Monday, November 8, 2010

Joe Sparano: Visiting Graphic Designer Notes

The following notes are from Joe Sparano’s visit to Dordt College last month and were submitted by Matt Van Rys, adjunct instructor in web design at Dordt. We certainly want to thank Matt for providing excellent minutes. —blog editor

Meeting Notes by Matt Van Rys:
Before getting into Joe’s presentation, it is important to note two interesting facts that came out at the very end of the Question and Answer section:
Superman Versus Batman? — Batman
DC Versus Marvel? — DC

The Black Knight Pinball Machine at the offices of Oxide Design Co.

Joe’s Employer:
Oxide Design Co., Omaha, Nebraska
Professional graphic designer for 7 years, graduated 2004 from University of Nebraska Omaha.
  • 3 Person Staff: (identified as right to left above) Drew (founding member – 9 years), Joe and Adam (newest member – 3 years)
  • Building: Old Hardware store with vintage Neon Sign, Wall with giant logo mark, Lego village with radio operated train in front window with OXIDE letters on train cars and The Black Knight Pinball Machine.
  • Workspace: Everybody has own workspace, but open to each other. Group space for meeting and concepting designs.
  • Open workspace allows for perpetual communication and free form design work. Ownership of individual work spaces, like shelves of toys, lego cup and other personal markers.
  • Workplace Dogs: Glady and Rosie!
Joe, Oxide and Problem Solving:
The ability to solve visual problems with unique solutions is the key to Graphic Design.

Sample Projects:
  • Ready Collective” — A company based in helping other companies and groups rethink or think differently. Challenge: Designing an identity to capture the idea of non-traditional thinking with clarity of the finished thought. Solution: Camel “R” and Croissant “C” etc. Using colors to relate R & C illustrations to the Ready Collective logo. Using unique marks to link off-the-wall ideas with a polished workable finished concept.
  • The Biatomic Point” — (A feeling shared by two people). Challenge: How do we illustrate a shared experience while combining the idea of science and rocking out. Solution: A simple mark that solves an arguably complicated problem. B + P with the lightning bolt rocking out.
  • BIG OMAHA” — Conference for technical inventors to meet with small business entrepreneurs. Challenge: How do we represent Connecting/challenge, Midwest and something big (the big new idea). Solution: Cow with various illustrations. What do people do with the Cow? Or, how do people react to new ideas? It’s about interpretation, response and problem solving.
Inspiration for Joe:
Darwyn Cooke (Illustrator)
  • Superb action of comics captured in relatively simple renderings.
  • Simplicity, don’t over complicate.
  • Mad Man (Television Drama) Writing for TV (Showing the Old Pitch) — Season 1 Finale, trying to concept a name for the Kodak slide projector. “Carousel” – captures the magic and fun of photo memories.
  • Jim Henson (Puppeteer – Extraordinaire) — Super Creative. Turning a small felt puppet into a character with personality. Solving a problem, with a simple Muppet solution and creating a lasting, memorable metaphor.
  • Clint Mansell (Film Score Composer) — Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain… Evoking emotion and experience from raw music.
  • The Spork (Plastic Utensil) — Solves a problem – perhaps one of the best solutions ever. Spoon + fork + plastic = giveaway solution to a complex restaurant problem.
  • The Oxide Blog: Hey Students Series – Sharing knowledge before it’s too late to learn it or use it effectively.

The Question and Answers (And some sweet Oxide Swag)
Q. Did you remodel the hardware store space at Oxide?
A. Actually an architect remodeled the hardware store prior to Oxide’s existence. We kept the huge bookshelf storage and removed the walls between desks to create a more open and collaborative work environment.

Q. Can you describe the collaboration?
A. Working together, specifically in the conception stage. Sometimes divide, but always conquering together.

Q. What’s the balance of Technology versus hands on?
A. The Oxide group starts by sketching together on paper. It creates an easy place to quickly create and also eliminate less than stellar ideas early on before bringing the computer into the picture.

Q. Internships @ Oxide?
A. In Joe’s case, he came to portfolio review night and he was called later for internship. A good way to start with any business is to simply ask for feedback on your portfolio. Also, represent yourself as a student, a work in progress. Most people will respect your honesty.

Q. General Typographic Work…Regular Design, Forms?
A. Oxide participated in the AIGA National Initiative for ballet standards. This project was a true genesis of Information Design, sort of extreme problem solving for an important but possibly confusing form that a wide variety of people would use.

Q. Does Oxide work in web design?
A. Oxide prefers print design, however, designing the look of something (a website, flash site, standalone app, mobile app) is fine, but other developers, programmers and designers can be more skilled and produce a finer finished product. We feel that it is sometimes best to hire a professional for certain tasks.

Q. What applications do you use primarily?
A. We use the Adobe Suite…not much for alternatives, but it is an imperfect solution. We use Illustrator for hard edge artwork and then move into Photoshop.

Q. How do you stay fresh?
A. Try to find design inspiration everywhere; always be on the look out for good problem solving. One example is great logos and problem solving.

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