Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New York Depress


No, I'm not depressed. I was just bummed recently when the cover illustration I created for the NY Press got butchered by its design staff. Above is the illustration before I sent it in to them. They asked me to create a colorful image of a porcine man cutting into a big meaty steak. So I had fun with it. I really got into delineating the fatty areas of the meat, and the perspective was a neat challenge. At the risk of sounding like I'm tooting my own horn, I was pleased with the outcome.


When I saw the final cover on the stand (above), I was totally shocked. Not only was the typographic treatment tacky and dreadful, but they had gone in (without permission) and totally altered the color of the steak! On top of that insult, they obscured my initials. They had ALREADY asked me to remove my entire signature, what more did they want? I always sign my pieces in one way or another. That's an illustrator's right usually.

The pride I had felt for my finished illustration was completely shattered by their treatment of it. It was as if someone was TRYING to choose the absolute worst typeface, layout, and alteration. First of all, darkening the steak turned it into a shapeless muddy blob. I really don't think it reads like a steak this way. It looks more like a pool of clotted blood. Secondly, the TYPE. The type treatment had to be the most high-school usage of typography on a major weekly I've ever seen. Seriously, it's not even readable. I understand they were trying to create an aggressive, in-your-face "sales pitch" tone, but they completely failed and created more visual "noise" for our advertisement polluted city. The "Salsa" typeface used in "IN-SA-A-A-A-A-ANE!" is poorly stretched (using a cheap Photoshop effect) leaving it practically illegible. The type above it isn't much better either. It's placement on the left creates all sorts of visual tangents with the image below it, rendering it hard to read as well. On top of these visual errors, it's not even that clever or amusing. It's more like a slap in the face. Tell me, during a busy day in New York, why would anyone's eyes linger long enough to read this mess?

This is the problem with the New York Press. They try to compete with the Village Voice, but they don't give their paper the same thoughtful design treatment the Voice usually affords. A good cover uses an arresting image to draw you in, and then informs you with smart typography. When typography is this messy and obnoxious, it repels the viewer. I am incredibly dismayed that an alternative paper here in NEW YORK CITY, a capitol of good design, can be so design ignorant. And this isn't the first cover I've seen mangled, either.

I was so unhappy with the outcome of this cover I decided to redesign my own version specifically for my portfolio. Check it out below. I'm no typographic master, but I think my version is already ten times better than the existing cover. The image draws you in and even points to the type (with the knife). "Insane Prices" is allowed to leap forward in yellow, grabbing your attention, while the smaller type reveals the details neatly while contained in the steak. Isn't it much more pleasing to look at this way? I'd love to hear whether you agree with me or if you think I'm crazy. I feel like anyone at the helm of a paper would–and should–understand these visual rules. Apparently, ANYONE off the street can design the cover of a publication these days. I know one thing for sure, if someone tried to submit writing on the same level as the botched cover design above, the editor would surely throw it out.

That's what I'm depressed about. Why isn't design given the same respect? It works wonders when administered properly. Often, it's what makes the consumer pick up your product in the first place.


Below is another cover illustration I did for the NY Press last Fall. They did a better job with this one, but I think it could be better. Thanks for reading my rant. :)

12 comments:

ALBERT PARDO said...

---HEY JUSTIN, THANX FOR THE KIND WORDS ON MY BLOG... SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT HOW THEY BUTCHERED YOUR ILLUSTRATION(NO PUNN INTENDED) THATS JUST HOW IT GOES SOMETIME. YOUR VERSION IS DEFINITELY BETTER, I JUST THINK MAYBE THEY THOUGHT YOUR STEAK LOOKED RAW OR UNCOOKED, THAT WHY THEY DARKEN/RUINED IT... NOT LETTING YOU SIGN IT THOUGH IS SOME REAL BULLSH!T..! YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST HIDDEN IT, LIKE AL HIRSCHFEILD...

---GREAT WORK, NONTHELESS...

mar said...

Hey!!!
I just hate when that happens!
As a graphic designer I live this every single day... Generally the accounts executive or even the boss (who both know nothing about design) decide how the design should be like, forcing the designer to do something horrible.
So when I read your post I felt completely identified.
If they´re gonna cover the entire illustration with information, why do they use an illustration at all!!!?
Anyways...
Your work is much better and changing it for your portfolio is the best way to go...because you can make things better, but hem, they will never be able to.
Thanks for your post... =) you´re very sweet too.
See ya
(log, long comment!, sorry!!!)

David DeGrand said...

Hey Justin! Man your original illustration was freakin' AWESOME!! I can't imagine how pissed I would be if they did that to my art. Darkening the steak takes away all the great colors you used, it really looked nice and meaty before, now it looks like a charred piece of poop! And don't get me started on the typeface, I designed better pages for my high school paper. Having said all that, it's still a cool gig, your version of the cover is a definite improvement. Thanks for sharing your frustrations, it was a fascinating read! Take care buddy.

Hobo Divine said...

New York Press... not impressed!

bunch of JERKS!

I'm sorry to hear about this ignorant assault on your art.

:( booooooooooo New York Press!

Jocelan Thiessen said...

i feel your pain but instead of illustration they butcher my storyboards.

Lauren Kate said...

Wow - this is awful! I had no idea that they could change an illustration so drimatically without your concent, but I suppose that's big business for you!
I love your original illustration, and your layout too is so much better! Good on you for showing us all what GOOD design looks like :)

Hobo Divine said...

Hello Cartoon Curio!
:D

mushroommeadows said...

wow---they made a BIG mistake! The original illustration far surpasses their final cover! :( Seriously!

naturline said...

That beautiful… enchant to me… I must spend more times this way.
Thank

AdventurerAmber said...

Yikes! Dude, your version was *way* better. And if they *really* felt they needed the steak to be darker, THEY COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB!!! It's like they just used the paint brush tool... in fact, I am pretty sure that's what they did. Anyway, YOUR version is sweet. Good job!

this just in said...

Thank you everyone for your sweet support. I promise I'm not about to leap off the edge of my window into the street or anything, but us artists/designers need a healthy place to vent. :)

Ellis Nadler said...

this sort of thing "comes with the territory" i'm sad to say