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Downtown Calgary



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UPPERCASE magazine

The Suitcase Series Volume 2: dottie angel, now shipping!A Collection a Day by Lisa Congdon, packaged in a collector's tin! Work/Life 2: the UPPERCASE directory of international illustratorsDownload the FREE iphone app!An illustrated storybook for sophisticated children and whimsical adults.

NEW! Shoegazing Notecards curated by Janine Vangool and published by Chronicle Books.

Click here to purchase Shoegazing Notecards 




current inspiration


Great inspiration for illustrators


Weirdo Deluxe

The Wild World of Pop Surrealism & Lowbrow Art

By Matt Dukes Jordan

"Lowbrow" it may be called, but high-profile best describes the cultural impact of this contemporary art movement. Found everywhere from wine labels and high-end bar accessories to major motion pictures (Teacher's Pet, the upcoming Pink Panther), the visibility of this dynamic work has rapidly increased in the last few years to worldwide recognition and acclaim. Weirdo Deluxe is the first significant manifesto of the genre—a riotous blend of pop culture, street culture, pop art, and surrealism—and includes profiles of and interviews with 23 leading artists and hundreds of outrageous examples of their work. Special features include an expansive timeline, and peeks at the artists' collections and influences. Weirdo Deluxe is at once a primer and lowbrow art sourcebook as well as a visual homage to pop culture.
(synopsis from Chronicle Books' website)


Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!

saskatoon.jpgFound at Design Observer and Speak Up, is an article about my childhood home town of Saskatoon. Marian Bantjes has photographed the proliferation of roadside neon-lettered signs.
I've always found these signs strangely appealing. The limited colours of bright yellow-green and fushia, have great subtle differences in hue due to the sun bleaching letters used most often. I admit to collecting the discarded neon letters from these sorts of signs (only if the letter has fallen off the sign, which is my general rule for collecting found type treasures.)

Man and Machine


Deere John

A great little film found on the Coudal Partners website.

Quirky, fun and joyful


Pass the time, pleasantly

Visit the Blu Dot website and you'll find more than furniture – the company also presents short films and goodies, the first of the series being a great downloadable desktop clock. Each minute reveals a clever bit of found typography. The short movie about the process of creating the desktop clock is quirky, fun and joyful.


Pesticide-free entertainment


Use the Farm

So much better than the original – organic vegetables unite against the darkside in Store Wars.


Quenching my typographic thirst



If you're watching the NBA playoffs on Sportsnet (and not distracted by all the Steve Nash buzz), watch for the Gatorade X-Factor commercial. The spot cleverly presents an A-X alphabet of sport. If you're more of a typography fan than sports fan, the commercial can be viewed online.

(Creative by Downtown Partners of Toronto.)


Tactile, remarkable and full of surprises


The Push Pin Graphic

A Quarter Century of Innovative Design and Illustration

By Seymour Chwast
Edited by Steven Heller and Martin Venezky
Introduction by Milton Glaser

Part design and illustration studio, part pop culture think tank, Push Pin Studios made a phenomenal impact on visual culture from the 1950s to the 1980s, representing an important chapter in postwar graphic design. Founding member Seymour Chwast partners with key figures from the design community -- as well as co-founder Milton Glaser -- to provide a visual history of the studio by way of its signature publication, The Push Pin Graphic. Hundreds of memorable covers and spreads culled from each of the eighty-six inspired and imaginative issues confirms Push Pin's vital role in setting the design curve and influencing the direction of modern visual style. The Push Pin Graphic is the first comprehensive account of a design milestone that continues to influence designers to this day.
(synopsis from Chronicle Books' website)


Paula Scher Monograph

makeitbigger.jpgMake It Bigger

An outspoken voice in the world of graphic design for more than twenty years, Paula Scher has developed a worldwide reputation for her bold, modern graphics and her incisive, sometimes stinging, critiques of the design profession. In Make in Bigger, Scher candidly reveals her thoughts on design practice, drawing on her own experiences as one of the leading designers in the United States, and possibly the most famous female graphic designer in the world. Pointed and funny, it is an instructive guide for all those who navigate the difficult path between clients, employees, corporate structures, artists, and design professionals. Make it Bigger provides a survey of Scher's groundbreaking work, from her designs as art director at Columbia Records, to her identity for New York's Public Theater, to her recent work for the New York Times, Herman Miller, and the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center planetarium.

Paula Scher is a partner in the design firm Pentagram and a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. She has won countless awards for her work, including the Chrysler Design Award and an AIGA Medal for distinguished service to the profession. Her album cover designs have earned her 4 Grammy award nominations. She lives in New York City.
(synopsis from Chronicle Books' website)

Ultraman! Space Giants! It's an invasion!


So Crazy Japanese Toys!

Live-Action TV Show Toys from the 1950s to Now

By Jimbo Matison

When huge alien spiders or ocean-dwelling mutant dinosaurs hell-bent on destruction decide to pay a visit to humankind, they always seem to stop in Japan first. So Crazy Japanese Toys! showcases a cast of totally cool, totally sugoi creatures culled from the most popular Japanese children's TV shows. From early and obscure Japanese shows to programs that have gained mass popularity around the world—including Ultraman, Space Giants, and Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot—So Crazy Japanese Toys! will delight both casual fans and hardcore aficionados. Readers will encounter rubber-clad superheroes galore, kawaii 'n' cuddly characters, high-revving motor heroes, and of course rockin' chicks of both the friend and foe varieties. This book is a must-have for anyone attracted to anime and manga.
(synopsis from Chronicle Books' website)


Karlssonwilker inc.



The First 24 Months of a New York Design Company

Most graphic design monographs feature designers who have decades of great work behind them and an international reputation. Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker had barely been in business for two years when they decided to publish their monograph. "Tell me why: The First 24 Months of a New York Design Company" chronicles the start of Karlssonwilker inc. and its struggles to find a foothold in the New York design scene.

With monetary support from parents and girlfriends, the partners lease an office space (which doubles as a secret apartment for a while), share a table and computer and wait for business to start rolling in. One of the partners was an intern for Stefan Sagmeister, and they get their first job through Sagmeister, who, at that time was beginning his infamous year without clients. It seems like their company is off to a great start, but following that first job, they seem to do everything possible to sabotage their success — they miss meetings, they don't answer the phone, they leave projects incomplete, they party and gamble and take extended trips home to Norway and Germany.

Reading "Tell me why" was both amusing and frustrating. These guys seem to have no business or common sense whatsoever! They ignore good advice from their smart and supportive girlfriends who refer them work and offer financial support. And yet they stumble into some interesting projects for restaurant designs, cd packaging and book design projects. The book leads you to believe that the key to success is to be fairly lazy, occasionally arrogant and sometimes brilliant. It is strangely inspirational — if these guys can make a living through design, then anyone can.

Martin Venezky


It is beautiful... then gone

Graphic design creates ephemera. It is there for a purpose, and once fulfilled, the work disappears. "I don't encourage my work toward permanence," writes Martin Venezky. "The materials I use -- tape, cardboard, copy paper, pencil, wax -- practically beg to disintegrate. If pieces flutter off, what remains means more to me. It can come apart. It ages. Is is more alive than a digital file, whose permanence and fidelity have no precedence in our organic, decaying, wonderful world."

Thankfully, the design work of Venezky and his studio, Appetite Engineers, has been preserved within the pages of his book, "It is beautiful... then gone." Like the butterfly specimens illustrating the front cover, his designs seem to be something organic caught in a moment of either birth or decay -- creation and destruction are partners in Venezky's design process.

Venezky's most recognized work was for "Speak" magazine (1995-2001), an eclectic publication that featured long interviews, essays, fiction and features on a variety of topics. In order to familiarize himself with the content of each issue, Venezky would type in the text of each article himself. He would often change typefaces within paragraphs -- using different styles and fonts to represent various voices, inflections, and dramatic stress. He'd incorporate organic material, garbage, found objects and photographic remnants into the magazine spreads. On the surface, his early work for Speak may have resembled David Carson's Ray Gun aesthetic, but Venezky's meticulous understanding of the content really made Speak a visually challenging and playfully intelligent publication.

Venezky's attention to detail is brought to the design of his monograph. Although the physical dimensions of the book pages are small, the designer/author fills each page with a lively compilation of his work, small commentaries on each project depicted, collage sketches and other beautiful debris. The companion essays by Venezky and others ensure that this publication is more than just an album of artwork. The crowning achievement of the book is discovered in the final pages... in preparation for a move from San Francisco (his home of 18 years) to Rhode Island, he photographed the collaged wall of his studio, presented fully in the book in a fold-out section.

"This collage was built from more than seven hundred individual elements, all held up with pushpins. It spanned the walls lengthwise and rose to a height of eight feet. When I packed to move, I disassembled the collage piece by piece, scanning and documenting each element as I progressed around the room." The individual bits are all lovingly presented, spanning a few dozen pages. It is an amazing feat of perseverance and obsession.

It is beautiful... and now it is ours.
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