The Rape of the Northland

I was once asked after a lecture, “How do you respond to the accusation that you are mining the past?” I should have talked about appropriation, pastiche, nostalgia, and using familiar forms to create a sense of reassurance. But did I? No, of course not. I said quickly, “Mining the past? I’d say raping the past.” This is one more example of my nitwittiness adding to the sense that we are shallow and stupid people spending their days surfing.

Years ago, we designed the signage program for all Old Navy stores. I was especially happy with the primary directional signage for the flagship stores. The sign was made with interchangeable disks that could be rearranged by a store manager. There was concern that children might try to climb it, but my idea of adding barbed wire fencing around it was dismissed.

Then I found an example of Alvin Lustig’s exhibition for American Crayon at the Aspen Design Conference. Damn that Alvin Lustig, he beat me to the lollipop idea. Lutsig’s environmental work is light and delicate. The signage for Northland Shopping Center is one of my favorite programs. Why don’t shopping centers still look like this? The signs are fresh, optimistic, and functional. They use three-dimensional space structurally. And they are not garish, desperately screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” Now I need to be careful not to design a sign that has an asterisk symbol on the top of the poles. Wait, I think I have.