Since graduating from Butera School of Art in Boston, I have always been fortunate enough to be employed in the graphic arts industry – the one I studied for and the craft I love. During this journey I've had many opportunities for advancement that went far beyond my humble beginnings as a paste-up artist, where all young artists started back in the day. As times changed, so did I with a thirst for knowledge for all things new.
I moved from paste-up mechanical print work to production of multi-media projects. I became a producer until the economy shifted and business models changed. I ran a studio for a direct mail business and then developed a strong desired for involvement in the interactive area. Eventually I came full circle back into print doing package design and art direction. Interactive projects are still in the picture to keep things fresh and interesting.
The examples below are just a small cross section of the work I have done over the years. They run the gamut from art production, set design and interactive work to photo shoots and freelance projects. Enjoy.
This project was for Conair Corporation, where I was an art director for the professional division. The shoot was for capturing beautiful hair color to be used for print and web applications promoting a new color line for One 'n Only™ Argan Hair Color. You can get a good idea of what it's like behind-the-scenes of a fashion shoot by viewing the video below (there might be a little loading time) or swiping right/left or clicking on the right or left sides to view the photo gallery.
Video: John Benton
Gallery Photos: Jeff Munk
Photographer: Bruce Soyez-Bernard
Hair Stylists: Felix Fischer
Makeup: Bernadine Bibiano
Wardrobe: Leah Snow
Location: Milk Studios/NYC
This was an internal project testing our abilities in various areas. What if your favorite painters did a portrait of you? What would it look like? So each artist in our group had to pick three of their favorite painters and compose a self-portrait based on those artists' styles. Thanks to the availability of the web for research and Photoshop as the main tool for the execution of the artwork, these were the result of that effort.
The first portrait was based on the style of Pablo Picasso. This was perhaps one of the toughest assignments to execute. It's one thing to attempt the distortions to stay true to the artist but it's another trying to replicate the textures of the brush strokes that made this exceptionally challenging, all while being able to identify me as the subject. Even the signature is done in the hand of Picasso. The phrase running along the side in French: Tête d'un homme means Head of a man.
The second portrait was based on the style of Vincent van Gogh. This portrait was not so easy to do either with all the brush strokes necessary to convey the maddening technique of the painter. And no, my ear is not shaved off behind all that long hair I had at the time, which covered up those parts that van Gogh saw fit to lop off.
Lastly, the third portrait was based on the style of Peter Max. Being a child of the 60s and 70s this was closer to the century and times I could relate to. Still, while this was the easiest of the three portraits, I spent an inordinate amount of time fussing with the color and some of the line work. That process went on for hours before getting it just right. The signature, as on all the previous portraits, mimics the way the artist would have signed it.
I've been a member of this bike club since 1990 and after only one year into being a member I offered up my services as the club's graphic designer. Their needs were not as demanding as a real client but they did need some branding and presents in the community. Even though SCBC was one of the largest cycling groups in the area, the potential for even more growth was there but they were in need of some kind of identity. The first task was to design the club logo. That logo is still in use today.
The next task was developing a website. Since more and more small businesses were having websites built for them, I decided it was time for me to learn as well. After picking up books on HTML I created one of my first websites for the club. Since then there were a number of redesigns before I handed the reins over to someone else. I also designed a lot of print collateral for the club and more specifically for their premier event – the Bloomin' Metric.
Aside from all the posters, brochures, maps and cue sheets I created for this event, the one item cyclists look forward to is the coveted Bloomin' Metric t-shirt. Each year there would be a different design. I had been doing these shirt designs since 1991 with just a few years in between that I skipped. The examples here cover five years of designing the shirt.
When the company's Sports & Entertainment Division needed someone to design cycling kits, racing bikes and team cars for these pro cycling teams, I was extremely pleased to be selected for this project for obvious reasons.
They certainly couldn't have picked a more perfect candidate if I say so myself because this project was right up my alley. I was still relatively new to the sport but familiar enough to know what the needs were. I had been watching the Tour de France for a number of years and being in graphic design it was easy to recognize where branding was important.
The results were these bold, bright colors, which clearly identifies the main sponsor for each team. The bikes were the first place I started since they required less work given the amount of real estate I had to work with. The jerseys and bib shorts were next and needed a lot of attention since riders could very well be on camera more often than the team car. Sponsors traditionally want to see their logo out there as often as possible and better yet, one of their riders first over the finishing line. This is why when you see pro cycling races, the lead cyclists is already zippering up his jersey and getting his arms up in the air so there is a clear shot of that logo as he crosses the finishing line.
Carrying over the design to the team cars was rather easy given the large area I had to work with. And with these color combinations, they ended up being pretty eye catching.
As things on the print side started slowing down, I pushed my way into the interactive area. To stay gainfully employed at an agency, it was always a good idea to expand your horizons, stay current and become a jack-of-all-trades.
After one fail attempt at building an interactive department, my company made a second attempt that seemed to take hold and at that point I had started to learn on my own about all things web. With that knowledge I was the perfect candidate to tap for helping out with the workload on the interactive side, as long as the print and packaging areas were experiencing a lull.
Cadillac was the big client utilizing a lot of the interactive team's time and I was used to fill in where needed. I spent a lot of time developing ads and banners – a whole lot of banners. I even started getting into Flash and created a lot of animation and galleries.
Because of the technical nature of the web, I really enjoyed the challenge of the work. Designing for the web is very different than designing for print. There was less pressure on the web side since errors could be quickly updated. Having been involved in this medium at work became a launchpad for me executing the same sort of work on a freelance basis. That turned out to be a very lucrative decision.
Soon after moving from direct mail to print production I was put on the Kellogg account. One of the first big projects I was deeply involved in was the How The Grinch Stole Christmas promotion in 2000. Not only did I develop a strong relationship with the production team at Kellogg but also developed a keen understanding of the requirements of Universal Studios and the Seuss Estate.
The Grinch promotion was so successful that Universal invited our team out to Hollywood for the premiere of the movie. We all attended a private cocktail party before walking the red carpet (actually green for this particular event). After viewing the movie we were invited to the after party, where we got to meet and/or see the cast and other well known invitees.
Because the Grinch was such a success, Kellogg returned for more of our work. This time it was for Spiderman.
The Spiderman project came in 2002. The reason for the two-year span of time before we could work with Kellogg again was due to a policy they had of not using an agency on back-to-back projects. Spiderman would prove to be a very involved project. Columbia Studios supplied me with great artwork but I still had to do a lot of modifying.
All the design work had to fit on designated sized box that Kellogg referred to as "cubes". They also had to work on the various brands of cereal. There was also an important rule I had to follow. All Kellogg characters had to "lived in their own world" so the promotional material or other outside characters could not come in contact with their characters.
The point of sale materials produced rather large files at a time when our computer systems could just barely handle them. Then came a major revision to all the artwork. Since the work on this promotion began soon after 9/11, any building in a cityscape that had any resemblance to the twin towers of the old World Trade Center had to be changed. The directive came after I had already completed a lot of the work. The Spiderman promotion was such a success that Kellogg broke its own rule and hired us for the next upcoming project – The Cat in the Hat.
It was 2003 and all the people we worked with on How the Grinch Stole Christmas were back. For some reason though, it was going to be a challenge to do a repeat performance like the one we had with Grinch. We were curious as to how we would pull this one off.
Universal Studios provided me with tons of artwork so there was plenty to work with but there were a lot of different promotions and it all seemed to be a bit disjointed. I really wasn't feeling the same way as I did when working on the Grinch.
There were many pieces to these promotions, which were designed for regular and licensed cereals, morning foods and snacks, along with a number of POS pieces. As predicted, this project was unlike the Grinch and needless to say we didn't get invited to Hollywood for this one.
In 2005 there was a lot of buzz about an upcoming remake of King Kong and Kellogg grabbed the opportunity to feature it as a promotion on their products.
Once again Universal Studios provided me with all the artwork I needed. What they didn't provide me with were silhouetted versions of Kong on a transparent background. All the images I received were Kong against a jungle scene or a cityscape. Getting the image isolated was a big job, especially when trying to make it look realistic.
There were literally thousands of little hairs that had to be separated from the background so we could place him where we wanted on the Kellogg boxes. This turned out to be a much smaller promotion and was designed only for regular and licensed cereals.
One of the more interesting projects of all the Kellogg jobs I've worked on was the promotion for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino for Frosted Flakes. The Frosted Flakes brand was usually set aside for sports promotions and that year they were featuring Olympic hopefuls that were to appear on the cereal. To feature these athletes they way we needed them, the project required a photo shoot. At this point my company had moved to New York City and fortunately our office had a rather large atrium area with a high ceiling that was a perfect location for the shoot.
Four athletes were selected. The first was Ross Powers, gold medalist in men's halfpipe (snowboard) in the Salt Lake City games in 2002. Next was Lindsey Jacobellis, who did go on to win the silver medal in snowboard cross in Torino that year. Resi Stiegler was our skier and went on to place 11th in combined and 12th in slalom in Torino. Last was Toby Dawson our crazy freestylist, who went on to grabbed the bronze in men's moguls.
It's so great to have one-on-one time with your subjects when you're responsible for getting them on the package in the best possible light. Unfortunately, Ross did not make the team for 2006 but was still featured on the package. He was from Vermont and I got the impression he was ready to settle down anyway.
Lindsey was a really firecracker and hailed from right here in Connecticut. With her long, curly blond hair, sponsors sought her to push their products, along with promoting the 2006 Olympics. And as beautiful as we made her for the shoot, she told me she hated makeup.
Toby Dawson had the most compelling story. He had me mesmerized. He was lost at the age of 3. He was born in South Korea and wondered away in a marketplace where his parents could not find him. He was eventually adopted by ski instructors that I believe were from Colorado and they named him Toby. The rest is history. He did eventually reunite with his birth parents.
Resi Stiegler had already come from Olympic royalty – her dad. She and I spent time talking about Jackson Hole because she was from Jackson, Wyoming and I had skied there and I wanted to share my insane experience of using GS skis on power.
Getting to know each athlete made this one of the more rewarding projects. Even Kellogg let me break their rule so I could have the athletes leaning right up against Tony the Tiger.
The one most memorable thing about this project was the time I spent constantly having to play around with the eyes of the characters. Pixar was kind enough to supply me with all the artwork I could have ever dreamed of having but making it work on the package was another story.
As mentioned before, Kellogg's number one rule was that their characters "lived" in their own environment and other characters like Lightening McQueen, Sally or Mater in this case could not touch or otherwise overlap Snap, Crackle or Pop or Tony or any other Kellogg character. That's not to say that the Disney/Pixar characters couldn't look at the Kellogg characters. So the challenge was to alter the provided art to make it look like the two sets for characters were engaging with one another. Kids pick up on this stuff.
This promotion was designed for regular and licensed cereals, morning foods and snacks, along with a number of POS pieces. I actually had a lot of fun on this project. It made me feel like a kid. And for the record, I'm a Mater fan.
Back in the 1980s large companies had money to spend and those investments were targeted at building excitement within their sales force. One of the ways this was accomplished was through national sales conferences, where there was a need for big staging productions. Many of these productions included opening and closing "modules", which were presented in the form of multi-image slide shows. Slides and videos were also used for speaker support.
Another key element was the stage itself and the sets used to house the audio-visual elements. The sets shown here were designed to accommodate the multi-image and video screens. The larger stage designs were created to handle live talent that was involved with this particular show for AT&T.
The idea behind the Tambrands' Partner in Profit set was to develop an on-stage panel/talk show. The look was to be that of a television studio and the cameras were both props as well as functioning equipment used during the production. The sales force was the real live audience.
In 1990, I was the recipient of the bronze award in the category of multi-image/sales at the International Multi-Image Festival (AMI) for a multi-image show I produced for Lancers Wine. When I moved from print to the multi-media arena, I found myself doing some very interesting work that took me around the country and around the world.