Obsessed

October 21st, 2014 by Sean
Ken Briggs, Left, 1950s

Ken Briggs, Left, 1950s

 

Recently, a young designer met with me and talked about obsession. “I’m worried it’s wrong, but I get obsessed about something and can’t stop,” she said. She wasn’t talking about Justin Bieber or heroin. She gave the example of string art. “I can’t stop looking for it online and want to learn how to do it.” Who doesn’t?” was my reply.

I don’t know where she heard that being obsessed was bad. Sure, if you’re stalking someone and build a shrine with sacrifices for them you may have a problem. But I’ve been working on my OCD family tree for years and never tire of it. Paula Scher makes wonderful paintings of maps. Marian Bantjes works with pattern. Massimo Vignelli couldn’t get enough Bodoni. Being obsessed is part of the job.

Ken Briggs was a British designer responsible for many of the beautiful posters for the National Theatre in London. Clearly, Briggs was obsessed with the New Typography, inspired after seeing a copy of Josef Müller Brockmann’s Neue Grafik. The posters relentlessly use Helvetica, golden section proportions and grids. But, Briggs took the rigid rules and tweaked them with surprising color choices and offbeat photographic solutions. He added a dry British wit to a sterile approach.

Briggs didn’t do this once, or for a couple of months. He did it over and over and over. And thank God for that obsession. The lesson here, obsession makes perfection.

 

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The Post about this Blog

October 19th, 2014 by Sean
Sean Adams, Burning Settlers Cabin, 2014

Sean Adams, Burning Settlers Cabin, 2014

 

One of the tenets of post-modernism is self-referential expression. This post, then is the post-modern one. This is a post about this blog.

When burningsettlerscabin first launched, I designed a nice Victorian logo for the masthead. It worked well with the minimal layout and I had fun making it. After awhile, I grew tired of that version. And its started to feel vertiginously close to hipster design. So I made a new one. This became an on-going hobby. The point of this blog is as shallow as it gets. If I’m interested in something or find an inspirational artifact or solution, I write about it. It’s that simple. If I want to, I write. If I don’t feel like it, I don’t. I know this is absolutely the most wrong thing one can do with all the rules of social media. But, I have so many other rules in life: typographic, social manners, organizing linen closets, age appropriate clothing, and the list goes on.

The masthead follows the same logic. If I feel like making a new one, I do. If it’s heinously hideous but I like it, I use it. So, in response to the requests to post one or the other mastheads here they are.

While some have said burningsettlerscabin is their “lite” (yes, spelled that way) version of Design Observer, consider this: In this post, self-referentiality [and the epistemological skepticism it implies] is central to postmodernism and takes its typological and typographic cue from the self-referential, though not mutually exclusive, aesthetics of nostalgia, irony, and satire.

See, the settlers at the cabin are way smart.

 

 

 

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Shooting the Tube

October 9th, 2014 by Sean
LeRoy Grannis, 1969

LeRoy Grannis, 1969

There is a huge difference between a dull photograph of Yosemite Valley and an Ansel Adams photo. Adams didn’t photograph Yosemite Valley, he shot the weather in the valley.

In the same way, there is a lot of bad surfing photography. It’s the same shot over and over, someone tube-riding shot from below. LeRoy Grannis‘ photos, however, are good, really good, surfing photos. They are not the same shot over and over. Beside the obvious issues of lighting, composition, color, and content, Grannis’ images work because they are not photos of surfing. He photographs the people surfing. The images are about culture and community. They objectively depict the surf community in the 1960s and 70s. This separates the work from traditional sports photography. The action is the backdrop to the individuals in the frame.

They also work because everyone is super groovy, even the elderly spectators with bitchin’ sunglasses.

153 18 16 13 12 10 9 7 4 2 8 1965

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Valley, 1881

Carleton Watkins, Yosemite Valley, 1881

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley, 1942

Ansel Adams, Yosemite Valley, 1942

 

Erotic Abandon

September 22nd, 2014 by Sean
Eros magazine, Herb Lubalin Art Director, 1968

Eros magazine, Herb Lubalin Art Director, 1968

This is frustrating: I suggest that a student have more fun and freedom on a project and they return the next week with the most itsy-bitsy slight change. I don’t understand the timidness. It’s as if they believe God will strike them dead if they use a quickly drawn gesture, or too much color, or an enormously scaled grainy image. So I get the tidy and polite vector art solutions or lovely but dead photographs. It really drives me to murder. I’m the opposite of the cranky professors who say, “Oh, that’s gone too far.” I beg them, “Please, please go so far that everyone in the room is shocked and aghast at your complete lack of restraint.”

I’m not pushing students to go outside of their comfort level and work in broad strokes to be mean. I don’t want them to spend their lives designing tasteful wine labels and polite brochures. I want them to be wonderful.

The example I use is Herb Lubalin and Ralph Ginzburg’s Eros magazine. Eros was short lived, only four issues from 1968 to 1971. By today’s standards it tame. You can find more explicit imagery by doing a google search for “cat”. Lubalin uses the page like a giant canvas, not a small magazine. When he uses negative space, he does past the comfortable spot. When he handles headlines, he does bad things like smashing the copy together in a corner. The images are dramatic and play with radical scale and cropping. At the same time, the thing is refined to death.

Partners at a law firm usually make more than graphic designers. That’s ok because they have to wear real life work clothes and we don’t. And we can have fun. That’s the trade-off. Why be miserable and uptight, and a graphic designer. You can do that as a financial analyst and make much more money.

Spread images via: http://westread.blogspot.fr/

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Get off the lawn you damn kids

September 8th, 2014 by Sean
Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai Palm Grove

Four Seasons Hualalai Palm Grove

I spent last week at the Four Seasons Hualalai. We go there every year, typically in September. The staff at the Four Seasons is incredible. I don’t know how, but they always remember our names (we may be on the problem guest list). They are genuinely happy to be working there, and can solve any problem. You know you’re being treated well, when people come to your beach chaise to clean your sunglasses.

I’ve truly become the angry old person/high maintenance guest. We stay in the Palm Grove, which is the quiet zone. It’s very zen and peaceful. A couple of days into the trip a few really annoying people sat in the pool drinking and shouting about football and SDSU. The next day, we saw the same dudes playing golf and blasting rock music from their golf cart. Not good form.

A few days later, a group of doctors for a conference acted like the Palm Grove pool was Fort Lauderdale at spring break. Okay, I know this sounds jerky, but after doing everything possible to cancel the noise, I called the front desk and asked for some help. Security showed up and they either lowered their voices or all went back to their rooms to pass out.

Later, I felt bad when I was told they were cancer doctors. They’re saving lives and I’m cranky that they are having fun in the pool.

I decided that this was simply the way of the world. Those times of good manners were a thing of the past. I was the problem and needed to accept change and get over it.

But, I was wrong. The next morning two senior managers tracked us down in person and apologised. Boy, did I feel dumb. I was truly amazed. You’ve heard me say before, follow the three “R”s with clients when something goes wrong: Recognize the problem, express remorse, and resolve it. They did that. If it were me, I’d be scared to talk to me. That old uptight white guy is complaining about the noise. How fun can it be to talk with him?

Lionel Walden, 1920

Lionel Walden, 1920

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

Four Seasons Hualalai

My shells for mobiles

My shells for mobiles