An Artist's Process with Craig Ward
An artist’s process is ever-evolving, as not all jobs are created equal. While some creators rely on their practiced expertise, others are on a path of constant discovery, eager to push boundaries and manifest something new. Artist Craig Ward throws himself into his briefs and approaches each project with an open mind, ready to marry the needs of the client with any medium or procedure necessary.
Craig is no stranger to working with new materials in his work. “Fire, powders, light, smoke, food, money… I’ll use anything that helps the type headline better tell a story. I guess the most exotic ‘material’ I’ve worked with is bacteria; living organisms. The materials for the Adobe project, by comparison, were much simpler, just a mix of glycerin and water.”
In his latest collaboration with Adobe MAX, Craig was inspired by the idea of creative energy for the Core MAX logo. The logo consists of 6 triangles, so Craig’s process began by printing out a set of geometric shapes to build out the broader identity and patterns. “I pitched a handful of ideas around the theme of creativity - it being 'The Creativity Conference'. I liked the idea of somehow visualizing creative energy - the hum of a busy studio; the buzz of solving a brief, etc. I looked at a lot of ways of visualizing different energies - bubble chambers, lightning rods, but cymatics is a concept I’m familiar with that gives a lot of interesting results relatively quickly. It's a way to image sonic energy (sound waves) by vibrating liquid at different sonic frequencies.”
“The process involved a lot of trials with various lighting setups, art directing the shoot, cycling through various frequencies and photographing the resulting vibrations. The post-production on the backend was handled by myself also. I work with a photographer called Linden Gledhill and his background is in immunology. He's super smart and is also a keen photographer, so he’s able to combine his scientific know-how with photographic know-how, particularly when it comes to scientific processes. The hardest part was doing the maths for high-speed imaging. The LED's strobe at a certain rate and the waves vibrate at another so we had to work out how to sync up the strobing of the lights with the frame rate of the camera AND the wavelength of the vibrations. Not super easy stuff for a visual person.”
Some briefs require Craig to create his projects new from the ground up, while others entail working backward to break down elements that already exist. In his recent project with Time Magazine, Craig Ward deconstructed the UK flag and influenced the cover story’s subject line.
“Time came to me with the brief to interpret this headline, which was, at that time, “The Plot To Dismantle Europe”. I gave them three concepts that I came up with over that weekend. When you’re creating a magazine cover, it’s all about being easiest to see on a newsstand and attract people’s attention, so initially, I had sort of pitched this idea of the typography being stitched into the title on the top of it,” explained Craig. “I went out and found some fabric and sat down with it at the scanner. I frayed it and pulled it apart, as best I could, and scanned it in six or seven times, and just sent over a few selects of that in these various states of disarray. I went in with photoshop to color in every stitch to make it look like it was stitched, but I was very proud of it because it was a reflex, probably one of the better reflexes in a while actually. Even up close it holds up, in fact, it looks better up close than it does farther away.”
Most of Craig’s work is created to accompany a larger reveal, be it a new brand or product, a new company launch, or even a new idea in a headline. For his project with Time Magazine, Craig’s art had an influence on the overall story. “This always happens with editorial, but they changed the headline at the very last minute. It was actually very flattering because they changed it to “Unraveling of Europe” to fit the cover that I came up with.”
Craig's unique approach to the execution of the briefs from both Time Magazine and Adobe MAX took the extra step to elevate and bring the message in his typography to life.
Craig Ward's Nike World Cup Kit for England Started with a Surprise
The World Cup, the biggest quad-annual football event (second in all sports only to the Olympics), is right around the corner with all eyes poised to turn towards Russia to watch the games. It’s the pinnacle of play for many of the athletes involved, but even as a few dozen players will be called to play for each team, many fewer designers have ever put their market on the kits. For this World Cup, Nike invited Craig Ward to create a bespoke typeface for the England uniforms, an honor rarely offered. “It’s a pretty wild thing because I’m only like the third designer in history to touch the England kit. It was me, Neville Brody, and before him, it was Peter Saville,” says Craig. “Traditionally whoever is doing the kit just chooses a regular font for it. So, it was no small beans on a personal level.”
The request came from an unexpected place: a message on LinkedIn that Craig caught just an hour before the pitch meeting. But the request also came very early: Craig’s been working on his final design for years. “I started it literally spring 2016, and it was like 19 rounds of work over the next 18 months,” Craig says. “Sometimes it would go weeks and weeks between feedback coming in so it felt a little long just because of the nature of the process but it was pretty wild to see it go out a couple weeks ago in the Friendlies.” Putting a typeface on the backs of England’s players is no small feat. Not only do the designs have to look good, but they also have to meet the legibility standards of a handful of unions, ensuring that the jerseys provide the information needed by coaches, players, referees, and many more.
But Craig is known for his inventive typography, so there was a balance to be struck. “The brief was what you’d expect – Dynamic, Contemporary, Sporty, and British. They really wanted it to feel very English,” explains Craig. “I started by doing a little research on the classic British fonts like Gill Sans, Johnston, Flaxman which is the New Scotland Yard typeface. They’re all geometric and clean.” Not only that, but Nike also asked that Craig somehow incorporate the St. George’s Cross, the contemporary flag of England and the central red cross in the flag of Great Britain.
Craig used the cross as the base for a lot of two-dimensional designs but then started looking at the problem from another angle. He brought the exploration into a new dimension. “We hit on this idea of using the cross as a sweep around a curve and modeling it in 3D,” Craig explains. That’s where the intruding lines come from: they show the movement and shape of that cross moving its way through space.
England has played two games in The International Friendlies with the new kits so far, and you won’t be surprised to hear that they’re playing well. “Undefeated! One win and one draw so far,” says Craig. And obviously, we know what to credit the success of the team to: Craig’s amazing typeface. “It’s all about those dynamic, geometric typefaces, of course it is,” he says with a laugh. “First thing they see when they get into the changing room is their names, their numeral – and that kerning is sick.”
Craig Ward Makes the Unseen Seen
We think of the human brain as being a lump of folding flesh, rippling on itself, chock full of information to be accessed at any time. And although this is (largely) true, what makes a brain so remarkable is the system of neural networks that connect pieces of information. Our brains break the world down into tiny pieces - “book” “walk” “brown” – but it is the connections between those bits that make it possible for us to walk over and pick up the brown book. It’s not easy to point out neural network as a separate entity from the brain (it’s the white stuff next to the pink stuff), but it’s there and it’s what makes our brains so powerful. Craig Ward knows this, and that’s why he created an entirely new process to create an entirely new typography for Boston Consulting Group. Neural networking is the key to organic intelligence – it’s how we see the connections between disparate elements in our world and are able to harness hidden strengths – so shouldn’t it be the key to artificial intelligence?
That question is a big one, but Craig’s job was to use this idea to help BCG discuss it.
In order to create typography that plays with these ideas he found a piece of freeware online and made it to an entirely different job. “I found this ivy generator online which was a super janky piece of freeware that crashes every 15 minutes but I was able to grow complex organic systems around 3D type,” explains Craig. “I then took those exported paths back into Cinema 4D and composited them into the headline where no type is shown, only inferred by how the 'ivy' grew.” By using an artificially natural pathway for flora he was able to create an idea of the internal workings of fauna. The result is a play with negative space, where we read between the networks. Just like with brain activity, the networks, the white matter, aren’t the ideas or thoughts we have, but they do give them shape. They aren’t the star, but they make it possible in the first place.
Craig’s job was to create the typography for “ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE” but he brought the idea further in at least one execution that gives us a hint at what this execution has the potential to say.
Craig Ward Gets Adventurous for ARTech
Art does not begin and end inside museums. At B&A we represent hundreds of artists that extend the reach of art from the covers of magazines, to the streets of New York, all the way to fully immersive experiences at festivals like South By Southwest. But each of us touches art every day whether we notice it or not. As we’ve become a more digital society the way art is distributed over the world has shifted, making art and technology inseparable. This spring, NYC’s Meatpacking District teamed up with NYSCI and Children’s Museum of the Arts to create ARTech, an event that lets attendees explore how art, technology, and science come together. They asked Craig Ward to help them for a logo for the event, but Craig teamed up with Nico Ortega to create an entire identity for the event. “What the identity does is draw a very long line between those two words [Art and Tech] and have interesting things happen to the line like interesting things happen between art and technology,” explains Craig. “That was the core idea behind the identity and then the posters and the illustrations and the graphics we created were an extension of that idea.”
Each of the three final posters, which were part of a wider range of executions, explores how the typography can operate as a metaphor for exploration and expression. Fittingly, it took an exploration of art and technology for Craig and his team to arrive at the final images. Initially they thought they might have a motion-based execution that ultimately informed the final results. “We imagined the identity would live across platform,” says Craig. “We thought it would work in moving image because we were tossing around the idea of doing moving image projections, but we also knew there was going to be a printed component. That was where it came from.” The final compositions ended up staying still, but have the concept of emotion in the center of them lending that energy to the pieces.
ARTech is open through the end of April, at 459 West 14th Street between Donovan and Division. Tickets are free so get there while you can!
Craig Ward Balances a Creative Mix for Starbucks
There’s a reason you’ve probably never seen a Starbucks commercial. Their brand recognition is some of the best in the world (plus all those strangely misspelled names on social media are doing the job of a huge campaign without any of the cash). But every now and then Starbucks wants to bring attention to something new they’re working on, and for their latest foray into cold brew coffee they asked Craig Ward to help them spread the news. We don’t have to tell you that Starbucks knows what it’s doing when it comes to the confluence of coffee and customers, but cold brew has captivated the caffeine-addled masses in ways a java trend hasn’t in a long time. That’s for good reason. Craig wanted to take that energy and make it palatable in a visual way for a company with the international responsibility that Starbucks has.
“My task was to come up with a bunch of ways for these titles and headlines to interact with the footage that was happening behind them,” Craig says. As their House Made Vanilla Cream hits the coffee it explodes as a white addition to the clear black coffee. The visual was already there so it was up to Craig to communicate the information that Starbucks needed to teach its customers, while still playing with the beauty in the mixture. He created a tension of movement and stillness, the clear hard lines of type against the natural action of the ingredients. Those visual contradictions draw us in and keep us watching. For a spot that will be mostly seen online where distractions are unrelenting, these visual cues are crucial to the job.
Striking that balance can sometimes be a heavy lift, but Starbucks gave Craig and 72 and Sunny (the creative agency involved with the project), a very specific set of parameters to help guide them. “The challenging part was, as always, treading the line between legibility and communication,” Craig explains. Craig found that line and then worked with his own team to execute it exactly the way he needed it done. Once they wrapped it up it was time to share it with the world.
As it zips around from one corner of the internet to the other, Craig couldn’t be more pleased. “Of course, it’s always nice to be involved in a big project,” he says with a laugh. Cheers!
Craig Ward and Xie Xie Tea Steep in Design
In the United States, we don’t really understand tea. We drink it from time to time and line our pantries with boxes of tea while we sip our coffee, but it’s not an institution like over in the UK. So when Taiwanese tea company Xie Xie Tea was looking to completely reconfigure their brand identity, they knew to go to a Brit, so they linked up with Craig Ward. “I’m British. It’s not something to drink, it’s something to do for us,” says Craig. “It’s a different thing, you know. The British, we have kettles and tea cups in our tanks.” Craig is best known for his typography and projects that combine surprising reality with expression, but with Xie Xie he directed every angle of repackaging, from ideation to font and logo design to photography. It was an entire ground-up operation.
As a design conscious tea brand, Xie Xie wanted to make sure that they were moving in the right direction. They came to Craig with an idea that they could make a space for themselves in a higher fashion plane. They had already been tapped by a high-end fashion house and wanted to use it as a jumping off point to help people think about their brand and drinking tea in a new way. “They were going to be giving boxes away in Alexander Wang’s Fashion Week gift bag, which was sort of going to the right people,” says Craig. “They wanted a bit more of a premium, fashion focused identity and pack design.” They have since been picked up by stores all over the world, including Colette in Paris one of the hotbeds of creative, contemporary style. And now Xie Xie fits right into that space.
The look that Craig created for Xie Xie is incredibly clean, with elegant lettering and sleek graphic elements with some added chaos. For Craig, it’s all about creating a balance. “The majority of the ingredients, even though they were dry, are very interesting shapes. And because the look we were going for was so clean and grided and designed, I wanted to introduce a little chaos,” says Craig. When water is poured into a pot of tea, everything swirls together in a steeping torrent, and Craig’s design reflects that moment that’s often hidden in the shadows of a mug. “I like the idea that it sort of washes around in there in the teabag, kind of floats around in the water,” he says. “So I wanted to get a little bit of that, the motion to go against a really clean design.” It required someone like Craig thinking about this brand and what they do to interpret it the way it needed to be interpreted. The best stories always come from the root of what a brand does, and Xie Xie tea is all about pouring water into that pot and making a great cup of tea.
Happy Holidays: 2015 in Review
As we come together with loved ones and friends to close the year, we’d like to take this time to reflect on some of our favorite moments from the last year. Included here is a list of some of our favorite stories we’ve had the pleasure to share with our community and friends. This year our artists helped usher in the next generation of Star Wars stars, discovered what bacteria lurk in NYC’s subways, sent hundreds of mean postcards to adoring fans, and put their own stamp on the 2016 Presidential campaign.
Our artists have done amazing things, so let’s take some time to remember some of the best stories from 2015 before turning our focus to the New Year.
We hope you have Wonderful Holidays, and a Happy New Year.
Weeks before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, Marco Grob photographed the cast of the highly anticipated movie for Time Magazine. Not only did he get to photograph the human stars, he also got to spend time with the famous R2-D2 and meet the newest favorite: BB-8.
Riding the New York City subway can be a precarious situation, not because of the unpredictable riders but because of what lurks on the handrails. Craig Ward wanted to see what exactly he has holding onto every day and the answers were both beautiful and revolting.
Sawdust and Nike Reach New Heights
One project with international powerhouse Nike is celebration enough, but when Sawdust teamed up with the athletic juggernaut for three bespoke typefaces it was an honor. Not only were they creating these solutions for Nike, but they'd be paired with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant, three of the most powerful names in basketball. What they created turly elevated the game.
This year Joey L joined Annie Leibovitz, Erwin Olaf, and David LaChapelle as a photographer for Lavazza's annual calendar. With the theme “From Father to Son,” Joey L examined how the tradition of sustainable farming is passed on from generation to generation, and how food gets to our tables from around the world.
People's Sexiest Man Alive is always a hotly watched and eagerly awaited issue, and frequently their most popular. When Marc Hom got the call to photograph their non-traditional choice this year, David Beckham, it was an honor and a thrill. And on the day of the shoot, Beckham didn't disappoint.
For more than a decade Stephen Wilkes has been pursuing his ongoing personal project of condensing an entire day into a single photograph. This year, Stephen showed off some of his favorite shots at the Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, a great way to look back on all the work he's done, and look forward to what's still to come.
Over the course of months with locations stretching from The Costume Institute to the Louvre's vault, and even the private archive of Yves Saint Laurent, Platon captured the epic vastness of the Met's latest blockbuster. "China: Through the Looking Glass" examines how China's history has impacted the rest of the world through design influence, and Platon was able to photograph every step along the way.
Mr. Bingo's ongoing series "Hate Mail" pits the artist against those who pay for the pleasure of being berated by him through the post. Enough fans have gotten their kicks this way that he turned them all into a book that catalyzed an enormously successful Kickstarter. Books are available for purchase now!
Living a life in the limelight isn't always easy, so when We Are The Rhoads teamed up with Taylor Swift for their latest Keds campaign, they immediately found common ground. By creating a safe space the mega celebrity was able to focus on the moments with Sarah and Chris, resulting in images that are effortlessly Taylor.
Style is communication and a stylist has the power to shape how their subject communicates to the world. For Uzo Aduba's cover of As If Magazine, Stacey Jones dove into feminine luxury, offering the Emmy Award winning actress the opportunity to step away from the orange jumpsuits that her fans so often see her in.
Paris is a hotbed of fashion and style, making it a dream destination for many and attracting artists from all over the world. Tom Corbett is no different. On his latest assignment for Somerset he really sank his teeth into the city, taking advantage of every block and street corner, capturing the beauty of the city and the ease of its powerful energy.
It's hard to describe Donald Trump's political rise, so sometimes the best option is to not even try. When The New York Times Magazine tasked Stanley Chow and Jamie Chung with an image that spoke to the story they got right to work on something that felt honest but was also a lot of fun.
When Marcus Bleasdale began his work as a photojournalist it was to make a difference, but an artist can never be sure if their hopes are going to come to fruition. Marcus' has. His work with Human Rights Watch has lead to changes in law, and even helped end a war. Their joint gallery show, "Impact," proved it.
Chipotle has seen better days, but before their troubles they made a very solid decision when they asked Harriet Russell, Sarah J. Coleman, Adam Hayes, and Dave Homer to create illustrations for their bags and cups. Each illustrator was paired up with a writer whose pieces were to serve as the inspiration, and the results are as delicious as you can imagine.
Ken Fulk is a master at interior design, and Douglas Friedman is a master at photographing interiors. When the two came together in a show-stopping shoot of Elle Decor, Fulk's vision leapt off the page thanks to Douglas' unique ability to translate space into flawless photographic composition.
Bernie Sanders represents one of the most interesting political stories this season, and like any political character his whole persona is hard to distill into a single image (even a photograph!). Ryan McAmis took his time, and dug deeply into his bag of tricks, creating a portrait for the cover of National Journal that is as honest a representation as we've ever seen.
It's not every day that passion projects turn directly into corporate campaigns, but when UPS saw Brian Doben's "At Work" series they knew they needed it for themselves. Brian extended the project, meeting with read UPS customers that happened to run their own small businesses, to see what it's really like to work with a company that caters to their needs.
Cinemagraphs are becoming more and more popular, but Chloe Aftel was there since day one. In fact, she's sort of become a go-to photographer to create these captive moments that she finds particular expressive because of their ability to inject more emotion and more story.
Sometimes the best way to talk about serious issues is with a good laugh, so when Todd Selby linked up with Evolve on a series of gun safety PSA they imagined what other things kids get into. Whether it's playing with condoms like balloons, or tampons like Wolverine's claws: the kids will get into anything and, most of the time, it can be hilarious.
Few artists are as closely watched as Banksy whose work is discussed and devoured the world over, so when James Joyce got the call to be included in Banksy's latest installation it was a no-brainer. James' contributions ended up including the cover of Dismaland's catalogue, a piece that has now been distributed the world over and marked as a coveted accomplishment for any creative CV.
We cannot pretend we know what the future will hold, but if we had to bet we'd bet on Roof Studios' vision. They were tasked with glimpsing ahead for a spot with Toshiba that envisions how our relationship with technology will continue to deepen and grow, and shows us what that will look like.
Ice Skating GIF by Nomoco.
Craig Ward Creates a Winter Wonder for Mastercard
It was right around Thanksgiving when Craig Ward got the call. Mastercard needed Christmas ads, and they needed them now. Usually, Christmas ads are ordered in the summer, giving everyone the opportunity to slow down and examine every possibility and corner of a concept. But Mastercard had 10 days between the first call and needing to hang the ads. Of course, this is Craig Ward, so he jumped right in.
The concept was a series of type heavy ads that looked as though the viewer were gazing outside their window on falling snow, and the snow just happened to spell the message that Craig and Mastercard were bringing to consumers. “We wanted to do it with ice and snow,” explains Craig. “Of course my first impulse was to buy an ice shaver and freeze some giant blocks of ice. But it was November so we weren’t going to be able to shoot in a walk-in freezer.” Instead, Craig tapped into the long tradition of movie magic, utilizing techniques we see in Hollywood films. “We bought three to four different varieties of fake snow; some that’s good for falling, some that looks good for individual flakes, and some that looks good for middle distance,” Craig says. “And we created the full alphabet using stencils on glass, backlit with a black background.” They build nearly a dozen versions of each letter so that every usage would be different, and the viewers eyes wouldn’t catch patterns. Each word is entirely unique.
Craig is best known for working in typography, which is a unique place to be when advertising has become so image heavy. Craig is fully aware of striking this balance, but he leans into it, considering his way of working a way to interact deeply with viewers, even if there are fewer of them. “It’s not going to speak to everybody, but it’s easier for me to target a certain type of people by treating type in a certain type of way. I’d rather one person stop and read a piece of advertising or communication on the subway. That’s kind of where I start. This is another example of that.”
All in all, the tight schedule and clean lines of the ads are exactly what Craig and Mastercard needed to bring the message to life. “It’s nice because it’s in place in Columbus Circle next to all these boutiques,” says Craig. “At a distance it just looks like some nice clean typography, but when you get in, it reveals itself.” You see more than you expected: a wonderful achievement in such a short timeframe.
Craig Wardâ€™s Infectious Love for New York City
Earlier this year, Craig Ward was riding the subway and geeking out over some nerdy science blog (as per his description). He was reading about a photograph by Tasha Sturm who had asked her 8-year-old son to press his hand into a petri dish. After cultivating it for some time, she photographed the bacteria that grew in the dish and it was arresting, if not totally alarming. “It’s a very striking image of all the different kinds of bacteria he had,” says Craig. “I was on the subway when I saw that image and I remembered that urban myth that when you hold onto the handrail it’s like you’re shaking hands with a hundred people at the same time.” Suddenly, Craig wondered what all those subway bacteria would look like, and if each train would have its own microscopic family. With the same limited groups of people riding each line, they were bound to have slightly different populations of bacteria and other microscopic organisms that would look slightly different. Craig, whose mission has been to tell full stories using typography, had a new project cultivating in his mind. He set out to create the Subvisual Subway Series, a collection of petri dishes that each contained the blooming bacteria of each New York City subway line.
To get the results that he wanted, Craig literally developed a new way of collecting the organisms. After cutting sponges into the typeface that he chose, he sterilized them, dampened them with sterile water, and then swabbed each of the subway lines. The he stamped them into petri dishes and allowed them to grow. They bloomed almost overnight. “I was just psyched that it worked,” Craig says. “I thought it was such an interesting idea but I wasn’t sure that I was going to get anything out of it. I did the L train first and it actually turned out to be one of my favorites. It’s one of the more diverse and colorful of the pieces. I’m just really glad that it worked, honestly.” It did work. Each line shows its own collection of different infectors, offering different shapes, colors, and geometries. The populations are clearly different from subway to subway.
The project started with that visual inspiration on the subway but the interest started to go a little deeper. “I just wanted to see what it looked like,” says Craig. “But once I started showing it around everyone wanted to know what I’d actually managed to collect on there.” Working with New York Magazine and a bacteriologist in Colorado, Craig got a handful of the organisms identified. Many of them are molds and yeasts, but there was also the litany of terrifying bacteria you’re afraid of: E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Serratia marcescens (which causes a lot of infections inside hospitals), and many more that couldn’t be immediately identified.
Even though Craig started from a visual curiosity, there is the opportunity to look at the Subvisual Subway Series as being something deeper, seeing at it as a metaphor for life in New York. “The more I’ve looked at them the more they’ve felt like a really nice analogy for the city,” Craig says. “You look at the subway and it’s all just different shapes and sizes and colors of people and you look at it at a microscopic level and it’s all just different shapes and sizes and colors of bacterial colonies. It’s a nice kind of portrait of the city on a very small scale.”
Prints of the Subvisual Subway Series, as singles and in groups, are available for pre-order now on his site, Words Are Pictures.
Craig Ward Subverts Typography with NASA Technology
Ferrofluids were invented in 1963 as a new technology for NASA to solve the problem of fuel fluid dynamics in zero gravity. The fluids have magnetic properties that would have allowed them to flow against typical fluid dynamics, but like so many technological advances, it didn’t end up being suited very well for its intended purposes. The properties that make it so unique are also what make it so enticing. The molecules stack into impossible shapes when unleashed against magnets that are as compelling as they are viscerally revolting, and ripe for creative exploration.
Illustrator and renowned typographer Craig Ward came together with Linden Gledhill, a biochemist and experimental photographer friend, to play with the behavior of ferrofluid and translate its functions into a series of glyphs. The project, that they’re calling “Fe2O3 Glyphs,” stimulated ferrofluid to eke out its unique properties and then turn the resulting shapes into forms that are treated like letters. There is a collection of them, like a series of letterforms, but these are communicating something else entirely.
The typography that we’re used to seeing from Craig has always experimenting with form, but these glyphs that comes from the behavior of Ferrofluid is different for one significant reason: they don’t make sense compared to our traditional 26 character alphabet. This is by design because of their unique meaning that is, as Craig explains it: “Essentially nothing, which is kind of the joy of it. In terms of what it’s actually communicating, really nothing. It’s a very conceptual, abstract piece.” Instead, the audience is invited to react to the resulting collection of shapes and regard them for what they are: abstractions. Reading anything more would sort of miss the point. “The whole project is a complete inversion of typography overall,” says Craig. “We didn’t fuss over it, we didn’t have a grid, we didn’t go through very long protracted design processes for each of the glyphs to try to make this coherent alphabet. It was this kind of chaotic thing that was born out of a process.” Although they didn’t create the typography using the traditional grid of lettering builds, they have ended up with a series of grids: the resulting prints of the project are a generated series of square grids composed of the glyphs. The creation process completes itself when the glyphs are printed onto paper using ferrofluid as the ink.
Ferrofluid was not necessary to ink the resulting pieces, but: “It brought the project full circle and again was a further inversion of the process,” explains Craig. “With traditional letter press printing the shape of the ink is dictated by the form of the letter. In this case the shape of the ink is also dictated by the shape of the ink itself. The medium creates the shape and then becomes the printing medium later on.” Like the ferrofluid, each of these shapes were made and printed in the process of self creation. In many ways, Craig and Linden merely stood back and allowed this NASA creation to dictate its own creation and we're merely watching it paint itself into existence.
A Bible for the Religion of Art
Artists’ work is a residue of our culture and their time. The work stands after time has passed us by as a relic of what came before; an artifact of events reminding us of who we are, and eventually who we were. OFFF is a festival taking place in Barcelona every year where artists and scientists from around the world converge and speak creatively. There is little more broad structure than that. It is a consortium of curiosity with performances, panels, and social gatherings to swap ideas and build on creativity. It is boundless in scope and fenced only by the limits of imagination.
The residue of this annual festival is an enigmatic book that can be shelved and reinvestigated, as the ephemeral nature of the festival erodes to imperfect memory. Like some kind of biblical text, this artifact calls the future as if it were written during another life; a yearbook of a cult conference after meeting the shadow of god. OFFF Unmasked, as it is titled, was designed by design studio Vasava. Acting as the creative shepherd, an incredible volume of work by dozens of participants fit between the hardbound covers of OFFF Unmasked. The narrative shifts through each section from dogmatic scripture, to a personal investigation replete with evidence and exhibits, and even a section entitled “Believe” with a smattering of art that stretches the mind and challenges perception.
The roster of OFFF’s participants are represented in Unmasked as imagery created by Serial Cut in collaboration with Bartholot. These portraits are more figurative than photographic, displaying the essence of the creative as anonymous costumed force, draped in the tones of their surrounding environment. It is the surreal joining of figure and place, each holding a contrasting object that represents the work and passions of the figure. At once alarming and enthralling, these portraits provide a vision of what makes these creative valuable in a way their human form regretfully can not show.
The XV COMMANDMENTS were enriched by Rizon Parein, Vasava, and Craig Ward. Rizon helps us to remember that artists must “Give Change” with their work. Vasava encourages creatives to give over to the unknown. And Craig Ward’s filthy typography reminds us to get our hands dirty.
Sawdust provided the imagery behind the fifth and final sin in the “V SINS” section that outlines cardinal creative sins. “Complaining,” the sin reads. “Do not whine about challenges; instead, drink the wine of opportunities.” The composition shows the result of energy scattered by whining, struggling to return into the forms of letters. It wants to communicate, to come into focus, all it requires is the commitment to the artist’s moment and not their basest childishness.
In a conference that gives over to the divine power behind investigation, deeper exploration requires an almost religious adherence. Vasava’s OFFF Unmasked is the resulting bible of this study, and something we can all learn invaluable lessons from.
Craig Ward Gets Smart with Android
Technology is as integrated into our lives as we ever could have imagined. Most days are spent bouncing from screen to screen. Some on the wall regaling us with stories, the screens on our desks provide an outlet for our objectives, and the screens in our pockets connect us with everyone else. The big question is, now that we interact with technology almost as much as possible, is there a way to make our relationships with these pieces more seamless?
Wearable tech is the next step in bringing these elements together, and the biggest, most consumable step in wearable technology in 2014 was the introduction of the smartwatch. Android Wear just launched a whole new platform for their tech, and they invited Craig Ward to design one of the inaugural looks for the watch. As a part of the handful of designers and creators, Craig looked at this as an opportunity to challenge himself. “A lot of what I do is process driven. I’m sort of searching for a way to reconcile that physicality and that sort of giving over your work to the process,” he says. “I’ve always been looking for the digital equivalent. This project feels like there’s an idea behind it, there’s a process, and it’s never going to look the same twice, basically.” Craig’s watch face is exactly that: an interplay of the digital and the real.
The custom numerals that Craig designed sit on the face in a 3D rendering. Taking into account the time of day, the time of year, the sunrises and sunsets, light is cast across the digits, throwing shadows appropriate for the time of day. Using a lot of fancy coding, Google and Craig were able to find the perfect soft edges and shadow opacity of natural light. They initially played with other options as well. “Some of our early stuff was very vectory, sort of ray traced, hard edged shadows which was cool, but it sort of wasn’t what I had in mind. I wanted it to be something subtle and tonal,” Craig explains. “It’s doing 3D things in a 2D space.” This perfectly aligns with the work that Craig normally does, constructing compositions using real 3D materials and letting them reside in 2D. But the digital arena provides a dynamic space, offering movement and interaction.
Craig felt that his skill set as a typographer couldn’t go ignored, so he provided the custom type. “I wanted it to be very geometric so that the numerals were based around perfect circles and everything else was perfect straight lines. Art Deco with a sort of futuristic feel,” he explains. He heard someone refer to it as “Space Deco,” and thinks he’ll adopt that title. It was important for Craig to bring this unique level to the project since Google was so creatively respectful to Craig during the whole process. “They were entirely trusting on this project which was nice. They were like ‘Yeah, that’s cool. Do it.’”
To download Craig Ward's Shadow Clock Watch Face from Google Play, click here.
Craig Ward Straddles Two Worlds
When you consider Craig Ward’s typography, you’ll notice that it tricks your eye. Using components that are in alignment, or contradiction, to the themes of the words Craig is styling, his work acts as a visual punch line. Every element is carefully calibrated into constructing the final image he offers, filling it with commentary. The question it asks, beyond the content, is form. Is it real? The answer is a resounding yes. But to create these considered compositions requires a mix of the tangible and intangible. The real and the invented meet half way.
To achieve these ends, Craig has to work in two different disciplines. He’s neither an illustrator nor a photographer, but has to employ both sets of skills to get these results. It’s a balancing act that not everyone understands. But, that’s okay. Craig’s happy to do his alchemy on his own. Even though he started with straight up typography not long ago, he wanted that extra angle. So he dug deeper. “Working with more photography is something I started a few years ago,” he says. “I don’t even know why I started doing that, it was just something I wanted to try. It’s an evolution.” As he’s evolved, more and more of his recognizable work comes from the manipulation of photographs rather that the creation of illustrated images. This tangible provenance gives a level to the images that cannot be replicated in pure illustration. “It’s got a bit more soul to it, which I like. There’s nothing perfect about it,” Craig explains. “So I like to embrace that. I like the crumbs and the things you can’t really account for, that’s what I really like to embrace in the work.”
For his latest project with Ohio Lottery, they asked Craig to get into the holiday spirit and channel the iconic images of Christmas. Pulling from wrapping paper, mistletoe, and fruitcake, Craig and Ohio Lottery wanted to tell the story of a new tradition: giving a lottery ticket instead of a typical holiday bummer. The most challenging piece was the fruitcake.
To keep the image dynamic and editable, to make sure the client got exactly what they needed, Craig ended up compositing the final image with between 30 and 40 photographs. But, it’s cake. So he started with cake. “I went out and bought some cake mix, and made a few different cakes over the weekend. Just to sort of try and get the right color, the right base color,” Craig explains. Then came the cherries. He photographed cherries of all shapes and sizes so he would have the variety necessary to compose the final image. He even baked a few extra cakes with cherries inside them so he could get the accurate aesthetic of inner-cake confections. By starting with photography Craig was able to retain a reality that would be missed in a super clean illustration. Craig needs those rough edges and honest imperfections. “You’ve got to really try to make things not look good,” Craig says. “So I like to embrace that.” No one’s holiday is absolutely perfect, but that’s why we like them.
Craig Ward Breaks Ground on The Washington Post
Yesterday, for the first time ever, The Washington Post bucked their tradition of using a cover image for illustrated typography by Craig Ward. They chose an incredibly divisive topic to jump in with, and something that Craig was perfectly suited for. The cover article dives into the cultural significance of “The N Word,” a word that carries so much meaning, power, and emotion with it that even the euphemism turns heads and stands hair on end. The word has intrinsic, cultural power, and it is Craig’s specialty to suffuse that energy into a visual representation of the word.
Getting to the Monday cover of the Washington Post wasn’t an easy road, but it did happen quickly. “I didn’t know I was going to get it on the cover until Sunday,” he said. “Initially when the brief came in it was for the Saturday Magazine cover. And then Ben Bradlee passed away, so they gave him the Magazine cover.” They then started the process of cancelling the project when just two days before print, they asked to see Craig’s work.
What they asked to see was something different than what he had been working on. Initially the Post and Craig had been honing a final version made from split wood, but the project went into limbo. When Craig got the call, it was to inquire about the charcoal version that ended up on the cover. It was something they had kept as a second option, but didn’t pursue until that phone call.
Usually Craig has more to work with than just one letter. “But this one they really only wanted the letter N. It would have been a different project if they’d actually wanted me to do the word,” he says. “But this was obviously a step removed from that so I was able to think about the emotions around it a little more. Rather than the treatment of the word itself.” The word is violent, explosive. The mere utterance of it has divisive and painful results. Craig distilled that energy directly into his work. The wood was broken with a hammer and required great amounts of force to split the way it did. That energy finds its way into the resulting image, “The subject matter is quite provocative, I felt like it needed to be something kind of divisive and angry and have a lot of emotion to it.” Finally, they went with the charcoal. "We were pursuing the wood one right up to the last minute last week," he says.
Like any editorial project, everything happened so quickly. But it’s rare that such speed is met with such bravery. The Post had never done anything like this, and considering the weight of the topic, it was a surprising move. "It was all very exciting,” he says. “It’s quite flattering, I’m psyched about it really.”
Communication Arts Names Craig Ward to Hero Status
When Communication Arts compared Craig Ward to Herb Lubalin in their latest issue, Craig was taken aback. For Craig, who has admired Lubalin for decades, it’s a shocking compliment. “That’s pretty big, for me anyway,” explains Craig. “[Lubalin is] somebody who’s always been held up as a real pioneer. One of the most important designers of the 20th century as far as I’m concerned.” Whether or not Craig is comfortable saying it, he is a pioneer in his own way.
A pioneer is an adventurer, an explorer following a virgin route to something new, unknown, and unexpected. Craig works the same way. At first he was working in advertising and became enamored with letterpress for how physical the process was. It happened in real life, not on a screen. “The one thing I really loved about that was the tactile idea, the hands on feel that letter press has because it’s a really physical process,” Craig explains. “It’s always been really important to keep that hands on feel.“ But Craig expanded that into the real world. Building out typography from objects, like most recently spelling out “DIRT” in actually dirt for Vanity Fair.
For years he spent clicking through every design site, considering what was in vogue, following trends, and scoping others’ portfolios. When he opened his new studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, he decided to cut it out. “It took a couple weeks to stop the mouse from clicking to the favorites bar,” he told 99U Podcast. “It was great… It was the year I wrote my book [Popular Lies About Graphic Design], I was more productive that year.” What resulted were projects like the letter A formed entirely from cells in a microscope, a 7 foot tall “1/3” made from $800 worth of produce, 25,000 pennies arranged into a single word. All of these came from exploring beyond what designers are “supposed” to look at, they came from the challenge of looking beyond. “I try to look at work that is outside the normal remit what a designer is supposed to be looking at,” Craig explains. “Outgrow your influences. Expand yourself a little bit.” Later, he adds, “The answers aren’t always found online.”
In fact, Craig encourages stepping away from time to time like he did. (He does admit he spends time looking now, but far less than before.) When someone else curates your creative exposure, it can become a trap. Like you’re being guided by an invisible shepherd. “It’s so easy to rely on being spoon fed that you kind of get a little bit lazy when you have to really go looking for inspiration,” he explains. “You have to make a point to absorb different imagery and different styles.” One has to chase the impossible idea for it to ripen authentically.
This sort of expansive creativity isn’t just a result of logging off the computer and walking outside. It is also the result of over a decade of work. But typography wasn’t the goal when he jumped into the industry. “Everything that’s happened has sort of happened over the last 10 years,” Craig says. “I never even decided I was going to be a typographer. That’s just sort of happened over time. I only started playing with type as a spare time thing.” That spare time thing has blossomed into Craig being one of the most well known and easily recognized typographers, and the Communication Arts comparison to Herb Lubalin. “It’s such a huge compliment to be tossed in like that.”
To get the full story “The Words Are Pictures Studio,” from Communication Arts, check out their website.
The full interview podcast from 99U is available on their site.
Craig Ward's One Minute Wonder: 'I'm a Visual Person With a Profound Respect for Words'
One Minute Wonder recently created a 60-second video portrait of B&A's Craig Ward. "Many of the graphic designers and typographers we work with knew Craig's work already, and having the possibility to interview him for the series was really great," remarked Tjalling Valdés Olmos, creative producer at innovations studio Present Plus – the powerhouse behind One Minute Wonder (and the development of WeTransfer). "I think at this point, Craig's been doing and is doing a lot of work that is extremely influential, and constantly pushing boundaries with regards to what he puts out."
The clip follows Ward through his loft space while he describes his profound respect for words and his tendency to partner with people who have different skill sets – be it biochemistry, music, or kinetic photography. "I spoke for an hour and I had no idea what Present Plus would end up using," Ward said, "but the final piece is a great snapshot."
Olmos agreed: "Overall, it's one of the better episodes for us and it was really hard to narrow it down to the one-minute format, as Craig opened up on so many aspects that we could relate to, personally and professionally ... he was super patient and accommodating, and I think that only reinforced our idea of him being a very grounded, inspiring individual." Noting that it "might sound cheesy," Olmos continued, "after doing a lot of episodes, you can easily recognize people who are really passionate about what they do, and Craig was definitely one of them."
'BYRONESQUE OFFLINE,' Featuring Craig Ward Mural, Nominated for CLIO Image Award
"BYRONESQUE OFFLINE," a shoppable retrospective that feted the one-year anniversary of vintage e-commerce and editorial site Byronesque.com – and featured a 700-square-foot mural by B&A's Craig Ward – is nominated for a CLIO Image Award (Engagement/Experiential).
Ward received a copy of Jens Peter Jacobsen's poem "Company of Melancholiacs" from Byronesque.com CEO and editor-in-chief Gill Linton and creative director Justin Westover. The text is about "a secret confraternity ... who by natural constitution have been given a different nature and disposition than the others ... that wish and demand more ... than that of the common herd." And it "sums up why we started Byronesque – because pandering to 'the common herd' has [gotten] out of control," Linton explained. "We wanted to create something more provocative, more polarizing."
The artist responded to the brief with an enormous mural using layered wheat-pasted posters installed in Manhattan's former James A. Farley Post Office for three days last December. "It dealt with the idea of emotional layers and the masks we wear from day to day – the image we project ... versus what lies beneath," Ward said. "Icons of masks and fragility were juxtaposed with images of strength and sat alongside bold and raw typographic pieces. Through layering and tearing these posters, we revealed other messages, with each line trying to cover up, or being revealed by, the next."
Westover wanted to partner with Ward for some time and "this seemed the the right project to approach him with ... Craig totally grasped the melancholy spirit of the poem, and the décollage technique that he used really accentuated the fragility in the text and made it feel like an integral part of the derelict space," the creative director remarked. "It ended up being much larger than we originally discussed – we're very grateful he didn't get put off by the vastness of the space ... there's no doubt that the finished mural perfectly complemented the rest of the installation in the vault and was definitely one of the most talked about parts of the whole project."
Regarding the CLIO Image Award, "We're definitely the underdogs in the game, and what we did was very underground by comparison, so we were surprised when we got the call," Linton noted, "but it is testimony to everyone who helped make it happen. We were blown away by how people threw themselves into making it better than we could ever have imagined, including Craig and his team."
Ward added: "Shiny things are always good! Honestly, I'm not huge on awards, but it's great when your work is acknowledged by your peers." The winners will be announced May 7.
Craig Ward's Candy Cane Typeface for the New York Lottery
The New York Lottery approached Craig Ward with a festive challenge – create a typeface using candy canes.
"I worked with Papabubble in Soho, a storefront that sells bespoke sweets, and I really liked the style and colors of their candy canes," said Ward. "I got about 200 feet total, all different lengths – some twelve inches long, six inches, and little, knobby ones – that I photographed and composited in Photoshop. I'm guessing I used 100 images and I was careful not to repeat elements." He then added shadows to the Victorian lettering (based on Kilkenny font). "I made an entire alphabet along with two or three versions of letters that appear more often so the team could set its own headlines."
Ward and the N.Y. Lotto folk have partnered before: "It's difficult to persuade people to spend the extra time on typography because it's easy to type on the computer, so it's nice to have a client like this that comes back to me ... with crazy ideas!"
Happy holidays from the B&A blog!
Craig Ward Gets Ice Cold with Dentyne Ice
This is Craig Ward. This is Craig Ward outside his studio in the winter. This is Craig Ward photographing ice forms. This is Craig Ward retouching letters in Photoshop. This is Craig Ward for Dentyne Ice.
Dentyne Ice wanted to convey just how ice cold their product was for their new brand campaign, so they brought in Craig to create an entire alphabet built out of ice. Each letter was formed with real ice that Craig then took outside in the freezing winter weather to photograph. Craig retouched each letter to make sure they all worked together, in any combination, aligning highlights and shadows as needed. The resulting typeface has all the cracks and imperfections of real ice blocks that are cold enough to stop you in your tracks.
Agency: McCann New York
Typographer & Photographer: Craig Ward
Chief Creative Officer: Tom Murphy & Sean Bryan
SVP Group Creative Director: Mat Bisher
Creative Director: Jillian Goger
Copywriter: Sarah Lloyd
Art Director: Daniel Edelman
Director & Editor: Joshua Gross>
Craig Ward for Calvin Klein's Dark Obsession
Watch this 30 second teaser video for "Dark Obsession", Calvin Klein's new fragrance for men. Calvin Klein had initially seen Craig Ward's Dark White typeface and wanted something like it but also something that would sit well with the classic Obsession marque.
What Craig created for CK was a type with a more serif feel that seems to emerge from the dark. We're obsessed.>