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The art of Paul Romano

Paul Romano is a graphic designer living and working in Philadelphia.  He has been a professional since the 1990’s, and is now best known for his work in the music industry, frequently working with heavy metal bands to not only design album covers, but to craft a visual identity for each artist.

Romano is today perhaps best known for his work with Atlanta-based metal band Mastodon.  As one of the most popular and well-respected heavy metal groups today, Mastodon’s music has given Romano’s beautiful works a wide audience.  True to his reputation, he has not only designed cover art for every one of the band’s albums and singles, but also liner note art and merchandise, and his distinctive style has become a core part of Mastodon’s identity.

Romano's art for the Mastodon album Leviathan

This is one of my favorite examples of Romano’s work.  The bold, contrasting colors, the symmetrical design, and the highly detailed illustrations come together to form a grandiose, almost dreamlike spread.  The piece also shows off Romano’s trademark tribal style in his illustrations, producing a look which perfectly meshes with Mastodon’s primal sound.  This talent for creating a visual look that perfectly matches his clients’ sounds is perhaps Romano’s greatest strength as a designer and artist.

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The art design of BioShock

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a big video game nut, and few things get me going in a game like a strong art design.  Even if it doesn’t run on the most cutting edge hardware, a game with an excellent art design can still look beautiful.  And 2008’s BioShock has beautiful art in spades.

Called an instant classic upon its release, BioShock was a wonderfully artistic game.  Its story tackled intelligent philosophical themes that are hardly ever touched on in the medium, and its atmosphere of isolation and fear was thick enough to cut with a knife.  Much of that was due to the unorthodox setting.  Rapture is a city at the bottom of the sea, a retro sci-fi dystopia left in near-ruins but still dripping with 50’s art deco design.  That design permeates every visual aspect of the game, and turns it into something that is visually distinct and uniquely gorgeous.

 

BioShock screenshot

BioShock is permeated with a wonderfully retro art deco vibe.

 

One of my favorite visual aspects of the game is the advertisement posters scattered throughout the walls of Rapture.  These are where the retro design comes through the most, and they are all wonderfully designed pieces of art in their own right:

 

 

Cool, huh?

 

I’m certainly not the only person who feels this way.  BioShock‘s art has garnered a lot of praise.  So much in fact, that it has a good chance of ending up in the Smithsonian.  The museum is planning an exhibit dedicated to the artwork of video games, and they are letting the public vote on which games will be concluded.  BioShock is not only in the running, but is considered a front runner to be included in the display.  It’s a fantastic opportunity for some of the best artwork of an often-overlooked medium to be shown off to a wider audience.

The Works of Storm Thorgerson

February 23, 2011 1 comment

Have you ever stumbled upon the work of a new artist that you love, only to realize as you dug deeper that the same artist was responsible for a ton of things other things that you loved but never knew who was responsible for them?  That happened to me with Storm Thorgerson.  The British graphic designer is known as the designer of the cover art of albums by a lot of famous rock bands, especially progressive rockers.  In fact, it was Thorgerson who designed the iconic cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

 

Thorgerson's Dark Side of the Moon cover

I'll see you on the dark side of the moon...

 

I found out about Thorgerson while looking into the designer of the cover art for the album Frances the Mute by Texas prog rock group The Mars Volta.  I’ve long been a fan of the cover, with it’s surreal, abstract design that strangely fit the album’s tone.  Turns out, Thorgerson is responsible for more than 30 years worth of memorable album art, having worked with bands like Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, The Mars Volta, and Muse.

The cover of The Mars Volta's Frances the Mute

Thorgerson's cover for Frances the Mute. So simple, so surreal, so cool.

 

Surrealism is a major component of Thorgerson’s work, and it’s fitting for many of the artists he works for.  It’s also what attracts me to his designs.  I love the mix of simplicity and abstractness that defines his style, and I love the way it meshes with the music that it is frequently tied to.  Such designs are great examples of visual designs working in tandem with music to elevate the artistic effect of both.

Logo Design and You

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Logo design is vital to company’s image.  Just think of major corporations like Coca-Cola and Nike whose logos have left indelible marks in our pop culture.  These companies make logo design look easy, but believe me, it’s not.  What is their secret?  What are the things that make a logo stand out?  Let’s take a look.

 

First and foremost is simplicity.  Remember the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep it simple, stupid.  Logos are easier to remember the simpler they are, and memorability is exactly what you are aiming for when designing a logo.  The classic Nike “swoosh” logo is a perfect example of this minimalist approach.  It’s just a basic swooshing curved design, but that simple design exemplifies motion, activity, and energy, all perfect for a brand of sportswear.

 

Nike Logo

The Nike logo is the height of memorable simplicity

 

Speaking of matching your brand, also remember that your logo must be designed to communicate effectively toward your target audience.  The Coca-Cola logo is typeface logo that uses an elaborate hand-written font to convey elegance and high quality.  Toy store Toys ‘R’ Us also uses a typeface logo, but theirs uses a more playful font, a colorful design, and stars and other whimsical decorations.  As a toy store chain, they would not use the same design as Coke.  Instead, they created a colorful, childish logo to appeal to their younger audience.

 

Toys R Us logo

Certainly not a logo for adults, nor was it meant to be

 

Lastly, versatility is very important.  This is closely tied to the idea of simplicity.  Your logo must be shrinkable and expandable; after all, it’s not going to be displayed at the same size at all times.  Will it look good shrunken down to 2″ by 2″ in a magazine?  What about when it’s blown up on a billboard?  If it includes type, can that type be rearranged to fit different situations without compromising the logo as a whole?  All of these things should be considered.  Color is another thing that won’t always be consistent, so while color may be important to your logo’s design, it will work better in a wider variety of situations if you design it to function in black-and-white.

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