who was

by Art Chantry ( art@artchantry.com):

this is an ad taken from the inside front cover of the rocket, may, 1980 (issue #11). this ad convinced me that the rocket was the coolest graphic magazine i’d ever encountered in real life (and not some bizarre eurotrash thing from NYC full of silly fashion ads.) i’d seen a few crude early punk zines (not yet called ‘zines’, tho) and wasn’t as impressed. the rocket had smarts and know-how and savvy and attitude – LOTS of attitude. i loved it. and every issue got better than the last, too.


this is an advert for a radio station. one station (KZOK) was the financial sponsor fo the original rocket – which actually began life as a ‘hipster’ advertising insert in the old hippie paper hangover newspaper called “the Seattle Sun”. KZOK gave them a chunk of money each month to create a ‘fake’ magazine inside the middle of the seattle sun (an insert). the punky young staff working there (robert newman, bob mchesney, mark michaelson, lynda barry, robert ferrigno and many others) decided to pitch in together to make the insert a REAL seperate identity inside the sun, then wrangled and stole and borrowed enough cash to buy it away from the sun entirely.

however, kzok still continued to buy large advertising space in the magazine. it did pretty much off-and-on the rest of it’s existence. this ad sort of promoted how “KOOL” this radio station was because they ‘sponsored’ the who’s performance in seattle (april 15th at the coliseum) about a week before. the staff of the rocket also did ads for their clients when they were asked to (which was often). so, the rocket staff used a photo by staff photogrpaher rex reystedt (one of the early and completley brilliant rocket photographers) of roger daltry at that recent performance as the entire promo image for the radio station.

when i saw this ad, i clipped it out and hung it on my studio wall for ages. it thought this thing was brilliant. i don’t know who actually did this – i always assumed it was mark michealson. but it could easily have been wes anderson or dale yarger or any of a number of brillaint young starving outsider hotshots that lived at the rocket back then.

the photograph was halftoned using a ‘line screen” (you used it on a stat camera to make a halftone out of parrallel lines rather than dots). the classic WHO logo (probably lifted form that ‘live at leeds’ LP poster/insert) is tossed into the color field above (the color was selected by whatever two- color ad purchase elsewhere on the same signature dictated it would be. if that other ad had green ink in it, this would have been green). then the line-screen halftone image was simply torn out of the sheet of stat paper and dropped on the page. apparently (and this is what i know is likely to have happened) the original image was a little too small and the design eye of this person saw that. so, they went back into the darkroom and made another larger line screen of ol’ roger dodger paltry and tore that out and re-pasted it in. in 1980, just using a torn paper edge was shocking. doubling the photo?

then for some stoner reason, the smaller image (the failed one that was going to be tossed out) got dropped on TOP of the pasted-in image and the designer looked at it for a second and said – “huh. that’s cool.” then pasted it on top where it landed. the result was this seat-of-your pants throw-away brilliant design work. in 1980, just using a torn paper edge was shocking. doubling the photo? man, that was from mars.

this is how the entire rocket was pasted up every month. it was always fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants last minute “here’s the typescript and a photo – make it work, you got 15 minutes” style design. it was a frantic atmosphere and totally thrilling to work on.

that sort of brewing kettle of chaos was the single best design eductation i ever got. it produced designer after designer of genius and wit and brilliance. the list of people who worked at the rocket in this environment reads like a who’s who of hipster nyc designers of the 80′s and 90′s. cartoonists, photographers, writers, illustrators, etc. etc. etc all went on to sometimes fabled careers because of this learning stew pot.

this crummy little advert is a perfect example of snotty fast snarky witty design work at the rocket. if you read closer, you’ll see that the radio station is actually NOT the KZOK that was so critical in the birthing of the rocket (as it’s own fake magazine) AND it’s continued financial existence as a major advertiser. this ad is actually for kzok’s CHIEF COMPETITOR – KISW!! you see, the snotty pinky brats at the rocket took t

opportunity to poke thier “master” in the eye with sharp stick. the entire history of the rocket is poking one arrogant hotshot after another in the eye – often over and over. the fact that it was shooting itself in it’s own foot meant little to the staff. to this day, a decade after it finally closed down, people still either LOVE or HATE the rocket. and that dividing line rather cleanly divides between the powerful and the powerless.

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