new on planet yang

Ducks in a row

This is how you know SooJin Buzelli is an excellent art director for illustrators: Illustrators are excited about a magazine about financial planning. If someone were to ask me how she managed to pull it off the answer is simple: 1) She is a fan of illustration and knows good work 2) She has convinced both her editors and illustrators that good ideas will be used and 3) they pay a fair budget. It is no surprise illustrators put out their best effort when SooJin calls.

She called with a story about advisors who find many tiny accounts that are forgotten by their owners. They are usually the result of accounts moving to different firms which get lost in the shuffle. SooJin needed to communicate the concept of collecting and finding a way to responsibly manage these tiny accounts. By coincidence it was the last week of preparation for ICON8, and illustration conference in Portland and as a board member I was scrambling around with last minute details. Naturally, the metaphor of “herding cats” or “ducks in a row” came to mind. Soojin liked the frantic approach. Even nicer was turning in the assignment and seeing her next week in Portland.

chase

 

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The structure of language

Coming from a family of scientists, it’s always exciting to when Scientific American calls and even better when the subject is about language. In my book, language as a subject matter is fertile ground for ideas. Patti Nemoto had a fascinating series of articles. The first article dealt with a study finding bilingual people have more empathy in their native vs second language while the second discussed the structure and rhythms of language. It was fascinating learning about how languages were developed and how humans innately have a common understanding about structure.

Much thanks to Patti and Scientific American for a fun and creatively satisfying project.

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Playing with the big boys.

Got a nice call from Jia Baek, art director for the Wall St Journal for a cover piece about investing like a hedge fund. The idea is the tools are available for small investors like ourselves to unleash our inner George Soros. Since I always joke to friends about “The Yang Global Hedge Fund” this right up my alley. The direction which immediately came to mind was getting inside the head of the big boys analyzing complex data. Jia also sent a comp of the type and space which always helps with imagining the proper approach for the final art. The space screamed for a colorful approach against a white background.

In case you’re wondering how the Yang Global Hedge Fund invests, a financial manager handles it for me. I prefer leaving that stuff to the big boys.

Think like a hedge fund.

Here’s the layout for the top part of the page. The art almost drew itself after seeing the space.

wsj cover for hedge funds

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Star Wars with a handicap.

Golf World’s Art Director Tim Carr and I have worked on different golf publications together over the years. He is one of the few art directors to see my growth both as an artist and golfer. It’s nice to mix the passions of golf and illustration and work with an art director who appreciates both. His most recent assignment was an idea by a columnist for a team competition of older stars vs today stars. Golf is one of the few sports where it’s possible to see a competition between stars from different eras. I did a few fun competition metaphors but we both agreed the dueling metaphor was the most elegant idea.

Tim mentioned how much I’ve grown as a golfer the last time we played. Hope he won’t be too harsh when he sees how much it regressed this year due to lack of practice.

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Here’s the sketches. I felt the story would be perfect with a humorous quick to read idea catching competition between generations.

golf-world-age

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You better bring it.

Art Director Dan Smith for the Wall St Journal is the first person to assign me a project by tweet.  After returning from an exhilarating week in Portland at a biennial illustration conference known as ICON8, I tweeted about feeling pressure to bring it after seeing so much great work. Dan saw it and tweeted asking if I was ready to bring it for a project. We continued tweeting “Bring It On” lines from the cheerleader movie  for laughs.

The assignment was for an article about a trend among CEO’s to pick successors from their alma mater. One proposed idea was CEO’s as Siamese Twins-like cheerleaders. Dan went for he idea. It wasn’t until later I realized the irony of doing a cheerleader metaphor after our “Bring It On” routine.

Much thanks to Dan for the assignment and great anecdote.

cheer

 

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Millennials rising

Everyone is thinking about millennials these days if the number of assignments I have are any indication. People want to reach them and figure out how they tick. Many of my friends are millennials who have been nothing but helpful in keeping me up to snuff in the ever changing world of design and illustration. Investment News had an article about advisors learning to connect with millennials since they are the next huge investing generation. I decided to represent them with hats since my millennial friends are always wearing cool hats that somehow look wrong on me. It’s always a pleasure working with AD David Stokes.

millenials

 

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ICON8 Portland

portland-map

This week I’m off to Portland as the illustration conference also known as ICON8 finally happens. As a board member and treasurer this day has come faster than expected so now it’s time to put on a show.

I may be a bit biased, but the lineup of speakers and events is strong and having many new speakers mixed with the great vibe in Portland should make a good time for all.

Saturday morning I will be hosting a discussion with two of my favorite illustrators, Victo Ngai, a young illustrator in New York who has been on an amazing tear for such a short career and Leo Espinosa who has been tearing it up for over 20 years. It will be great to hear how they break through the noise in a very competitive world.

If you are at the conference, please say hi. It will be nice to finally place faces with names.

 

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Genetech: The Trouble with Trials

Producer Nick Miller from Weber Shandwick called with an interesting problem to solve. Genetech has a few research articles on various subjects and was trying to find an illustrator who could catch various concepts regarding biotechnology in a fun yet informative manner. This was the first time to use an illustrator and requested the art be two color using colors from Genetech’s design bible. The colors had to be used as solids at 100 percent.  The art was to be used for presentations on the web and conferences.

Being limited in colors turned out to be a blessing in disguise and was a wonderful chance to interpret my approach in a more graphic manner. Inspiration came from retro instructional videos with animation which I loved as a child.

Genetech and Weber Shandwick loved the approach and the process flew once we figured out the best way to explain biotech concepts to my non biotech head.

If you would d like to see the animated version of this presentation please visit here.

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Numbers that say boo

American Teacher magazine called requesting a fun series of illustrations for a feature about math anxiety. Coming from a family of scientists and mathematicians, our house was surrounded with educational toys for math. My favorite was a scale which had numbers of various sizes which hooked on the scale to balance. For example if you hooked 2 and 4 on one side, you hooked 6 on the other to make the scale work. It was an ingenious way to learn addition.

My approach was simply to imagine the feeling of being overwhelmed with a flood of numbers. It certainly could feel that way for me as a child in school. Much thanks to Michelle Thurman for calling with this fun assignment.

math2 math3 math4

 

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Seek and hide

Ronn Campisi has a soft spot in my heart since he was one of the first influential art directors to hire me. Doing a cover for Ronn was a huge boost on a national level and I have always been grateful.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear from him and do a fun little project for Harvard Law Bulletin about privacy. Students from Harvard figured out a way for researchers to use student data without compromising their identity. I took a pseudo info graphic approach showing collection of data, building algorithms to strip identity and identity safe data in a sequential set of three illustrations.

I am sure there will be many projects with a similar theme in the post Snowden era.

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Happy happy happy

One of the pleasant surprises this year has been the steady stream of assignments with multiple illustrations. I really enjoy the chance to develop and idea so it creates a mini story or look. SooJin Buzelli had an assignment which required a cover to be used as an opener plus a few inside pieces for an article about Financial advisors have learned making their clients happy will attract more clients. For the cover, the idea of flocking birds in a playful palette seemed to hit as right. As usually happens with SooJin, she also agreed it was the best approach.

In the art imitates life approach, I literally finished selecting a financial advisor before receiving this assignment. It was a relief to know my new advisor was doing all the things recommended in this feature.

This was the cover and opener for the feature.

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How the unknown can be explained.

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Diversifying explained.

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Keeping people on track for their financial goals.

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How to use social media to keep clients informed.

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Worries

April Montgomery from Computerworld and I have worked together for many years and she is one of my favorite art directors. We have a very good flow which probably comes from working on multiple projects and she is one art director who always seems to pick my favorite sketch. She let me choose from a few articles and I chose a cover story about risk. The feature discusses how fear of risk paralyzes many projects. Ever since the financial meltdown there seems to be an abundance of “end of world” news stories so it was a fun concept to explore.

Much thanks for April for the fun assignment.

cw-cover

April is good about showing type options for the cover so I can compose the finals accordingly.

cw-print-cov

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Spinning wheel

While traveling to Hong Kong this year I’ve heard a theme from friends common to friends in Brooklyn: You have to work harder to stay in place with rising costs. It never ceases to amaze me how assignments can echo life. Mark Tyner at The Wall St. Journal had an article about Social Security payments being less than you thought when retiring so people need to work longer.  Naturally the idea of a treadmill or the hamster in a wheel metaphor came to mind. Seems like the spinning wheel feeling can be felt no matter where you look.

tread

 

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Law and order

An interesting trend this year may have been started with my Impolite Gentlemen web comic: I’ve received more requests to do sequentially based ideas. This was a fun cops and robbers piece for DBusiness Magazine. Art Director James Slate suggested a strip idea since the format is very horizontal (another theme this year) and I was more than happy to  comply. Who doesn’t love drawing cops and robbers?

thief

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Clear your mind

Knock on wood but many people I’ve talked to recently are not just busy but overwhelmed with work and this spans many professions. HOW Magazine must have had its’ hand on the pulse when assigning a story about removing clutter from the mind. The gist of the article was the need to walk away from the screen and enjoy the moments around you. Taking the time to slow down would help you become more productive. My approach was a simple idea about looking around and not missing life. Thanks to Adam Ladd for the project and much needed advice.

clutter

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