With backgrounds in design, motion graphics, direction, branding, and web, Dan Covert and Andre Andreev founded Dress Code in 2007 in order to create work that wasn't limited to any particular medium or defined by a certain style.
The Gen Art Film Festival is unlike any other film festival. With seven feature-length movies premiering over seven days, each with its own after party, Gen Art is as much about nightlife and fun as it is about the films. For the 15th anniversary, Dress Code wanted to push the boundaries of what had been done in the past and come up with a visual language that captured the energy and spirit of the weeklong festival. The goal was to avoid creating anything overtly film related but rather design something that was youthful, fun, and hip.
The creative needed to work across a lot of media, including web banners, email blasts, and web pages; marquees and posters at the event; an onscreen program guide and name badges; as well as a broadcast spot. Covert and Andreev decided to create a visual language that could be applied across all the deliverables in different ways — not just a single logo that was slapped on everything.
We spent some time in the beginning talking with the festival programmers and then collecting references for inspiration. We liked the idea of creating something that wasn't super conceptual, but instead was visually interesting and looked contemporary — something that hadn't been seen before.
Next, we started experimenting formally using the references as a jumping off point. Our experimentation started with type, images, patterns, and shapes. Everyone at Dress Code tried out ideas and contributed to the project. We have a gigantic magnetic wall where we hung up what we liked, and then edited the ideas down to just a few favorites that we presented to the client.
Initially, we drew the type using markers on paper, but it was rough and unrefined. Of everything we presented, Gen Art liked this direction the best though, because it seemed spontaneous and reminded them of lipstick. So we began to refine the type, switching from markers to a paintbrush to get some thick and thin variation in the lines.
When we were happy with the results we scanned in the painted type, and then used Live Trace in Adobe® Illustrator® to turn it into vector paths. The key to working with Live Trace is to play with the Path Fitting and Threshold options until you get line quality as close as possible to the scan. For one last level of refinement we went in with our pen and tablet using the Pencil tool to redraw the curves so they looked nicer and more bubbly. Then we used the Smooth tool to finesse the curves and get rid of any superfluous points or bumps (this always reminds us of sculpting with clay).
We knew it wasn't practical to draw type for all the deliverables like this, so we began to experiment in Illustrator. Our big challenge was how to replicate the type quickly on the computer while still maintaining an analog feel; we didn't want to lose the soul and quirkiness that made it unique. We accomplished this by creating two custom brushes in Illustrator, which simulated what we drew with a paintbrush on paper.
With a bigger custom Illustrator brush we roughly drew the type, then we went in with a smaller custom Illustrator brush to clean up the strokes, and finally we used the Smooth tool to finesse the curves. A trick with the Paintbrush tool is to not try and do everything with one stroke or continuous motion, but rather to do it piece by piece, letting up on the mouse or pen after each gesture. Once were happy with the results, we outlined the strokes and combined them with the Pathfinder effects so that each word was a single object.
We also used multiple artboards in Illustrator to create the name badges for the festival. There were three different fronts and all the backs were the same. Multiple artboards helped us lay out the mechanical in a simple way that made it clear to the printer exactly how they should go together.
Rather than painting the letters by hand and then using Live Trace to convert them into paths, we found that creating all the type directly in Illustrator made it easier to take the vector paths into Adobe After Effects® and Cinema 4D to begin animating. When you take something that's drawn by hand and scan it in, there are usually a ton of unnecessary vector points and you get extra bumps and sharp shards when you begin to extrude it.
Illustrator also helped us storyboard everything out before we animated. For example, we laid out the dimensions of the marquee and planned what would happen at what time, which made the process much easier when we started to animate.
Our favorite hidden trick to make something really cool fast is to select any Shape tool — Rectangle, Circle, Star, etc. — and drag your cursor around while holding the Tilde key.