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The Post-April Update

The Post-April Update

March and April were incredibly busy months around the Takedanger studio!

Opera Atelier, Lucio Silla Programme Cover

Opera Atelier, Lucio Silla Programme Cover

After finishing the development work on the Services/gallery pages for Blambot’s website at the tail end of March, things also wrapped up for the design and layout of the Opera Atelier material for their spring production of Lucio Silla, including their 44-page House Programme, a series of posters and signs for the lobby during the run of the production, and their ad campaign running in The Globe & Mail, The Toronto Star, as well as a handful of newspapers in the United States.

The work for Opera Atelier continued at a quick pace onto the material for their annual Versailles Gala, including the the design and layout for that event’s Programme, signage, tickets, and Powerpoint shows.

Acting Up Stage, Reframed Programme Cover

Acting Up Stage, Reframed Programme Cover

Things were also busy with Acting Up Stage through April and the end of March. After wrapping up the design of material for their spring production of Reframed at the Art Gallery of Ontario, we undertook the (only slightly painful) endeavour of transferring the hosting and registration of the entire Acting Up Stage website to a new web-host through the last weeks of April in time for their major donation drive in the beginning of May.

Tafelmusik, Renewal Postcard

Tafelmusik, Renewal Postcard

April also saw the design and layout of a number of ads and subscription pieces for Tafelmusik, including ad material appearing in the Koerner Hall house programme, WholeNote Magazine, Tafelmusik’s own concert house programmes, and a subscription renewal postcard towards the end of the month.

AMY Project, Quiet Revolution Postcard

AMY Project, Quiet Revolution Postcard

Other projects of note through April included the design and layout for The AMY Project’s spring workshop production of Quiet Revolution, and the continuing design and layout of material for ivari Canada including their Underwriter’s Guide, Product Guides, their Privacy Policy Brochure, and a number of sales flyers.

All-in-all, it was a good month, and the momentum just keeps going!

Inspiration: Massimo Vignelli

Inspiration: Massimo Vignelli

Fast.Co Design recently posted a rare interview with Massimo Vignelli by Gary Hustwit from 2006. Hustwit Conducted a staggering number of interviews with designers during the making of his Design Trilogy of films (Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized) and the complete interview transcripts from all three films is now available in one handy-dandy volume (y’know, if you’re looking for a convenient gift for the favourite designer-type-person in your life).

Vignelli-designed New York subway system map

Vignelli-designed New York subway system map

The interview posted at Fast.Co focuses a lot on the landmark work Vignelli did with New York subway system in the ’70s as well as his opinions about the role of design in the public’s mind and the direction of the future of typography and graphic design. It’s a good look into a designer that had such a prolific and varied career, and was also a little refreshing to see Vignelli gripe so humanly about the changes in his designs over the years.

I first came across the work of Massimo Vignelli when I was still in Design School and was assigned a research project on him. The breadth and depth of his career as a designer continues to be a source of great inspiration to me, and I take a lot of his aesthetic and opinions on design to heart. An ardent design generalist, Vignelli did not necessarily recognize the distinctions between design disciplines so often perceived by North American designers. His ethos of “If you can design one thing, you can design everything” is reflected in the broad range of his work. The multidisciplinary list of designs credited to Massimo Vignelli is huge and varied — books, magazines, calendars, packaging, furniture, glassware, carpeting, lamps, silverware, jewelry, architectural signage, corporate identity programs, transportation graphics, showrooms, interiors, and exhibitions — awe-inspiring, to say the least. 

Vignelli-designed glassware

Vignelli-designed glassware

While I don’t take the same point of view that he spoke of in the Hustwit interview: “I don’t think type should be expressive at all” — I can’t deny that the elegance he described in his approach is evident, and his views of a designer as generalist is something that I’ve made something of a touchstone in my career.

Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan in 1931 and studied at the Brera Academy of Art in Milan as well as at the Univeristy of Venice’s School of Architecture. In 1960, with his wife Lella, he established the Vignelli Office of Design and Architecture in Milan, working in graphics, products, furniture and interiors for European companies and institutions. Later, he co-founded Unimark Design in 1965. After working in New York, Massimo and Lella established Vignelli Associates in 1971. 

A "Knoll Tabloid" on swatches

A “Knoll Tabloid” on swatches

Of particular note in Massimo Vignelli’s career is the graphic program developed for Knoll furniture in 1967. Vignelli himself described this as “the most exciting, rewarding” project he’s developed. It was so effective that by 1976, a revamp was necessary because Knoll’s brochures and catalogues had been copied by so many companies, they had completely lost their distinctiveness. As a solution, Massimo proposed what were eventually known as the Knoll Tabloids. Seven tabloids were produced (devoted to a specific subject — seating, textiles, etc.) on rough-textured, low-cost newsprint. Although Knoll initially resisted, this no-nonsense approach was a refreshing and totally unexpected change of pace for the times.

Knoll Poster

Knoll Poster

Vignelli brought to his designs a deep respect and passion for the history of design as well as a vast knowledge of classical design forms and motifs. The clean and simple lines, clear bright colours and sense of vitality that permeate the Vignelli portfolio are not uncommon in a lot of modern design, but the Vignelli name brought with it a certain undefinable “Italianness,” or sense of operatic drama. All of the work of Massimo as well as Vignelli Assoicates can be described as clean and spare, but without being austere. The best Vignelli designs melded visual pleasure and ease of use.

Mr. Vignelli received numerous award for his work, including the first Presidential Award for Design, awarded personally by Ronald Reagan in 1985, the National Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Museum of Design at Cooper-Hewitt in New York in 2003 and the Visionary Award from the Museum of Art and Design in New York in 2004.

Massimo Vignelli passed away in 2014. In his last days, Designers from all over the world sent notes of appreciation, thanks, and awe to the family of the man who was the “grandfather of graphic design,” and many posted those letters online as well, with the hashtag #dearmassimo.

Vignelli Designed Logos

Vignelli Designed Logos

One would be hard pressed to name a field of design Massimo Vignelli has not touched. Today, customers coming out of Bloomingdales or Saks Fifth Avenue carry Vignelli-designed shopping bags; they walk out the door under Vignelli-designed logos, carry Vignelli-designed products in their bags, and travel home using Vignelli-designed subway maps and signs as a guide. The indelible impression of Massimo Vignelli’s designs are classic, ubiquitous and have undeniably helped shape the world around us.

On Logos

On Logos

In an effort to get in the habit of writing more and sharing some of the things that go on around here while I’m sitting at my desk, I thought it might be neat to show some of the stages that I went through to develop the new Takedanger Design logo (the finished product, of course, being right up there at the top of the site).

Takedanger Design logo mind map

Takedanger Design logo mind map

When I’m starting a logo, I usually go pretty old-school and rely on the tried and true method of putting pencil to paper. I like to scribble away on pads of 8.5×11 graph paper (for some reason I always work on them sideways… I don’t know why).

At this stage of the process, I like to map a bunch of the random ideas, phrases, emotions and keywords that might go along with the logo that I’m working on. I’ll usually pick two or three keywords for a logo and generate a mind-map for each one of them to see where the different ideas take me, but since I was my own (somewhat) cooperative client on this one, I only generated one map for the word “Danger” in this case.

I find it’s good to allow a some time between doing these mind-maps if I’m doing several of them. I will often take several days just for this stage alone (when possible), just to let my subconscious percolate on them and to come at each one with a fresh eyes and a clear head.

Once I’ve generated a couple of these maps, I’ll highlight some of the generated ideas that I think would make for good logo-ing and I take them and start sketching out the various shapes or ideas that came out of the mapping stage.

Takedanger Design logo sketches

Takedanger Design logo sketches

It’s usually around here that I start bemoaning my own skills (or lack thereof) when it actually comes to drawing. Fortunately, these are meant to be rough and loose, and I primarily use them as a starting point just to weed out the real idea-turds before moving to the computer. At the bottom of these particular scribbles, you can see where I was trying to work out the particular curve in the “fold” of what would become the final logo.

I tend to push through this stage pretty quickly. Once I have a general idea of what will work and what won’t, I’m usually fairly eager to take the ideas to the computer and start using Adobe Illustrator as my sketchpad.

At this point, things can really start to get messy… 

Takedanger Design logo iterations

Takedanger Design logo iterations

I won’t go into too much detail about this stage, but at this point, it’s all about experimentation and iteration. I experiment a lot with different colours, fonts, variations, and arrangements. As you can see from the example above, I will usually spread my work across several artboards within Illustrator, with each board being loosely based around one particular arrangement or idea. The example below shows work on a logo for a local contracting & home-inspection company and the division of ideas across the two artboards is a little clearer.

Very Picky Inc. logo development

Very Picky Inc. logo development

Once I have a few digital ideas polished up enough to present, all the extra stuff gets moved off to the limbo of the “scratchboard” so I can go back for it later, if I need.

After the client and I have narrowed down our chosen direction, the selected digital version(s) will be refined and adjusted for final use. It can often go through a few rounds of final tweaks and revisions, and I’ll test it out in various environments to see how it works in different ways (ie: on-screen, in different printing sizes, on a business card, letterhead, black and white, etc.) and adjust accordingly as I go. 

It’s important to remember that logos very rarely exist on their own. Consideration needs to be given at every step of the way as to how a logo will exist across a wide range of mediums, both on-screen, and off. A logo might look great on your screen, but how well does it print at one inch wide, or even a quarter-inch wide? How does it become a Twitter or Facebook icon? What about in newsprint?

When the logo has reached it’s final version, I move the final version to a new Illustrator document, clean up and “solidify” the file, prepare the different versions as required, wrap it in a warm scarf and release it to the wild – which, in most cases, means moving to the stage of taking that logo and really putting it to work in “real” stuff.

If you have any questions about how I can help you with your logo, or anything I’ve written about here, feel free to contact me!

Annoucement Time!

Annoucement Time!

These past few years of running my own design business have been challenging, rewarding and very eye-opening. I’ve learned a lot about the nature of myself, and the nature of running my own design studio.

Now, as I’m entering my 4th year of going solo, I’m making 2015 a brand new adventure. In addition to moving my home and studio to a new town, I’m also excited to share with you the next phase, and a new name, for Ted Rouse Creative.

Introducing Takedanger Design

Why I’m making this change.

Since going solo full-time, I’ve worked under my own name. While this was nice for personal visibility and fit the romantic notion that I had of what being a “freelancer” meant, I have come to find it has limited the opportunities for me to market and grow my business the way I wanted, to include other people, and explore new methods. I knew it was time to try something new (or old, as the case may be).

Those of you who have known and been working with me for a while may remember Takedanger Design as my trade name before making the move to running my studio as a full-time endeavour. While it might seem a little counter-intuitive to be returning to a name I thought I had left behind, these last few years have inspired me to re-examine my priorities in running a business and re-discover the excitement and potential within the name.

While there’s a fancy new (old?) name, it’s still just me around here for now. My methods and beliefs remain the same: focusing on client goals, communicating ideas clearly, and making the world a more colourful place!

I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me next, and I’m looking forward to bringing you all all along with me!

Let’s create something striking together!