize to the person/team who visualizes it the best.  And they're often fun: this past summer they held one called "Diagrams are Forever" and the challenge was to visualize the entire 50 years of James Bond (women, gadgets, martinis...you get the picture?).

The judges for these most recent awards included Maria Popova (whose carefully curated blogs BrainPickings.org, Exp.lore.com I really enjoy), MoMA Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, David McCandless (one of my all-time favourite infographic wizards, author of Information is Beautiful) and, oh, Brian Eno.

Illustrations for Thousand Islands Playhouse

Since, in my working life, I started out as a stage manager for live theatre, I have always paid attention to the ways in which theatres market their shows.  Whether they're packaged as part of a season or individually, shows need images to entice and sell.  And especially in this climate of budget cuts, fewer government grants, and, I think, the general noise of everyday life, it can be extremely challenging to get noticed. But in order to get those bums in seats, theatre companies (and the completely unsung arts marketers out there) need to find that "magic bullet" image - you know, the one that completely evokes the tone of the show in a thrilling, exciting, and captivating way - and find it on a tiny budget.

In this climate, then, I think most theatres choose photography over illustration.  Some marketers are convinced that audiences want to see photographs of human beings, and pictures of actual cast members - especially if they're known, or "big name" actors - are ideal.  I think of theatres like the Stratford Festival, or Tarragon Theatre, when I think of this approach. The Shaw Festival did that for many years as well, but for this season they've got whimsical, retro, photo-collage illustrations.  Of course, I've always had Soulpepper Theatre Company on my dreamlist of Companies To Work For.  I have admired the multi-award-winning work from Sandwich Creative for years and years.

I suppose it all comes down to the audience and how well each company thinks they know them.  Of course, most Canadian theatres have seen a steep decline in subscription-based ticket buying over the past decade, so perhaps the face of your average theatre-goer is changing.  Theatres are still trying to find that "magic bullet" that makes sure each and every night is sold out.

I have always loved illustrated theatre posters much more than ones that use photography. I appreciate the leap of logic that captures a story, or the combination of two disparate images that sets the tone. I respond to imaginative, fantastical, stylized drawings that are, ultimately, human. And that, to me, is theatre.

Anyway, this whole blog post was inspired by some work that I can now share with you.  I was hired recently to do the graphic design and illustration for the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ontario, and today was their season launch.  Working with their inexhaustible new Artistic Director, Ashlie Corcoran, and supremely talented web designer Kelly Wong, I am so proud to show this stuff off. I'm excited to see what 2013 brings for that amazing company!

Here are some highlights of the 2013 season images:

Image for Boeing Boeing

Image for No Great Mischief

Image for The (Post) Mistress

You can see the whole 2013 season here.  Visit the Thousand Islands Playhouse website too!

What does your keychain say about you - Version 2

Prepared?

Superstitious?

Old-fashioned?

Practical?

Disloyal?

I don't think it's going to work out?

Thanks to a few friends for input & suggestions...you know who you are. Hey, if you have an interesting keychain, maybe you should send me a photo of it!

October = Monster Month

I'm off this weekend to picturesque Bracebridge, ON for a family Thanksgiving and since my not-quite-four-year-old niece will be there I am taking the advantage of giving her her monthly dress-up outfit in person.  I always try to buy used clothing - the Value Villages near me are never short of incredible dresses for little girls - but the Monster hat is new.  Hey, I mean...Hallowe'en is only 28 days away, right? Plus, I tried to balance it by making the cardboard crown by hand. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. Okay, I had too much fun.

Getting lost in my own dressing-up