I think of myself as that rare species: a jocknerd. At any given moment, my iPhone has about 20 podcasts on it, roughly evenly divided between National Public Radio and sports talk shows. (How’s this for nerdy? I know that my round-trip bicycle commute to work is almost exactly the same amount of time as one episode of the NPR news quiz show “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”)
You may have heard of one of the sports shows I used to listen to, “Into the Night with Tony Bruno.” The host was in the news not long ago for making an inexcusable, racist remark on Twitter about a Hispanic baseball player. (He stupidly called San Francisco Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez an “illegal alien.”) The show followed a familiar arc after this sort of controversy: Tony apologized, was suspended for a week, came back for a little while, and then just this past Friday, the show aired its final episode.
I was disappointed that Tony Bruno made that boneheaded comment, not only because it was indeed a boneheaded comment, but I liked his show. Also he is a Philly guy and he openly roots for Philly teams, unlike “Wait, Wait” host Peter Sagal, a confirmed Red Sox fan.
Tony and his show’s executive producer Robin Austin (known to fans as Miss Robin) were quite good at interacting with fans—on air, on Facebook, or in person during occasional broadcasts from sites like restaurants, bars, casinos, or whatever. (The photo here is of Robin and Tony at the 2010 Harold Pump Foundation Gala, honoring Muhammad Ali, Denzel Washington, and Hank Aaron.)
Here’s where my weird connection to the show—and Tony Bruno’s connection to Interpretation By Design—begin.
Before the whole “illegal alien” controversy, I had emailed Miss Robin links to IBD posts (once to an article about Mr. Peanut and again to the now-infamous baseball flowchart), and she was kind enough to post them to her show’s Facebook page.
Then, one day, Miss Robin emailed me out of the blue with this question: “You do graphic design, right?” I was surprised when Miss Robin asked if I’d like to help them come up with a new logo for their show. They were changing from “Into the Night with Tony Bruno” to “The Tony Bruno Show” and wanted a new identity.
Robin emailed some thoughts about the logo (“Tony likes blue”) and I jumped at the opportunity to design something. To start the ball rolling, I sent the sketches above. I chose a bold, slab-serif typeface, because when I listened to Tony on the radio, that’s the sort of typeface I pictured his words in. (That’s normal, right? Doesn’t everyone do that? When Shea talks, I hear Curlz MT.) The little microphone image in the sketch on the left is not original; it’s an image I found online and used as a placeholder.
Miss Robin wrote back that they liked the direction I was going, but they did not like the typeface or the microphone. (“We like the direction you’re going” is client code for “Why did you send this to us?”)
Miss Robin sent some examples of fonts that they liked from the site www.1001freefonts.com, so I mocked up some new ideas and sent the above. According to Miss Robin, however, Tony worried that the O of Bruno was not reading as an O (“The Tony Brun Show”), so again I got the the professional equivalent of It’s not you, it’s me—”We like the direction you’re going.”
After a few drafts and a couple email exchanges, Miss Robin felt guilty and apologized for being a “horrible client.” I did not tell her that I once worked on a logo project that took six years to get approved.
So I mocked up the above with yet another microphone that I reappropriated (design-speak for “stole”) from some random website (just as a placeholder, mind you). We settled on the typeface Dubba Dubba, which I liked for this project because the show took place at night and I think the typeface has a late-night cabaret feel to it. At Miss Robin’s request, I added some bevel and emboss effects to create a three-dimensional effect.
To my surprise, Miss Robin wrote back, “By George, I think you’ve got it! I love it, and more importantly, Tony loves it!” I set to work on replacing the stolen microphone image with an original (though it is still based on the found one) and submitted this:
Shortly after all of this, Tony Bruno’s future with the show was called into question and the logo never saw the light of day (until this post). Still, there were some valuable lessons to take from the experience. (Lesson #1: If you’re a public figure, hire a Twitter editor.)
Working with a client who has a clear, specific idea of what they want can be challenging. I actually liked my initial sketch better than any of the subsequent iterations, but because I would not have to live with the final result of this project the same way I do with materials that I create for my regular job at NAI, it was a little easier to take direction. (Blue? Sure! That font? Sure! 3D effects? Sure!)
Ultimately, it was an interesting and surprisingly enjoyable process, collaborating on a design project with people I know only as radio personalities. Of course, if Miss Robin had come to me looking for Comic Sans and type on a curve, I’d have had to put my Jean-Luc Picard face on: “The line must be drawn here!”
And now I’m off to listen to This American Life. I love listening to Ira Glass speak in 10-point Rockwell Light.