Project Spotlight :

Project Spotlight: Brand New Ways

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I’m currently in the trenches doing front-end development on a new client website for We Are Branch, and we’re just wrapping up and readying to launch a new client website, so I’m taking a minute to reflect on one of our recent projects. Brand New Ways is the first website that Star and Shauna brought me on to help with, and it was a fun challenge to work with such detailed website mockups and rebuild them in WordPress page-by-page. A few months later, and I’m reproducing website mockups in CSS without even blinking. Shauna designed some beautiful branding and she documents it well in this blog post.

The creative part of my job tends to be the responsive design for the site, taking a website designed for wide-screen viewing and minimizing it down to a phone’s screen while maintaining it’s feel. I love getting a site to move fluidly from various window sizes to tiny screens!

Brand New Ways had a clean design and lots of nice white space, we integrated Jen’s podcasts into the blog format, and the footer is one of my favorite elements. To top it off, Jen is doing interviews with amazing people like Wayne White and Mimi Pond. I love handing off a project and the client takes off with exciting content!

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What I’m Reading:

Mad Style on TLo! The best part of Mad Men, besides the show, is reading Tom and Lorenzo’s coverage of it a few days later. This one does not disappoint. Oh, the 70’s!
The User Is Drunk – Watch a UX Designer go through the flow a submitted website and give his honest opinions of the design, while intoxicated. I love everything about this, AND it’s actually informative!
How She Got There – A great interview with Erika Hall, detailing how a career can go through many different forms, and how sometimes employing yourself is the best/only option. I found it inspiring.
Blue Q – Socks! These are great-looking socks, great colorful designs. I’ve been researching apparel websites, and I like this one. No, it’s not a promoted post, but yes, I’ll take samples.

Losing your creative project to a company

We’ve all heard the horror stories of creative people losing their projects to corporations. I remember being warned about it in college: if you go work for a major film company as an artist, they WILL own everything you create while you’re employed, so cover your ass if you’re going to do any creative work on the side. I learned to keep a fine line between my personal work and my commercial work, and it’s a line that’s left a strange mark on my portfolio. While working in gaming the opportunity to start developing new game ideas came up, and I leapt at the opportunity. While I was happy enough creating art for established games, I really wanted to be making my own games, and that drive got me into a lot of meetings where I was pitching new games ideas.

It started off small, I prototyped a little cupcake game, pulled on a UI designer, an artist and an animator, and we pitched a quick and dirty prototype during a quarterly meeting. Response was lukewarm, but the thrill of pitching potential game ideas stuck with me.

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Soon I find myself in a smaller studio where new ideas and prototyping is encouraged. We schedule out time to pitch ideas in a freeform environment, and I am pitching maybe 3 ideas at a time. I was aware that I was losing each of these ideas to the ether as I pitched them, but I knew I had a million ideas. The first few flopped really hard. One or two went to the second round, but they were similarly shut down. I kept on going, my pitches started getting better, and I got the attention of a producer and developer who helped me out with my ideas. They brought new game mechanics to the table, and I ran with themes, art styles and look-and-feel mockups.

We eventually hit a sweet spot.

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We designed a game that combined the ever-popular match-3 gameboard with time management cooking game mechanics,  internet favorite cats wearing cute little hats, and baked goods with faces.  I created a flat, pastel visual style that felt more like a cartoon on TV than your usual iPhone game. It was getting sentimental and sweet, and I was developing a connection to the game, but I also kept an eye on current gaming trends and tweaked it so that our style would stay relevant in the future.

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I made quick character expression sheets and vectorized them, handing them off to our animator who did some amazing animations for each kitty. Nothing quite like ending a day at work and getting an email attachment with you drawings come to life. It’s amazing. I was staying up late putting together animated comps of gameplay, our UI artist was losing sleep to get everything perfect, and soon our dev hopped on to make the gameboard interactive, and before we knew it we had a playable slice of the game.

We pitched it to the CEO’s, and they LOVED IT.

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It was one of the best experiences I’ve had working in a studio, we kept our team small, everyone was enthusiastic, we were doing all the prototyping work ontop of our usual workload, and we’d designed a game that was pulling attention. It was our little beacon of hope that we would be developing our own game in-house, and I was thrilled to see my idea come to life and everyone around me feeling motivated to push the game forward and rumors were that the greenlight was just around the corner.

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So what happened, you ask? Yes, the game was greenlit, and yes, the game was released a year later, but it wasn’t greenlit until my creative team was laid off. There isn’t quite a word to express knowing that your idea was good, and now you don’t get to be a part of it. Oh, and you lost your job.

And there’s nothing that can be done because the company owns your ideas.

I lost most of my game art in the process, and am only sharing these mockups now because the gameplay mechanic is now out in the open.

It leaves me wondering if you should EVER produce ideas while you’re under contract with a company. You could possibly craft a special contract for new ideas, but I’d doubt that would ever fly. You can decide to take the gamble doing pitches and prototyping the way I did, and you could even get lucky, but what happens if the idea really caught on? It’s hard to say.

You can develop your ideas on your own time, start your own gaming company on the weekends, you can release a project fairly easily as an independent publisher. You won’t have the resources, the large platform and spotlight that a company may promise you, but the idea will still be yours.

The great takeaway I got from prototyping was pulling together a diverse group of people. I was creating ideas that was bringing everyone together, a common goal that we all shared. While artists tend to hide in their corner, I found myself working with designers, engineers and UI, and that experience has lead me to pursue design and development myself. This new path I’m on? I still don’t know if it’s leading towards a design agency, a new game, or a web design studio, but it’s going to be rad and I’m going to own it from the ground up.

Is it worth the risk? That’s for you to decide.

Event Spotlight: Field Day Opening Night

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We got some great photos back from Jenn Farmer from First Friday at Field Day. She’s a fantastic photographer, and got some great shots of all the characters who came out for the opening, and she took some of my favorite new shots of me. Check out the whole nights over at the Field Day Facebook.

I took photos of all my pieces right before framing them, and those are included here as well.

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My amazing buddy Lauren came out for the show, and she’s 6 months pregnant! Glamorous mama. We’ve worked on various art teams together in the past, and have some exciting new ones coming up in the future. I also cannot wait to meet her baby girl.

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The Latest Online:

Huffington Post : I was included in this round-up of queer comic artists! While I haven’t been drawing comics about girls kissing girls for quite a few years, it was really fun to dig up some of my favorite pages and be included in this list!

Mimi Pond Interview : I was thrilled to see Jen Leonard interviewing Mimi Pond, who’s a fantastic cartoonist. I read “Over Easy” recently and absolutely loved it, from the diner drama intrigue to the glimpses of Oakland in the 70’s.

We Are Branch Project Spotlight : Speaking of… here’s the project spotlight on the Brand New Ways website! Shauna designed a fantastic styleguide and website for BNW, and this was our first website collaboration that I did development on. More on that shortly…

I’m with the band : To wrap it up, here’s a photoshoot I fell in love with over at I-D. I love the models, the Keith Richards-esque clothing, the falling on the ground, all of it. Great capture.

Noel Fielding Paperdoll

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I’m excited to share a new piece that went up in the show: the Noel Fielding Paperdoll! Noel is one of my absolute favorite comedians, playing the glam-rock zookeeper/shop worker/band frontman Vince Noir in the British comedy Mighty Boosh. This show was my favorite thing in college. He also plays a great amount of other characters in Mighty Boosh, paints bizarre colorful paintings, says witty things on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, has some of the best street style out there, and has allowed the world to see inside the dreamscape of his mind with his own show Luxury Comedy. Noel accompanies the Bill Murray Paperdoll I drew last year.

Also, last week we were both hanging shows! While I was hanging at Field Day, Noel was hanging at the Royal Albert Hall. Quite different locations, yes, but we happened to do the same shots:

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Right?? Follow Noel on twitter and Instagram!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new paperdoll! I couldn’t get nearly all of the outfits and accessories I wanted onto this piece, so there might have to be an additional page of outfits added. And prints, possibly. Let me know if you’re interested, I’m highly susceptible to suggestion.

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Be sure to check out the Noel Paperdoll and all my other new pieces this month at Field Day in Oakland. We had such a fun opening on Friday! Lots of sweet faces, everyone enjoyed the pieces, we sipped fancy tea from a cart on the sidewalk in the warm evening and dresses and photoshoots were had! Thank you everyone who came out for First Friday! I can’t wait to get photos back from the night!

I just started my feedly account, feed it?

<3

The first week of January in review

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Phew, so we made it through the first full week! Despite the worldwide dismay, there’s also an enormous creative momentum. Aiming for more creative breakthroughs and less meltdowns. I’m always happy when I’m too busy, and when there’s too much work to do then there’s also a huge drive to make art as well. I’m launching projects with clients, developing some great collaborations, and preparing to launch my next book… so there’s a lot to be done. My latest projects are all strong and feminine, I feel grateful to get to work with some great ladies.

My first project of the year was designing a shirt for Rachel Fannan‘s solo project “Only You“.

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I met Rachel back in Santa Cruz almost a decade ago, she was playing a piano on the floor of the coffee shop and singing songs that completely stole everyone’s hearts within earshot. We made gig fliers together, and even lived in a house full of kittens and stray puppies for a short while. Seriously. Now we’ve both grown up, and she’s toured the world with some pretty awesome rock bands, and it was a pleasure to reunite and design some t-shirts for Only You.

This was a super-quick turnaround project, and we kept it simple and clean. The final design, made for screen-printing, locks eyes with the viewer and seems to do a very good job of capturing the mood of the project. Can’t wait to see these in print! Check out Rachel doing her thing here and here and on twitter.

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At the start of the year we also launched the website Hiya Tootsie, designed by Shauna at We Are Branch and developed by me and Star. A really nice clean design and I’m really happy with how the mobile version of the site turned out. Plus, watching Heather put out her first empowering posts this week has been fantastic.

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I even managed to put in some good time painting my next comic with Eddie Wright, but that’ll get it’s own post next week.

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On Friday, I went out with my amazingly talented friend Koak (she’s going to blow your minds when her book comes out) and took her to the Chip Zdarsky signing at Good Vibrations, because who doesn’t like running into comic book creators at a sex toy store? Briefly ran into Jennifer, met Kieron and Jamie (who are doing one of my favorite books right now — The Wicked + the Divine) and we ended up crashing the Brian K Vaughn signing at Isotope Comics. It was pretty much my dream scenario for comic conventions: don’t go to the convention floor, just go to the afterparty.

Seeing a bunch of comics people got me powering away at my own project on Saturday, and I took a swing at painting Amaterasu from Wicked + The Divine. Her eye makeup is just made for drippy watercolors.

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Reading Online:

Patton Oswaldt interviewed by Wil Weaton (yes, Wesley Crusher) for Playboy Magazine.
Geekery at it’s finest.
Marilyn Manson interviewed for Vice Magazine
Marilyn’s still as dirty of an old man as he was when I was in High School.
Joni Mitchel is the new face of Saint Laurent
Can’t love these images any more than this.
365 Awesome Designers
Putting this here for now, amazing collection of a wide-variety of designers and illustrators.

Project Spotlight: Dyemond

The first collaborative project between Star and me, we went from Star’s styleguide that she designed straight into building the website. We combined inktank footage with white overlays to create a revealing effect on this one-page responsive client website. It was a great chance to experiment and try out some new techniques, while also developing something super simple and clean. It has to be seen in motion to be enjoyed fully, so here’s a gif, or just click on through to the site.

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This project also allowed us to collaborateon some original illustrations for the project, I designed some characters based on our client’s own ideal clientele, and Star tatted them up! They didn’t make it into the final website, but the ink video would show through in their linework. I want to do more of these.

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