Archive for November, 2011

Why I Design

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

I learned how to behave by Saul Bass. There seemed to be several options. I could mature into a more seasoned designer and become crankier. I could become bitter and competitive with younger designers. I could desperately try to remain young, wearing clothes better suited for a 14 year old. Or, like Saul, I could be magnanimous and helpful. Saul was enormously helpful to us when we started AdamsMorioka. He provided wisdom I still use. He sat through a long dull lecture at Aspen to wait for our talk. Saul patiently listened to my ambitions, and was always available. Now when I read his recent book, I continue to be in awe.

After Saul passed away, Noreen and I went to his memorial at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. It was a truly life changing event to see the collection of his titles on a huge screen with magnificent stereo sound. When I show Saul’s title sequences to my students they are impressed, obviously, and hopefully inspired. But they cannot experience the magnificence of Saul’s work on a wide Cinemascope screen. His titles are each wonderful, but the credit sequence for West Side Story is a miracle. It is moving, eloquent, artful, and beautifully crafted. No matter how hard my day is, this sequence always reminds me why I design.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Peoplemover, Magic Kingdom

“How many photos of the same ochre door in Liberty Square at Walt Disney World do I need?” Obviously, the answer is “never too many.” Organizing my iPhoto library this weekend, I found the same image photographed almost in the exact same location over the course of ten years. Clearly, each time I see this door, I think, “oh, that would make a nice photograph.” But clearly, my mind is a sieve.

The other surprising discovery was the large amount of Walt Disney World photos sans people. I’m not talking here about the lack of photos of family members. I mean no people, as in Life After People. This tells me something about my psychological makeup, but I can’t focus long enough to know what. I don’t know how I manage to take so many images at a place with millions of people that are devoid of human activity. And there are quite a few images that may have a couple of guests, but are of empty areas of concrete or sand.

I have a secret dream of retiring and creating a job at Disneyland helping people with their photos, and offering guidance to the guests looking lost. “Excuse me,” I would say, “Are you looking for Space Mountain?” Or, “May I help you with a photo tip? Bring your child forward, and let the castle be in the background.” I could wear a white shirt and black bow tie, and be the “Answer Man.” The trick would be to not direct people to shoot scenes without any human presence. “Now wait, ask your child to get out of the shot. Okay, there are no people in the frame, shoot it now.”

Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom

Peoplemover, Magic Kingdom

Space Mountain, Magic Kingdom

Grand Floridian Resort, Walt Disney World

Monorail track, Walt Disney World

Monorail cabin, Walt Disney World

View from Yacht Club Resort, Walt Disney World


Odyssey Building, Epcot

Imagination Pavilion

Canada Pavilion, Epcot

Japan Pavilion, Epcot

American Pavilion, Epcot

American Pavilion, Epcot

German Pavilion, Epcot

China Pavilion, Epcot

50s Prime Time Diner, Disney Studios

50s Prime Time Diner, Disney Studios

A Hideous Child from the Dead

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

John Brewster Jr., Mary Coffin 1810

Thanksgiving is an important time of the year for us here at the cabin. We make a special batch of moonshine, Ma takes out the real fancy dishes, Pa and the little ones gather berries for fresh pies. And folks come from miles away to tell a yarn and share some good cookin’. Actually, Thanksgiving for my family has always been a favorite holiday. I hate Halloween and New Years Eve. I can’t get overly excited about Easter. But any American holiday such as the Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving is alright for us. It’s not that we’re wildly patriotic. It’s the holiday that doesn’t offend anyone. There’s no religious overtones, and nobody needs to dress in costume or stay up past 10pm.

This year I’m thankful for so many things. It would be a long list so I won’t go into detail. But the most important thing that all of us should be thankful for is that the child above is not ours.

That Woman

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

There is groovy hair, such as Julie Christie in Shampoo, then there is groovier hair, Angie Dickinson in Police Woman. She is the hippest police detective ever. Since it was 1974, Police Woman was required to have “Woman” in the title. “Police” just sounded dull. There was no spin-off, “Police Man” as in the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. If there had been, it would probably be Barnaby Jones. Buddy Ebsen at 95 was far less active, however, than Angie Dickinson.

The lesson here is this: add “Woman” to any show title, Six Feet Under a Woman, Star Trek Woman, Love Boat Woman, Lost Woman. It makes a more interesting concept. And, when you only have live action footage to work with when creating a title sequence, use freeze frames, fast zoom shots, and details of things like legs.

A Magic Kingdom

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, cover

In recent years, I’ve been concerned I was out of touch. Well, that goes without saying. A common house-cat has more hip-ness than me. But I thought the new generation only cared about working collaboratively, denying the artifact, and deriding more seasoned designers. When I was in my twenties I loved going to a conference and meeting a hero like Milton Glaser. I was thrilled when I received a letter informing me that a book was selected for the AIGA 50 Book show. Over the last two years I’ve come to realize that young designers still care about these things. They want community, recognition, individual vision, and love the beauty of artifacts. I cannot express how happy this makes me. All the hogwash research that painted the next generation as mindless automatons blindly walking down a road of Borg assimilation is wrong.

Which segues, as usual for this blog, into a crazed left turn. This preview book for Walt Disney World is one of my cherished artifacts. I don’t love it because it is about the design of meetings or strategy or collaborative teamwork. I love it because it is wonderful. When can you combine teal, ochre, and baby blue? When people discuss the great American experiment, this is it. The freedom to design a booklet with completely wrong colors and make them work. For me, the WDW preview book is design in a nutshell. It serves a purpose, it creates excitement and joy, it promotes an idea and product, it does this is unexpected ways. It talks to me personally.

So this is my call to action. When you are told that individual vision is irrelevant, or recognition of individual is wrong, or the world no longer needs beauty or heroes, just say no. These are not true. Design can create wonder and joy. Individuals do this, not committees of fifty people.

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, cover

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, Liberty Square

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, Asia Hotel

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, Contemporary Resort

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, Space Mountain

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, spread

WDW Preview booklet, 1969, spread

WDW Preview booklet, 1969

WDW Preview booklet, 1969