The Valise in the Foyer


I don't think I'm the smartest bulb in the box. But I'd like to consider myself able to, at least, understand most conversations. This scene from Hail Caesar is remarkably close to my experience when people slip into "art rhetoric." A couple of days ago, another designer told me she was interested in pursuing "speculative artifacts of design." Those sound like words, but together, I just thought, isn't that the same as "something?" 

Another person at a dinner party told me he worked on "hybrid technologies." That sounded super cool, but then I realized that meant using motion, print, and web design. Why not just say that? I feel pretty stupid when I need to lean over and ask a friend, "Each word makes sense, but together make no sense. What does it mean?"

I thought the goal of good American English was plain speaking. Say what you mean as clearly as possible. If a simpler word exists, use that. Reject all pretentious language. I was wrong. Now I sprinkle conversations with these words: 


Try it. Add them to any conversation. "I was at the studio, or design laboratory as we say, and we began exploring the appropriation of vernacular artifacts. Of course, everyone was amazed at the visceral response and saw the self-referential issues immediately."

Or call your grip a "valise."

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/ He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.