Category: Illustration


As it became increasingly apparent that Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos was going to hire former Husker quarterback Scott Frost as the football team’s next coach, the Hail Varsity team started planning how to put Frost on the next issue’s cover. The first plan was to shoot a portrait of Frost in his new Nebraska gear with the stadium in the background. With only one week between the announcement of the hiring and our print deadline, we thought odds were 50/50 of getting one-on-one access with the very busy new coach. We needed a backup plan.

I’d seen an ESPN magazine cover recently that I liked conceptually. For their issue that hit newsstands around Thanksgiving, they created a photoillustration of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz as a larger-than-life float in a parade. I began thinking of ways to put Frost on a conceptual Hail Varsity cover without having access to shooting a unique portrait of him. I wanted to merge the two feelings Husker Nation had about the hire: Scott Frost is a superhero (see his 12-0 record this season at Central Florida) and Scott Frost is the Christmas gift all Nebraska fans wanted this year (see every letter addressed to the North Pole with a Nebraska postmark this year). Mash the two together, and a freshly unwrapped Coach Frost action figure seemed to fit the mold. So, I drew a thumbnail of the concept.

Realizing my initial thumbnail didn’t actually look like anything, I tried again.

Now we had an idea and a week. We had to start executing. I called my very talented friend, Omaha illustrator Tim Mayer. As someone who draws them for a living, I thought he may have some good advice on how to make a superhero. He floated the idea of 3D printing, which sounded awesome but seemed liked it would take more than the one week we had. We decided not to reinvent the wheel, and we hit he toy isles of big box stores to look for inspiration and, with some luck, a model that could transform into Frost.

Tim initially looked at a 24-inch tall Superman figure. Frost has the figure of a man who may duck into phonebooths in the event of trouble, but this one was too big for our needs. We wanted a classic-sized figure, in a plastic and cardboard case. We looked at smaller superheroes like The Hulk and The Flash, and other versions of Superman. They were all too strong and bulky or had emblems embossed in the plastic of their uniforms. We needed to find an earthly superhero, one who wore khakis and didn’t have a logo melted into his chest. We needed a WWE wrestler.

We sifted through stacks of them before finding the perfect guy: Dean Ambrose. He was wearing jeans instead of lycra, shoes instead of rocket packs and his belt didn’t have any grappling hooks or gernades attached. Tim thought his shirt and pants would be easy enough to paint over to transform him into Frost. So, Tim got working on the make-over, as I started building some new packaging based on the visual vocabulary of action figure desgin.

Over the course of about 48 hours, it started coming together.


Frost’s hairline is unique to men from the planet Krypton, so poor Dean lost his head to make room for Clark’s.


An early draft that still needs to be comic-booked up.


Tim nailed the paint job, and added a hat.


Packaging coming together.


Sweat the details. The accessories that come with action figures are always the best part.


Ready for his plastic and cardboard coffin.

From there, it was a matter of finding the right setting for the cover photo. Hail Varsity publisher and photographer Aaron Babcock spotting the perfect spot, under my tree.

After we nailed down the cover picture, it was time for Lil’ Frosty to break out of the box and pose for some photos.

The final cover, which is on newsstands now.

We worked with the inimitable Mike Smith and Andrew Norman to design Smith’s first book, “Legacy vs. Likes.” It’s an approachable, smart, quick guide for young adults (or, really, all adults) on how to use technology and social media in a way that aguments one’s passions and life rather than distract from them.  It’s full of smart ideas, touching anectdotes and a bunch of simple, concpetual illustrations.

Click here to order a copy.

Happy Eclipse day, Nebraska. Be careful out there.

Our neighbors at Grinn & Barrett Tattoo shop reached out to us to help them draw their rad, vintage neon sign. We take it as a high compliment when tattoo artists ask us to draw something for them.

We love the history of the sign: a previous owner salvaged it from a Villisca, Iowa motel and retrofitted it for the tattoo shop.

We liked drawing the original so much, we had to give it a by-night look, too.

Friends and neighbors inCOMMON Community Development hosted a walking tour for the Neighborhood USA national conference last weekend. In preparation for it, and to help support their mission (which includes introducing a lot of people to Hanscom Park’s fair neighborhood), we designed a walking tour map for them, along with some temporary wayfinding for the conference tour. We used temporary chalk spray paint and custom laser cut stencils from the good people at MTRL, and with the help of inCOMMON’s Evelyn, marked each stop.

At the heart of both project is 13 unique logos for a selection of the community assets highlighted on the map and featured on the walk. These are part of a larger suite of logos (40-50 in total) that will be part of a project we launch later in the summer (consider this a sneak peek).

 

 

 

The sun is out, baseball season is in stride, and the College World Series is a month away. To celebrate, I teamed up with the good people at Omaha Screen Co. to revive the logo of the 1927 Omaha Buffaloes for a long-sleeved baseball-T. Snag one at the Ak-Sar-Ben Farmer’s market this summer, or here.

 

We recently finished up a logo and website build for Urban Restorative, an Omaha home restoration business. The client wanted a mark and typography that matched the early 20th-century homes she specializes in restoring. So we started by digging through Landmark Heritage Preservation Commission’s excellent archive of building blueprints and culled all of the nice vintage type we could find.

From there, we settled on typography from the cover of a brochure prolific Omaha architect Everett S. Dodds published in the mid-1910s.

From there, it was a matter of reviving the hand lettering from the brochure. But with a little graph paper and patience, it’s pretty easy to break down the letter forms.

After that, it was a matter of creating a logomark based on the patterns of this salvaged door escutcheon.

After piecing all of the elements together, we ended up with a unique logo with a nod toward the history the client works to restore and preserve.

HPS’s most fun project of the early part of 2017 has been a series of six full-page illustrations featuring more than 60 Omaha landmark buildings for The Omaha World-Herald‘s annual Outlook section. The goal was to use uniform, thin stroke weights to create a heavy image with lots of contrast. Similarly, the buildings were simplified elements in a sea of dense pattern and detail. The very simple color scheme (four colors: blue, green, black and grey) kept things from getting too noisy, and also suited the newsprint background. Even the slight shifts in registration help its simple, lo-fi but highly detailed look.

A few highlights from the lot.

Transmississippi Exposition Arch of the States

Warren Buffett’s home


UNMC Medicine Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center

Plattsmouth’s Carnegie Public Library


Omaha Central High School

Creighton University Administration Building

Dundee Theater

Dundee Elementary


Mercer Block No. 3 (M’s Pub and Nouvelle Eve)

Mutual of Omaha

Storz Mansion

Vinton Theater

Henry Doorly Zoo

With the (very long) 2016 election season closing in the next 36 hours or so (we hope), and with a seemingly universal disdain for the process, we look back at a Hail Varsity project from the spring, in primary season. Each year the publication conducts an informal survey of Husker fans, and with stumping and polling and voting on everyone’s minds, we decided to present the data in a Nate-Silver-meets-ESPN-Magazine sort of way.

We produced campaign buttons for Huskers heroes of the past, largely based on the designs of historic pinbacks from the past century. Then we designed survey data with the same visual vocabulary you’d see on political sites.

While we encourage everyone to vote, it’s inadvisable to write-in Tommie Frazier (compelling though it may be).

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Hail Varsity poster design

With three weeks left until the start of the college football season, it’s time again for the release of Hail Varsity’s annual schedule poster. This year I illustrated the facade of West Stadium. You can find your copied at select retailers around Lincoln and Omaha, but the best and easiest way to get your hands on one is to plunk down a buck here (seriously, ONE dollar). While you’re there, check out the other other sweet merchandise before the season starts.



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