Announcing our next book project!

worklife.jpgWork/Life is a book project celebrating Canadian illustration and photography. Unlike magazine awards annuals or traditional illustration directories that are little more than picture books, our publication delves into what fuels a creative life. As a participant, you will be interviewed for specifics about your creative focus and artistic technique as well as your inspirations and aspirations. Additional imagery (sketchbook pages, studio shots, inspirational objects or personally illustrated anecdotes) will be integral to each participant’s spread, allowing the reader to take a peek into your work/life.

In addition to the artist pages, Work/Life will have more editorial content such as insights from industry mentors, interviews with reknowned art directors, and the documentation of a real illustration job from start to completion from two perspectives: from the art director who hires and the commissioned artist who gets the job. This editorial content further elevates Work/Life from the average directory: our goal is to produce an informative, entertaining, beautiful and long-lasting book that will be a valued reference for art buyers. 

Each participant will have a double-page spread: one full page dedicated to a single illustration and the companion page including a editorial text and images specific to the artist, a brief bio and contact information.

The book will be sent to a targeted list of 400 of the most desirable clients in publishing, advertising and design in North America. Participants will receive one complimentary copy. The book will be launched at an opening reception of an exhibition featuring work from the book. Complimentary copies will be given to invited guests that evening. Following the launch, Work/Life will be sold in UPPERCASE’s bookstore and online to the general public at a modest cover price.

To read more about this project, please click here. 

New in the shop


Click on the images to see them in the shop. 

VanGhoul at work

Here I am making buttons before this past Saturday's Monster Ball. These will be for Supercute (opening this Thursday) and for the online shop. But if you're in a ghoulish Halloween mood, then Katie's strand of seven creepy but cute buttons are the perfect sweet treat. ($10)
And the low-calorie fuzzy Hey Ugly Icebat journal would make a nice trick or treat:
As well as the many orange journals and binders, too, like this one from Russell & Hazel:

Hand Job

Ceramics and Typography


Emigre co-founder, Zuzana Licko, is also a ceramic artist. You can really see the relationship between designing typefaces and throwing pots in these editions of vases: in both disciplines, the artist endeavours to explore traditional forms in new ways. How many was can you draw the letter "A"? How many ways can you modify the contours of a vessel?

Of course, both disciplines deal with creating visually and structurally balanced shapes. Both deal with the duality of inside & outside form. And both require resolving transitions of curves; when throwing a piece on the potter's wheel, the conceptualization of the shape can be reduced to a single line of curve transitions, which represents one half of the symmetrical cross section. These curve transitions and balance of form have much in common with constructing curves in letter forms.

One can imagine that these vases are actually a letter spinning at high speed on the potter's wheel.


In fact, Korean designer Ji Lee designer a three-dimensional letter series based on Univers revolved on a centre axis.


Stephanie DeArmond


The talented Karin Eriksson has incorporated typography in the surface of her tableware:


Historically, typographic marks have been included on pottery to mark the artisan or factory that created the work:


Etsy seller Cocomo has a great selection of ceramic pieces that would be great for making mosaics:


And mosaics made of flat ceramic, glass and stone have often included typography:


So there you have it: a quick overview of ceramics and typography — flat and dimensional, old and new. Feel free to include more links in the comments or send me an email.

Design Writing

HellerBooks_l.jpgSteven Heller is the most prolific design writer... ever. He has writen a few bookshelves-worth of books, and contributed to countless magazines such as Print, Eye and ID. He was the art director of the New York Times for over 30 years and taught at the School of Visual Arts for more than two decades. His critiques have influence, his research builds much-needed historical context for graphic design, and his books promote design intelligence.

I often wonder how people who seem to produce so much manage to do it. The answer? Heller gets up at 4am. And there still aren't enough hours in the day.

In an interview with Gothamist, Heller discusses working with illustrators. This is of particular interest to me because the next UPPERCASE book, Work / Life will be investigating the relationship between illustrators/photographers and their clients. (more details will be posted soon!)

When I looked for illustrators, I looked for someone who fit the criteria of being extension of myself. I dreamed of being an illustrator but couldn’t because I didn’t have talent to do it, even though I did do it in the early days of my career. I looked for someone who has authorship. A person or persons I would hire had to be able to speak a language on a mass level, but one that wasn’t clichéd and could take the common and make it uncommon. The people I ended up using a lot are those people who had that ability. There are those always those people who can’t do it. People I could would try to groom, but in the end wasn’t able to.

SVA is currently hosting a retrospective exhibition of Heller's career. Visit his website, too. The man has so many books that they need to presented in alphabetical categories.

The Principles of Uncertainty


kalman-cover.jpgThe Principles of Uncertainty was a year-long illustrative project by New York illustrator Maira Kalman that will be published in book-form this month. It's another book on my wish list!

Her illustrations in the grammar book, The Elements of Style, are intelligent, gorgeous and perfectly quirky. Visit her website and view a marvelous film inspired by the book.


Skulking & Schlepping

The School of Visual Arts offeres a class called "Skulking & Schlepping: Stories about New York People" as part of the first year MFA in Designer as Author. The class description reads, "each student will select an individual and tell their story in a variety of design media. Students will be required to develop a humanistic interpretation of their subject. A portion of the classes will take place off campus."

The result is "The Suitcase Project" – ten suitcases repurposed into portable art objects. Instructor Maira Kalman writes, "Each suitcase is a story. Once told or waiting to be told." 

 I'm particularly fond of Esther Wu's suitcase (second from the top) which explores the life of a nun, and Zeynep Orbay's suitcase of future/desired memories (two bottom images).

Play Pen

I've been eagerly awaiting this book for quite some time! Play Pen showcases new children's book illustration from diverse cultures. French, British, Korean, Japanese, Swedish, Norwegian, American and other cultures are represented. The author writes, "In making what must be of necessity a highly subjective selection, the aim of this book has been to represent a broad range of stylistic and conceptual trends and a range of cultural characteristics from around the world, across what is increasingly a global market."

One of the stand-out illustrators is Frenchman Marc Boutavant, who illustrated the cover and endpapers. His work has a marvelous sensitivity, texture and retro quality. It is amazing that his work is done entirely in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet. "I used to work late into the the night with a zero pencil and acrylic paints but one day, suddenly, I was free... And the great thing was, I was no longer looking at the end of my finger. My hand was drawing but my eyes were looking only at what I was drawing. It made me rasie my nose from the paper. Of course, beyond the technical, the biggest influence on work is life. My own children play an important part in feeding the work too... intangible things, little smiles or things like that."


The work in Play Pen is charming, exquisite and innovative. The book is divided into sections covering picture and board books, alphabets and wordplay, illustration for older children and art for non-fiction projects. The book itself is well-designed and presents each artist's work at large sizes so that it can be fully appreciated. Highly recommended!

Play Pen is available in the shop and online in the book section, illustration category.

Mark Todd


I'm sure this will be a fun show: Mark Todd at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. 

Painter, illustrator and author Mark Todd took his first creative cues from comic books and Star Wars: worlds of inventive fantasy that still inform his art. His latest work involves intense scrutiny and alteration of classic comic covers from “Fantastic Four,” “X-Men,” “Iron Man,” “Spiderman” and other series, including the work of legendary illustrators like Jack Kirby. “I love the type, the heavy shadows, the colors and the way they seemed to use very inch of the page,” says Todd. “I sit and study them, and my brush reconstructs them.” Todd is referencing the past, waxing nostalgic about it and simultaneously lending his own post-modern sensibility to it, employing a limited palette, repetition, distortion and mixed media materials including spray paint, cel-vinyl, glossy varnishes and dusty stains. The pieces are rounded at the edges, unframed, appearing as prized objects; tablets encoded with civilization’s most iconic collective wisdom. His work has appeared in scores of publications including Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, New York Times, the New Yorker and on MTV. Todd graduated with honors in 1993 from Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, where he has also taught since 2003.


Mark's contribution to The Shatner Show is available in our online shop for a limited time. All the remaining works are being shipped back to the artists in the coming weeks. If you want to make some Shatner Show artwork purchases, email me with your selections by the end of the month and you will receive a 20% discount.

So much new stuff


Here's a teaser of some of the new things being unpacked. More products will be added to the shop in the days ahead. 

Camilla Engman Calendars


Camilla Engman's annual calendars are always wonderful. We're happy to let you know that her 2008 version is now available in the store and online.

Glen's blog

Vintage Magazine Love: Harper's / Bazaar


I've come across this website gallery of recontexualized everyday objects at Atelier_v, and though I can't read German I found the projects both inspiring and hilarious.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Project 25; perfect as a last-minute Halloween costume.



I purchased it this morning and have listened four times. It's great! Radiohead's virtual album (download here and pay what you want) is fantastic. Of course, the album art looks interesting, too, but you can't get that until later this year

My 5 Favourite Fonts


Clarendon Bold
I love the individual letterforms in this slab-serif typeface: the lowercase "a" is the epitome of what an "a" can be! The Clarendon family can be used in diverse situations: it can be commanding (think of an Old West wanted poster) or friendly (an ABC children's book) or fashionable (gourmet food packaging). Looking at this typeface makes me happy.

Bodoni Egyptian Thin
Another slab-serif, this typeface was designed by Toronto typographer Nick Shinn in 1999. This is a very delicate typeface that hints at a typewriter font. It has a beautifully quirky lowercase "g" that resembles an old-fashioned pair of spectacles.

Interstate Regular
As the name suggests, this typeface design was inspired by highway signage and was designed for clarity and legibility. The versatile family has a range of weights, from hairline to extra bold and varying widths from regular to compressed. It was released in the mid-1990s, around the same time I graduated from ACAD, and I was immediately enamored with its iconic letterforms. I longed for this typeface for years and had to save up for it. It is by far the most expensive font family I've ever purchased - $1,200! - but it was worth every penny. I use Interstate on a daily basis and is as indispensible as a good employee.

Berthold Baskerville
The original Baskerville typeface style dates back to the 1700s. The Berthold version is an elegant serif typeface in which each letter and numeral is drawn with love and care. This is the typeface that graces my UPPERCASE line of typographic greeting cards: each letter or numeral is presented at three to four inches in height so that the elegant curves can be appreciated.

Adobe Caslon Italic
When I want a special ampersand, then I look to Adobe Caslon Italic. Its curly-cue, vine-like form is simply beautiful.

Typewriter Club

Thank you to all who came to the inaugural typewriter club meeting. What noisy, creative fun!


See more photos here

Five Favourite Fonts


In today's Swerve (Calgary Herald), I describe my five favourite typefaces. A half-page dedicated to typography! I'm thrilled.

Don't forget the next Type meeting at Kensington Pub, Wednesday, October 17 at 6pm. 

Olympia De Luxe


The Olympia De Luxe, circa 1960.