Archive for November, 2012

Charm Lesson 1: Flattery

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Spouses ("Boy, your wife sure can hold her liquor” is not a compliment)

It is easy to tell a friend or new acquaintance that he or she has a nice shirt. But, even the most sophisticated man or woman can say this and appear insincere. Flattery is a cornerstone of charm. It is said that flattery is the devil’s tool. And used for selfish personal gain, it is. The secret to successful flattery is sincerity. Almost everyone, with the exception of those truly hideous or unkempt people, has an attribute that can be complimented.

Complimenting a haircut is always a good bet, if the haircut is indeed attractive. It’s a given that all people with hair have had a haircut at some point. Noticing that a friend has had a haircut lets them know you care enough to notice they have had a haircut. This also reinforces the decision he or she made when determining the hair-cut. It’s a win-win solution for everyone.

I find it best to tell a person something true. If you like Cricket’s blouse, tell her. Most people are too scared to say anything; you’ll stand out. It’s hard to dislike someone who has given you a compliment. But you must say the compliment in a sincere way, and when first greeting someone or saying goodbye. For example, at the end of a lunch when everyone is parting, reach over, touch the person on the arm and say discretely, “That is really a snappy tie.” If you sit through lunch quietly staring at them, and then blurt out suddenly, “I like your tie,” it will sound creepy and you may seem like a serial killer.

Flattery can backfire if you are not careful. I once mentioned to a woman who usually wore a hat that her hairstyle was attractive. I offended her as she had quite thin hair, and thought I was making fun of her. In actuality, I wish I had been, and now can use this as a backhanded compliment.

Good Flattery Subjects:

Jewelry (unless it’s tacky)


Home and Garden (“lived in,” is not a compliment)


Sense of Humor (not at a funeral)


Hairstyle (never say it reminds you of a Barbershop Quartet)


Clothing (find just one item to mention, even if its hard)


Bad Flattery Subjects:


Children (it may seem as if you like them too much)


Pregnancy (she may not be)


Money (“You’re so rich,” is frank, but rude.)


Religion (“I love Methodists. They're Baptists who read." is not acceptable)


Genitals (“Good God that’s big,” is flattering, but wrong.)

The Joy of Giving

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Fun with Dick and Jane suicide

People send me things. Sometimes they’re great, like a thank you box of wine from AIGA Orange County. We’re now using the box as the stockade for dolls. Or, they send funny images such as these. Alternatively, they are odd and disturbing, as in: please don’t Photoshop my head into your family photos. I have no common theme for these images today, beside the fact they are all kind and thoughtful gifts. I’ve been sitting on them for awhile. I’m sorry about the motorcycle bumper sticker. It’s so bizarre, I had to share it.

Religion and Penises

Cranky republican message

Seen in Provo


The doll stockade, also for small rodent animals

How to Teach a Donkey

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Beach Party, 1963

My normal routine in the morning is to eat breakfast and watch the news. I switch between CNN, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. This morning, I was derailed and accidentally tuned into How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. How to Stuff a Wild Bikini is one of the teenage movies from American International Pictures, also responsible for Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, etc. In the 1950s, AIP was the studio behind the teenage science fiction and horror movies such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and Teenage Cave Man. As a side note, the original title for Clueless was I Was a Teenage Teenager. In the 1960s, they focused on beach movies. The 1970s saw drugs, gangs, and blaxploitation films.

The Beach movies are awful, but hypnotic. How can they not be? They have Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, teenagers is very scanty bathing suits, bad musical numbers, motorcycle gangs, fake surfing, and slapstick comedy with Buster Keaton. The posters follow the same less than subtle approach. Albert Kallis designed many of the remarkable 1950s AIP posters. I often say the right way to communicate is like teaching a donkey; first hit it over the head with a two-by-four. Then give it the message. These posters do this in spades.

I understand good taste movie campaigns like Lincoln. The poster is minimal and states, “This is a serious masterpiece, and this is an Academy Award movie.” The other side of the coin is the blunt approach.

Good marketing and advertising typically works when the viewer is given a command: Just do it, Enjoy Coke, Think Different. The Kallis posters do this and more. Often they listed the commands on terms of seeing: See strangest of all rites in the temple of love! See earth attacked by flying saucers! AIP posters in the 1970s were never subtle, but I’ll watch a film that promises, “Shamelessly loaded with sex and violence,” and “She’s brown sugar and spice, but if you don’t treat her nice, she’ll put you on ice.”

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, 1965


Bikini Beach, 1964


Fireball 500, 1966


Fire Maidens of Outer Space, 1956


Earth vs The Spider, a958


Invasion of the Saucer Men, 1957


How to Make a Monster, 1958


The Trip, 1967


Foxy Brown, 1974


Hollywood Boulevard, New World Pictures, 1976


Lincoln, 2012

Unsinkable Brown

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

unknown, Buffalo Bill's Wild West

Recently, a client asked for brown as a color option on a project. A couple of years ago, I would have resisted. But, brown has slowly been creeping into my mind. First, I found myself admiring the brown tile at the Honolulu Airport. Then, I decided I should move away from my earthquake safe Melmac dinnerware. So, I bought several settings of Heath Ceramics dinnerware.

The Heath colors are subtle, subtle and subtle. Seeing one brown combined with cream or tan plate convinced me that brown could be alright. Some of my favorite design solutions are brown. Does this mean I’m mellowing, or developing, God forbid, good taste? I still resist any attempt to put brown in bathrooms. Brown wall, tiles, fixtures, or accessories should never be used there. I won’t go into details, but how do you know if someone previously had an “episode” in the bathroom if everything isn’t bright white?

Heath Ceramics dinnerware


Heath Ceramics, plate colors


tile, Honolulu Airport


Reid Miles, Blowin' Country


Tomoko Miho, Nieman Marcus packaging, 1960s


Paul Rand, Idea magazine, 1955


Josef Muller-Brockmann, concert poster, 1955


Saul Bass, Bonjour Tristesse poster, 1959


Will Burtin, Scope magazine, 1951


A bad brown bathroom, 1977


Liberty and Freedom in Grids

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, cover, 1976

I like odd grids. How’s that for a catchy opening at a cocktail party? Probably not too good. Nevertheless, complicated and unexpected grids are wonderful. One of my favorite examples is the structure for the book, The World of Franklin and Jefferson, created for the exhibition of the same name. United States Information Agency and the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration proposed the exhibition with funding from IBM. The exhibit toured New York, Paris, Warsaw, London, Mexico City, Chicago, and Los Angeles and was one of the last major works completed by the Eames Office. The accompanying book’s structure is, let’s be honest, bizarre. There are almost no margins. The italic captions have their own column in the center of the page. The images seem to invade the text like wild animals. Clearly, there is a structure under here I do not understand. But I love it. It’s a world of wackadoodle grids. Now, that’s a good title for a new design book.

The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976


The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976


The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976


The World of Franklin & Jefferson, spread, 1976