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. :)