Razzle Dazzle ‘Em

November 3, 2008 at 11:00 pm · Filed under Packaging / 3-Dimensional, Print / Editorial

Amy and Joel / 2001

I think I was first introduced to Joel Brazil when I was 15, on an open bike ride that was organized by a local shop. The shop sponsored one of the top teams in the region, and obliged some of its members to help corral whatever ragtag assemblage of customers and shop dudes decided to show up on warm summer Wednesdays. Joel was one of the best amateur racers in the country at the time, but I knew nothing about him because he never talked to me. This was primarily because he whiled away most of those miles in a perpetual, nauseating debate with Joe, another member of the team, in which they would each try to explain to each other how and why the other was not good at bike racing.

In the years that followed, I happened to work for that bike shop, attend the same university as Joel, race for the same team (and get sucked into similarly nauseating debates with Joe), do work for the same company and take on the same bitter arch nemesis (not Joe). I even ended up living in the very same room that Joel had rented before me in a house with a couple that counted as great friends to both him and I. Still, it was years and years from our initial meeting to when I actually began to get to know Joel, and, for quite a while, I couldn’t stand him.

As long as I knew or knew of Joel, he had been loud, brash, hyper-competitive, utterly exasperated by others’ life choices, inordinately concerned with material possessions, flakey, and schmoozey—ostensibly, an obnoxious, superficial, inconsiderate jerk. His nickname was “Razzle-Dazzle Brazil” (that rhymes), and he loved it. He wanted to write a column on my web site at one point, so I set up a section for him, which I titled Joell Report (a riff on the ultra-snobby Robb Report), and subtitled “Tales of the World’s Most Fortunate Malcontent” (he never actually wrote an article).

But, as more time went by, translations of Joel’s qualities became more lucid: He worked extremely hard to excel at life’s pursuits and was rewarded with the goods to prove it and the satisfaction with which to parade them. His derision of people’s decisions he deemed unwise was compensated for by his keen sense of their unique talent and fervent drive to tease out the potential thereof, at which he was actually quite gifted if given the opportunity.

Although Joell Report never came to fruition, I did get the opportunity to work with him on one very important project. Indeed, it was the materialization of two of his greatest loves: music and Amy, his then-fiancé. Amy+Joel, a soundtrack album of their wedding reception, would be the product…

True to form for the person everyone loves to hate, Joel wasn’t very good at any one thing; he was extremely good at many things. Indeed, before he reached the upper echelons of the amateur cycling ranks, he had been among the top of the amateur skiing ranks, with a place on the U.S. National team for some time. It was on the slopes, floating down powder runs at 90+MpH where his most solid, lasting friendships seemed to have been forged. It was only fitting, then, that his wedding be staged on a peak of the premier Whistler ski resort. In one concept (top-left below), a typo-photo collage melds the two in a blue and white palette that hints at the snowy venue. This atmosphere was most integrated into the concept on the top-right (below), where, the tilted peaks of the iconic location are limned of pluses, speaking to the bonding of Amy and Joel and the collecting of their friends and family:

Amy + Joel Soundtrack cover concepts / 2001

As I hinted at before, Joel was and is obsessed with music he likes (and, thus, disgusted and disdainful of anyone else’s musical taste). In another study (bottom-left above), based primarily on a photo of the couple taken at an after-party to one of our Joe-hosted bike team parties, meaningful lyrics from the songs reverberate between the two in their euphoria-drenched harmony.

The chosen concept was the most raw and expressive. In this cover (bottom-right above), A posterized photograph of a simple kiss is sealed with a plus. The acidic palette and digital typography expressed a sort-of techno rawness that helped define the couple.

From here, the composition was fettled to the essential elegance of the occasion: A more dramatic crop of the photo. A timeless, nuanced title. The burgundy palette of the event:

Amy + Joel wedding album cover; CD jewel case (front) / 2001

The slopes support the special thanks on the back of the booklet. (Look, Ma! There’s my name!). A raucous dancing embrace is spotlighted on the CD, from which the soundtrack titles emanate:

Amy + Joel wedding album; CD jewel case (open, inside), audio CD / 2001

The booklet opens up to the program of the event, set on an active posterized collage of people, places, products, and other ephemera that shaped the couple’s collective heritage and identity:

Amy + Joel wedding album program spread / 2001

The pacing of the package foreshadowed that of the event, from the permanent bonding of Joel+Amy, to the party of people and events that made their lives together possible, to the music that served as inspiration for the emotional release and celebration, and crescendoing into the dance of the night:

Amy + Joel wedding album soundtrack; CD jewel case (back) / 2001

In the nearly eight years since that night, Joel and Amy are still married, have moved their relationship to different states and continents, settling for the last several in London, where she and he both now write articles for the community-based critic web site that he started there. Their family is proud and sure to grow; Indeed, Amy + Joel may someday = three. All that, and he still finds time to pay attention to my web site, so I guess he’s a pretty decent bloke, after all.


  1. Joel Brazil said,

    November 4, 2008 at 4:10 am

    Good post DJ. Seems pretty accurate wrt yours truely, though I like to think I’ve mellowed some with age, or more likely, I just don’t a shit anymore. I do care about design though. I forgot all about those other executions, really like them. Maybe we need to resurect when our baby is born. Perhaps I’ll do as a gift to me missus.

    By the way, I just bought this bike – http://www.pashley.co.uk/guvnor/

    Take care.


  2. Daniel P. Johnston said,

    November 5, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks, Joel.

    Looking forward to when Br. Jr. comes around.

    I just bought this bike.


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