Chinese Guy for a T-shirt

In 2002 I got my very first commission to draw an illustration. The people wanted to print a wise old Chinese guy as a small logo and some fortune-cookie-style phrases across the chest.

So I did some research (it was so long ago that I think it was Yahoo at the time):

old chinese guy in a hat

old chinese drawing of a government official of some sort

So I produced a few variations:

jolly guy in a hat hobo-looking guy Jesus-looking guy in a chinese hat skinny chinese guy

Those were drawn by hand, then scanned or photoed, and then I don’t remember what I did to them that the last two look strange.

The people who wanted to make t-shirts said something like: “We like that hat, and that face, the one that looks like Jesus. It’s even better if the guy doesn’t look too Chinese, so we can’t be called racist.” They were really nice people.

So they bought this one:

guy in a chinese hat

They said: “How much do you want?” I replied that I had no idea how much stuff like that was worth, and they offered $100. I said ok.

I also offered them some ideas about other t-shirt series, but those were too radical to their taste.

Website, 2008

malikov.ca, screenshot, 2008

malikov.ca, homepage, 2008. Visit the live version

In 2007 I made a very comprehensive website that showed most of my stuff. That design lasted a few years, though without any regular updates, because guess what — there was no back-end. Support was a nightmare, but the need to hand-code each page allowed for the level of customization that I wanted, and whole sections of the website have very different looks.

Re-design was related to the need to somewhat self-promote. I started working for PPX company as a developer and wanted to showcase some ideas: for example, I never saw blurry images on the web at the time, and it seemed a nice way to create an interesting visual, playing with planes and all. So the very first version had “contemporary art” plastered all over:

malikov.ca screenshot 2008 first version

See the live version

I always tried to separate web design and development from the art stuff, so I always had a separate domain for it. My freelancing prior to employment at PPX failed miserably. (The main reason for that, I now understand, was charging too little. I should have looked for clients willing to pay twenty, thirty thousand, which would pay for three-four months of good deep work. Instead I was competing with bottom-feeders, charging under 2,000 for a website, but still spent months on projects without compromises. Few of those projects were ever finished, quite frankly. A work is worth what it’s worth — time, bills, mortgage, etc. Race to the bottom is a killer of good things.)

Anyway, since my first “studio” DSDM (Design Studio of Daniel Malikov, visions of grandeur :-) went belly-up I ditched a dedicated website and tried to hook up designs to the art website which had some traffic then. So I put a splash page with a picture I took at some light-rail station in Scarborough.

malikov.ca splashpage screenshot 2009

malikov.ca splash-page screenshot, 2009. Check it out

Notice the type over the image. Once, around 2005 or so, I was designing a website for a project of mine called Energy Preserval Co. I’ve just discovered that ‘width=”100%”‘ properly scales the image, so I put some text over it, and it looked so good, it was amazing. I couldn’t believe nobody had done it before!

But I looked around and found a couple websites – some English HR company’s, I think, and Matthew Barney’s (or was it Damien Hirst’s?). Anyway, people were doing it (albeit very very few people) and I realized that it was magazine aesthetic flowing into the web. That was a good thing, of course, because printed media was a much more mature and sophisticated cultural phenomenon. (I suppose I should write an article about that process.) That was a sign of the web getting mature and sophisticated, and I liked it, so I used it ever since.

Well, it’s been like ten years, and only recently we got the ability to use more than just system fonts. Just as well, only recently all those “Windows XP” toy-style icons designed for jolly five-year-olds started disappearing.

They got replaced with the nihilistic “flat” design, though, like a rebellious non-conformist teenager wearing all black, so the web’s real maturity is still in the future. It kind of just entered college, with Big Data.