Archive for the ‘How’ Category

Let’s try that once more

Friday, April 11th, 2014

 

I’m making a new course for Lynda.com. This course, Fundamentals of Layout: Marketing Collateral, gave me the chance to talk about issue such as designing a letterhead, business card, poster, even swag. I wrote the course, did the read throughs, and created the visual assets. I thought I was so all together.

For this course, we relied mostly on visual references and text slides. This meant I spent less time in front of the camera and more in the sound booth recording the voice-over. I did, however, need to film the introductions and conclusions to each movie. This all seemed like no problem until I realized that I couldn’t use a teleprompter for these. I needed to memorize each of the sections of the scripts that had live action. Now this doesn’t sound too hard. I wrote them, I know what I’m talking about. But it was one of the most harrowing days of my life. It was like a 12 hour day having a root canal.

Take after take, I would stumble through, getting 25 % right, or 75%, but never perfect. I had that disembodied feeling like my mouth kept moving and making odd sounds that seemed like words but made no sense. The more I goofed up, the more freaked out I was. My producer, Susan, was beyond patient and encouraging, telling me in my headset, “No problem, we’ll get there,” and, “That was great.” But I’m sure she wanted to blow her brains out sitting in the production room. I kept thinking about the scene in Inside Daisy Clover when Daisy (Natalie Wood) freaks out doing a dubbing. I stopped short of clawing at the window screaming.

The Avant Garde in Felt

Monday, March 10th, 2014
Sean Adams, AIGA 100 project: 1955

Sean Adams, AIGA 100 project: 1955

A few weeks ago, I was asked to create a solution for an AIGA project celebrating the 100 year anniversary. 100 designers were asked to choose a year, and design a piece that highlighted an event from that year. Michael Bierut got to 1968 before I could, so I took 1955. In 1955, the Ford Thunderbird was released and Disneyland opened. Obviously, Disneyland ended up as my subject.

As a roundabout explanation of the process, I’ve been a huge Cathy of California fan for years. I was having lunch at our local groovy Los Feliz Mexican restaurant, Mexico City, when I recognized Cathy Callahan herself. I’m not easily impressed by celebrity. I’ve met my share of famous actors and such. But I was super freaked meeting Cathy in real life and probably a babbling fool.

Around the time I started the 1955 project, I bought Cathy’s book, Vintage Craft Workshop: Fresh Takes on Twenty-Four Classic Projects from the ’60s and ’70s. Something clicked, or broke, in my brain, and I decided to make my piece out of craft materials. It seemed fitting for a 1955 concept and I obviously have too much time on my hands. I could have cheated and Photoshopped the whole thing from stock images, but I actually went to Michael’s craft supplies (that was a terrifying experience) and bought stuff.

I cut up my felt, raffia, burlap, and glitter paper. I found old buttons and cufflinks. I used the hot glue gun to attach the stuff to the burlap (which smells weird), and voila. I know most designers are looking for a cutting edge, an extreme approach to the avant grade, and the next big thing. I now have clear evidence that I am as far from hip and cutting edge as Lawrence Welk or Barry Goldwater. At the same time, I think my craft solution this proves that I am incredibly brave or, more likely, clueless.

Untitled-3 Untitled-2 Untitled-1 Untitled-49780811875325_p0_v1_s600

Yes, It Can Be This Good

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
This could be YOUR home

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

Show your friends your fine taste

Kitchens should be cheerful

Kitchens should be cheerful

Variation is the spice of life

Variation is the spice of life

Compositions by the Sea

Monday, November 4th, 2013
Foundations of Layout, Lynda.com

Foundations of Layout, Lynda.com

A few months ago, my friend Terry Lee Stone suggested that I do a course for Lynda.com. I’ve known Lynda Weinman for years. We served on the AIGA national board together. She’s one of the smartest people I know, and Kristin Ellison, who has been my editor on several books was joining Lynda.com. So I knew I could trust everyone. I liked the idea of teaching to a wide audience of people. Lynda.com has over 2.5 million members.

I went out to the huge and impressive  production facility and headquarters near Santa Barbara to do a screen test. I thought about saying “I don’t do screen tests,” but that sounded a little too Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. I had a little trouble convincing the make-up person that the white people makeup made me look like someone from The Walking Dead and I was actually not that pale. Fortunately it worked and they weren’t revolted.

I started working on a course, Foundations of Layout. I thought it would be easy. I’ve been doing layouts for a long, long, long time. But each movie covers one piece of the puzzle: scale, grids, imagery, etc.. It was like teaching someone how to walk. You do it every day so you forget all the individual things that work together to make your legs move and body stay upright.

I didn’t expect it to be as rewarding as it was. I had to go back and distill an idea like harmony into something understandable and digestible. After doing that, I remembered things I’d long ago forgotten. It helped me as a designer and teacher at Art Center.

I spent a week at the studios working with a cracker jack crew. I became obsessed that my hair looked like an old woman’s hairdo and they had the crappy job of persuading me otherwise. Of course nobody likes to watch themselves on camera, myself included. But if I get past my old woman hair I’m really pleased with the result. And that has everything to do with the people at Lynda.com.

old lady hair

old lady hair

 

Design Sexy Time

Friday, October 18th, 2013
Paul Hesse photo

Paul Hesse photo

 

When I was in college, a visiting artist gave a presentation on “Sex in Advertising.” As this was in the midst of the women’s art movement and high critical thinking, the audience expected a relentless assault on the horrors of sexuality in advertising and design. Instead, the artist presented an intelligent examination. She discussed issues such as objectification, subjugation, and patriarchy. But she also talked about less black and white points like seduction, human nature, beauty, and the power of primary impulses such as sex and eating. When she turned from the attitude du jour of the evils of sex and began to explore the possibility that sex might be positive, the audience responded with outrage. They stomped out of the theater in disgust and fury. It was like a stampede of crazed buffalo.

Of course, sex in design can be detrimental and negative. But are there instances when it works? Is it okay to like a poster or ad because it is “hot.” For some reason, a large proportion of older male designers in the 1960s and 70s retired and made fine art that was really just thinly disguised soft core porn. Henry Wolf used imagery that might work in Playboy on mainstream advertising.

I’ve always liked the definition that “good” is about creation and construction, “evil” is about destruction and making someone “less than.” Perhaps this is the filter to view this type of work. Is the subject glorified and celebrated, or minimized and objectified?

Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser

Henry Wolf

Henry Wolf

Advertising 1950s

Advertising 1950s

Navy Recruitment poster, WWII

Navy Recruitment poster, WWII

Henry Wolf

Henry Wolf

J.C. Leyendecker

J.C. Leyendecker

Colin Forbes

Colin Forbes

J.C. Leyendecker

J.C. Leyendecker

Tadanori Yokoo

Tadanori Yokoo

Victor Moscoso

Victor Moscoso

Robert Brownjohn

Robert Brownjohn

Men's Fashion, 1978

Men’s Fashion, 1978

Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens

Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley