GDMFA 2014

In summer 2013, I traveled through eight national parks across the United States. The work I have created as a result of this journey pushes the bounds of traditional and contemporary graphic design. Using vibrant colors and graphic textures, these prints portray a portion of the awe and grandeur that these parks inspire in me. This site contains the inspiration, the process, and the work that went behind each of the prints.


Yellowstone

Two of the most iconic things about the park.

Abyss Pool

Large print of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. It was made with three colors in three layers.

Mill Condensed

Hard maple wood type I designed. It was cut with a single drill bit using a CNC mill.

Mill Condensed Alphabet

Type-specimen letterpress for Mill Condensed.

Mesa Arch

Two layer, three color print of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park.

Canyonlands

Inspired by the miles of canyons and great views that this park offers.

White-Oak Canyon

This was the most production intensive print. It has three colors in six layers.

Shenandoah

Fall is the ideal season to visit any number of waterfalls and vistas that this park holds.

Dune

Three color print of the dunes in Assateague Island National Seashore.

Assateague Island

One of the top attractions at this park are the wild ponies that spend the day grazing at the beach.

Big Meadow

This print from Kings Canyon National Park is a three layer, three color print.

Grant Grove

Three color print of some of the giant trees in Sequoia National Park.

Kings Canyon

In the middle of the meadow, the river slows its roar to a gentle flow.

Sequoia

The scale of trees and landscape in this park absolutely dwarf the visitors.

Delicate Arch

One of the most iconic arches in the nation. This is a three color, two layer print.

Arches

We saw some of the brightest stars from our trip at this National Park.

Oxbow Bend

This print used three layers to convey the wide range of color that a sunset in the Grand Tetons can display.

Grand Tetons

The mountains were a perfect canvas for the vibrant colors the morning light would cast.

Mesa Arch Detail

The top layer is a blend of a very transparent yellow with a more opaque bright orange. It creates a variety of color and texture from a limited palette.

Abyss Pool Detail

I used gray as the base layer in this print. This allowed me to create two extra shades of blue and orange to add depth to this print.

Big Meadow Detail

I wanted a more neutral color for the canyon wall. The yellow I used had to mix with the sky blue to create a nice green for the trees. It was a balancing act to get all three to work together how I wanted.

White-Oak Canyon Detail

I like the detail and depth in this print. The blue and red mixed to create a nice brown used for all the tree trunks and darker spaces in the print.

Grant Grove Detail

Great care was taken when separating each color out into layers. I wanted to maximize the amount of texture and detail that I could get with each print.

Delicate Arch Detail

To create a more graphic style, I designed the main rock feature to be a solid color to stand out from the rest of the print. I was surprised with how much variation I was able to achieve using only two layers.

Oxbow Bend Detail

This print was the most difficult one to design. I went through many iterations to get the colors to mesh right. The hardest spot was getting the sky to transition from blue to yellow.

Abyss Pool

As the blue layer dried on this print, it became more and more transparent. It created a subtle effect as the detail slowly deepened in color until it dried.

Yosemite

A photo pulled from my family archives from a trip to Yosemite National Park. We would visit at least one National Park each summer growing up.

Yosemite

A photo pulled from my family archives from a trip to Yosemite National Park. Trips like this gave me an early appreciation for some of the things the National Parks had to offer.

Old Faithful

A photo pulled from my family archives from a trip to Yellowstone National Park. All I remember from this trip is the pungent smell of the hotpots and some vague memories of the classic wooden boardwalks.

Dad & I

A younger me exploring Arches with my Dad.

Grand Tetons

A photo pulled from my family archives from a trip to Grand Tetons National Park. Some of my fondest family memories are from our trips through some of these parks.

Arches Snapshot

So I don't remember this trip, but I don't think I can count the amount of times we've been to this park through the years.

Delicate Arch

The arch may look the same, but I've changed and grown. To witness change in the National Parks can take hours, years, or centuries.

WPA Posters

These posters caught my attention as we traveled through the various parks. The rich history that the posters contain mixed with the bold colors gave me a strong jumping off point for my project.

Mill Condensed

I wanted the name for my typeface to embody both its stylistic roots, and its contemporary production methods. Mill refers to a wood mill as well as a CNC mill.

Fresh Cut Type

My virgin type sanded down and ready to be put to use. I found great satisfaction in seeing something I designed from the ground up finally in a physical, final state.

Type Sketches

Long before anything gets cut, or even drawn in Robo-Font, it ends up here. My sketchbook holds all of my different thoughts and experiments with size and weight for my typeface. Working out the kinks at this stage make the rest of the process exponentially easier.

Sealing the Type

A couple coats of Bulls Eye Shellac gives the type a nice amber color. On unfinished wood the ink from the press would sink into the wood and come out on a different run. The Shellac protects the wood-type and makes it much easier to clean.

Robo-Font

All my glyphs sitting in Robo-Font. I worked for months fine tuning it as a digital typeface long before it was cut.

Cut Layout

I fit all the letters on my maple board maximizing the amount of letters I could fit on the board. Sending it through the table-saw was a little nerve-racking. I was afraid I'd trim off a serif. Good planning is essential: measure twice cut once.

Finish Sanding

Before applying the varnish coat, each letter received some individual care and attention – mostly sanding off rough edges or stray burrs left from the cutting process.

Type Texture

My goal for the wood-type was to achieve this texture while printing. This level of character and wear is difficult to create using a digital typeface and printer.

Yellowstone Process

Silkscreen can still surprise me. The wide range of greens and oranges in the bottom of this print were a wonderful surprise that I didn't fully expect when I finished this print.

Mesa Arch Process

This might be my favorite print from the set. I love the simplicity in a two layer print mixed with the vibrant larger than life colors.

Kings Canyon

I played with the separations and colors in Photoshop and mixed ink for hours on this print to get the right tones of yellow and blue to mix to the green I was going for.

Sequoia Detail

As the prints dried on the rack the colors would change, I quickly learned to withhold any judgment on my prints until I was sure the color had dried entirely.

Abyss Pool Detail

The colors in this print are the closest to real life of any of the prints in the set. They were already this vibrant and saturated in person.

Abyss Pool Gray

I like using gray as the base layer in some prints. With the addition of the next layers it creates a nice depth and range of colors that are hard to recreate any other way.

Mesa Arch on the Racks

Screen-printing lays down a thick layer of ink. It allows for brighter colors compared to a standard printer with a nice tactile texture once it's dried.

Split Tone

One of the things I like about screen-printing is that each one can come out slightly different. With each print, the two colors blended slightly more together creating a progressively smoother gradient in each print

Shenandoah Mid Print

Screen-printing is a very reflective and tactile process. It allows me to get lost in the creation of each print. As long as I have taken the time and effort to set up my layers and mix my ink correctly, the printing portion is more relaxing as I can watch each layer fall into place.

Shenandoah Two Layers In

I really liked the burgundy color that the blue and red created when these two layered together.

Delicate Arch Process

This was the first print from the series. A long time was spent tweaking the colors and layers to get the image I wanted with only two print layers.

Shenandoah Print Process

This is one of the large prints I made before using a larger screen. If each successive layer wasn't lined up properly the print quickly gained a trippy 3D effect. I remember I ruined a couple before I got it down to a good system.

Moleskine Notes

I like the small size and portability of my trusty notebook. I carried it with me everywhere. It holds every idea and thought I've had as I've worked through this project.

A Special Thanks

This project would have been impossible without the constant feedback and support from program directors and critics, Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Cole Phillips, Abbott Miller & Glen Cummings.

Mother & Son

Reflecting on my work at the exhibition with my mom. My family has been a constant support to me throughout this entire project. I couldn't have done it without them.

Contemplation

Nothing is more satisfying than seeing someone appreciate your work.

Discussing Travel Plans

While talking with people on opening night, I realized the vast amount of memories and emotions that people connect with our National Parks.

Exhibition Wall

I took great care laying out where each print was hung. The goal was to create a dynamic experience while giving each print room to breathe.

Wall Color

To help the vibrant prints pop, I painted my wall a dark gray. This allowed the colors in the prints to suck you into the image.

Vinyl Detail

The white vinyl was a map of each park I visited and the routes used to get there. This subtle detail gave a location for each of the prints and tied the entire wall together.

Poster Mounts

The poster bars are created from the same wood as my typeface, hard-maple. The framing and the deckled edge on the prints reflect the idea of natural elements.

Stack of Work

All my prints ready to go up at the Exhibition.

Exhibition Detail

The prints were arranged on the wall geographically. As people walked along the wall they traveled with me on each step of the journey.

Roaring River Falls

Animated GIF from the river. Anna took a quick nap on the river side while I got this shot. I can only hope that this shot is just as peaceful.

Roaring River GIF

Nothing is nicer than a cool dip in the water after a hot day hiking around. We tried to find somewhere to swim at every park we went to. That and eat an ice cream cone.

Trip Route

My journey can be divided into 5 main trips, covering 8 parks, 8,818 miles. In those 27 days, I saw 8 sunrises, ate 12 ice cream cones, and 54 smores. I took a total of 3,464 photos, 348 videos and made 42 timelapse clips.

Yellowstone Route

We spent a total of 4 nights in two different camps and traveled a total of 334 miles inside the park exploring. We saw 35 geysers, 57 hot springs, 17 bison and 3 waterfalls. I took a total of 337 photos, 65 videos and 4 timelapse clips.

Grand Tetons Route

We spent the least amount of time in this park, spending only one night. We still managed to get 54 mosquito bites while taking 76 photos, 13 videos and 3 timelapse clips.

The Two Views of Assateague Island

The landscape of this park is very symmetrical – the ocean on one side, the low sand dunes on the other.

Creating a Timelapse

The best part about shooting a timelapse is enjoying taking the time to enjoy the scenery while the camera is working.

Falls

Waterfalls are a staple in National Parks. With the exception of the Moab area, each park had a handful of majestic waterfalls to visit.

Big Meadow

The original shot behind the print I created for Kings Canyon National Park.

Dwarfs in the Sequoias

The trees in the park were absolutely massive. It’s near impossible to get the full tree in a single shot. You can see the size of hikers in this shot, tiny dots in the forest.

Sunset at the Arch

The landscape at Delicate seemed built for viewing at sunset. The arch is set at the edge of a natural amphitheater making this a popular spot to spend the evening.

Mesa Arch

My favorite sunrise from the trip. As the sun comes up over the canyon the light reflects of the wall and lights up the underside of the arch into a vibrant orange.

False Kiva

This unmarked viewpoint was a little difficult to find. The view at the end definitely made the trip worth it.

Crevice in Arches

Light bouncing off the canyon walls created the best colors. Deep in the canyon was the only refuge from the sun we could find.

Old Faithful

Normally this landmark is surrounded with crowds of people waiting for it to go off. To avoid the rush we went for sunrise. The cold and early wake up time payed off. We were the only ones to witness the morning sun lighting up the steam from this geyser.

Camping Friends

Good friends make any trip better. I'm so glad Kellen and Olivia came with us.

Blue Steam

The vivid blue pool reflected its color into the steam. Yellowstone's pools had some of the most inspiring vivid colors from our trip.

Color Range

The pools were a constant turquoise and aquamarine, while the ground a vibrant orange or red.

Hot Springs & Boardwalk

The land around the hot springs is very delicate. Most of Yellowstone consists of walking on wooden boardwalks the park has installed for us.

Bob the Bison

We found Bob walking down the little one-lane road. He was nice enough to move off to the side to let us pass. We saw the most wildlife on our trip in Yellowstone.

Grazing Bison

Yellowstone is a massive, diverse park. It has large fields and meadows, canyons, hot springs, lakes and rivers, and mountain forests. The variety that one park holds is astounding.

Anna & I

I'm grateful for my wife, Anna, for being willing to explore, supporting any crazy ideas I had and being a constant source of feedback and support through this entire project.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Landscapes always look better with clouds.

Mammoth Hot Springs

The hot spring terraces. These could be a national park themselves.

River Dusk

One of our campsites had this view each evening. The sky reflected in the lazy river.

Jenny Lake

If we had more time I would have liked to spend some more time out on this lake.

Oxbow Bend

The original photo that inspired the screen-print for the Grand Tetons. This shot was the prize for making it through a rough day in the park.

Assateague Ponies

Inspiration for the letterpress print. The ponies spend their days on the shore or grazing in the dunes.

Dunes

The combination of landscape and sky create a very peaceful and relaxing environment at this park.

Assateague Sky

The East Coast skyline is usually hidden by the thick forests that grow here. Assateague Island is a welcome exception to that rule.

Sunset Silhouette

The sky, with its blend of contrasting colors, is my favorite part of this shot.

Soft Sunrise

I feel this adequately illustrates the therapeutic effect the National Parks have on me.

Sunrise on the Tetons

The inspiration for the letterpress print. The mountains turned pink as they were hit with the morning sun.

Morning Shore-Break

The sun lights up the spray as the waves crash into the shore.

Dune Grass

The only reason Assateague Island hasn't washed or blown away is the dune grass holding everything in place.

Big Meadow

A rare shot of open sky in Shenandoah. The rest of the park consists of forests, viewpoints, and waterfalls.

Sequoia

A serene walk through the towering sequoias.

Grant Grove

The lowest branches on these trees start hundreds of feet in the air. If one broke off, it would be like a full sized tree falling from the sky.

Sequoias

The trees are extremely resilient. The insides can be burnt out by fire and the tree will continue to grow. Even after they fall, it takes hundreds of years for a tree to decompose.

Giant Sequoias

Visiting this park always redefines my sense of scale.

Inside Double Arch

After taking this photo the first time, I made the climb down only to realize I had the settings wrong. It was worth the hike back up into the depth of the arch to get the shot that I wanted.

I pulled out of the parking lot. In the back of mind, I registered a small clatter. I brushed it off as branches scraping along the roof or something else unimportant. I was occupied thinking about my iPod. I’d found it in a puddle leaking from a water bottle. I quickly powered it off and hoped that none of the electronics fried inside. We pulled onto the main highway and started towards our next destination.
“Anna, have you seen my sunglasses?”
I checked all the normal spots, the dashboard, the console, in the door. No luck. It hit me that the noise I’d heard earlier sounded a lot like a pair of glasses falling off the roof. We pulled a quick U-turn and headed back to the parking lot to see if we could find them.

“I’ve walked all around where we were. No luck.”
“Me neither. I even asked anyone around if they saw a pair.”
Our group was a little worn out from a full week of camping, waking up early to catch the sunrise, exploring and hiking. It was rough to lose my glasses and have the fear of a waterlogged iPod. I seriously debated calling it quits and trying to enjoy the night at our camp. I’d done enough already. Did I really need another time-lapse? I tried to shove the thoughts from my mind. I’ve come this far I might as well follow through and hope for the best. We pulled onto the side of the road near Oxbow Bend.

I gathered the gear and trekked down to the edge of the slow-moving Snake River. The tricky thing with the Snake River is all the standing water quickly became a mosquito haven. From the second we got out of the car we were covered in the bugs. While I set up, Anna ran up to the car to fetch the bug spray. I set up the tripod and the track for the camera right at the water’s edge to get the best shot possible and accidentally put my foot in the water.
“Great,” I thought, “just add it to the list of things that can go wrong.”
Anna came back with the spray and I covered my arms and legs in mosquito repellent. I try and spray some on my hands to rub on my face, instead I accidentally sprayed bug spray in my face. In short I was miserable the entire day. I felt like I played with a stacked deck and had lost.

As the sun dropped below the horizon I set the camera in motion. We pulled out some dinner and sat in our chairs at the river’s edge. The shadows from the setting sun slowly traveled up the face of the Tetons in front of us. The sky turned a vibrant shade of orange and red, while the mountains gained deeper and deeper shades of blue and purple. The still waters of the Snake River created a near perfect reflection of the Grand Tetons. It was only then that I took a breather and really enjoyed the moment for the beauty that it held. My frustration faded with the last light of the day. It was worth it now. Thinking back on that evening, I realized how crazy it was so much went wrong that day. If I had given up and called it quits, I would have not taken some of my favorite photos from the trip.

This principle ties into my practice as a graphic designer. I have learned that perseverance in the face setback after setback can lead to some of the most rewarding moments. Sticking to your guns and following through on a project shows in your work. This principle is one of the most important factors that can take your work from mediocre to exceptional.

We pulled into the parking lot, in the pre-dawn light. Anna was asleep bundled in blankets in the front seat. I stepped out of the car, gathered my gear, some breakfast, and our camping chairs. With everything ready to go, I tapped on the window and woke up Anna. We locked the car and started the short hike out to the canyon’s edge. As we wound our way through the desert brush and boulders, I tried to picture the arch in my mind. Where would the sun rise over the horizon? Would there be others there this early? What did I want the shot to focus on?

As we crested the ridge, the arch came into view. I knew that visiting Mesa Arch was a unique experience in the Canyonlands Arches area. While most arches were seen from below, Mesa Arch did not extend more than ten feet over your head. The arch sat a couple feet out from the edge on the top of a 500-foot vertical cliff. This gave visitors a great view of the arch framing the canyon vista. It was close to five a.m., that gave me about forty-five minutes to get everything set up in time if I wanted to start shooting thirty minutes before the sunrise. We picked a spot and tested a couple different angles while I tried to imagine the results. The gear I had consisted of a tripod, a six foot metal track, my camera, and a motorized mount. The camera was mounted on the track, and over the course of the next hour and a half, the camera would slowly move from one end to the other. With everything set, I put the camera in motion. The camera started its long journey down the track and snapped a photo every thirty seconds as it inched slowly along. Anna and I put up the chairs, kicked back, and prepared for the show.

By now about a dozen of other people joined us on the canyon’s edge, an odd collection of nature photographers and hikers. Some traveled from halfway across the world to be part of this moment. They wandered around snapping pictures or simply enjoying the sight. As the sky brightened, activity around the arch increased. While time-lapse photography required more equipment and considerable more time to set up, there were definite perks. Once everything was set and running I didn’t do anything except wait. While others were scrambling about trying to make sure they had the best shot, we sat back and soaked up the experience. When the time arrived for the best photos of the morning, my success in capturing the moment had already been decided by my preparation.

The sun peeked over the mountains in the distance casting its warmth and throwing its light in sharp relief on the canyon walls. Thankfully the sun came up almost exactly where I imagined – not in frame of my shot to blow out and overexpose anything but not too far outside my shot either. I would capture the dramatic lighting and the landscape perfectly. The best part, I was able to step back and really enjoy the moment. When the sun hit the canyon wall beneath Mesa Arch, it reflected a vibrant red glow off the sandstone onto the underside of the arch in front of us. The arch radiated with morning light and perfectly framed the twin buttresses deeper in the canyon. I tried to soak in all the details, the light, the sounds. It became clear to us why this was such a popular spot for catching the morning light. As the soft click of the camera continued, I tried to imagine what the result of the clip would be. As the sun moved farther into the sky, I tried to see the shadows in motion. The change was much too gradual to clearly see in person, but the change would be visible once I compiled my photos into a short video.

These hours of preparation, planning, and traveling – the time spent waiting, setting up the gear, editing the photos – resulted in a ten-second video clip. Was it really worth it? No, not for a ten-second clip. But, then again, I got much more out of the trip than that. The experience, the journey, the trial and error, the exploration that came along side the clip was what made it worthwhile. Because of these other aspects, I would repeat the entire process over and over again. That shot was just a tribute, a true snapshot into the process.

“Hey! Excuse me. Do you think you could lend us a hand?”
I looked up from the fire to see one of the guys from the camp next to us. Earlier that evening they had pulled into the campsite – five friends packed into a small car.
“Yeah, sure,” I respond. “What do you need?”
I walked over to their campsite to see them huddled around their tent trying to figure out how it goes together. I showed them how the poles fit into the holes and bend to create a frame that holds the tent up.

“What do you know? Five engineering students and none of us could figure out that tent poles bend.
I laughed and told them not to worry. I could tell that they’re new to the experience. The biggest giveaway: they brought a “five-man tent.” When the manufacturers decide how many people the tent fits, they pack people in like sardines. When a tent says it’s a five-man tent, it really would only fit two or three people comfortably. I helped them get set up, they thank me, and, as I turned to leave, one of them asked,
“Where did you get your firewood?”
“You can get some from the camp store or the ranger station. I think they’re both closed for the night. You can have some of ours if you want.”
I gave them a couple logs, some smaller sticks, and a couple sheets of newspaper. I figured that would be enough for them to get it started and last them at least part of the night.

Back at our camp Anna and I enjoy some s'mores and watched the fire. We packed up the food, and I went up to the car to pack it all away for the night. As I walk by the camp I noticed the lack of a fire. I went over to see if they needed a hand. They had dumped all the wood on the fire at once, basically smothering any chance of flames catching. I give them a hand and got their fire going.

Later, I realized how distinct our two camping experiences must have been. Experience, preparation and a little research make the biggest difference between enjoying a relaxing and enjoyable camping experience or regretting the entire trip. Design is the same. Experience, preparation and a little research tend to make the process stress-free and enjoyable.

“So you want to play another round?”
“Might as well. It doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.”
The rain made a constant beat as it hit our tent, water running down the side.
“Just make sure we’re not leaking water anywhere.”
The conversation basically summed up our day at Assateague Island. We had made all the plans and booked our reservations to go for a couple days to explore the park. The forecast as we left for the park called for a chance of rain over the next couple days, but we didn’t think it would be too bad. The rain started mid morning on the first day and didn’t let up for a solid four hours.

“I just checked the forecast again. It’s only getting worse. It’s supposed to dump more tonight, and tomorrow we’ll get the worst of it.”
“Well, I guess there’s not much more we can do,” I reply.
The steady beating of the rain slowed to a gentle patter.
I looked up in disbelief. “Is it really stopping?”
“Are we staying or should we get out while we can?”
It’s a hard decision to make. When does pursuing something become futile and not worth the time anymore? Often even the best plans can go wrong. Sure, the rain had slowed for now. We could have taken our chances and hoped the forecast was wrong. a light drizzle might have been the best time to pack up and get out without getting absolutely drenched.

Living in Baltimore, I knew Assateague Island was close enough to home I’m sure we could visit again when the weather was more compliant. It was hard to have sunk all the time and effort into planning. I hated to see it go to waste. One of the hardest things with any project is the ability to cut your losses and trim out unsuccessful endeavors before you lose too much.

While working on the prints for The Parks Project, I started out with the idea that I would design a typeface and hand-set lead type to print an additional layer onto the prints. As I worked on the project further, I realized this desire presented more problems than it actually solved. The typeface I created looked amazing on its own, but there were too many competing elements when combined together with the print. To create the posters I would screen-print the various colors and image. I planned to have text letter-pressed onto the prints afterwards.

The presses I had access to at MICA could only fit a print about twenty inches wide. This limited the size of poster I could make. I came to realize that even with all the effort and work I’d put into making them work together, I needed to make a new plan. I decided to make two types of posters. The first would be image based and purely screen-printed. These prints could be much larger than I originally planned. The second set of prints would be pure letterpress. This allowed the focus to be on the words themselves and the character of the typeface I had designed. Because I was able to re-imagine the way my prints looked I was able to create a stronger and more diverse body of work for the project.