A lot of material in my lil’ notebook is usually derived from some slice of everyday life or humanity, but the following obviously has no basis in any reality (none that I’m a part of anyway). I present for your approval, the Justice League of Guys with Appliances for Heads:
The reason you’re not seeing this on the shelf of your local comic book store is because I ran out of ideas for unique appliances — unless you’d actually *want* to see ‘Captain Garlic Press’ vs. ‘The Egg Timer’.
And who exactly is beating “Microwave Man” when he can simply melt everyone else…?
When I worked for IMP, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a lot of new product development – not only for the standard direct-mail fare (books, cards, binders, etc.) but for several alternate mediums that the company expressed interest in exploring. One particular round of development called for a fitness product, and it was pretty much left up to the group as to how we would adapt it for the customer. Being huge proponents of ‘new media’, myself and a fellow art director pushed for an online venture. Once we got the managing editor on board and the approval of some higher-ups, ‘Virtu-Healthclub’ was born.
Here’s the home page, guest and ‘member’ editions:
The idea behind Virtu-Health Club was that when you registered at the site and entered your health information, you’d then be granted access to all of VHC’s “fitness tools” – exercise tutorials, calculators, recipes, gym finders, etc. More importantly you’d be assigned a ‘virtual trainer’ who would serve to motivate you throughout your entire regimen.
Over the course of a few months, we sketched out and produced at least 2 dozen Photoshop files for any and all possible screens on the site, created the trainers, and wrote a ton of meaningless filler copy to pull it all together. Take a look at the clip below (courtesy of Rand Interactive) to see it all in action:
As you can see, we had to be prepared for every feature of the site. That meant creating all the various modules (calendars, maps, etc.), icons for all the sections, finding photos of people actually doing the exercises, making up names of songs for the music page, writing snippets of health-driven articles, composing fake emails from the trainers — all this while trying to keep everything consistent and credible for the presentation. Oh, and we also had to think of a possible way that the company could produce the site and not go completely broke doing it.
Walking With Dinosaurs was a television series produced by the BBC in 1999, and the company I worked for (IMP) was producing a series of companion books. Being a direct marketing business, the obvious course of action was to produce a mail piece to inform current & potential customers of the product’s existence. Once they knew it existed, the next step was to bludgeon them over the head with pricing & premium offers. FREE! FREE! FREE! … etc.
Yours truly (natch) was charged with designing this mail piece. Here’s the final layout (sans text) that includes the book from the offer, and below of course you’ll find the original Photoshop file as well as three alternates.
After the first & second Jurassic Park movies came out, seemingly every dinosaur-related piece of material featured the Velociraptor, one of the predominant species in the films. IMP wasn’t about to about to buck the trend, but I’m still not sure if that particular layout was as strong as some of the others. I might have preferred to go with the 1st or 3rd alternate, although that giant foot could be construed as too ‘Pythonesque’.
By the way, a little Googling informed me that the ‘Velociraptor’ depicted in the movie was actually closer to a Utahraptor, as the actual Velociraptor was only about a third of the size of an average human being. Learning is fun!
Back in late 2001 I got a call from my buddy Jeff Chandler of Art Gecko Studios who said he needed some help constructing a web site for one of his clients, a machine shop named Own Instrument. Jeff had previously designed the logo, a brochure and some stationary, but really wasn’t a ‘web guy’ per sé…
The client wanted a simple set of pages which would give an overview of the company’s history, facilities, end users, as well as any & all pertinent contact information (same as the print piece). Jeff provided a rough style & layout guide, as well as all the graphic material he had used in the brochure – the OI logo, personnel photos, and clip art of various tools used at the shop. My job was to fashion it all into a working site*.
Looking back, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed incorporating all the little parts & doo-dads into the design – I recall asking Jeff at one point if he actually had any *more* art we could use. Unfortunately he didn’t, and this was some time before Google images became part of the internet lexicon.
Just imagine how much we could have really cluttered up the site with all sorts of drill bits and gaskets had we started this project today!
The only thing that threw me for a loop was a last-minute request to add a special ‘note’ (on the home page) about how to navigate the site. I fully understand the need to spell certain things out sometimes, but the artist in me tends to get turned off whenever I’m forced to muck up a well-designed page with instructions for ‘n00bs’. Just move the mouse around, people!!
*You may have noticed that if you visit the root of the owninstrument.com, you’re greeted with a short Flash intro movie. More on that later in another post…
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