Long Live Rhythm & Hues

Hollywood has changed so much in the almost 25 years I’ve lived in Los Angeles. The demand for skilled digital effects artists and designers brought me here. I was not alone. With demand came competition and advancement and a young, highly-skilled workforce willing to work inhumane hours for little money — for experience and credit.

11 Nov 2014

Me and the Penguins

On November 26, Dreamworks Animation will release its Penguins of Madagascar movie. The logo, or key art, for the film is not what you see above this title — I’ve buried their new logo a couple paragraphs down. I created the art above the title of this post in collaboration with Riverstreet Productions and Universal Animation’s marketing team. It was my take on a title design for The Penguins — aka Kowalski, Skipper, Rico, and Private.

07 Nov 2014

Hello Jony Ive – Re Type

Hello Sir Jony,
Of course you don’t know me. Like millions of others – designers and appreciators of design – I’m a fan of your work for Apple. But this is not a fan letter; this is a note about type.
You and Apple have been rebuked by learned type designers and typographers. You are roundly criticized for employing Helvetica Neue as the interface font for much of iOS and the new Yosemite operating system. As a designer and professional who relies on Apple products, I wish to share a few relevant thoughts.
Type is the most useful aspect of any operating system or user-driven experience. Symbols may help concepts, actions, and apps be memorable – but nothing explains as well as expert use of language via type, in well-considered graphic design.
For more than 500 years, type designers have crafted type for specific uses. From the crudest printing, to the highest resolution pixel displays, type has been created to exploit the benefits and overcome the shortcomings of particular media. In the 20th century, pixel-based fonts were created for monochromatic low-res screens like those on the first personal computers – Apple’s original Macintosh, for instance.
Those pixel-specific fonts and newer UI tailored type designs — like Fira — were created for better pixel rendering. In comparison, Helvetica is ill-suited to being rendered in smaller sizes on pixel displays. Its rounded geometry forces anti-aliasing that makes the letters appear less precise, more fuzzy. Type authority Stephen Coles points out Helvetica’s other shortcomings as a UI font, “The lettershapes are too uniform and the spacing is too uneven — space between letters is narrow while interior space is broad — for easy recognition and reading.” Technical problems aside, Helvetica evokes the mid-20th-century Modernist aesthetic; considering that, it is an anachronism. Type, like other graphic arts has evolved in the past 60 years. It seems incongruous that in spite of their myriad technological advancements in hardware and other software, Apple has selected an outmoded typeface for the operating systems of their excellent products.
Type appreciation and technology is in Apple’s DNA. Steve Jobs studied calligraphy. His appreciation of type was a catalyst for better rendering and printing of computer generated typography. That’s why the use of Helvetica is such a baffling misstep.
Apple should be leading the way in commissioning a new generation of type designed for this particular age for Apple’s excellent technology products. It is a mistake to hold up the 60 year-old Helvetica as a typographic ideal for user interaction.
In Hello I am Erik — the Erik Spiekermann monograph by Johannes Erler — type master Spiekermann expresses his desire to create an OS font for Apple. Please grant him this commission and save us from a future dominated by cold, bland UI type like Google’s Roboto and the Apple Watch font. If not Spiekermann, then Tobias Frere-Jones, or Christian Schwartz, or Mark van Bronkhorst…. Perhaps you might consult fellow ex-pat — and living type design legend — Matthew Carter on which way to go.
Designers like me have long been supporters of Apple. Please understand this is a plea to make Apple better, for all of us. We are waiting.
With appreciation and warm regards,
Bill Dawson

Editor’s note — The paragraph that begins “Those pixel-specific fonts…” was added following valid criticism that my note lacked an explanation of why Helvetica is a poor choice for the Apple operating systems. Leading type design authorities have bemoaned this adoption of Helvetica. My plea to Sir Jony is on behalf of typophiles like me.

05 Nov 2014

The Missing Scarf

This is a brilliant, beautiful, enigmatic short film by the very talented Irishman, Eoin Duffy. The transcendent George Takei lends his powerfully resonant pipes to narrate the tale of loss, perspective, everything, and nothingness.

09 Oct 2014

We Are the BBC Music World

An amazing collection of talent gathered to promote BBC Music, including the man who wrote the song. If you want to know who’s who in the video, check out this link. And no, the large lady isn’t Adele in a wig, although it would have been appropriate to have her finish the song.

09 Oct 2014

Dear Apple, Re Watch

Following the debut of bigger iPhones and the new Apple Watch, I’m riddled with questions. If you will humor me, I will fire a few at you.
Don’t you realize that the iPhone is why most of us stopped wearing watches?
So aren’t you supplying a consumer market that really no longer exists?
Or did you attempt to work to make wristwatches obsolete so you could reinvent the wheel?
Why do your operating systems all appear to have their own, independent aesthetic guidelines?
Why would I want a device that reminds me how little exercise I get?
Your use of typography is inconsistent at best. Why not take a holistic approach to brand typography and adopt a type system that can be applied company wide, across all your devices?
Why have you have made yet another device to distract us from our families, jobs, driving…?
Why do you continue to ignore that crumbling cornerstone of your business called iTunes?

09 Sep 2014

Variety, Robin Williams death deserves respect.

First off, no shit — you myopic Hollywood ass clowns.
Second, this is in colossally poor taste.
Given the source, perhaps we should be grateful that they exercised some editorial restraint and weren’t compelled to use favorite words like boffo, or to employ some grating pun.
Still, no excuses. Fuck you Variety.

11 Aug 2014

An Open Letter to Avi and Boaz

This is an open letter to Avi Lerner and Boaz Davidson. These gentlemen are respectively the Chairman/Founder and Head of Development & Creative Affairs for Millennium Films (aka Millennium, aka Millennium Entertainment). I do not know either of these men, nor have I met them. But they are familiar with my work. I designed the Millennium Films logo.
Dear Mr Lerner and Mr Davidson:
My name is Bill Dawson and I designed your Millennium Films logo. Unfortunately we did not meet during the development process of your brand identity. I am pleased that you have continued to use my design to represent your studio. Had we established an ongoing professional relationship, it might have resulted in a more effective application of the logo — and in turn, your brand identity — in your films and elsewhere.
My original design is seen above this post.

04 Aug 2014

Hey Venture Capitalists, Secret Weapon for Hire

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I’m a career designer and creative director. For my clients, my role is creative partner and secret weapon. My job is often to examine and define problems and help clients communicate in ways their audiences will embrace. We turn challenges into opportunities for success.
My company XK9 creates Tactical Media designed to illustrate products and experiences. For the past 4 years XK9 has been working closely with Google to help them debut and promote their products. We’ve helped Google realize better ways of communicating messages to their clients and stakeholders.
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If you are interested in a consultation, contact me. I’ll be here.

30 Jul 2014
XK9 by XK9