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Echoes – Week 9 (Oct 18, 2009)

posted by Matt Ward on Oct 18, 2009.

Echoes: Week 9 – October 18, 2009. This is the ninth edition of my weekly Echoes posts, in which I feature some of the best work that I have found on the web. Features one logo, one piece of art, one tutorial and one website.

This week seem to have just vanished. I’ve spent a lot of time doing some pretty meticulous design work, including working on an intensive pattern tutorial and an icon set, both of which I hope to see published before too long. When it happens, I will be sure to let you all know.

I’ve also realized that people love inspiration. My 25 Dark Websites post has proven to be incredibly popular, skyrocketing up the ranks to become the single most popular post on my blog! Thanks so much guys, and it’s good to know how much you all love the inspiration posts. I will definitely be doing more of those real soon. I’m also working on an inspiration roundup as a guest author for another blog. More on that when it gets published.

Lastly, I’ve launched another design contest, sponsored by the awesome guys over at ArtBox7. If you’re at all interested in snagging some free vectors, icons or brushes, be sure to enter!

Now let’s get to some Echoes.

Logo – Taurus Construction

This week’s logo isn’t quite as subtle as last week’s Red Wave logo, but it still makes some interesting use of playing elements within elements. In this case, we have a very stylized bull’s head combined with the cut away of hammer head.

Taurus Construction Logo

Taurus Construction Logo

What I like about this is it’s plain and simple representation. The name Taurus, being Latin for bull, is represented very simply by the stylized animal head. The concept of construction is represented with equal simplicity by the hammer. There is no playing around here, no over reaching attempt at cleverness. The logo simply tells the story as it is, with a simple mark that is both bold and memorable.

I also really like the way that the designer repeated the shape of the horns in the T and the S. This, along with the use of colour, really brings the entire piece together with a strong sense of unity. The wood grain in the background is also a nice touch, from the perspective of pure presentation.

Art – Controlled View

This is the first time that a photo manipulation has made it into the art section of Echoes, but I was really struck by this one when I saw it.

Controlled View

Controlled View

There’s just something eerie about this particular piece. I’m sure it has something to do with just the fact that it is a closeup of an eye, which in and of itself can be pretty darned creepy, but I think there’s more to it than that. The stark black and white is clearly reminiscent of cinema and cinema related photography from first half of the 20th century. The contrast is bold, the eyebrow impeccably manicured, and the eye seemingly female.

On it’s own, it very much reminds me of something from the film noir genre. When combined with the impossibility of the zipper eyelid, it becomes something akin to a surrealistic hybrid and a remarkable visual paradox. The subject of the image is clearly impossible, and yet the aesthetic quality hearkens back to a time before the grandiose power of Photoshop. The mind, though capable of reasoning past the illusion, is at first startled.

The implication of the image is also interesting – simply that we are capable of making ourselves metaphorically blind to the world around us. Whether it be poverty, abuse, drugs or a myriad of other issues, it has become all to easy for us to close our eyes and refuse to see what is starring back at us.

So, in both message and method, this is a truly striking piece and an excellent choice for our the first photo manipulation in Echoes!

Tutorial – Drunken Money Photoshop Tutorial

Despite the somewhat bizarre title of this one, our tutorial this week will actually show you how to design and illustrate a cartoonish mascot character in Photoshop. I’ve seen all kinds of tutorials like this scattered across the internet. This is one of my favorites, and has one of the strongest final results.

Drunkey Monkey Photoshop Tutorial

Drunkey Monkey Photoshop Tutorial

Unfortunately, the above thumbnail of the Smashing Magazine page doesn’t actually contain a preview of the final design, so I decided to provide you with that, too.

Drunken Monkey - Final Product

Drunken Monkey - Final Product

Okay, a few great things about this tutorial. First, the finished mascot is really great. He’s cartoony and fun to look at, but still has some really great depth thanks to the wonderful colour techniques.

Second, Sergio Ordóñez actually uses the tutorial to outline his workflow. He starts with the simple design brief, then works through phases of inspiration, sketching, rendering and colouring. I especially like the fact that he has included the stages that come before creating a single line. These can often get overlooked in illustration tutorials, and it’s always good to remind ourselves how important they are to achieving a solid salable design.

Third, rather than cluttering the page with tons of different screen shots, Ordóñez uses animated GIF technology to create step by step sideshows of the different stages of development. For instance, the first of these animations shows the character evolve from a really simple wire frame through the final inked drawing. It’s really great, because you can actually watch the character being built, and later coloured.

Lastly, Ordóñez also includes seveal useful links to his own blog, SOSFactory Blog, where there are other articles that go into greater detail on some of the finer points of this tutorial, such as vector inking in Photoshop. It probably would have been too much to explain everything in one tutorial, but it is nice to have link to help us find additional information if we need it!

One last word of advice – I have read a lot of different illustration tutorials over the years. And I do mean a lot. Trust me – there is absolutely no magical, radioactive of gamma ray infused article out there that will suddenly turn you into a illustration superhero. This tutorial is no exception. Like most of them, it is simply a record of one artist’s process. You can learn from it, but nothing is ever going to replace the education you’ll get from putting a pencil to paper (or stylus to tablet) and learning to draw and sketch for yourself.

In other words: there ain’t no short cut.

Website – Atom Wear

There is an ongoing debate across the internet about the use of Flash. Should it be used or shouldn’t it? It’s a tough question, with strong proponents on both sides of the argument. For my part, I don’t think it’s so much a matter of to use or not to use. Rather, I think it’s a matter of knowing when it works and when it doesn’t. This week’s website is one instance where I think it works.

Atom Wear Website

Atom Wear Website

Only the front portion of the site actually uses Flash, and the menu is also HTML-based, meaning that it can, in fact, be indexed by the search engines. This helps overcome one of the biggest issues with Flash.

The movie itself loads quickly enough, and the animation is both fast and interesting. No need to sit through long, showy sequences. Similarly, there are several screens within the animation, and the transitions between these screens are also fast and interesting, and an excellent example of how motion graphics can be used effectively on the internet.

I’m also a big fan of the vector model that they use throughout the site. He is exceptionally well rendered, both in terms of shape and the minimalist detail. But the thing that I really like is the cut and blur effect that they put on his face. It breaks up any sort of identity, making the character much more representational. Plus, it just looks flippin’ cool!

Be warned, though, the Flash movie does make use of automatically playing music, so you may want to turn down your speakers if you’re in an environment where you don’t want to disturb other people. The music is really cool and groovy though, so you might want to take a listen if you can.

Well that’s it for this week’s Echoes. Which ones were your favoirtes? As always, if you know of any designs, tutorials or art that merits being included in a future post, feel free to let me know about it!

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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