Taking a page from my time in DC, I recently suggested that the monthly DJ gig with friends Jen and Genevieve expand to try a ‘versus night’, specifically New Order versus OMD, as both the latter and Peter Hook, former bassist of the former, were due in town in the coming months.
I was curious if the blissful, insane fun I had at Cure vs. The Smiths, New Order vs. Duran Duran and Depeche Mode nights at DC’s Black Cat (special nod to DJ Michelle Guided for providing much of that soundtrack) could be replicated – on a much smaller scale. And hey, if nobody showed, at least we’d enjoy a night of great music.
We sold the idea to a skeptical manager at The Independent Bar that hosts our low-key, all vinyl gigs. Now for a poster design.
It starts and ends with Peter Saville. Saville’s design defined an era. His work with Factory Records, his iconic cover designs for Joy Division, New Order, OMD and other post-punk bands emerging from the UK in the late 70s and early 80s are instantly recognizable.
I had a lot of fun playing in his sandbox as I went from producing one design to four. The designs are all mashups. The main poster utilizes the bold lines and streetmap grid look of New Order’s 2016 ‘Music Complete’ album while incorporating the tan, brown and green color scheme from OMD’s 1983 album ‘Dazzle Ships’, both designed by Saville. I added the fuchsia for some pop as I felt it complemented the other colors and contrasted the black line art well.
The typography is strict Helvetica, which lent itself to the utilitarian look of a lot of the early Factory Records and Hacienda materials.
Each of the posters pulls from New Order – OMD – Factory aesthetic and style – all shaped by Saville. Famously, the sparse ‘No’ that featured on New Order’s ‘Waiting For the Siren’s Call’ was actually a response by Saville to a request to design the album cover.
Do you remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the marketplace crowd disperses and a large, imposing swordsman does a series of flashy moves before a weary and having-none-of-it Indiana Jones pulls out his pistol and shoots him? Ok, stay with me on this…
In my role as graphic designer for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, I’m fortunate to work for an organization with a mission that’s kind of tough not to get behind – the care and treatment of children and support for their families.
While my primary role is in graphic design, our department allows us the freedom to explore and utilize our other talents. It was such freedom that allowed me and our videographer Juan to brainstorm an idea to create a partnership video with the Tampa Bay Rowdies for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Juan is super-talented and had a basic framework in place. I came in with Indiana Jones. My idea was to utilize the spirit of that scene with our patient Vance facing off against one of the Rowdies’ players, which turned out to be Juan Guerra. Our department was on board and allowed us total creative freedom. The only catch? We had to concept, storyboard, write the script, film and edit in two weeks. Easy peasy.
As you can see in the video above, our team came through. This was shown at a late summer Rowdies match and led to a nice chunk of money donated to the hospital. I was thrilled to work with Juan on this project and thankful for the help of our marketing team and the clinical staff at the hospital for volunteering their time. Of course, the video doesn’t work without the Rowdies’ players, Guerra, Georgi Hristov and Keith Savage.
While I don’t necessarily recommend pitching a video idea about kids with cancer with Indiana Jones blowing away a bad guy, having a pop culture mindset does come in handy every now and then. It goes nowhere without a lot of other people on board lending their talents and it made me excited and proud to be a part of Kicking Cancer with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
On February 8, the Power Records Project streamed a live performance of an original Flash Gordon radio serial from 1935. It was the next step in the evolution of an idea that grew out of my two-week adventure with COVID back in March. Something that started out as an individual endeavor has grown into a fun, creative troupe of seven. After kicking around ideas to expand beyond re-creating old book-and-record adventures, we decided to get goofy and do a live performance on Zoom and streamed through FacebookLive.
From a design standpoint it was fun for me to create some teaser and Zoom background graphics, as well as a short teaser video that allowed me more practice and play time with After Effects and Premiere.
With over 325 views as of this post, we’ve exceeded all of our modest expectations.
The VIP Auction was an annual fundraising event through the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation. Each year, a committee voted on a theme and encouraged attendees to dress the part. In 2019 for example, my colleague Nannette created a kick-ass look for the Rock the Night event with a hair metal feel without sacrificing the ozone layer.
For 2020 the theme was Hooray for Hollywood and I was assigned as creative lead. My design married an art deco font with a Saul Bass 1960s movie poster feel. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event, which was scheduled in April of 2020. Much of the materials were already produced, including the logo, invitation, backdrop and nearly all of the signage.
I shed a serious but thankfully mild case of the Coronavirus in early April and as my physical energy returned, so too did my creative energy. But where to channel it?
I decided to re-create an homage to one of my favorite book-and-record stories from my youth.
As we all practice physical distancing – in my case it was nearly 28 days of total isolation – we seemed to embrace or re-embrace ‘comfortable’ forms of media and mediums. Maybe it’s a simple psychological reaction to our new uncertain realities. One of my comfortable mediums are the old Power Records adventures from the 1970s. My brother and I spent hours listening and listening again to stories of Spider-Man, Captain America and the Falcon, Werewolves, Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, reading along with the comic panels while the record scratched and popped with the… erm…finest Power Records voice talent money could buy.
One of my favorite stories was Spider-Man and the Invasion of the Dragon Men. It had Spider-Man wisecracks, dragon men from space and their leader, Draco, who somehow picked up a distinct New York accent during his travels across the cosmos (Peter Pan/Power Records was based out of New Jersey). I knew I could have fun with it.
It allowed me to dip my hands again in Adobe Audition and Premiere where I could set up slates and titles and layer my audio in with sound effects I downloaded from the BBC Sound Effects archive (it’s seriously incredible). My plan was to do all the voices, but I ended up recruiting my talented cousin Abby on the female characters. My best friend Jon provided some musical cues and after about a week of editing, it was done!
Tune In Next Time
When I posted the finished video to YouTube and linked it to my social accounts, a very lovely thing happened. A few friends expressed interest in wanting to contribute if I planned to do more stories. After some coordination, six of us – myself, Jon, Abby and three other friends – did a virtual table read over Zoom to kick off the start of two more book-and-record adventures! It was more fun than I hoped it would be and I’m now even more excited to continue this little project and follow where it leads.
Need Even More Power?
Medium ran a story about the history of Power Records, with a bit of a hip-hop bent. They were apparently a fertile ground for sampling. Who knew?
There’s also an older blog that seems like an exhaustive repository of everything Power Records if you are looking for a rabbit hole to explore.
Of course, many of the old Power Records stories are available to watch/listen on YouTube, uploaded by fans.
After providing the Record Store Day poster design last year for local landmark Bananas Records, I was fortunate enough to be asked to work on the 2019 version. Sometimes it helps to be in the know with those in the know.
I was given a lot of leeway in terms of direction again this year. Since Bananas doesn’t really have a budget for these things, it’s essentially a pro bono gig. I’m big believer that designers should be compensated for their design. I’m also a big believer in the relationships you form with people and being in position to help out in ways that don’t always result monetary transactions. Let’s just say my vinyl copies of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration and Simple Minds’ Sister Feelings Call have left me properly compensated. I look at it as a chance to flex my creative brain on projects outside of my job at the hospital. I’ve worked hard in recent years to build relationships that afford me the privilege to work on fun side projects like this.
There are a lot of great designs of past RSD posters and since it’s an international event, that allowed for a treasure trove of ideas to inspire what became the finished design. I liked combining the idea of the vinyl record and its grooves with the orbits of our solar system’s planets. It helped that the lineup at the store consisted of eight acts and a food truck (sorry Pluto, at least you were represented).
As with any design exploration, a lot of the fun is coming up with various concepts and then leaving it up to the client to decide which they like best because they always choose your favorite. Excuse me while I turn off my sarcasm alarm. I was really happy with my exploration on this one though and although my personal favorite is the minimalist design utilizing the banana silhouette as the arm of the record player, I was still happy with what Bananas chose.
There’s no law saying Halloween can’t be extended beyond October 31, so we’re keeping the spirit alive with an added episode which asks the question, “Why did Pete make Jon watch Halloween III?” The answer is simple: so we could do a podcast episode on it!
Halloween III gets a lot of grief because it doesn’t feature Michael Myers as the antagonist and is an outlier in the series. It’s also gained a cult status over the years as the oddity in what became an increasingly odd series. But does that mean it’s any good?
It does have America’s Treasure Tom Atkins going for it, so…