Ghost’s txting you from the afterlife

Ghost in Brooklyn

The above image taken by friend Johanna came from her blog post about her experience with the Cripplebush Ghost Tour. Waiting extra long for public transportation in Brooklyn she discovered the sticker. Some of the questions she asked herself after getting a historical referenced txt message were “This must have been one hell of a boring brief (maybe something like “help raise awareness among Brooklyn residents of the history behind the neighborhoods”), if there was one.” But not all was boring after she went to the web site for more info. There’s a Google Map of all the stickers that have stories. They also have walking tours. In the end Johanna discovered that maybe there wasn’t a brief which was probably cooler…

Virgin America Safety Video worth watching

What’s the most unmemorable part of a flight aside from making sure that your flight has not been canceled? It’s the government regulated safety procedures talked about inside the airplane. You’ve probably tried to ignore the talks about how to put on a seat belt, finding your exit, not smoking in the rest room, finding a life jacket near your seat and the possibility of getting more oxygen from masks, etc zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Yes it is a ridiculous bore. However Chet Chat with Chet passed me on a video that suggests that maybe that boring info can be made interesting. Chet’s from Anomaly who in part created the actual video designed for an airplane that you might want to watch in your free time. While I’m not a huge fan on the illustration style from Wild Brain in San Francisco, the storyline works unpredictably well. I can appreciate knowing that people that have actually seen it in it’s natural environment cheered. I doubt any other airline would try to think in a new way.

I’m Michael Surtees and I’d like to say hi

Me on my last day at Renegade

This is one of those blog posts you don’t really imagine writing, but the circumstances are such that I need to explore every angle that I have at the moment. In short, a number of people where I used to work at Renegade were let go yesterday, including myself. If you’ve spent anytime here at DesignNotes, you know that I have a passion for design and advertising and love the exploration of all things that involve miscellaneous communication.

While it’s an uneasy feeling at the moment, I’m excited about being able to see what else is out there. I haven’t had my portfolio online since I moved to Renegade, though considering I’m looking for full time I’ve placed a downloadable portfolio pdf at and a page on my blog at HERE. Almost one hundred percent of what I’ve done in the last year at Renegade has been online, although I still love the smell of fresh ink at press checks, talking to photographers and illustrators, and hammering a freshly designed poster onto a wall. The two big projects that I spent a lot of time on was with the Redesign of Panasonic’s Consumer Electronics website, and Children for Children’s web site. For, I was the design lead for Support and Search, while for Children for Children I was the primary designer. Obviously these sites weren’t designed in a vacuum, but I can easily say that I had a major part in their development and philosophy.

Where do I want to go from here? That’s a really open question – there’s so much room to explore online, whether with trying to combine people’s new experiences with web 2.0 apps, social communities or api’s that are being made available, and/or just being a competent designer making things understandable for people in their everyday lives – that’s what I want to continue to do. I’m extremely adaptable with what’s going on today and love talking about it here on my blog. The isp’s that come to DesignNotes are as varied as my posts. I’m averaging about 9,000 page views a month at the moment – I don’t know most of the people that come here, but I’d like to. Drop me an email at michael[at] I’d be interested in saying hi, talking about the future of design that is today, and if you hear of any openings for an art director you’ll get a lot of extra karma points.

30 Something

30 Something

It’s been hard to miss seeing all the red and black posters/billboards for the movie 30 Days of Night out there. I think they’re on boarderline overkill with all the placement. Though with that said I did see one smaller ad on a light pole that almost made it a great idea. Through typical low-fi means of a photo copier, hand writing and some red dye, the light pole becomes a place to communicate through more authentic means. The pole is usually reserved for mover’s or guitar lesson ads. The movers haven’t alloted any money to advertising and the pole is about close and fast with the least amount of work as one could get to the people they want to talk to. The 30 Day’s ad was so close to being kind of cool and fun, but made itself too obvious with the postcard right above it. It’s great to play off the visual vocabulary that was already started with the billboards, but to re-emphasize things down below without having faith in the visual clutter that they started is kind of short sighted and safe.

Daft Hands and a kick to the gut

I just got back from the Simon Waterfall talk for D&AD and POKE at Advertising Week. I’ll post some of my notes sometime soon, but for now I’ll leave this Daft Punk Hands video (Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger) that is Daft Hands that he showed. The second video is just a kick to the gut that a friend from work passed on to me yesterday. Happy viewing…

Life Takes Visa Series

Life Takes Visa - Get your game on.

I caught a nice set of posters walking around the Meat Packing District last night from Visa. There’s a number of different scenes that are illustrating how “Life Takes Visa”. Minimal writing supports the strong images that are fairly easy to quickly recognize – from paint by numbers to the above sports idea. Check out the series on my flickr site at

I’m not sure if this was designed internally or by an outside agency – if you happen to know who did this, please let me know.

Commodity Fetishism: Leica


I think there’s very few products or brands that could be written with the virtuosity that Leica got from the New Yorker titled Candid Camera – The cult of Leica. I can attest to a lot of the blind passion for Leica as I’m looking to get one pretty soon. Probably not the M8 (though it’s very tempting), but a Leica D-LUX-3 in the not so distant future. The overall article is quite enjoyable to read if you’re a photo enthusiast. Everything I shoot is digital these days, but I was maybe a little surprised to hear that not everyone that is doing it for a living is pure digital. My wife and I were recently having dinner with a former co-worker and her husband who’s an amazing photographer. When I asked him what he shoots, most of it is on film still – if you check out his portfolio at you’ll see what digital is really hard at capturing. I don’t think I’ll be reverting back anytime soon myself, but to see what is still capable with film would suggest that the art isn’t going to die off so soon.

Basketball Music

I just finished listening to Act One of an old but now new episode of This American Life titled Crispy with the Rock. The story of two amateurs meeting the pros. One is a teenager in New Jersey; the other, our reporter. Joel Lovell visits 19-year-old Luis Da Silva, one of the stars of a popular series of Nike commercials featuring professional and amateur basketball players doing dribbling tricks. Luis didn’t even start for his high school basketball team. (17 minutes)

Above is the extended two and a half minute commercial from Nike Basketball. The video in itself is blog worthy though getting some of the background story makes it better. I’m not even a basketball fan, but I’d recommend watching the video once, listen to the podcast at and then play the video again, but this time just listen to the sound and not the visuals – it’s music.

Questions answered by design

virgin atlantic pattern by Jamie Wieck

I don’t usually mention too many design portfolio sites here, but after seeing the Virgin Atlantic Pattern (above) via Core77 Design Blog I couldn’t help it. The series of cityscapes comes from Jamie Wieck. There’s a lot of great work over on the site – each work is introduced by a question that the work seems to answered pretty successfully. And, his site is a bit of a blog too. See more at

McFLY 2015 & Kanye West & Def Jam Holland

McFLY 2015 project: delorean1

McFLY 2015 project: delorean2


It’s been almost a month since I last mentioned anything that had to do with the McFLY 2015 project. Today I received a couple photos through email that show the inside artwork of Kanye West’s Graduation album which features Kanye’s mascot bear rocking the McFLY 2015’s and standing next to a DeLorean. Interesting stuff and no, I’m not part of the project aside from mentioning cool things like this…



D&AD and the Digital Landscape
D&AD President and Creative Director of leading international digital agency, POKE, Simon Waterfall will share his insights into the ever-changing digital world and its impact on creativity.

The most inspirational and award-winning digital campaigns will feature, along with Waterfall’s vision of the future of creativity within the digital space.

Thursday 27 September
10.00am – 12.00pm
Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street
NY 10013

D&AD: How to get into the industry
Imagine rising above your peers and finally being noticed. In this session, D&AD shows you how.

Leading creatives pair up with D&AD to inspire and give you the inside track on how to get your work noticed in this competitive industry. You will see examples of international award-winning work from the D&AD Student Awards and hear insights into industry trends with an emphasis on integrated and digital.

Wednesday 26 September
10.00am – 12.00pm
Tribeca Cinemas
54 Varick Street
NY 10013


D&AD celebrates creative excellence in all aspects of creative communications. These events are a must attend for anyone with a passion for innovation in advertising.

To register visit

For further information on D&AD visit

New York Magazine Interview, afterwards

New York Magazine

New York Magazine Interview

A couple months ago I received a call from New York Magazine asking me if I wanted to take part in a new feature that would have designers going around the city taking photos of things that interested them in terms of culture outside, in subways, on storefront windows etc. If I said yes, this would be the first of its kind for the magazine. That was probably the second most memorable phone call related to anything New York. For me the first was actually getting the design job I wanted about a year ago. I was extremely excited but also reserved. I told a couple people I knew about the article, but until I saw it published you just never know if it’s going to happen.

Emma Pearse who I was going to work with emailed me a short brief and I was off running around NYC. For about a week I would go after work and spend a couple hours walking around photographing anything that I found interesting. I’m still relatively new to NYC so it gave me a great opportunity to explore a lot of areas. After that week I sent Emma the photos and she interviewed me over the phone. A couple days later she came back and asked me to take some more photos. It went back and fourth like that for a couple weeks. Eventually we meet in person, walked around SoHo together and gathered what would eventually be most of the photographs that were used. Then we talked, and talked more and then even more. I’ll be honest, it was slightly exhausting for me to describe the same thing four or five different ways – though I’m sure Emma felt the same way wondering if I was going to say anything clearly. The biggest problem was that I was talking to her as a designer, not as civilian.

A lot of the images had a reaction/reaction to it. I’d see something on the street and then a slightly different version used in a commercial sense. But there was a lot of overlapping visuals too. One example would be the stick man + cafe grumpy icon = image from Beastie Boys poster. Obviously the poster wasn’t created like that, but the visuals kind of show how things were merging on the street. A lot of the vibrandt colors that are out there aren’t entirely new, but if you wanted to dissect it, nurave as a scene could be suggested that it’s been grabbing hyper colors and mixing it to their own purposes. There was this street art image that couldn’t reflect this better than not even a block down I saw these guys and their shoes that had the same color pallet as the wall. This was the way my conversations with Emma would go – and though I couldn’t see her through the phone or IM, I’m sure there were times when she was pulling out her hair.

After some of these conversations I still wondered if it would make the cut. I just tried to keep a level head and work the best way I could. Once we started talking about my blog and bio information, and talking with a photo editor I knew things were close. I could almost start to relax. A couple more days passed and once I saw the final text I started letting more people I know that the article was happening and it was coming out soon. So this morning when I got a Google Alert with my name and the url sending me to New York Magazine I could finally sigh a breath of relief and jump up and down. I haven’t seen the August 20, 2007 Issue in print, but soon as I do it will feel pretty good to see something that a lot of people worked really hard on. Here’s the url if you want to read it yourself:

A lot of text is a lot of text?

Hiilly back

I had to smile this morning when I came across the blog post Is Copy Dead or Just Evolving? from Advertising Age. Yes, I’m one of those design people that has a preference to using as little copy as possible when appropriate. It’s a difficult skill to attain, but if you can invoke understanding, emotion and inspiration with only a few choice words like have been done with the advertising for the Economist you’re doing something right. But if you’re writing a compelling message, the length won’t matter if it hits the reader. Case in point, one of the coffee cups is worth spending a moment reading while the other is not…

HBO Voyeur, nice site showing the same content in a couple different ways

HBO Voyeur

HBO Voyeur

After watching Entourage tonight, there was a commercial for HBO’s new show Voyeur. The trailer was fairly restrained, just showing enough while the music enhanced the tension and drama. At the end there was the obligatory url to check it out. I’m not a huge fan of sites that are all flash, but I think did a really good job of making an exploratory experience that made me want to get more info. Aside from just being able to discover new things with minimal load times between clicks, I like how they showed the same information in a couple different ways. Like I mentioned there’s the flash where I click to discover new things, but there’s also a film trailer that uses the same content of the website, but shows the story in the more typical passive viewer format. Of course these movie files are quite large so you have to download them to watch.

In a some respects this type of hyper realistic web site reminds me of site where there’s the rendering of the image for both a tv campaign and website. There’s consideration for more then one medium. There’s the thirty second spot that gets the point across, and the website that people could spend five second, five minutes or come back five times to.

What happened to the red in the Pringles box?!?

What happened to the packaging of Diet Pepsi and Pringles?!?

The good ol'days

I was more than a little surprised to see the delivery from Fresh Direct last night. While I’m still trying to get used to the new packaging for the Diet Pepsi bottle, the new Pringles box made me sad. They’ve chosen to replace the red and silver colouring w/ a new age (and slightly girly) purple. From what I’ve read and seen, colour before a lot of other visual elements is what draws people to a product, creates emotion and is what they remember first. After that they fill in the other details. I just don’t understand why they turned a fairly iconic red box into something that I’m now embarrassed to pick up. If I had to run across the street to pick up some beer at my local drugstore, I’m sure not going to be placing those Pringles beside it. I hope this is just some quick summer campaign and then they’ll revert back in the fall to red. Though if the trend of other packaging is any indication I might have to go on a diet and find something new.

Nothing to hide nor anything to wear – Elave (NSFW)


Tania from Singapore passed me on this link from Elave that I would be hard pressed not to pass on here. It’s definitely NSFW, but worth taking a look at when you get the chance. The campaign is from Elave at It’s like that Dove campaign, but with hot people and with no clothes… It’s more like the Shai campaign from France. See comment below for additional commentary.

PSFK Conference: the not so quick update

Blogging Cards from PSFK for the Conference

Sometimes things really do go unexpected, especially at conferences. I managed to see all the morning speakers and the first person after lunch for the PSFK Conference, but unfortunately I had to leave early for unrelated conference reasons. But with that said I did get back for the after conference drinks at Link and was able to talk with a bunch of people about the conference. I also took a lot of notes and observations that will fill posts for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve helped organize and volunteer for conferences in the past, so I can empathize with all the work that goes into pulling off an event like this. Overall I was really impressed with how smoothly things went. Yes there were technical difficulties with the second presentation of the day, but I think that had more to do with the keynote file size. In the morning I arrived around the peak time for registering and only waited in line briefly. As a blogger for the PSFK Conference they included blogging cards that had my name and blog which was a really nice touch. I’ve never seen anything like that before, but I’m sure you will see it more and more at conferences like this in the future.

I thought the type of speakers and the order of presenters was well considered. I’ll go into each of the individual people that spoke in the not so distant future, but for now I’ll just say that each of the subject matters meshed pretty good in a diverse kind of way. Timing matters a lot, and the break seemed at an appropriate time as was lunch. I didn’t feel rushed with the time at all. I wasn’t checking my watch so I can’t tell for sure, but I don’t think anyone went over there time to speak. Like I mentioned I only was there until mid afternoon, so I can only guess that the end of the conference finished as well as the morning started.

You can check out some of the photos from the conference on flickr… I’ll be posting more of my images today as well.

as an fyi for the next couple of posts about the PSFK Conference, there probably won’t be much of a chronological order of the notes that I took and the observations that I made…

Comparing design annuals from the UK, Canada and the USA

The Covers
All four books in scale

Society of Publication Designers Spots Illustration Annual 2005Society of Publication Designers Spots Illustration Annual 2005
Society of Publication Designers Spots Illustration Annual 2005

I recently got my hands on the Society of Publication Designers Spots Illustration Annual 2005 and noticed something that I had never seen that much of before. The work was placed in context. For that annual, each illustration had two pages. On one side was the original illustration while the image on the other side of the page was seen inside the newspaper or magazine it was commissioned for. It was interesting to compare the two images beside each other, but also to note what really worked in in the real world and what worked as a thumbnail in space. That got me to think of a couple other annuals that I somehow collected over the last year. So I pulled out my D&AD Annual 2006/44, Graphex 06 (GDC BC), 365: AIGA Year in Design 27 along with Society of Publication Designers Spots Illustration Annual 2005 to see how each of them compared to each other. There’s a couple different levels to this comparison. There’s the different missions of each organization, for the most part the represent different countries and different ways to communicate. But with anything that is compared today, there’s exceptions to all those categorizations and it seems definitions are up for grabs these days.

D&AD Annual 2006/44D&AD Annual 2006/44
D&AD Annual 2006/44

I suppose the first question is why do these publications exist? Is it for historical reference, for the practical purposes of self promotion (for both the individual and the organization), altruistic notions of awareness to the public, all of the above or something entirely else? There’s probably a mixture of all of those elements in these annuals. Each of them is judged differently so it would be difficult to explain in great detail what each philosophy was in picking “the best”. I only emphasize the words the best because we all know how subjective that categorization can be.

Graphex 06 (GDC  BC)Graphex 06 (GDC  BC)
Graphex 06 (GDC BC)

So as a regular designer that was borne and raised in Canada and has somehow found themselves in New York, what am I exactly looking for, why would I spend time with each of these books, and what was it that made each of them memorable? Each of the books gave off a different feeling before I even opened them for the first time. If I were to place each of them beside each other on a table, I’d have to say that I would open the big yellow D&AD (UK) one first. It simply wins out because it’s the only one that is a hard cover book. The size is intimidating, but I also think that reflects the scale of their awards program too. After that it would be a toss up for what the next book would be. Of the three smaller books, the SPD (USA) one seemed to have the nicest page format proportion. What exactly does that mean – for the size, the number of pages and the simple layout, that was the one that I would spend the second most amount of time with. The GDC (Canada) was third, though the the rationales didn’t really interest me. The AIGA (USA) book seemed really cramped for space and I got tired just flipping through it. I think if that book was twice the paper size that would not have been an issue. The thing is, I haven’t really answered my earlier questions of why bother looking at all? After putting the books down I would judge it successful if I was a little inspired and learned a couple new things. It would be hard to say that I didn’t get at least some of that from each of the annuals. However I think if the only reason you design is to get in one of these books, you need to question it a little deeper. Why not just be an artist?

365: AIGA Year in Design 27365: AIGA Year in Design 27
365: AIGA Year in Design 27

Blogging at the PSFK Conference

PSFK Conference New York

One of the reasons why I blog is just to keep my brain active, it makes me an active participant. That’s why I’m happy to mention that while I’m attending the PSFK Conference in New York that I’ll also be blogging about it too with the “official blogger” status at the venue (I’m not sure what that exactly means though). Having never blogged at a conference before, I’m interested to see what happens. I also feel that I really need take a close look at each of the speakers, try to understand who they are, what they do and think about the topics they plan to talk about in advance. It should be a lot of fun. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to say hi. Over the next ten or twelve days you might notice a shift of the blog to cover some of the ideas that encompass the conference.

likemind this Friday


This Friday is the next likemind. Does your city have one – check out the website at to see. If you’re in New York, it’s at sNice, 8 am. What is so refreshing about a meet up like this is that there’s a really diverse crowd of people. So there’s no way you can’t get inspired by the conversation that follows.

and btw, yes they do have a new wordmark. I was really happy to work w/ Noah and Piers to create this open and positive mark for a group that has a lot of potential…

New blogs that I’ve added to my Other Sites section of DesignNotes

In no particular order, here are a couple new links that I’ve added to my Other Sites section of DesignNotes. You’ll probably laugh, cry and cheer as much as I did after looking at them…

A Daily Dose of Architecture
a really passionate blog dedicated to architecture and the surrounding ideas by John Hill

Type for you
I haven’t really been following the typography blog scene for a long time (not too sure why not), but this blog run by Valdemar Lamego, Pedro Serrão, Pedro Mesquita, Pride Paranoia got me back up to speed pretty quickly

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
I always appreciate people linking to me, especially from Australia. MM Andamon’s blog is offers observations (mainly design related) after her graduate school experience.

guardedly optimistic
who guards their optimism? Well Justin does and you’d be a foolish not to visit his blog to find out why

The Internet’s #1 Source for Jason English News
I’m sure Jason’s title has nothing to do with SEO and his blog is not merely for searching – it’s his collected color commentary, both insightful and inane…

Creative Think
Fun ideas to stimulate your creativity is a pretty good summation of this site by Roger von Oech

Mental Floss
who doesn’t want to read a blog that will make you feel smarter again?

Creative Design
a really diverse design/advertising/art blog by David Airey

PSFK Conference New York

PSFK Conference New York

There were a ton of reasons why I wanted to move to New York. There’s the professional side of things, but there was also the opportunity to take in as much learning as possible. So you can imagine how happy I am to see that there’s PSFK Conference New York – Thursday, March 6th, 2007. You can get more information at

Confirmed Speakers:

Mike Byrne of Anomaly
Alan Chochinov of Core77
Josh Deutsch of Downtown Records (tbc)
Jill Fehrenbacher of Inhabitat
Doug Jaeger of TheHappyCorp
John Lee & Jaie Kim of Theme Magazine
Floyd Hayes of Cunning
Grant McCracken
George Murphy of Fitch
George Parker
Peter Rojas of Engadget
David Rosenberg of JWT
Marc Schiller of Electric Artists
Elizabeth Spiers of Dead Horse Media
Kevin Slavin of AreaCode
Rony Zibara of Fahrenheit 212
Chuck Welch of Naked (tbc)
Scott Witt of Droga5

Confirmed Press Attendance

Advertising Age


The colour of the day is green


and it’s brought to you by Noah.

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