Archive for March, 2010

In My Own Backyard

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

My flagpole

This won’t come as much of a surprise, but my favorite part of EPCOT is the American Pavilion. I especially like the hall of flags with historical American flags. A couple of years ago, I had a flagpole installed in the yard. I think the idea terrified my landscape designer who repeatedly suggested moving it to the side. But a flagpole needs to be dead center on the lawn. My office has given me flags as gifts and I rotate them. I love the Gadsden flag (the yellow Don’t Tread on Me flag), but I can’t fly it any more. Since its been appropriated for current political issues, I’d rather not use it now.

This gave me a good reason to buy some new flags. The Commodore Perry “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag has wonderful typography. Of course, everyone should have a Betsy Ross 13 star flag, and I needed the Culpeper Minute Men flag as many relatives served under it. I’m desperate for a 48 star flag. Not because I hate Hawaii and Alaska, but because the stars fit so neatly in rows. My next step is to buy some nautical flags and spell out dirty words.

Hall of Flags, American Adventure, EPCOT

Commodore Perry flag

Betsy Ross flag

Bennington flag

48 star flag

Culpeper Minute Men flag

Benjamin Franklin, Join of Die flag

Washington's Cruisers flag

Primo Posters

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Spinning Boards, Rick Griffin 1961

This is something I learned when I moved back to Los Angeles from New York: in New York, you are respected for hard work. You talk about how busy and overworked you are. In Los Angeles, you never let anyone think you’re working too hard. You’re respected for making it all seem effortless, and having time to relax. The reality is that most everyone is working the same amount in both places. As John Baldessari said, “The only difference between Los Angeles and New York is 3 hours.” This difference, however, creates a communication gap. When I talk to friends in New York and they tell me how stressed they are, I think, “Boy, they work hard, too bad they can’t do it by the pool.” Alternatively, when they talk to me they think, “What a stoner.”

Since I don’t want anyone to think of me as a surf stoner, I’ve held back on some of my favorite items, surf movie posters from the 1960s. But, my insecurities should not deprive everyone of these fantastic items. I love the naïveté, and rawness of these. I love that they were movies shown at high school auditoriums. These posters communicate a clear sense of passion and community. There is no underlying presence of product placement. This is when design works. When it is authentic and betrays the sense of joy that the designer had when making it.

Dr. Strangesurf, Walt Philips, 1966

Let There Be Surf, The Glass Wall, Jim Freeman, 1965

A Cool Wave of Color, Greg MacGillivray, 1964

The Angry Sea, John Severson, 1963

The Search for Surf, Greg Noll, 1957

Why Did They Tear Down That Wall?

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Gastrotypographicalassemblage, Lou Dorfsman, mid-1960s

When I was in high school, I was asked to design a mural for the cafeteria wall. Of course, I had no idea how to do that and ended up making a 1970s supergraphic of a series of fat horizontal stripes and an abstraction of a seagull flying above. There are small miracles; nobody documented it. The next year was my first year at art school, and I discovered the Gastrotypographicalassemblage. This was Lou Dorfsman’s version of my high school cafeteria mural, minus the Airport ’77 supergraphics. The wall is a wonderful collection of 3-dimensional letterforms created by Lou Dorfsman, Tom Carnase, and Herb Lubalin in the mid-1960s for CBS. The result is a wood-type shop exploding next to supermarket. Sadly, the wall was demoslished in the 1980s and now sits in storage, awaiting rescue. I can only hope that my wall was painted over by another artist in residence after I left high school.

Gastrotypographicalassemblage, Lou Dorfsman

Gastrotypographicalassemblage, Lou Dorfsman

Gastrotypographicalassemblage, Lou Dorfsman

Gastrotypographicalassemblage, Lou Dorfsman

Gastrotypographicalassemblage, Lou Dorfsman

I Know That Dude

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Last night I was a guest on Ryan McGovern’s great video chat program Design Chat. He talked about BurningSettlersCabin and how great it was that it brought design to a broader audience. So today I’m going to disappoint him and drop down to my real level.

For those of you too young, or too totally un-groovy to not know Fast Times at Ridgemont High, you must get it immediately. Now some of you may be tilting your head and thinking, “This confirms it. Sean Adams is truly vapid.” But, don’t knock it until you try it. Fast Times is genius. Amy Heckerling directed it, Cameron Crowe wrote it, and the cast includes Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, and Ray Walston.

I realized recently that I’ve become Mr. Hand. Mr. Hand was the hard-core history and nemesis to stoner Jeff Spicoli. When I was in high school, I was the jerk who sat in the back of the room, talked too much, and made fun of people. Now when I teach, I’m the one that is saying, “Stop going home, getting stoned, and huffing. Go to the library.” After re-watching Fast Times, I’ve decided to force people who bring food to class to share it with everyone. It also drives me nuts when I’m lecturing or doing a crit and students are “taking notes” on their computer. I’m now going to sneak up and grab the computer and read their open email or texts to the class. I know they’re all stoned, and I’m sure their email will include directions on how to make an apple bong, or what glue to sniff.

Ricky not Zac

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Ricky Nelson, 1950s teen idol who combed his hair

My niece, Izabelle, is like most 12 year olds today. Last summer she loved Zac Efron, which was fine, except his hair is always in his face. I suggested she start listening to Ricky Nelson. This was as popular as suggestion as my idea of buying her a nice kilt and sweater set. I’ve even gone as far as putting publicity shots of Ricky Nelson, Tab Hunter, and Troy Donahue in frames next to her desk in her room at my house. I’m pretty sure she just feels sorry for me and considers me the squarest person in the world. But I’m not being square, Ricky Nelson is a cool guy. His music kicks ass, and he’s handsome in that way 12 year old girls like. When she’s older, she’ll discover how super groovy Ricky Nelson really is. At least he kept his hair combed.