¿Dónde es la fiesta

I'm going to retire a couple of projects I talk about when doing a speaking engagement. So it's time to move them here.

Mexico Restaurante y Barre was a project that had no budget. So rather than fighting this and trying to maintain the highest quality with minimal resources, I suggested we use the philosophy, “Quality is job 2.” Why make it good if it could be done cheaper? 

This sounds good in theory but is difficult as it goes against every impulse I have as a designer. So, rather than designing something that was contrary to my sensibilities, I hired a designer with no talent. 

He had taken one class on design at a community college and then set up shop. He was enthusiastic and would spend hours finessing something. But, again, no talent. Awful with color. Didn't understand typography. And used analog equipment since he never learned any digital tools. And he was kind of a slob.

This designer, let's call him Percival, however, was fictional. He became our alternate personality when working on the project. Like Sybil suffering from multiple personality disorder after her severe abuse during childhood, designing Hobo Italic Swash pushed me into the Percival personality.


Percival wanted the design to feel like a great evening in Puerto Vallarta or Tijuana, minus the part where you wake up the next morning in a street gutter, bleeding, with no recollection of what you’ve done (like a normal weekend). 

He hand-painted the icons and frames with a bad brush using his left hand. He ordered fluorescent paper for the menus and tracked down seafoam vinyl covers (after using Google for "cheap menus"). He ran the bad icons around the borders of the stationery system and didn't bother to proof the text that switched between English and Spanish mid-stream.

Percival's color sense was tragic. No experience with color theory, so the colors vibrated and he designed hideous wallpaper for the stairwell. 

And then, as if things weren't bad enough, he took a batch of my photos from Mexico and applied them to the postcards, with no sense of the content. This led to many odd images, such as a postcard of a random apartment building. La gota que colmó el vaso de agua.

There were some high points. Since there was no budget for a big neon sign, he tracked down a sign painter who painted the logo on the building. But he managed to slip in the order to paint the building magenta. This led to many embarrassing moments at dinner parties when I was asked, "Have you seen that tacky monstrosity on Santa Monica Boulevard?"

I didn't fire Percival after the project was completed. He often returns to help me write drunken email messages at 3am.


Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Director of the Graphic Design Graduate Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for lynda.com/Linked In. 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.