Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Baha'i eBooks Partnership: One Year Later

One year ago today, I formally announced a partnership I'm very proud to have been a part of -- bringing my Bahá'í eBook cover designs to the eBooks at Bahá'í eBooks Publishing. BEP's beautiful formatting and freely-downloadable distribution model aligned well with my own design values, and it's been a pleasure partnering with them over this past year, including on the exclusive adaptation of Rúhhíyih Rabbani's cover for The Priceless Pearl.

Thanks to everyone for your support in this project, and look for some more eBook cover-related news coming soon!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend a pre-release screening of the first film in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, and wanted to share my impressions.

The short (Hobbit-sized?) version: I loved it.

My initial thoughts? "It's so good to be back in Middle-Earth again." The production team behind The Hobbit did a beautiful job bringing the world of Middle-Earth to life on screen in a way that was familiar and fresh at the same time -- it felt like I was not only revisiting somewhere I had been before (especially in The Shire and Rivendell), but getting to walk around and see more of it than I had before. At the same time, it actually felt like I was seeing it in a time before The Lord of the Rings -- buildings and artifacts seemed ever-so-slightly newer, shinier, and less aged, as if we were really seeing them 60 years before the original film trilogy.

This brings me to one of the biggest things I loved about this film. Not only is it a solid and gorgeously-realized story in itself, but it also serves as a beautiful set-up to The Lord of the Rings films -- much more so than I had expected, especially having read The Hobbit multiple times. I admit I was a little skeptical when I heard The Hobbit was being split into three films, as I wasn't sure how a book shorter than any of the three parts of The Lord of the Rings (which each got one film) could be successfully strung across three separate parts. Having seen this first film, however, I'm thoroughly excited for the next two parts, and I think I see where they're headed with their integration of Appendix story information detailing the build-up to Sauron's resurgence and the skepticism of the guardians of Middle-Earth as to its validity. This, added to the main questing plot of The Hobbit, makes for a compelling story that I believe will scale well to a trilogy format, and will give us that much more beautiful filmmaking to enjoy along the way.

There were a few things I noticed that were different than I had expected. Two story moments from the first trailer, for example, were missing -- I'm wondering if they were cut, or perhaps originally planned for this film but moved to The Desolation of Smaug once the series was changed from two to three films? I'm speaking, specifically, of the shot of Bilbo looking at the shards of Narsil in Rivendell, and Gandalf with his sword in an environment that looks a lot like the old tower visited by Radagast. I'm thinking the Narsil scene was cut (though will maybe show up in the Extended Edition), and the Gandalf shots have been pushed to the next film -- but, of course, time will tell.

Howard Shore's music is fantastic -- the "Misty Mountains" song sung by the dwarves in the first trailer is even better in full in the film, and is fleshed out as a main theme throughout the score. I was happy to hear familiar motifs from The Lord of the Rings, though some of it felt a bit recycled; there were times when it felt like the orchestration was lifted without change from the original films, while other times, new life was breathed into existing themes to great effect. One surprising choice was the Nazgûl theme integrated into an otherwise heroic scene with Thorin Oakenshield and the Pale Orc -- perhaps some foreshadowing of Thorin's darker tendencies?

Apparently, others are enjoying the soundtrack as well -- not only is it currently 8th on the bestselling albums chart on iTunes, but the Special Edition of the soundtrack was sold out at the eight different brick-and-mortar stores I tried to purchase it at (so much for trying to support physical stores, eh?). While I normally purchase my music on iTunes, I wanted the excellent packaging and extras The Lord of the Rings soundtracks were known for, and wanted it immediately for a 2.5-hour drive I had the next day; since my efforts were fruitless, I've since ordered it online, prompting me to question why I didn't just assume I would want to purchase it after seeing the film, and buy it in the week before the premiere. Lesson learned for next year, I suppose.

The effects are -- as one would expect but should not take for granted -- fantastic, including the excellent performance of Gollum. Jackson talked about adding several new muscles to the Gollum model, especially in the face, and he looks even better than he did in The Lord of the Rings (especially the quality of his skin and the lighting on and in it). Assuming no major storyline changes were made, it's a shame we won't be seeing more of Gollum in the next two films, but the time we spent with him in this film was wonderful -- full of personality, humor, and emotion.

The other performances were also engaging and powerful. Ian McKellan continues to flesh out his brilliant interpretation of Gandalf, and Martin Freeman makes an endearing, entertaining, and multidimensional Bilbo Baggins. Richard Armitage's Thorin makes a tormented hero, and I'm excited to see the continuing evolution of his character (Gandalf, Bilbo, and Thorin make a compelling protagonist trio, and I think this works well on screen instead of focusing solely on Bilbo). The dwarves are fun and full of personality as a whole, though understandably not fleshed out much as of the end of the film (aside from Balin, whose encouraging words and expositional storytelling helped us connect with him more than most of the others). And the primary returning cast from The Lord of the Rings (Elrond, Galadriel, Ian Holm's Bilbo) play their roles well, filling in smaller yet important parts of the story.

I can't wait for next December! What did you think of the film? Share your thoughts in the comments.

For those interested, my prerelease screening was in certified IMAX 3D, at 24 fps. I'm looking forward to seeing the film again in 48 fps 3D, as well as trying it out in 24 fps 2D.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


The Colbert Report's opening title from Election Day 2008

It's that time again -- get out and exercise your civil liberties, everyone!

Feel free to post your voting stories in the comments, and keep an eye out for anything fishy going on -- take your smartphone and document it if needed. Demand Progress will be watching Twitter hashtag #videothevote for any posts about potential fraud or inaccuracies.

Also, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report's joint live election coverage tonight will not only broadcast on Comedy Central tonight, but also livestreamed! Watch it here.

Have fun!

TCR's opening title from yesterday

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Site of the Day

I am exceedingly excited and honored to announce that my personal website has been chosen as Adobe's Muse Site of the Day for today, August 1, 2012!

The showcase honors sites that "exhibit strong visual design and usability, interesting and/or timely content, and innovative use of Muse features."

The blurb Adobe wrote about my site reads:

Graphics that play on light and dark are a central theme in this multimedia portfolio's design. Some images descend into darkness at the bottom, while others have light sources that glow from one edge of the image. The text graphics for headlines use shadows and gradients to appear lit from above.

My site has already had visitors from 21 different countries over the course of the day, and the day's not over yet! Thanks to Adobe for showcasing my site, and thanks to everyone who's visited and supported me throughout this journey. I'm looking forward to the next chapter!

My website
Adobe Muse Site of the Day

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Project Release: Replacement Adobe Creative Suite Icons!

I'm very excited to announce a neat new project I've been working on: a set of replacement app icons for Adobe's Creative Suite! They're available for immediate download at my website: ImanRastegari.com.

I've used Adobe's CS software for some time, and have enjoyed their app icon and UI design to varying degrees over the course of their version history. What really pushed me to design this set was the stark aesthetic of their most recent release, CS6 -- I wanted something more nuanced and multi-dimensional than their stock icons provided.

Over time, I've grown to appreciate the philosophy behind Adobe's design (I read a really interesting breakdown of their thinking here), but in the end, it was still a bit too bleak for my tastes, and I've been enjoying my alternative icons on my dock and Launchpad instead. I hope you do, too!

To facilitate easy access to these icon sets, I've also added a brand-new section to my recently-revamped website: Downloads! Currently on this Downloads page are full icon sets for both Mac (.icns) and Windows (.ico), along with a one-click downloadable archive of all of my Bahá'í eBooks covers. Both projects are available now, and are completely free to download and use. And as always, I'd love to hear what you think of them!

I know some of you have been asking for a breakdown of some of the changes made to the website when it was revamped a few weeks ago, and I'm looking forward to posting that in the near future. In the meantime, check out the new site for yourself, and enjoy the downloads!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ray Bradbury

It saddens me to mark the passing of Ray Bradbury, the famed writer of such stories as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. I actually first read his work in short story form, in the collection The Golden Apples of the Sun, which included possibly my favorite work of his, A Sound of Thunder.

Wikipedia article
LA Times article
NY Times obituary

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Priceless Pearl and more

Shortly before Ayyam-i-Há, I was given the opportunity and honor to adapt Rúhhíyih Rabbani's cover for her book, The Priceless Pearl, as an exclusive eBook cover for Bahá'í eBook Publications. It was an interesting and fun challenge, as I needed to maintain all of the major elements from the original design, while trying to adapt it to the theme and design aesthetic I've brought to my other covers.

The book was released as a beautifully-formatted and illustrated eBook during Ayyam-i-Há, and I recommend you check out the free download at Bahá'í eBook Publications's website! I won't be releasing this particular cover at full resolution on my personal website, as I made it as an exclusive for this release, but you can get a closer look when you download the book.

A few other updates: I will be posting an updated version of my dark blue Bahá'í Prayers cover, so that the central star design will show up more clearly on your reader screens. I'm also working on an under-the-hood restructuring of my website, that will also include some expanded content, so keep an eye out for that in the near future. In the meantime, Happy Naw-Rúz!

P.S. For those of you wondering, the full-resolution eBook covers are fully Retina-display-ready for the new iPad! They're technically even higher-resolution than the Retina Display, so they look gorgeous (as does everything on that screen). Enjoy!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie

From the Art of Ralph McQuarrie website:

It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of Ralph McQuarrie.

People say you should never meet your heroes. Ralph was the exception to that rule. We were all fans of his amazing art long before we were blessed with his friendship. But once you got to know Ralph it was impossible not to become a fan of Ralph the man.

Ralph was a very special person for many more reasons than his undeniable brilliance with a brush. He was an especially kind, sensitive, deep, modest, funny and fascinating gentleman. And as fine a role model as any one could have wished for.

His influence on design will be felt forever. There's no doubt in our hearts that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar, future cities will rise and someone, somewhere will say...

"that looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted."


Monday, February 20, 2012

Bahá'í eBook Covers Update!

 I've just updated my website with a bunch of new and tweaked eBook covers! As you can see from the sampling above, there are some new books, including a brand new design for the debut of books from The Báb, as well as some redesigning and updating of covers I had already released. 

This is the first book of The Báb's for which I've designed a cover; interestingly, the five-pointed design actually took longer than most of the nine-sided designs featured in the rest of the covers. I hope you like it! 

I've updated both covers for texts from The Universal House of Justice; changing their author credit to gold, and changing the color scheme on One Common Faith to be consistent with the unique shading of The Promise of World Peace. 

I've updated the cover of Gleanings to better reflect the full, correct title: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. I've also updated most of His other covers to more clearly show subtitles (for example, "The Most Holy Book", for The Kitáb-I-Aqdas). 

I created a new cover, as well as updated the existing ones, with a slightly more prominent star design for 'Abdu'l-Bahá. 

I hope you enjoy the updates, and always, feel free to reach out with your thoughts and comments! You can see and download everything from my site