Inspirations: Art & Life

I became inspired today by two very different artists. In Talib Kweli’s “Listen” music video, the urban art of Kofie is incorporated as motion graphics. The video is a few years old, but the artwork is still hip and vibrant. Kofie’s work is very deliberate, yet expressionistic. Hip hop has created a platform for a global youth culture and it’s always fascinating to see different art-forms merge.

Another inspiration was seeing the film “War Photographer” and being exposed to the deeply moving documentary photography of James Nachtwey. He braves the battlefields and streets to capture the human condition and the stories behind them. His photos are morbidly beautiful and intimate–art with a conscience.

Artwork: Ghosts from Khmer Rouge (Heritage Series)

. Art by Sherrie Thai of

This piece was inspired by the stories of my family–of tragedies from the hands of the Khmer Rouge, military intervention, and refugee camps. Different times beget different circumstances, but overall, history repeats itself. In a general sense, this piece is also a commentary on the atrocities of war, power, and corruption. Because this artwork comes from a very personal space, it holds great sentimental value. My family is ethnically Chinese, but have faced the same atrocities as Cambodians and Vietnamese from the Khmer Rouge. Modern Pan-Asian pollination has unified different cultures through basic life experiences. Sparked by personal events and a sense of self-exploration, I’m glad to have finally created the first (in hopefully–many) artistic tributes to my family and culture: The Heritage Series.

The initial illustration on the right is graphite on vellum. From there, I scanned in the artwork, collaged patterns (created from my brush pen) and digitally colored the piece. In many of my mixed media pieces, I tend to leave certain areas in grayscale. I’ve always loved juxtaposing detail with simplicity–in concept or through visual elements (Graphic Alchemy). While the Buddha monument is in the foreground, it’s mostly monochrome–the viewer gets drawn into the detail, and not distracted by color. Although color can be a powerful tool, I like to emphasize the simplicity of the subject matter by taking color away. View Larger

The Dark Knight Guerrilla Marketing Campaign

The marketing campaign for the upcoming Batman movie “The Dark Knight” is pure genius. This is the one of the first times I’ve seen multiple online guerrilla venues to promote a brand. I have yet to discover the ad/media agency behind this, but it’s caused quite a stir.

The new Batman movies (with Christian Bale) are a reinvention of the Batman enterprise. The content and approach of the new movies are darker and explores character development, steering away from its cheesy predecessors of the 90s. This reinvention carries over to the online medium. Because Batman has a cultural heritage (decades of comics, t.v. shows, toys, movies, etc.), it has an existing cult-like following. Creating a world around this is no simple task, as execution must be tactful.

The whole premise for the campaign revolves around the user/viewer becoming engaged in the world of Gotham–it’s characters, activities, sights, and sounds. This engagement marketing is very Web 2.0–utilizing User Generated Content to propel the projects further. One example of this is the Why So Serious site (screenshots above). The atmosphere surrounding the Flash site is very covert and mysterious. A viewer is encouraged to submit photos–not with a generic “submit now” button–but through the copy, graphics, and hints of a secret Clown society. If you are pro-Batman, there’s Citizens for Batman, or if you’re interested in politics, you could support Harvey Dent’s bid for District Attorney. Another great site is the mutation of the Gotham Times to the HaHaHa Times by clicking the headline. The campaign is very strategic and fluid as it’s been timed to coordinate with various events–from Comic Con Clown Recruitment to Movie Screenings.

The intelligence of this campaign is due to its non-explicit advertising; it’s about discovery and exploration. It allows people to come to their own conclusions about certain characters or activities. There’s no central homepage listing for all the sites–adding to the mystique of the campaign as it’s user-generated–from articles, other bloggers/fans (Batman Blog), and countless searches.

A new face of online advertising is upon us.

Fire Drill

Going Up
Originally uploaded by shaire productions

This photo was taken while I was doing a photowalk, where I just take a camera and go exploring in the city. There’s never a dull moment. In this shot, the firefighters practiced climbing the ladder and hitting the rooftop. . .

Cultural Editors

I bought the book Design Your Self by Karim Rashid (fashion and furniture designer) the other day. Some of the things he mentions in the book is pretty common sense stuff (about how to live your life through balance), but there are a few interesting points. He mentions designers as being “cultural editors” and that there are three types of beings: “those who create culture, those who consume culture, and those who don’t give a damn about culture.”

I do agree that designers can have enormous cultural power to create fads and change the scope of culture. Look at the impact design has had on Apple–from the functional design of the iPod to the silhouette ads (influenced by the 1900 Victorian cuts). From aesthetics to mass consumerism, design not only affects our visual palette, but how we live and the bottom line. Japanese products are indicative of the design culture and the American market of product design has been catching on. Aesthetics sell.

To say that it’s only designers who have this power of “cultural editor” may be a bit presumptuous. Society is made up by many different types of people, and everyone can make a ripple in their own way–from academics to artists and everyone else in-between. Passion is what makes people “cultural editors,” not necessarily what your line of work is. That passion affects so many things: your outlook on life affects your relationships, demeanor, and the actions you take. I’ve heard people say that ‘work is who you are’, but I know plenty of people who can’t work in their field that they’re passionate about due to external circumstances, or are transitioning into what they love to do. If you have an external passion aside from work, that can provide happiness and a sense of balance.


I designed this birthday card for my buddy, Drew, who happens to be a huge fan of Guinness. Corny, but it was a really fun personal project.

Blogging Adventures

Hey hey. Thanks for stopping by. This is my very first blog (aka. Public CyberDiary). Let me start off by telling you a bit of myself. My name’s Sherrie Thai. I’m the art director of my venture, Shaire Productions, where I produce graphic design and illustration for clients. I also hold down a full-time job as a designer, but in true freelance mentality, I never believed in putting all your eggs in one basket, so I still keep side projects going (it could also be the workaholic in me too). My background is in the fine arts (drawings, glass etchings, lettering, photography and book arts)–self-taught, but have always kept it separate from the commercial design, and it eventually fell on the back-burner. For many years, I’ve only focused on the commercial aspect of design–mainly for survival–but now, my outlook has become more introspective. The fine arts mentality of “do what you will” has been peeking through more steadily and has fueled me to straddle both commercialism and fine arts expressionism. I’ve been searching for alternative creative outlets; this blog is one method.

Another is my website. I’ve been so busy for the last 10 years working away on client projects that I’ve never had a chance to work on my personal site. Right now, I only have a free site through Coroflot. . . but with more time available, I’ve decided to concentrate specifically on my website, and although it leaves less time for other things, it’s been very fulfilling . . . so stay tuned for an interactive book portfolio in the coming months!

There has been encouraging news within the last couple of weeks that I just can’t contain. I was involved with the design of an online eldercare site (AGIS) which has received an Honorary Nomination for a Webby Award this year. Whoohoo! The same day, I received word that one of my photos would be part of a California Tour Guide. I’ve always enjoyed taking photos, but never thought it would be published. Check it out: Schmap California Events

One of the most encouraging news was a mention in a design tutorial and an inclusion of my sketchbooks. Role of Sketching in the Design Process by Sean Hodge is a discussion on the importance of conceptualizing through sketching. I was honored to have discovered my inclusion in the article, as I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of sketching during the design process. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a decline with some designers when it comes to developing ideas on paper. It’s not all about having the best and cleanest drawings as it is about working through and developing your ideas. I have tried going straight to the computer to knock stuff out, but I’d have a creative block and struggle with the work for hours. I started changing my routine and spent some time sketching out ideas and noticed I was able to cut down on the production time. Art is about experimentation and experience; conceptualizing at the start helps to organize thoughts in a more linear fashion. I suppose I may be a purist in upholding the design process.

Anyway, hope to update this blog with something new each week. . .

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