Week Two: Task Two | San Francisco Production Research

The increase in costs in San Francisco has unfortunately driven many of the larger, commercial outfits out of the city central to places in the East Bay, north to Sacramento, and even Los Angeles. I’ve found a few that are doing good work and remain here in the city.

First up: 3 Fish Studios

Run by Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin, 3 Fish are printmakers and painters and also host classes for those interested in learning more about printmaking. I figured I would start with hand-tooled methods.

Next we have Doob3D, a 3d printer here in San Francisco, creating custom figures of you using their unique technology. Very futuristic, and a bit novel.

Last but not least, a traditional commercial printer, one of the few that are left, Murphy Printing has been in San Francisco since 1921. They provide all sorts of commercial printing services including: offset and digital printing, bindery, foil stamping, design, and mailing services.

Week Two: Task One | San Francisco Studio Research

Living in San Francisco presents loads of history of graphic design. 

The late 1960s with the “Summer of Love” in particular presented a response to post modern design unseen anywhere else through the exploration of psychedelic design. Designer and artist Bob Fried was innovative with print production for these posters in which the designs would changed based on the difference color of light projected onto the page. Far out…

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Work of artist, designer, Bob Fried

Work of artist, designer, Bob Fried

Four contributions made to graphic design from San Francisco, CA include:

  • Psychedelic design

  • Pacific New Wave design

  • Pre-Photoshop digital image manipulation techniques

  • Contributions by women in design (far exceeded those on the east coast)

A local studio of post-modern era that very much so remains today is Studio Hinrichs, led by former Pentagram partner, Kit Hinrichs - a Bay area and national design legend that has been in San Francisco for forty years. Kit and his studio are responsible for numerous branding projects including the California Academy of Science, Design Within Reach, Symantec and many more. A studio of four, their company statement is:

Whether the end purpose is a logo, packaging, marketing program, environmental wayfinding system, promotion piece, consumer magazine or a book, we believe that the most effective design has a narrative thread. It communicates rather than decorates. It promotes understanding of a subject or philosophy. It makes the complex simple; the opaque, transparent; the unstructured, concrete; the obtuse, accessible; the ordinary, beautiful, and, ultimately, the message memorable. Narrative design is a way to help our clients tell the story of who they are and what they value and do so in a way that holds the viewers’ interest and makes them care.

Here are a few pieces from his studio:

For me, the role of design is to make the complex, simple; the opaque, transparent; the unstructured, concrete; the obtuse, accessible, and the ordinary, beautiful.

-Kit Hinrichs

Another local agency, Manual Design, is one of my San Francisco favorites. Founded in 2009 by Tom Crabtree, a Yorkshire, UK native, Manual is responsible for local, national, and global work across all platforms. They prefer to work small, which I appreciate, with a limited number of folks contributing to their craft, versus a large firm. A studio of independent artists and designers, their company statement is:

Manual is a design and branding studio based in San Francisco. We help our clients express themselves and their products through iconic brand identities and beautiful experiences. Our work strives to clarify purpose, build meaning, and stir up curiosity and emotion.

Here are a few examples of their work. I love the work they did for Fort Point Brewing, a local but quickly popular craft beer outlet in San Francisco.

Another boutique studio is TheDepartment, headed up by Richard Leighton, and located right in the center of the city. Clients include some heavy hitters such as: CBS, Warner Bros., Sony PlayStation, Reebok, Toyota, Apple, Evernote, and Twitter, but also more local shops, start-ups, lifestyle, and hospitality. A small firm, their company statement is:

TheDepartment is an independent graphic design and branding studio in San Francisco, California. Our name sounds large — but we’re actually small, agile, and proudly boutique. We specialize in branding for restaurants, hospitality, and lifestyle clients. Our versatile creative approach spans several touchpoints resulting in unique solutions and memorable experiences. We enjoy working with all businesses that value tailor-made, visual solutions. Checkout more details on our services, restaurant branding, or view our client testimonials.

I like the idea of remaining small in terms of the team: to be nimble, tight with each other, uber collaborative, but working on a wide array of project scopes.

Here are a few examples of their work. I especially like the work they did for B Star through various illustrative textures creating a unique experience.

The fourth and final studio I’ve identified is Character. Character opened up in 1999 and has built a notable client base ever since including: Google, Adobe, Nike, wework, Peet’s, and many more. While a bit larger than boutique, their approach seems to be more intimate than other agencies in SF. Their company statement is:

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for success. From startups just finding their feet, to established companies with decades of brand history, we shape our team and process around each client. Each assignment is unique, and should be measured against an individual set of objectives. We're more like a family than a company.

They approach each project as unique and outfit their project teams as such. Here are a few notable pieces to examine. I love the color pop and fluidity of mix, and Nike’s Don’t Think. Run. campaign. You can feel the energy in the work.

San Francisco also hosts an annual design week, that has local studios opening their doors to an international community of attendees. It’s coming up next week and I cannot wait to report back!

Week One Challenge: The Quadtriptych

This was a really fun challenge. I admit, I went through numerous emotions as I worked on this…

  • Am I good enough? Will I do a good job?

  • What will be interesting? To me? To others?

  • How can I sum all of this up in four panels?

  • How can I apply what I learned from the studio vignettes to this exercise?

I went through three stages: storming which was a rough concept brainstorm that pulled in all of my ideas (good or bad), then forming, which helped to narrow my ideas down to a more concise approach and rationale, and then refining, which is the final version that I arrived at.

The exercise asks: who, what, where, and why as it applies to the intersection of myself and design.

In words:

Who I am is a self-taught designer and creative director. I am influenced by the greats of our industry as well as those that like me, are self-taught and everywhere in between. I agree and disagree a bit with what Adrian from INTRO said regarding being a designer. I think you can be taught to be good, but I also do believe that you need to innately have an appreciation for the aesthetic and visual communication aspect of what design offers. I’ve worked all my adult life at getting better and more “whole” as a designer. That is a process and endeavour that will never end. Always be learning.

What I do is lead a team of designers, animators, photographers, videographers, and production managers in my daily work to help tell my organization’s stories. More specifically, I aim to create a culture that is safe, special, exciting, curious, worthy, and challenging and one in which people can do their best work.

Where I am is the beautiful city of San Francisco. I moved here in 2015 to take the creative director position at the University of San Francisco. I live within walking distance of campus with my partner (also named, Chris), and our two pups: Woody and Charlie. This city is a rich, visual feast with endless opportunity to engage with design both formally and informally. There are numerous museums (SFMOMA, the deYoung, Palace of Fine Arts, Musuem of Craft…and so on) as well as entire neighborhoods that are adorned with hand-painted murals, street after street. There are hidden staircases that lead to wondrous vistas via tiled steps giving way to a scene or story. This city is steeped in design. And I love it.

Why design is a fascinating question. For me, it is a means to bring people together: through understanding, commonality, differences, feeling, translation, diffusion, and shared experience.

In even fewer words:

I am: a brave, curious wanderer of this world. I chose the blue whale as a symbol of my lifelong migratory ways and reliant curiosity of the world around me.

I do: like lifting others up and am reliable, and at the same time look at my design practice as a place of ongoing exploration and light. I chose the sun as my symbol here, shining a light onto others and a light within to keep me seeing and believing.

I live: in one of the best places to be a creative. on. the. planet: San Francisco. I chose the Golden Gate bridge as my (albeit cliche) symbol of my location. It’s instantly recognizable as San Francisco and it is a feat of design and engineering.

I believe: while at even at the most challenging times, good design can change the world and bring us together.

So all that jabbering to say… here is my quadtriptych in three stages of expansion and ultimate contraction.

Up first, expansion:

I wanted to include a quadtriptych that played off of Fibonacci. Also, I love to layer and find it an important part of my process to add in as much as I can so I can begin to strip away what works. It also helps me to play, check myself, and experiment. What you see are things that make up other things. I also wanted to include illustration as I’ve begun to lean on that skill more heavily in my design work in the last few years with more practice and confidence. It’s messy and clunky. Too much going on here. Abandon ship….er, I mean, try some other things…

I wanted to include a quadtriptych that played off of Fibonacci. Also, I love to layer and find it an important part of my process to add in as much as I can so I can begin to strip away what works. It also helps me to play, check myself, and experiment. What you see are things that make up other things. I also wanted to include illustration as I’ve begun to lean on that skill more heavily in my design work in the last few years with more practice and confidence. It’s messy and clunky. Too much going on here. Abandon ship….er, I mean, try some other things…

Now for some contraction and simplification:

For this next version, I let go of trying Fibonacci as well as opted to lean solely on my illustrations to express the meanings of my who, what, where, and why. I opted to use a tiled square to illustrate to me that these are not linear and just stop. It’s more of a continuum. Each panel informs and inspires the next. Again, you see a whale, my wanderer. I then created a sunburst from illustrations that make me happy and fill out a vibrant palette. The third panel is a slice from the opening spread in our alumni magazine that illustrates an alumna’s love of San Francisco (my “where”). The fourth is an illustration of diverse critters to express community. Still not quite there…

For this next version, I let go of trying Fibonacci as well as opted to lean solely on my illustrations to express the meanings of my who, what, where, and why. I opted to use a tiled square to illustrate to me that these are not linear and just stop. It’s more of a continuum. Each panel informs and inspires the next. Again, you see a whale, my wanderer. I then created a sunburst from illustrations that make me happy and fill out a vibrant palette. The third panel is a slice from the opening spread in our alumni magazine that illustrates an alumna’s love of San Francisco (my “where”). The fourth is an illustration of diverse critters to express community. Still not quite there…

And final contraction and simplification of my concept…

I opted to create a circular presentation to further the more symbiotic relationship these questions meant to me. I also chose to break the boundary of the circle as I see design as a way to break the rules or to upend the expected. Again, I chose illustration to convey the individual question’s symbology: whale (who), sun (what), San Francisco (where), and community (why).  What do you think?

I opted to create a circular presentation to further the more symbiotic relationship these questions meant to me. I also chose to break the boundary of the circle as I see design as a way to break the rules or to upend the expected. Again, I chose illustration to convey the individual question’s symbology: whale (who), sun (what), San Francisco (where), and community (why).

What do you think?

Here is a little time lapse video of the illustration process. I complete the design in Procreate on my iPad Pro.