Wander. Wonder.

A new poster! Finally

Super busy over here, and I’ve taken to writing things that aren’t posted immediately, namely: both a three act comic and an entirely unrelated novel. But, of course, LTKMN gets short fiction posts every so often.

But, if you’d like to buy the above poster from our good friends at Society6, you should do so here. The usual formats are there (posters, art prints, stretched canvases, etc) but it’s also available – and I think quite fashionably – as an iPhone back. Take this simple philosophy wherever you go!

Note, the printed poster version doesn’t have the Acrylo logo in the corner. Other than the obviously branded stuff, I try to keep things clean for you.

Until next time!

Typography and Music

People usually roll their eyes upon hearing that a person is into typography. They don’t call it that, of course, they call it “fonts” which doesn’t make any actual sense but is the thing they know and might have even used themselves. It’s akin to saying someone is into MP3s instead of music; fonts are a format container, a bucket for glyphs – sounds – which together make a song. A typeface then, is perhaps one such song in a suite – a family – of compositions. Similar structures or notable features, but with different uses. Maybe bold is one song in a different key or in major rather than minor, changing the mood.

And glyphs themselves are funny to think about individually, as are notes. There are many instruments that can play the same note but it would be inappropriate to use the same instrument for every kind of song, just as it would be inappropriate to use the same type treatment for every kind of word or brand. There are trends in each – an era of intense popularity – and perhaps we could call Helvetica like the Beatles: really popular for a decade or so and then drifting off into recognized but backseat brilliance as other, newer things come up. They are undeniable classics and heralds to new ages, but we can’t keep using them for everything. We still play them sometimes and are still caught up in the melody or the way the square period looks, but people would give us weird, annoyed looks if we interrupted a rave with them. It would be contextually inappropriate.

The shapes themselves are made up and meaningless but have been repeated so many times they form their own standard. Microtonal music sounds off or wrong somehow, just as a Japanese hiragana symbol might to an English writer. Our minds fall into patterns of language, be them visual or audio and we gloss over the individual parts in favor of the overarching melodies. Typographers, then, are like very obsessive luthiers, trying to make that perfect note ring on every fret and then making them all match each other and dance when strummed in chord.

There are words that look good in some font families, just as there are chords that sound good in some keys. To design type, then, is to design a scale structure to accommodate certain types of chords; words. The notes are picked and played individually but the scale is the coherent thread woven through them, where you could play any note in that scale and it would match any other.

What I’m trying to say, really, is that beauty as I see it is the organization of the arbitrary into systems where there are rules for individual interactions to create the whole.

Photos via

Snapstag Cider Flyers

I opened my fridge to grab the above bottles for the photo and realized something: I really like apples.

Like, if you had asked me the answer would have been “Sure, why not?” or “Who doesn’t?” – an answer of indifference at the ubiquity of the fruit’s presence. But I realized that I have, as I write right now, two kinds of apples and three kinds of apple juices. On the counter top opposite a candle with a subtle apple scent. In my cupboard both Apple Jacks and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios (which are not, as I previously thought, the same thing) next to the box of apple cinnamon oatmeal flavoring and variety of dried cider mixes. Apple teas, though, I’ve declared terrible.

So it makes sense, I guess, to make an apple flavored ale.

We went the other day to the farmer’s market in search of fresh apple juice (preservatives in the commercial kind will kill the yeast) and came back with 2x 1 liter glass bottled soft cider from Harker’s Organics. We’re opting for small, small batches with lots of experiments and meticulous note taking so we can decide and make more in the direction we like the best. Next stop: The Vineyard, a local brew shop. First impression: super helpful and knowledgeable guys there. I had a shopping list based on this guide and they agreed, so we went with the Nottingham Ale yeast because in theory it should be hard to mess up. One packet is $4 and makes like, ~45 liters of brew, so we’ll have more than enough to keep playing; they’ll probably expire before we use them all. Silly yeast for having a shelf life. There’s some other pectins and things to control clarity and sweetness but I won’t get into the nitty gritty.

Unfortunately that’s all I can tell you at the moment, there’ll most likely be follow up posts in a few weeks / months.

In the meantime, we can play with the branding. There probably won’t be any real production scale any time soon, but can you blame design students for getting excited? We arrived at the name Snapstag entirely serendipitously and rolled with it. The above photo was the third try or something, so it’s hardly done. It’s not really original, but since we’re not competing on store shelves it’s less a concern to be memorable and edgy. We just wanted to do whatever we liked, and that’s what it is. It’ll most likely evolve over time and start to take on it’s own personality. I imagine there will be other names / brands for each flavor we come across and branch into it’s own right with ties to each other. We liked the industrial revolution Wharftown handmade branding that’s popular with the hipsters these days. I tried doing a truly hand lettered version and it’s terrible. I have so much respect for people like Gerren Lamson and Simon Walker.

In the end, it’s entirely for fun and we’ll have something to talk about and do with each other after we graduate.

Stay Awesome

Take care out there.

Media Consumption

My first foray into dataviz.

For a class assignment we meticulously tracked our media consumption in predefined categories for a week and then made some way to display the information. Mine turned out slightly more complicated than my classmates’ did, but I opted to do a full 24 hour breakdown of each day instead of a daily total for each category. There’s actually four axis of information on that 2 dimensional graph, a feat of which I’m slightly proud. 7 days x 24 hours x 6 categories x the quantity out of 60 minutes. It’s a lot to cram into such a small space!

Evolution of Chevy speedometers

There’s quite a few more in between so definitely check out the full gallery.

This would be a good response for the people who think typefaces don’t give an impression or feel to the things being displayed. It’s a subtle importance, but very important nonetheless.

Faux Letterpress

The above is an actual logo used by Kodak way back in the day.

It make sense, since they didn’t have digital printers like we do now so a lot of things were pressed with actual inks with actual stamped shapes.

But if you cruise around FFFFound of Designspiration there are literally endless amounts of these things coming from graphic artists who have probably never touched a letterpress machine in their lives.

Here’s one I made quickly.

I don’t really understand it. Sure, it’s a great aesthetic, I do quite like it and it does perfectly suit some brands and some studios. Awesome. What I don’t like is it getting indiscriminately slapped onto every single thing possible. Much like Apple’s leather apps, it makes very little sense to do if there isn’t some actual metaphor or correlation. You’re a software company? Great, I’ll make your logo look exactly like you’d find on a 50 year old wharf warehouse.

Be good. Following trends for the sake of being trendy is not good.

Console – minitutorial

I made this a while ago and it recently came up again, so I’m going to do the detailed discussion of it that I always meant to do.

For the record, this was made with Blender 1.5x but anything more recent will work. Even since making this I’m already onto 2.60 which was just released the other day.

Break it down:

So we’ve got two things going on here – the basic render and then the compositing over that done internally with the nodes. It depends on the look I’m going for but this second step can usually replace Photoshop for post-render colouring and touching up so take the time to learn it. I’m not sure why I ignored it for so long and in hindsight I think it could have really helped my renders back then.

Part 1 – the render:

So you can see how important that post/node work is – the pure render is really drab and lifeless.

The geometry is really simple, it’s just a text (Futura) with another text behind it at a 0.094 bevel and some extrude to give it that really thick pillow look. Remember to up the bevel resolution to make it a curved fillet instead of just a chamfer. The inside text is the glowing green and the pillow part is the reflective black part.

The ground is just a giant plane with the same piano black finish that the pillow text has.

There’s the two materials. Pretty self explanatory, I think. We’ve got the black with a bright, sharp specular and a nice reflection (which you’ll notice isn’t doing blurred samples – we’ll come back to that) and the green with is just a green with an emit value to it for that extra zest. The speculars and such don’t really matter there since it’s rendering pretty much shadeless and specs won’t show up at all there. There is one light but it’s pretty irrelevant since the green glows more or less by itself and the black just reflects it. There are slight speculars on the black, I guess. It’s up to you. (Note, you still need the light for the emit to work, it just multiplies the natural surface illumination by a ton)

Which should give you that first render there. It works but isn’t very exciting at this point. Let’s spice that up, shall we?

Part 2 – node work:

Here’s the end result (click for fullscreen as always):

It breaks down into nice chunks.

Starting on the left we have the render layer as normal which then branches into the glare node up top (the major render) and into the overlay node to it’s right. This overlay uses a little bit of the render and mixes it with a scanline texture I had laying around. Basically it’s just horizontal lines that can be easily Googled or made in PS. That texture is scaled to fit the render dimensions and all of that is sent through the RGB curves to really intensify the bright parts, giving it tons of contrast. If you were to render from the tail of that RGB curve, this is what it would look like:

Which is sent through the glare, which just brightens it further and gives those side to side streaks (note the “Streaks: 2” in there @ 0 angle offset). The color modifier is actually important here as it creates that sort of jittered spotty pattern to the streaks.

That whole things works basically as an overlay to the original render layer (and it’s glare node for the text’s neon look)) – those two run through the Lens Distortion which has a tiny bit of dispersion (the glitched out red/green/blue tinges on the far sides of the lettering) and a lens-barrel distortion for that fisheye curve the whole thing’s got.

The defocus does the ground blur and it’s actually a bit of a bug in the renderer itself. Since it’s not doing any real light physics, it’s not smart enough to know that reflected things exist in the same place as real objects and therefore should exhibit the same DoF as the physical object does (as real life would) so the blur is actually controlled by the bokeh as if it’s out of focus, although our knowledge dictates it isn’t. It’s usually annoying but it’s really handy here since it’s blur is far faster than doing actual sampled glossiness on the ground material itself. If we were making an animation that would have really nice time savings.

That should give us the completed image!

Which you can see again if you’d forgotten since the top. Click for full to appreciate those little details. I’m really quite fond with how that dispersion turned out and mixed with the scanlines.

Questions, comments, critique? Feel free to send a message my way!

Scrapbook 27

Scrapbook 27: Red.

This week’s been crazy; thank you for only revolting a little bit about the lack of posts:

Imagine my surprise when I saw that on the news. I knew my fans were passionate, but wow!


CNET UK Presents: History of the iPhone

CNET UK Presents: History of the iPhone, dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs from Drew Stearne on Vimeo.

I’m a sucker for isometric animations, and this one is really reminiscent of that old Röyksopp music video:

Remind Me from Röyksopp on Vimeo.

And if you don’t already, go out and buy every Röyksopp album you can find. They are probably one of my most-played bands ever. Such perfect, perfect stuff.

The style does make for some fantastic animated infographics:

Canal Isabel II – El ciclo del agua from binalogue on Vimeo.

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