I'm Jeff Couturier — a designer, developer and illustrator in Chicago. I also make comics, listen to punk rock and like to fall down mountains on a snowboard. I write about those things (and others) here.

The Never-ending Redesign

TL;DR : This thing you're looking at was just redesigned.

When creating things, I'm rarely happy with the end result for very long. That's not to say that I wholly dislike what I create, but like most designers I always see room for improvement. In ancient times (you know, about 1990 and earlier) when print was all we really had, design had a definitive "done" point. We designed our piece and then sent it to the printer, at which point it was effectivly cast in bronze and frozen for all eternity. If there was a mistake and it went to press, we then had to decide if that mistake was agregious enough to warrant the cost and time of reprinting. If it was anyting less than terrible we usually had to live with it. There was no opportunity to tweak a heading color or make that cover photo just a little larger without reprinting the whole thing at considerable cost. Sometimes we did it anyway. It isn't fun having that horrible realization that the freshly printed stack in your hands is nothing more than very expensive scrap paper. I once created a playhouse for my cat out of a failed run of business cards. The cat was happy, but I felt a sharp pain in my side each time another card was glued to the roof.

Now that we live in the future with our electric cars and interwebs, we have the luxury of designing for a liquid, living medium. Deploying a digital design rarely means it is actually done. We don't go to press anymore, we just complete one more revision cycle. A double-edged sword, of course. It's wonderful and exciting to be able to make changes, but that also means it is much harder to decide when we're finished. We like to fuss over the details, because design is all about the details. So this ability to make subtle changes whenever we (or our clients) please is both amazing and awful.

I wrote all of that just to say I redesigned my site. I've made a lot of improvements, but it isn't "done." There are more details to sweat, and more things I want to change each time the page refreshes. Welcome to the 2014 version of my public design neurosis.

sketches: Egon Spengler, and a Doodle Dorks challenge

This week the Comic Creators Minigroup sketch jam topic was Ghostbusters, in honor of the late, great Harold Ramis. Here's my entry.



The other night I had the pleasure of joining Sean McLean and Jared Jaworski for their Doodle Dorks challenge. Two words were selected at random, and we live-drew our comics together over Google+ Hangouts. The words were "snakes" and "flatulence." Here's what I came up with.


Hellcat - I mean, Hellboy

Last week's sketch jam topic for the Comic Creator's Minigroup was "Hellboy." Here is my sketch, drawn on my iPad with the new Wacom Creative Stylus (for which I'll write a review soon). Go check out the other entries.


The week before, our subject was Hanna Barbera cartoons. I had to draw one of my favorites, Hong Kong Phooey:


Recap: DanCon - Fall 2013

I spent a good part of my Saturday at DanCon out in the Chicago suburbs, at the Orland Park Civic Center which is roughly 45 minutes from downtown Chicago. I've been hearing nothing but good things about DanCon for several years, and this year my good friend Denver Brubaker had a table so I decided to check it out. It's a small con by design, and that is clearly one of its biggest selling points. There are no celebrity signings and no giant Marvel or DC booths. DanCon is all about local comics and creators, without the "pop culture and entertainment" that has bled into every other major con (Wizard World, C2E2, San Diego Comic Con, DragonCon, etc). Personally, I don't care much about movie promotions, celebrity signings, EA demoing their latest games or countless rows of vendor and trinket booths. I go to conventions for the artists alley, and DanCon focuses heavily on that. They have a merchant room too, but like the artists alley room it is small and well populated with excellent local comic shops. Although most of the tables were indie creators, there were still a couple of Marvel artists. Several of my fellow Aw Yeah Comics contributors had tables there as well. Admission is only $3 ($1 for kids) and it is well worth it. Now I'm looking forward to the Spring DanCon, and with luck I'll be able to get a table there.

Recap: Wizard World/Chicago Comic Con

Wizard World / Chicago Comic Con is over, and now that I've recovered from that marathon I have a few thoughts on the overall experience.

This was my first time with a table at a convention, although I've attended countless comic cons. It's definitely different from the other side of the table, namely in that I didn't get to see much of the convention itself. Wizard World was a four-day convention, running Thursday afternoon through Sunday, and boy was it busy. The only time I got a chance to leave my table and walk the convention floor was Sunday, just before they let the public attendees in. All the rest of the time was spent behind the table, talking to folks and drawing sketch commissions. I sold a lot more books than I had expected, which was great. I also had far more sketch commissions than I anticipated, but they were all a lot of fun. While each day at the con was around 12 hours long, time flew and we really had a blast. I split a table with my excellent friend, Denver Brubaker. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed the experience anywhere near as much if I had to do it without a wingman.

Overall it was fun and I'd say I had a successful convention, but there were several issues with the Wizard World itself. It was poorly organized and the artists alley floor was a complete mess. They used a strange shotgun approach and put craft vendors mixed right in with artists. The two are very different, and it's damn strange to have someone selling nothing but shoes next to an artist selling their books and illustrations. I think this dramatically hurt both the craft vendors and the artists, and none of the artists I spoke to could understand or justify the reasoning behind it. There was also a severe lack of signage to guide attendees to various parts of the convention. It took up two floors, which was also odd, and the artists alley was on the bottom. Many attendees either had a hard time finding the artists alley or never found it at all. Tables and attendee tickets were also really expensive, and no one seems to understand why. The artists themselves seemed to be treated as secondary and unimportant by Wizard World organizers. No one from WWC staff ever stopped by our table to see how we were doing or if we needed anything. They handed out update fliers early every morning stating the floor would open for us artists to set up at 7:30am. Twice, Denver and I were there at 7:30 and were turned away and told we couldn't setup our tables until after 8am. A half hour doesn't seem like much, but when you plan on using that time and are then told you can't have it (for no apparent reason), it's damn irritating. The second time around I asked staff what the deal was, and no one seemed to know. One nice lady let us in anyway, but there were clearly some miscommunications. Another huge issue was the less-than-useless WiFi hotspot. Getting online was nearly impossible, so I was only able to use my Square reader (for credit cards) once. Because we were on the bottom floor, phone signal for both calls and data was non-existent. I couldn't even make a phone call. When you're stuck sitting at a table for 13+ hours a day, having at least some connection to the outside world is rather important.

EDIT: Oh! I forgot to mention the biggest problem. Wizard World neglected to put my name in the damn show flier. That's right, the little booklet they hand to every person walking in the door with names, table numbers and a map - I wasn't on it. Pretty awesome, huh?

Would I get a table there again? If I had to do it alone, certainly not. Even if I were to split a table again, I'm not sure it's worth it. It just isn't a solid show. With other excellent cons like C2E2 in the same city, WWC really needs to get their act together. The general buzz from both attendees and exhibitors is that WWC is too expensive, pretty lackluster, and just not worth bothering with. This year didn't improve that perception.

Even with all of those complaints, I still had an excellent time. Mostly, I think, because it was my first table. I was riding high on adrenaline and excitement the whole time. Denver is a blast to hang out with, and the rest of the creators are a fun bunch. Now I'm really looking forward to my next con table experience. Hopefully that will be C2E2.

And now, some photos:











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