Graphic Design and Illustration.

Archive for ‘April, 2015’

Crackpot Starwars Theory

Starwars Ep VII Stormtrooper

Please Note: I originally wrote this post shorty after the first teaser trailer realesed a few months ago. Now that the new trailer has been released, I still think much of what I have written still holds up… and quite a bit of it has been blasted out of the water. I’ve decided to post this anyways. You never know. Just remember, this is total speculation on my part.

So I’ve had some time to take in the teaser trailer for the upcoming Star Wars trailer, and I have a few crackpot theories I’d like to share.

I figure I would share them here in case I’m right and have proof I thought of them first! Or it will be something to laugh about if it turns out I’m way off base.

Crackpot Theory #1

I found it strange that after nearly 30 years of time, that the Empire would even be around. Sure there could be a few strongholds out there in the fringe’s of the galaxy, but the Stromtroopers have slightly upgraded equipment and the Tie-Fighters look like they are in good order, and I would imagine that would not be the case if the Empire is just a few rag-tag Star Destroyers carrying on the not-so-good fight.

So what if they aren’t the Empire? What if the Stormtroopers are fighting for the New Republic? If the Empire did fall to the Rebels after the destruction of the second Death Star, it only stands to reason they would commandeer all the left over Empire equipment. Weapons are expensive. Why turf a perfectly usable Tie-Fighter when you don’t have to?

I would also imagine a lot of the Empire’s Military Command and fighting force would wind up working for the New Republic as well. At least the ones not tried for war crimes. This would mean quite a bit of the New Republic’s infrastructure might not be as loyal to the Rebel’s ideals as maybe everyone would like. Without stealing too much from Captain America 2 The Winter Soldier, it wouldn’t take too much imagination to think that maybe the Empire is still secretly carrying on behind the scenes, waiting for the right time.

So maybe our frantic guy in a Stormtrooper uniform at the beginning of the trailer is someone (perhaps a new recruit) who saw something he shouldn’t have and has maybe been left for dead out in some hostile desert? It’s a thought.

So, if this is true, why is the Millennium Falcon fighting Tie-Fighters?

It’s possible, idealists like Luke, Leia, Han (an idealist? work with me here) and Lando weren’t fooled by the Empire’s influence on the New Republic and have been marked as counter-revolutionaries. So we basically have the Empire in the guise of the New Republic fighting the Rebels… again. We’ve scene this historically in Earth’s various revolutions. See both the French and Russian Revolutions.

Crackpot Theory #2

I think our black Stromtrooper might be Lando’s son. Think on it. Early rumours indicate the girl is maybe Han and Leia’s daughter. The next generation of Star Wars hero’s might just be the actual next generation meeting up though a whole series of bizarre coincidences. That has J.J. Abrams written all over it.

Crackpot Theory #3

J.J. likes time travel and alternate timelines. Just look at Lost, Fringe and the Star Trek reboots. Maybe everyone travels back in time and erases the prequels a la X-Men Days of Future Past? Too much to ask?

Image of the Month – April 2015

Woman's profile

This piece was done almost entirely on my iPad using the Procreate app. It was originally black and white only. All the colour info and a little bit of texture was added in Photoshop afterwards. And some white was added in for more contrast.

The original image created on my iPad.

The original image created on my iPad.

I love drawing the human face and profiles are pretty easy to do. Even fairly realistic ones like this. And on a side note, I drew this out while watching Guardians of the Galaxy.

A print of this image may be made on Society6. Enjoy.

Fixing Design Contests

It’s been showing up in my Twitter feeds for some time now. Design contests are destroying the market for design! Contest sites like are watering down the market price for design to almost nothing!  And the current culprit: a design competition sponsored by the Canadian Government.

I think it might be time to toss my $0.02 into the debate.

The Current Situation.

Designers tend to get pretty nervous around spec work. Basically, it all boils down to lots and lots of design work with very little, if any, payoff. Design contests tend to fall into this category.

I’ve been a designer for a long, long time. Long before crowdsourced contest sites like 99designs were around. And it was the same then as it is now. People do not like paying for creative work. The reasons for that is another blog post entirely. And I’ve already blogged about what I think contest sites could do to make things more reasonable. And while I have certainly been burned by regular design contests in the past (*cough* Pan Am Games *cough*), I feel they happen too infrequently to be the big bad everyone says they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize with this stance on no spec work in theory, I just have a problem with how leaders in the design community seem to want to implement it in practice. Especially when it comes to contests.

Organizations such as the GDC here in Canada go to great lengths to make their ideas about spec work known to both designers in the industry and the public at large. If you don’t believe me, see their latest petition to shut down a national contest for a logo design. And it is here where my beef begins.

Waving your hands and telling people “NO!” doesn’t work, even if you have strong evidence to support your position. It doesn’t work with my two year old son, and it doesn’t work with the public at large. Besides, for non-designers, designing is fun. I find that non-designers (especially those with very boring or mundane jobs) get pretty excited when they are suddenly thrown into the thick of a design project. Even projects that aren’t going very well. Telling lay-people they can’t participate directly in the design process makes us seem snobbish. Even if we are probably right.

There has to be a better way.

What Can We Do About It?

In attacking this new design contest, a post by Stuart Ash, AGI, FGDC, talks about a previous design contest run by the Canadian Government way back in the 1960s
. I think the writer of the article gives us the answer. This excerpt talks about the creative brief that was made after the contest failed to produce results:

The very first step in the process of design development was the creation of the strategic brief, written by us and approved by the Centennial Commission (the “client”). This document proved invaluable as it identified in detail the strategic requirements, the elements that would be appropriate and epitomized Canada, and that the symbol could include a maple leaf and 11 elements representing the ten provinces and the Northwest Territories or other elements such as beavers or Mounties. The brief specified that the symbol was to be celebratory, easily applied, and for it to be appropriate for school children to easily construct it. This brief formed the basis of the creative design explorations conducted by the creative staff of the two offices — the resident designers at Paul Arthur & Associates at the time being Gerhard Doerrie, Fritz Gottschalk with Anthony Mann and myself from Cooper & Beatty.

Had the contest from the 1960s put forth a proper brief explaining the goals and constraints for the logo, would they have gotten better results from the contest? Maybe. It never happened that way so we will never know for sure. But I have worked on projects where proper briefs were made, and ones where they were not. Usually, where briefs were not made, projects tend to languish and take a very long time to get proper results. When briefs are made, things tend to run a lot smoother.

Helping guide your clients at the beginning of a project where you sort out the creative brief is where you want to be as a designer. The closer you get upstream in the decision making process, the better. This is also the best place for non-designers and designers to interact (hint, hint).

That’s Great for General Design Work But What About Contests?

I have never run a design contest, but I would imagine organizations run them to get the general public interested in taking part in some sort of public work in a fun way. And to get lots of design ideas for little cost. That last one is tough, but the first one is easy to tackle.

In the case of a government wanting a fun logo for a public event, perhaps open a contest to the public where people write a short essay or story on a related topic. The content of the essay winners would help define the Creative Brief. The brief would then be used to create the new logo. That way everybody wins. The public is involved and the designers still get to do their job.

There could even be another contest in this. It isn’t all that unusual for designers to present more than one fleshed out concept of a logo for final selection. You could have the public vote on the final design. Having a process where people cannot take a little bit of design A and little bit of design B to create a Frankendesign would be a big bonus. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen good logo designs get destroyed by these Frankendesigns. Forcing people to choose one or the other sounds kind of refreshing. See, contests can be our friend.

Final Thoughts.

Croudsourcing may be troubling in its current form, but I do not think it is the demon we’ve made it out to be. And trying to stop contests with petitions just makes us out to be killjoys, or worse. The more we can educate the general public about the need for great design and how to properly use designers, the better off we will be. But it has to be done the right way. Crowdsourcing, contests, and human behaviour are not going to disappear. Rather than fight it, designers should be trying to encourage behaviours that benefits both designers and buyers of design while embracing new (or not so new) realities.

And Why None of This Matters.

Even if the Government of Canada backed down from this contest and hired an agency where all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed, you know what the design community would do instead? Bitch about the logo. Enjoy. Or not.

Edit: The contest written about in this blog post has now finished and a winner selected. You can read about it here. While not a huge fan of the logo, some of the bile and vitriol I have read from the design community regarding this logo is underserving. Remember folks, this was open to students. And while I can understand the emotions over this issue, I know my early logos wouldn’t survive much criticism. And I would imagine the same could be said of my peers. Lets keep the “designer attitude” in check if we ever want a mutually beneficial resolution.

%d bloggers like this: