Archive for June, 2012

Madame, Taisez-vous!

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Audrey Hepburn after the makeover

The last time we went to Paris, Noreen had just watched Funny Face. This proved to be a mistake, as she insisted on singing Bonjour Paris everywhere we went. This is funny the first couple of times, but after awhile is trying, especially when the French stare and shout, “Madame, Taisez-vous!” I admit, however, that I love Funny Face and was tempted to sing as well. If you haven’t seen Funny Face, and think Saved By the Bell is an old classic, you need help. You are sad.

Here’s the basic plot. Audrey Hepburn is a beatnik and dowdy salesgirl at a Greenwich Village bookstore. The crew from a high fashion magazine, including the editor, Kaye Thompson, and photographer, Fred Astaire, descend upon the store for a high fashion photo shoot. Poor Audrey Hepburn, hideous and dowdy, is forced to be an extra next to the incredibly severe model. When the photos are developed, everyone agrees Audrey Hepburn should be made-over and sent to Paris as the star model. They all fly to Paris, sing the song, and shoot some fashion photos. Audrey Hepburn gets mixed up with some beatniks, and everyone is freaked she’ll miss the big fashion show.

There are a few highlights that I love. Fred Astaire’s character, Dick Avery, is based on Richard Avedon. The art director is based on Alexey Brodovitch. The magazine decides that pink is the color of the moment. Of course, it’s impossible to see Audrey Hepburn as ugly, so that part doesn’t work.


Funny Face album, 1957

Audrey Hepburn as the hideous book seller

Funny Face, the severe model

Funny Face, Think Pink

Bonjour Paris

Dizzy in Toronto

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The AdamsMorioka Story cover, 2001


I was going through some old images in the archives, and came across a piece I had forgotten entirely. It is a booklet for a lecture I gave in Toronto over a decade ago. On this trip, I managed to land in Toronto feeling sick. It wasn’t Toronto that caused the sickness, but probably by touching something a sick child had touched. There is nothing worse than being ill away from home except being ill, away from home, and scheduled to speak.

I managed to do the lecture without passing out. I was convinced I would recreate the Janet Reno passing out on stage, or the President Bush (1) throwing up on-stage in Japan episodes. But I held onto the podium as I spoke and maintained my composure.

My great friend, Diti Katona, who is the most amazing designer, was incredibly kind to me, making sure I was okay and taking me to the airport. I didn’t want to pass out at the airport. I have no idea what happens if you have insurance in the United States, but are in Canada with socialized medicine. So I refused to sit down, and continued walking around the terminal for an hour and a half before my flight. Security looked at me oddly after I passed the same guard 5 times. Oddly, I felt fine by the time we landed and decided it was just stage fright. Which is weird because I could care less normally and will shove someone else aside to get on stage.

The AdamsMorioka Story p1, 2001

The AdamsMorioka Story p2, 2001

The AdamsMorioka Story p3, 2001

The AdamsMorioka Story p4, 2001

The AdamsMorioka Story p5, 2001

The AdamsMorioka Story p6, 2001

The AdamsMorioka Story detail, 2001

On Fame and Work

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Matthew Leibowitz, General Dynamics, 1965

Noreen just took on the job of AIGA Los Angeles president for the second time. She served as president over a decade ago, and decided it was time to step back into the role. Of course, there were people who immediately claimed she was doing this for the fame and glory. And to those people I say, “(insert extremely offensive swearing here.)” If any glory is to be had, that happened on the first go-around. The second term is risk. She could just walk away and be remembered as a great president from the past.

As for fame, I don’t understand why anyone would put him or herself through that much work and stress for something so transitory. Over the years, we’ve been called media whores, PR hounds, and the Paris Hiltons of design. I prefer to think of us as the Donny and Marie of design, and just keep trying to make good work.

This is what I think about fame and design: famous designers are like famous dentists. There are famous dentists. I don’t know them. After all, we are designers, not George Clooney. Contrary to common thought, being famous does not translate into people handing you checks or offering sex (well, for some it does).

A couple of years ago at the Academy Awards, we sprinted along the red carpet to reach the Kodak Theater. It’s scary. There are lots of people yelling in the stands and lots of press taking photos. Normal people run from this. Actors wave to the crowd and encourage them, soaking up as much attention as possible. This wasn’t simply, “I love my fans.” It was a extreme version of “LOVE ME PLEASE!” I know designers can be needy, but not like that.

What’s important, the only thing that matters in the end is the work. Matthew Leibowitz is not one of the names design students regularly reference. There are no monographs or critical essays on his work. But, today, almost 40 years after he died, I still show his work as examples of great design. He pulled together a range of forms from minimal geometry to Victorian etching. There is a sense of Dada and Surrealism in his work. It always manages to walk that fine line of European modernism and American eclecticism.

I don’t know what Leibowitz thought about design celebrity. If he was applauded when he entered a room or ignored isn’t relevant. What is left is a remarkable body of inspiring work.


If you’d like to know more about Matthew Leibowitz visit some of these fine websites:

Matthew Leibowitz, 1944

Matthew Leibowitz, album cover

Matthew Leibowitz, paper promotion, 1968

Matthew Leibowitz, brochure cover, 1940s

Matthew Leibowitz, General Dynamics, 1965

Matthew Leibowitz, album cover, 1958

Matthew Leibowitz, General Dynamics, 1965

Matthew Leibowitz, Fortune magazine cover, 1947

Matthew Leibowitz, Philco book cover

Matthew Leibowitz, Philco book spread

Matthew Leibowitz, album cover, 1958

Donny and Marie Osmond

The View from Here

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Disneyland Main Street West

Disneyland Main Street East

Disneyland Main Street Plaza

Disneyland Main Street model

Disneyland Frontierland

Disneyland Frontierland 1965

Disneyland New Orleans Station

I gave a talk about the narrative design of Disneyland at the Cusp conference a couple of years ago. I covered the idea of a cinematic experience and viewer participation. The visual landscape of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World is carefully planned to create an experience like a film. For example, the tunnels on either side of the Main Street train station act like the darkening of a theater, then the guest passes onto Main Street and the “film” begins. But, the viewpoint is not straight down Main Street toward the castle. It’s to the right or left, then as the guest moves into the park, the view is revealed. The castle acts as a draw, or in Disney terms, a “weenie” and the guest is pulled toward the center of the park.

Each vista is planned to serve as a setting, information delivery vehicle, navigation device, and entertainment. At the same time, the overall sense of security and familiarity is created. Think of the experience this way: there are long shots of a Panavision nature, medium shots of singular buildings, close-ups of pedestrian level windows and doors, and detail shots of individual elements such as a birdcage on a porch or old apothecary bottles in a window.

While others are taking photos of their friends or family members in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, I’m shooting the long shots and details. I’ve found shooting panoramas by standing in one spot and rotating 360 degrees, or moving down the street and taking a picture every twenty feet to work well. Of course it looks crazy, but so what?

As a side note, once again, bring your subject close and let the castle be a background. Unless you need to shoot their entire outfit with shoes, we don’t need to see their entire body. There is no need to be upset when people walk between you and the subject 50 feet away. If I see you do this I will purposely walk between you and the subject and stand there.

Walt Disney World Main Street east

Walt Disney World Main Street Plaza

Walt Disney World Main Street Town Square

Walt Disney World Rivers of America

Walt Disney World Liberty Belle

Walt Disney World Frontierland

Epcot Plaza

Walt Disney World Yacht Club

Walt Disney World Yacht Club

Kangaroos Loose in the Top Paddock

Friday, June 8th, 2012

BOAC poster, 1970s

I went to grammar school in Melbourne, Australia. For some unknown reason, airline bags were the “in” thing to have. Looking back, this makes no sense. Why do 9-year-old children need to look like they spend their time jet setting around the world? Perhaps it was the one thing that stood out in a sea of grey uniforms. I had a BOAC bag that I proudly took to school each day. I also had a BOAC poster in my bedroom, perhaps again, to show my interest in international travel.

I came back to the U.S. when I started the 6th grade. This is the worst time to show up with an Australian accent. At that age, everyone wants to fit in. I was asked repeatedly in the halls to “say something.” I also sucked at American football. I had learned Aussie Rules Football. The rules are different, for example throwing the ball is not allowed and a player cannot get caught holding the ball. The first time I caught the ball on an American field, I immediately kicked it away. Not good I learned. I was Cracker Jack at cricket, but that skill was rather useless at Clayton Middle School in Reno, Nevada.

I continue to mix up English versus American spelling. But, by the time I reached high school, I lost my accent and knew that I could throw a football. And I didn’t bring my BOAC flight bag to school.

my BOAC school bag

my BOAC poster, 1973

Abram Games, BOAC poster

Abram Games, BOAC poster

Dick Negus and Philip Sharland, BOAC poster, 1954

Aldo Cosomati, BOAC poster

BOAC poster, 1963

BOAC poster, 1953

K.M. Adelman, BOAC poster

BOAC poster, 1970s