September 17, 2010

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Fly!!

A ‘Fresh Ziggy’ Introduction to this week’s offers!!

No, I don’t understand the title either. It was from some comedian who was imitating Jimi Hendrix or maybe Jeff Goldblum imitating Jimi Hendrix, I’m not sure. Either way, it’s beyond my level of sobriety right now.

We have lot’s of shouting to do today (aaaah, let's put a marauding invader right here, it'll be our little secret, arraarragghh!!), so let’s get right to our screamations:


We’re very pleased to welcome a very talented and fun-loving amico from the land just a few hours south of HQ in other than

No Boring Thoughts To Be Found Here!
An interview with Designer Mauro Gatti

We’re very excited to bid a hearty welcome to this modern-day Italian ‘master’ (he won’t like that, but we did it anyway). But Mauro is indeed quite adept at many different aspects of graphic design and illustration, with his work being featured as MTV themed phone jackets, CD covers, posters galore and much more!! And darned if he hasn’t gone off and started a new venture in the collectible toy market as well!! Make sure and set your dials to ‘morbid is fun’ because these guys will make you laugh!

With a style that brings back some of your favourites including Edelmann and more, I think you’ll fall head over heels innamorato for Mauro’s stuff. So sit back and relax and have a blast!


So moving on to this week’s ‘Shout Out’s’:


Our first shout-out of the week goes to our good pal Hon Lam of ‘Flying Mouse 365’. Hon Lam had the unusual occurrence of seeing one of his design illustrations, namely his tee-shirt known as "Dragon Flavour", being worn by a character from the Japan popular manga, PEEPO CHOO!! As HL tells us, this manga is created by a super talented mangaka Felipe Smith from Argentina, the only foreign mangaka in Japan!! I mean, how cool is that? Having one of your designs featured as a design in an awesome manga 'zine?

And that’s not all. Hon Lam is also continually producing new designs on his world-famous ‘Flying Mouse 365’
site but is also found wherever there’s a design contest to be had. Check back again and again!

To read more about Hon Lam and his exciting world, please take a look at our recent interview which you
can find here.


Fittingly enough, since we’re on the topic of manga, it’s only appropriate that we mention our second shout-out for the week in the form of Shaenon K. Garrity.

Shaenon was recently featured in a really
good interview found here, which gives insight not only into her own efforts to make comics safe for all of us but also in terms of her collaborative workings. Good stuff!

And since we’re on the topic of good stuff (keep using that transition Zig, it’s working!), Shaenon also
participated a few days ago at a grand ‘Sketch-A-Thon’ at the Charles M. Schulz Museum to celebrate 60!!! years of the Peanuts cartoon. Awesomeness covered in awesome!

To read more about Shaenon from the days way back when she talked to ZN, please see
her interview here.


Finally, darned if we weren’t watching the Little League World Series a few weeks ago when we thought to ourselves: ‘Selves, I recognise those pants!’ Yes, a strange thought to have when you’re watching young kids play baseball but stick with me here (I assure you that the kiddies can continue to read along as well).

After much searching and ultimately finding some input via Facebook, our suspicions were indeed confirmed that the coaches of the Canadian team (yes, they play baseball in Canada and only half the kids were wearing ice skates!!) were wearing pants designed and created by our old pal Scott ‘Woody’ Woodworth and his now very famous ‘Loudmouth Golf’ apparel brand.

You may even remember this same design making an icy splash (huh?) at the recent Winter Olympics when the Norwegian Men’s Curling Team (which I was surprised to find out has nothing to do with styling hair) won the Silver Medal!! Sadly, though, the
Canadian baseball coaches were ‘encouraged’ to remove said pants (whoa, calm down! They put some other pants on!!) but not before they were heartily welcomed by the local crowd!

For more about Scott’s start in design and what led him ultimately to become a Golf Fashionista, read his
interview with ZN here.


But wait, can it be? Yes friends, it’s a FOURTH BONUS SHOUT-OUT this week!!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t confirm as stated in our earlier interview with Vince Chui that the book ‘Sir Seth Thistlewaite and the Soothsayer’s Shoes’ is now out in stores and on-line just waiting for purchase!!

For this exciting announcement, Vince was also kind enough to throw in some pre-production art (not published in the book) on his blog, which you can
check out here.

And if that weren’t enough (you knew it wasn’t), then check out our really cool
conversation found here. Enjoy!



Well, let’s just say that title is going to be loosely applied this week.

Ziggy Nixon just wanted to point out to his gazillion of fans that he has a ‘new’ blog out where he’s releasing some of his own ‘art’. Again, another loosely thrown about phrase there. But hey, it is keeping us off the streets, so it’s not all bad!

Please check out ‘
Little Ziggy’, which is based on a concept that first appeared many moons ago here at ZN HQ Prime. We’re also on Facebook so be sure and get some serious socialising goin’ on!!

And we'd be very remiss if we didn't point out again that this sort of 'semi-daily' approach was inspired by the on-going efforts of Chow Hon Lam mentioned earlier, as well as the bear-tastic work of Julius ‘Bulius’ Santiago, who still cracks us up each and every day!!

Be good!!

No Boring Thoughts To Be Found Here!

An Interview with Designer Mauro Gatti
Part 1 of 2 (link to
Part 2)

Click on any image to Biggerify

Welcome friends and prepare yourselves for a fun trip down ‘south’! Today we’re leaving the grey dreariness of the European midlands and heading to the lovely northern parts of Italy, namely to Mauro Gatti’s self-professed ‘
House of Fun.

Certainly at first glance, you may not be able to decipher a particular ‘label’ for Mauro’s work or that of his different business ventures. Suffice to say, our guest is an illustrator and designer that loves to draw and put on paper any and all ideas that may be swimming through his head at any given moment. Believing that ‘a smile is the cheapest way to be happy’, this affable and very talented illustrator is continually trying to capture the comical side of life, turning it into a simple yet funny and memorable work for his audience.

Whether your tastes lean towards collectible toys with a difference, eclectic graphic arts that seem to fit both the large and small needs of the market, or straightforward yet clever offerings including advertising graphics and videos for some of the largest corporations out there, Mauro has seen and enjoyed creating it all. We were very fortunate to catch up with this talented young man, who juggles his time between his own creations (see also
his blog), his creative studio Mutado, founded in 2004 in Milan, and his latest venture into the world of toys, Very Bravo.


Hi Mauro! Benvenuti alla fiera! (gods, I hope GOOGLE translate is working!)

Grazie, Ziggy!

Mauro, just a quick question about where you and your team are located: Milan takes over as the center of the universe in terms of fashion design, often several times a year. But what is the local graphic design and illustration scene like in the Milan area or even throughout all of Italy?
There is a lot of talent in Italy, with very gifted illustrators that explore many different mediums, several of whom are really inspiring.

However, what is missing in Italy is a strong sense of community, even a virtual center where designers and/or illustrators can share their knowledge, or even inspire and support the next generations of artists. It seems to me there are many small groups of talents but these have no connections between them. This is a shame because I just feel that so much creative energy goes wasted.

One of the main reasons for this talent dispersion is that we don't have many art galleries in Italy that offer young talents a place to exhibit their works. And in comparison to the fashion shows you mentioned, there are only just a few happenings where creative people can meet and network with each other. Living in Milan or Rome, sure, its a little bit easier if you're looking for a chance to meet a talented illustrator in person; but if you live in a small town, the only option you have is to look for community web-sites that are set up typically outside of our national borders.

But despite this problem, I am glad to say that some of the best illustrators that I have on my radar are from Italy. I’m proud of this and I look forward to see what the future holds for this beautiful and full-of-talent country!

Well, we’ve seen from various interviews including your recent one with KoiKoiKoi about WHO this Mauro Gatti fellow is. But where do you ‘come from’ in terms of learning the craft of an artist-designer-illustrator? Were you educated in the arts?
No. I've never been to art school. All I know and all I'm able to do comes from my twisted mind that developed as a boy who spent all day playing video-games, reading comic books and watching cartoons. In fact, this may sound funny but I really always wanted to become a doctor!

Then, one marvellous day, my brother started a course to learn Microsoft Office ... and a computer made its appearance in our bedroom. Within two months, I was completely psyched to be working with this new "magic box" (meanwhile, my brother left the course and a few years later, I left the University). Since those days I have never stopped thinking that a computer is the perfect tool to shape my ideas into something that people can enjoy and have fun with. Plus, considering that my art skills are limited to drawing like a kid, it just really changed my life!

I think that over time, really from day to day, I began to truly realise how much I loved to draw and to daydream, to let my creativity run free. This only grew as I began to meet other creative and talented people. I shared the same hopes as them, that my drawings would make people smile – while at the same time trying to explain to my parents what I was going to do for a living! Now I hope that this Peter Pan syndrome will never disappear and I can continue to express my creative side for years and years to come.

Who do you consider your main influences? I see, for example, similarities with Heinz Edelmann’s more iconic works, especially his work on the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’. Are there then any special ‘schools’ or other influences you try to imitate at times?
’Iconic’ is the best definition of what I always try to achieve when I draw.

Besides Edelmann as you mention – whose work defined the 60’s pop culture aesthetic and shocked me the first time I watched ‘Yellow Submarine’ (like taking a trip without LSD) – I've been extremely inspired by the work of
Raymond Savignac, the Push Pin Graphic collective (in particular Seymour Chwast) and Ryohei Yanagihara. They all left a huge impact on the creative world and their work taught me that the message is as important as the style itself.

I know this is a design blog, but I am curious about your ‘business plan’ if you want to call it that. You are the founder along with your long-time pal Lorenzo of Mutado, which produces print, video, illustration and mobile works. You are obviously then also very interested in pushing your new toy venture. What ultimately is then the push for the Mutado business itself? Are these areas all related or are you like a corporation with different divisions and focus areas? Is that why you’ve ‘split out’ the toys into a new company?
At Mutado, we're a bunch of creative guys and girls with skills and passions that vary from web to illustration as well as motion and print design plus mobile applications. The Mutado business is entirely based on mixing up all these different things to create "contents" for every kind of media, trying to be as flexible and as up-to-date as possible. For example, currently Lorenzo and I are very involved in developing small funny games for iPad – along with probably half of the developers on the lands above sea! ^_^

The Very Bravo adventure (and the Milan-based Atom Plastic shop as well) started after a talk with my friend Piero, who is the owner of the Atom Plastic brand, where we decided to join our forces and enter the world of toy production. We are both vinyl toy collectors and really maniacs about the medium. This new venture makes us feel like kids in a candy shop – at least until we take a look at the bills (laughs).

I really enjoy the sort of free-flowing style many of your pieces have! When you yourself are drawing, do you start out with a clear plan of where you want to head with your illustration? Or do you basically start with a line that becomes a shape that becomes a person that becomes several people in a scene and so on?
When I start anything, I have no clue, no clear plan on where I'm going. I just have a blurry idea that needs to be shaped.

The next step is drawing until I see something good and that I like, then refining every single element that I pick out from various pages full of doodles. It's like using a chisel to sculpt a block of stone, where I’m just removing the excess ‘rock’ to reveal my original idea. Even after everything is digitalized and it’s finally inside my computer and close to being finished, I leave space for changes and additions. You never know when your creativity can come up with something new and exciting!

I also read that Nike Commercial you worked on after Italy won the last World Cup was completed in only 3 weeks! Do you work better under such incredible time pressure or would you prefer to take your time wherever possible?
Since I’m very good at procrastinating, a tight deadline is like a shot of adrenaline to my brain! I think that when you have just few days to create an illustration, you try to stay focused the whole time… otherwise you'll end up saying: "This is the last ‘Call of Duty’ game I’m playing, then I'll start thinking of something…" or "okay, I’ll watch just 1 more ‘The Big Bang Theory’ episode and then I'm on it…" or just I’ll just waste 6 hours following my favourite sellers’ pages on eBay (spending in advance the project budget).

ZN – for another great peak at Mauro working on the above piece, enjoy the following video:

RE-INVENT YOURSELF WITH NIKE AIR MAX 90 from mauro gatti on Vimeo.

Continued in
Part 2

No Boring Thoughts To Be Found Here!

An Interview with Designer Mauro Gatti
Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)

Click on any image to enlargementize

Mauro, you include lots of positive messages in many of your web offerings and other writings or interviews even. Why do you consider yourself such an optimistic and positive person?
I'm just happy to be doing what I'm doing. And I can't think of any other way of working than looking at everything I do through an optimistic lens. I am quite cynical – or perhaps better said, I am a realist – when it comes to politics. But I have only good words to say about creativity!

How did your fascination with the world of toys begin?

In 2001, thanks to the pioneer artist James Jarvis and the clothing brand Silas, I stumbled upon this incredible phenomenon of toys made of vinyl. Years later my friend Piero (the founder of Atom Plastic) started to feed my new addiction. I'm now the proud "daddy" of toy after toy, as well as many beautiful objets d'art! I'm pretty satisfied when I look at my collection!

Toy sales must be though an extremely difficult field to get into, no? Despite being obviously a multi-billion EURO business throughout the world, how do you see your more ‘eclectic’ toys fitting in with say the likes of Barbie or others?
I've always been a fan of the "limited edition" concept, especially when it comes to collectible toys. So definitely, ‘mainstream’, mass-produced toys are not what I'd like to see inside Very Bravo.

Your first toys that have been released feature two rather interesting ‘characters’ namely a seemingly street-wise version of Death called ‘The Ghetto Reaper’ (with or without gold tooth included) and also a vegetarian executioner called ‘The Carrots Slayer’ (with your choice of two different hood and pants combos), who we should also point out comes with a little chopped carrot friend as well.
‘The Slayer’ and ‘the Reaper’ are our first experiments in toy production. We still have a lot to learn but I'll always choose to invest more in quality than in profits. And I think that being a toy collector changes the way you see a toy: you are very meticulous about details and when you produce something it must fit your (high) standards.

At this point in our ‘business plan’ at Very Bravo, we're not trying to make a fast profit; instead, we're trying to give life to a product (and a brand) that can inspire people and be considered as good as some of the other brands that we love and respect.

Why start with something like these fellows that some might consider a bit, I don’t know, morbid?
Because my mind is morbid ^_^ – and because Very Bravo was born out of a very simple concept: bring a bit of humour to people. And my sense of humour is often associated with topics that go from sex to death.

That's why you see a smiling Death giving the ‘OKAY’ sign. I think this is the perfect icon for Very Bravo, where a vegetarian Slayer can be the perfect representation of our own mix of blood-fun-violence-cuteness.

Is getting your work ‘out there’ through primarily toy production your main goal now or again do different aspects of your design business aim for different end-use markets?
My main goal now is to keep on working on ideas and see how they can be applied to different mediums or products. For example, I'm really fascinated about the possibilities offered from the iPhone and iPad!

What would be your advice to a young student interested in not only design but especially toy design? How would you suggest that someone start and develop their career?
Build and share your own portfolio! Create some custom toys, get to know the toy design scene and brands, and send ideas and drawings to companies open to receiving input from new artists. Clearly, it's not easy to produce a toy; but if the idea is good, I'm sure that the big names in the toy business will be interested in it!

If you had to choose one area of all your different specialities – graphic design, illustration, video, toy design, etc. – to focus on today, what would it be?
100% illustration.

Also in terms of your business approach, when you get for example an assignment for Nike, MTV or Disney vs. say a somewhat smaller or more local account, how do you tackle such a task? Is there more pressure on something like the Nike account or do you have similar freedom to create with either type of assignment
I am very happy to say that I've been lucky enough to work on projects with a very high level of creative freedom. Sure, working for a big company like Nike adds more pressure on you; but in the end, all you have to do is breath, relax and do what you love to do.

One of my mentors once told me to put the same energy in every project or assignment, whether you’re creating a flyer for a small brand or on a big commission for a famous brand, or even if you’re working with a big budget or just for a proverbial pat on the back.

I love your opening ‘greeting’ on your web-site, namely ‘Welcome, Stranger. While You Are In My Territory No Boring Thoughts Will Fill Your Head’. Why is this attitude important to you?
Because the only target that everything I create has is to make people smile (and think).

Now you’ve seen your works in print and television ads, on tee-shirts, posters, toys and much much more. What is a medium you have NOT yet used that you’d like to either explore as a designer or to especially see your work displayed on?
Sorry to say it again (seems like I've been paid by Steve Jobs) but the iPhone/iPad is the medium showing up right now on my radar! ^_^

How does Mutado manage to remain in today’s market – in your own words – ‘a no bullshit company that keeps things simple’? Do you find it harder to keep things simple than losing yourselves in the work and winding up with something much more complicated that it has to be?
Keeping things simple is the mantra I always repeat to myself. The target for Mutado is not to grow it into a big "we-can-do-everything" company but to focus mainly on character design, animation and everything that revolves around entertainment.

I think that if you stick to your original plan and don't lose yourself in all the smoke and mirrors of the market, sooner or later you'll see the results you want!

What happened to ‘The Brainbox’? I’m just curious, that was such a great web-site name!
I know! I loved it and it took me a while to decide to drop it. But after so many years spent under the "thebrainbox" nickname I decided it was about time to use my real name. And my surname is pretty fun, too! Gatti means Cats in English… which earned me a lot of teasing back in my school days!! For 3 years my school mates used to say Miao (the cat sound = Meow) instead of Ciao!

What’s something that you would like everyone to remember from this interview about you and your work?
Life's too short to work the wrong job, to listen to boring music, to go on diets, drink bad wine and be unhappy. Oh, and a pug will change your life!

What’s next for Mauro Gatti, Mutado, your toys and more?
I'm thinking of moving for some months to Berlin. I love it there and I'm looking forward to making some new connections and having a world of new experiences.

Very Bravo is out and we're anxious to see how people react. So far, I’m pleasantly surprised by the nice comments we're getting!

Plus, Mutado is moving into version 2.0 so expect more and more good stuff in the future! In terms of myself, well, I’m always trying to find as much time as I can to focus on illustration, develop a better style and sharpen my humour and ideas. I'm open to new collaborations and adventures, so if someone is looking for an Italian touch, don't hesitate to ring my bell!


It is hard to add more about Mauro’s work than what can be enjoyed with a relaxing jaunt through the lands of his creative ventures. In addition to the ‘professional’ sites mentioned earlier, enjoy as well his Flickr Photostream, including some adorable pictures of his ‘friends’ Ozzy and Nena (excuse me, my ‘co-editors’ are looking over my shoulder: yes kids, they ARE cute, but no, we are NOT getting a dog!!), his toys from Very Bravo, new projects in the pipeline, illustrations galore and a whole lot more!!

And while you’re enjoying this, we can highly recommend you also pour yourself some fine Italian wine, maybe put on your KISS Greatest Hits CD, and even check out some vintage Playboy magazines. Heck, in his own words, just enjoy every funny thing you come across!

Mauro Gatti’s works appear on and/or in just about every medium imaginable, including
videos, tee-shirts, toys, album covers, snow boards, greeting cards, posters and so much more. He has worked with a wide range of clients, including Disney, MTV, Nike, AKQA, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Paramount Comedy, JibJab, 55DSL, Diesel, Combo, BlackHole, and Computer Arts, among others. He has given lectures and presentations around the world, including for BD4D (‘By Designers For Designers’) in London and Tel Aviv, 2 MadInSpain conferences, and more throughout the Western world, including Canada, too. He has also been published in a number of journals and collections, and is featured in the most recent release of ‘Go Font Ur Self, a very popular exhibition of type-based artworks.


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Mauro Gatti or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations.