Monday, April 25, 2011

Social Experimenting...

I'll be the first to admit it...Facebook is sorta getting boring for me. And Twitter, well, I've never really liked Twitter. So in order to spice things up, I've joined in an attempt to replace written posts with photo posts. My goal is at least one photo per day, more when I find something interesting, cool, or funny.

You can follow my new photo adventures over at my Flickr, (nicko74), Facebook, or Twitter pages. I hope you enjoy my social experiment!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Custom Fit Construction Logo

This was my first-ever barter project. My friend started his own construction business, Custom Fit Construction after being downsized in the economic downturn. He and his wife had developed a tagline and had a starter logo to get them off the ground, but wanted something a bit more clean and crisp as he expands his business and looks for a larger customer base.

I happened to need a new patio, so we worked out an agreement and work began just as the weather turned cold at the end of 2010. Alas, my long-desired patio would have to wait until Spring, but that's okay, I could still work on the logo in the meantime...

The original concept for his logo was "Solving Your Remodeling Puzzles" and they wanted to stick with that, so I used that as my basis and went to work and developed four concepts. I mocked up the logo in a business card format to help the client visualize the final outcome and help speed up development time.

Version A: standard "wood" version to imply the basis of nearly all construction. Cliché, but hey, gotta get it out of your system, plus you can't go wrong with an awesome background texture:

Version B: I kept the wood texture (from my friend Von's book: Crumble. Crackle. Burn. Great resource for any designer!) and added a puzzle element in keeping with the company's tagline:

Version C: I custom fit each letter of the words "Custom Fit Construction" together like puzzle pieces:

Version D: I developed a more puzzle look for the logo while keeping the type clean and crisp. For the background I took photos of wood, concrete, brick, floor tile and gravel all around my house one sunny Saturday in November:

My friends really liked version D, but wanted it to be a bit cleaner looking so I made the the background white and changed the type to the green from version C to reflect that he does do green construction too.

I reworked the textures a bit for the final version as seen here:

So far my friend really likes the new logo and looks forward to implementing it across all media.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Company 7 BBQ Sauce Labels

I was approached late in 2010 with the project of designing a line of barbecue sauce labels for a new local restaurant concept. The restaurant, Company 7 BBQ, wanted to have their proprietary line of sauces and one rub ready to go on opening day. The only problem was the timeline: about 2 weeks total to design and get labels printed. I initially wanted to decline the project because of the tight timeline so near the holidays.

I spoke with the folks and learned they are a family of firefighters and seemed like good people, so I accepted the project. It was the least I could do for those who have put their lives on the line to help others. 

I knew concepting would be intense and stressful. I did my standard steps of research and thumbnailing, however, I put myself on a strict timer for each stage and really just cranked out whatever came to mind. 

I developed four initial concepts, mocking up the mildest and hottest sauce to show the progression of "heat". Version A was to gradually up the flames in the background against a dark blue background:

Version B was simple, bold solid colors in the background from "uniform blue" to "fire engine red" and the heat scale was numerical starting with 1 and going up to 6 within the firefighter maltese cross symbol:
Version C was based on the very cool Peter Pirsch fire truck that is the centerpiece of the Company 7 BBQ bar area:
Version D based on the idea of fire damage, the hotter the sauce, the more the beat up and textured the label would become:

In the end, the client chose version B, the bold solid colors. I worked up retail and in-store versions as quickly as I could and they were able to open with some labels on sauces. Response to the restaurant has been fantastic from what I've heard. If you're in the area, be sure to check 'em out!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Princess Snow

My longtime friend and former travel buddy, Rachel is getting married today! As is my tradition, my gift is that of a custom illustrated poem for the happy couple. This started many years ago (1998 to be exact) and my frustration with wedding registries. 

Well, trying to concept during a) a busy period of freelance and day job stress, and b) holiday stress was not c) fun. However, I did get my basic research and ideas down so that by the time December rolled around, I knew roughly what I wanted to do.

I know that Rachel loves Christmas and all things Victorian and I knew her wedding colors, so I had a solid foundation upon which to build. My initial concept was to have a flowing "Art Nouveau tree that acted as a frame for the image. And of course, I had to include snow to hint at her love of Christmas:

I thought I had a good start and then I got busy with holiday stuff and freelance work (in addition to the day job) and put it aside for awhile. When I came back to the sketch, I was ready to begin work in Illustrator and I just couldn't. I looked at the image and it just, well, sucked. There was no energy, no life, nothing there. In my rush to "get it done", I compromised the integrity of the illustration. 

Completely mad at myself for doing poor quality work, I closed down Illustrator and went back to the sketchbook. I then very quickly sketched out this version: 

I couldn't believe the difference: this version has better detail, more energy and vibrance. This was it! Now off to the computer to really bring it to life. I was going to just do my typical workflow of digitally inking the sketch and adding flat color in Illustrator then add textures and lighting in Photoshop. But I decided that I wanted to try actually painting with my Wacom tablet in Photoshop. It was a technique I'd always wanted to try, but never had the time to do. So I went for it.

I watched a few YouTube vids to get a handle on the best way to get going and then went for it. I laid in my flat colors and basic shapes using the sketch as my template:

And I gradually refined the colors and added shading and texture to the image:

I was particularly proud of a nice little detail I added to Mike's collar...
I kept my opacities on my brushes low, typically 10-50% range, and rarely 100%. I also kept as few layers as possible to keep the image simple and true. I have to admit, it was kinda frustrating at first, but as the image took shape, I found myself enjoying the process more and more. 

Here is the almost-final image:

The only real change between it and the final framed version is that I made the snow light blue so it would fade to the background more:

After the main image was complete, I used the same background and set the poem in Snell Roundhand:

The text of the poem reads:
"Princess Snow
Princess Snow and her sister,
Princess Sunflower,
Traveled together
Far and wide.

Princess Snow loved her sister,
But was still lonely.
So she ventured back home
To her enchanted snow forest.

Her silent solitude
Melted away, though,
Once Princess Snow glimpsed
Her one true love
Approaching through the shimmering snow."

For my first attempt at a true digital painting, I was pleased with the results. And honestly, it didn't take much longer than my traditional workflow. You can be sure I will be doing more digital paintings in the future.

And to my dear friends Rachel and Mike, Happy Wedding Day! May your new life together be filled with love and happiness. I love you guys!