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Seven Questions for Bill Gold, Master of the Movie Poster

If the Academy doled out little golden men in the category of Best Movie Poster, Bill Gold would have hundreds. The legendary graphic designer (and Pratt Institute alum), who turned 92 last month, created posters for films ranging from Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941) to J. Edgar (2011), which he came out of retirement to design at the request of his old friend Clint Eastwood. The posters for Casablanca, A Clockwork Orange, Alien, The Exorcist? All pure Gold. He recently did his part to celebrate the achievements of another notable nonagenarian: Warner Bros. As part of a 90th anniversary celebration that will span all of 2013, the studio invited Gold to create a poster of posters. You can find it, along with art cards featuring his movie poster designs, in two new megacollections of Warner Bros. films: 100 films on DVD and 50 films on Blu-ray. Gold recently made time between Oscar screeners (he’s a member of the Academy and has watched some sixty films since November) to discuss posters past and present, and some highlights of his seven-decade career.

1. One of your first assignments at Warner Bros. was designing the poster for Casablanca. How did you approach this project, and what did you seek to create/convey with the poster?
I approached this project like I would any other. I was a young art director that was given an assignment. This was one of my first posters. My initial thoughts were to put together a montage showing all the characters depicted in the film. They appeared to be an interesting ensemble of notable characters.

Something was missing, however. And I was asked to add some more ‘excitement’ to the scene. I added the gun in Bogart’s hand, and the poster suddenly came alive with intrigue.

2. If you had to choose a poster of which you are most proud, what would it be?
The Unforgiven teaser poster. Because of the simplicity of the. The setting was appropriately dark, and the image of the gun more than provocative. It wasn’t the typical image that you’d see on a poster.

3. Of the more than 2,000 posters you’ve worked on, which one would you describe as the most challenging to design?
Bird was one of the most challenging posters I worked on–mainly because I was told not to depict it as a “jazz” movie, but rather to emphasize the more human aspects of the life of a musician. The studio was trying to promote the film as more of a ‘family’ movie. So I worked on several comps of Charlie Parker and his wife, along with his kids. But I still felt the story was primarily about this wonderful jazz musician; so I did one comp of him alone playing his sax and we dramatized how he played his whole life in a very dramatic way. As soon as Clint [Eastwood] saw it, he said, “That’s the one!” It went on to win several awards, and is also one of my favorites.
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Pictoplasma Conference Returns to NYC

Neither snow nor rain nor a ferocious hurricane (nor Saturdays) can keep Pictoplasma from New York City. Postponed in the wake of Sandy, the character design conference returns to Gotham on Friday for Pictoplasma NYC at Parsons The New School for Design. Organized by Pictoplasma “brain-fathers” Lars Denicke and Peter Thaler with Parsons Illustration chair Steven Guarnaccia, the two-day confab will celebrate contemporary character visualization–illustration, animation, installation, street art, fine art, and more–with lectures, panel discussions, and screenings. Kicking off the proceedings will be lectures by newly Brooklyn-based Buff Monster and toy designer/fiber artist Anna Hrachovec, followed by insights from Argentinean animator and graphic designer Adrian Sonni and self-proclaimed plastic surgeon Jason Freeny. Stick around for Characters in Motion screenings and a Saturday morning “Parson’s Pitch” pecha kucha. New to Pictoplasma? Watch clips from previous talks here.

Gap’s Latest Guest Designer? Beatrix Potter

With fresh creative talent in place at its flagship brand, Gap Inc. has hit the ground running in 2013, announcing its $130 million acquisition of the 32-store Intermix chain and plans for a Banana Republic summer collection designed by Milly‘s Michelle Smith. Now Gap is upping the cuteness quotient with a new line of unbelievably adorable baby clothes–for girls and boys up to 24 months old–inspired by Beatrix Potter‘s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The author, who pioneered the product tie-in by following up her 1902 book with a (patented!) Peter Rabbit doll and board game, and whose estate is a licensing powerhouse, would surely be pleased to see her illustrations adorning whimsical babyGap one-pieces, patterned dresses, and printed denim. The must-have item is Peter’s famous blue jacket, reimagined as a chunky knit navy cardigan and yours for $34.95. Mr. McGregor was unavailable for comment.

Todd Oldham Designs for Sundance Film Festival, from A to Z

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival gets underway next Thursday in Utah, and festivalgoers have Todd Oldham to thank for taking this year’s merchandise in a fresh new direction. The designer not only developed a line of ‘Todd Oldham for the Sundance Film Festival’ gear, including bags and wallets made from recycled festival banners, but also acted as curator for Sundance Film Festival Editions. For the new initiative, he invited Sundance alums such as Morgan Spurlock, Amy Sedaris, and Parker Posey to design a product–a button, a t-shirt, a tote. “It wasn’t hard to get them on board,” said Oldham in an interview with the Sundance Institute. “I did curate, but the art was really in asking the right person for the right task. And they are so talented–Mike White is a great graphic designer as well as filmmaker, Stacey Peralta is an artist, so I knew I had good, wildly creative people.” John Waters whipped up a subversive t-shirt (pictured).

In addition to whimsical apparel and recycled accessories, Oldham also brought his editorial expertise to the festival with a new book, Sundance Film Festival A to Z. He invited 26 illustrious illustrators–including Caitlin Heimerl, Chris Silas Neal, Michele Romero, and Yuko Shimizu–to have their way with one letter, with each letter representing festival films and artists (yup, “R” is for Redford). “We got very sophisticated, learned efforts. Some don’t tell the story at first glance. It’s super fun to try and decipher what the artist saw,” noted Oldham. “Illustrators have vivid imaginations and are usually forced into linear systems with tasked briefs. But we just let people do whatever they wanted and they were delighted to be unedited!” And if you detect a hint of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse in the cover art, that’s because it’s the work of Wayne White.

Listen to Chris Ware and Zadie Smith Discuss Space, Place, and Building Stories

Terms such as “book” or “graphic novel” fail miserably at labeling the latest creation of cartoonist-cum-wizard Chris Ware. His Building Stories (Pantheon) may well be a high watermark for print culture: open the boardgame-sized box to discover 14 discrete books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, and pamphlets that comprise an infinitely satisfying choose-your-own-graphic-adventure. Meanwhile, having spent twelve years working sporadically on the project, Ware is the picture of modesty, describing Building Stories as “follow[ing] the inhabitants of a three-flat Chicago apartment house: a 30-year-old woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple (possibly married) who wonder if they can bear each other’s company for another minute; and finally, an elderly woman who never married and is the building’s landlady.” Trust us, there’s more. Last week, Ware joined fellow story builder Zadie Smith, whose latest novel is NW (Penguin), for a conversation at the New York Public Library. Pour yourself a fresh cup of nog, sit back, and enjoy the below audio recording of the two discussing the role of space and place in their work.

Wanted: Science-Savvy Illustrator and Designer

man of science.jpgDo you excel at explaining phenomena ranging from plate tectonics to nuclear fission using only a pen and a dinner napkin? Doodle double helices—and their accompanying nucleotides? Then listen up, because the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland is looking for a new visual Einstein to join the energetic bunch of scientists, educators, graphic designers, film producers, and writers that comprise its Educational Resources Group, which develops multimedia content aimed primarily at high school and college audiences. Need you be able to tell xylem from phloem, ventricles from atria, a chupacabra from an exasperated kangaroo? Probably not, but be ready to wow them with your “outstanding sense of graphic design” and “demonstrated interest and skills in the visual presentation of scientific concepts.” Don’t forget to balance your equation.

Learn more about this Scientific Illustrator and Graphic Designer, Howard Hughes Medical Illustrator job or view all of the current design/art/photo jobs.

Atipo Breathes New Life into A.M. Cassandre Posters

It may be impossible to improve upon an A.M. Cassandre poster, but Spanish design studio Atipo has outdone itself with this tribute to his famous “Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet” triptych (above). Once you’re savored the last drop of loving homage, treat yourself to Cassannet, Atipo’s Art Deco-flavored font based on the lettering in Cassandre posters.

Author and Illustrator Maurice Sendak Dies at 83

Maurice Sendak, Caldecott-winning author of classic children’s books such as Where the Wild Things Are, died this morning due to complications from a stroke. He was 83. His most recent book was Bumble-Ardy (HarperCollins), the tale of a mischievous pig named Bumble who has reached the age of nine without ever having had a birthday party. He takes matters into his own hands (well, cloven hooves) and invites all of his friends to a masquerade bash that quickly gets out of hand. In discussing his widely beloved work, Brooklyn-born Sendak was always quick to credit his mentors, the late Ruth Krauss (The Carrot Seed) and her husband Crockett “Dave” Johnson, who wrote Harold and the Purple Crayon. The most valuable lesson they imparted to the budding children’s book author, whose big-headed kids were initially rejected by publishers for being “too foreign-looking”? Be truthful. “If there’s anything I’m proud of in my work—it’s not that I draw better; there’s so many better graphic artists than me—or that I write better, no. It’s—and I’m not saying I know the truth, because what the hell is that? But what I got from Ruth and Dave, a kind of fierce honesty,” Sendak said in a 2005 interview, “to not let the kid down, to not let the kid get punished, to not suffer the child to be dealt with in a boring, simpering, crushing-of-the-spirit kind of way.”

Oozy Suzy, We Meet Again: Garbage Pail Kids Return

Remember Gooey Huey or Leaky Lindsay? Wondering what became of Sewer Sue or the elusive Adam Bomb? Reunite with these and 202 other disgusting old friends in the pages of Garbage Pail Kids (Abrams ComicArts). The book celebrates the beloved sticker trading cards, produced by Topps in the 1980s with a creative team that included Art Spiegelman and John Pound, who have penned the introduction and afterword, respectively. “We all worked anonymously, since Topps didn’t want the work publicly credited, presumably so we could easily be replaced by other hands,” Spiegelman has said. “I was annoyed at the time, but my book publisher, Pantheon, was very relieved. The first volume of Maus was being prepared for publication while the GPKs were near the height of their popularity.” Along with a trove of rare GPK images, the book includes four previously unreleased bonus stickers. Just keep them away from Up Chuck and Heather Shredder.

Clowes-Up: Oakland Museum Readies Daniel Clowes Retrospective

“The only valuable class I took in art school was from a guy who taught display lettering which was literally like sign painting,” says cartoonist (and screenwriter) Daniel Clowes of his formative years at Pratt Intstitute. “Everybody else was like, ‘Aww man, I can’t believe I have to take this cornball class,’ where I was front and center every week. Still to this day I use everything I learned in that class.” Clowes’s irresistible handlettering, groundbreaking graphic novels, beloved New Yorker covers, and much more are the subject of a retrospective that opens next Saturday at the Oakland Museum of California. “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes” is accompanied by a splendid monograph out this month from Abrams ComicArts. Designed by Jonathan Bennett, the book includes essays by the likes Chris Ware and Chip Kidd. And feast your eyes on a test sample animation by Nicholas de Monchaux, who is masterminding the design of the exhibition:

The imminent museum survey earned the cartoonist a Clowes-up—”Humanity’s Discomfort, Punctured with a Pen“—in Sunday’s New York Times, where he shared the front page of the Arts & Leisure section with a Smurfily dressed Nicki Minaj. Among the diverse Clowes admirers that writer Carol Kino rounded up for the profile: Alexander Payne, who is directing the film adaptation of Wilson; Art Spiegelman; and (would you believe?) Neo Rauch. “Dan’s work stands out because of its precision,” Rauch told Kino. The artist was also “fascinated by its underground, slightly creepy aspect,” and added, “Plus, he has a very dark humor that appeals to me immediately.”