July round-up

Current obsessions + good ideas:

July has just flown past! Work is busy — which is great! — but it means I’ve been spending less timing ogling other people’s stuff on Pinterest and design blogs, which is probably a good thing. But I still have three designers/design studios to share in this month’s round-up, which I’ve come across in my research, or “research” (in the case of the 3rd entry here.) In no particular order, here’s what has been inspiring me this month:

If you read my post at the end of June, you’ll know that I have a thing for well-done collage work. Martin O’Neill of Cut It Out (best name for a collage artist’s studio!) is another brilliant, talented UK-based graphic artist. He has a very versatile style, mixing many elements and processes in to every project, often with a bit of humour. I think the bio on his site says it best: “Martin’s work evolves from a subtle alchemy of collage, silkscreen, photography, paint, and digital techniques.” 

2 collage magazine covers by Martin O'Neill

© Martin O’Neill

And it really is true: his collages have a magical quality, and they just work in this really harmonious way, even though they are made up of so many textured layers. Some are so complex, you see something new every time you look at them, like the cover on the left, which he did for a travel issue of the Independent Magazine. And then some seem very simple on the surface, like this recent Newsweek cover on the right. It’s a pretty straightforward graphic, but there is a depth to the shapes and images and the way that they break apart that isn’t totally obvious at first glance.

Poster designed by Martin O'Neill (Cut it Out Studio) for the Lincoln Centre featuring a collage of people and the event space.

© Martin O’Neill

I’m a fan of a lot of his artwork, but his recent campaign for the Lincoln Center Out of Doors arts festival stands out to me. This really captures the energy and summertime goodness that I imagine happens at a free outdoor art event in New York. Again, this poster works on a very surface level, in terms of the shapes and overall composition, but then you can get into the details in the crowd, and what’s happening on the stage, and all the patterns in those colour rays…I just love it.

You can see all of his ideas and in-progress work for this piece on his blog — definitely worth spending some time here!

I first heard of this second designer at the 2012 Design Thinkers conference here in Toronto. Francesco Franchi is an award-winning Milan-based designer who is known as much for his stunning and complex infographics as he is for his editorial design. He is currently the Art Director of IL, a monthly lifestyle magazine put out by Il sole 24 ore, an Italian business newspaper. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can get the gist of the content through his precise and immaculately-executed infographics, like this one:

Complex infographic from Italian magazine IL, showing bicycling stats from around the globe.

© Francesco Franchi

The level of detail and concise presentation of such a huge quantity of data is mind-boggling. This is a skill that I just don’t have, being able to process and clearly present this amount of information, and to make it look good on top of everything. Interestingly, Francesco is also a journalist, which I think must help in this kind of synthesis and analysis.

Now on to the publication layout: here’s a spread and detail shot of some of his work for IL.

© Francesco Franchi

© Francesco Franchi

I’m currently doing some publication layout and art direction work, and I’m definitely finding lots of inspiration in Francesco’s Flickr feed, which seems to be the best space to really get into his work. He also recently published a book, Designing News on how editorial designers and the media industry in general are adapting to digital publishing, that I’m hoping to get my hands on soon!

I’m definitely saving the most summer-appropriate designers for last: Toronto-based design/illustration studio Doublenaut. This studio is run by brothers Matt & Andrew McCracken, and they made their name largely by designing posters, album art, and merch for the Canadian indie music scene.

If you live in the GTA, you’ve probably seen their music posters around town for local and touring bands, as well as for music festivals.

© Doublenaut

© Doublenaut

Usually, distressed, faux-vintage design bothers me, I’ll be honest. This (thankfully now-dwindling) trend of making new things look like they were designed/printed/weathered decades ago just feels so inauthentic. Because it is. Especially when it’s a website. But these guys are masters of subtlety, and they somehow manage to pair aspects of this old-timey look with contemporary typography and illustration to come up with something entirely new.

Most recently, you’re likely to spot their distinct style on the labels from Bellwoods Brewery in the west end of the city.

© Doublenaut

© Doublenaut

I think it would be fair to say that my household (not just me, promise) is a big fan of their beer, and whenever I enjoy a Monogamy Pale Ale I’m reminded of just how much I love this label, and the whole identity they’ve crafted for Bellwoods. I think it perfectly captures the off-beat, slightly macabre, not-following-the-normal-rules tone and feeling of the brewery.

© Doublenaut

© Doublenaut

If you love these labels as much as I do, they’ve had posters printed of them which you can purchase from one the best stationery/print shops in town, Kid Icarus.

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Well, those are a few of my favourite projects from July! Check back in a month to see my August round-up of current obsessions & good ideas.