Every year the Dunlop creative team looks ahead at the coming year and brainstorms a new look and feel for our campaigns. For 2017, we decided to burn it all to the ground. Gone are the warm, seductive closeups of product in aspirational band practice spaces. Gone are the beautiful but languid videos lovingly depicting an earnest male guitarist honing his craft by low light. For 2017, we're going bolder, louder, starker; lighting inspired by Helmut Newton's color photography, hyperactive video editing with oversized type that wouldn't look out of place on early-90s MTV, and a focus on celebrating the Girl Guitarist. So far, it's raised the hackles of a portion of the brand's male-dominated usership and created a "spirited dialogue." Good.
My team reinvented the "guitar gear demo video" more than once. In the early days of YouTube, guitar companies would point a camera at their product and an aging rocker in stonewashed jeans would waffle on for ten minutes. We turned all that on its head with our "White Room" demos- clean white cyclorama, no narration, younger, more relatable players- our intent was to broaden our audience. It worked. Really well. The industry took notice and borrowed our approach to the point where it became the new standard, and we now had an opportunity to reinvent the guitar pedal video for a second time.
We wanted our videos to look like a day (ok, a slightly idealized day) from our customers' own lives. We designed and built a "Loft" set, decorated based on the tastes of our fictional guitar-playing "roommates," each representing a different type of player, a different sub-culture. The Loft remains our set for all our product videos, as we weave stories around Dunlop products and players, while our 60k+ YouTube subscribers (35m+ views) become increasingly connected to the characters and the brand.
Legendary illustrator John Van Hamersveld (on the shortlist of artists to design album covers for both the Stones [Exile on Main Street] and the Beatles [Magical Mystery Tour]) lent his iconic Hendrix portrait to this line of products celebrating what would have been the guitarist's 70th birthday. Bright, vibrating colors, pop art repetition and bold typography evoke Hendrix's groundbreaking psychedelic sound.
Recipient of How Magazine's 2014 In-House Design Award.
If you've been in an Apple store or a Tesla dealership, you've been in the presence of Architectural Lighting Works' beautiful lighting- though you probably didn't know it. This video series was the first step in remedying the company's "over-your-head" profile- demonstrating the flexible, modular nature of their Multiplex product while introducing a friendly, fun-loving California design brand.
A few ads for Dunlop, home of some of the most respected brands (Tortex, MXR, Cry Baby, etc) in guitar gear. When I came on board, the brand, like most of the guitar industry, was running testimonial advertising featuring live concert photography of famous guitarists using Dunlop gear. I saw an opportunity to modernize and broaden the brand's appeal by turning down the volume on polarizing artist endorsements, instead making the product the star of our advertising.
With an innovative new line of guitar strings launching, it was clear we had to do something bold to keep our packaging from getting lost on the store walls. After some research and brainstorming, I hit on the idea to crop the corporate logo to its first initial- "D"- it made sense, after all, we'd been using it as a favicon and an avatar on social media for 2 years. Embossing this bold icon and adding a spot soft-touch varnish on top of a flood of silver metallic ink created a clean, modern design that commands attention on guitar shop walls and provides a great platform to launch product variants.
To mark the 35th anniversary of Van Halen's eponymous first album, Dunlop issued a limited edition of 1000 effect pedals hand-painted with Eddie Van Halen's iconic "Frankenstein" stripe patterns. A clear varnish silkscreen on a triple-black matte finish box was chosen as a contrast to the colorful product within and was paired with Umbra lettering, the typeface used on VH's debut album. This packaging system earned FPO and Core 77 annual awards in 2014, and was featured on The Dieline, among other notable design blogs.
The sweeping, nasal tone of the Cry Baby wah helps guitar players cut through the rest of the noise onstage, so it was only right that the Cry Baby itself be allowed to stand out in crowded guitar shops on the occasion of its 45th anniversary. The revamped packaging was launched in concert with a marketing deluge that included an extensive print campaign, an hourlong documentary (2 million+ views), and a resulting 25% spike in sales.
Some graphic tees for Banana Republic. The brief for this project was refreshingly open-for-interpretation, so I assembled a few moodboards to show where I was headed, design-wise- they're pictured below the tee designs.
As the bestselling guitar pick in the world, Tortex deserved a 30th birthday packaging refresh that would also be a small gift back to its rabid fanbase, so we designed this vinyl sticker/header card. Peel it off, slap it on your amp or guitar case.
Before/after photo shown below.
The Way Huge guitar effect line is designed by a renowned pedal builder/geek/stoner whose personal taste and growth effectively stalled out in 1980. This short film takes you on a journey deep into one of his creations and is set in an idealized recreation of his workshop. Below the video is the initial moodboard I created for this series of demos- low-bro, high-brow, all the influences are in there, and also in the final cut.
On the heels of working with Blue Marlin Corp., I was contacted by Converse to design some graphic tees with a distinct 70s and 80s basketball flavor.
My two years leading graphic tee design at Levi's led to a great freelance relationship with Gap- dozens of tee designs across many seasons, with evergreen themes of music, patriotism (we all need something to wear on the 4th of July, right?), gambling, skulls, and other things dudes want on their t-shirts.
Some logo-based graphic tee designs for Ariat International, premium performance outfitters for equestrian sports.
Although Dunlop minimized artist testimonials in our print advertising in order to make product the star, it was still key to keep our userbase aware of which artists use our products- but we figured there had to be more to say than "my name is X, I use X product, and you should too." We decided to take an approach which would help our everyday guitar players find famous musicians' experiences familiar, relatable, maybe even touching. We focussed on personal anecdotes, stories, the idea of what motivates each guitarist. The result is a more unique and intimate portrait of the artist, minus the hardsell.
Color-coded Ukulele string packaging system for younger and beginning players. Hand-drawn, with bright sun-bleached island colors for a fun, approachable feel. Early concepts are pictured at bottom.
Way Huge teamed up with underground artist Dirty Donny on the silkscreen artwork for this very limited edition pedal. We could have numbered each product, but that's so predictable, isn't it? Instead we printed 1000 sequentially-numbered old-timey hotel key chains and tossed one in every box, along with a couple of buttons.
The Fuzz Face Mini pedals are reduced-scale reproductions of late ’60s effects famously used by guitar heroes Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour. The packaging was designed to reference the original 1960s box designs, but we inverted the color palette of the original box and flooded ink on craft cardboard to create a bolder visual impact. We Flexo-printed the packaging as it would have been in the ’60s— using a single PMS color— which gives a natural range of highs and lows to the ink coverage.