favorite things that went unnoticed

by Art Chantry ( art@artchantry.com)

ONE of the questions i inevitably get asked, no matter what sort of forum i’m in, is that old stand by: “so, what’s our favorite thing you’ve ever done?” so, how does somebody answer that? so, what’s your favorite thing you’ve ever done?

to begin with, i assume that means ‘designed’, rather than (say) ‘summer vacation’. that part is easy to narrow down. but, at this point, i’ve designed thousands of posters, thousands of lp/cd/45 covers, thousands of books,/magazines/brochures/etc, countless logos and typographic pieces, countless illustrations and tshirts and packages and decals. i’ve done votive candles, guitar picks, car fresheners, snowboards, zippo lighters and even a few barf bags. after 40+ years of designing stuff for popular culture, i’ve got literally thousands and thousands and thousands of individual little design pieces to consider. so, how do you even remember all that crap and then how do you actually narrow all that down to one specific piece that stands out as even ‘good’, much less ‘favorite’? its a nearly impossible thing to answer.

AC: also did a square label once. also a 78 rpm label on an LP record. that looked pretty cool. you have to get real tricky to do anything 'outside the norm' in the record biz. hard to believe, but it's so true these days. the glory days of 'anything goes' disappeared with the 70's.

all that being said, every once in a while i trip across some small thing i did years ago that i completely forgot about and am amazed i actually did it. generally, i can’t stand my own work after it’s initially finished. all i see are the things that went wrong, maybe were changed, badly produced, client intervention or just plain lazy decisions on my part. everything i’ve ever done has come out ‘less’ than my original vision. so, i have to tuck my samples away in a drawer for a year or two for me to be able to actually SEE the thing with an unbiased eye again. then i can truly appreciate how well it worked or didn’t work.

the other day i found this little 45 buried in my samples. it’s (i think) from about 1997 or so. it’s the actual vinyl disk from the 45 rpm single released by dave crider’s estrus records for a band called “the spitfires” (ES7138). this is pressed on white vinyl and that’s the little label that sort of ends up looking like a ‘ring toss’ onto the record player peg. it think this is sorta perfect – exquisite, even. it worked exactly like i wanted it to look. and all those years later, it still looks way cool and even ‘perfect.’

if you’ve ever designed records (and specifically LABELS for records) you’d know how difficult it is to do something like this. the fact that it’s released on a small independent record label (therefore absolutely NO budget), further points out how smart we had to get about process and technology in order to even figure out HOW to do this. then actually making it work with zero money?? you can actually solve just about any design problem if you have enough cash to throw at it. but, when you have nothing (zero, zip, nada), you have to use your head and your hands to solve difficult design problems i mean to say, this is quite a little achievement you’re looking at.

of course, it sold very few copies – in the the world of independent records, a thousand 45’s can be a best seller. it’s sort of the nature of the beast that very few people will ever even look at this design. and to expect anybody to really SEE what an exquisitely brilliant little graphic design solution this is, well… it’s asking too much. we had to regularly invent the impossible just to entertain ourselves – never mind the actual viewing public. it would mean they’d have to know all about the process of who and what and how these things get made and all the astonishing limitations put upon the process by the uncaring competitive-beyond-belief record industry. basically, what you are looking at is impossible. yet, here it is. we actually did it. and we did it with nothing! and really, nobody noticed.

so, right at this minute, if you asked me, ‘what’s your favorite thing you’ve ever done?”, i’d have to answer this little 45 rpm record label. of course, if you asked me that next week, the answer will be totally different.


AC: a friend of mine once managed to get a 45 size hole pressed into an LP record. that was really expensive, as it turns out. i once did a glow-in-the-dark vinyl 45 (it slipped inside a die cut jack-o-lantern sleeve (so it lit up when you turned out the lights). but, they wouldn’t press it without a label because it would warp. we managed to talk them into having the label on only one side of the disk, but we had to hold them not liable for warping. they warped. but, it sure looked cool…actually i got the idea not from duchamp (although i was long familiar with his roto-reliefs), but from an old 45 i have of the marcels’ “blue moon” that has the label applied so off-center that it runs into the grooves. when you play it, it skips ov

he label for almost half the song. it’s my favorite rendition of that tune!…

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