by Clare Ultimo
My favorite 20 year old is celebrating an amazing history of creativity and commitment this year. And while I do know a lot of 20-year-olds, I’m talking about The Alternative Pick, the place to find edgy photographers, illustrators, multimedia and design since 1992. AltPick.com went live in 1995.
It’s bit of graphic design history in the making, you might say. AltPick has been attracting the freshest talent in the business from the start of its youthful life. Founder Maria Ragusa wanted this to be the cornerstone of their existence and it was. Back in the day, if an illustrator, photographer, or designer for example, wanted to let an art director or editor know they were around, outside of going door to door with a portfolio, there weren’t many options to choose from. The big and beautiful “Black Book”(where Maria cut her teeth in the business for 13 years) was a coveted and expensive venue for any new kid on the block but it was one of the more effective ways to “be seen” at the time. I remember finding it in the offices of Art Directors and Creative Directors, on their desk or hanging out on their bookshelf; it was a necessary tool of the trade. After all, this was a time when books and stuff on paper were our main source of staying connected!
The first edition of the Alternative Pick book was square, (8″ x 8″) full color, gorgeous and glossy. And my brand new design studio could actually afford a full page spread in it! That was another thing Maria wanted to offer fledgling groups like mine – an affordable option to advertise our work. Warner Music saw my spread that year and kept my studio busy for quite a while! The book’s reputation quickly became one that looked ahead to where our profession was going and I think in the 20 years they’ve been around, AltPick never looked back!
AltPick is a large interactive online community now, with friends and members around the world. The AltPick Card Deck is a unique way Maria likes to connect artists and art buyers beyond cyberspace every year. And I love cards. They are always playful. They don’t take up too much space on your desk and these of course, give us an enticing peek into our constantly changing creative world. So you can imagine I was pretty thrilled when Maria asked me to design the packaging this year.
“Think magic”, she said. A big concept that is purposely mysterious and generally unexplainable. Like sex, I thought! The 2012 package began to take shape in my head in a place where black silk stockings and an exotic cigar are having a drink. Dramatic color, historic references (the backs of old fashioned playing cards with gold gilt edges) and a whimsical “A P” – all aiming to look like they were having fun and belonged together. And of course, all of it in the service of providing a suitable home for the wonderful artwork inside the box! Please see the website below and get yourself a deck!
Maria is always looking for the connections that we have yet to find as artists (and as people too), encouraging the AltPick community to do the same, and I guess that was the biggest inspiration of all for me when I designed the deck. The attraction that the AltPick audience has had over these 20 years to what is not yet labeled or categorized is encouraging to me as a creative. Still figuring it out, still bringing the unexpected together, still surprising us after all this time…Happy Birthday baby!