Sunday, November 1, 2009


Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Art Director, Art Sims

“It’s hard to get loans so I saved my money and worked hard to get the company in place. I did things little by little to set up my office in Los Angeles. I used CBS studios until I wore out my welcome. I used their studios for my own projects, but it became a problem. I was eventually asked if I was going to stay with CBS, but I had already set up mu business in Los Angeles”.


If you didn't know it, Spike Lee's classic film "Do The Right Thing"turned 20 this past June (time flies). The "Joint" has gotten the attention it sho' nuff deserves for its 20th year anniversary. But coming at the film from the perspective of a designer, I've not seen the praise heaped upon certain elements of the film that's appreciated here at StereoTyped. Going back 20 years, I remember clearly when "DTRT" was released in the summer of 1989. By then Public Enemy were the biggest and dopest Rap group around and they were one of my favorites (its always been an agonizing back and forth struggle between the Enemy and RUN DMC and Jam Master Jay). "DTRT", with P.E.'s summer blazer of a single, "Fight The Power"constantly blaring through the ghetto blaster that was Radio Raheem's, had maximum impact on me. I was just punched cold dumb by the flick. I was hit so hard in fact that I spent 8 days in a row, straight, going to see the film. 8 days, the 8pm show, far left seat adjacent to the isle, right side of the theater, last row of seats in the back, right near the doors.

“There’s a lot of African America design advertising agencies going on in the music industry, but in film and television it’s very few becuase there is an ‘old boys’ network in the industry and there is a lot of racism. They have their own groups and they only like to work with their own. Very rarely is there someone that is not connected with them that is brought in from outside of their circles. In this business there is a lot of nepotism and favoritism.”


As a young designer to (some day) be, I was taken with the design of the movie poster as well as the opening title sequence. Seeing the film debut of then Soul Train dancer Rosie Perez bust moves against the sonic backdrop of the relentlessly driving and funky "Fight The Power" as the credits transitioned on and off the screen was, and still is, an image that's hardly easy to forget. To this day it is one of the most memorable openers, period. And Mr. Lee, in league with Sims on the movie marketing design end, had his own thing- his own distinctive visual aesthetic. What I've always loved is that a "Spike Lee Joint" was a complete experience and Spike carried his vision through to the other touch points that accompany a film's release such as soundtracks, ads, merchandise/clothing (Lee had his own Brooklyn based retail shop dubbed "Spike's Joint), Lee directed music videos and movie posters.

“The entertainment industry, They’re still on the plantation. They still don’t respect us. I refuse to promote any thing that makes us look like fools.”


In terms of the key art for DTRT (and most of Spikes subsequent films), that charge fell to Sims, the Detroit, Michigan native and Michigan State University graduate. Sims, with his design studio 11:24 Design (with 11:24 being a hint to a favorite biblical scripture of Sims'), got his start designing film advertising back in the mid 1980's after having worked in the music industry at CBS records. Working with Steven Spielberg Sims devised the movie poster design for the film The Color Purple in 1985. Beginning a working relationship with then up and coming director Spike Lee, Sims has created memorable and classic poster images for most of Lee's films and many others including "general market" (as in, you know, White films y'all) films. Sims' work, distinct style and success has blazed a trail in an industry that has very few Blacks working within it doing the type of work Sims does. It's just one more example of some of the designers of color, whom you may or may not know of, working behind the scenes crafting the images that influence us and form and inform our cultural references.

“African Americans need to form a group whether it is one group or a number of groups that include high profile actors, directors and people that are in behind-the-scenes, from television to the internet. We need to create some directives and make commitments to help each other. Not just their friends, but other African Americans that are trying to make it in this industry. These powerful African Americans need to use their power, and then use it not just for individual situations or for the purpose of monetary gain.”


Acquaint yourself with Art Sims and 11:24 Design Advertising.

11:24 actually, I named my ad agency based on a bible verse. That’s Mark chapter 11 verse 24. And it says, what so ever things you desire when you pray believe you will receive it and you will have it. Other agencies, they name themselves after all kinds of strange cool names. We as a people, you know, we come from the church and you need that empowerment when you’re building your company and to inspire you. So I said, brother, I’m gonna need to have a name that I can reach down into to inspire me when times are tough- I can go to the prayer and the verse.”



While working for Def Jam records as a designer in the late
1990's I had the great fortune of working with Art Sims' work
(indirectly). Though I never got the opportunity to meet him in
person, we got the chance to work on a project with him in
terms of working with his key art for the Spike Lee joint-
"He Got Game" starring Denzel Washington. The soundtrack was
have Lee rejoin forces with the mighty Enemy- Public Enemy that
is. The group was to record the soundtrack album and it would be
released through Def Jam. Being that Spike Lee was one of my
favorite film directors, P.E. my favorite music group, Sims one of
my favorite designers and Def Jam my favorite label, it was
extremely all good. A great experience!


I am the stone that builder refused
I am the visual
The inspiration
That made lady sing the blues

I'm the spark that makes your idea bright
The same spark
that lights the dark
So that you can know your left from your right

I am the ballot in your box
The bullet in your gun
The inner glow that lets you know
To call your brother son
The story that just begun
The promise of what's to come
And I'm 'a remain a soldier till the war is won

The Boondocks theme (song lyrics)
By Asheru

The Boondocks. One of our favorite shows over here. Great theme with our only complaint is that we can't find the extended remix version son! Where it at? The show itself is a burner and all around classic (the episodes on BET and MLK are hilarious). As fans of illustration we love Arron Mcgruder's illustration style. And outside of the beasts and visual colliding in the show's opening credits, we're quite confident that a show such as this would exist without the existence of Rap music and Hip-Hop.


We thought last year's 'Slime and Reason' album by London rapper Roots Manuva had a pretty interesting visual interpretation of the title for the cover design. It was done by the design firm Oscar and Owen. We stumbled upon a "behind the scenes making of" post by a great album cover history web site called "Sleevage". Love getting a glimpse as to how this project was executed. And we gotta give it up to them for such a clever and humorous name. Props to all involved for crafting a unique cover design that's not the usual artist photoshoot cover approach.

Roots Manuva's "Slime and Reason at