Posts Tagged ‘Art Center College of Design’

Surprised by Joy

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

RayEames

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Each term, I pull the Art Center Graphics Gallery together. It’s exciting to see the breadth of work produced, and get a sense of the tone of the department. At the end of the Spring term as I was waiting for a batch of posters to arrive, I wandered into the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, which is behind the student gallery. The current exhibition is Ray Eames: In the Spotlight. Now this is a case of discovering something wonderful in your own backyard. I’ve walked by the gallery several times a week, but was always too busy to stop. Boy, that was dumb.

When I finally stepped in, I was shocked to find the best exhibition I’ve seen in years. After multiple visits to the great museums of Europe and New York, this was the one collection that inspired me the most. The exhibition highlights Ray’s work, not just more Eames LCW chairs. It contains the incredible collections in her drawers, the rack of slide carrousels, her early artwork, even her own incredibly tailored dresses. The density of visual ephemera is remarkable. This isn’t an exhibition for minimalists. But there is a rigor and tightness to the chaos, and an unrelenting sense of optimism. Even the Computer House of Cards talks about the beginnings of things and the possibilities of technology.

Of course, I wanted to buy many of the items, but since it was a gallery exhibition, they said no.

Left of Center

Friday, January 31st, 2014
margetlarsen

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 Lynda.com. 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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1992 in Black and White

Thursday, July 25th, 2013
Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

While I think wikipedia is a swell tool sometimes, it is not an educational substitute. Each term in my foundation class at Art Center I give an assignment that requires research. This term the students returned with presentations on politics and photography. It’s obvious which ones are just reading from wikipedia: “Social documentary photography is the recording of humans in their natural condition with a camera. Often it also refers to a socially critical genre of photography dedicated to showing the life of underprivileged or disadvantaged people.” My response, “And…?”

I used to assign a film poster which required watching a movie outside of the class room. How hard is that? It’s not reading Joseph Conrad. Then I found that people were only watching snippets on YouTube. So now, we watch the whole movie in class. This makes me feel like Bad Teacher.

In contrast to this is the enormous energy and effort that Robert Cha put into this publication. Robert worked on the Fires in Our Time book as an independent study with me. When he mentioned the 1992 L.A. Riots as a subject I expected a nice 18 page booklet with big headlines and photos. Instead, Robert created a relentlessly dense document that reports and deconstructs the riots. 300 pages of interviews, newspaper reports, television, and first hand accounts. This enormous amount of information would be enough, but Robert then applied a design solution that did not try to aestheticize the issue. His book dogmatically sticks to a rigid rule system. Each type of information is assigned a typeface, size, and position. The final result are pages that feel like elements slamming against each other, none willing to compromise.

Many issues and multiple viewpoints collided in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The riots were more than one thing. To minimize them and assign a pithy one line answer is a disservice to the complexity of the ongoing problem. Robert’s book is the best example of this put into concrete form.

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

 

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Come Fly with Me

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

Continental Airlines, Boeing 747, 1970s

AA-747-vi

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 Lynda.com. 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.

QANTAS71-20

Continental Airlines 747 upper deck, 1970s

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Continental Airlines 747 lounge, 1970s

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747 upper deck, Wayne Thom, photographer

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groovy wall carpet, Wayne Thom, photographer

Wayne Thom 7208_0623_13_747_Interior

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

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Lufthansa 747 promotion, 1970s

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The back

1970s aircraft interior

Party on and pass the reefer

Knife in Water

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Here are two things I don’t know: how to speak Polish, and how to code a full screen video image run behind the content on a website. I probably won’t learn Polish. But I am determined to solve the video issue. I’m sure anyone under thirty, or any tech smart people are already saying, “That’s like way easy.” The website for Nowy Teatr in Poland does this and is a joy to explore. The site, designed by Huncwot, a remarkable agency in Warsaw could be the trickiest site in the world. The content leans toward the avant-garde, but the site’s design remains consistently concrete and provides gravity. The minimal typography and restraint is piercing. The full screen moving imagery could be obtrusive, but it’s hypnotic. If you ask me, the people at Nowy Teatr and Huncwot should be pretty darn proud. The site was the talk of the school last week at Art Center, and left me, a complete philistine, thousands of miles away, speaking only SoCal english, awed.

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Nowy Teatr website, Huncwot, Warsaw

Nowy Teatr, Huncwot, Warsaw