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Designing the New Year 2008 Insignia
January 6, 2011

Snakes on a New Year marked a milestone on the last day of 2008, capping off the first year that I began drawing event insignia, much less hosting events! In this article I'll discuss the processes leading up to New Year's 2008, the patch that was designed for it, and how these two influenced everything that followed.

Reexamining the New Year's Eve Insignia
2008: Snakes On A New Year

It's all Daniel Norton's fault. All of it. He is the cause of all this fuss.

I rarely ever had people over until Daniel suggested we have a series of Scrubs marathons at my house. The
First Season marathon was held March 8, 2006, the Second Season on December 19, and the Third Season on May 15, 2007. The first full marathon that I offered an open invitation for was Star Wars, whose thirtieth anniversary we celebrated on May 25, 2007.

Granted, many events had convened on my house in the past. All of the JoshFests had been held, at least in part, at my house, though for a number of years they ended at Jeff&Erin's old pad, which offered better accommodations for a larger crowd. This was because my basement, which has been slowly edging towards a finished product for the preceding decade, wasn't really that comfortable until November 2007, when a wood floor was added and new furniture purchased. At that point the room became a place I wasn't ashamed about people seeing and our weekly movie days, scattered through the second half of 2007 and culminating in the combination of the first Six-Foot Turkey Day and the first New Year's sync-up within the last month of the year, took off in force come the start of 2008. Again, Daniel's fault.

One event that I deliberately didn't mention in the previous section was the
Easter Egg Workshop, which took place on April 7, 2007. Where Star Wars was the first movie marathon that I offered to host, the Easter Egg Workshop was the first non-JoshFest event that I opened up to everyone. Movies weren't intended, even though they wound up running in the background.

That event is notable because it was also the first event that I designed a special insignia for. I had been drawing mission patches of all sorts for years, as I've discussed ad nauseum already.

First: Easter Egg Workshop, April 2007

There was no extraordinary reason for creating the event patch other than my desire to be as bureaucratic as possible about these kinds of things. Anyone can host an event. However that event goes, whatever happens, there will be photos and memories that can be reflected upon for years to come. However, once an event is over then that event is over. Maybe that event is even quickly forgotten amid a sea of similar festivities that you host.

I don't like that. I believe that if I'm going to host something then there should be something that remains. A physical reminder, an icon. Something that was tied to a specific event and later stands as a lasting symbol. Anyone who knows me knows my lifelong adoration of the space program and, especially, the mission insignia designed for every flight.

Even if we can't remember the particulars of STS-122 to pick a favorite example such as which vehicle it was, who its crew were, when it flew, where it went, or what payload it carried, then at least the patch, a graphical reduction of the entire mission, may stand to represent its achievements. These patches say so much through their simple visual format that a special event's place in a historical narrative can be recalled instantly without lengthy descriptions, a multitude of photos, or first-hand memories, though those are all necessary to flesh out the specific details.

STS-122 mission patch

Printouts of the insignia for the Easter Egg Workshop were never displayed during the event. I forgot about them and they sat upstairs on my desk through the entire day. I did display the next event insignia, for JoshFest: 2007, though only outside for some reason, where it was ruined by rain. Only one photo shows it inside though I understand if you were too distracted by Marie to notice it. That sort of thing happens.

For the record, the seven JoshFests that preceded 2007 were all designed in August 2007 for the sake of making a complete series. I have never tried to claim that those designs were original to their events. Additionally, a case could be made for the Grubfest badges from June 2006 being early progenitors of the event insignia, though it should be noted that no overall Grubfest patch existed until one was retroactively crafted in 2017.

Okay anyway, even despite a Star Wars and a
Robocop marathon, the event insignia wasn't something that had really caught on.

Then in October 2007 Daniel made more suggestions. Over winter break, he said, we should watch the 2006 classic, SNAKES ON A PLANE, and that we should call the day "Snakes On A Break." I told him I approved of this idea. Also, he added, we should have a special insignia for it. This was another idea that I approved of.

Right around this time Charles telegraphed me a message suggesting Six-Foot Turkey Day. If I was making a special insignia for Snakes On a Break, then I could also do one for this Jurassic Park day, I reasoned. I gave Charles a copy of the Six-Foot Turkey Day insignia while we were at Big Boy on November 3 for his approval before that event took place on the 23rd.

For Snakes on a Break, I showed Daniel a print-out of my first pass while we were at Hot Sizzlin' Wok on December 15. The colors were off because my ink cartridge was nearly empty, but it got the point across. This is what it was supposed to look like, with a festive red and green color scheme.

Unfinished Snakes On A Break insignia

Notice the exhaust trails behind the engines of the Boeing 747. They only appeared in this early version and were removed shortly after. They date back to when the aircraft was drawn four months earlier to feature on the retroactively designed JoshFest: 2006 patch. It's okay to recycle the occasional vector element between designs, especially since both of these patches were built around watching SNAKES ON A PLANE. If we look at that graphic's "wireframe" in Adobe Illustrator, you can spot the exhaust trails.

JoshFest: 2006 "wireframe"

The exhaust had originally been drawn along with the 747 to be used on that JoshFest patch but in the end the four exhaust elements went unused and were buried underneath the background layer where they wouldn't be seen. When the aircraft was copied to the Snakes on a Break graphic, the exhaust trails went with it before, once again, they were hidden out of sight beneath the background layer. While they may be technically accurate to show, they're just plain ugly to see.

At this time we hadn't set a date for Snakes on a Break, even as the end of the year approached.

The last change in the schedule came from, you guessed it, Daniel again. Let's sync-up Sam Jackson yelling about how he's tired of all those snakes on the plane with the stroke of midnight, 2008! I hesitated, of course. People like to be out watching Dick Clark for New Years; there'd be no way I of all people would be able to change anyone's plans.

Before I knew it, Charles was on board and Felicity and Scott said they'd be joining us for at least part of the evening once I added Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) onto the schedule.

There was no reason why the Snakes On A Break patch couldn't have worked for the newly rechristened Snakes On a New Year. I still like where that design was heading and think it could have turned into a striking patch. Whatever my feelings, I decided to mostly scrap it and start over.

In imagining a patch for New Year's, I kept seeing the airplane as the hands of a clock. This was the chief argument against Snakes On A Break's bullet-shaped design. It would have made an awkward clock. For the new version, I was free to draw a proper timepiece.

The full-circled clock

Not very interesting.

It took a bit of fiddling around, specifically taking a bite from the bottom of the outer border, adding the "radar screen" background (though I always think of the astrogator from Star Trek), and tweaking the colors, before I finally arrived at the final design. Adding a pair of inner rings around the clock face and slapping on some text finished out the patch.

The finished final design

Initially I had been dismissive of the concept of releasing post-event versions of the patches with the attendees' names on them, which is an attitiude I no longer hold. The "names" versions of the event insignia began in 2013, reaching back to retroactively modify older patches to a post-event form.

The post-event "names" version

I can no longer remember when I began working on the New Year's version of the patch, but it was probably no more than three days or so before the 31st. It was released at 2:46 PM on the afternoon of December 30, 2007, just 29 hours and 14 minutes before we were planning to begin watching Sky Captain.

For the first time, a cut-out version of the patch

Because of Snakes On A New Year (and to some respect, the first Six-Foot Turkey Day), I've begun hosting movie days on more weekends than not. In December 2010 I tallied up each year's list of films that we had watched and came up with the following figures:

2006: 00
2007: 27
2008: 76
2009: 80
2010: 91

(EXPLANATION: We only watched Scrubs episodes in 2006, which I didn't count. My tally only takes into account television episodes if they are watched individually. Any episodes watched as part of a series marathon -- i.e., Scrubs, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek -- were not counted because they would otherwise overwhelm the lists. The full lists of everything we watched and the complete breakdown of the figures are available on the
Features page.)

As of New Year's Day 2011, I'd created a total of thirty-eight event insignia. This number includes the seven pre-2007 JoshFests as well as the Starship Troopers and Godzilla Marathon insignias that we still haven't put to use yet. It's all because of a trend that we started in 2007, and it's pretty much all Daniel's fault.

The first four: 2007 in event insignia


It was a roundabout way of saying it, but the Snakes On A New Year from December 2007 has a special place in my heart. It wasn't the first event insignia, the Easter Egg Workshop's was. It wasn't the first event insignia to be displayed, JoshFest VIII's was. It wasn't even the first event insignia to be omnipresent at the event, since Six-Foot Turkey Day's was.

Snakes On A New Year was, however, the first event to be organized, plugged, and decorated around its special insignia, and it's the first whose patch can be decisively linked to one singular moment in time. In that it accomplished its job as a unique insignia for a particular event perfectly and, unlike Six-Foot Turkey Day, was only used once rather than being reused when the event rolls around every year.

(Left) Sky Captain's bold and nostalgic title screen
(Right) Predator's modest and pleasantly serifed title

(Left) The peaceful tranquility that is SNAKES ON A PLANE's title screen
(Right) The midnight moment: Samuel L. Jackson has HAD IT with these snakes

Daniel, Charles, Felicity, and Scott stayed for the entire length of the evening, despite the latter two's saying early on that they might leave after Sky Captain. The timing on the movie was about six or seven seconds off. This discrepancy was due to not having taken into account the exact length of time that the DVD player might take to play the film rather than simply relying on the elapsed time counter. In subsequent years the movie would be timed by a separate stopwatch from the instant the play button was pressed.

Clearly I was still working this thing out

After-the-fact standardized schedule (PDF)

The nicely printed schedules first appeared the next year, so we went off of this hand-written index card prepared a day or two before. Notice that it says "Snakes on a Break." Apparently the name change had been super late in the game. All the same, I later put together a schedule in the same style as subsequent years for use on this website.

After SNAKES ON A PLANE we proceeded to watch Predator (1987) with Michael J. Nelson's RiffTrax commentary track.

So that's the story not only of the 2007-2008 New Year's insignia, but of all our event insignia.

Just remember one thing. The reason these "designing" articles have been written, and the reason why you might be slogging through them?

It's all Daniel Norton's fault.

Snakes on a New Year
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Engaged January 3, 2015 | Updated March 29, 2016