About Designing Springfield

I'm a graphic designer - illustrator - cartoonist with a fondness for typography and a liking of the Simpsons. It seems only natural to put them together and have a little fun with the world of Springfield. It might also lead to paying work....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jolly Fats Wehawkin

I love The Middleman. I love the comics, I loved the TV show, and I really wish either of them had caught on with the general public, because, like Usagi Yojimbo,  the Middleman kicks serious ass. If you were one of the 12 people who watched the show, you will no doubt remember that the Middleman's headquarters was disguised as a temp agency, the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Employment Agency. Here's my take on the logo.

The original logo was set in a fake typewriter font with a big drop-shadow. It was only seen on the wall in the front office and on a t -shirt that Wendy Watson wore once in a while. I thought it was perfunctory at best (which was no doubt the intent of the designer), so I decided to take a stab at it.

The typefaces are Bodoni Poster and Copperplate, both reliable old standbys. My thinking here was the logo probably hadn't changed much since about 1978, and it was probably whatever the kid at the sign shop came up with. I went for a gold look, something a little cheesy, but a step up (I think, anyway) from the rather flat original design.

Bialystock & Bloom

This was actually one of the first fictional logos I did, way back in 2001, the year the musical version of The Producers opened on Broadway.

I've always loved the original movie (I literally have scars from laughing so hard at it; I watched it in the hospital four days after abdominal surgery and tore three stitches despite the pillow I held to my stomach the whole time.)When I heard about the musical, I decided I wanted a shirt, but not one that commemorated the stage play or film; what I wanted was the kind of shirt that members of the stage crew of Springtime for Hitler might wear. That's kind of what I go for with all these things; little scraps of reality from the fictional world.

For this design, I decided on a stark black & white design both because a tightwad like Max Bialystock would only spring for a one-color print, and also because the limitations of the time of the movie would have made a single color design optimal for everything from letterhead to rubber stampers.

The fonts are intended to evoke bygone eras, though only one of them is actually vintage. "Bialystock" is set in Rundfunk and "Bloom" is in Dolmen, two pseudo Art Deco fonts that Letraset came out with in the '70s. "Theatrical Producers" is in Bodega Sans Black Oldstyle, a retro-flavored typeface from 1990.  The "&" is Cooper Black, an authentic Jazz-era font from the 1920s.


Here are a couple of straight recreations of existing designs.

First is a design that's only seen for a short time on a billboard in the background in one scene of a movie, but I have no doubt that a lot of people will recognize it....

Got it?

Yup, it's Brad & Janet's home town, Denton, Ohio, from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Here's another one, from about 30 years earlier.

If you don't recognize this one, I don't want to know you. If you do, well, here's looking at you, kid. We'll always have Paris.

Either one looks fantastic on a black background, like say a t-shirt....

Friday, January 14, 2011

A few non-Springfield items...

Aside from the Simpsons-related stuff, I've taken a stab at a few other ideas over the last year, and I thought I'd go ahead and toss them up on here since I haven't posted in a very long while. So here goes....

Oceanic Airlines

I felt like I had to do this one; it's the airline from TV's LOST, and the logo they used on the show was frankly horrible. Okay, the design of the O was okay (and I've kept mine very similar to theirs, with some minor tweaks) but the font used for the name was perfunctory at best. Helvetica, really? Or maybe it was Arial. Whatever, it was a boring vanilla sans serif that looked like somebody forgot to load the font before printing out the design. Dullsville. So I changed it to a fat face with a little bit of style to it; I used Frutiger Ultra Black, with the "Airlines" part set in Frutiger Bold. (Frutiger is my standard sans serif. Whenever possible I use it instead of Helvetica and its spawn.) I tweaked the colors a little bit and called it done.

Just to be a smartass, I added a clip-art airplane upside-down and the tagline at the bottom, set in House Signpainter script.

Pencey Prep Fencing Team
This was actually done as a gift for my bride. It's a reference to Catcher in the Rye; Holden Caulfield gets kicked off the Pencey Prep fencing team just before the book begins.

The design is deliberately simple, intended to look like every high school athletic shirt you ever saw. The main type is Princeton, and the lettering on the crest is Duc du Barry. The little banner reads "sis scio verum" which is Latin for "if you want to know the truth." It's a phrase that Holden adds to every third sentence, so it seemed to be an appropriate motto for the school.

Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Shows & Combined Circuses
From Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, this was my attempt at creating a period piece, the kind of poster that would have been slapped all over town when the circus rolled in way back in the long-ago days when there were traveling circuses. Lots of different fonts here, including a few bits from Adobe Woodcuts. A bit of distorted type, which I generally loathe, but in this case it was appropriate. I'm pretty happy with the colors, too.

Spade and Archer
This was inspired by watching The Maltese Falcon again; I noticed the lettering on the window, the kind of lettering that was common on the windows of second-floor offices in most cities in the 1930s. In the movie, the lettering was a straight-sided block face, but I decided to use something a little more stylish. Copperplate seemed to be appropriate, so here it is. I tried to pick a color that would evoke the semi-metallic bronze paint that might have been used. Gold seemed too gaudy for Sam Spade's sensibilities.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Noiseland Arcade

One of the interesting difficulties of the Simpsons is that after 20 years on the air, some of the cultural landmarks change. For example, the arcade where Bart used to fritter away a lot of his time; arcades are thin on the ground these days, now that everybody has a Playstation or XBox or whatever.

But anyway, I like the name, so here it is, the Noiseland Arcade...

My idea for this is that Noiseland is a place that opened up in the early days of videogames, shortly after the advent of the ubiquitous Pac-Man. They have never replaced or updated their signage, so Noiseland's logo is a good 30+ years out of date.

For the name "Noiseland", I hand-built my own lettering, based heavily on fonts from the Bauhaus School, particularly Blippo and Pump, with a tri-line design. The "Arcade" part is set in Braggadocio, which is a knock-of of Futura Black, another one of the Bauhaus designs.

The colors are pure '70s cheese, intended to contrast with the completely unauthorized Pac-Man logo that helps to further date the design as a relic.

It's a little sad to think that when The Simpsons premiered, this design would have only been about 10 years out of date; now it might as well be from Renaissance. Sigh. I'm old.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Kodos for President

I happened to catch a rerun of the Halloween Treehouse of Terror episode from 1996 yesterday, and was struck by the profound political commentary, and a bit disheartened that Groening & Co. were clearly shouting into the wind a dozen years ago.

When the Presidential candidates, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are revealed to be the monstrous aliens Kang & Kodos (yeah, yeah, "spoilers." It's from 13 years ago. There has to be a statute of limitations on this stuff....), they explain that it doesn't make any difference; "it's a two-party system... you have to vote for one of us." When a spectator suggests voting for a third-party candidate, the aliens taunt, "go ahead, throw your vote away! MWUAHAHAHAHAHA!"

After Inauguration Day, when Kang has won the election and the aliens have enslaved the population and put them to work building massive installations, Homer explains "don't blame me; I voted for Kodos!" as if the result would have been at all different.

So I sat down and whipped out a bumper sticker....

The squid symbol is based on the elephant and donkey icons that get trotted out every four years. I reversed the colors to make it feel alien; usually the red is on the bottom part. This alien nature is further emphasized by putting the star off-center.

The text is set in Simian, a font family from House Industries. I've used it before on other designs because it's a nice and interesting sans serif gothic that comes in three weights: Orangutan (Light), Chimpanzee (Medium), and Gorilla (Bold). I added a 12° skew since the font doesn't come in an oblique.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My First Tattoo

This one goes past pretty quickly on the show, but I liked the sound of it.

In the episode "My Sister, My Sitter" (season 8), Marge and Homer go to the grand re-opening of the Springfield Squidport and leave Lisa in charge of Bart and Maggie, with dire consequences.

Meanwhile, at the Squidport, which is one of those formerly-skeevy industrial areas that's been gentrified into a yuppie retail/entertainment complex, Mr. & Mrs. Simpson survey the new shops and restaurants, one of which is a tattoo parlor where a bunch of the Springfield children are admiring one kid's new ink.

As usual, the signage in the episode is fairly perfunctory, plain block lettering with a passing effort at a graphic. In this case, the word "First" is emblazoned on a ribbon traversing a heart, in a classic tattoo motif. I decided to go in a different direction, playing up the idea that it's a parlor specializing in young customers (which is certainly illegal just about everywhere in the US).

I decided to use a childish handwriting font (Lemonade Bold) for "My First", with bright pastel coloring, and a spiky medieval font (Ironwood) for "Tattoo". The red-to-black gradient fill and multiple outlines add a little edge of menace in keeping with the usual tattoo aesthetic.