Illustration Test for Umpqua Bank


Following up on the icon and pattern tests I worked on for Umpqua Bank, the most relevant style was used to create a more in-depth scene to show how that style would play out on a larger scale. The result was a friendly ecosystem of neighbors, businesses, nature and city drawn with a brush pen and colored digitally. The drawing was geared towards animation, balancing simple and complex so that small details could easily find movement on screen.

editorial illustration test for Umpqua Bank combining a community of personal, business, landscape, nature & city

bank icon tests for Umpqua bank: personal banking, business banking, credit cards, home loans, checking

Monster Drawing Rally – Dream Dust Test


Tomorrow evening on Friday, July 14th the Portland Art Museum will host Portland’s third annual Monster Drawing Rally in its courtyard from 6-9:30pm. The event entails three 1-hour rounds of 25 artists creating art that is immediately put up for auction. All pieces are a flat $35 and proceeds fund free school programs at the museum. In addition to the live drawing auction, there is a kids drawing activity and food, drinks & music.

I’ve participated as a contributing artist the last two years and am excited to draw for a third year. This year I decided to veer away from the usual paper and pens – instead I’ll draw on tiny 3D boxes, creating packaging for contents you might not be able to pick up at your local SuperMart. Since I’ll have only an hour to work, a practice round was needed to time how long it took to complete a simple packaging design. Most of my ink drawings take at least several hours to make, which is not scalable to this event’s timeframe. “Dream Dust” was created in about 15 minutes, so I hope to knock out four boxes during my round. Box contents TBD…any ideas?

[update: see how the Monster Drawing Rally went]

Dream Dust faux packaging. An illustration test on a 3D white wooden box for the Portland Art Museum Monster Drawing Rally 2017.

Icon and Pattern Tests for Umpqua Bank


I’ve enjoyed working on so many projects for Umpqua Bank over the years, from building murals to 30-page mini magazines to postcards to desk calendars to identity systems. The most recent project was more experimental and without a true end deliverable – testing out different illustration styles to see what might be useful to a brand. In the spirit of sharing process and behind the scenes, here it is…

The work below represents a single round of illustration tests for icons and patterns. Personal banking & business banking was depicted as well as credit cards, home loans, and checking. Most of the patterns are generic and nature based to show style. The goal of the exercise was to test the limits of what styles might be appropriate for stretching their visual library. I drew towards ‘more fun’, ‘more ephemeral & cosmic’, and ‘more sophistication’.

Unless there is a clear style set from a brief, often my intent with the first round of of illustration trials is to provide a wide range so that comparisons are clear and to get a variety of feedback. Learning the pros and cons of three very different styles is much more educational than comparing three similar styles. After all, it’s not until the very end that you have to yell NAILED IT! Everything up until then is learning as much as possible so you can get it right in the end.

MORE FUN

Out of all the banks I know, Umpqua is the friendliest and most playful in their branding. What if I only focused on that, and tried to forget it was a bank after all? The result was a piggy in converse and a piggy in a topcoat and spectacles, because duh. Color accents are used reinforce the icon message or provide flair. This direction was presented as “FUNBANK”: Approachable with a wink, using simple linework with pops color, and themes covering everyday life and twists on “banking as usual”.

bank icon tests for Umpqua bank: personal banking, business banking, credit cards, home loans, checking

pattern & illustration tests for Umpqua bank: landscape patterns

MORE EPHEMERAL & COSMIC

Straying furthest from their current brand, this direction took inspiration from some specialty projects I have worked on for Umpqua Bank that were less mainstream. Intricate patterning with almost a tattoo-like quality were not the top pick, but an interesting study. The sparkly “magic factor” used throughout the series was meant to communicate Umpqua’s ‘special factor’. IF ONLY personal banking consisted of drinking coffee and eating cookies. This direction was presented as “IT’S MAGIC”: Playful and intricate with unexpected, detailed linework, this direction explores themes of service, delight, and magic in the mundane.

bank icon tests for Umpqua bank: personal banking, business banking, credit cards, home loans, checking

pattern & illustration tests for Umpqua bank: cosmos

MORE SOPHISTICATION

This style was a favorite and used as a starting point for further exploration (future post coming soon!). A controlled brush line provided a humanistic quality and felt more editorial and high-end than their current icon library. This direction was presented as “THE HUMAN TOUCH”: Refined and organic, using gestural linework with themes of growth and movement. (side note: this direction also gave me hand cramps)

bank icon tests for Umpqua bank: personal banking, business banking, credit cards, home loans, checking

pattern & illustration tests for Umpqua bank: nature based squiggles

That’s all folks – a work-in-progress showing the process of testing illustration styles for an un-banky banking place.

The Whole Shebang from Olympia Provisions


A client that continues to provide fun and interesting projects, Olympia Provisions, recently commissioned the Bureau create a holiday gift guide (more to come on that another day). One of the main photo spreads was a compilation of all of their charcuterie in the shape of a pig, with the products placed approximately where it came from on the pig (give or take an artistic license or two).

olympia provisions charcuterie selection in the shape of a pig - the whole shebang!

The image was created by salumist Elias Cairo of Olympia Provisions placing all the meats in their respective areas, then myself adjusting the placement until it looked like your friendly neighborhood oinker if you were looking at it with X-ray meat vision. Photographer David Reamer shot the piece from a ladder, top down on a white sheet. The white marble was added in post production to give the pig a neutral background and showcase the variety of colors and textures (apparently fat marbling is a big deal in the meat world).

Now, I’m not averse to meat. I eat it. I enjoy it. I’ve even spent time in slaughter rooms on Eastern Oregon ranches during my youth and had my dad chase me to the hay barn brandishing a cow’s tongue (scary for an 8 year old). But in my last two decades of life I haven’t handled that much meat because a) I’m not the main cook in the house, and b) I live with a vegetarian. But handling 50 pieces of meat several times each for over an hour is a bit beyond what I ever though my job as a designer would entail. Suffice to say, I fulfilled my meat handling quota for the year on this project!

And, since this was a small part of their annual consumer-side catalog project, you can indeed buy The Whole Shebang (which is technically classified as a “half pig”) when holiday season rolls around. It’s a no-lose situation, and as we described this unique offering in the catalog…

Last minute dinner guests? Need to throw a party for a hundred of your best friends or business associates? Fear not—with our half pig, you’ll never experience a pork shortage again. Includes everything listed! Assembly required.

Pin That Sh*t


Like most kids I collected various things throughout my childhood, including buttons and pins. Most of my pins were from family travels, my parent’s political involvement in education, or participation in school events (see the full array here). Ramblin’ Rod would not have been impressed, but it was my collection and I was proud of it.

A few buttons and pins were collected of my own volition, and one of my prize pins was found in a deserted lot near my home around 8 years of age – a unicorn with gold metal accents and a multi-colored mane. Between childhood activities of building forts out of firewood stacks and popping tar bubbles on recently repaired roads, finding a monogram unicorn pin was a highlightable moment – even if it had a G on it instead of an M. Many days I wore this pin and thought “if only my name started with a G”. Alas. Here are a few favorites from my childhood collection.

pin collection from my childhood including a unicorn with multicolor mane

So, it seemed destined that one day I would participate in a group art show called Pin That Sh*t during Design Week Portland 2017. Over 60 artists from around the world donated pins, all of which will be for sale with funds donated to support arts education. Once I learned I would be a part of the show, I revisited my 1980’s collection and started on designing something new for the show.

My brainstorming ran the gamut from textures to animals to random icons. A theme of birds became apparent which guided a more specific exploration of several bird pins, of which the top three were considered for the final piece. After feedback from studio mates, the simplest bird was adjusted to have bold black outlines, taking inspiration from my childhood unicorn pin but modernizing it in style. And really, what better way to converge ‘put a bird on it’ with the new hip trend of pinning everything in sight?

preliminary bird pin brainstorms

love bird with heart speech bubble and rainbow wings for WeMake Pin That Sh*t Show

Love Bird is a tiny yet highly visible fashion partner to any wardrobe or backpack choice. With a nickel metal detail and flat polished surface, its minimal design seeks to spread love and acceptance. It’s a bird with a meaning, but it’s also just darn cute!

Two larger collections are also a part of the show from Kate Bingaman-Burt and from Brian Stowell, and many artists donated more than one pin so that there will be over 600 pins on display. For a more comprehensive list of artists and their bios, visit WeMake’s event page.

The show opens April 27th at Tillamook Station (665 N Tillamook Street in PDX, OR), from 4-9pm. In addition to the pin display there will be activities and beer. Most pins will go for about $10, also known as very affordable art. Time to find a bigger jean jacket…

participant pins of Pin That Sh*t art show

The pin was produced through GS-JJ who make custom pins, patches AND belt buckles. To transport/display the love bird pin, I ordered custom cards from Moo. A square, rounded corner card with spot gloss on the title and white clouds was the perfect fit for the bird with both shiny and matte surfaces.

love bird pin with cloudy spot glass Moo Cards background backer

Testing: New Hearts


Here are some tests I have been working on for a group art show at Land Gallery happening February 10th titled 69 Love Songs. The show pays tribute to the Magnetic Fields album 69 Love songs with artists each interpreting a song. My song is “I Think I Need a New Heart”, and I’ve been working on tiny heart packaging (think cigarette package size) using painted wooden blocks and 2 colors of liquid paint Markal markers. It’s definitely a medium with limitations, which has been fun to work with.

new-heart-tests-1

new-heart-tests-2

Ducks VS Beavers “Civil War” Beer Design Series


Each year, Oregon descends into sports madness when the Ducks (University of Oregon) and Beavers (Oregon State) face off at the “Civil War” football game, the biggest sporting event in the state. The tradition dates back to 1894 with over 115 games on record. Every November sport pennants fly proudly from cars, allegiances are sworn and catcalls are common. For the most part, I stay completely out of the mêlée. Until this year.

Which brings me to the Ducks VS Beavers Civil War “Beer Design by Decade” project! For every decade that the Ducks and Beavers have been competing against each other I created a beer label for both teams. Design wise I focused on the simplest execution possible to represent the styles, tropes, themes and feeling from that decade.

13 decades of beer designs for the Oregon State Beavers and University of Oregon Ducks.

While having participated in sports in high school with great fervor but mediocre talent, most of my 20’s and 30’s have been spent in front of a computer or a book. My sister, on the other hand, can most often be found cheering on her favorite sports team and alma mater: the Ducks. She probably inherited this from my dad who used to have a sport for every season which he watched dutifully and on the edge of his seat, can of peanuts and Pabst in hand. Realizing that my sister’s fandom would probably never subside, I decided to join in the only ways I knew how – eating guacamole during games and designing beer labels for the respective teams. Here are the labels zoomed in and side by side for each decade.

ducks-vs-beavers-civil-war-beer-design-final

Oh yeah, this years Civil War is on Saturday November 26th at Reser Stadium.

Thanks to:

Hayden Walker, a new Portland design transplant who helped with research and design as I balanced client work and a project effort that I underestimated greatly. See his work or Dribbble. Also to Tess Wojahn for helping with research (I’m sure a process post with inspiration images will follow at some point). See her work.

My playground friends from Madras, Oregon circa 1988 for spurring my alternative sports involvement when we wrote a rap about how great the Trail Blazers were (those were the days!).

My dad, who watched sports and drank beer and seemed to know infinitely more than both coaches and players based on the color commentary provided. He probably did know quite a bit as an ex-college and army ball player in both baseball & basketball. Those tense moments of accidentally running in front of the TV during an important play or daring to speak during a key game decision and being reprimanded with the Rankin glare will never be forgotten.

There you have it!

Ducks VS Beavers civil war beer design by decade

Copenhagen Mind Map for Archie’s Press


Here is a recent collaboration with Archie’s Press that I’m super excited to share: a conceptual “mind map” of Copenhagen, Denmark. So many aspects of the project spoke to me: the history, the design challenge, the process, and the city itself.

Archie Archambault and I met almost a decade ago when we were both members of Em Space, a letterpress & book making collective. He was a bright eyed and idealistic printer/maker and I was an agency designer who liked to relax with a good stack of paper and a letterpress. He made his first map of Portland, which was pretty different from everything else out there at the time. I quit the agency life and started the Bureau of Betterment as a freelance designer. Over the years we crossed paths here and there. He moved to Amsterdam; I visited. I moved to Copenhagen (and back to Portland again); he kept in touch. And he made maps – lots of them – first of places he lived or visited, then collaborating with local designers on new maps.

archie-map-trio

As you can see, Archie’s maps are built with circles. As he explains on his site, research indicates that GPS’s are hindering our ability to create mental maps of our surroundings. His aim is to install a “Map from the Mind”, simplifying structures and neighborhoods in the most efficient and beautiful way possible. The circle, our Universe’s softest shape, is the clearest graphic to convey size and connection.

A few months ago, Archie got in touch and asked if I would collaborate with him on a map of Copenhagen, based on my knowledge of the city and his system of designing maps. I said YES. Having lived in Copenhagen for several years, it was a project close to my heart. I spent time looking at historic maps, reading about the city like I hadn’t done before, and interviewing both Danes and expats living in Copenhagen (thanks Niklas, Christa, Lise, Emil, Michelle & Carli).

old-copenhagen-map

Creating a “mind map” is different than a regular A-to-B map, and boy does that make me happy. How do people use the city and how do they get around? How do they explain the city to others? How does the city feel? How are the parts connected in the mind? What are the bare essentials for wayfinding while also understanding how the city is organized? And as a design piece, how do we make it visually engaging? I started with the basics, not even entering design mode until we had figured out the underpinnings of what was important.

copenhagen-map-core-elements

Roads might seem obvious as a heavy hitter, but Copenhagen is different. Its’ roads don’t follow a grid pattern, and sometimes the same road changes name four times within a kilometer. When my interviewees were given the choices of 1) neighborhood, 2) landmarks, 3) water, 4) major roads, 5) a specific address and 6) public transit as wayfinding tools, the clear winners were neighborhoods and landmarks with water and public transit coming in second. Roads were last, even scoring low among those who used cars as their main method of transportation. That is why we only included the critical inner ring road that connects the neighborhoods and the “5-finger” spoke roads that were part of Copenhagen’s city plan from way back when. Simplifying the public transportation system was a tough choice. Archie and I decided that the Metro was the public transit mode to feature – there were too many bus lines and the train system wasn’t exclusive to the city, but the Metro is on the move and connects to the airport.

preliminary-copenhagen-map-sketches-copy

After much exploration I settled on a structure that featured the defining neighborhoods (or “broer”, which means bridge in Danish) – Østerbro, Nørrebro, Vesterbro, Amagerbro and Frederiksberg. These neighborhoods are top of mind when describing how to traverse the city and have very distinct vibes that define them: quiet and well-to-do Østerbro, multi-cultural and diamond-in-the-rough Nørrebro, established and monied Frederiksberg, the cool hipster feel of Vesterbro, and the up-and-coming Amager which has both unique merits and suffers from the stepsister syndrome. The map prominently features the main bike thoroughfare that thousands use daily on their commute and provides a serene way to bike with minimal interaction with regular roads. Unlike most of Archie’s circle maps, the Copenhagen map puts emphasis on public parks as well as schools and hospitals that allude to the Danish social system.

copenhagen-mind-map

Many challenges lay in the details: getting the placement and proportions right so that major roads connected accurately to parks and water, dividing the lakes correctly with the bridges that crossed them, and having the metro pass through the right areas while still hitting their end destinations that are used as the line names when boarding (Vanløse, Lufthavn, Vestamager). All while using circles, circles, and more circles!

A favorite part of the map for me is the integration of the lakes circling the city, which visually connects to the remainders of the old defensive moat system from the Middle Ages (the triangular points on the south side of the harbor on Amager). The northern contained lakes are a central gathering point for tourists, runners, and locals enjoying the banks of the lake for a quick take-out meal. I also love the juxtaposition of the free city-state Christiana right next to the world-class restaurant Noma – two experiments on different ends of the spectrum. And even though we didn’t follow a structure based on the quaint maps of centuries gone by, where everything spreads out from the oldest and most central part of the city, I’m happy that a little bit of the historic “radiating city” feel was retained in this modern interpretation.

The Copenhagen map has been reviewed by a Danish magazine, Magasinet KBH, which focuses on city life and the changing architectural spaces of Copenhagen. You can use google translate, but the general opinion was that the map was simple and clear to understand – which from the Danes is a pretty good review!

While the map has been deemed simple and clear by the natives (and hopefully to visitors as well), here is a decoder key so you can quickly get an idea of all the parts and how they interact. The ring of names around the outside/northwest are suburbs, and following Archie’s system the city center (Centrum) is black. All smaller localized areas, tourist spots and notable locations are in individual circles (the zoo, Tivoli Gardens, Noma, Islands Brygge, the airport, etc), as well as parks, hospitals, schools and the overarching neighborhoods.

copenhagen-map-explanations

The Copenhagen mind map is available at Archie’s Press in letterpress (8×8″) or screen print (17.5×17.5″) editions.* Some of my favorite pieces of Archie’s are from the Outer Space series, including The Moon, The Sun, and The Milky Way – even the product descriptions make me smile. Thanks for reading – now you know way more than you probably need about designing a mind map of Copenhagen.

*Tim May, I have you covered.