I have been drawn to art since elementary school. About third grade, my knack for creative expression was noted and fostered by mentors such as Doris Miller (then head of the Kalamazoo Public School Art Department), and later Ric Todd (a dedicated high school instructor), among others. Scholarships for weekend drawing and painting classes at the Kalamazoo Art Center would lead me to interests in various disciplines. During my senior year of high school, I received the Rhode Island School of Design Book Award for outstanding art students.
Chicago became my home in the late '80s, as I pursued study in the fashion design field at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design. Later, I followed many of my Academy instructors who began teaching for Columbia College's design program. Presently, I am embracing the relationship between art and technology, having completed a web design certificate program at Truman College. I was also an active steering committee member for this school's web club.
My objective is to combine various creative outlets to produce new and innovative ideas and solutions through design.
Photo by Andrey-Set of Beat-Fly-Crew, St. Petersberg, Russia
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While restocking my bar for the past holiday season, the cashier asked if I had tried the New Amsterdam brand of gin. I admit I had seen it on the shelf in passing, but never got around to trying it. Later, I did buy a bottle to sample. I like gin, but I found New Amsterdam's to be low on juniper (why I like gin) and high in citrus. While I'm not a big fan of the contents, I absolutely LOVE the bottle.
They start with a rectangular pillar in the palest of bottle green and then prism-cleave the four corners away. This gives the silhouette "broad shoulders" and a "tapered waist" illusion. This also makes the bottle look taller. The basic squared column is left intact, allowing more compact shelf storage than a rounded bottle of the same height might allow. A visual sophistication has been achieved, helping the product to haughtily stand out among its other price-point competitors.
I was working on a booklet-style brochure that featured full page photographic images to compliment the copy on the facing pages. I searched a library of stock photography looking for images that were slightly abstracted by being close-up, detailed cropped shots to enhance the generalized concepts they would evoke in the viewer's imagination.
One selection was chosen because of its range of color and level of obscurity. When I added it to the booklet, it overpowered the other photos in saturation and color intensity. I had to continue searching for just the right visual that would keep the spirit of variety throughout the pages while matching the lighting levels of the other photos.
This incident reminded my that you have to keep in mind the relationship between the images in a given layout project. Some projects may be able to support a wider diversity in graphics, but the "rules" I had set for myself in this brochure dictated adherence to keepinga particular mood running throughout.
Double Navel, 1947
Photographer Minor Martin White was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 9, 1908 and died in Cambridge, MA on June 24, 1976. His photographic foray started in 1937, though he had been a childhood hobbyist upon receiving a box Brownie camera from his late grandfather. He graduated to a 35 mm Argus camera around this time, and through publications he was inspired by the work of Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston. He would later meet many of these people and establish friendships and working relationships with them.
Minor White's photographic approach became less interested in objects or subject matter at face-value, and became obliged to the emotions that could be evoked from the viewer through symbolic associations. He used real world subject matter to convey the artist's personal feelings symbolically. He would learn the Equivalence theory from Alfred Steiglitz (his biggest influence), where the image stands for something other than the subject shown.
White eventually used his own brand of meditation just before analyzing how he wanted to present a given image, even before snapping a shot. White furthered the development of The Zone System (first coined by Ansel Adams) as a philosophy that involves extensive planning and previsualization of a photograph. It is based on understanding what photographic materials can do and learning to form a mental image before snapping the picture.
Today’s visual trend in design is simplicity. Light-colored backgrounds and fields of flat color have put two-dimensional rendering at the top of the charts. Even collage-type composition with minimal shadows and shading are marrying 2 and 3D elements into basic idea representation.
While I’m not knocking the pursuit of trends, I like to capture the current mood of style in a way that can be timeless, while still stamping the results with a definite place in the artistic timeline. There will be a time when the fashions of today become nostalgic markers of bygone ideas, but the work can still represent the the rationale behind the design choices.
Not to be a brag, but I am an integral part of the establishment of the Chicago leg of the community that was made famous in the cult-classic Paris is Burning. This documentary explored the underpinnings of a community that developed as a direct result of intentionally keeping people of color out of arts society. When creative people are marginalized and deprived of opportunity to participate in the exchange of talents and ideas, they always create their own arenas. That’s how you ended up with things like the Chit’lin Circuit, where black people were relegated to a separate performance schedule from white performers. Don’t forget that some of our iconic entertainers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, etc. were not allowed to stay in the very hotels they performed.
Out of this community, society at large has been duly influenced by modes of speak, dance, fashion and philosophy. One such creation was the evolution of a dance first known as Presentation, then Performance, then Pop Dip and Spin and eventually in the late 80s as Vogue. It now falls under the umbrella of Hip Hop and Street Jazz.
Madonna, doing what she is best at--exploiting trends--introduced a trivialized, watered-down version of a dance she “discovered” while slumming in the New York nightlife of the early 80s. “Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.” Um, sorry, Madonna, but there is “plenty” to be attributed to the ability of combining the movements of theater and vaudeville, martial arts, pantomime, yoga, gymnastics and the exaggerated, avant-garde model poses of the 60s (think Veruschka in the movie Blow Up) into one, seamless improvisation to the incessant beat of Classic Disco and House Music. Putting your hands on your hips and puckering your lips does not a voguer make.
Imagine my surprise when I was solicited to give a workshop on the history and techniques of Vogueing halfway around the world in St. Petersburg, Russia. I met some of the most gracious and loving people, ever. I am now thoroughly convinced that world peace will be achieved through the arts.
In this brand identity excercise, I took on a mock-challenge of resurrecting a defunct company. The twist would be to create a new manifestation as far away from the original as possible, stripping away any entrenched connotations and associations.
I resurrected Enron… as a local neighborhood flower shop! Enron is remembered for raping the life savings, 401ks and other financial lifeboats of hard working Americans, during the economy of greed in the 90s. In my vision, it is humbled by priding itself in environmentally-conscious deliveries with a vintage postal delivery bike. I had fun creating the logo, trying to evoke creativity, freshness and the local neighborhood mom-and-pop feel.
Copyright © 2002-2014 Aaron P. Brown. All rights reserved.