in focus - Dark Igloo

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in focus - Dark Igloo
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Pepsi. Doritos. Target. MTV. They’re some of the world’s
biggest brands, and in recent months, they’ve all turned
to VFS grad Mark Miller’s Dark Igloo.
Since graduating from the one-year Digital Design
program in 2005 – as part of its very first graduating class,
in fact – Mark hasn’t had much in the way of downtime.
He headed straight to New York and signed on with Firstborn Multimedia, where he spent a year creating high-end
Flash interfaces.
“As much as I love interaction design,” he says, “I needed
to find a place that would allow me to experiment with
different technologies and take on all types of work.” That
led to a two-year stint as Senior Art Director at über-hip
NYC firm thehappycorp global.
Now, with momentum on his side, he’s slingshotted into a
new challenge altogether – running the Brooklyn-based Dark
Igloo (darkigloo.com) with co-founder Dave Franzese. In less
than a year, they’ve worked with an all-star roster of clients,
and all the while, Mark’s somehow managed to continue his
daily design exercise, stretch daily (stretchdaily.com).
We caught up with Mark to talk Dark Igloo, the bliss
of MTV-fed nostalgia, and what the future holds for this
designer on the rise.
So, what can you tell us about Dark Igloo?
Dark Igloo is a company that specializes. We work with two
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clients each month in order to focus on quality service and
create things we care about. We bring in amazing vendors
as needed to fit a project. The rest of the time we spend
developing our own dreams and ideas.
Personally I use brands to tell stories and flesh out ideas.
Dark Igloo creates communication systems that serve as
guides but more importantly as constraints. Nothing can be
everything. Everything can be nothing.
For the layperson, could you describe your thoughts on what
branding is, and why it’s important?
Your brand is someone’s reaction to you. For example, if
you miss a friend’s birthday party, they are not going to be
pleased and it will affect your relationship. Pepsi has a hell
of a lot of friends.
Humans desire understanding. Relationships are about
communication. Without these things, the world falls apart.
We help others communicate that understanding.
Tell us about the goals for MTVMusic.com.
In the summer of 2008, MTV digitized all of their old content to share online. For the first time in decades, you could
watch the videos from the first hour they were on air all the
way down to every video released by the Spin Doctors. If
you remember having loved something on MTV, you could
finally experience it again.
That concept really informed our goals for the brand. We
wanted to design an identity that reminded our audience of
the classic videos that once made MTV a home for progressive musicians and directors.
To do this, we created a logo system that could essentially
dress up as milestone moments in MTV’s history. Dire
Straits’ early computer animation, Run-DMC’s Adidas,
Britney Spears’ bare midriff… anything was possible.
This gig was so energizing because we were using – and
loving – the product we were branding. While we were whittling down our list of videos to turn into logos, we would
have friends over to the studio to watch videos with us.
Every time we’d say, “Check out this Spike Jonze video,” a
friend would respond with something that they once loved
Why does branding excite you?
I grew up on a small farm around all sorts of animals. I
named each and every one of them, and the ones that lived
long enough got taglines.
I’ve always been interested in personal image. In 5th grade
I lied to the optometrist – and my mother – so I could get
glasses because I thought they looked cool.
Creating images that resonate with people is addicting. I
made my first logo when I was 12. It’s invigorating to create
a symbol and have someone not only recognize it but understand it and feel something.
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It’s invigorating
to create a symbol
and have someone
not only recognize
it but understand it
and feel something.
about MTV. “No, no! See if they have Dr. Dre!”
Watching a video was like a chain reaction. We could literally see our friends remembering clips or bands they hadn’t
thought of in years – and the joy that came from seeing
Prince’s old haircut.
What is Dark Igloo working on these days?
This month [February 2009], we are working with a high-end
upholstery company based in Chelsea and an innovative
global technology company that is developing a sick new
online platform.
Internally, we are growing a “lifestyle brand” called
NYC WTF, and remixing current events and experimenting
with live performance with Collective Permanent Record
(usecpr.com).
You’ve maintained a personal business, Mark Made, for
over seven years. What’s been the difference between your
work as an employee and your work as a consultant?
I started working when I was 12 years old detasseling corn
for $4.25 an hour – they let me start young because I was
tall. My career as a “creative” has been very similar in that I
have always been presented with opportunities because I am
slightly ahead of my competition and very aggressive. I found
work that I enjoyed doing and over time developed it into a
lifestyle. I feel very privileged to serve others in this way.
What’s the next big challenge for you?
I’m trying to cook at least one meal a week – sandwiches
don’t count – and run every other day.
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Your final project in Digital Design at VFS explored
branding. How did that experience inform the work you’ve
gone on to do?
VFS showed me that you have to start with the big idea.
After you figure that out it becomes much easier to spread
that idea across the appropriate platforms.
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There’s a massive hole in the side of a train just outside Vancouver, smoldering
wreckage strewn across the tracks, and bodies and wounded civilians everywhere
you look. One victim has ugly shards of glass protruding from her arm, and a man is
wandering around in a daze, skin peeling from severe burns.
VFS MAKEUP DESIGN for Film & Television students are right in the thick of
it. And you might have read all about it
in Issue 76 of Make-Up Artist Magazine.
It was called TRANSGUARD I, coordinated by federal, provincial, and
municipal government bodies. In short,
it was an incredibly elaborate preparedness exercise designed to test emergency response, from police to fire to
ambulance services.
Makeup Design students who volunteered were tasked with creating and
applying a wide variety of gruesome injuries for the dozens of people playing
“casualties”. That meant a little over
two weeks of hectic preparation – all
while working in near-total secrecy –
and having the skill to apply it all on the
day of the exercise.
“This disaster response exercise is
kind of like a movie experience,” says
VFS Head of Makeup Design Stan
Edmonds. “It simulates the experience
of a makeup artist working on a large
number of people in a very short time.”
And Dave Martin, Lead Consultant
on the Exercise Design Team, was
thrilled with the results: “The students
did a marvelous job. ”
For video, photos, and much more about the experience, visit l\i$Yec%Xbe] (search disaster)
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Download the full report and grad survey at l\i$Yec%Xbe](search game industry report)
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“The art in games has always been so inspiring to me. It’s what
pulled me into games as a young girl and really made me think
about a career in the game industry.”
ALL NADIA LOHAN NEEDED was a
little time. So instead of diving right
in, she started her VFS education in
the Foundation Visual Art & Design
program.
“I just didn’t feel ready enough to
go into Game Design [at VFS],” says
Nadia, who now works as a FrontEnd Artist at Ubisoft Vancouver.
“I had only graduated high school a
year before and didn’t have any postsecondary training, so when I looked
into the program I thought that it
would be a good way for me to develop
a broader range of skills to bring to the
table in Game Design.”
Students have countless reasons for
beginning their studies in the one-year
Foundation program, whether it’s
to strengthen core art skills like life
drawing or a chance to explore multiple disciplines – film, design, animation – before committing to one for
the long haul. For Nadia, it was a little
of everything.
“As a traditional artist, I was opened
up to the world of digital media and
felt like there were so many more
things to explore, and different ways
I could grow because of it.”
Visit l\i$Yec%Xbe] (search Lohan) for the full interview
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H]ddi^c\Carretera del Norte
Ivan Vilchis Ibarra has often found himself collaborating with fellow VFSers. A
year after graduating from the Film Production program, he returned to Vancouver
from Mexico to coproduce and shoot a short film directed by his VFS classmate
Dave Roncin, and he recently worked with grad Roberto Arochi.
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HE ALSO SERVED as cinematographer
on the short film Carretera del Norte
alongside camera assistant and VFS
grad Sandra de Silva de La Torre. And
Carretera, in particular, is making an
impression on audiences: it’s been honoured at festivals as far afield as Paris,
Greece, and Korea.
When Ivan graduated from VFS,
he returned to Mexico City and began
working on commercials with a director
friend. “Since then, I’ve shot almost 30
commercials, a couple of music videos,
and several short films,” he explains.
“Right now I’m developing a feature
film project that resembles Paris, je
t’aime for the city of Oaxaca.”
All the while, Carretera del Norte –
which was shot entirely in the desert in
San Luis Potosí, nine hours out of Mexico
City – continues to find success. “We are
very excited to see Carretera out there,”
Ivan says. “It’s an amazing feeling to see
your work on the big screen. I received
three awards in Mexico City, including
the Best Cinematography in a Short Film
Award from Pantalla de Cristal.”
“Every time I see Carretera, I can’t
help it to think that I could’ve done
this or that. But it’s a gratifying feeling
when you see that a single frame can
express so much and move people to
the point of tears.”
Visit l\i$Yec%Xbe] (search carretera) for the full interview
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