Nerd Nation


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

There’s a little nerd in all of us. That’s the gist of TechTV’s quirky-yet-cool documentary series. Episodes featured an eclectic mix of geekiness, from hacker conventions and India’s tech-support culture to Roswell gatherings and Star Trek fandom.

The design is derived from the concept of plurality, and how nerd-dom is a quality that exists in just about everyone, depending on one’s point of view. Visually, this is represented through a sea of ever-changing faces and cityscapes to symbolize nerd-ism’s cultural transcendence.

The execution proved extremely tedious, hand-animating a 1000-plus facial parts to morph in and out of each other. Then applying a complex filtering technique to achieve the grunged-up appearance of the final product.

You kind of have to be a nerd to be willing to do all of that.

Summer Identity


BROADCAST: NETWORK IDENTITY PROMOS
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

TechTV’s 2003 seasonal re-branding divided the network’s content into three categories: “Cool Docs,” “How-To,” and “Wacky Fun.”

At the time, the promos director had an inexplicable need to use circles. No particular reason, really. Just that he liked them. So circles it was … an entire landscape of them, with various TechTV personalities doing what they do best on those circles. Not very high-concept. But an opportunity to have a bit of creative play graphically.

Since the circle environments were fairly straightforward, the emphasis was placed on capturing the on-air talent in bursts of character and personality, while traveling through the landscape with dynamic and engaging motion.

Lots of greenscreen footage. Lots of tracking. And of course, lots of circles.

Unscrewed


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

TechTV’s “Unscrewed” was a late-night talk show for the then-blossoming internet generation, covering the world wide web’s saucier side of cyberspace. Essentially, that boiled down to porn, aliens, and more porn.

When commissioned to design the show, not a single episode had aired. In fact, it hadn’t even taped, let alone been written, or even conceived beyond the vague definition of “talk show.” So the door was wide open, as far as what the visual content could be.

The one constant was host Martin Sargent, who’d been TechTV’s comic relief for a number of prior shows, ranging from “TechLive” to “Screensavers.”

Martin had taped himself monologuing about everything and nothing in particular, in an effort to help sell the show. This footage formed the basis for the show’s graphics package.

Necessity being the mother of invention, as well as a lack of time and budget, the result ended up being the nonsensical spoken-word piece you now see before you.

Anime Unleashed


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

“Anime Unleashed” was TechTV’s nightly showcase for Japan’s edgiest and most relevant animated series of the era – aka 2002.

After lengthy debate and exploration, the design team arrived at the conclusion that anime’s uniqueness came from its duality of stillness and motion. Animation was sparse and simple, yet visceral and engaging. Color exploded across the screen, yet possessed a balance and appropriateness. And the most complex imagery of robotic mecha and futuristic vehicles could be communicated with still imagery translated across the screen.

Combine this with an homage to Luc Besson’s “Fifth Element,” as well as a bit of William Gibson, and the show’s graphic opener took shape: a hurtling freefall through a cel-styled futuristic city, bursting into a streaking tunnel filled with charging mecha, concluding on a cyberspace influenced logo resolve.

Secret, Strange & True


BROADCAST: SHOW OPEN
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Senior Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

An episode of “Secret, Strange, and True” once featured an exposé on the Pentagon, and how it was actually constructed as a giant satanic portal for evil to be channeled into the world. Whether that’s true or not is certainly up for debate. But it paints a pretty accurate portrait of what this TechTV documentary series aims to achieve. Sensational. Mysterious. Provocative. Outrageous. True (at least to certain parties).

Unexpectedly, the show open isn’t nearly as enticing as the content would suggest. But that’s a conscious choice. Rather than upstage the given show’s content, it seemed more appropriate to ground the visual design in some manner of artful legitimacy.

This translated to a typographical treatment, where each of the title’s three words is visually defined through abstractions of motion and color. “Secret” is red and caged like a mystery. “Strange” is green and amorphous. And “True” is blue and framed with geometrical structure.

TechLive


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

The signal heard round the (virtual) world. That’s the concept behind this dynamic show open for TechTV’s nightly news magazine. The premise centers on the motif that everything is digital, with information comprised of bits and bytes, shuttled around instantly at all times. And the only barrier being bandwidth.

Particularly tricky was designing the show open’s mid-section accordion segment, a content area that could expand and contract time-wise, based on the given evening’s teaser footage. As the open was designed to be a seamless flow of information, when the graphic elements halt to focus on the evening’s content, the momentum still needed to be present. The solution, surprisingly, was a straight cut, bridging the gap between inserted content and the lead-in to the logo resolve.

The “TechLive” open was awarded the BDA Bronze in the category for News Programming In-House Open.

The Tech of:


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

This remarkably in-depth TechTV documentary of “how things work” focused on just about everything: newspapers, oil tankers, high-rise demolition, football strategies, bridges, ice breakers, paper clips, etc.

For the show’s on-air design, the visual concept was based on the digital analysis of the everyday world. In this case, a building, a car, a newspaper, and a train. Oil tankers and ice breakers were tempting, but none were immediately accessible for filming. And although the paper clip would’ve been classic, it just didn’t have the immediacy we were looking for.

My clearest memory was shooting without permits in Oakland’s BART station. It was a year after 9/11. Tensions were still high. We were almost arrested. Luckily, our producer knew how to run interference.

CES Today


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

Back in 2001, the annual Consumer Electronics Show was the ultimate tech-fetish fest for the latest and greatest offerings of gear and gadgets. It was also considered one of TechTV’s major newsworthy events.

TechTV on-air personalities provided extensive floor coverage of the convention, offering exclusive in-depth interviews with developers and CEO’s, as well as awarding “best-of” accolades for all the show-stopping services and products.

For the concept and visual design, the process started with a barcode, a piece of printed technology branded on every consumer product. Through a freeform exploration of image and motion, the barcode was extrapolated ultimately into the show’s identity and branding.

Consequently, this resulted more in playful eye-candy than high-concept metaphor. But given that it’s basically a news magazine one-off, that proved to be completely appropriate.

Big Thinkers


BROADCAST: SHOW GRAPHICS PACKAGE | PROMO
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

This show package was designed for TechTV’s slick and cerebral 2001 documentary about contemporary futurists, scientists, pioneers and artists. “Big Thinkers” profiled such people as author Douglas Adams, entertainer Penn Jilette, futurist Alvin Toffler, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, and former FCC chairman Michael Powell, to name a few.

From a design perspective, the visual component needed to be contemporary and classy, full of metaphor, yet equally straightforward.

This lead to the concept of a waterdrop to symbolize an idea’s birth. As the drop falls, the impact results in expanding ripples, each circular wave representing different disciplines of thought: science, art, philosophy, metaphysics, universal consciousness, etc.

Pretentious, yes. But most appropriate, given present company.

Darwination


BROADCAST: NETWORK IDENTITY STATION ID
ROLE: Lead Flame Artist / Lead Broadcast Designer
CLIENT: TechTV
ART DIRECTOR: Rick McKee

“Darwination” is the very first animated piece I designed for TechTV. And it was done in an afternoon, while waiting for my first official assignment.

The animation, of course, was a different, lengthier story. The assembly and creation took the better part of a couple of months, on and off, since this wasn’t an officially sanctioned project. It was one of those, “When you have spare time, why not create a station ID.” So when time permitted, I threw as much effort as I could at it. At times, it was a lot. At others, very little. And fortunately, due to a lack of deadline, I had enough room to explore as many ideas as possible.

Inspired by the illustrations of Ernst Haeckel, the central concept focuses on a metaphorical representation of the primordial soup, where technology first swims in the muck, then through organic evolution, grows into more complex and structured shapes, until it eventually takes flight as a sentient creature.

“Darwination” was awarded a BDA Bronze Award in the category of In-House On-Air Station ID.