Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Complete Real Show on Flickr!

Our pals at the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington have posted the 2009 Real Show online. Take a moment to look at all of the fine work that was selected for the show. Weep in awe at the work that you admire and gnash your teeth at the lucky chumps who got in and shouldn't have!

Note that they accidentally posted both of Tracy's magazines — when the Flickr page first went up it only included the 'tin man' spread, but I noticed that later in the day the 'hourglass' spread was added. Some serendipitous irony there! 

Let's get some comments on this post going here with your thought about the work! What are the good pieces? What didn't deserve it? How about the medalists? 


  1. BTW, there are a few nice comments up about the work on the Flickr page!

  2. I'm honestly pretty appalled with the three pieces that got gold medals in this competition!

    I feel like I must be missing something on the stationary that got gold... were the leaves wrought metal or something? I feel like several of the stationary pieces earning merit could have easily taken that spot... feel free to clue me in.

    As for the posters, I feel that the trio of body-part-vegetables is a tough entry to believe-- each of the individual posters there is significantly weaker when singled out from the series, I think-- plus, isn't that cheating? Three posters? I feel like the concept has potential to be a strong one, but the execution I question.

    I'm not a fan of the other poster that earned a gold-- the idea is very fitting, but not mind-blowing, (I picture a room full of thumbnails recognizing that Byrd House could be shown as a birdhouse) so I feel compelled to turn immediately to the execution. There's a pretty clear difference of dimension going on-- The texture and dimension of the birdhouse are an unsettling contrast to the flatness of the bird. I don't feel like the type fits in very well, but again, please clue me in if I am overlooking something.

    My favorite poster is probably Tracy's... I agree with the comment posted on the Flickr site; there's a lot of excellent subtlety going on in terms of textures and patterns, so it feels like the type could fit in just a bit better by offering some kind of texture. I really like the colors, negative space, and aforementioned textures... nice work.

    The other poster that I dig is Michael Shelton's of Longwood University. Looks a lot like a gig poster, but the distressed typography is well done. Also like the negative space on that one.

    Kelsi Burris's poster is really, really close, for me-- it looks a bit strange to have the cabbages/cauliflowers hovering over the other fruits... if this were more thoroughly resolved I'd be a big fan of it. If the elements were illustrated rather than photographic, this detail would be easier to overlook, I think.

    I really enjoy the magazine spreads. Strong ideas, well-done executions. I feel like I could make a bunch of "critiques" on these, but those would largely be nit-picking; I think that they're great on the whole. Surprised to see no golds here (given the golds in the other categories) but that's how it goes, I guess.

    On that note, where's Tracy's Tin Man spread? I don't see it on that page-- maybe it got taken down?

    I really raise an eyebrow at the stamp problem-- the problem parameters seem really open-ended... some of the stamps that received recognition don't seem like they would work at stamp size. Oh well... I guess it's nice to see that the realshow is pushing out to different mediums?

    Congrats to everyone that made it in! I feel like a lot of the pieces chosen for medals sufficiently demonstrate a haphazardness on the part of the judges; I'm sure there were a lot of excellent pieces that probably didn't make it as a result.

  3. AG, Great insights on the competition.

    It's very frustrating each year to try to understand why the judges single out certain pieces. The overriding characteristic of their decisions seem to be rooted in the fact that the judges assume that either the students don't know anything about the 'real' world, or that they haven't been taught properly by their instructors. So, they are very forgiving of the fact that the gold medal stationery project is unprintable. (If you look at the leaf on the letterhead, it is actually riveted onto the paper stock, making it impossible to put through a laser printer, ugh.) Instead they see a clean design with a cool concept, albeit one that only works in a fantasy world, and choose to single it out for its novelty, not realizing that many others may have come up with exactly the same idea, and chosen not to render it because of the real-world implications. They don't hold the production cost against the designer because they assume the student is clueless of such things.

    That's fine, but it makes me wonder if "The Real Show' is the most appropriate name for the contest? It seems to me that singling out such an outrageously expensive project with a gold medal instead gives a false impression of what the 'real' world is all about.

    I'm with you on the gold medal posters too, though I don't feel particularly as strongly as I do about the stationery project. Robby and I were just discussing this issue last week. I don't think producing three posters (as both of the gold medalists did) is cheating, but I do think it's a bit of a cop-out. If it takes a student three posters to say what another can say in one doesn't that diminish the former? Especially when we consider that the poster project called for a .25 inch white border so the posters could be printed digitally? With the fruit posters, they would need to be displayed together -- you certainly wouldn't hang them individually, the grape poster on its own is a disaster! So that essentially means the production price would be tripled, again not very 'real' world. On the other hand, there is a certain cleverness to those posters: by doing three of them, the fact that the typography is relatively weak is obscured — quantity obviously beats quality. To paraphrase Paula Scher, "If you can't make it good, make it big!"

    Although it doesn't show on the Flickr site, the gold medal "bird" posters were a set as well. The student did three, each with a different house / bird, except that these were also trimmed at a 45 degree angle at the top to follow the shape of the house. The student also submitted a photograph of the posters up on a city street, all in a row. The gestalt of the presentation was very impressive, but hardly in the spirit of a project for a not-for-profit with an obvious budget.

    I certainly felt that *most* of the other accepted poster entries were stronger than the gold medalists, and the judges were decisively off-base. Congratulations to those students however, they are just putting their best work out there like anyone else. I did love Tracy's poster, as well as one from Jess Oswald that didn't make it in. There is a great comment about Tracy's poster on the Flickr site — I agree that the texture on the letters would have been a cool touch.

    The stamp problem is not new, it's something they have gone to from time to time over the years. The only requirement was the "USA 42" and the word "celebrate." — much better than the last time they had such a project, it was "Love" before, yuck! Only the sophomores did this one, and I was very happy with their work. We had some super designs that got passed over. One note on the stamps: the "balloon" solution was actually supposed to be dimensional! A puffy sticker! Way to keep it 'real' there!

    Nevertheless, I still felt that this set of judges picked a more well designed show than they typically do. All of the projects are good, and the work from other schools is stellar. It's also fantastic that the ADCMW has gotten the entry field so geographically diverse and large. There's a reason why this is clearly the best of all the contests we enter, and the discussions that come from the work are the worth their weight in gold.

  4. Mark, thanks for filling me in. I was able to better wrap my head around the gold-winning stationary package after some thinking-- I didn't really get the idea it was going for at first, whoops.

    I appreciate getting a better idea of the production quirks in those pieces-- that three-dimensional stamp as an example-- because those sorts of things aren't decipherable from the thumbnails shown on the site.