Posts Tagged ‘AIGA’

Left of Center

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Marget Larsen

Many of you have written me and asked, “Sean, WTF? What happened to Burning Settlers Cabin?” The simple answer is that I have four jobs: AdamsMorioka, Art Center, AIGA, and As you know, I was also in Berlin for three months for the Art Center TestLab. And, of course, I have a very busy routine hanging out at the country club drinking martinis, tennis lessons, and playing golf every afternoon. But now, I’m getting a handle on it all and back to bring optimism back to the world.

In between my freshman and sophomore year at college, I was asked to interview at Landor and Associates for an internship. The interview was remarkably humiliating. The first comment being, “Uh, you might want to consider cleaning up the rubber cement on your projects, and using something other than a chainsaw to trim them.” The downside was no internship. The upside was a great lesson that my sloppy, messy CalArts portfolio wouldn’t fly in the actual professional world.

In my head, I imagined all the work in San Francisco to be like the remarkable packaging Marget Larsen did there. Her projects for Joseph Magnin were light and playful and people coveted them. They have a tinge of counter-culture, Victorian eclecticism, and clear Modernism. Most importantly, they were fun. They didn’t look constipated, uptight, and angry. It was clear that the designer enjoyed making them. Today, when every project is run through ten committees and budget is the highest concern, it is hard to imagine anyone giving the green-light to a box that turns into a Thonet chair or multi-colored set of game boxes. Larsen’s work is ground-breaking and was widely imitated. She had the misfortune of working at a time when few women in the profession were recognized on a coast where only “far-out and wacky” work was produced.

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Missionary Position

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

Some of you are probably aware that AIGA has been working on some primary issues for the last several months. The future of the organization, whether the headquarters building should be sold, and a multitude of other issues have been debated vigorously across 67 chapters and 23,000 members. Many of you have sent me kind notes, worried that the stress is getting to me. In all honesty, and this is probably not something I should divulge, I’m not that stressed. First, I know we’ll end up in a good place. Second, between the national board, advisory board, and chapter leadership I have the smartest people in the industry working on this. And, third, genetics must be at play. Yes, it’s important, but it’s not founding a nation.

I found an old issue of U&LC from 1975. It has an interesting article from AIGA about typeface copyright protection. I like that it’s set in justified, tightly leaded Tiffany. If a typeface needs protection, it’s Tiffany. It’s sort of the fat friend who dresses a little too glitzy. I’m also struck by the extreme niche subject matter. It was a time when AIGA was primarily a small New York club with 1700 members. An issue like typeface protection merited a whole page. And I now believe AIGA should drop the current clear and classic logo and go to the Tiffany solution.


AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

U&LC magazine 1975

U&LC magazine 1975

Come Fly with Me

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Continental Airlines, Boeing 747, 1970s

Continental Airlines, Boeing 747, 1970s


American Airlines 747 advertising, 1970s

I’ve been away from the burning settlers for awhile doing my five other jobs. Some of you already know that I’ve signed on for a second term as President of AIGA. This time it’s as a co-president with the very brave Drew Davies. I’m getting ready to film a new course I’ve written, Fundamentals of Layout, for I’m teaching at Art Center. I’m doing Command X at the AIGA Head, Heart, Hand Conference. And, of course, still a partner at AdamsMorioka. In September, I’m heading to Berlin for three months and leading testlab Berlin. I always think I’m industrious, but I’m probably just frenetic.

When I decided to go to Berlin I immediately began to get quite nervous. Sure I’m nervous about moving to another country, learning German, and leading 12 incredible students. But, I was mostly concerned about the air travel. I’m not scared of flying. I’m scared of flying in coach.

I’m often told I live in a bubble, usually by people who don’t know each other. It’s not a compliment. It’s usually followed by, “You make me sick.” So it might be true.

My reasoning is this: I can’t work in a little seat. I’m too tall. If I lose billable hours, I cost the firm money. If I fly in first class, I can work, so the ticket price usually matches my hours. See, it all makes sense.

Unfortunately, I’d really prefer to fly in first class on a 747 in 1975. I know everyone goes on and on about how air travel has become worse than the bus and people used to dress to travel. But when I see the photos of life on a 747 in the 1970s, it’s looking pretty groovy. People seem more interested in lying around and having swinging singles parties or getting high on marijuana. I’m not into that kind of thing, but I would love to fly in an orange and rust cabin.

It’s all too navy blue and grey now. Perhaps the reasoning is that passengers are more comfortable with a square and professional flight crew than one that looks like they are shooting a porn movie.


Continental Airlines 747 upper deck, 1970s


Continental Airlines 747 lounge, 1970s


747 upper deck, Wayne Thom, photographer


groovy wall carpet, Wayne Thom, photographer

Wayne Thom 7208_0623_13_747_Interior

maybe the bar pattern is going too far,
Wayne Thom, photographer


Lufthansa 747 promotion, 1970s

AC 747 11

The back

1970s aircraft interior

Party on and pass the reefer

People on ‘ludes should not drive

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Sean Adams, Aloha Mr. Hand skate deck, 2013

I think about the concept of alternative universes more than I should. When I make decision, I consider the quantum theory that an alternate of me makes a separate decision that branches into a different timeline. The moment I am most concerned about is the one when I was 17 and decided to respond, “No, thank you” to my acceptance to Harvard, and “yes, thank you” to CalArts. Somewhere in an alternate reality, I took the other path, graduated from Harvard, and then from the JFK School of Government with a masters in public policy. I might be a Senator in the 18th dimension. But, I took the other road. I deal with clients that ask four or five times a day, “Are you sure this is right. In your professional opinion?”

However, I do get to design cool things like this skate deck for AIGA Colorado’s Bordo Bello event. My good friend Charles Carpenter asked me to design a deck again for this great cause. This gave me the chance to highlight some profound quotes from Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Yes, if you haven’t seen it, it is better than Citizen Kane. I might be missing out on being called Senator Adams, but I get to immortalize the classic line, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

quote from Jeff Spicoli, Fast Times at Ridgemont Hight, 1982


quote from Mr. Hand, Fast Times at Ridgemont Hight, 1982

Gute Geschenke

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton catalog, 2009


I often tell others who are frustrated or angry with a co-worker or client, “People tell themselves stories to get through the day. Let them. Everyone wants to feel important.” Typically this works and helps alleviate an anger management issue. Now, this may seem typically optimistic and hopeful from me. Unfortunately, I worry about saying things like this lately. Last month Noreen and Nicole (Jacek) had dinner in New York with a good friend of mine (or so I thought). During the course of the evening someone suggested I emcee an AIGA conference (no I don’t want to). My “friend” said, “I love Sean, he’s always so happy and cheery, but he’s so simple.” This makes me seem like Forrest Gump. Granted the plaid shirts aren’t helping my image, but I’m not a doddering simpleton wandering the streets catching butterflies with a grin plastered on my face. Nicole came to my rescue and kindly stated, “You’re wrong. Sean could slice and dice you and you wouldn’t know you were bleeding.” I love her.

Last night I went to an AIGA/Art Center event, Nomads, Heretics, and Do-Gooders, with Nicole Jacek, Nik Hafermaas, and Matthew Manos. Nik Hafermaas reminded me, “If you want to be a designer, you have to know the world and be willing to leave your comfort zone,” Nicole Jacek gave me a publication I’ve often considered stealing, a beautiful catalog for artist, Sarah Staton. She also wisely stated, “Working in design is more than a job. As designers we get to be explorers or psychologists and it is amazing.” That one statement is so clear and remarkable, and reminded me that this is not about the endless emails about signage fabrication or cracking stock, it’s an adventure and can be whatever we want it to be.

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton catalog, 2009

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton catalog, 2009

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton catalog, detail, 2009

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton catalog, 2009

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton catalog, 2009

Nicole Jacek, Sarah Staton invitation, 2009