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The music business has a history of coming up with inventive
gimics to market and promote its artists. From the clever (think
oil for Ministry) to the downright bizarre (Amy
Winehouse portable toilets), labels have gone to great lengths
to get their bands noticed. Yet the most tried-and-true way for a
musician to get fans is to play for them, which is what Mitch Davis, aka Orba Squara,
decided to do in advance of his sophomore release, The Trouble
with Flying. Earlier this year, Davis—whose song “Perfect
Timing” has been used ubiquitously in Apple iPhone
ads—got on a bus with Random Collective—designer
José Ricardo Cabral Cabaco and his merry collaborators—to visit 10
cities across the country in 10 days, while Cabaco and crew
documented the trip. The resulting multimedia tour diary is
featured on orbasquara.com,
in the form of a 430-ft. lateral scroll that takes visitors on the
road through lyrics, musings, photography, illustration and
typography. Cabaco, who was born in Mozambique, educated in
Portugal and is a former creative director for Wieden + Kennedy,
describes the project.
The journey begins as the bus leaves New York City (screenshot
Who are the members of Random Collective and where are you
Cabaco: Random Collective is a network of people, good
friends, who love collaborating on interesting creative projects
together. The size of the group will be determined by the nature
and needs of a given project. It can be a group of 20 people or it
may just take two.
For now, I'm the only constant involved with each project, but
that will most likely change over time. Sometimes I'll be the
creative director, other times I may be the art director,
photographer, illustrator or nothing but the connector of people or
I'm based out of Portland, Oregon; other friends are based
around the world.
How did you get linked up with Mitch Davis and the Orba
Squara web project?
Cabaco: I met Mitch when I lived in New York. One day we
were talking about his next album and I immediately offered to help
him—he was kind enough to say yes.
Map of the journey, 10 cities in 10 days (screenshot from
Have you ever done a web project like this before?
Cabaco: I've been working in the design and advertising
business for the past 20 years, and have been fortunate to work in
four different countries. During this time, I've met and worked
with so many talented people with an endless variety of
skills—musicians, designers, art directors, writers, digital
artists, product, retail, fashion and web designers, programmers,
architects, photographers, illustrators, planners, account execs,
directors, producers, editors, make-up artists, set designers,
model makers, etc. Most of them became friends; all of them ended
up being the random collective of people working on a variety of
projects with different needs. So in a way, yes, I've done this
before, I just didn't refer to it as Random Collective until
The Orba Squara site launched in mid-June, but the album
isn't out until October. Usually a band hits the road to support an
album after it's released, not before. Whose idea was it to tour
first and then make this visual document as a promotional
Passing through Maryland screenshot.
Cabaco: Actually, it was the name of the album, The
Trouble with Flying. When I asked Mitch what he meant by the
title, he simply said, “When you get on a plane to go from A to Z,
you miss all the other letters in between. That's the trouble with
flying, missing out on people and places.”
The actual road trip was about capturing, writing,
storyboarding, testing, selecting, archiving and essentially laying
the foundation for the intense work that happened later. There are
too many people to list who somehow, somewhere, touched the
project—each person involved was a key player.
Could you explain some of the technology behind the
Cabaco: The website was built in Flash, and we've pushed
Flash to the limit like I've rarely seen before. It was very
challenging. The amount of information, photography, illustrations,
animated GIFs was overwhelming. There were times we thought about
leaving stuff out, but fortunately we were really bad at editing
Did you configure it for different types of screens and
Cabaco: This website is a mammoth that doesn't fit the
iPhone or any other cell phone. Unfortunately, you can only enjoy
it properly on a computer.
Interestingly, the songs aren't featured in album sequence.
How did you decide which song to place where?
Cabaco: Mitch wanted to do it this way, so the order of
songs would be unveiled with the album release.
“There is nothing like the Grand Canyon to knock the cynicism
right out of a man,” writes Mitch Davis.
You use a ton of different typefaces to convey Mitch's
observations and lyrics throughout the piece. How did you select
what to use where? And how much of the lettering was of your own
creation (you contributed to the book Hand Job)?
Cabaco: The landscape around us was definitely a reason
behind the type choices, and the emotions of the writing as well.
All the hand-drawn type is of our own creation. Some type is of our
own creation, but crafted on the computer; others we bought from
various type companies.
How much of the scroll was created by hand and scanned and
how much created on the computer?
Cabaco: The flow, pace and photo selection were all
decided before starting the design process. The design was then
influenced by those choices. The entire website was storyboarded
first on an A1 drawing pad.
Each day influenced the look and feel of the next day as much as
the landscape around us. All the hand-drawn type was done by us and
was heavily influenced by what we were seeing everyday. Some
roughs, sketches and notes for the illustrations were drafted
during the trip and then drawn and detailed later.
What was your favorite city to document? It seemed like
things really came to life once you hit Nashville…
Southern cooking in Nashville (screenshot).
Cabaco: Things came to life when we arrived in Nashville
because it was our first day-long stop in a city. We had 10 days to
cross the country through 15 states. Up until Nashville, we were
doing short stops. Also, it was night when we pulled into Roanoke,
which was already fast asleep.
Do you have any plans to create more from this material? A
documentary short, perhaps, or even a printed book?
Cabaco: We'd love to find a publisher for a book about
this project. We're looking for one now.
This project feels like a fusion between a travel journal and a
coffee-table book on the web. There's so much more material we
ended up not using. I took almost 30,000 photos during the trip,
and we have lots more illustrations and hand-drawn type we
ultimately had to leave out. Unfortunately, the budget didn't allow
us to film the journey, which makes the web the ideal low-budget
media to appropriately tell the story.
Are you at all concerned that web users won't have the
attention span for a 430-ft. scroll?
In Oregon at the end of the journey (screenshot).
Cabaco: We think the web brings a unique factor to the
project. There's a lot of talk on the web these days about the
importance of storytelling, with not too many stories being told.
Now there's one more.
At the same time, due to the size and complexity of it, it takes
a while to get all the way through the scroll. People aren't used
to spending this much time on a website, but we've heard from a lot
of people who decided to “stay on the bus” until the end, that they
come out very inspired by a variety of things, which makes us
What else are you and Random Collective working on? Will
there be more work for Orba Squara? Or other projects in the
Cabaco: We're still finishing and editing three music
videos for Orba Squara. All of them are being created from
photography, illustrations, type and some animations.
We're also working on the site launch of www.randomcollective.com.
We're considering a few other projects tied to the music, fashion,
illustration, photography, product design worlds, and we're
collaborating on an extraordinary pro bono documentary
project. We hope to unveil sometime in November. Unfortunately, I
can't discuss in much detail now, but things will definitely make
their way to the Random Collective website when it launches later
in the year.
Sue Apfelbaum is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on design, art, music, film and culture. From 2006 to 2012 Sue was the editorial director for AIGA, publishing critical, inspirational and educational content about design on the AIGA website and
developing programming for AIGA's webinars. Visit http://about.me/sueapfelbaum
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