Grimdark Metal-Style Logo (t-shirt design)

If you’re a reader of sci-fi / fantasy you may have heard the word “grimdark.” It’s a fairly recent neologism, coined by fans of the elaborately macabre Warhammer 40,000 fictional universe, whose tagline describes the “grim darkness” of its bleak future. The word “grimdark” came to describe the often over-the-top, satirical bleakness and violence of the setting.

Over the last decade or so, “grimdark” has applied to a wide range of fictional universes and creators, in a more or less tongue-in-cheek fashion. Some authors have applied it to their own work — one early example being Joe Abercrombie, author of the darkly comic (and comically dark) First Law series.

The word is, more or less, a meme.

As such, any real definition of the term remains murky. “Grimdark” isn’t a set of aesthetic tropes or settings like, say, steampunk. It encompasses a wide spectrum of authors and individual works — gritty, often horror-infused, generally involving antiheroes in ‘dark’ or dystopian, quasi-historical settings. (If you guessed Game of Thrones would be accused of grimdark, you’d be right.) Small communities and fanbases have formed around “grimdark” fiction to discuss and share and, inevitably, market such works, but usually without a strict definition of the term.

The category’s wide banner is, I think, one of the keys to its popularity. Grimdark is above all a feeling, and its nebulous nature is fertile grounds for discussion of all kinds of works by all kinds of creators. As you might say about another certain derided genre of art, “I know it when I see it.”

Naturally, there’s been a backlash against “grimdark” both as a term and a concept, and a backlash to that backlash. Grimdark even has vocal detractors, who use the word pejoratively to describe works they dislike, typically fantasy texts perceived as insufficiently optimistic. Right-wing writers at Breitbart have decried the “bankrupt nihilism” of this type of fantasy, and liberal-trending online reader communities have decried it on almost identical grounds. There are, in the mix, overlapping debates about the potential hazards of thematic pessimism on sensitive or suggestible readers, and about the role of privilege among (mostly white, mostly male) authors with regards to depicting certain forms of oppression and violence.

Underpinning many of these debates are competing philosophies, often unarticulated and perhaps unexamined at the root, about the moral purpose of fiction. In this essay, I will…

No. No, I won’t. I came here to post a dang t-shirt.

Point is, I think “grimdark” is a hilarious word and a vibrant community. George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Glen Cook, Anna Smith Spark and a whole host of “grimdark” authors have brought me great reading pleasure over the years, and sparked lively conversations with people I’ve come to call friends.

I’ve decided to honour them with this t-shirt design inspired by early extreme metal pioneers like Obituary, Sepultura and so forth — the grimdark of music.

“Grimdark” of course is not an existing band, but you’ll feel very metal wearing it. Click onward to Redbubble and get your own!

Game of Thrones Wedding Invitations

Game of Thrones Wedding Invitations
I always get choked up at weddings.
I always get choked up at weddings.

Who's excited for Game of Thrones Season 5? I know I am. As a reader of George R.R. Martin's sprawling saga since before the turn of the millennium, I held out on watching the show for several seasons, convinced that no TV show could ever capture the books, and that the hype was just the usual chatter that surrounds anything heavily-promoted. Turns out, I was wrong. "Game of Thrones" is a fantastic piece of entertainment that earns its hit status and then some.

Anyone who's spent time in Westeros knows that weddings aren't the happiest of occasions. Sure, there was Robb's marriage to Jeyne (or Talisa in the show), but only for a while. My personal favourite is, as the fans nicknamed it, the Purple Wedding, where monstrous boy-king Joffrey Baratheon got his just desserts. And it's the Purple Wedding I decided to honour with this project, a conceptual mockup of wedding invitations merging historical and modern styles. The content mostly explains itself, but check the notes below for details. Hope you like 'em!

Nerd Notes: The “coat of arms” motif is intended to represent the union of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. The design incorporates the emblems of Joffrey’s parents, the Lannister lion and the Baratheon stag, and those of Margaery’s parents, the Tyrell rose and the Hightower keep. (There’s also a seven-pointed star as seen in “Game of Thrones”.) The basis of the design is actually the Alberta coat of arms.

Credits: Medieval design and heraldry elements from WikiMedia and various stock sites. Monogram from a scanned 19th-century book at Project Gutenberg. Mockup template from Envato. "A Song of Ice & Fire" series by George R.R. Martin.

’80s synth logos!

This is what a designer who needs a mental break gets up to on a stormy Sunday afternoon. Because I'm the kind of person who wonders about such things, I got to thinking: What if some of my favourite '80s musicians had the same aesthetic as the big butt-rock boys of the day? The answer to that question is a few patches I wouldn't be ashamed to sew into my Canadian tuxedo.


Bad Building film poster & lobby card

Bad Building film poster

Film promotional materials designed for Industry Works Pictures and New Image Entertainment. I created the logotype that's now used in all the promotions. For the poster element, I utilized a 3D rendered image from the film's post-production work (by Black Arts Media) as the basis, along with a bunch of urban stock photos. I also wrote the film blurbs!

This design ended up being featured on CNN, Badass Digest and several other outlets as an example of memorable film marketing. (They even quoted my copy directly.) New Image wanted to change the title, but somehow we convinced them not to :)