Thursday, December 20, 2007

Michael Schwab, Graphic Designer

Michael Schwab is a graphic designer and poster artist extraordinaire, living and working in Marin County. His distinctive graphic style is characterized by highly reductive imagery, and the bold use of flat areas of color. Working in the tradition of the Plakastil masters Lucien Bernhard and Ludwig Hohlwein, he has forged a look very much his own: at once contemporary and timeless. In his own words: “The basic premise of my work is this: the message must be succinct, immediate, and legible from ‘way across the room’.”

San Francisco Bay Area residents and visitors alike will instantly recognize Michael Schwab’s iconic poster series for the Golden Gate National Parks.

Introduced in 1996 as bus stop graphics, the series was an instant hit and superbly satisfied the objective of creating a brand identity for the scattered sites of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Though Schwab’s impressive client list is international in scope, I include him here for his substantial contribution to the graphic representation of Sonoma County.

Michael has produced a number of posters for the Gloria Ferrer Winery in the Carneros region. It is not clear to me which of the following images is the earliest, but to my eye, the second image is the more powerful- pared down to the essence, evocative- almost cryptic- quintessential Schwab.

In 2001, Schwab produced a logo and poster for the Carneros Wine Alliance that masterfully captures the stark beauty of the region:

A recently completed project is a series of illustrations for Sunset’s California Wine Country; a Field Guide. Here are the cover illustration for the book, and the chapter heading illustration for the Sonoma Wine Country:

More details on this book, including an interview with Michael Schwab, and a gallery of illustrations can be found here

Expect to see a lot more wine related work- posters and labels- from this prodigious talent in the days to come. Hot off of the boards are two new wine label projects from the Michael Schwab Studio. Cannonball is in Middletown (Lake Co.), and Angels & Cowboys is Michael's own label from Mendocino County.

Friday, December 14, 2007

An Introduction

A word of introduction:

I am a designer living and working in Petaluma, a Victorian riverfront town in southern Sonoma County. Trained as a furniture maker and an industrial designer, my professional activities center around furniture and residential design. Recently, I have revisited my interest in bicycle transportation, and I am in the process of designing a retro style city bike. Links to my business website and my bicycle blog can be found on the sidebar.

When I moved to Petaluma some 17 years ago, Sonoma County was the poor country cousin of the Napa Valley- the other wine country. In the last decade, Sonoma County has come into its own- the Sonoma name is recognized worldwide, and its cachet co-opted to brand trucks, shoes, and kitchen wares.

What exactly is Sonoma Style? To be sure, the identity of Sonoma County has been influenced by the wine industry and the influx of investment and tourism that has followed, but Sonoma County is a large and diverse region, both in terms of geography and culture. It is my aim to piece together a picture of our rich and unique design landscape here in conversations with and about designers, architects, and artists working in and around Sonoma County.

I bring my own biases to this project- I am a neo-classicist living in a post-modern world- but I will attempt to discuss worthy design of any genre that comes to my attention. Occasionally, I will use this forum to write about my own design activities- yes, shameless self-promotion.

I hope that you will find this blog interesting, inspiring, and informative.

Robert Hudson