Archive for November, 2010

Pocket Pal

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The Hi-Speed card

If you want to write a best seller in the graphic design market, write 100,000 Business Cards. My books sell well, but they are pussies next to the business card books. Why? I don’t know. At most, I give out 10 business cards a year. And the ones I like end up in a box marked “favorite business cards”. The one in the front is not by anyone famous or avant-garde or even a designer. It’s a business card from Hi-Speed Advertising Typography. Hi-Speed went away along with all the other type houses, but their card lives on.

I’m a sucker for type cases. I worked in the metal type shop at school, and learned the California case like the back of my hand. As you can imagine, that’s come in real handy over the years. I’d like to have a type case that I could use to hang on the wall, and organize little objects. Perhaps these would be pieces of wood type, rocks, or shells. The Hi-Speed card is a tiny representation of a type case. I know it’s not accurate, but so what? It has a cool big hand and row of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. That is why it is currently the favorite of favorites in the business card box.

Hi-Speed card 2



California Job Case

California Job Case layout

page o' cases

case o' type

My Battle with Kathy Griffin

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

wallpaper, George Wythe House, Colonial Williamsburg

I feel sorry for my trainer, Bobby Solorio. He’s a fantastic trainer, always on time, and always changing things around to keep me interested. He also trains Kathy Griffin, hence the issue. I’m sure Kathy keeps him entertained with hilarious stories and tales of her exciting travels. I tell Bobby about speaking engagements at conferences and try to explain something wonderful I’ve seen, like a new typeface. And I endlessly tell him stories about my family and American history. These are wildly interesting to me, but I’m sure Bobby feels like he is trapped in a terrible American History class in high school.

Here’s an example: Kathy tells a great story about working with Anderson Cooper. I tell Bobby about visiting Colonial Williamsburg and actually meeting historians who knew about distant grandparents and other relatives at each of the buildings. Then, I excitedly tell him about the paint colors of the buildings. “Bobby,” I say, “I can actually get the same paint color that was used on the Peyton Randolph House, or the wallpaper color of the George Wythe House. George Wythe was married to two of my distant great-aunts, not at the same time, and then was murdered by a trashy nephew.” Then I recount the entire George Wythe story starting with Thomas Jefferson’s law studies. How does that compare to meeting Liza Minnelli?

However, someone out there might care about our country’s glorious history and the amazing colors at Williamsburg. And I, frankly, would much rather paint a wall with Wythe House Gold, than hang out with fabulous celebrities at glamorous galas.

Grisell-Hay House

Grisell-Hay House detail

Bryan House

Bryan House detail

Robert Carter House

Peyton Randolph House

St. George Tucker House

Levingston kitchen

Martin Senour Paints, Williamsburg Collection

Martin Senour Paints, Williamsburg Collection

Martin Senour Paints, Williamsburg Collection

Martin Senour Paints, Williamsburg Collection

The Color of Fear

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Stop the "My Best Friend" music

Many of you have written and asked, “Sean, I find your color sense excellent. How can I acquire this skill?” This is not an easy question to answer. As far as I can tell, any color works with any other color. All that information about primary, complementary, and tertiary colors is nonsense. Although you should know it, so buy my color book.

To prove this point, look at the color palette in Airport 1975. Fuchsia and brown: why not? Lavender and magenta: of course! Butter yellow and violet: go for it. Why can’t airplanes look like this anymore? Everything is so “business professional” with navy blue and gray.

I want flight attendants in violet, and wall hangings made of carpet in intense colors. I want that groovy first class lounge upstairs on a 747 with an “autumnal” palette of browns and oranges. Alexander Girard did a fantastic job on Braniff (to be covered on another post), but he wasn’t brave enough to throw brights, pastels, and earth tones together in a crazy jumble. And finally, all airline companies should stop with the boarding music or Gershwin, or the American Airlines soundtrack. They should play Helen Reddy’s rendition of “Best Friend” repeatedly. This alone will make anyone who is frightened to fly desperate for the plane to take off and stop the music.

the swatches

a good airplane interior

More carpet on walls

Chuck Heston keeps a carpet wall hanging at his house

Karen Black, No. 1 attendant, is allowed to wear brown

all air-traffic controllers wear fuscia to work

where are those Dixie cups?!

Helen Reddy's best friend

where can I buy a carpet wall hanging?

beige and warm red are never wrong

lavender, magenta, and red make a relaxing trip

Helen Reddy's Best Friend

A Contextual and Theoretical Christmas

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The seafoam christmas tree option

Traditionally, we’ve always put a tree up right after Thanksgiving. This year, I need to buy a new one. The previous tree was white and had yellowed to a urine tone. In the past, I was forced to buy either a “lifelike” traditional tree, or a white one. But if a tree is artificial, shouldn’t it look artificial? Isn’t that a tenet of modernism, truth in materials? Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, this points toward a colored Christmas tree.

Fortunately, today, companies like treetopia sell colored Christmas trees. If you want a pink tree, you are now not forced to buy just a sad two-foot Barbie tree. This is disturbing to guests, or to use in the office, unless you have a young daughter. Like a visitor from the Soviet Union walking into a supermarket for the first time, I’m overwhelmed by the choices. Pink, blue, orange, or seafoam: which color is best? With the magic of Photoshop, I simulated the tree in its environment. I’ve found this to be a good tool for picturing possible furniture, landscaping, and hair color. Some of you are probably screaming at your monitor, “No you idiot! None of the above! Bad taste! Bad taste!” But I counter with my adherence to modernist theory.

The pink christmas tree option

The seafoam christmas tree option

The orange christmas tree option

The blue christmas tree option

Small Treasures

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The Story of Walt Disney World, 1972

I spend most of my Mondays at Art Center directing students to designers or artifacts that might be inspirational. Last week, Ladislav Sutnar was the designer du jour. The week before, I relentlessly shoved Josef Müller Brockmann down everyone’s throats. This is great to help someone see another way of making or seeing.

But, I treasure the artifacts that are rarely designed by a historically recognized designer. For example, I love my father’s Class of 1963 Directory for Wesleyan University, and an old hangover remedy pack from Harold’s Club. I love this Story of Walt Disney World book. The design is clumsy and has a remarkably odd composition, but it’s optimistic. I love the vignettes and detail images.

This Commemorative Edition booklet was created soon after Walt Disney World opened in 1971. I love the map. There is an attraction in Frontierland, Thunder Mesa and Western River Expedition, meant to take the place of Pirates of the Caribbean. Since the actual Caribbean was so close, there was a concern that Pirates would seem redundant in Florida. In the end, Pirates was added to WDW, and Thunder Mesa was replaced with Big Thunder Mountain.

I’ve owned this booklet for fifteen years, only yesterday, did I notice it made the shape of the “D” in the old Walt Disney World logo. Oh yeah, I’m observant.