In this month’s My Mac Interview, I speak with Jason Rainbows, the creator of some of the most uniquely different icons out there in cyberspace awaiting downloading into your Mac. Following this introduction are some of Jason’s unique icon stylings to add a cheerful look and feel to your desktop. And please keep reading, for Jason will reveal a secret known only by him and two others, which he shares for the first time with the readers of My Mac.
My Mac- Jason, thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. Can you provide our readers with some background on yourself, your work and how you first became involved with the Mac?
Jason: I was forced into it by evil publishing moguls. Back in ’83-’84, I worked 90 hours a week at a magazine that used Compugraphic machines for all their typesetting. Ever seen one of those? Looks and sounds like an army tank with little midgets bumping into each other inside. You get one line of, like, 36 characters, all caps, using red LEDs. When it line-returned, and you noticed a mistake a line back, you grabbed page 1 of the copy and started all over again.
To make a long story short, … have you ever caught the scene in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest where the Indian guy rips the drinking fountain out of the floor and throws it through the window? Well, … we were on the third story of a building. I almost did it – I WAS THAT CLOSE! One day, I read an article about this new computer that printed out text at 300 dpi, wow! In multiple columns, yet!
And IN DIFFERENT … SCALEABLE … FONTS!!!
Man, I almost wet my pants. I went running to my boss like a giddy little schoolgirl and I managed to talked her into installing two Mac 512k machines and a laser printer.
The day they arrived, techno-fear set in on me. I’d never used these things before! But I thumbed through the manual and in about an hour I was zoomin’ on it.
It wasn’t long before I had named both machines and decided I had to have one of these for myself. I scraped and saved and got my own 512k which had been given the NEW MacPlus upgrade! (If you really need to know, the two at work were named The Brain and The Kidney. My Mac became known as The Evil Dr. Pill)
There was a limited amount of software back then (PageMaker 1 came on one 400k disk!), so it wasn’t long before I got bored and started tinkering with this ResEdit thing, customizing existing software to visually appeal to me and freak out any other Mac users that would see my machine.
My Mac- Your icons, SelectColorIcons (several editions) and SelectDidjit Icons are different from the other everyday icons that we’re used to. Can you explain what sets your work apart from everyone else’s?
Jason: It’s pretty hard to describe, more of a visual thing really. You’ll notice, when you select an icon on the Mac Desktop, it darkens. Well, some colors darken, some colors may stay bright. Look at some of the more complex icons on your desktop. Finding out what colors darken, and which ones stay bright, and incorporating the effect into the overall design yields some very impressive looking icons, and allows me to hide things in the icon that isn’t apparent until the icon is selected.
For instance, what appears to be a generic text file icon, when selected, reveals the words READ ME.
My Mac- Where do you find the inspiration for your icons?
Jason: There was a demo, game or something, a while back called Dreamscape
Vertice (something like that). I forget what the product was but I was impressed with their icon, which looked like a blue toggle-switch. When you selected it, the switch changed to a blue flash. Pretty neat. I immediately took it upon myself to figure out how they did it. All other icons just looked amateurish after seeing that one and I
just HAD to incorporate the technique into my designs.
My Mac- What type of Mac do you use at work and at home?
Jason: Of course at work, I use some heavily armed Macs, PPCs with about 136 megs RAM each, give or take here and there… Well, heavily armed as of six months ago, but you know how things change. An old Quadra, and a bizarre collection of oldies. At home, I do most of my stuff on my little Performa 466 (Trillian Pensive). She’s humble, but she works like a dog when I need her. Plus, she wakes me every morning with a cheerful “Wake UP, Jason! The HOUSE IS ON FIRE! Help, HELP!”
My Mac- What are your favorite pieces of shareware/freeware that you would
consider essential for Mac users?
Jason: Well, I could go on about essentials like FreePPP, Acrobat Reader, Stuffit
Lite, ResEdit (izzat shareware?) etc… but as far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t live without games, screensavers and Photoshop Plug-Ins. Stupid Macintosh Tricks are also essential to my lifestyle…. I play them on myself.
My Mac- What are your favorite software programs? Why?
Jason: It goes without saying that Photoshop and ResEdit are tops on my list, but as I said games and screensavers are my favorite ways to waste time. Starbound II (not yet released) looks promising. Realmz and Warcraft are still fun after all this time. Longevity is important, and I like the interactivity between human and computer.
One thing I believe most people are searching for in computers is companionship. The feeling that one is interacting with another being.
My Mac- You speak of people searching for companionship in computers, the feeling that one is interacting with another being. Why do you think that’s so? (I agree wholeheartedly with that statement)
Jason: Believe it or not, there’s a lot of lonely people in this world. Some, lonely by choice and indeed some are physically unable to interact with humans due to debilitating illnesses or injuries. Most people can’t get three other humans to sit down and play Hearts at the drop of a hat. The Macintosh fills that emptiness by providing a modicum of agreeable, pseudo-human interaction. Any game that provides an hour or so of friendship (even of the electronic kind) is worth its RAM requirements in gold.
My Mac- What would you consider to be the “ideal” Mac for you?
Jason: Oh boy, do you want me to recite my Christmas list again? I’m quite comfortable with the present operating system and my idea of an “ideal” Mac is one that I’ve spent a week customizing to my own specific quirks. Speech synthesis is nice, whenever I get TOO MUCH E-mail, I drop it on TexEdit and have it read it to me using Princess’ voice and go about whatever work I need to do.
Voice recognition is a good idea, too. I’d like to be able to reliably supplement mouse interaction with vocal instructions someday.
My Mac- What advice would you have for someone interested in producing their own icons? What advice would you give to people wanting to make their own works of icon art?
Jason: Grab a copy of ResEdit. Open it, create a new resource, select Icl8 (I think that represents Icon, Large, 8 bit), you’ll be presented with a simple Paint-type window. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. You should be producing good quality icons in, oh, 15 minutes or so.
My Mac- Can you provide us with the background on Jason Rainbow’s Magic
Theatre Art & Design?
Jason: Geeze, I hate this question. Nary a day goes by without somebody asking “Is Jason Rainbows your real name?” No, man, it ain’t. Everybody calls me Jason Rainbows. Even close friends I’ve known for years. It’s kinda like calling Ian Andersen “Jethro Tull” or Roger Waters “Pink Floyd”. It’s just a name I made up. It rolls off your tongue like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or W.F. Walcotts’ Traveling Medicine Show. Magic Theatre comes from Herman Hess’ Steppenwolf (for madmen only).
Art and Design are my superpowers that I use to fight evil and corruption, making the world a safer place for the common man and good lookin’ woman. My real name is John Kamowski. Are you satisfied now? You’ve revealed the secret identity that only my mother and the DMV know me as. But just call me Jason, everyone does!
My Mac- What impact has the Internet had upon your livelihood of graphic productions?
Jason: I consider it my work environment. It’s a great place to draw inspiration
while researching a project. It’s cut my library time to almost nil. For an artist, money is always a big concern. Actually, for an artist’s LANDLADY, money is always a BIG concern. I can work on projects with people from places like Zimbabwe and Malaysia on a daily basis. My phone bill last month was only $16 dollars! Man, before e-mail, my monthly bill was seldom under $200 bucks.
I can put the savings towards rent now so my landlady is able to afford the lap of luxury that she’s grown accustomed to. Also, her threats are becoming a little more civil.
My Mac- Where are Jason’s icons going to next? Are you planning a new model of
icon to surpass what you’ve done so far?
Jason: Lots of ideas, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted as I release them. I just finished work on an After Dark screensaver module. It’s pretty strange and hard to describe. Imagine a bunch of dead musicians, well, sorta cartoon characterizations (my renditions) of John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, etc… Tons of them crowding up your screen, jumpin’ all over the place. Did you ever have too much of a good thing? I call it Rock n’ Roll Heaven.
I make a personal appearance in this one as The Live Guy. You know I’m the Live Guy because I’m wearing one of those stupid red/white striped hats (they won’t let you into Heaven with a hat like that!).
My Mac- Besides icons, you’ve produced Garcia’s Guitars (a “tribute” game to artist Jerry Garcia), Nature’s Way Textures (for Desktop Textures 2.1) and the Wake Up Dali Alarm clock, plus you’ve done the artwork for the new game for the PowerPC, Ultimate Pool. What other projects do you have planned?
Jason: My friend Jacci suggested that I do a Lava Lamp screensaver. My brain is still working on that one. Another project inside my skull is actually a series of projects. When I was just a little hippie in elementary school, I created a bunch of board games using cardboard and old shirt buttons that I’d play with friends so we didn’t have to listen to the teachers. They were combinations of games like Monopoly, Life, Parcheesi and Chutes and Ladders. Pretty bizarre, but random enough to be playable on a regular basis. Look out for these babies all grown-up for your Mac.
My Mac- My Latin is a bit rusty. You include a saying with all your messages, “littera scripta manet – non omnis moriar.” Translation and its meaning for you. (If any)
Jason: I’ve always been in some way involved in various aspects of publishing.
Either producing magazines and periodicals, authoring short stories and prose or even just writing or editing advertising copy. My translation is: The written word remains – I shall not perish.
Just another egomaniacal stab at immortality, I guess.
My Mac- What do you see in store for the Mac as a computer system? Better yet, what would you like to see done with the Mac?
Jason: Dependable Voice Recognition! My apologies to Dr. Doolittle, but I want to talk
to the Mechanicals! Just imagine it – chatting with a chip in chipanese!
But seriously, doesn’t EVERYBODY wanna talk to their Macs – and have them answer intelligently? I don’t mean conversation like “Nice weather we’re having, eh, Jason?”, but more like: “Computer (bleep), open FaxSoftware, fax document A to Client B.”
“(bleep) I’m sorry Jason, document A is actually a PROGRAM and cannot be faxed at this time (bleep).”
Now, I could live with that.
My Mac- What direction would you take Apple if you were in charge?
Jason: Straight to the top, baby! First of all I’d put some creativity into the
commercials, for cryin’ out loud. Maybe mention the fact that practically all the advertising and packaging for products on competitive platforms are done on a Mac. Jeeze, if I ever have to produce another design for an IBM product’s packaging, I’ll scream.
My Mac- How do you respond to those who say the Mac is losing its position in
the graphics field and in computing in general?
Jason: People on Wall Street aren’t into computers, they’re into money, numbers
actually. And those who claim the Mac is losing its position in the graphics field, are obviously not as involved in the graphics field as they would like to believe.
I’ve dealt with that argument for years. Since childhood, I’ve always imagined a day when all computers and software becomes standardized. The Mac OS has taken the greatest strides in leading us to that day. There’s just no argument to the contrary.
My Mac- A final question for you, Jason. Why do you consider the Mac the premier platform to do your graphic work?
Jason: That’s an easy question…
I can sit down, inspired, and begin working immediately on whatever I want
with a minimum of pre-configuring.
When I work with a Macintosh, it’s not like working on a machine at all. It’s more like working with a trusted friend or knowledgeable co-worker. There’s an enabling humanness about them that encourages one to feel safe when trying out new ideas or techniques.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***For those readers interested in Jason Rainbow’s icon work and his other items, you can find most of them in the Info-Mac HyperArchives and on AOL in the software files. For those of you interested in seeing additional examples of his graphic artistry, check out his Web site at: http://www.q-net.net/~rainbow for some of his Mac freebies.
Russ Walkowich (firstname.lastname@example.org)