November 25th, 2013 by Sean
Epcot gift bag, early 1980s
When EPCOT opened in 1982, the concept was innovation and globalism. Wait isn’t that what every conference today is about? The park was and is divided into two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World was where corporations like Exxon could prove how good strip mining was. World Showcase would bring cultures from around the globe to the American tourist. The visual theme of Future World was the same as the 1990s Star Trek: TNG, mid-level hotel or medical offices in non-threatening tones. The large spaces had lots of carpeting, an abundance of rounded corners, and odd geometric benches.
In my head, I’ve always pictured 1980s EPCOT as a unified and sleek place. The color palette was silver, blue, and white. The materials were aluminum and fiberglass. But, I was wrong. While researching the color palettes I found some truly hideous combinations. Now, I’ve always said no two colors dislike each other. Again, I was wrong. Some of the combinations are terrifying. It would never occur to me to combine pink, teal, plum, and orange. I’m still semi-sane. So what happened? Why the hard left away from the silver and blue? I don’t know. I do know, however, that these combinations do not exist naturally, and no software product will ever provide a palette like these.
Epcot map, 1983
Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982
Gateway Gifts palette
November 19th, 2013 by Sean
AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975
Some of you are probably aware that AIGA has been working on some primary issues for the last several months. The future of the organization, whether the headquarters building should be sold, and a multitude of other issues have been debated vigorously across 67 chapters and 23,000 members. Many of you have sent me kind notes, worried that the stress is getting to me. In all honesty, and this is probably not something I should divulge, I’m not that stressed. First, I know we’ll end up in a good place. Second, between the national board, advisory board, and chapter leadership I have the smartest people in the industry working on this. And, third, genetics must be at play. Yes, it’s important, but it’s not founding a nation.
I found an old issue of U&LC from 1975. It has an interesting article from AIGA about typeface copyright protection. I like that it’s set in justified, tightly leaded Tiffany. If a typeface needs protection, it’s Tiffany. It’s sort of the fat friend who dresses a little too glitzy. I’m also struck by the extreme niche subject matter. It was a time when AIGA was primarily a small New York club with 1700 members. An issue like typeface protection merited a whole page. And I now believe AIGA should drop the current clear and classic logo and go to the Tiffany solution.
AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975
U&LC magazine 1975
November 18th, 2013 by Sean
Hohenschönhausen Prison, East Berlin
A couple of weeks ago we took a tour of The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Hohenschönhausen Prison was used during the Soviet Occupation and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1945 until 1989 for political prisoners. It’s cold and grey here in Berlin. So the combination of grim weather and brutal prison made for a rather disturbing afternoon. We’ve heard stories from Berliners about life before the wall came down. “There was nothing to buy over there,” or “There just weren’t freedoms and options.” What shocked all of us, in our southern California ignorance, was how the system dominated the population by oppression and paranoia. That evening, we watched Das Leben Der Anderen, a movie about a Stasi agent at Hohenschönhausen. This resulted in the toughest of us (not me) running from the room in tears when the movie ended. Good times.
Not to minimize the harsh reality, but we were also shocked at the wallpaper and linoleum. It really did look like stuff you’d expect from a Soviet prison. One of the downsides of coming from Los Angeles is that the rest of the world looks “themed.” We say things like, “Oh, that little Bavarian village is so cute. Maybe a little over-themed.” or, “Europe is just so European.” The prison was the same for us. We deny the reality and think it can’t be authentic. It must be a set for a TV movie about life in the GDR or Soviet Union, like The Americans when they have flashbacks.
I did, however, hear the best sentence I’ve ever heard, “And now, let’s move on to the interrogation room.” Perfection. Why not have an interrogation room in every house? It could be small with a single light bulb, desk and chair. “Janie, did you break that vase?” “You are lying! let’s start all over again.”
Hohenschönhausen Prison wallpaper
Hohenschönhausen Prison hallway
Hohenschönhausen Prison Soviet era telephone
Depressed Art Center students in the walking yard
The TV room with happy wallpaper
One of the Interrogation Rooms
November 14th, 2013 by Sean
This could be YOUR home
I’ve had many conversations with designers who want to start making products. “I was thinking it would be cool to make stationery and paper goods for people,” is the most common concept. This sounds nice, but there really are too many stationery and paper goods things out there already. That doesn’t mean we don’t talk about it as well. I’m always up for diversification. My ideas tend to not go very far.
First, I wanted to open a brothel that was nicely designed. I imagined a “W” Hotel kind of brothel, not the kind in old mobile homes with flocked red wallpaper. As it turns out, this is illegal in California. And Noreen wasn’t that keen on the concept.
Then I wanted to make a bar for alcoholics. It seems like total sobriety is rather severe, so why not make a bar where the drinks are super weak. You could have ten cocktails and still be fine. Also, we would make more money because the drinks were watered down. This idea didn’t work either. I now know that you can’t give alcoholics just a little drink.
Noreen solved the problem when she realized we had products already. Twenty years of posters that people buy from us already. We thought about making a section of our website a shop, but that’s a lot of work. So we went to people who already know what they are doing and have great taste. Our friends, Doug Jaeger and Kristin Sloan have a fantastic online store. Now anyone can buy limited edition AdamsMorioka posters and wallpaper entire rooms. And it doesn’t encourage alcoholism or prostitution.
Show your friends your fine taste
Kitchens should be cheerful
Variation is the spice of life
November 7th, 2013 by Sean
Black Flag, CalArts 1982
When I was at CalArts, the older crowd complained that things were never as fun as the “old days.” But they seemed wacky enough to me. We knew to not drink any punch at an opening or party as it was laced with LSD. The pool had a clothing optional policy which was enjoyed, of course, by those who should not be naked. My dorm room was right about the jacuzzi which made me privy to conversations each evening, two people shout ing over the bubbling water, “What school are you in?” and “Do you want to come to my room?” The jacuzzi was quickly renamed the jiz-cuzzi.
During one class in a small windowless classroom, the punk group Black Flag came to play a gig. We all sat in our desk/chairs while they set up. Obviously, when they started, it was quite loud. Small classroom are not a typical punk rock concert venue. As Henry Rollins ran toward the class shouting and waving his microphone, everyone stood up and ran to the back of the room. When he retreated back to the stage, we slowly returned to our desks, and again jumped and ran as he moved into the room. Oh yeah, we were cool, but this proved we were all just white suburban punks.
For some reason, one woman who was sitting in the front row of desks refused to budge. She wasn’t doing this because she was a major Black Flag fan. Her art centered on hard core feminist themes, so I imagine it was in protest, or as an act of resistance. Unfortunately for her, Rollins took this as a challenge and repeatedly shoved his crotch into her face. At the same time he slammed the microphone against his head until it was bleeding. So she sat there, resistant, while having a crotch thrusting and blood flying around her. Now that was fun.
My friend Peter Grant and I, CalArts, 1982
My friend Erica and I, Bob’s Big Boy, 1982