Archive for January, 2010

Warts and All

Friday, January 29th, 2010
Noreen's and my office

Noreen's and my office

I love visiting other designers when I travel. Michael Vanderbyl’s office is, as expected, immaculate and classic. Pentagram in New York is a hotbed of activity and energy. VSA in Chicago is deeply impressive. Each office is consistent with the designer’s personality. When I’ve asked designers for photos of their office for a book or magazine I don’t get them. It’s like pulling teeth. You’d think I asked for personal sex videos. Typically, it’s because everyone feels like they need to clean up and have a professional shoot done. Bit that’s not real, and everyone seeing the final images thinks, “I’m a pig.” So here is a visit to AdamsMorioka with all the mess exposed. I came in early today before everyone was in and things were flying all over. I didn’t clean up anything. This is the reality.

We’re in the Flynt Building in Beverly Hills. William L. Pereira & Associates designed the building in 1972. It started life as the Great Western Bank Building, hence the 21 foot John Wayne sculpture at the entrance. AdamsMorioka is on the 6th floor. We face west; we have a great view all the way to the beach. But we get afternoon sun directly for half the day, so when people ask me why I’m tan, it’s my office. I’d love to say we demand a clean desk and spotless tables, but I can’t hold to that, so I can’t make everyone else do it. The one aspect we couldn’t control was our sign; it matches the signs throughout the building. We even offered to design a news signage program for free to fix it, but someone in building management loves brass and Tiffany. My biggest concern is that it’s a fairly open space and everyone is forced to hear my music. It ranges from Rosemary Clooney to 100 Strings. Today, I’m playing American music like America the Beautiful. It’s a hardship for those who decide to work here. But it could be worse, well maybe not.

8484 Wilshire Blvd

8484 Wilshire Blvd

The beautiful Tiffany typography

The beautiful Tiffany typography

lobby wall of posters, we running out of space, so we hide the ugly ones

lobby wall of posters, we running out of space, so we hide the ugly ones

The lobby wall

The lobby wall

Conference Room

Conference Room

The library wall

The library wall

Some books

Some books

These are the good designers who come to work early

These are the good designers who come to work early

The Shah of Iran poster that looks over the crew

The Shah of Iran poster that looks over the crew

Noreen's side of the room, bitmapped so she won't hurt me

Noreen's side of the room, bitmapped so she won't hurt me

My desk this morning

My desk this morning

Today's donuts Noreen brought to make us fat

Today's donuts Noreen brought to make us fat

The tiny kitchen

The tiny kitchen

G.I. Jive

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
The Camp Beverly Hills jacket, photo Penny Wolin

The Camp Beverly Hills jacket, photo Penny Wolin

Before I graduated from college, I worked as a photo assistant with a remarkable photographer, Penny Wolin. At one point, we spent a summer traveling through the Rocky Mountain states to shoot a project, The Jews of Wyoming: fringe of the Diaspora. It was an incredible experience. One evening, we took a break and stopped into a bar near Laramie, Wyoming for a beer. When we walked in, I realized this was the local bar for the service-men and women at the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base. I felt pretty nifty because I was wearing my nylon bomber jacket and had aviator sunglasses. “Yep,” I thought as we talked with people, “I’m fitting in just fine here.”

Now, here’s where this post takes a left turn. When we left and I threw my jacket in the back of the VW bus, it occurred to me that the bomber jacket was good, but maybe having Camp Beverly Hills stitched across the back was a little out of sync. For those of you wondering, “What the heck is that?” Camp Beverly Hills was a cool place to shop off of Rodeo in the 1980s. The store specialized in pastel colored t-shirts and outfits, with a few military items mixed in. Everything had the Camp Beverly Hills logo, which, hard to believe, is now cool again. In retrospect, the people we met at that bar from Warren Air Force Base were pretty impressive. They were friendly and chatty, and I didn’t get beaten up.

What I was trying to emulate, no luck

What I was trying to emulate, no luck

Drew Barrymore, ET years, Camp Beverly Hills

Drew Barrymore, ET years, Camp Beverly Hills

Vals, and Goldie Hawn, Camp Beverly Hills

Vals, and Goldie Hawn, Camp Beverly Hills

More vals, 1980s, Camp Beverly Hills

More vals, 1980s, Camp Beverly Hills

Camp Beverly Hills today, retro 80s cool

Camp Beverly Hills today, retro 80s cool

Take Credit, Blame Others, Deny Everything

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Bradbury Thompson detail

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Bradbury Thompson detail

I like to accuse people of stealing. Whenever I’m looking for a book in our library and can’t find it, I tell everyone in the studio, “Someone has stolen it. I know it.” And then someone will go to the shelf and pull the book out that I thought was stolen. Oddly, in 16 years, we’ve only had one book stolen. It was a book on Fillmore posters and it was stolen by an errant intern who had a band and lasted two days. Today, in the midst of accusing the designers of stealing my Studio Boggeri book, I found the Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook. It sounds dull, and I assumed from the cover that it was an old book that showed examples of halftones, which it was. Mixed in with the chapters on Photo-electric Engraving Techniques, and Dot Etching were remarkable chapter dividers and miscellaneous pages.

So the lesson is, yeah no duh, don’t judge a book by its cover. And it turns out that Monica had the Studio Boggeri book on her desk, so I probably should stop attacking and accusing everyone of theft immediately.

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950 Bradbury Thompson

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950 Bradbury Thompson

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Bradbury Thompson

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Bradbury Thompson

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Benjamin Somoroff

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Benjamin Somoroff

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Paul Rand

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Paul Rand

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Saul Steinberg

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Saul Steinberg

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Ladislav Sutnar

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Ladislav Sutnar

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Alexander Ross

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: Alexander Ross

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: very groovy paper

Ninth Graphic Arts Production Yearbook, 1950: very groovy paper

The Color Sea-foam

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
endpaper detail

endpaper detail

Whenever I need to paint a wall, I consult my collection of vintage paint sample books. Then I pull out my fan deck from Benjamin Moore and carefully examine my options. I narrow them down and tape a larger swatch to the wall to judge its appearance in different light. I’m very methodical and deliberate. Strangely, however, I find that I keep choosing the same light sea foam repeatedly. I’ll put up my swatches and realize they are all the same color with the tiniest differences. Recently, I repainted the den. I planned on being courageous and choosing a wildly different color, like light sea foam blue, with an extra drop of blue. Fortunately, my friend Erica suggested charcoal grey. “Are you mad?” I asked her. The idea was shocking, but I trust her so I agreed. It turns out she was right, light sea foam blue is not the only choice, and I like the grey. But I wonder, is it a result of the recession? Has my cheerful color palette been corrupted? Will I eventually repaint everything in dark somber tones?

The white and sea foam den

The white and sea foam den

The charcoal grey den

The charcoal grey den

endpaper detail

endpaper detail

1953 interior color book endpapers

1953 interior color book endpapers

1953 interior color book endpaper

1953 interior color book endpaper

paint8St-Charles-Colorspaint3epm7762bpaint3

In Time

Monday, January 25th, 2010

One of my favorite films is Chris Marker’s La Jetee from 1962. If you’ve seen 12 Monkeys, you know the plot, minus Brad Pitt’s crazy person. If not, here’s the gist of it: A boy is at the airport in Paris and witnesses a man being shot. Later, this same man is sent back in time after the 3rd World War. He meets a woman and falls in love with her. She sees him as a spirit. He wants to stay in the past, but this isn’t allowed. He goes back and is shot at the Paris airport by a man from the future. He is the same man he saw as a boy.

Okay, on paper this sounds very sci-fi action packed, with car chases and explosions. But the 26 minute Marker film is poetic. The entire film is made with narration and black and white still photographs. There is one moment of live action that lasts for a couple of seconds as the woman in the film opens her eyes. The images individually are genius. Paired with the standard French film of the 1960s existential questions, they are dreamlike. The book version designed by Bruce Mau reproduces the images with the script.

I’m not using the French version here because I’m tres chic and continental. The film loses something when it’s redone in English. I have no problem with 12 Monkeys which is based on this. La Jetee, however, strips away all excess, is simple, and concise. I know it could be a stretch if you’re hoping for Terminator-esque action sequences, but think of it more like an exhibition of photographs in a quiet dream.

La Jetee, the book

La Jetee, the book