Marathon Man

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Los Angeles isn't exactly known for its pedestrian culture (or it is, depending on your definition of the word pedestrian...). The longest walk taken by many Angelinos in a day is from the front door to the car, but for the last 23 years the LA Marathon (now sponsored by Honda) has been getting the city up and running ... gasp! ... outdoors.

The print and outdoor campaign for this Sunday's race, along with the 14th annual Acura L.A. Bike Tour, by Rubin, Postaer and Associates (RPA) has eschewed the usual tone of suffering and bodily punishment to instead promote them as fun and inclusive events. Part of that process was enlisting designer Andy Mueller, a creative and art director at Girl Skateboards and founder of The Quiet Life. Mueller's whimsical illustration style took the tagline "Run, City, Run" quite literally, with two-legged versions of downtown LA, Griffith Park and Santa Monica.

We spoke with Mueller, as well as RPA copywriter Eric Helin and senior art director Nathan Crow about the campaign.

How did this project come about?
NC: We had three separate big ideas that were approved internally to be shown to Honda. One was "Run, Los Angeles, Run" which was about different parts of the city getting up and running. That campaign was approved (and became "Run, City, Run") by the client, and we began searching for styles of illustrations that we felt were in alignment with our idea. It was then that Eric introduced me to Andy Mueller's style, which I really, really liked.

AM: We wanted to try to come up with about 10 solid L.A. based locations that could get up and run (or ride a bike for the Bike Ride portion on this event). I drew up these 10 roughs, and we then narrowed it down to the six strongest visual locations.

What were you trying to convey with the look and feel of the posters?
EH: We wanted to stay away from the nipple-bleeding, hitting-the-wall tone of a lot of marathon work. Instead we chose to focus on the celebratory nature of the event. In sprawling Los Angeles the marathon is one of the few times that the city really comes together. Andy's warm and inviting style, the small but important details of taco trucks, giraffes and weight lifters and the encouraging language, all add to the sense that this is a race we can all get behind. Even if we're not wearing small shorts.

AM: I think the simple drawing approach works really well with this idea. It gets to the meaning without too much stylist interference. I also think the simplicity allows people of all ages and skill levels to relate to the Bike Tour and Marathon. It's a very involvement-based sort of message, not just one person from a certain neighborhood or area running, but rather everybody running. It's very warm and friendly.

Andy, you do a lot of artwork outside the Art Dump, but how much outside advertising design work do you do outside of the Girl (Skateboards) realm?
AM: Girl is great place to work; I've been here over eight years already and it still feels fresh all the time. Girl and Lakai (Girl's shoe brand Mueller art-directs) come first in my design life, so I only take on other projects if time and interest allows. I do quite a bit of outside work, both personal (fine art) and commercial (The Quiet Life, and Ohiogirl design). Ohiogirl is a small design studio I founded in 1993, and I still run all of my outside work through that. I've recently done jobs for Burton snowboards, Bonfire, MTV, several record labels and a new show coming out on PBS.

Are you going to run and/or bike in either event?
AM: I wish I could run 26 miles. That would be amazing. I'm more of a two mile runner. I think I'd do better on my bike.
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