Thursday, November 30, 2023

A Logo for Maine.

My new logo for the US state of Maine has begun to roll out in the last few weeks, and it's a thrill to see it.

It began in early January 2023 with an email from creative Jordan and VP Neal at Miles Partnership, asking if I'd like to have a stab at updating the logo for the state of Maine. 

Now all I know about Maine can be summed up in three points: 1. Our friend, the poet Andrea Gibson was born there. 2. It's huge and beautiful, and 3. Stephen King!!! 

I said yes and within a couple of weeks was hashing out some proposals. The Miles team had made my job easier by carrying out acres of research with the inhabitants of the state itself. They'd got a stack of feedback on what they liked about the original logo, what they didn't; what living in Maine meant to them, what they thought of when they pictured their home state, and hundreds more answers to in-depth and nuanced, thoughtful questions.

The existing Maine logo looked like this:

The core feedback was that the logo felt "outdated, bland and uninspiring, particularly among Maine visitors". When asked what the new logo should be, the answer that came back most often was "bold" - but with the near-unanimous caveat that it should nod to the traditional nature of Maine.

The findings came to me in an extremely thorough 45-page document which formed the backbone of my thinking. 'Organic, craft, charm, outdoors, nature, wood, trees, breathtaking, rustic, authenticity and sustainability' were other pivotal words which came out of the research.

And that was plenty for me to go on! I had the final logo in mind almost immediately, but presented lots of different looks to the team. After all, sometimes it's just as useful for the client to see what they DON'T want as it is for them to see what they do. All but a couple were analogue, made with ink, crayons, pens and pencil on paper, I was keen to communicate movement with solidness and history; contemporary energy with tradition. 

A still from one of the WIP videos I made while working on the logo.

While wax crayon, used to make a resist version.

Here are a few of those initial suggestions - there were a LOT. I do this because, at this stage, the client could spot ANYTHING in an idea which triggers the final outcome - so I tend to leave very little out; I guess you could call this a brainstorming of sorts:

Preferred options were 'put to research', and after a few weeks a trio was isolated for further tinkering. And by tinkering, I mean the start of the fine-tuning process - without knowing which the final choice might be. This is things like examining the weight of letters, kerning, trying different options on 'e's and capitals, whether on a single line or a little bumpier, like this exploration:

Often at this point the client's curious to see how my very analogue work will look when transformed into vector art (presuming we're working with art that wasn't created digitally to begin with).

This isn't a 'click the button' or 'apply that filter' step - rather, I do this via a series of processes which sensitively and carefully change the format of the piece (from pixel to vector) without changing its nature, preserving its human warmth, detail and idiosyncrasy. Without blowing any of my hand-sketched  trumpets, it's often why people come to me for logos; in a sea of Canva-generated/off-the-shelf/plastic-looking logos they want something very obviously crafted by human hands, but which functions in every format, at every size, and performs in any technical, screen or print environment. I've been doing that a long time, and it's surprising how that need has remained consistent.

Here you can see a close-up of a very carefully vectorised version of this inky option:

This option from the second round of ideas was chosen to get through the third round. Made with simple, freely-drawn capitals in ink on paper, it worked as well in colour as it did greyscale and vector:

And as a partner suggestion to this I made a version created separately with ink and pencil to hint at cut wood, wood and trees being things that emerged as strongly connected to Maine and eliciting affectionate responses in their research group. Here's the raw art before any refinements:

Watch some of the process here:

At this point, I got The Tingles - when you know underneath you've cracked it, and you desperately want the client to agree with you...but you daren't hope too hard, because your experience tells you it can go completely in another direction! But those Tingles came when I played with these layered and coloured versions. Suddenly, I could see this on all the signs, the site, the products, the T shirts...

The team liked it. But there was one more thing. I was aware from the start that when I said the word 'Maine' in my mind, it was actually 'Maine.' - with the full stop. I couldn't stop seeing it this way. I felt it communicated a confidence and pride in this single-syllable name, and suggested that the state was everything you could need - the full stop made it both a name and a statement. 

"Where you from?" 


And so it was added to the next round. Would they go for this punctuatively unusual choice?

The answer was YES. And so, over the course of six months, our logo was born, and final artwork was prepared in myriad formats and al the colours of the new Maine branding guidelines. In its final iteration, the logo is currently working its way over the next few months onto hundreds of products, signs, printed materials and online platforms, but you can see it right away on the visitMaine website, and on these satisfying examples.

To my delight, as well as embracing my 'thing' for the full stop, they're using both the flat-colour version and the textured version together, deploying them in different environments, and that in itself is unusual. I applaud their boldness!

If you live in Maine and you see it about, please take a snapshot and send it to me! "Out in the wild" has become a cliché, but only because the thrill of seeing one's work out doing the job it was created for never gets boring. 

Not for me, anyway.

Thank you to the brilliant team at Miles Partnership in Denver for bringing me on to do this prestigious project, especially VP Neal and Jordan, and thanks to my agency BAreps for their patient, professional cheerleading!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


I learned yesterday that my New York agent, Francine Rosenfeld, died at the weekend.

I'm really sad about this. I came across Fran’s last ever email to me only last week, by accident while I was looking up some info about an old job. I was thinking about her the rest of that day, wondering what she was up to, worrying that I hadn't done my Christmas promo yet and thinking about the time I told her I hoped she'd get some decent time off at Christmas: " ...not my holiday", she said, and shimmied off presumably to book in another seven meetings.  

When I joined Bernstein & Andriulli in 2007, now BA Reps, I went to their office in Manhattan and was introduced by agency director Louisa (who'd recruited me to the agency) to the tall, slim Fran on arrival. She had dark eyes, dark, thick hair with a reddish tinge, boots, and a forbidding vibe; sort of Goth Lite, and I knew she meant business.

And she was ALL Businesswith an upper-case B. She set about shoving me under as many art directors’ noses as she could, within a couple of weeks bringing me a fat pharmaceutical project with a price tag I’d never seen the likes of before. And from that moment, she was my boss. VIVIDLY I can still feel the anxiety of being chased around the town on a Saturday afternoon as I was getting coffee, having just climbed down from a scaffold where I was trying to finish a wall piece, while in the throes of releasing a record the following day, finishing a pharma job AND getting on a 6am flight to Lisbon the next morning. She didn’t care — she just wanted to know that I was working on her client’s job. “Saraaaaahhhh….where ARE you? The client NEEDS you.” We got it all done somehow. With decades in the industry, she knew everyone and everything, quoted fees like a demon (a fee-mon??) and managed projects with what can only be described oxymoronically as a kind ferocity, keeping clients calm and artists on their tippy-toes till the work was signed off.

Later on she got a tattoo I designed of her little dog’s name, Kody. I'm always surprised and honoured that someone would want anything I've made on their skin forever, but with Fran's I felt especially trusted with what would have been an important little creative statement for her.

My Mum will be saddened too; as Anne The Accounts Lady, she frequently emailed her to chase TAs and client details. Equally brief with comms, they were around the same age, I think, though Fran was notoriously coy about her age, partly because she looked so fantastic and full of confidence. Not coy enough, however, to hold back on advising me which cosmetic surgeries she thought I would benefit from the most, during a walk to a downtown meeting one sunny spring afternoon. Her background was mysterious and I liked it that way - she was all about the now, and her enthusiasm for creativity and commerce was infectious.

She was my agent, my friend, a tyrant and a pain in the arse, and she was responsible for bringing me some of the biggest projects of my career (so far!) We spoke almost every day while she was with B&A. Over a period of almost 13 years, she was a core part of my work family; the day genuinely did not feel normal if I hadn't had a call with Fran.

I missed her when she left the agency. Her mantle was taken up by a set of handsomely able successors, and the BA family continues. But Fran will always have a special place in my memory. Her terrier-like ambition helped put me where I am now, I'll forever be grateful to her. 

She was really quite amazing.

Fran, Stan and Bec, taken by me, on a Manhattan rooftop in 2009.

Fran just being very Fran.


I mean...look at her! (from her brother Gary's post on Facebook).

F R A N with Tristan Eaton.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Factoryroad: A Shop of Industrious Creatives

Exactly ten years ago we opened our shop, Factoryroad.

Working prototype for the FR shop site. This wasn't all of the artists.

Possibly ahead of its time, it was named for the street we live and work on — known, as the name suggests, for its rows of factories, humming away all day and sometimes into the night with a half day on Friday. Channelling the industrious, round-the-clock nature of working, the building we still live and work in — Factoryroad’s base — was built by one of the factory owners for himself, with the foreman’s house built next door, and we still look out from our studio every day at the Victorian factory behind us (now flats, of course).

I’m thinking about the Factoryroad Shop today not only because I’ve just noticed it’s ten years since its launch, but because had its roots in the collaborative, spontaneous, risk-taking way of working that we’ve always fostered, and which we’ve struggled to get back to after a hammering by the isolation and hesitancy of the pandemic. It’s coming back, but our shop represented an energetic pulling-together of friends and colleagues who all made and designed lovely things, and whose work we wanted to sell alongside our own in one place — the site itself was commissioned from an ex-student and creative colleague, Nathan at Smile, then a new company.

From robustly working-class backgrounds, and living with a strong sense of purposeful industriousness, both of us channelled usefulness and productivity in all that we did. You can see it in the design of the site, based on a found invoice from a real factory, hand-drawn rubber stamps included. For us Commerce + Art was never, and still isn’t, a dirty combination, and we embraced the idea of giving a leg-up to our creative mates who made beautiful things.

Factoryroad itself as an entity had existed since the late 90s, making T shirts, 45rpm record adapters, doing record distribution and and making records under our label Blunt Force Trauma — it even had a Tumblr!

From our lovely Tumblr, still there today.

A natural follow-up to a lifetime together putting on music, social and creative events in clubs, empty and unorthodox spaces, we’d done promotion the long-hand way — going out, driving miles to see people in person, make friends and connections, taking pressies and enthusiasm. To network, you had to travel, and travel we did, in our series of odd little cars.

And the thing about FR is that we did it all, everything, without funding. No arts council money, no grants, no awards. Not that we didn’t try a few times — we were just never eligible, or the hoops to jump through were creatively restricting, or we didn’t move in the right circles. So we gave up on that fairly quickly. More correctly, we funded everything ourselves, sometimes putting the household in a precarious position. We didn’t come from money and neither of us had any - only what we earned at the time from freelance illustration, a little part time lecturing and Leigh’s job at the time in a series of record shops — which he proactively decided to leave behind in 2007 — and we were paying a mortgage and studio rent. So we took what with hindsight were huge risks, gambling sometimes thousands on ambitious projects that we never sure would pay us back. But they did pay us back — always in ways we couldn’t predict, and always slowly, but surely.

Nowadays, I see the ease with which Crowdfunding or Kickstarting is deployed — and good for you, if you can do a nice job of that; there’s something terribly appealing about being answerable to a hundred strangers who’ve given you money. I’ve funded plenty of those projects myself, but we never felt comfortable risking anyone’s money but our own!

I still don‘t know who this girl was! If you’re her, let me know.
Getting someone to wear your T while DJing was a superb free promotional method!
Gifting our wares!

To this day, our manifesto remains:

“Our projects are usually created and executed together, and are usually things we want to try out, do for the sake of doing, or experiment with. They’re neither designed to make money (though they sometimes do), nor to satisfy any brief but our own. They’re also, sometimes, collaborative, and are almost always for the entertainment and engagement of other people.”

You can still read this at the top of my Special Projects page, which attempts to gather as many of these together as possible, though there are too many to list (and many, though it seems improbable, are ‘pre-internet’, with no traces online to link to).

As well as a shop, Factoryroad was also a gallery that held myriad events in its space, and was supported by a network of creative friends from a mile away to 5000 miles away — they attended in person, contributed work to shows, and spread the word. Every event was a huge undertaking, and you can read about some of those shows and events here.

We even ran a radio station from there, Altar Ego — itself an incredibly challenging project, even for two ex-pirate radio people, which we weren’t sure we could pull off till we’d, erm, pulled it off…several times.

“Go ahead and chew everything that you’ve just bitten off, Sarah”.

Instructions for using Altar Ego Radio’s mixer. Oof. Sounds like a bollocking.

Doubling up as our working studio space, the gallery space itself eventually became too disruptive and energy-consuming amid the mad amount of client work and other commitments happening at the time, so we pressed pause on it. (We just do things now without disassembling the entire studio for a week.)

Painting scrap cars, because we can! And *not* inside our office space.

The Factoryroad shop was a commitment to our friends and colleagues to provide a platform to sell their work, which most didn’t have at the time. We built it to offer a selling space to some of the people we’d worked with the most, at a point in time when it was far less easy to jump online and set up a payment system and a shop. But it was also a time when was Instagram wasn’t as massive, Etsy wasn’t the big thing it is now, accounting and book-keeping was still a little on the time-consuming side, cheques could still be written, and the avenues for selling were fewer.

Even just ten years ago, promoting, in other words, was harder, but we had the audience and mailing list to make it work.

Some of the artists involved eventually moved away from their creative practice, or lost interest in selling products, and our shop, though beautiful, wasn’t live for long. It might have existed for longer had it been set up today where, a mere ten years later, selling your art online is not just an nice added extra, it’s pretty much mandatory for any artist.

In the end Factoryroad evolved into four separate shops — the busy one I run now, a Discogs shop for records, a smaller shop just for our 45rpm adapters, and a new one for our other business, Inkymole’s Motors, designing and selling automotive accessories and parts. But I look back at all the FR stuff today — stuff it’s impossible to do justice to in one brief article — with fondess and gratitude that we crammed them in, and took those risks, feeling the roots of it all underpinning everything we still do, and tuning into the gentle tapping of my foot as I feel the same urge to ‘get cracking’ again — but with the added perspective, experience and wisdom of someone a few years further along.

For the curious, here’s some of Factoryroad’s collaborators, who either took part in projects or shows, were the star of a show or film or collaborated in some other way — music, film, art, sound or video recording, food, admin. Most are still creatively active, though not necessarily in the same at form. 
In no particular order:

Melanie Tomlinson (metal sculptor, jeweller)
Strictly Kev / DJ Food (designer, recording artist, DJ)
Henry Flint (2000AD comic artist, illustrator)
Buddy Wakefield (spoken word poet, author, performer)
Dick Hogg (prints and artwork)
Peter Horridge (illustrator, designer, typographer)
Aaron Lloyd Barr (was illustrator, then agent, now co-owner of ATRBUTE)
Max Ellis (illustrator and photographer)
Anthony St James (photographer)
Ed Garland (author and musician)
Sage Francis (rapper, hip-hop artist, label owner, musician)
Buddy Peace (hugely prolific musician and producer)
B.Dolan (musician, producer, rapper, activist)
Gareth Edwards (screenwriter, film director)
Louisa St Pierre (illustration agent)
Jed Smith (chef)
Alisha Miller (public artist)
Jonathan Levine (gallery owner)
Andrea Gibson (spoken word poet, author)
Anne Coleman (textile artist)
April Ball (designer)
Beth Robinson’s Strange Dolls (dollmaker and artist)
Caroline Allen (sculptor, artist)
Drew Jerrison (author, now senior marketer in publishing)
Florence EMA Blanchard (artist)
Andrew Bannecker (illustrator)
Nomoco (illustrator)
Stan Chow (illustrator, DJ)
Joe Rogers (artist)
Alan Titmash aka Jonathan Pelham (musician, now art director)
Graham Robson (illustrator, now a senior artist at Games Workshop)
The Cloud Commission (prints and original artwork)
Solo One (original artwork and stickers)
Dick Hogg (prints and artwork)
Tom Hare (woven sculptures and vessels)
Jacquie O’Neill (illustrator)
Jill Calder (illustrator)
Kelly Merrell (doodler)
Lisa Hayes (jewellery)
Rebecca Lupton (photographer)
Shirley Gibson (designer)
Nigel Axon (architect)

Sarah J Coleman (illustration, prints, stationery)
Factoryroad itself (music ephemera, T shirts, 45rpm adapters)

Linkless But Nonetheless Participating People:
Lisa Hayes (jewellery)
Tracy Walker (artist)
Brook Valentine Menown (assistant)
Lily Blythe (assistant)
Rebecca Lewis (artist management)
Bob Neely (music)


Related Posts with Thumbnails