Thursday, February 9, 2012

“Shout Out” Series: Ross Moody

We each have an individual way of creating: bringing distinctive experiences, diverse talents and a unique voice to the creative table. If we learn others’ processes, we can enhance our own, in a sense build better creative tools to use when designing. Learning the processes of those we respect and admire is a tool that furthers our knowledge of graphic design and serves to present endless inspiration and countless methods of creation.

The intent of the “shout out” series is to feature design innovators, gain insight into their creative process, discover how their philosophies influence my own idea generating/design process and offer you a chance for creative inspiration and growth. From a personal standpoint, I want to determine if this hybrid of creativity leads my designs down surprising, unexplored pathways ultimately expanding my own creative toolbox.

Ross Moody

Ross Moody is a graphic designer who’s got a knack for creating and finding witty things. He’s figured out a way to use these unique skills and apply them to 55 Hi's, a design studio he owns and operates. 55 Hi’s creates and sells paper creations including greeting cards, prints, calendars, journals and miscellaneous stationery items.

Favorite visual communication design quote Ross lives by
Work hard and be nice to people. –Anthony Burrill

Three self identified, descriptive words best describing “Ross Moody”
Workaholic. “I enjoy my work. I don’t like the connotation that comes with that word.”
Collaborative. “I have discovered that projects are much more fun and rewarding when working with other people. It takes some of the pressure off and makes it a team effort.”

The Moody design philosophy
When asked about his philosophy, I receive quite an insightful response: “I’m unsure anymore.” This answer stems from understanding design encompasses many different facets of communication. It has so many purposes and because of this, it’s difficult to sum up into one simple statement. After this initial off the cuff response, he breaks it down into two finite categories: personal and professional work.

For self-exploration, Ross’s approach is, “Create things that I, myself would use, enjoy and believe in. If I’m not excited about it, nobody else will be either.” That mindset is a darn good “self test” when figuring out if a concept is successful or not.

For client work, Ross believes it’s a different scenario every time. With that thought in mind he states, “Do your best and swallow your pride.” Ross encourages referencing “Design as Art,” an article written by artist, designer and design philosopher Dan Stiles. The basic premise is there are two kinds of design: design as a service and design as art. Stiles compares design as a service to being a plumber where someone calls you to fix their pipes and you fix them to the best of your ability, then you collect the money and move on. No matter how you look at it you’re fixing pipes, not building the Sistine Chapel. The client isn’t interested in getting the Sistine Chapel; they just want their toilet to work. That’s pretty much 99% of the paying work that’s out there. Don’t expect deep creative satisfaction from design as a service, but expect a secure job and a paycheck. Stiles also adds, be thankful you’re in a nice soft chair pushing around 12 pt. Helvetica instead of out in the hot sun pushing around dirt. Wise words if you ask me!

Awards or publications featuring the design stylings of “Ross Moody”
While no awards have been awarded to date, Ross’s work has been blogged about on sites he respects. Recently, someone submitted his work to is a community of creatives, design lovers and trendsetters that serves as a studio bulletin board gone digital. Each image and caption brings you to a place worth visiting. It's about sharing what inspires you. Ross’s submitted work was featured on the site. Unfortunately, the submitter spelled his name wrong! Ross’s thought on this big oops: “It was the thought that counts. Spell my name however you want. I appreciate it.” I hope he wrote and got the shout out corrected!

A standout, defining moment in Ross's career thus far
The most rewarding experience to date since establishing 55 Hi’s is the overwhelming positive feedback received over new design pieces. Although admittedly not a glamorous defining moment, Ross knows he’s onto something when making pieces people enjoy. Ross recalls recently showing a friend a pair of bookends he was designing. The friend thought they were purchased from a store and wanted to know where he could get them.

Creative influences connected to Ross’s work
Ross attributes working and collaborating with designers (Drew Melton, Chris Sandlin, Riley Cran, Anthony Lane and Justin Mezzell) since founding 55 Hi’s as one of his major influences. Interacting on a daily basis online, they’ve developed a good-natured “one-up fest”, feeding off each other’s work and always outdoing one another. From sharing designers’ pieces to swapping images of typography from the 50’s, inspiration comes from everywhere and is a constant source of motivation for the group that never seems to stop!

Ross’s words of wisdom to impart to other designers
“Make the logo bigger. Seriously though, I don’t really have any wisdom to impart. I’m just winging it. I enjoy what I do and there isn’t enough time in one day to do it all.”

He suggests checking out a few sources he’s learned quite a deal from:
• Any book by Stefan Sagmeister.
• Any book by Michael Beirut.
• The book “Art & Fear” is great
“The Thinking Course” by DeBono has some eye opening content in it.
• Ross also swears he’s watched every video on “” at least twice.

Examples that represent the “Moody” design aesthetic

Not all who wander are lost.
Ross’s brother told him this when he was young and it’s stuck with him ever since. This statement highlights it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts. We all feel lost at times, but it’s those moments that present the most unexpected rewards. Ross’s design decisions were made referencing subway maps and directional cues. This concept is supported by the typography, which is created by connecting one point to another. While “wandering” through the design, you find starts and stops along the way, but take a moment to step back and look at the journey as a whole. You quickly understand the meaning behind that journey.

When in doubt, mumble.
Contrary to the previous design that is layered with deep thought and meaning, this example features Ross’s off the cuff humor. The direct statement makes you laugh to yourself and you relate to the sentiment. In design, that connection is enough to emotionally engage the viewer. His light-hearted type treatment adds to this sentiment. I’m particularly drawn to his use of dotted drop shadows, hairline outlines and misregistration or improper alignment of letterforms throughout. In most cases when working in print design, misregistration is considered a mistake yet Ross is skillfully able to intentionally use it to support his message.

Do what you love, love what you do.
Ross has an ongoing series of “communal word” prints he’s designed. The common theme throughout the series is featuring a phrase containing a word that’s repeated twice to create a symmetrical (or close to symmetrical) sentence. Some of the phrases featured in the series are “Less is More, More or Less” and “Work to Live, Live to Work.”

Ross “Moodyian” design attributes
After reviewing Ross’s body of work, I’m going out on a limb here and taking a crack at extracting some elements that represent his visual voice:

Retro Design
In Ross’s case, the connection to the 1950s aesthetic is readily apparent. Retro graphic design often integrates typography, color palettes and styles from previous decades. does a wonderful job describing visual connectors often employed to capture a retro design style: (1)

• Old-style typography (e.g. Roman typefaces: traditionally, serif faces based on a style of ancient Rome and is the typical classic serif of today. Roman also refers to any upright typeface (as opposed to italic, slanted, or script). (2)
• Script fonts and handwriting
• Illustrations from old posters, movies, newspapers, CDs, vinyls and ads
• Old electronic devices (e.g. radios, televisions)
• Old packaging
• Old photographs
• Vibrant, rainbow colors (high contrast)
• Dark, dirty colors (brown, dark red, dark blue)
• Textures
• Torn, used paper with stains (often yellowish paper)

Witty dialogue with the viewer
One of the benefits of being a visual communicator is the opportunity to interject your point of view into your messages. I fully expect to see your personality coming through and this is certainly the case with Ross. His wit and sense of humor not only speak to the viewer, it shouts!

“Less is More, More or Less”
Quoted directly from the works of Mr. Moody himself! Speaking with Ross, one comment made resonates with me, “Complicating simple things often ruins them.” Thankfully, working as visual communicators, we have the insight and personal experience of being consumers to rely on. It’s difficult to cut through the visual clutter and comprehend the numerous messages being spoken at the same time. This process of breaking down the message, simplifying it (verbally or visually), is an excellent approach for all of us to take when designing.

Ross Moody’s influence on my idea generating/design process
As previously stated, the intent of the “shout out” series is to feature design innovators, gain insight into their creative process, discover how their philosophies influence my own idea generating/design process and offer you a chance for creative inspiration and growth. From a personal standpoint, I want to determine if this hybrid of creativity leads my designs down surprising, unexplored pathways ultimately expanding my own creative toolbox.

I’m exploratory designer, integrating different artistic mediums into my work and embracing spontaneity (a.k.a. happy accidents) throughout my creative process. My self identified design style leans more towards the streamlined/modern side. Needless to say, I truly connect with Ross’s less is more, more or less sentiment. At the onset of this experiment, I’m uber psyched at the opportunity to delve in Ross’s retro world while still holding true to my modern roots.

Choosing to create a design related to Ross’s “communal word” print series, I immediately encounter a hurdle searching for a “symmetrical sentence” phrase. This is no easy task. “Do what you love, love what you do” makes an instant personal connection with me. My MFA thesis advisor (and design mentor) David Holzman said this all of the time. But alas, this is the exact phrase Ross features in his examples so that one is out. Since so much of what we do is based on communication, I opt for “Say what you mean, mean what you say.”

Some aspects of my hybrid design I want to highlight
Script typefaces are based upon the elegant stroke created by handwriting. Truth be told, I’m so not a “script” using designer. Thinking about this, I can’t even tell you the last time I used one in a design. In this case, there are several reasons why I utilize a script. As previously stated, script fonts closely connect to retro design. I also want this message to read as a personal mantra of sorts, almost as though you’re saying it quietly to yourself. The soft spoken and delicate script has some guts bumping right up next to and even infringing on that aggressive looking “MEAN” word.

Slab serif typography
While geometric san serifs are my true love, slab serifs (often referred to as “Egyptian”) with their horizontal slabs and uniform thickness of letterforms come in a close second. In this case, I intend to place visual emphasis on the word “MEAN.” At first glance, the word overpowers the design and projects a bold, possibly even offensive tone.

Misregistration/improper alignment of letterforms
Integrating Ross’s intentional misregistration technique is also a first for me. Comparing his designs with my hybrid, it’s obvious his approach and resulting visual effect is much more technical than I intend to achieve. I’m chalking this one up to my “happy accidents” approach. I’m trying to capture that true “oops, something happened while this job was on press” result.

• Integrate fine art
In this design exercise, the fine art element is watercolor as texture. I can’t exactly pinpoint my affinity for watercolor but when it comes to representing me, it always seems to find its way into the mix. The watercolor emulates a weathered, worn and torn visual that is often connected to retro design.

So at last, I present you my Dr. Frankendezign creation!

In conclusion
This experimental “shout out” series is far from complete. I’ll continue to champion learning the processes of those we respect and admire. This practice not only furthers our knowledge of graphic design, but also serves to continually present endless inspiration and countless methods of creation. Now, I offer up a challenge. Find who inspires you and ask, “How do you create?” You might be surprised by their response and have a chance to take an amazing journey.

Interested in taking part in the “shout out” series? Then by all means, give a shout out and let me know!

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  1. Shouting Out LOOOVE where you're going with this series!!!

  2. Thanks so much for this comment Michelle. I wholeheartedly believe this series enhances our visual voices and loads our design toolboxes with tons of inspiration and creative ammunition!