Jon Newman was raised in a suburban town just outside of Philadelphia. His first interaction with art was watching cartoons. “I loved them and started to recreate everything I saw on screen to paper.” Growing up, he always thought he was going to study animation when he got to college, but realized that he didn’t want to “draw the same thing over and over.” One answer was to make 52 different projects over the course of 52 weeks.
Daydreams & Nightschemes is a self-initiated, real-time journey of 52 weeks focused on the creation of 52 new projects by Newman. Each project was completed within a week. Every Monday a new project was posted. There is an exhibition of 52 Weeks / 52 Projects at the Type Directors Club to celebrate the completion of DD&NS. The opening is on June 13th from 6–10 pm. He recently launched a website with these projects. I asked him to explain:
What triggered the 52 projects project?Newman: I felt like I was stuck in a creative rut and thought the best way to get out of it was to really challenge myself to create a lot of work. I read an article about Stefan Sagmeister’s year-off sabbatical and I thought what better way to get inspired than to start a creative journey. Since I can’t afford to stop working for a full year, I had to really adjust my schedule and devote every night and weekends to the project. I have to admit it got harder and harder to complete the projects as the weeks went by, but that doesn’t compare to all of the unexpectedly great ways in which this project has impacted my life.
What are these projects? Are they just random thoughts?Newman: In the beginning the projects were based on ideas I had been thinking about for awhile. But as time went on I realized the work was better when I just ran with my instinct each week. I followed random impulses of creativity and no matter how challenging I enjoyed figuring out how to turn them into projects. This is most evident in the video projects. Film was a foreign territory that I tried to best navigate by doing stop-motion. This allowed me to focus on the concept rather than get too wrapped up in the technical side.
You note that you are the art director on these projects. Can you describe the process?Newman: I start each week sketching my ideas in a notebook until I’m happy with a design, then its late nights and obsessing over details until the project is completed by the end of the week. It’s been really challenging to meet the deadline every Monday, but I can happily say that I’ve never missed one. I posted each project on my Facebook and Twitter pages so setting up that expectation gave me the drive to not let anyone- including myself- down.
Project #24 of 52:What I love most is pushing the lines of legibility and seeing what the viewer is able to understand with as minimal information as possible. Inspired by a waterfall I saw in Japan, I wanted to create typography that is revealed from this energetic motion.
What are the three most challenging of all the projects?Newman: The first is project #24 where I poured milk through hand cut black cups to reveal letterforms. I honestly didn’t think I had enough time to cut all the cups and shoot it, but with enough late nights and help from my wife it got done and turned out great. The second would have to be project #51, “The Jump” video. I knew the final sequence of photos from locations in Asia and the U.S. would look awesome together, but it was getting the courage to jump in public that was tough for me. I’m a bit shy when it comes to public exhibition. The third is project #15. It had to be shot more times than expected before I figured out the best hand positions to make the letters and get the paint to pour down my arm the way I wanted it to.
Here are excerpts of some projects:
Project #15 of 52:Using a bright green house paint on my hand, I created a new font appropriately called, Hand Paint, which marries my hand gestures with a sanserif typeface to complete each character.
Project #27 of 52:When I bought my first pair of DL1961 jeans three years ago, I felt that the quality of the product wasn’t adequately represented in the brand’s identity.
So for this week’s project I redesigned DL1961’s brand, which includes their stationary, postcards and website. I chose a diamond shape for the logo to represent the “4-way stretch” concept that DL1961 uses as a key selling point.
Project #32 of 52:Daniel Gordon is a triple threat; he acts, does stand-up comedy and performs voice-overs for commercials. Therefore, he would need a dynamic identity to match his personality as well as show his ability to be hired for any one of these three jobs.
I realized that the one thing that connects all of his talents together is his voice. So I chose to focus on the wavelengths his voice makes to differentiate and identify each of his talents.
Project #50 of 52:Life is precious and I try not to take the amount of time I have on this earth for granted. Since my birthday is this week, I wanted to capture the idea of measuring time in a fun but interesting way, by using balloons to make up each numerical value.
For more Steven Heller, check out Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design‚ one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.