A Star Is Adorned

In addition to being nominated as one of Print Magazine's 15 under 30 creatives, I was also interviewed for the following feature about my Judy Garland film title project.

For creatives who spend their day jobs designing and crafting for clients, the after-hours struggle to develop fulfilling personal projects is very real. Raphael Geroni, a New York City–based designer with Louise Fili Ltd., understands this all too well.

That’s why he used The Judy Garland Film Title Project to turn his passion for classic films into an initiative celebrating his favorite actress. Drawing inspiration from the original titles and promotional ephemera from Garland’s films, Geroni designed and lettered retro title cards using historical typography, deep research and Art Deco style to inform his black and-white pieces.

“I wanted to develop a project that I was passionate about, that involved my personal interests and that I could share with fans of Garland, historical typography and Hollywood history,” Geroni says. “I thought a great deal about how special title designs are to fans, and about their increased importance because they literally flash before your eyes. Before home video and the internet, the titles could only exist for fans in the form of their memories, and revisiting long out-of-print films could be incredibly difficult.”

Geroni wanted to pay homage to this by documenting and presenting a cohesive visual representation of Garland’s filmography on his website (www.raphaelgeroni.com), beginning with her most popular movies, and later working chronologically.

While the 34-title project progressed three title cards at a time, Geroni’s appreciation for Garland’s talents began as a child when he became enchanted with The Wizard of Oz.

“It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I was enamored with the artfulness of that movie,” he says, noting that it wasn’t until much later that he discovered the full extent of Garland’s career.

A Star is Born is my all-time favorite movie and one of the greatest films ever made, even though it was snubbed during awards season. Another one of my favorites is The Pirate, although it’s not widely loved because it was intentionally campy before camp was cool.”

Geroni’s love for Garland successfully translates to the project. In addition to ensuring the pieces matched the 4:3 aspect ratio of the majority of the films, Geroni wrote detailed blog posts about each film and title card and snuck in visual Easter eggs for other movie buff s to appreciate.

“The typeface I used for the captions under each card is set in a font called Meyer Two—an intentional misspelling of [film producer] Louis B. Mayer’s last name—which was one of five fonts that Linotype cut to Mayer’s personal specifications to be used at MGM in their film titles and silent film subtitles. It was drawn in 1926 and digitally revived by David Berlow in 1994.” The completed project is printed on metallic stock at the one-sheet poster size of 27-by-41 inches, enhancing its filmic quality. Geroni says the ultimate goal of the production is to “remind you of a vintage silver gelatin portrait you might have received after writing to your favorite MGM star.”

The poster is currently available for purchase here.

Print Magazine New Visual Artists: 15 Under 30

I’m very honored to have been nominated as one of the 15 New Visual Artists under 30 by Print Magazine this year. The 15 of us were asked to design the cover for the issue and although it wasn’t chosen, I thought it was a fun and quirky cover despite having been created in a just a few sleep-deprived evenings! It’s included inside the issue along with some new work of mine and an interview where I reference far too many divas…

The interview can be found here.

The rejected designs for “A Star is Born”


In September 1950, Judy Garland was let go from her alma mater, M-G-M, for being “unreliable” at twenty-eight years old. She had completed twenty-seven films for them by that time and to much of the motion picture world she was considered “finished.”

Shortly after being let go and her very last M-G-M film Summer Stock had been released to great acclaim, she and a man named Sid Luft met in New York City. By this time, she had survived a suicide attempt, a subsequent nervous breakdown, and a divorce from her second husband, director Vincente Minnelli.

Luft picked up where M-G-M had left off and set up a series of concerts for her in England, beginning at the London Palladium. The success of these performances led to an offer for her to bring vaudeville back to New York City by opening her show at the legendary RKO Palace Theatre on Broadway, which hadn’t seen a live performance in almost twenty years.

Garland opened her show on Broadway on October 16, 1951, to tremendous critical and public acclaim. Her star was on the rise again and getting back into the movies was the next step to secure her place in the industry.

Luft acquired rights to the story of A Star is Born and produced it with Warner Bros. as a musical remake of the classic 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. The talent he and Garland secured to create this epic masterpiece included James Mason as her co-star, the screenplay writer Moss Hart (Lady in the Dark, 1941), composer Harold Arlen (“A Sleepin' Bee,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Get Happy,” and “Over The Rainbow”), lyricist Ira Gershwin (Every classic song you can think of. Perhaps you have heard of his brother George?), and director George Cukor (What Price Hollywood?, 1932, Gaslight, 1944, My Fair Lady, 1964). George Cukor had crossed paths professionally with Garland before! After he was fired from Gone With the Wind, he spent a week directing tests for The Wizard of Oz and his main contribution was changing Garland’s appearance as Dorothy by discarding her blonde wig and getting the makeup department to give her a more natural look with simply braided auburn hair.

The film premiered on the evening of September 29, 1954 at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. The event was the first of its kind to be telecast nationally. Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood was in attendance for this incredible evening and included stars like: Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace (along with his doting mother), Debbie Reynolds, Kim Novak, Peggy Lee, Ray Bolger, Sophie Tucker, George Jessel, Joan Crawford, Doris Day, Jack L. Warner, Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz.

Below is the final one-sheet poster used for promotion of the film:


The talent that I  mentioned above have been discussed for decades but one person that I admire in my own field of graphic design who was also involved in this film in a very brief capacity is the incredible Saul Bass. Yes, the same Saul Bass who was a graphic designer and Academy Award winning filmmaker, best known for his design of motion picture title sequences, film posters, and corporate logos.

During his forty-year career Bass worked for some of Hollywood's most prominent filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese.

The following images  are just a few of his many iconic pieces of work:

Al Kallis is an illustrator who became known for his iconic movie poster illustrations below:

The sketches below were released in an article on TVweek.com by Chuck Ross who had been given access to illustrator Kallis’ photographs of freelance illustration work that were completed in the 1950s. He worked with Bass on a number of projects and it is fascinating to see what could have been.

In his 2015 memoir, “Living the Gift of Time,” Kallis says, “My most interesting client was the gifted designer Saul Bass. Early in his career Saul was primarily involved with motion picture advertising. I made rough layout art based on his ideas and also created finished art.”

My favorite is the one that creates a star-shaped logo made of the title type.


The illustration of Garland in a straw hat used in many of Kallis’ sketches references the following musical number that was cut from the final film. Perhaps it may have been a contributing factor to their rejection?

I own a few of the pre-recording acetates containing the songs from the film (with Garland’s vocals and Ray Heindorf’s orchestrations) and I have included a special version of one of my favorite numbers from the film: “Someone at Last” which is the number that provided the image above that was referenced in the final promotional materials for the film.  The song is a parody of musical production numbers (with subtle Gershwin lyrics to set the sub-text of Garland’s character’s emotional longing) that she performs to cheer up Mason’s character using props lying around in their super-modern home. This version is without the dialog from the film, without the dramatic choir, and features a powerhouse vocal ending that wasn’t used in the final film.

The label refers to the song as a “Tour de Force” and it certainly is!

ASIB Acetate 1.jpg
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If you haven’t already checked out my film title project please follow the link below.

Britney Spears Releases New Single

This phrase usually conjures up the feeling of grand expectations and rolled-eyes followed by a very lucrative, but overproduced work of “pop-perfection” we easily let pass and quietly worship for an overly unacceptable duration. However, I cannot help but be forced to acknowledge the rather ballsy move this comparatively “voice-less” authority of pop has just made this evening. 

Britney Spears has released a song, called “Perfume,” without auto-tune, an obtrusive thumping bass-line, over-bearing backing track, or a cliché dance break-down… and the year is 2013. It is simply a ballad co-written with indie artist, Sia, delivered in a voice that hasn’t been heard in over a decade: there are no apps, convoluted concepts, or gimmicks, the greatest of all evils. Her new record, which will be released close to her birthday next month, is entitled, “Britney Jean.” This is, naturally, her own name, but never referenced in such personal terms. The last time she did anything so blatantly self-referential was in 2001 with her album entitled “Britney.” It was, however, just that: the half of it.

Congratulations, Britney, you have successfully released a song that is fundamentally different from everything else on the radio and in the internet sphere. Remember when “artists” wanted to be “singers” and their voices sat in front of a hard-hitting beat that made you want to dance before you even felt the beat drop? Oh, that’s right, she did that in 1998, while all of the present “ stars” on the radio were still teething. There were no guidelines to becoming, being, or surviving being a star, and now that there are essentially formulas for the infants of the industry, we have unfortunately forgotten the “ringer” one trying to make it must go through… just to keep making it. The “queens” of 2013 can’t deny that the foundations they rely upon were drawn out in the pop-playbook by the girl they listened to when they were twelve.

Britney has finally resurrected, stripped-away, remembered what being in pop-music is all about: making music that says, feels, and expresses something approachable, even if it’s simple. Yes, this is, in fact, a feeling so universal and popular that works because, most importantly, it is essentially “pop” music. Britney, still, has this innate ability because she undeniably was there where it all began. It isn’t hard to recall her comrades in the war against the “front of change” in pop music of our youth, but you only have to go as far as our current TV singing competitions to see them “working.”

Since 2008, when Britney’s voice was unwillingly taken from her by people trying to save her life from the industry that brought her the greatest fame imaginable, she has released a spate of records that she “performed” and we bought willingly. Not because of what we wanted to hear, but because of what we had once heard and remembered coming from a person who first made us feel something, made us feel understood via an album we got at the department store, bought with our allowance, found in out Easter baskets. Before many of my generation became trendy hipsters who now enjoy vinyl records from someone else’s yesteryears, we didn’t pretend we never listened to pop songs of our youth we once thought were groundbreaking. Britney’s records truly resonated with our “juvenile” emotions whether we or others accept them or not. Is that embarrassing? Generations before us had the likes of the Beatles to sing songs emblematic of their youth. We had Britney Spears and she has had the staying power to make the same mark they had, but on our generation.

Above all of the “yes, you survived and gave us something” stories, what I wish to emphasize is that although you have gone through the ringer of the entertainment industry, Britney, unlike the great Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, and others, you have indeed survived. I and we should be so grateful that you continue to push boundaries, expand your talents, and show them to us because it is what we, as people, should do. I cannot help but wonder what the “greats,” such as those previously mentioned, would have created if there had been something or someone to save them. But because you have survived, and since survival can’t be taught, the least we can do is take notes.

#gaga:dullroar #katyperry:whimper