Great Design in a Nutshell

Ben Rozens is a guy whose resume is constantly expanding. Starting off in the newspaper business, he spent his time buried in images, working in everything from photo processing to color correction. In 2003, he decided to go it alone and start up his own design shop, Nutshell Studios. At first, he stuck to what he knew: print. But when that wasn’t enough, he decided to pick up 3D animation and motion graphics. For months and months, he poured himself into both learning the trade, all the while building an eighteen minute animated short film called “Fusion Chronicles.” When it was finally complete, he decided the only way to send it out to festivals was by using Jewelboxing. Says Ben, “I chose your system because of the quality and the value of the product. It’s a great service for up and coming filmmakers.” After seeing the trailer for his film, and its fantastic packaging, we’re convinced he’s right.

In order to thank them for being customers, we’re building realistic CGI models of those in Bath, Hollywood, San Francisco, Mercer, Winter Park, Copenhagen, Dordrecht, Jacksonville, Tucson, Santa Monica, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Amherst, Harrisonburg, Tempe, Fremont, Paris, Red Bank, Middleburg Heights, Tonawanda, Newfield, Grove City, Hawthorne, Ames, Truro, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Fresno.

Full-Time Perfectionists

If you’re a musician or a filmmaker, you can maybe slip by on the design side of things by doing something simple, figuring that the Jewelboxing case alone will do enough initial impressing to encourage people to pop in the disc and get into whatever it is that your real bread-and-butter expertise is. But when you’re V12 Studios, a full-service design firm that does a whole lot of everything, from print work to packaging design to any and all in between, not only does the included reel have to be sharp, but the Jewelboxing case itself has to be nothing short of perfect. Because, who knows, maybe after looking at the way V12 handled their reel, that client they’re pitching to could turn around and decide they need to have their own project or product packaged up using Jewelboxing too. Kiran RajBhandary, the president of V12, was kind enough to drop us a line, letting us know why they decided to use our cases, and here’s what he had to say:

“We looked for a system that was first and above all, of absolute total quality. When you sell creative services, the presentation of the work is a critical attribute. I found only one system that met our needs: Jewelboxing. Jewelboxing provides a presentation platform that allows not only for superb reproduction, but ease of use. We get inquiries worldwide, and having the ability to provide a visual and physically tangible example of our thinking and the quality we strive for quickly and with ease is of great benefit.”

Thanks very much to Kiran and the crew at V12 for getting in touch with us and here’s to hoping it’s quality galore in Arlington, Evanston, Slidell, Kingsport, Newcastle, Lenexa, San Jose, Athens, Morton Grove, Fairfax, Altamonte Springs, Marietta, Dallas, Murphysboro, Hyde Park, Chicago, Seattle, Middletown, New York, Hamilton, Philadelphia, South Pasadena, Singapore, Virginia Beach, Kenosha, Savannah, Newton, Coral Gables, Brunswick and Brooklyn.

Drawing the Lines

Dawson, here at the studio, always has his eye out for groups putting together something particularly interesting. The other day, he passed an e-mail reading, “Hey, check these guys out.” Check them out we did. They’re the Vilppu Store, selling educational DVDs made by famous artist and go-to animation expert, Glenn Vilppu. They’ve just recently started using Jewelboxing King cases to package their collections of multiple training discs and we got the whole story from Samantha Vilppu who runs the shop (along with being Glenn’s daugher-in-law):

“Glenn is world renowned for teaching artists, especially animators and CG artists, how to draw. His main areas of emphasis are in life drawing, the human figure and animals. In the 1970’s, he went to work at Disney as an artist. While there he quickly moved into a position of teaching the animators there how to draw. This evolved into him setting the standard for the animation industry to this day. He’s a teacher’s teacher, meaning that many people now teaching drawing or animation originally learned from him. His books are used as textbooks in many art schools across the country, and are on the list of “must haves” by the animation studios. Many of the art school libraries have his entire collection of DVDs. In fact, many artists are collectors of every educational product he has ever produced! Which brings us to why we started using Jewelboxing.”

“The regular cases that his individual DVDs had been packaged in were not ideal for the library shelves, either in the schools or in the private libraries of artists, where they like to show off their collection of all the DVDs in our bulk sets . Since we took over the store, we have been steadily improving the Vilppu image and branding and decided that we would upgrade to Jewelboxing King cases for those clients who purchased the full collections. We considered other alternatives, but decided that Jewelboxing would give us an edge of quality that the other options didn’t. Since using Jewelboxing, we have seen the sales of our sets (in which the cases are included at no extra charge) increase dramatically – in fact we have seen the two best months out of 2 years already this year, because of the increased sales of these special collections.”

Here’s to hoping everything is looking perfectly illustrated with all the characters in Austin, Montgomery, Temecula, Housatonic, Chicago, Atlanta, Scottsdale, Santa Barbara, Highland Falls, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Toronto, Spingville, Gainesville, Venice, Santa Monica, Morrisville, New York, Davis, La Palma, Brampton, Mililani, Vancouver, New Brunswick, Nisswa, Rochester and Fairfield.

A Page Turn Never Looked So Good

Chalk it up to another “first” for us. Chris Okamoto, head of the terrific firm Illumen Studios, just a few miles away from us out in Evanston, sent in a sample this week of the firm’s promos materials, packaged in a Jewelboxing King case. Of course the design terrific, but Chris also passed along a link to a site they’d built, an online version of what’s included on the disc. At the very top, there’s an animated copy of their Jewelboxing cover insert, opening and closing. Sure, we’ve all seen Flash at work before, but how often do you open a page and find that it relates to you? So needless to say, we were thoroughly impressed and very pleased that Chris and his team at Illumen enjoyed Jewelboxing enough to, well, animate it. Here’s a little about their company and this project:

“Illumen Studios is a design company that creates interactive marketing, training, and eLearning solutions. We wanted a clean and simple solution for Illumen’s marketing materials that would leave a memorable impression. Illumen produces interactive work for the medical, hi-tech, and architectural industries so it was important that the piece speak to a variety of audiences. Chris Okamoto designed the piece as an extension of the company’s website, strengthening the overall brand while integrating the visual experience and touchpoints. The Jewelboxing solution proved to be an excellent choice, one that has left a lasting impact with clients.”

Influenced by Illumen’s work, we’re currently in the process of building interactive sites and animations about the people in Montclair, New York, Broomfield, Vancouver, Montreal, Arden Hills, Tunkhannock, Winnepeg, Dallas, Rockford, Culver City, West Hollywood, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Oceanside, Pasadena, La Grange, Reisterstown, and Poughkeepsie.

Case Study 4: Heavenspot

Like with our last Case Study, Rafael Macho, you’d be hard pressed to have missed the work created by Heavenspot Studios. You’ve seen their work in feature films, in print ads, on television, and everywhere in between. Currently, they’re working on such cool projects as designing a teaser site for the “Tenacious D” feature and doing design work for the doc we’re all anxious to see here at the studio, “The Aristocrats.” Did we mention that they’re also Jewelboxing users? We were honored that Chevon Hicks, founder of Heavenspot, gave us a few minutes of his valuable time to talk shop. Here’s what transpired:

Can you fill us in on what Heavenspot is?

Heavenspot is a boutique creative agency.  We are creative in the traditional sense of graphic design, art direction, illustration, etc., and we also take a creative approach to the technology we employ.  It’s a company with a system that allows creativity yet demands staunch professionalism.  We believe both are needed to deliver a consistent product.

What’s your role and history there?

I’m the owner of the company and creative director.  Heavenspot started as my portfolio website.  The trip from apartment to office building was very organic.  Like many designers, I started off doing everything myself.  As more and more work came in, I eventually got some programming help, design help, and so on.  After running the business for five years, I finally hired a producer, so that I could get back to doing what I love – being creative.  Parts of the company are running themselves now, so I’m personally less involved in the daily tedium, which is actually a huge benefit to my clientle – happier creatives produce better work.

From your bio, it looks like you started out really young in the industry.  How have you seen it change?

Ha ha!  Yeah, I started reading AdWeek when I was sixteen, sixteen years ago. The main thing I’ve noticed is that you can do a lot more with far fewer people.  It was as if an agency’s greatness was dependent upon it’s staff size.  Nowadays, nobody wants to work with a bloated company, especially in the interactive world.  I’m actively aware of this not happening to my own company, while at the same time, a certain amount of growth is always necessary.

The clients and jobs Heavenspot has been involved with reads like a dream list for most designers.  How did you get to the point where you were landing these great gigs?

Most of our work has come through word of mouth, and we’ve really tried to make the most of the flagship projects that have come our way.  The size of the company has also allowed us to take on jobs too big for the guy in his bedroom, but too small for a major post production facility.  Thanks to the Mac, we’re able to do 2k film animation on the same machine we build movie websites on.

You seem to do it all, from print to music to games.  There have to be times when you’re busy and jumping around from format to format.  How do you keep it all going along smoothly?

The great thing about being a creative shop is that we can apply our creativity to anything.  There might be some new technical stuff to learn, but the process of sitting with the client, taking copious notes, research and development, are always constant.

Along with that, do you have a favorite form to work with?  Print?  Motion?  Etc.?

Motion is the direction we’ve been moving in for the past couple of years.  Film is the most powerful medium, and influences all  other media because it creates an experience.   Since the web is the cornerstone of our business, it’s nice to see the advances in flash video because soon, we’ll be able to do everything we want to do creatively in the same medium – the web.  Like movies, we now have a real chance to affect people on a visceral level with a website or rich media banner ad.

Throughout most of the work on your site, there’s something of a cohesion there. I want to say it’s that Heavenspot has a certain “look” that it uses.  Do you have a name for this style?  Any ideas why you’re drawn toward it?

The style is called vector realism.  It’s more of a description than the name of a movement, but as a name it certainly conveys a sense of the science behind the work.  My personal influences tend to come from pop art and graffiti, not only in look, but also approach.  I’m drawn to this imagery because it has both organic and mechanical aspects to it.  At normal size, objects seem hyper-realistic, while if one were to zoom in, you’d see a splattering of vector shapes that look like the abstract expressionism of Pollack or deKooning.  Few things rival the emotional impression of a photograph, which is why the vector style is so highly marketable, it’s like the best of both worlds – illustration and photography.  The added advantage lies in our ability to twist the photograph’s reality a bit, or find some character nuance that wasn’t readily apparent in the photograph.

What are a few of your favorite projects you’ve been involved with at Heavenspot?

On the “Harold and Kumar” project for New Line Cinema, we created an animated dream sequence for the film, built the website (which included games and secret rollovers), and created the online advertising campaign.  It was nice to live and breathe a project for nearly a year and create consistent branding for the film which carried over from production to DVD.  My other favorite pet project is the illustration work for Atomica magazine.  This is one part of the business that I keep completely to myself, and it nurtures the fine artist in me.

What project are you using Jewelboxing for?  And why did you chose to work with it?

We are currently using Jewelboxing for several projects, but our first, which came to your attention, was for commercial director Mike Maguire.  After years of being a hyper successful commercial director, Maguire wanted to get back into the agency side of advertising and wanted an interactive DVD he could send to creative directors.  I’d wanted to use Jewelboxing for years, but the right client hadn’t come along – or should I say, none of my previous clients wanted to pay for designer cd packaging!  We are using Jewelboxes for all of internal marketing projects including our DVD reel, and a company presentation which we leave behind at meetings.

Where would you like to see Heavenspot go in the distant future?

I’d like to see us become an agency / production company with a much bigger emphasis on television and film.  At the same time, I’d like the core interactive business to grow, so when convergence happens, we’ll be ready with both ends of the plug.  Can the two businesses become one?  You bet, in fact it’s already happening.

What do we have to look forward to coming up from Heavenspot?

Hopefully more work from our A-list clients, and several original content projects we’re developing including destination/community websites and some HD programming.

Unabashed Hedonism, Really Cool Design

When poking around on Technorati one day, looking to see if we could find out if someone was talking about using Jewelboxing in some interesting project, we ran across Squad Studios. Although the mention was vague (“We are thrilled to be using new jewel boxes for this project”), based off the work showcased on their site, and a client list with everyone from Madonna to Warner Brothers, we knew whatever it was would be cool. Continue reading

Are you listening? Yes I Am. “Plastics.”

Lots of graduates getting ready to enter the work-world. Lots of reels on CD and DVD coming to the CP studios. I’m looking at the 12 most recent packages. 1 trigger-case. 1 hand-made cardboard thingy. 7 regular ol’ CD jewelcases, 1 paper sleeve (!) and 2 Super Jewel Boxes, designed and assembled with our system. Here’s the coolest part. The design-work on the portfolios in the Jewelboxing packages is much better than the others. Of course, I’m probably a bit biased. Continue reading