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Generator Design - Paint Like MAD
return to posts January 26th, 2022

Work Like MAD

Once upon a staff lunch, someone exclaimed: “Let’s make a Christmas card that looks like MAD Magazine!”, and that’s how we decided on a theme for our 2021 Christmas card.

The next thing I knew I was volunteering to paint Alfred E. Neuman‘s grinning visage alongside Generator’s mascot, Winston the Robot. On the spot I roughed out a basic concept—Alfred dressed as an elf, Winston spooling out a “naughty list”—and then the team thought of a name. We settled on RAD, short for “Robots and Designers”.

It got better.


Thanks to Ryan’s treasure trove of MAD Magazines, I researched art direction for the card cover, while Emma ambitiously took on another MAD classic of creating a fold-in message reveal design and illustration. It took painstaking planning, alignment, drawing and redrawing, but she did it. She made it happen. It was one of the coolest pieces of interactive print design I’d ever witnessed.

Getting A to fold to B required a lot of planning—anything but moving from point A to B.


Last and definitely not least, we needed a parody ad to authenticate our MAD tribute, and our card still needed a back cover to advertise Generator’s services. Ryan answered the call, crafting a retro Generator ad in MAD’s sarcastic, sardonic style.

You wouldn’t believe how many calls we get for generators.


Having had a crash course in MAD Magazine, and immersing myself in the skill of the Generator team, I was ready to tackle the cover. I think I might know Alfred’s face better than my own at this point; trying to honour the style of legendary cover artist Norman Mingo was my greatest challenge. I spent most of my total work time meticulously looking at a collection of covers and back at my sketches. Once the tight rough sketch was approved, I carefully transferred the drawing to watercolour paper and began the arduous but fun task of painting.

Working digitally spoils you—there’s no ‘undo’ button with watercolour.


Eventually, I called it quits, stood back from my desk—and it was done. Whew. After scanning in the painting, the “Naughty List” was added digitally in Photoshop. Fun fact: to get in extra detail with an authentic touch, I painted the cover traditionally at double the final print size.

Winston critiques the finished piece. “Hey, I don’t remember posing with that guy!”


Emma assembled each of the team’s pieces into what we collectively consider to be most fun Christmas card we’ve yet made. For an added interactive experience, Emma even developed a web version of the finished card.

It’s a rare treat as designers to have the opportunity to combine varied styles and mediums in a single project, one MAD Magazine has done for decades. On behalf of our usual gang of creatives, we hope you like this piece as much as we had fun making it.


Established in 1996, Generator is a complete graphic design and advertising agency. We specialize in design, print, web, social media and email solutions for businesses of all sizes.