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

Nothing

August 27th, 2014 by Sean
Richard Danne

Richard Danne

I’ll keep this simple. I like work that doesn’t try too hard. It’s so easy to work on a project until I’ve beaten every last bit of life from it. It’s good to know when to stop. And the work I like best looks like the designer did one thing like set the type in Akzidenz Grotesk and then said, “Yeah, I’m done.” Perfect.

Young designers tell me all the time, “Are you sure, it seems empty.” But the idea makes it full, and in fact it’s not empty, it’s filled with a ton of negative space. I think of it like dark energy and dark matter. It’s strong enough to hold everything together. I deeply covet Richard Danne’s desk calendar from 1974. I think there’s that place in hell that I’ve mentioned before (the one where amateur musicians pull a guitar out at a party) for people who steal. But, I’d steal it.

All of these projects are confident and clear. They resonate with harmony because every tiny detail has been refined, refined, and refined. So try this on your next project. Do one thing and stop. It’ll be hard and the evil workings of layers in Photoshop or Illustrator will be calling, “Add more, add more.” Resist.

Richard Danne

Richard Danne

Paul Rand business card

Paul Rand business card

Please note the call room number

Please note the call room number

Ray Eames

Ray Eames

Reid Miles

Reid Miles

Brownjohn, Chermayeff and Geismar

Brownjohn, Chermayeff and Geismar

A.G. Franzoni

A.G. Franzoni

Fridolin Müller

Fridolin Müller

John Massey

John Massey

George Tscherny

George Tscherny

George Tscherny

George Tscherny

Paul Rand

Paul Rand

Louis Danziger

Louis Danziger

Carson/Roberts

Carson/Roberts

Richard Danne

Richard Danne

Twelve Inches of Pleasure

August 23rd, 2014 by Sean
Roland Young, Joan Baez: Where are you now, my son? album cover

Roland Young, Joan Baez: Where are you now, my son? album cover

Roland Young

Roland Young

I’m currently writing a new course for Lynda.com, Fundamentals of Graphic Design History. You’d think this would be easy. I know the history, have the images, and am so old I knew Guttenberg personally. But condensing all of the Bauhaus into a three-minute format and making sure it doesn’t sound like, “Bueller, Bueller, anyone?” is tricky. It’s a great challenge and fun.

When I started writing about design in the 1970s, I kept circling around album covers. The emotional impact of these artifacts is extraordinary. Sure, there was great corporate identity and typography at the time and more than enough to discuss with those alone. But when I mention a specific album, people light up. “Oh, I stared at The Tubes cover for hours trying to figure out how it worked.” or “I kept the Frampton cover on the top of my pile of records just to see it when I woke up every morning.

When I went to college, Roland Young was one of my teachers. I was 19 and knew everything. On the first day, when I realized that Roland was responsible for a big part of the record covers I loved, I was impressed. And that’s not easy for an asshole 19 year-old. Today, Roland is a good friend. I took over his Communication Design 1 class at Art Center and still hear from almuni, “Wow, when I had Roland for that class my life changed.” My students say, “You were funny.”

I recently discovered his cover for Joan Baez, Where are you now, my son?. This cover may seem unassuming and quiet, but it’s masterful. The sharp typography with the confidence to be just what it is and the texture of the grainy image is contrast at its best. The image of Baez that speaks to the object of a printed photograph is about a moment in time and intimacy. The Smiths tried this later with some covers, but the original is still my favorite.

Roland’s body of work and career, from working with Lou Danziger to art director to teacher, is immense and impossible to show without a major book. Publishers, publishers, anyone?.

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Helvetica is Jan

August 8th, 2014 by Sean
Neue Haas Grotesk, Christian Schwartz, 2004

Neue Haas Grotesk, Christian Schwartz, 2004

Speaking after Stefan Sagmeister at a conference is a bad idea. I’ve done this many times. It’s not that Stefan is nothing less than a true gentleman and good friend, it’s that when he finishes, I can look out at the audience from the side of the stage and see people streaming out en masse. “Well that’s what I came for, time to go,” they must be saying. I’m not crazy about doing this, as I tend to come off as, “and now for the easy listening break.”

Years ago, I spoke at a conference following someone, not as generous as Stefan, who was one of the hip and cool designers at that time. She talked about the critical theory and deconstruction of meaning regarding a logo she designed that looked exactly like Helvetica, but the crossbar of the “A” was removed. People seemed enthralled. I just thought, “and…”

Now, I’ve become that person, waxing on about the importance of the differences between Haas Grotesk and Helvetica. Sorry. I know everyone has a major hard-on for Helvetica, but I can’t look at it as anything but the less attractive sister of Haas Grotesk, like Jan and Marsha. Originally, Helvetica was Haas Grotesk, but over time changes were made for expediency. Christian Schwartz redrew Haas Grotesk in 2004, based on Max Miedinger‘s 1957 version.

Compared to standard issue system Helvetica, it’s elegant, crisp, warm, and legible. It doesn’t suffer from the “generic” look of Helvetica. I’ve been using it probably more than I should. I promise, however, to not talk endlessly about the lower case “r” at my next lecture. Maybe just a little.

Screen-Shot-2014-08-08-at-11.04.51-AM Screen-Shot-2014-08-08-at-11.04.17-AM Screen-Shot-2014-08-08-at-11.03.46-AMNeue_Haas_Grotesk-alphabet notebook-1957-May-07 specimen-1963-Neuburg_Rudin poster_front_website_905

Haas Grotesk (L) Helvetica (R)

Haas Grotesk (L) Helvetica (R)

Helvetica in Switzerland

Helvetica in Switzerland

Helvetica in Switzerland

Helvetica in Switzerland

 

Dynasty

July 31st, 2014 by Sean
King Edward II

King Edward II

King Edward III

King Edward III

Several readers have sent me notes asking for a family history post. So, I’m heading way, way back for this one to 1295 AD. The story of my 17th grandmother and 17th grandfather is filled with soap opera drama.

Isabella de Capet of France, also known as the she-wolf of France, was the only surviving daughter of Philip IV, King of France (16th grandfather). She was engaged to King Edward II of England as a child to cement a treaty between England and France.

The fun begins when she marries Edward II. It seems that he enjoys the company of young men, his “favorite” when they married, Piers Gaveston. Obviously this can cause discord in a marriage. Gaveston ends up being captured and executed by angry Barons who weren’t too keen on Edward’s policies and unorthodox arrangement. After a failed campaign to conquer the Scots, Edward was even more unpopular.

Now, he took up with a new favorite, Hugh de Spencer (yet another 17th grandfather). For several years, Edward and de Spencer imprisoned and executed enemies, confiscated lands from the barons, and punished extended family members and courtiers. Eventually, Edward and de Spencer confiscated all of Isabella’s lands and imprisoned her. This was a good sign to Isabella that the marriage wasn’t really working well.

Isabella returned to France and began an affair with Sir Roger Mortimer (18th grandfather). Together, they raised an army and returned to England to dethrone Edward II. Edward and de Spencer fled London, but were captured by Isabella and Mortimer’s forces. She had de Spencer hanged, castrated, disemboweled, drawn and quartered. She was very mad. Edward was forced to abdicate the crown to his son, Edward III (16th grandfather).

Now, the story gets confusing. The official story was that Edward II fell and died while imprisoned. Rumors spread that Isabella had him murdered with, sorry for the graphic part here, a red hot poker put up his rectum. Recently historians have argued that evidence points to Edward escaping and living the rest of his life as a hermit.

Isabella and Mortimer now thought they had it all wrapped up. Edward III was too young to rule, so they were ruling England, making lots of money, and everything seemed swell. But when Isabella became pregnant with Mortimer’s child, which would have created a new heir, Edward III was pissed. So he raided their castle, captured Mortimer and had him executed, even after Isabella begged for his life saying, “Fair son, have pity on gentle Mortimer!”

Edward III took on his role as King of England and exiled his mother to Norfolk. She lived well, as one of the richest women in England and died at 62. She was buried with Edward II’s heart. This is real life, and so much more exciting than Game of Thrones.

Isabella de Capet of France, played by Aure Atika, World Without End

Isabella de Capet of France, played by Aure Atika, World Without End

Inspection of Piers Gaveston's head

Inspection of Piers Gaveston’s head

Execution of Hugh de Spencer

Execution of Hugh de Spencer

Isabella and Roger Mortimer

Isabella and Roger Mortimer

Isabella accepts Edward II's crown

Isabella accepts Edward II’s crown

Edward II, played by Blake Ritson, World Without End

Edward II, played by Blake Ritson, World Without End

King Edward II, played by Ben Chaplin, World Without End

King Edward II, played by Ben Chaplin, World Without End