November 15, 2008

It’s Not His Fault That So Many People Like His Work

An Interview with Jesse Parrotti by Ziggy Nixon

Jesse Parrotti is a San Francisco-based designer, illustrator, and painter who has been gathering quite a lot of attention over the past couple of years. Fans from across the globe have been eager to spread the word about his unique style that combines elements of past influences with techniques of the present day.

Whether you’ve seen his work as an illustration, a playbill, a poster, a logo, an album cover or even printed on a tee-shirt, Jesse’s style will definitely catch your eye. One thing that you have to admit about his work is that it’s just plain fun to sit and stare for a while at the images and let your mind wander.

And whether his work makes you think back to the early 1900’s, the late 1960’s or even a future or reality yet to be defined, that’s okay with him. The stories Jesse weaves with his art open the gateways to just about anywhere you want to go.

Ziggy Nixon is happy to have caught up with this young talent to discuss his art and influences:

Jesse, from the brief snippets about your education and career I’ve been able to find, I see that you graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ohio University in 2004, and afterwards worked with the Berkeley Repertory Theater, sorry, Theatre in San Francisco.

Just to be overly nosy, how did you find yourself moving from Ohio to San Francisco for a design career? Why didn’t you look to find something either overseas or even more foreign than that, say, in New York City?
San Francisco, or better said, the Bay Area, was not my only choice of places to move after college. I just knew I wanted to get out of Ohio. Don’t get me wrong: I love where I grew up and went to school, but after living there for so long… Well, I wanted to move on.

So I just started applying to any design jobs I could find in a couple different areas I would want to move to, the Bay Area being one of them. It ended up being the place that I got my first job. Actually it was an internship to be accurate.

Jesse, just about every entry I found for you in the past months lists you as someone who, quote, ‘creates work that looks like it’s both from the future and a throwback to 60s psychedelia.’ Another blurb that I disagreed with was ‘Jesse Parrotti’s style can only be described as groovy.’ I’m just curious if these descriptives are in line with your own vision of your work?
I’m ok with those descriptions I guess. I like to think my work goes a bit beyond the realm of the psychedelic, but I’m certainly not opposed to that description.

I do like it that people might see it as a mixture of the past and future.

Do you worry about getting typecast with such buzz lines floating around the web? Like ‘oh, if you want something groovy and psychedelic, just call that Parrotti guy!’
I’m not really worried about being typecast. I think, unlike an actor, a visual artist can change their style at any time without any resistance; you just need to make it happen. It’s really whether people will like your new work or not. There will always be people that you alienate and others that you bring into the fold.

I hope as my style evolves, people will say, ‘oh, check this new shit out, way to change it up’. I certainly don’t plan on doing the same exact thing over and over.

What are your main inspirations, including current or past influences?
There are a ton of things that inspire me to make art. I think one of the biggest though, is just my love of building new worlds, creating stories. It’s fun as hell. Being able to make up anything at all, and then make a little story out of it, in the form of an image. To me that’s really gratifying, even if no one else really understands what the story means.

People can make up their own stories for the images I make, that’s okay, too.

I love to try when I’m first exposed to an artist’s works to imagine what may have influenced their work or what they might enjoy in life that supports their creative process. These are some of my first impressions that your work brought to my own mind (tiny as it may be) –
· First of all – and this may just be because I’ve become enamored with his work since recently watching the extended ‘
Pan’s Labyrinth’ DVD for the first time as well as viewing an on-line interview with him – would be the creations of director Guillermo del Torro, who is also the director of the ‘Hell Boy’ movies (with a nod to Mike Mignola’s unique imagery in the original comics featuring same). This comes across strongly for me in this image that you’ve also chosen as your background for your website, which is perhaps my favorite so far of your images;

· Secondly – and pretty obvious really – would be a selection of my old Beatles’ and/or Hendrix LP covers (ZN recommends coupling Jesse’s work with ‘
The Wind Cries Mary’ or ‘Little Wing’ for the full sensual ride);

· I sense in addition a pretty strong affiliation to science-fiction in general (less Frank Herbert and more Asimov or especially Heinlein and Bradbury). Also, without giving away too much about our age difference, I see some of Ralph Bakshi’s imagery and especially background detail from his film ‘

· Finally, there seems to be a bit of
Alphonse Mucha in your works, particularly in the kind of (I hate to use this term, sorry) art deco backgrounds that occasionally appear. For example, this really came across to me in your piece ‘Grimwood Son’, shown here.

Now after that long bit of bloggy rambling (no worries, it’ll get tightened up if this makes it to a real web-site): Which of these fit in with your own tastes or inclinations and which are just way off base in your eyes?

Everything you mention here is pretty close. I really enjoyed the imagery from Pan’s Labyrinth. I’m not sure it had any direct inspiration on me, but it’s definitely something I like.

I’m also a huge fan of the science fiction genre. I definitely include sci-fi on my short list of inspiration. I have seen Wizard’s, but it was a long time ago, I should probably check it out again soon.

In terms of Alphonse Mucha, yeah, I love his work. Certainly it’s kind of played out in a way. I mean he’s one of those artists you always see on calendars and silly little fake vintage posters. But I really love his high level of precision and craft. You just know he spent a lot of energy on each piece. It’s not his fault that tons of people like his work.

What led you to favor an approach that features primarily classical illustration and/or painting techniques, including watercolor, acrylics and even markers (correct or did I miss some?)?
I really just work in those mediums because of my limited workspace. I plan on getting myself a proper studio soon and will most likely be branching out into bigger and, perhaps most importantly, messier mediums.

How has your design process evolved over time?
I think my work has gotten a lot more organic, less structured.

The aforementioned ‘Grimwood Son’ was not just watercolor on paper, but was in addition digitally inked. How does this combination of techniques work?
Basically, I do a normal pencil drawing then I color it with acrylic and/or watercolour. Finally, I scan it at high resolution and ink it with a
wacom tablet. Pretty basic.

How much work do you do with computers to compliment your art?
Not a lot right now, other than digitally inking some pieces. I am experimenting with certain digital processes and applications and will certainly be utilizing them more in the future.

Have you even considered working exclusively with computer-based illustration techniques or do you wish to keep at least part of the hands on aspect?
I really love working digitally. But it will never really replace a pencil and paper for me.

Like I said, I do see myself working more digitally in the future, especially for paid client work. It’s so much easier to make edits and changes; really stuff you just can’t do in the real world.

But when I am working on a personal piece, it really means something to me to have it in my hands as an object, a touch-able thing, and not just a digital file. This makes it a bit more personal. Even when working digitally, I usually start with a scanned drawing anyways. That will never go away I think.

I’ve really enjoyed looking at your pieces and trying to de-construct if you will how they come to be, from the first sketched line and/or drop of paint. I’m curious therefore if you start with an image already in mind or does a piece sometimes develop outward from some first part of the picture?

To put it a different way, which comes first, the sketches or the color or have you started works coming from both directions (I hope that didn’t sound too weird or offensive)?
Usually I just get an idea for a scene or character, and just start building from there. Sometimes ideas are more fleshed out before I start, and sometimes they are not. Other times I just let my hand move and see what happens.

Some of your pieces almost strike me as an amalgamation of often dissimilar images (whoa, that bordered on sounding intelligent, noting I’m writing this with my thesaurus open). Is that intentional or are do you sometimes aim to include seemingly disparate images in order to tell a deeper, even more mysterious story?
Usually my pieces tell a story. But I like the idea that anyone can look at it and come up with there own narrative.

So many other inputs on the web in the past months have featured your work ‘Magician’s Triumph’. Again, a fantastic piece of work but I also find myself wondering how these often ethereal (bingo, this is how I would describe your work!), yet spiritual, political or even romantic images fit together?
Yeah, for me that piece is really about conquering god as a practitioner of magick, becoming your own god. I think that it really tells that story. But again, it might be totally different for someone else and that’s cool.

Was design for you a life-long ambition or did you decide later on that it was attractive owing to the flexible working hours and lack of heavy lifting?
Well, I always knew that I wanted to make images for a living. I just didn’t really know what form it was going to take. I kind of still don’t.

There was kind of a moment when I began working as a freelance illustrator and designer, I think 6 months or so into it, when I said ‘wow, I guess I’m making a living at this’. I still don’t really feel like I am settled into one area or another in regards to how I make a living.

But for me, I don’t ever really want to settle into a career, which I guess is why I chose to work freelance; all the variety, a bit of mystery and enough stress to keep me on my toes.

Jesse, what does the phrase ‘pushing the envelope’ mean to you, and specifically how do you think you’ve already done that or will try to in the future?
I don’t really know if I have ‘pushed the envelope’ or not. I guess to me it just means being on the avant garde of what is happening around you. I don’t even know if that is my goal or not. Certainly I want to keep progressing as an artist and person. Whether that qualifies as pushing the envelope, I’m not sure.

I think maybe everyone is trying to accomplish that, that is, pushing the envelope is really just current mainstream culture. Most people are doing it in one way or another, or at least trying to.

Obviously, exposure is important to any artist or designer. You’ve had an interesting collection of different showings that I’d like to get your insight on (in no particular order):

You participated in the ‘
Toil & Trouble’ event in June 2007, which was listed as an exhibition and fund-raiser for the film ‘Story about a Witch’ (how cool, I have never heard of a fund-raiser for a film!). How did that work out for you?
It was ok, just a little one night show. I actually didn’t sell any of the three pieces I had in there, so you know…

But there was free wine, so in the end, it worked out pretty good!

The band ‘Innaway’ seemed to be pretty impressed with your album cover, saying it was ‘so cool that we pressed a two song single onto 12’ vinyl just to enhance the cover art.’ How has your working relationship with this band or other musicians worked out?
Innaway is a great group of guys, and
their music is phenomenal. I have a great relationship with them and am currently working on the cover for their next album. And sure, when the set-up is right I’m happy to work with other bands, too.

I was also fascinated to see your work featured in of all places as part of the invitation to the recent ‘
Jack the Ripper 2008 Conference’ that was held this year in Knoxville, Tennessee. Is this kind of weird for you (what do these people possibly do together?) or is any exposure = good exposure for a rising design star?
Ha, yeah. I did a book cover for this annual magazine about Jack the Ripper; apparently he has a big following. But you’re right, I’m happy to have the exposure plus I’m still alive and all.

Looking perhaps even further back in your development, I see you were invited to participate in ‘
PEEP!’ that not only helps Bay Area artists get their works shown but also I believe supports arts in general for public education in this area. Was this your first serious exhibit?
That was a while back. It was a good show; I definitely got a lot of exposure from that. It was probably my first real showing of work.

Recently, you’ve had a good deal of success with your work designing tee-shirt motifs, including for the company
Deeper Shades of Soul – more commonly known as ‘DSOS’ – among others (e.g. Zoo York or Von Zipper). In fact, you mention that some of your designs will soon be featured in shirts and accessories offered across the nation at a ‘major brand-name clothing store’.

How does it feel to see your work offered in such a way?
I’m ok with it; I mean it certainly is and will continue to be a decent amount of exposure as long as the prints are out there.

In terms of business, is this lucrative in terms of earnings for you (like a commercial jingle, do you get a % of each tee-shirt sold)? Or is it a one-off licensing deal?
Nah, I just got paid to do the artwork, the company owns the rights.

How involved are you in the actual larger-scale production of these prints? Just as an example: let’s say someone wanted to change the basic color scheme of one of your designs. Do you then have the right to scream ‘no way’ or how does it work exactly?
For the DSOS work, yeah, I worked very close with the production. I even spent a lot of time travelling to Indonesia to actually manage a lot of the sample production.

For other jobs, I usually just do the design and then it is out of my hands. I like being involved in all aspects when I can though. I think it is important to know how things are made, things we buy.

On the other hand, do you have any mixed feelings about going more ‘mainstream’, even wondering if any of your friends would tease you about ‘selling out’?
That kind of thing does not really bother me. Plus most of my friends are sell-outs so there’s little chance I’ll be an outcast ;)

The fact is, everyone has to make a living; well, not everyone, but most people. And if you are not lucky enough to be independently wealthy, then you have to work.

But I still consider myself very lucky because I do something I love and make enough cash to pay rent. Some folks live a lifestyle where they never have to ‘sell-out’ or even work for that matter, but again, usually those people have rich parents.

Your main media have focused on using paper and also managing to get your works onto textiles (or as one blogger recently put it ‘Jesse puts his semi-psychedelic, bold yet soft images on anything he can get his hands on’). I also see in your portfolio that you’ve worked on logos, swing tags, web design, and various hard-copy materials particularly for your work with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (is that enough plugs for them yet?).

And now the actual question: what media have you not yet worked with or worked with extensively that you’d like to try more with in the coming moons?

I’m super excited to start doing some oil painting. Also, I have recently been exposed to working with spray cans, I have some friends who paint graffiti and it’s really enticing.

How do you see your work developing in the coming years? Is your target to remain more illustration focused or to branch out further into the general ‘design’ field?
I definitely see myself moving more solidly into illustration actually. I love good design, and it complements good illustration. But I really just love drawing pictures.

Where do you see design in general – in all its shapes, forms and incarnations – heading?
That is a good question, and I really don’t know. It seems like there are really no rules, or at least fewer rules with less and less restrictions. I’m just not sure where that will take design.

Finally, what IS the joke about the 3 midgets and you (noting there are lots of other listed ‘
Movie Night Members’ which one could eventually track down and ask)?
Man, you really googled the shit out of me. Movie Night was a thing me and my friends did back during High School in Ohio. It had quite a big following; sometimes we’d have up to 20 of us at a movie night.

Basically, it was just a bunch of teenage jerks watching the worst movies we could get our hands on, consuming way to much caffeine and generally causing trouble before and after the movie. Nothing too special.

As for the midgets, man, I honestly don’t remember that one; it was probably something completely absurd.

Insert here - free space for any advertising you want to do:
I have a new shirt coming out through
Friends United Network, a group where I’ve sold some other stuff before as well. It should be out soon, so keep checking back. I’m also working on getting my on-line store up and running (don’t buy anything yet, it’s just in the test phase!).

And as always your readers can always check out my
website for my latest updates and work! Give me a shout if you see something you like or have an idea for something I can do for you!


All images are full copyright of Jesse Parrotti, including for commercial items, and are used exclusively for this article (or licensed reprints of same) by kind permission. No further usage of these images is permitted without full written consent of Jesse Parrotti and the Commisioner's office of Major League Baseball.

November 9, 2008

Manifest Plainness, Embrace Simplicity, Design Terrific Logos°

An Interview with David Pache of the Creative Studio 'dache'
We have a confession to make – when setting up this interview, we initially thought to ourselves: what the heck does a logo designer have to do anyway? Seriously, it looks so simple, anyone could do it, right? All you do is take a company’s name, study a bit what the client wants to say, what and/or to whom they wish to sell, fool around with Microsoft Paint and maybe PowerPoint, maybe refer to some color swatches if you’re feeling really fancy... Then, BANG, the next Nike swoop or big fat IKEA sign is born with instant global recognition and world-wide acclaim being assured.

Well, how do we put this? Needless to say, we were wrong about the whole logo design thing. Very wrong. Very, very, most extremely, nauseatingly wrong. And we want to apologise to not only all the artists out there working on logo design, but all the people who may have been inadvertently exposed to our efforts (that poor garbage collector is still in a coma). In fact, we found that not only is logo design NO WHERE NEAR as easy as it looks, but especially fighting the urge to adjust, or add an element, or continue to tweak a color or a line was overwhelming. We’d probably show our age too much if we reminded everyone of an episode where former President Ronald Reagan once
‘squoze’ and picked at a pimple (which was actually skin cancer) so long that he had to go to the hospital to get it treated… so we won’t do that, keeping in mind this guy had his finger on THE button for 8 years… we mean, what if he had wanted to pick at that instead?

You may have even noticed in recent e-mail rantings that we’ve picked a final Ziggy Nixon logo and even letterhead-slash-business card theme; but it also needs to be noted that this was only achieved after much hullabaloo and Nixon family brain-storming (read: in our house this is accomplished by great amounts of shouting and chasing one another around the yard with large sticks in order to settle our differences). In other words, our selection came down to throwing in the towel and giving up after a good 20 or 30 main designs, admitting we were lost and using our best shot. In addition, we knew that this was far away from a commercial reality in that it’d look even worse on a billboard or on the side of a truck or gods forbid presented by any other form of mass hysteria, we mean, media.

In the end, we did confirm one thing: making bad logos is very easy indeed (just ask
Swisscom – or better said their CEO [translation: the boss is NOT happy!]– or the 2012 London Olympic Committee). Clearly after this personal introduction, we gained a lot of respect for this branch of design and especially anyone who regularly produces quite aesthetically pleasing and commercially successful logos. And David Pache – from the Swiss-based design firm dache (pronounced “dash”) – is a terrific person to talk to if you’re looking for someone who’s knows how to get it right.

If you do have some exposure to the world of logo design, you’ve probably run across David’s name or at very least mention of his work. He’s had his wide array of logos and other work reviewed and featured many times recently and has provided a number of interviews for various publications as well. See for example these references to the dache brand of design at, and also, all very well known sites amongst designers and clients alike.

Ziggy Nixon caught up recently with this talented – and extremely busy – young Swiss designer: David, can you tell us please a little about your business, including the scope and even your likes and dislikes of running an agency?
Sure! I started the business out of college in 2005 and have been building it up ever since. I’ve had some good exposure and have also managed to continually upgrade my website, offers and contacts.

At this time, my client base is predominantly US-based but I also have clients in Canada, Mexico, the UK, Asia, India, Australia and Europe. This has really been exciting for me, in that what started off as a national business here in Switzerland has expanded and taken me to an international level.

In terms of running a business itself, I have to admit that I do not always enjoy the business element which sometimes takes the passion out of design for me. For example, this is why I have previously offered discounted logos to start-ups or offered logos at lower cost through other channels. I also try to stay pretty flexible with my pricing structure in order to be more accessible to a wider customer base.

I plan in future to widen this kind of activity and even try to offer my work to charities. I enjoy doing this as it helps me then balance the pure business aspects with my passion for what I’m doing.

How would you describe the dache style?
My style is contemporary with classic elements. I enjoy simple logos and their interpretations. Sure I am able to produce all different types of logo styles as you can see on my site. But I do have a preference in that I really like the geometry and symmetry of logos.

My work has been featured on many websites as you mentioned and can soon be viewed in books such as
The Web Designer's Idea Book and LogoLounge V (see also here for more details to which logos from my portfolio are to be included). I’m also very excited that 10 of my logos were recently published in Los Logos 4, which I also describe on my website here.

How would you describe yourself – or let's say your professional title – best?
Ultimately, I consider myself a multi-media services provider. However, the reason why I focus a lot of my time and energy on logo design per se is that this is the area that 90% of my clients require from me. And it really is my passion.

Logo design is the most dynamic aspect to my job as it allows me to use small snippets from my entire portfolio of pictures and other artistic creations to really showcase my designs. For example, if I am asked to design a web page, the business brief is much more limited for me as a designer. This is because the client already has an idea of what style he requires including format, lay-out, colors, etc.

In general, what types of new customers do you like dealing with the most?
As I really focus on offering the highest value for the customer’s money, I find that much of my new business is sourced from start-up companies. These types of businesses will obviously have a name but not always be sure about the style of overall branding they want to establish. It is very satisfying to help this type of client find this initial starting point from which to launch their business.

How do the additional aspects of your work beyond logo design fit into your business and daily routine?
I am constantly reviewing my portfolio – if you will for marketing purposes – to see if there are any aspects which will generate additional business beyond just logo design. In many cases, I will initially be asked to provide the logo for a company; but then later down the line, these same clients will re-visit me to do also perform website revisions, create business cards and letterheads, etc.

Most recently, I have spent most of my spare time updating my own web page in order to make it easier to use. This includes setting up a new
online quote page, which allows potential clients to complete a simple questionnaire, including all their contact details and the basic brief for the project. This is then sent to me in a pre-formatted e-mail for me to begin the creative discussions. Also included in the online quote is my pricing so clients may see upfront what would best suit their budget.

How do you set up the operational part of the business with customers, including pricing?
I offer 4 set price packages but each of these allows the customer to add on certain elements. I find this is working well and it is a new idea where the clients, in effect, can build their own package. So again, setting this up has taken a lot of my time but it seems customers really appreciate it.

In addition, I’m trying to support my business even further with my new blog forum,
dacheboard, which is also run from my site. I use this to feature articles, illustrate processes and post general information that is a useful reference point to fellow designers and new starters to the profession. (ZN recommends surfing all the available pages and articles, there’s a load of terrific input and offers some key pointers for us novices as well!)

Although we've lived in or near Switzerland for over 16 years now, how would you describe to the non-initiated what having a Swiss Touch means in terms of design?
This is a good question and I suppose it’s really a matter of personal opinion.

However, I would say that the Swiss in general have a reputation for clean, good quality products in all areas of business – and the world of design is no different. I like the geometry that certain projects allow which also is part of the true Swiss style for me. If I had to summarize it then, I’d say that using simplistic, clean lines to create a reliable, quality-oriented finished product that meets the client’s requirements is what I offer as my Swiss Touch for logo and web design.

We have quite enjoyed surfing all the available examples of your logos, it's really very inspiring. Now, we want to ask a few questions that we hope do not in any way insult your craft:
1) In so many ways – where you've mentioned this yourself in other interviews – successful logos are frequently relatively simplistic, even seeming (later) to be very obvious designs in terms of fit and message including as examples both NIKE and Adidas brand logos;
2) When going through your collection, we found ourselves again and again thinking "hey, that's the logo, without question", almost like it had always existed like that (actually, we mostly thought "well, duh!" but we’re beginners at this). A couple of the best examples we could mention would be your own professional logo (a subtle combination of a “d” and “+” that acts as well as a tie-in to the Swiss flag) as well as
'Ecstatic Media' (so straightforward yet so brilliant!! See also in the logo section of the website for more!);
click on image for larger view:

3) With this in mind how do you either keep your logos simple enough to convey the message the customer wants to get across? Looking at this slightly differently, how do you keep your designs from going too far and becoming, if you will, over-engineered?
This is a very valid question and I think touches on why a lot of start up designers may struggle. They try too hard with the design process and wind up making a product that is far too complicated.

I think I manage to retain the simplistic interpretation of a logo as I find that brainstorming / sketching on paper really helps me maintain a good oversight. Of course, by talking with the clients, looking at the brand name and establishing what the client wants their logo to portray, I find that in 80-90% of cases “the simpler the better” is most often the best philosophy.

I try to not take too much away from the logo itself, which allows it to be workable and have an almost obvious interpretation, as you say. If I wanted to produce very artistic logos then my clientele would be different, I guess, but my style is what it is. The existing and new clients comment on this when they first approach me to work for them. They find the honest approach to my work appealing.

One of our favorite examples of your work is the 'Social Generations' logo shown below; it really spoke to us in terms of the family unit and color scheme. Can you describe how you created this example, including the decision-making interaction with the customer?
I think it is easiest to provide a general view of my design process, rather than be specific, as different projects require different approaches. As mentioned earlier, clients typically initially approach me through e-mail to find out quotes, where again, my new online quote page ensures that all emails I receive are from potential clients who have seen my pricing levels and have already made the decision that they want to move forward.

At this stage, I take a look through their brief and try to focus on the main points of what they are trying to say with their logo and to whom it will ultimately be presented. I brainstorm ideas on paper for a few days and once I have a few ideas that I feel the client would like, I then start preliminary sketching on grid paper. Very early in this process though, I already report back to the client for their initial thoughts on the direction I’m going in. If it seems we’re in agreement, the initial drafting can then take place.

Importantly, I provide one concept at a time to allow the client to consider each in its own right. This is something which developed over time because I found out earlier in my career that if two concepts were presented together, they would wind up being compared to each other rather than each being judged on their on merit. I found then that this was really unfair to the client to be in this situation, namely where they felt that had to choose rather than just focus on the big picture of their targets.

Admittedly, it’s often the case that a client will love the first concept, therefore I may wind up doing revisions on just one approach anyway. Still, most clients want to see the initial drafts and later potentially the revisions of at least two concepts, dependant as well on the price package they’ve chosen.

It is, however, critical at this point to hold a very thorough dialogue with the client; this is paramount in order to achieve their targets. After this, I then begin to finalize the revisions and present the finished concept to the client in their specified format. I think the key point is that client consultation is something that cannot be replaced in order to obtain the desired logo.

How do you decide on the color schemes to include in your logos? Is it necessary for example to make adjustments to fit into your customers' already existing media (for example, brochures or online communications, etc.)?
I do not have any pre-determined color sets with which I work. My influences are taken from combinations of colors that I see everyday.

When my clients approach me, they will often go ahead and indicate their color preferences – which is part of the briefing questionnaire. It may be as well that they will have already created part of their business image already – e.g. with an existing website – therefore the colors with which I should work are specified and fixed.

Examples of dache-designed typography, click on image to enlarge:

Other clients give free reign and leave it to my personal judgment. These are the most liberating projects for me as I really enjoy being asked to look at all aspects of the logo as opposed to working within a given set of criteria. If I am indeed given the choice, I will still do all I can to choose colors which I feel will best interpret a logo in the correct way the client wants, and not based solely on my personal opinion.

How has your design process evolved over time? Have you always been essentially computer-based in your design work or has this changed, and if so, in what ways?
The available software over the years has certainly got better and better both in terms of the quality of the final products you can make as well as the different programs’ ease-in-use and flexibility. My process has therefore become faster as a result of working in the Internet based industry for a while.

That being said, I continue to place a great deal of importance on sketching by hand and grid work. This is a manual process on one hand; but on the other, scanners make it possible to integrate it directly into my work with the software. This also allows me to find the lines which I want for a particular logo.

For example, the project for ‘brokers’ used a simplified bull symbol. I first sketched the lines on paper, then in a grid book and then finally scanned the image into the software for me to work with. I have an article regarding this project on the dacheboard on my website if you’re interested in finding out more about this example.

We've seen you mention travel as being an integral part of both your creative process and also of your personal life. How does this help your designs?
The reference to this was the general travel of everyday life – trains, buses, walking, etc. It is a time when I can just clear my mind. Then, when I least expect it, I will see a landscape or the clothes of a stranger which may inspire one of my current projects. These influences usually materialize in the color palettes that I select for a particular project more than the actual design element.

Sure the various holidays that I’ve been on in different regions of the world have also exposed me to an amazing assortment of unique designs and architecture. For example, I was recently approached to design a logo for a UK-based finance company specializing in and wanting to represent the Middle Eastern market. The
finished design featured an inlay (see below) which was inspired by architecture from this region I’d experienced and which gave the desired effect. It is these areas of the travel that feature in my design process.

Looking ahead for the next years, do you see any particular design trends in your fields?
To be honest, I think it’s difficult to predict how the field will change or develop. But I have noticed a slight trend in reviving styles from the 70’s. I suppose therefore it would be expected that the 80’s will have a strong influence over the next phase.

Also, in logo design, there is great influence from the other genres of graphic design. I see a trend then towards very illustrative, photographic, even almost what many might think of as ‘arty’ effects. These are being used more and more by designers to fall in line with where the field is going.

In general, I think that the future outlook for design is very positive. With the market in the recent decades developing with the mass production of computer technology, we are now seeing a period where the general public are aware of our market, are more willing to accept the concept of design and are hungry to seek out good work. This is good news for the industry as we are seeing more clients and are being encouraged to produce better quality projects. We are also being given much more freedom to experiment in our approaches.

How do you see your own business evolving?
If I look back to starting dache, the first two years were, as expected, a lot of hard work. But in 2008, I have really seen the benefits. I’ve established a solid client base, new business is coming in regularly and this makes all the time and energy I’ve invested worth it.

As mentioned earlier, I have re-worked the website to provide a space for discussion and also to provide online quotation. In the short-term, I plan to do much of the same to make the service which I offer as streamlined as possible for the clients. In the long term, I will see how it develops, with the view to possibly expanding into other areas.

We don’t know why but we get some kind of morbid pleasure asking this question: have you ever had a project that you thought just didn't work out – for any reason, including lack of ideas, problems with the customer or just general malaise – and if yes, what did you learn from this experience?
No doubt there are teething problems with any business. For example, in the first months, I had a couple of clients who approached me to produce logos for them; however, rather than asking me to actually design new logos, they provided drafts of the logos they wanted and said, “Do this, please”. As you can imagine, to a designer this allows no creative freedom and it did seem to be a pretty pointless exercise.

But it was a part of the learning curve in terms of realizing how different clients expect different results and how they can differ as well in terms of how much control they are willing to give you. Even when I am given full creative freedom, I still stay in constant contact with the client to ensure I am heading in a direction with which they will be happy and satisfied. But this is something which has very much developed through my experiences in customer service.

You also mention that you are interested in sculpture, music,
suprematism and painting. How do these different aspects of your interests contribute to your work?
I would not say that each of these specifically contributes something to my work; however, they are all areas which are of great interest to me culturally. By studying them and even following the current views on them, this has allowed me to be influenced by them in order to make a logo work or get the correct perspective on a certain concept.

The suprematism movement is an art genre which I love to use for inspiration on colors or shapes. As for sculpture, painting and music, these are all hobbies of mine so these act really as a bridge between my personal and professional life.

If you could do any other kind of work in the world, what would it be and why?
I have recently been editing some video clips from the camcorder and the editing software was something which I had not used since I was in college. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the process. I never chose to pursue this area; however, I think if I could not be doing what I am doing now, being a film maker would be of great interest.


Graduating from the nearby Ecole romande d'arts et communication, David picked up various skills along the way including working with multimedia design, graphics, communication, project management, sound and video, 3D illustration and photography. Some of his tools of the trade include working with Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Fontlab Studio, Flash and Dreamweaver.

He is officially the Owner and Art Director of the self-created design company, dache, located between Geneva and Lausanne in the mountain village of St. Cergue in Switzerland, a place where the locals have to suffer tremendously owing to being surrounded by the sheer beauty of the region and having to live in one of the most spectacular areas on the planet. Alas despite this, it was indeed after his college days that it dawned on David that he should set up his own business in order to do what he loved most of all – website and especially logo design. And since forming his own company in the second half of 2005, he’s never looked back.

dache focuses on logo design, corporate and brand identity, multimedia, illustration and production of internet and print marketing campaigns. And David will proudly tell you that he is all about creative and dynamic out-of-the box thinking, Swiss style. His tailor-made and original concepts continue to satisfy a wide range of local, national and international clients to the fullest.

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°CONFESSION 2: the main title of this article is based on a quote we like, namely:

Manifest plainness,
Embrace simplicity,
Reduce selfishness,
Have few desires.

Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC), from ‘The Way of Lao-tzu’
(ZN note: Lao-tzu is perhaps better known for this quote:
‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’)

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EPILOGUE 1 – for a quick and dirty run-through of various ZN favorites of dache’s logo portfolio, check out these links (in no particular order, just listed pretty much at random). AGAIN NOTE THAT ALL INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN ORIGINAL FORM VIA dache’s
LOGO LINK so visit now! You’ll be glad you did, ‘cause there’s tons of neat stuff, where especially enjoy the input about how the links came to be or what David was aiming for:
- African Tradition (love the Giacometti connection!);
- TreeSpread (great descriptive included: ‘For this design a fractal was created,
a beautiful and natural phenomenon of growth and infinity.’);
- hope stewart (we had to stare at this one for a while to get it [we confess to
thinking it was an Alpine ram], but now it’s so obvious!);
- goodtogether (again the simplicity is grand!);
- foxsaver (seriously, we would buy a cap or other merchandise with
this logo! Free advertising people!!);
- Slicejack (getting redundant now about simplicity, but the story is great here, too!);
- crazy japanese videos (hee hee, no doubt this would never fly in the US, but we’re so sick of being politically correct);
- MediaFactory (filing this one under ‘things that make you go ‘hm’’);
- Grooveshark (who wouldn’t want a chance to design a logo for a company with
this name? Well, there is always
- twuut (which is coincidentally also the sound a 400 lb. parakeet makes,
so the logo fits right in);
- the sapient group (we have no idea what sapient means, but this is too cool!);
- and last but not least,
The Creative Inbox. ‘Nuff said.

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ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK! At this link you’ll find a quick run-down of the ZN home-made logo design process (from our soon-to-be-patented 5 minute blog entry approach). YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
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All images - well those from the David Pache/dache bits above - are used by exclusive agreement and kind permission of the dache design agency. All usage is strictly by restricted to written permission of David Pache. Some images have been resized or combined in such a way as to ensure their fit into this blog article. All original images are available at www.

November 7, 2008

Ziggy Nixon Home-Made Logo Design Process

One thing we definitely realized when we started looking at making a logo for ourselves is that Ziggy Nixon does not lend itself to many creative approaches. There are no real swirly bits like attractive S shapes and most of the letters involved seem to be basic geometric shapes. Heck, we couldn’t even rip off one of the many more well-known shapes (where’s a curvy giant M when you need it? Man, now we have a craving for fries…).

Of course from the start it was thought that something could be done with the Z and the N, which again geometrically speaking, are the same shape, only one has been out all night drinking. So we began with ideas like this to test whether or not the shapes could be aligned and even differentiated through colors or specifically color combinations (truth be told, we were also hoping to sneak an X out of the whole thing as well):

Simple, yes. Attractive, not so.

And yet, like a sturdy bacteria learning to survive in the bowels of a volcano or in the frozen tundra, our design (oh ha ha, that is to laugh!) continued to morph and spread to other shapes and themes along this line. Perhaps more suitable one day as a logo on a Super-Hero’s costume, no?

This then led us to our drafting phase (in honor of Ziggy Sr.’s architecture degree), with albeit intriguing results (read: retching did not immediately commence and most observers could be revived with only minor heart massage) but still not what we were looking for either:

We did notice that even at this phase an inkling of a color scheme was starting to appear (well, we were pretty sure that the black and white bits would stay). At the risk of imitating one of the many global postal services that have chosen this same scheme (exception: we understand that Mexico has taken some sort of move towards bright pink?), we did like the combination, even though none of our software gave us that real deep license plate contrast we were looking for.

Other approaches to try to work the synergy of the Z and the N together were examined, but alas, with very very bizarre consequences. Still, the interest in expanding the overlap to include that both halves of the name including i’s was just too tempting:

Remember our analogy about Ronald Reagan picking at a zit and ultimately destroying the world in a nuclear inferno (or something to that effect)? Well, these are our proverbial zits that we just couldn’t leave alone:

And yet, despite the creation of what can only be called a festering boil on the bottom of humanity, we even continued for some time with similar although more abbreviated themes (call it ‘diet design’: less logo, same nauseating effects), as you see here in this grand collection:

Other ideas or better said again, phases, came and went including:

‘The Faded Overlap’ or ‘Seriously Addicted to PowerPoint’ Phase:

‘The Shadows on the Ground’ or ‘Ow Ow, Mommy Mommy, It Makes My Eyes Hurt’ Phase:

‘The Annoyingly Geometric’ or ‘Typical 80’s Pop Band Style’ Phase (think: ‘Men Without Logos’… never mind, most of you probably have no idea who we’re referring to… darn young people and your 8-track players and blue jeans and such ...):
All during this time, we were indeed doing our best to analyze not only the world around us, but pay close attention to the vast amount of logos and branding we passed every day, even driving to work. Granted before this little mental exercise was completed we had totalled two cars and caused unlimited mayhem on the highways, but we were getting more and more of an inkling of how the simplicity of GOOD logos came into play.

It was also about this time that we began brain-storming about the ‘slice’ effect of the ZN brand, that is, essentially cutting in half the lettering and moving it one ‘unit’ of space over. The first trial looked something like this:
This was with luck lost in a sudden inexplicable wind and lightning storm, never to be seen again. We then moved forwards:

being cut and diced to make

which then was goofed around with (sorry if we're getting too technical with this terminology) to form such designs as

or even

This was getting there and we were even enjoying recognizing certain shapes and interesting patterns in this set-up. Still, it needed more.

At this stage then we began experimenting with a mix of cut / slides to the right and cut / slides to the left… though to be truthful, we’re not sure which is which anymore (realizing that some versions were just so bad that they’d even burst spontaneously into flames as we drew them, which was impressive since we were primarily using a PC to do this with):

And along the way, we began to really tidy up this idea, working then from several very similar models:

And to bring this rambling tome to a close, what we eventually decided was that
(a) first and foremost, we were beginning to smell bad, as we had pretty much become obsessed with finishing this project and had abandoned such essentials as sleep, personal hygiene, etc.;
(b) we were in severe danger of not only getting the zit even more infected, but creating a situation where one of today’s, quote, Hot New Stars, would have to make a movie where miraculously every one else was sick and/or dying and they had to somehow save us against all odds and still manage to find a really hot member of the opposite sex in which to… sorry, began to ramble there again;
(c) quite frankly it wasn’t going to get any better.

Still, although we felt a bit more comfortable with the above, we wanted our approach to be a bit more logo-ey (which for the longest time we obviously confused with gooey).

So snipping and sliding some more, we combined some of our favourite elements (like the cool Erlenmeyer flask we saw in the design, as well as other organic chemistry symbols. We admit it: we’re a geek!), tightened up the color even more and put a nice little box around the whole thing and viola (literal translation: a fat violin) we had our logo, more or less (we’re tempted to say less):

With all said and done, it was not only an extremely fun process where we learned quite a lot (which is nice), but we got our money’s worth.

Are we finished? Well, if the Mrs. and as well the local police have their say, then yes. But in our eyes, no. We’re still looking at a kind of cut, move, and twist approach – this time even in a much more 3D fashion – but that alas, is a story for another day.

Keep pushing! VERY IMPORTANTLY: Support your local logo designer by leaving stuff like this to the professionals! And if you don’t, do at least make sure to keep those emergency phone numbers close by!