Archive for June, 2010

Friends Don’t Let Friends Eat Cake and Drive

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked With Spirits, Wine, and Beer

I was told years ago, that you’re an alcoholic if you do these things:

1. Drink alone

2. Drink to solve your problems

3. Have more than two drinks each night

I know I’m not an alcoholic because:

1. Drink alone: uh, yeah, of course. You can’t wait until bunches of people are around.

2. Drink to solve your problems: why else would you drink?

3. Have more than two drinks each night: I don’t. I have a big Thermo-ware mug, sort of Big Gulp size.

My great friend Terry Lee Stone just wrote a cookbook with Krystina Castella, Booze Cakes. My response to this book did alarm me a little bit. Terry explained that much of the alcohol is baked out when you cook the cake, but the frosting would still have 100% of the alcohol. I don’t particularly like cake, but I immediately wanted to know if I could make a white cake with a cream frosting and maintain the alcohol level. “We should have a booze cake party,” I told Terry. It now occurred to me that I would probably like the cakes in Terry’s book. I also thought this would be a great gift to bring when invited to dinner. Some of the recipes look great, such as the Tequila Sunrise Cake. I usually stay away from tequila. It makes me do bad things like knock off 7-11s. But I’m all for this version. And I’m sure it won’t end up like The Days of Wine and Roses, or Less Than Zero. I can hold my cake.

Tequila Sunrise Cake

German Black Forest Cupcakes, spiked, yeah

This will NOT happen to you with booze cakes

Warm Red Railroad

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

New Haven Railroad logo, Herbert Matter 1955

One of my favorite logos is the mark Herbert Matter designed for New Haven Railroad in 1955. Jessica Helfand wrote a remarkable piece on this subject in 2006. Jessica is much smarter than I am, so I leave the hard facts to her.

When I was five, I was convinced I wanted to be a train engineer. Reno was the last stop before the hard climb over the Sierras. A favorite pastime was waiting by the tracks and waving to the engineers. Kids today aren’t allowed to wander by themselves and stand next to railroad tracks. That’s a shame. Later, when I gave up my idea of riding the rails, I thought I would be an advertising executive. My only point of reference was old movies like The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. For me, this life would entail living in the suburbs and taking the New Haven line into Manhattan. Somehow, I didn’t put together the fact that it wasn’t 1955 in New York anymore. But, I still have trouble with that.

New Haven Railroad materials, Herbert Matter 1955

New Haven Railroad logo, Herbert Matter 1955

New Haven Railroad logo, Herbert Matter 1955

Horrid Martinis and Other Disasters

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Lack of etiquette is an issue that is the “hot topic” of the month. At a dinner last week, several people complained about “people and their rudeness.” My mother is incredibly uptight about etiquette. If you spend time with her, do not ever speak loudly in public, eat soup with the spoon pulled toward you, or forget to say, “Please excuse me,” not the rude command, “Excuse me!”

I have a copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette from 1952. I suspect it was a Christmas gift that I enjoyed, as much as socks when I was seven. I pulled it out recently to look up a form of address issue. Yes, I didn’t now if Senators were referred to as “Senator” or “Honorable.” Much of the book is dated. I certainly don’t bring a tuxedo when visiting friends for the weekend, but maybe I’m just rude and I ruin their dinner plans. Some of it makes good sense. This line is my favorite, and quite true: “There is nothing so horrid as a martini with too much vermouth.”

I also like the telephone etiquette. Rather than saying, “He’s busy. What do you want? Who are you?” it is better to say, “Oh, Miss Johnson, Mr. Adams will be so sorry to hear he missed your call. I can’t reach him right now, but where may he call you? Or is there something I can do?” Much better.

I’ll revisit some of these helpful tips down the road, but I wanted to add my own pet peeve. It is incredibly embarrassing when someone walks up to me and says, “You don’t remember me, do you?” First, I can barely dress myself or remember where to go in the morning. Second, I’m probably senile. I always introduce myself, even if I’ve met someone repeatedly, like this, “Hello, I’m Sean Adams, we met at Betty’s club.” Typically, they say, “Uh, yeah, I know you.” But perhaps they have no idea and now feel much more comfortable. You don’t need to say you met me at Betty’s club. That’s just an example.

More of the Gold

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Herbert Matter

Delivering on my promise from yesterday, I’m adding to the golden section post. I’ve mutilated several posters by Swiss masters to represent its usage. The mathematical description is as follows: the Golden Section is also known as the Golden Mean, Golden Ratio and Divine Proportion.  It is a ratio or proportion defined by the number Phi (1.618033988749895… ). It is best explained on Designorama or the enclosed Donald in Mathimagicland. I’m not lazy, it’s just complicated.

Jan Tschichold

Josef Muller Brockmann

Herbert Matter

Jan Tschichold

Jan Tschichold

Manfred Bingler

Manfred Bingler

Josef Muller Brockmann

Josef Muller Brockmann

Josef Muller Brockmann

Staying on the Road

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Manfred Bingler, Swissair, 1961

Last week at school, I introduced my first term students to the golden section. If you’ve worked as a designer as long as I have (since 1752), these proportions come naturally. I’ll work on a poster and then lay the golden rectangle on top of it, and what do you know, it all fits. But when you’re first starting out, it’s a little trickier. I can explain the math and show my Designorama film about it, I even show them Donald in Mathimagicland (we’ll tackle this on another post). Explaining it is similar to explaining how to drive; it’s pointless unless the student is in the driver’s seat.

I’ve been collecting examples to show my class, and each year I find more. Next term, I’m pulling out the Swissair posters as examples. They are so sublime and simple. They are rigid in their proportions, but fluid. Now I understand that a little Swiss typography goes a long way. Overused and the world could become a rather dull place. I’ve always believed that good typography is like a spider web; it is precise, perfect, elegant, ordered, and adheres to a strong grid. But it doesn’t work, unless one thing interrupts it.

Josef Müller Brockmann, Swissair, ca.1957

Manfred Bingler, Swissair, 1964

Manfred Bingler, Swissair, 1964

Siegfried Odermatt, Swissair, 1982

Manfred Bingler, Swissair, 1965