Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Orange won

Re: "Will Orange Survive" the project is complete and orange indeed won out. The backgrounds of the directory signs are orange as well as the large letters identifying the building. WIll post photos soon—although it is snowy and nasty here right now and I am not inclined to go out and get pictures of anything.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Social Networking, et al

During my long, three-month absence, I took up Twitter and Facebook. While I think they are both huge time wasters, they provide a new dimension of communication at arm's length. Now with re-tweets I can share some of the creative sources I have found. Otherwise the only "Push" is to friends and relatives I don't get to see very much.

For instance, I connected with a classmate from design school who is on top of a lot of creative sources and organizations.

You are probably more up on Stumbleupon than I am but choosing graphic design as a topic led me to some useful sites. Some great Photoshop tutorials, an interesting typographic Flash® video and a photography site that reminded me of how much I don't know.

I met an author, yes, a real author with published novels and everything. He uses a little application called "Freedom" to keep him from wandering into the online wonderland while he is trying to write. Enforced discipline. All of this can eat up time and/or provide a series of counter themes when you are trying to come up with a creative solution.

In my stumbles, I found this list of classic web sites you should see.

Proud of my kid(s)

Not that I favor one over the other but to each their own. Emily Thompson, my daughter who is studying graphic design at MSU in Bozeman, MT has had two pieces submitted for Addy award consideration. I will be ecstatic if she wins but am just as happy she was recognized even this much.

For grins I searched Finegan Thompson and the number two item that came up in Google was my blog—as cataloged on this handy site.

I was skeptical about doing this but though, "Can't hurt" and now there I am. Better than Linkedin.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A nice surprise

Forgot to mention that I got a gallery show of my artwork. I haven't received the contract yet but the tentative dates are April 19-May 26. As I get ready I will post pics of the work I will be exhibiting, and of course, the show notice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Charlotte, liking it more and more

I recently set up a logo icon with Rotis sans. Despite the unconventional ampersand, it looks good in this particular application. I would have preferred a font with a deeper set of variations but, as I said, Rotis was the most complimentary font for this icon.

I am teaming it with the Charlotte family. The chiseled serifs are contemporary and go nicely with the Rotis in the logo.

Try it. I think I got mine from

Monday, July 27, 2009

Will orange survive?

Not so sure the new client is going to go for the orange. Some concerns about competing with a tenant's sign that has a big patch of tomato red. This is where the client wins out for the sake of expediency.

They want a thicker panel than the powder-coated steel I wanted. Budget concerns. Not that they can't afford it. It's a nice building—they are just cost averse.

I suggested this substrate the signbuilders use. Handles like wood but holds up better in weather, lasts longer and has no grain. It take finishes well. I don't know the name of it but I am sure any medium scale sign builder can help with it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finegan Thompson's new project

Had a very successful meeting with a client yesterday, regarding signage for their new office building. In Jackson, buildings are big if they are about 100' x 200' so this one accommodates about six tenants.

The signs include the outside upper level guide, inside guide and the address lettering on the main building.

I used orange, a color I love and have trouble getting much response to. We'll see how they like it after considering the design and font choices.

I put the sketches, both pencil and digital, on heavy black board so they would be easier to manage on site. Earlier, I took photos of the building then superimposed the designs on the images in Photoshop®. The images I used and the presentation took place exactly the same time of day so the presentation had that much more impact as it had a "What you see is what you get" element.

Baby Teeth, font of the 70s

While helping my daughter think through a design she was doing, I, out of the blue, thought of a font from my past, Babyteeth. This was back in the days of Letraset rub-down lettering. Take a look at Babyteeth here and let me know your thoughts.

The project is for a consignment store specializing in sporting goods. It includes sporting stuff as in Sports Authority or similar stores but is dedicated to the high-end Patagonia, Mountain hardware-like equipment.

The name is 2nd wind and it occurred to me that using something entirely un-windy might spur some ideas about pos-neg or superimposing images or designs.

Unfortunately, the font us not readily available under that name and the Typophile site lists another font as a substitute.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On a roll

Check out marikas_art on Twitter. He was following me for some reason so I checked him out, after I blocked him I added him as a friend. He seems just to post links to art, graphic design, galleries, Youtube videos and music. I have only clicked on a few links but I find them interesting and see a common link of the sublime to the ridiculous. Judge for yourselves.

The state of fonts

Interesting bit of flotsam on the best-selling fonts at Fontshop. It was comforting to see some standards, Neue helvetica et al. And interesting to see Bank Gothic, V.A.G. rounded and Sinaloa—stuff around when I was just discovering typography. Google reviews of Avant Garde and see the various takes on it's appropriateness. I like Meridien which waasn't listed in the best-selling but I always thought was a nice face. My brother is a type designer. Check out his sight and fonts at nobodoni. Keep learning about type—it is central to graphic design.

the Designer as a person

Of course few (the few who actually visit this blog—yes, I am fishing for comments and reassurances) of you might have noticed I have been steadily slacking off on posts. I have struggled with bipolar disorder most of my life and in the past months it has been nearly intolerable. I am swinging into mania as I type and at least it feels good to have some energy. A little later I will expound a bit on the emotional state of designers and the process—the good, the bad, the positively ugly.

Thanks for your patience.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009


I put this up a few minutes ago, then looked at it compared to the ad and cover I put up earlier. I think it is too creepy for the newspaper. Alzheimer's is dementia, not insanity.

Too creepy? Yes.

A bit of sculpture

This is a top portion of a "box" literally a "found" wood box sculpture from 2007. I do these, hesitating to call them sculpture. I hesitate to call myself an artist, or an outsider artist as I have a background in art but not sculpture. Anyway, I like the image and the piece, just wanted to put it in as I am building a site for the stuff and will keep you posted when it is up.

Eye catching design?

The assignment is to create a quarter page newspaper ad and a rack card style piece for an upcoming health fair. Cognitive health refers to fending off and managing dementia associated with Alzheimer's. Alzheimers's is not curable or even effectively controlable. I chose the aging guy (trite, I know) but tightly cropped so as not to have viewers focus on a personality. This is a stock photo, from, a "value priced" stock house I like for clients on a tight budget (read: everybody, especially now).

At this point, I am not able to judge my work effectively. I design with tight "image, text, color" so it is hard to see other solutions.

The only other thing I can think of is some ripped type reading "Alzheimers" up one side and maybe some scribbley cluster to the right, or something like that on the horizontal plane. Or maybe a high-contrast negative reversed out of a dark color again with ripped up type and a grabier headline. Can't think of one right now, maybe just "alzheimer's."

Another caveat is that everything I do for this client is, again, clean clean clean-clinical.

Note, if you comp up an idea and put in a link to it, I will still use what I have now. Honest. Well, I might do the scribble thing just to see how it looks, but the client, (oh, that one) is pretty conservative and really focused on her connection with the university research institute.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I gave this guy the brush-off

Sorry about that, Xcavator is a fast image compiler for several stock image houses. It grabs image thumbs from places like istockphoto, who I use extensively for comp images and a few fill-ins for brochures. I blew it off without studying it. Again, apologies.

two website sketches

Two ideas for new F|T websites. One is busy, the idea is multi-faceted, busy with work, multi-dimensional.

The second is clean clean clean swiss swiss swiss.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My kingdom for some junk

I waffled on whether to post this or not, it seemed so obvious. Anyway, This cd cover is at the front of a row of my cds and I see it several times a day, seven days a week. When I first saw it, I thought, "That's fine if you have a huge illustration budget." I could visualize a bunch of guys in the photographer's studio building this thing over the span of a few days, then getting the light just right, taking a bunch of different angles and making it beautiful. About $10,000 worth of beautiful.

Then the other day, I looked at the base of the assemblage. It looks like a small cafe table base, and it occurred to me that most of the stuff was junk that even I could find around here for under $100.00. Put it together, clamp it to the table top, making sure it is balanced, prop up the Cello behind everything and shoot away. There is a lot of duct tape and non-audio stuff thrown in. It must have been fun creating this.

The upshot is that it is an idea I would have dismissed out of hand as too time consuming, too difficult (after all, where would I get a Cello to tear up), too "out there" to be worth the effort. Another example of defeating oneself before you get started. I would have ended up with some series of flat cut-outs, overlapping, wild colors, boring but effective. Or should I say that the other way 'round?

Even the photographer must have had some input about lighting, color and placing the highlights, dropoff, everything. The photography merges the layers with even lighting so you can put a real Cello up there and "suspend disbelief" when the camera flattens the assemblage. I think I could pull it off for under $2,500. If I were a student, my labor would be class/grade driven and I could probably drum up a garage in which to shoot it, maybe having to pay a studio for a cast-off seamless. Or I could build a real cove. Then turn it into a skateboard ramp when I am done.

Putting a little distance between the creative burst and the execution allows the idea to gestate a little before you get into logistics. Creative execution is necessary too, but the difficulty shouldn't stem the creative tide before it has time to crest.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mana from Heaven

I look for unconventional sources of inspiration and this book falls into that category. Besides the rich colors and unfamiliar combinations, the way another culture portrays imagery is fascinating. And 140 pages of matchbook themes ranging from serous religious images to daffy illustrations of common situations is a lot of stimulation. I know, you're now thinking, "Stimulation? Thompson get a life!"

This is my life.

The top picture is the cover (enlarged, the box is roughly 2 x 3 inches) of one of two boxes of matches that turned up in my brother-in-law's golf bag. He bought it at a thrift store and it came complete with an empty pint booze bottle, some rolling papers, a little golf towel and these matches. Go figure. Endless possibilities.

The book is compiled by Warren Dotz, published by Ten Speed Press. Measures 8.5 x 5 inches and is softcover with a hard slipcase. $16.95 as of this post. Look for it used on Amazon, or better yet,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Somebody else's site, but useful and entertaining

Eric's site in

Although he posts about as much as I do, he finds a lot of valuable, quality design material both in samples and news. His references are simple and accessible.

Eric also has many posts that pertain to the basic stuff of plying the design trade. Check it out.

Inspiration again

Some interactive fun: A little romp
And something from Adobe

And a personal journal in text and images. The power of wonderful imagery.

Apologies if I mixed up the links. But you still get the point.


Just a quick post

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good music, good type

Back from five days in Chicago. Fun? Greek food, Millers Pub, the Art Institute and the grubby, noisy pool of humanity that inhabits most urban cores. I stayed in the 'burbs, which, with unusual snowfall, limited my travel options.

I did get to see the Edvard Munch show that opened there recently. Munch succeeded in building an image of a tormented, mentally ill aberration. His portrait, above, with the light source below, highlighting his craggy features, was done intentionally to promote that image.

Some of the most striking pieces, beyond his famous and much manipulated "The Scream" are his woodcuts. Most are four color prints made with two blocks. His use of stark contrast and large solid areas of black and white made it possible to ink only certain sections and use one block for two colors with amazing effect.

It was inspiring to see so much emotion derived from so little line and form. The most exquisite work, obviously, was in the creative thought prior to the first cut.

I sound like a boring textbook, don't I?

On the music front, I was having a chicken Caesar in a sports bar in the B concourse at O'hare and there's my playlist, at least a lot of it, on the background track. Even down to the old, 4/4 Der Kommissar by Falco. This isn't high art, just some tech-ish, funky 80"s shit.

It was a little scary to know that I must have things in common with some unknown sound company out there. Maybe these tracks are created with some complex algorhithm that goes through protocols matching age/income/mental stability with cheesy radio playlists and comes up with weird tracks. Anyway, it seemed like a sign, that is if I were into superstition.

Oh, were you waiting for the good type? My older brother teaches typographic design, history of design and something else I can't remember. He designs fonts and they are for sale at several of the on-line font sources or at his site, Check it out.

Sorry George for the miniscule plug, it just got buried under the Chicago blather. Your site looks very nice.

More later.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good music, bad type

So far, the highest number of comments has been for music recommendations. Next are fonts, then design. Be sure to read the comments for ideas on new music. Fuels the creative spirit and gives you something new to listen to.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bauhaus Follow-up

I got a recommendation to use Futura to replace the evil Bauhaus. I have not pitched it yet. I have to do it over the phone and with pdf's. I used extra black, bold and text. Once again, weight in.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Polititian update

Despite the point person overlooking a citizen committee charged with defining the logo's tasks, the approval was granted. committee hell has been temporarily avoided and I am moving forward with a stylebook for the usual business paper.

I am a little touchy still about using Rotis Sans as I now see it everywhere. I am a cynic and a contrarian and hate to be a follower.

Angst is cleansing.

Why I design the way I do

Domus, a hefty, perfect bound design magazine for the industrial design industry has been around nearly as long as I have. I lost touch with it many years ago, but stumbled onto it again doing some Google®. Domus is their online teaser for subscribing to the magazine. More important to me than the subject matter is their strict adherence to THE GRID. Looking back at my past work I began to suspect that I am mired in the kinds of design that shaped my thinking many many years ago—publications such as Domus. Swiss, Swiss, Swiss, clean, clean, clean. I don't seem to have many samples doing some of the relatively grid-free designs I see in the work of younger designers, and especially students. I used to think that student work that flowed over a page or site was simply trying to find THE GRID. Now I realize I am the one stuck in a certain meta-think. Not that any of this is bad. I can either let THE GRID be a kind of work pattern/trade mark of my design, or, I can practice more free-flowing solutions.

I would really like to post samples of others' work that demonstrate both/either. Have at it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Too ugly to live, or really nifty?

I have a small job for a client who requested this font: Bauhaus This was designed in 1969 and belongs there as far as I am concerned. Around this time, Lettraset, a company who makes "rub-down" type, introduced a great many hip, modish fonts. Like most designs, they were quickly adopted and used everywhere. Most had little merit, except some really nice ones such as Avant Garde, created for the magazine of the same name.

So vote. Best left in the past, or really hip today? (they always predict wide ties coming back but I have yet to see '60's hipster ties exactly matching what's in now.

Oh, and the replacement sync cord for my Nano ipod cost $19.95 plus tax.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interesting interactive, flash and web design

jefflindesign is a student site. He appears to be a gifted code writer and visual designer. I jumped around his site and liked what I saw. Despite the dark, gloomy appearance of his site, his gothic signature and broken links, his sideflip animation and breakout game display a playful nature in his creativity

Check it out and give me your thoughts. Or better yet, post a link to your own site.

The Cure, Snow Patrol, Beatles, Arcade Fire

What are you listening to while you work? Please comment. I don't know if ANYBODY reads this blog. I live in isolation here and need some feedback.

I won a door prize raffle and got this nifty ipod nano. The slim one that shows pictures and rotates the pic as you rotate the pod.

The dog, well one dog, Abby, already chewed up the sync cord. Neat toy anyway.

Creatively stranded

Been through one latte and three espressos from the good 'ole Gaggia Synchrony machine in the kitchen. I love/live espresso so much that when designing this house/studio I planned in a "Coffee Bay"—a nook housing a small sink, cupboards for coffee and cups and counters for machines and paraphernalia.

I need to come up with an annual report cover for a hospital foundation. The theme is helping visitor and local alike. I keep going back to "cookie cutter" silhouettes in a spiral or rows — really stock, first idea stuff. I am trying to conceptualize a helping hand, illustrated in typography—names of local and national/international locations visitors arrive from. I am not an illustrator, although I sometimes pull off covers and designs, illustrated from scratch or manipulated images. Know your strengths!

While looking for a digital artist who's site I recently encountered, I stumbled onto a site chock full of MIT designers. Some of the work is quite dull but innovative in its own way. aesthetics and computation illustrates what you get when you cross computer geeks with innovative technology. I have seen this before, when I was struggling with early cold typesetting for a catalog with lots of type runarounds. One of the engineers handling the machines spent a night
creating a grid that would give character counts in any line length on an 8.5 x 11 inch page of text — an aid to typefitting. The only thing was that most typehouses handed out guides for calculating various character counts per inch for various common fonts and sizes. I broke it to him gently—he was such a nice guy, I debated even telling him, but I thought it was my duty to defend my industry.

This all gets back to the idea of illustrating with typography. A touchy business.

I will post the solution when the project goes to press.

Cold type—The evolutionary step up from hand-set lead type. Type on photo paper created mostly by shining light through film masters moving at high speed. (Google "Compugraphic typesetting) You had to calculate how much type would fit in your design space, then hand it off to a specialized "typehouse" who "set" it on a page for paste-up. You marked up the first print to get rid of widows and put in line breaks, paragraphs, leading adjustments, and then sent it back for a final. Sometimes, the typehouse would print out a rough copy first in order to save on photo paper and development costs.

Paste-up—Illustration boards laid out with page/spread sized guides on which you "pasted" your cold type sheets. The cold type sheets were glued in place with rubber cement or wax, and hopefully stayed on the board until they were photographed and plated for printing.

None of this will help you today, as computers do it all very nicely and digital imaging takes several of the board/film/plate out of the equation. Although some print jobs that exist only on film might still be plated the "old way," but not very often.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The advantages of precise language

In the PR business, observing and deconstructing a client's speech patterns is often necessary when they are involved in public speaking—this includes say, a retailer. I found this article, in New Yorker magazine that is pertinent to several of my bugaboos: Correcting Caroline. I am guilty of both from time to time, so I'm doubly sensitive and welcomed the news that there are people who actually study these flaws for a, like, you know, a living.

I don't know if I can totally identify with their conclusions about these habits of speech being artifacts of insecurity or vulnerability. But after hearing a conversation of which one half was almost ALL "like," the rest consisting mostly of pop speech such as "like, shut up!" spoken as a single word in three syllables with the UH being the accented, I could feel myself cringing. Ok, it was a nervous teen-aged girl, riding a chairlift with her mother. But soon she will need to present something to someone she needs to win over to her point of view. Job interviews tend to be places where you feel vulnerable or insecure. Purging these colloquialisms may be a kill-or-cure way to pluck yourself from your peer track, but learning to turn them off under duress is an important skill that will help you attain your goals more swiftly.

Later I will address a similar problem in graphic design.

Attack of the politicians

Not too long after color palette update, The election of three new board members to the client's organization (a non-profit, county-ish hospital)took a dire turn. The logo project, now well along its way to approval and implementation, got snagged on one member's demand that the board see two options and pick one. Well, this stage had been completed months ago and this turn of events would open the door to the living hell of multiple, unqualified opinions that would pass as genuine, working criticism.

Fortunately, the demand turned into a gripey email memo sent around to and reported by the local newspaper. I believe this has spent the board member's energy and he is moving on to other targets of his wrath. It only goes to show how one's best critical path to a design solution can instantly be derailed and tossed into committee hell. You can look all around this country and you'll be hard put to find a monument erected in the name of a committee.

One working alternative to the broad examinations of a group of individual's who's only common ground is that they were elected to a board is to require a contact/managing point person to handle the liaison between you and the board or committee. This will rarely be an optimal solution. Unless they have an amazing grip on the board, the point person will have to assemble, prioritize and relay the same information you are un-exposing yourself to. This, too, can lead to seemingly never ending revisions and frustration. But it sometimes, if the liaison is clever and resourceful, leads to a smoother, more intelligent process.

Try it, you have nothing to lose, and from my experience, about a one in three chance of it working.