It is really all about me.


Peanuts records

I’ve been making mixtapes since I was fourteen and my long-suffering Mom bought me my first cassette deck. I still make a mixtape every year on my birthday-a type of musical diary always named tracks@age. It’s fun to go back and see what I liked long ago and far away. There’s no theme-simply music I was listening to and enjoying in that twelve months of life. Many mixtapes have stood the test of time, though I do wince at some of the bands I played at high volume on my cheap lime-green “hi-fi”. Black Oak Arkansas? Yikes! Mom you were right. I’m sorry!

I always designed a cover and type treatment, and sadly to say, most of those have not aged well.

I’d trade tapes with friends, and we would eagerly wait to see what new music we would discover on the tapes. The internet allows us to sample any tune, but decades ago, a mixtape often determined if you would shell out your hard-earned Rainbow Valley money on an unknown group. I still remember hearing “Life on Mars” from Hunky Dory on a friend’s mixtape, and running out to buy everything Bowie I could find (Not much on PEI, circa 1971).

I still send out a few mixtapes to some old dinosaurs like myself. Not cassettes, but CDs, as most of our decks-including my cherished Nakamichi Dragon-have long crossed the Rainbow Bridge to Stereo Valhalla.

But I will always call them mixtapes. One word, not two.

Here’s the track list for 21@59

1. Motivational Speaker, Cut Chemist, 2006

2. Save Yourself, Hiatus, 2010

3. Bonnie, Tire Le Coyote, 2013

4. I Never Dreamed, The Cookies, 1963

5. Doin’ It Right, Daft Punk, 2013

6. Parade, Rone, 2012

7. It’s Tricky, Run DMC, 1986

8. Long Way To Go, Dwight Yoakim, 2012

9. Love/Hate Transmission, Liz Phair, 2003

10. I Don’t Believe A Word You Say, Ben Harper And Charlie Musslewhite, 2013

11. Beverly Penn, Waterboys, 1985

12. Just Like Me, Paul Revere And The Raiders, 1967

13. Microphone Fiend, Eric B And Rakim, 1988

14. Down The Road, C2C, 2012

15. Kellogg’s Jingle, The Monkees, 1967

16. Et Puis Je Sais, Johnny Hallyday, 2006

17. Mother Blues, Ray Wylie Hubbard, 2012

18. La Mer, Julio Iglesias, 1968

19. Si Fragile, Luc De Larochellière & Gilles Vigneault, 2006

20. An Accidental Memory In Case Of Death, Eluvium, 2004

21. Moonraker, Shirley Bassey, 1979


Ezra poster onedistressed

I’ve always enjoyed designing posters for bands. The ephemeral nature of the event assures a level of freedom you don’t have with other projects, and it is uplifting to work with young and exuberant artists. Most of my show work is pro bono for bands under the radar (i.e., stone-broke and living on Kraft Dinner), which adds another level of freedom-and guarantees signed copies of the LPs!

Gig posters provide a healthy dose of perspective. You are competing with every other aspiring band out there, and your poster, no matter how wonderful, will be quickly layered by another poster by another designer for another show from another band. It’s archeology. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’






The Perfect Portfolio

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Things they don’t teach you in art school: The cardinal rule of first meetings with potential clients-bring goodies. The strongest portfolio in the world pales besides a tin of freshly baked blueberry muffins or biscotti. Simple cooking is a lost art, and many have forgotten how much better real food is. Most folks have no idea that biscotti is not supposed to have the texture-and taste-of concrete.

The muffin tin belonged to my grandmother and bakes perfectly-the trick is never washing the pan. The lovely patina is over eighty years old.

(And yes, I did leave with a signed contract.)

Super-8 is great

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This is my favourite piece of film. Low fi, messy, confusing, distorted by feedback-and brimming with creativity. Just like life!

We’re all Andy’s kids. Thanks for changing everything.


Croptape hemingway

One of my myriad pet peeves is the misuse of “who” and “whom”. (This ranks slightly below using a clerk instead of a bunny to knot running shoes. The horror! The horror!)

In the Atlantic, Megan Garber writes “whom” is fading out of use, and will be “mostly gone in 50 to 100 years.” “Whom” will see me out, and the next generation will live in a world where the misuse of “who” will not ruin a chance for a higher station in life.

While not a Metallica fan, I did approve of their proper use of “whom” on their second LP. Unfortunately, the wonderful Bo Diddley got it wrong in 1958, setting the stage for hundreds of grammatically incorrect covers.

For who does the bell toll? It tolls for whom.

The Alchemical Thief


The title sequence for “It Takes A Thief” (1971) remains one of my favourites. Unicase fonts, Don Grusin’s definitive 70s soundtrack, and graphics I still plunder.

So much of good design is knowing from whom to steal. It does takes a thief-but a discerning one!!

Designers were sampling long before musicians started using the technique in the late 1940‘s.

What keeps this from devolving into lazy (and actionable) plagiarism, is alchemy. The designer takes something, and changes it into something better. Jasper Johns, our greatest living artist, (and patron saint of graphic design) said it best;

“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it.


What do Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common?

The secret life of pronouns

First, the creepy part: this book is about computational linguistics, a new science using powerful computer programs to crunch words into dehumanized abstract spreadsheets.

Now, the warm and fuzzy part: The Secret Life of Pronouns, by social psychologist and author James Pennebaker, is written for laypersons and does a superb job making this esoteric science seem simple and logical. A review in the WSJ said it best, “”A good nonfiction book often feels like a new lens prescription: You marvel at suddenly being able to see what was always there.”

The author holds our hand as we walk into the sometimes Skinnerian world of word crunching, building a strong case that “style” and “function” words can be read like fingerprints.

Pennebaker caught my attention when he differed with the common analysis of President Obama’s bin Laden speech, and I immediately sought out his book.

I wanted to hate this book-and the theory, as I (incorrectly) saw it as an extension of structuralism. (I still have not forgiven Germany for structuralism or Stockhausen.)

But I loved this book—it revealed new avenues to consider language, and how the “how” is the “what”. (That’s the most Lewis Caroll statement I’ve ever typed.)

So what do Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common? Pennebaker’s analysis of Gaga’s tweets and Yeat’s poems points to both being depressed. (I didn’t need a Cray to tell me Yeat’s was depressed-read The Second Coming!)

Symbionese Literary Army (SLA)

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A new manuscript just popped into my inbox! There is nothing more exciting than picking up a new draft and grabbing a first read to get a feel for the potential design. The symbiosis between author and designer is unlike any other type of client relationship, and I’ve been really blessed in working with authors who write words worth reading. An honour and a challenge. Time to start cutting a grid and building a book that is so perfect the text pages are invisible. After that the cover, designed to elbow out all the other books on display in our ever shrinking bookstores.