Ironhorse T-Shirt Design

Here is the latest t-shirt design for Boulder, Colorado’s Ironhorse. These guys play seriously heavy and abrasive hardcore/metal/crust/grind and should not be missed live. Like their name implies, a locomotive. The design is sort of a media critique where the main figure has a crown nailed to him – an unlikely king made by the vapid standards in which society makes kings from nothing. 2-color, scratchy style on a charcoal grey shirt.

Accolades 11.11

Forgot to post this earlier, but it meant a lot to have a mini-feature on the best advertising and design blog in town, The Denver Egotist. I’m a huge fan of the site and it generated a lot of web activity over here, giving me a chance to fly high among my professional peers with the punk rock.

Advertising, so far.

Advertising is a funny business full of brilliantly creative people that can also use the left side of their brains too. I barely can get either side working in tandem, but somehow have learned through working professionally, and with professional people, that both can be done daily. So far, I have spent my professional career there.

My first agency job was at a then-powerhouse local agency that eventually got rolled into larger and larger national and international advertising conglomerates. I had a great and terrible time there, learning the ad biz and burning the fuel of youth fast and hard. We worked savage hours and got paid dirt, but most of the time it was good work at the grindstone, or in my case, affixed to my computer or in the art room cutting and mounting stuff. The book With All Its Faults in the picture above was one that was getting thrown out of the art room one day and it ended up being a pretty good read, since it had obviously been forgotten and surely nobody had any time to actually read anything, except maybe to pilfer ideas out of the latest Communication Arts or Lurzer’s Archive. I didn’t do any design work at that shop, but learned a valuable lesson that would need re-learning later, the lesson being there was the best training in the world of design right in front of me that no school or even an internship could teach – being a production artist on other people’s work. You can pick up a ton of tricks and tips essentially by going backwards – resizing, replacing, re-setting stuff and being guided along the way by the Art Directors themselves. Most of us in the Studio (the old school called it the Bullpen) just drank a lot and blasted music loudly all day to crank through and hit the expensive-if-not-met deadlines.

I got an opportunity to move along to another agency, as a designer, and one that was far cooler in terms of culture and clients, so I jumped. Most people I work with here in town are refugees from another agency and we are like a hugely dysfunctional family that gathers every couple of years. I do love the work though I’m reflexively anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist, and against pretty much anything that is popular in our “culture” here in America. I’m not against things because they are popular, I am because most of it garbage. Anarchist at the Ad Agency, President of the Anarchy Club! I was never a very good anarchist anyway, and thought it funny that every designer in town, myself included, had a blast at a speech given by the honchos from Adbusters, the most anti-advertising magazine around. Anyway, the work was fun, the shop was cool, and I was having a great time, until one of the clients pulled their retainer, 9/11 hit and a bunch of us were issued pink slips one morning. It was one of the worst days of my life, even though common in the field. Us newly unemployed and everyone else went across the street to drown our miseries at the bar.

From there I lost my mind, gigged at a few other agencies, tried tattooing, built ads at a newspaper, and went over to the “client side”, which is kinda seen as failure coming from the design world. I ended up there for almost 5 years, nearly losing myself and my fire, but getting a good salary and hanging with some nice people. It did temper me professionally and I learned to write proper emails brimming with protocol instead of expletive-laden speakerphone barks and throwing pennies to get my coworkers attention.

Things change and my family became the most important consideration. My scenario is such that I can now work from my home office when I have contracts and occasionally go out for onsite gigs when needed. I can’t complain though and I often have some good, consistent client work and am getting to the point where I don’t have to pitch for projects. In fact, this year was one of my best for work and I even had to turn down a few fun music-related opportunities due to scheduling. Next year, I plan on focusing more energy into my personal work and being selective with some projects. You can’t replace the frenzy of the workplace though and I do miss speaking with adults. Not bad so far for a punk kid trying to hustle some doodles for a living.

Yes, I have actually read all of those books.

Heartless – Hell is Other People LP-CD art and design

Here is the latest work I’ve completed for Pittsburgh’s Heartless. The LP is entitled Hell is Other People, after the Jean-Paul Sartre play No Exit, where it is revealed that the characters are locked in a room and have no torturers other than themselves. While working on visuals that would carry the theme, we came up with a central figure in collapse with disembodied eyes implying that these people are our judges, always staring. The back cover references isolation and broken teeth in the lyrics. There were some discussions whether this project would be in color or B/W, and ultimately B/W was decided, wherein the gatefold art needed to be done as well. I’m glad, and I love how the stark black with rough grey washes rounded everything out and gave the project a frantic, darkened look. Heartless‘ music is the real highlight (lowlight?) of all this – it’s a grimy, ugly and enraged slice of metal, hardcore, thrash and sludge all blended together into something really unique. This grey-blooded death beast was a true joy to be part of and I really moved forward with some of my own work. The LP/CD will be on Southern Lord, my favorite label and it’s easily one of the best. Needless to say I am excited and humbled.

Miracle Drugs 7″

Here is a new design for the debut 7″ of Reno’s Miracle Drugs, courtesy of Rally Records. They play catchy power-pop in the vein of Elvis Costello’s more jagged, earlier moments coupled with frustrated broken-heart lyrics. In other words, perfect pop goodness, which is not captured easily. Everything with this project was done with the lyrics in mind, as well as having 60’s overtone, albeit with an updated color scheme and distress on the graphics themselves. All graphics and layout done in Adobe Illustrator. The collateral for the 7″ single (which will also be available as a digital download on iTunes — again updated for the era) takes some of the same design elements and adds in a live shot or an intentionally campy robot theme to the pieces as a whole. The poster and 1″ button will be part of the retail package. Fun project, and they have a bright musical future ahead of them.

29th Street Disciples


This was a design for the Denver punk band 29th Street Disciples. Initially, they asked me to do a logo so they could have merchandise at shows — mainly shirts, stickers, badges and stuff for a web presence. The original logo (and shirt design #1) is the typeface-comprised skull that makes up their name. I was going for an 80s-type skate punk kind of feel like you’d see in Thrasher magazine, etc. This new design (shirt design #2) was borne out of me wanting to tinker with Adobe CS2. This one has engine-blocks, scratches and paint splatters and is more in line with the type of design styles coming out of the recent hardcore punk scene.

Update: We’ve turned the band into a full-on marketing juggernaut, complete with a formal CD, in-store poster and web banner. At some point, they’ll need a MySpace shell and some art for online sales portals like Interpunk or iTunes. I’m excited for them and hope they get far with their music. Westword likes ’em.

Cross-posted at Relic Design Studio.