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People who’ve known me for a while may have an inkling that I adore street art. I’ve written about it, tried to mimic it, spent an unhealthy number of hours thinking about it, and occasionally, when I am in a braver mood, debated about it. So when the whole Sticker Lady controversy bubbled up last year, some people asked me what I thought. Back then, in the midst of the issue, I took a backseat, even though I had my opinions. Now that the whole thing has died down, I am finally going ahead and writing about it. (This, perhaps, is what would make me a terrible current affairs blogger.)

skl0

 

For better or for worse, street art was thrown into the limelight last year when artist Skl0 – infamous for the tongue-in-cheek stickers like the ones above – was arrested for vandalism of public property. This came after her work gained significant traction both online and in public space (she had distributed the stickers for others to put up, as is a common practice with many street artists such as Shepard Fairey of OBEY fame). The issue bubbled and bubbled and took over everyone’s social media feed, birthing a substantial backlash and a subsequent online petition. All in all, if you were below 30 in Singapore you had to be living under the a rock in order to not have heard of it.

At the time, what fascinated me most about The Sticker Lady issue was not the fact that she was hauled to court, but the widespread assumption that this consequence was unique to Singaporean laws.” 

As it were, I heard about this whole thing while I was halfway around the world under my proverbial rock in cold, cold Chicago. Coincidentally, I had just written a tedious but heartfelt paper for a class on the significance of street art and why it had to remain illegal in order for it to thrive, and this case popped up as if to taunt my position on the matter. At the time, what fascinated me most about The Sticker Lady issue was not the fact that she was hauled to court, but the widespread assumption that this consequence was unique to Singaporean laws. (A barrage of comments on the paternalistic, backward nature of the local government ensue.) Although there are most certainly other examples of the nanny-like responses of Singapore authorities, what I realized was sorely lacking was the knowledge that other countries have equally strict laws about graffiti and vandalism of public space. For example, Chicago has banned the sale of spray paint within the city limits, and keeps the cans securely locked behind counters in surrounding suburban areas. It spends more than $9 million on graffiti removal a year, slapping white paint indiscriminately over tiny scrawls and sprawling murals alike. The same is true for many other cities within the United States – just Google “graffiti laws USA”. And, as with any creative community in any city, there has been a backlash. Responses run parallel to those heard in favor of Skl0’s work back home: that there should be a delineation between malicious graffiti and public art, that the law should allow for the flourishing of creativity, and that the injudicious use of white paint was even uglier than the scrawls to start with… at least the graffiti painters had a sense of style.

I suppose what sets Singapore’s response apart… is that the local government is just so darn efficient at cracking down on people in general.” 

I suppose what sets Singapore’s response apart from these “battles” raging on everywhere around the world is that the local government is just so darn efficient at cracking down on people in general – which I am sure is the envy of many city officials in the United States. Along with the fact that there are fewer graffiti artists in this country than a place like Chicago, Skl0’s art was easier to single out from the outset, and easier to pursue. Thus the difference lies in the enactment of vandalism laws, not in the intent. (Note that I say this of the artist’s stickers – her Shepard Fairey “Limpeh” spoofs may be a different matter altogether: )

 

LIMPEH 2

 

Another thing that bugged me so much about the Skl0 case was the cries of people for the law to distinguish between “bad” graffiti and “good” public art. Although the intentions behind this sentiment are of the right heart, they are more difficult to enact than they seem. It is my personal stand (and you can most certainly disagree) that it is not the place of the law to determine what is art, and what isn’t. If the law decides tomorrow that aesthetically-pleasing graffiti pieces are art, and everything else is vandalism, then it makes an assumption that art must be beautiful. What about conceptual works that are intentionally jarring? How about thought-provoking text? Similarly, if the law decides tomorrow that only pieces that “do not look like graffiti” (i.e. no spraypaint) can be considered street art, then it is making a decision based on particular social connotations of certain styles. If the law decides tomorrow that it is only going to pursue graffiti works that do not originate from those who call themselves artists, then it is making an assumption about the self-identities of those taking part in this social movement. Ultimately, any decision the law makes that is any more discriminatory than it is now will be challenged by contentious new works that pop up.

The fact is, street art, public art, graffiti – whatever you want to call it – has a nature that stands innately in opposition to the law. People must recognize this as its beauty and not its downfall.”

The fact is, street art, public art, graffiti – whatever you want to call it – has a nature that stands innately in opposition to the law. People must recognize this as its beauty and not its downfall. Despite the many styles, mediums, and messages that exist, every piece of work that is intentionally put on the streets has one common theme: it is there to take back public space. It is there as a reminder that a city is not made a city by its structures and walkways, but by the heart of its people. And because of that, sanctioned graffiti – work made legal – will never have the same sort of impact as a throw-up that appears on the side of a wall in the middle of the night, or stickers that multiply as if by magic to admonish and encourage testy pedestrians. Unfortunately, this means that graffiti artists will always be at risk. However, for many, this risk is acknowledged and is part of the job. You need to step out of the status quo in order to challenge it, after all.

The bottom line is this, I suppose: Street art is a movement happening before our very eyes. A social movement, an art movement, an urban movement – it is all of those. Mark my words – it will be celebrated in the distant future as exactly that, even if it is not thought about in that way right now. And as with every movement that came before it, it comes with a desire to change perceptions, to overturn social norms, and to challenge the status quo. None of these things the law will particularly like, but the law has its own functions to fulfill in other areas of society. The controversy Skl0 has sparked because of her stickers only go to show that her work is valuable, and that the movement is surely making an impact in Singapore.

I hope she is the first of many.

 

Posted by geneve in thoughts Read More

I am running a little social experiment based on my hunches about why some of my portfolio posts are getting far more traffic than others. My most popular post is K & J’s wedding – to my surprise, clearly, because it is off to the side – and for the longest time I thought it was because people liked looking at wedding things. But is this really the case, or is it getting far more hits because it is exceptionally clear from my home page what kind of project to expect when the square icon is clicked? We shall see: I’ve now made all my portfolio posts painfully clear at the outset, outlining each project title with my specific contributions. I wonder if this will change things… time to watch my site stats like a hawk over the next few weeks.

In other, more graphic design-related news (versus that of the science of human psychology), I am excited to be embarking on a new brand identity project with a student group based out of Harvard!

Posted by geneve in graphic design, thoughts Read More

behance-logo-blackI hereby declare – rather belatedly – that I am now a functioning member of Behance! (If you hadn’t already guessed by the overlarge image up there^, or the title of this post.) I’d always been a little testy about spreading myself too thin and trying to update too many platforms at once – as you can see, I’m already struggling with just one – but the community on this network is like none other. If you’re on Behance as well, join me! I hope to be more update-y on my littler projects there. (Also, in celebration: Note the addition of my newest footer icon at bottom right.)

Posted by geneve in thoughts Read More

Two months at The Second City as of today! Again – I am so fortunate to be here, and it’s a great feeling knowing that you’re actually getting to do what you signed up for. For just being one company, the scope of work ArtCo takes on is astonishing. In the past 8 weeks, I have done some awesome things, some really cool things, and some downright hilarious things, but really gets me going is that every project is so different from the last. Here’s a breakdown of my highlights:

  • Web ads for SNL Stars Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson & Cecily Strong
  • Title treatment for Second City’s Holiday Spectacular (Miracles Not Included) – felt Christmassy all week
  • Ultra badass superhero logos for a possible new series Hero Squad
  • Resurrected the Playwrights Theatre Club logo from a 50-year-old mailing brochure
  • Smoothed out countless actors’ uneven skin tones, VPLs, silhouettes and chin fat (oddly satisfying)
  • Sorted through head shots of every. single. alum. of The Second City – old photos of famous people!!
  • Built a spinning Super Mario gold coin from scratch (see it in action in Mario & Luigi In Therapy)
  • A totally hipster shark poster
  • Designed a business card for  bogus company ProfanovationsInc (“Taking You Beyond Fuck You”)
  • Slider cards saying “Your XBox Can’t Wait To See You Naked”, “Suburban Sex Party News”, and – to my horror – “How To Celebrate National Masturbation Month”, among others

Because I worked really hard on the Hero Squad stuff, and because it’s so different from the kind of work I usually do, but mostly because I adore superheroes, here’s some of the illustration I did for the series, without giving too much away:

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Official Hero Squad Title Treatment

 

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CANARY: Veteran hero, faints in the face of danger

 

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GEMINI: She can split in two, but so does her mental ability

 

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LOCK: Opens locks. Works part-time at Best Buy’s Geek Squad

 

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TANKED: Gets stronger the more he drinks. But also gets drunker.

 

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BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: Actually just Ben Franklin. Kidnapped from the past.


And  a poster I did today for a new Training Center class that I think qualifies as hipster:

Shark_Showcase

I really love that I get to use different styles on different projects. Will share some work again when more stuff comes my way. :)

Today – actually, late last night – I built my resume from scratch. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and something I admit I’ve been afraid to begin to do. Perhaps it is a symptom of my Northwestern education, but I’ve never even considered any other option aside from the Word-formatted, serif-fonted, power adjective-ridden resume I’ve seen in all the career counseling books. Don’t get me wrong: that has served me – and no doubt, a million other college kids – well, and is the standard for most industries, especially high-flying ones like banking and consulting that the bulk of NU kids apply to.

But then I started looking at resumes for creatives. And boy were they a whole different ballgame. As I found more and more (you can find my favorite ones pinned here on my Pinterest board), I realized that for a designer, a resume represents not only a written summary of one’s experiences and credentials, but is also an excellent gauge of his or her creative judgment. By this I don’t mean the ability of a designer to make his or hers the most beautiful resume around, but his or her ability to to solve the one problem of anyone trying to cram their life’s work into one sheet of paper: How can I best represent myself with this little space?! And so a designer’s resume is, fundamentally, both form and function, content and formatting. What’s the best page layout to use that will be aesthetically pleasing as well as read smoothly? What font is best to convey personality as well as make text readable? What visual symbols – icons, if you will – can I use to indicate that this is an e-mail address without actually saying it?

And so I opened InDesign and set about re-working my resume from scratch, incorporating elements from the fromthisdesk.com brand structure. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t go to crazy with the design, but also wanted to step it up from my old, boring formatting. Here is my before-and-after:

resume-before-after

Same content, totally different style. I’m happy with the result for now, but I’ll still have to test-run and refine it. It’s tiring but exciting to realize that a resume is always a work-in-progress, and so I expect I’ll be coming back to this before I know it and changing it up once again. But for now, it’s good. You can see the full version of my new resume here.

I just wanted to do a short post updating everyone on what I’ve been doing away from fromthisdesk.com. As some of you may be aware, I am so lucky to be doing an internship with The Second City, arguably North America’s most well-known improv group. Their list of alums reads like a who’s who of comedy… I may or may not have lifted that phrase from their website.

Working at The Second City is a real breath of fresh air because I can actually see that my work matters. Not that my previous internship experiences have been fruitless, of course – the impact of my contributions perhaps just less immediate. Here, I can design a slider card for their website and see it on the web in a matter of hours. That said, I’m working mostly with the Second City Network, their online comedy arm, so the topical nature of the content necessitates that everything moves quick – including design. I’m also slowly learning the ropes of the Art Department’s online client request system, which is infinitely useful for the avalanche of projects we receive on a daily basis.

I’ve been here 2 weeks and I’m pretty psyched at what I’ve been allowed to do so far. Here’s a small selection (warning – bold humor up ahead):

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(Btw I also get to do spoofy things like fake Craigslist posts – click on the pic above)

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Also check out SCN’s Facebook page – I designed their current cover photo! And the Network promo slider on secondcity.com. Times like these I’m still amazed that people would let a college kid anywhere near their websites. Oh well. Not complaining. Excited to do more.

Til next time! :)

…can also be kind of fun!

Last time, I talked about how my personal brand identity made its way from a mess of uncollected thoughts to becoming an actual logo. Although that was a fairly long process, expanding on that basic brand image took even longer. I wanted to build elements around the basic rocket pencil that would move soundly with its look and feel. Anything I did from this point on needed to be harmonious with what I’d already created. Already in my mind I had played with the possibility of creating a pattern – not least because I’d stumbled across this helpful tutorial some weeks before. And so with the heavy tutoring (heh) of Vectips.com, I set about creating my signature pattern.

Now, I’ve always been fond of patterns – I love the way they dress up any surface, rather like a good wrapping paper. They’re repeatable, thanks to the powers of Illustrator and Photoshop, and is an easy way to replicate a look. It’s almost cheating – but not quite. Patterns are also great for “futureproofing” any brand. However I choose to expand my collection for the future, I can always slap on this pattern to make sure everything is in line with the established look. Here’s the final look:

fromthisdesk_Website Pattern Showcase

Love that I can do whatever I want with it. I guess I always come back to that unthreatening, kid-like feel.

Also, I wanted to be explicit about what exactly fromthisdesk.com is without being too in-your-face or formal. I’d seen a bunch of business cards for a photography studio somewhere that used precisely a pattern like this to broadcast their range of services. I decided I wanted to do the same – thus the little word banners.

With a pattern in tow, it was now so much easier to expand outwards. I kind of went crazy on these business cards, which are printed with moo.com – I cannot recommend them more – and kept things interesting by changing things up with the colors and orientation. So happy with them. Here are some pics:

 

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(Edit: I am reviewing this post from my iPad and I just hate how the screen dulls the pinks! Trust me, in real life, each card is a vibrant, healthy, pink!) I particularly love how the rounded edges turned out. I think just that detail adds a lot of character, and contributes to that whole kid-like look.

I also went a little crazy and bought stickers. They’re multi-purpose, help to brand anything you own, and are great for sealing letters, too.

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The last element in my initial stationery set is a Thank You card, which I use to add a personalized touch to my notes of gratitude! If anything, it helps to make you a little more memorable (read: interviews). Here, I could’ve taken a shortcut and used that same pattern (it would have worked aesthetically), but realized that I didn’t always want to send a card that broadcasted my design services. I’d like to use these for personal events, as well. And so, staying in line with the pink, pencil motif, I came up with this. I tried to make it look like the rocket was somehow catapulting into the sky from a cityscape. Smiley face can’t hurt, as well. (There’s one on the inside of the card too.)

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Now that all is just about done, I’m looking to expanding this set. Designing a letterhead is something I’ve got on the back burner for now. I’m excited. Welcome to fromthisdesk.com!

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…Is hard. Although I know it has to be done – especially for someone hoping to enter the creative industry – it’s the biggest challenge ever. Somehow, despite having handled other branding projects (to varying degrees of satisfaction), when it comes to thinking about myself as an entity apart from my personal self, I’m completely clueless. I think it comes as a result of being in my own body… does that sound weird? When I think about what a “Geneve” brand could possibly look and feel like, everything I know about myself comes flooding to my mind, and I can’t for the life of me think straight. Added to the fact that I know I’ll have to stick with this identity for a long time, everything sort of becomes overwhelming. A couple of weeks ago, I finally buckled down and took up the challenge. Faced with interviews in the coming week – with intimidating names in the entertainment business no less – I finally had no excuse but to get my portfolio, business cards and other networking paraphernalia designed and printed. I was just not happy with my previous logo, something I admittedly threw together in the early stages of test-running this website:

fromthisdesk

There was something about it that looked unfinished to me, and so I set about from scratch, wondering how on earth I would tackle the task of “re-branding” fromthisdesk.com. There were a couple of things I set straight on the outset:

  1. I needed to have my name on it somewhere. Normally, this wouldn’t matter too much to me, but since I had to take into consideration that this would function as my personal brand as well, I had to have “geneve” in it somewhere.
  2. It needed to be round. This is mainly a function of my website’s current layout.
  3. It needed to be pink. Don’t ask.

And so, for the first time in a long time, I sat myself down and did a concept brainstorm. I didn’t get far…

fromthisdesk_brainstorm

Annoyed and kind of tired, I started brainstorming visually instead. And, although I kept telling myself that it was totally cliched, I kept coming back to the pencil. The pencil has become more than just a mark-making instrument to me. It’s the first step of every project I take on. I use it to sketch, write, take in the stuff all around. I used to carry around my book all the time so I could pencil in things of interest (I use a camera now). My high school art teacher was also a pencil freak: I remember stooping over communal trash cans shaving 2B, 4B, and 8B pencils with newly-sharpened X-Acto knives (Mr. C: “It also sharpens the mind”). Dropping one was nothing short of sin. And so, in taking my (somewhat demented) art education with me to college, I still view the pencil as an ally; a friend. So, starting with the pencil, I started to sketch aimlessly. From this desk – a desk with a pencil – where can that take me? Its pointy end started to look like the nose of a rocket. I looked at my drawings again. Hm. A rocket. That could fly.

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And so after days of reconsidering my branding, I came up with this. I still like the vintage effect that I’ve applied to all my previous logos because it gives everything a tactile feel, and adds depth. But I also like that if I want to, I can subtract the distressed effect for a clean-lined look. I also think this logo works in just about any color, but most importantly, it works in black. Working on other people’s projects have taught me that no matter how you intended for it to look, a logo is bound to appear in grayscale somewhere, and much tinier or bigger than you’d ever want it. And so I prepare for that.

But this is not the end of the story! Branding is more than just a logo, of course. It’s an entire system of visual images that come together to create a unified look for a company or individual. Everything should match, from colors to line weights to fonts to how each motif is used. And so I set about creating a whole look around my brand identity. The results to follow – look out for Part 2.

TL;DR: Branding yourself is hard. And look, a new logo!