Our House

 

There's an old trick to getting a song out of your head. I tried it this morning, but it didn't work. See, the problem was that The House I Live In by Frank Sinatra was going through my head all night. The trick is to sing God Bless America instead and that should knock the other song out. But it doesn't work to replace one song about America with another. So I still have it running.

It's a good song to have stuck in your head. Sinatra performed it in 1945, right after World War II. It battled racism and anti-semitism. Today, it seems like it can apply to a whole range of issues.

I used to think my grandmother was incredibly racist. Anytime I mentioned one of my friends, she'd say in her long Virginia drawl, "Now tell me Sean, what is his or her last name?" If it was a name she recognized, she then asked, "Is he one of the Burwells I know?" I now realize it wasn't about race or religion. I loved her immensely, but she was just snobby.

Get off the lawn you damn kids

I spent last week at the Four Seasons Hualalai. We go there every year, typically in September. The staff at the Four Seasons is incredible. I don't know how, but they always remember our names (we may be on the problem guest list). They are genuinely happy to be working there, and can solve any problem. You know you're being treated well, when people come to your beach chaise to clean your sunglasses.

I've truly become the angry old person/high maintenance guest. We stay in the Palm Grove, which is the quiet zone. It's very zen and peaceful. A couple of days into the trip a few really annoying people sat in the pool drinking and shouting about football and SDSU. The next day, we saw the same dudes playing golf and blasting rock music from their golf cart. Not good form.

A few days later, a group of doctors for a conference acted like the Palm Grove pool was Fort Lauderdale at spring break. Okay, I know this sounds jerky, but after doing everything possible to cancel the noise, I called the front desk and asked for some help. Security showed up and they either lowered their voices or all went back to their rooms to pass out.

Later, I felt bad when I was told they were cancer doctors. They're saving lives and I'm cranky that they are having fun in the pool.

I decided that this was simply the way of the world. Those times of good manners were a thing of the past. I was the problem and needed to accept change and get over it.

But, I was wrong. The next morning two senior managers tracked us down in person and apologised. Boy, did I feel dumb. I was truly amazed. You've heard me say before, follow the three "R"s with clients when something goes wrong: Recognize the problem, express remorse, and resolve it. They did that. If it were me, I'd be scared to talk to me. That old uptight white guy is complaining about the noise. How fun can it be to talk with him?

Ho in Hawaii

I was waiting with my nephew, Chance, outside the Haunted Mansion and asked him about his favorite bands. Of course I didn't expect to know any of the ones he said; he's a teenager. When he asked me, I told him I liked older music like Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney.

I'm sure this felt like talking to someone from ancient Mesopotamia to him, but he's always polite, and said, "I like them too." I didn't reveal the more embarrassingly uncool truth, that I like cheesy Hawaiian music. Sure I appreciate the authentic Hawaiian music, but I have a soft spot for the schlocky stuff.

I buy many of these records at Amoeba Records. They're always in the 99 cent bin, or left outside to be taken away free. Clearly there is low demand for Don Ho's Hawaii-Ho (which is not about prostitutes on Waikiki).

Yes, sometimes they are too bad, even for me. The Blackwood Brothers Quartet album cover reads as either a gay wedding or white party, but it turned out to be gospel music in a Hawaiian style. I don't know what happened to the actual record, but the cover for Hawaiian Polka Tour with Eddie Blazonczyck's Versatones is remarkable. You can't ignore the Jim Jones style portrait on the cover.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of the design is not half bad. Alfred Apaka's Hawaiian Favorites, the Ilikai Hotel'sMusic of Hawaii, and of course, Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaiiare classics. There's some good letterforms too. I assume the message with these is, "primitive, wacky, and carefree." That sounds like my normal weekend.

Mon beau Montréal

1976 Montréal Olympics, Georges Huel

I recently judged a competition for the GDC in Canada. Much of the work was from Montréal, and it was darned good. There's some cracker jack stuff happening up there in the cold north. I've never been to Montreal, but I've been lucky enough to have been invited to many other parts of Canada.

If you've never been, it's like this: imagine that you go back in time when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. You step on that one butterfly, and sure enough the butterfly effect happens. Once you go back into the time machine and return to the present day, everything seems the same... almost. That's what Canada is like. It seems just like home, but then there are little things that are just slightly different, like a different dimension one step away from our reality. Of course, there is different money. They speak English, albeit slightly differently. The stores are sort of the same, except you can buy really cool lumberjack kind of stuff at Roots. And they look like us, but they're incredibly nice.

One of my favorite Olympics programs, or programme to our French Canadian friends, is the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Georges Huel created a harmony of elements that are exuberant and tightly controlled. What a wonderful time it must have been in 1976. A designer could design with flawless Swiss typography, staying on the grid, aligning photos to the golden section. Nobody made accusations of post-modern referential appropriation. Swiss typography in a pure form was a just a swell solution. Judging by the photo of Huel's team, I imagine lots of long lunches drinking Harvey Wallbangers and chilled white wine..

 

Design Team: Georges Huel, Léo Chevalier, Marielle Fleury, Michel Robichaud, John Warden

 

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Avast Ye Matey

  The Klamath opening poster, Landor and Associates

Our office at AdamsMorioka is in the Flynt Building in Beverly Hills. It used to be the Great Western Bank Building and has a giant statue of John Wayne out front. Don't worry, there is no porn being filmed in the building, unless it's happening after hours in our office and I don't know about it. The building was designed by William Pereira and Associates in 1972. It is an oval shape and has beautiful details of late modernism. When we tell a guest how to get to the restroom or other directions, we use the terms "bow" and "stern". That's the curved front or back of the building.

Landor and Associates in San Francisco, however, had a real boat. When they talked about the bow and stern, they meant it. The Klamath was the company's headquarters from the 1960s -1980s. This was a radical departure for a firm. Most design agencies don't work on boats, especially a company engaged in high end corporate work. But it became a symbol for Landor's creativity and separated them from the traditional and stodgy firms in New York.

We've been considering a move recently. Right now we're on the port side of the building in the middle. We would like to be on a real boat. Barring that option, we may find ourselves on the bow or stern of our landlocked ship at the corner of La Cienega and Wilshire. If that happens, I intend to redesign the office in a nautical theme with anchors, nautical flags, oil paintings of clipper ships, and desks that look like old ship flooring. We'll serve grog to guests rather than water or soda.

 

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The Interrogation


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A couple of weeks ago we took a tour of The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Hohenschönhausen Prison was used during the Soviet Occupation and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1945 until 1989 for political prisoners. It's cold and grey here in Berlin. So the combination of grim weather and brutal prison made for a rather disturbing afternoon. We've heard stories from Berliners about life before the wall came down. "There was nothing to buy over there," or "There just weren't freedoms and options." What shocked all of us, in our southern California ignorance, was how the system dominated the population by oppression and paranoia. That evening, we watched Das Leben Der Anderen, a movie about a Stasi agent at Hohenschönhausen. This resulted in the toughest of us (not me) running from the room in tears when the movie ended. Good times.

Not to minimize the harsh reality, but we were also shocked at the wallpaper and linoleum. It really did look like stuff you'd expect from a Soviet prison. One of the downsides of coming from Los Angeles is that the rest of the world looks "themed." We say things like, "Oh, that little Bavarian village is so cute. Maybe a little over-themed." or, "Europe is just so European." The prison was the same for us. We deny the reality and think it can't be authentic. It must be a set for a TV movie about life in the GDR or Soviet Union, like The Americans when they have flashbacks.

I did, however, hear the best sentence I've ever heard, "And now, let's move on to the interrogation room." Perfection. Why not have an interrogation room in every house? It could be small with a single light bulb, desk and chair. "Janie, did you break that vase?" "You are lying! let's start all over again."

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Geradeaus, dann nach links und rechts

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You may have noticed that the settlers were not communicating for the last month. I've been in Berlin since the beginning of September. I'm there as the faculty lead for the Art Center TestLab project. This term, 12 dream team students from Pasadena and I are spending three months working on a transmedia project. The core of the project is to redefine Americana with a European millenial audience. How can we communicate the positive aspects of American culture today or in five years? We don't have the luxury of the reputation as the "good guys" in the world anymore. So what remains that has positive resonance?

Here are answers to the questions I've been asked most frequently since taking this on:

How do you do AdamsMorioka work?

In all honesty, Noreen is carrying the burden of being in the office every day and keeping things running. I work on projects, art direct, and am engaged every day via Skype. When I get up each morning, the office in LA is ending their day. So I work on projects during my day in Berlin and the night in Los Angeles. By the time I'm turning in, I've shipped off the work and they start their day. I'm the graveyard shift.

Why did you agree to do this?

First, it was a remarkable honor to be asked. Second, I know we will do some truly groundbreaking research and work. Third, the students are the cream of the crop and I actually personally like all of them, and finally, I've never done anything but go to work and go home since I was 20 years old.

How can you be AIGA President 8000 miles away?

I have a great c0-president, Drew Davies. I work via email and Skype, but Drew has the weight of responding in real time and being boots on the ground. I will owe him a lot of cocktails when I get back in November.

Where do you live?

I live in an apartment hotel with the students. It's a change from a house in the hills with a pool to a 300 sq ft room. I tried washing my clothes in the bathtub, but that went badly.

Is it fun?

Absolutely. It's hard hard work and takes a huge amount of energy, but it's an adventure. The solutions are inspiring and I know this is an experience that is life-changing. And when asked for directions on the street, I get to send people in the wrong direction. I really only know how to tell someone to go "straight ahead, turn left, or turn right" in German. So that's what I always say, no matter where they want to go.

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The Sticky Problem

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 There is a nest in the middle of the bougainvillea on my back porch. Two birds guard it. Each morning, a neighbor cat sits at the bottom of the bush and is attacked by the birds defending their nest. How's that for thrilling excitement? I am amazed that birds can build a nest in such a dangerous thorny bush. There is another one in an especially dangerous cacti in the border. When I work in the yard, I wear gigantic thick rubber gloves typically used to handle radiation or horrible chemicals. I still am injured weekly. Once, a spine went in through one finger and came out the other side two weeks later.

Some may say, "What for the love of God is wrong with you? Why would you put dangerous thorny cacti and succulents around the pool?" But if you ever worry about children running around the pool, this is a good deterrent. They see all those sharp points and needles and walk very carefully along the flagstone. The cacti in the planter behind the kitchen has proven problematic. Supposedly this is where one plants flowers. When the cactus gets too large and the pods stick into the path, I hear complaints as people pass them. "Who thought this was a good idea? Dammit!" is a common saying at many barbecues. And I do hurt myself whenever I clean the windows there.

But, what's beauty without suffering. And what a wonderful surprise if a trespasser climbs over the back fence at night and walks right into my trap.

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The Happy Place

 

Last week, I heard on NPR that beenies were the fashion thing for men now. I thought beenies were the hats that looked like yarmulkes and had propellers on top. I was told, "No, they are knit caps." Followed by, "Boy, I wish I lived in your world." I assume that means Pleasantville. I wish that were true. I'd like to say I laughed only at episodes of I Love Lucy. But something is wrong with me. I needed to be told that Zero Dark Thirty was not a comedy, and laughter was not appropriate during torture scenes. Who knew?

I'd like to live in Pleasantville, but  one of my favorite places is Scarfolk, UK. It's a wonderful town in North West England that hasn't progressed beyond 1979. Richard Littler's genius website about Scarfolk describes it this way: Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science. "Visit Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay." It looks like a nice place to live, except it's in northwest England, which means it's cold, and rains, and gets dark early, and people are probably sick a lot, and not tan. But it looks like they have a handle on the rabies issue. I've collected some of the wonderful collateral produced below.

 

 

People on 'ludes should not drive

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.”

 

The Brutalism of Books

Years ago, there was a wonderful school supply store in Los Angeles. It didn’t have an inventory of fine new textbooks, cute brand new classroom decorations, or specialty learning tools. This was the warehouse of the misfit supplies. This is bad if you want to teach children up to date information, but wonderful if you prefer to live in the past. Noreen bought a huge roll up wall map of the world with all the nations in 1958. We found old textbooks, cursive lettering wall charts, and diagrams of evolution from the late 1960s. There were no prices on anything, which proved to be a bonus. When we were checking out, the cashier looked at our cart of old stuff and said, “Hmm, what about $20.00 for everything?” Pretty nifty.

I especially coveted a collection of Life Nature Library books. These are the books that explain all types of scientific information in simple terms. For me, this is good. But, it’s the design that is the high point. The books are clear and simple. They are almost industrial in their functionality. This is brutalism in publication design. They are elegant in their minimalism. Nobody was trying to show every design skill they had all on one page. Even the charts are miraculously un-designed. This isn’t about laziness. It’s about restraint.

The Ballad of the Hermetically Sealed House Trapped in Time

After my grandparents passed away, we cleaned up their house, fixed the heater, bought new beds and linens, and left. The plan was to visit as a family every month or so. But everyone gets busy and the months pass. My sister, Heather, moved to Hawaii. This made get-togethers even harder. We still manage to get together as a group each July 4th. It's odd to open the door and find the hermetically sealed house, virtually unchanged since my grandmother redecorated in the late 1960s. We've considered splitting up the furniture, art, and objects, but there's so much we have no idea where to start. And my grandmother's style ran toward the western Victorian genre. I've considered bringing one of the sofa sets, marble topped tables, and Victorian gas lamps home, but I think I would have an odd result. At best, the design would have the feeling of the Haunted Mansion, at worst, Liberace.

We still find odd items in the drawers. I found a huge set of 35mm slides last weekend, and a really groovy napkin thingamajig. I remember this napkin set from our ranch. It was in the guesthouse bathroom and went with the red, white, and blue Americana wallpaper. We never used them because they seemed so fancy. I look at this now, and try do determine the rationale. Someone made the decision to green light this design. I try to imagine the meeting; “I’m seeing an oddly drawn guest towel set based on the menu of a Victorian bath house. But make sure it’s wonky.” In any event, I like these along with the ancient packages of Dixie cups.

Getting Angry, Baby?

You can’t live in Los Angeles and not have some kind of food issue. Everyone I know is vegan, gluten free, pescetarian, lactose intolerant, only raw food, or only eats local food in season. Ordering at restaurants is like an interrogation in an Iranian prison, “Tell me! Is there any wheat? Don’t lie. I will know!” I try to be as trouble free as possible. My only constraint is too much meat. I probably won’t order the Meat Lovers Platter at Claim Jumper.

Twenty years ago, some of our friends invited us to dinner with their out of town guests. These guests were older and went to Nickodell Restaurant whenever they visited. The older part is important because Nickodell was an ancient restaurant near Paramount studios. It must have been a hot spot in the 1940s, but had declined in a bad way. It sounds like a groovy dive that should be fun. But, the evening was a cross between Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Blue Velvet. The inside of Nickodell was standard issue Hollywood: vinyl booths, nicotine stained dark walls with framed photos of old movie stars, and dim lighting.

The out-of-town couple started the evening with several martinis. They quickly began arguing. After ordering appetizers, they switched to wine, and continued the vicious attacks on each other. By this time, I was feeling sick. Then the food came. An extremely old waitress wearing something similar to a 1940s nurses uniform slowly wheeled an old metal cart to the table. The couple’s giant slabs of beef sat on the top shelf. As she wheeled the cart away, they attacked their bloody and rare steaks, slammed down two bottles of wine, and yelled at each other while chewing. This was the impetus for my aversion to excessive amounts of meat.

However, this has not dampened my love for the Porterhouse Room logo. Robert Sinnot designed this around 1950 for the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. It’s a beautiful mark and proves that a logo does not need to be all hard lines and flat geometry. My only issue is that I can’t tell if the cow bull has no eyes, or alien eyes.

You're as Cold as Ice

I’ve been accused of being a shut-in. I like staying home, working in the yard, and eating gumbo. I’m not the type of person who would love to eat at fancy restaurants every night. However, for someone who supposedly is a shut-in, I’ve been to every continent on earth except Antarctica. This is one of my goals. I’ve seen documentaries about exploration cruises to Antarctica, but everyone looks like they are over 65. They all have orange coats, and I wonder if that’s coincidence, or a cruise gift.

Herbert Ponting was the photographer on Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition in 1910. Illustration had been the art form used to document scientific expeditions for centuries. Ponting and Scott were determined to use photography as this resource. Ponting’s work, especially his film work, is the basis for every wildlife documentary we see now. After 14 months with the expedition, Ponting returned to England to catalogue the photographs. The Scott expedition, unfortunately, ended tragically with Scott and the other expedition members died from exposure, malnutrition, and exhaustion. While it may seem gruesome, he was buried inside the Ross Ice Shelf. His body will slowly move toward the sea, and eventually be set adrift inside an iceberg. This seems remarkably fitting for the polar explorer.

Ponting’s images were too sharp and clear for an Edwardian audience who preferred photographs soft and painterly. But this technique was a precursor to modernist photography and the sharp focus of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Willard Van Dyke.

The Angry Dog and Soft Core Porn

Last week at the AIGA Pivot Conference, Command X was, as always, a huge success. The young professionals who are contestants are the bravest people on the planet. There is no way in hell I would get up in front of 1,500 designers and defend my choices. This year’s group, Spencer Charles, Wendy Hu, Matt Hunsberger, Susan Murphy, Mark Nizinski, Jesse Reed, and Sarah Sawtell are remarkable designers with nerves of steel. The judges, Ellen Lupton, DJ Stout, Michael Vanderbyl, and guest judges, Karl Heiselman, Chip Kidd, and Matt Munoz had the unenviable job of determining who moved on to the next challenge. Michael Bierut hosted the competition, and I mentored and filmed the behind the scenes updates.

Behind the scenes, drama ensued. Michael Vanderbyl was reprimanded by an attendee for suggesting the use of a shamrock on a piece. Supposedly this is deeply offensive to Irish people. I asked Command X contestant, Susan Murphy, who is an actual Irish person, if she was offended, and she was fine with it. In fact, she suggested many names and comments that could be quite offensive to the Irish.

And then another speaker attacked my great friend Bonnie Siegler for Command X. According to an onlooker at the party where the bloodthirsty attack occurred, Bonnie stood defenseless as this person became increasingly furious. As this onlooker said, “it was like a chained angry dog who was let off its leash. There was spitting, snarling, and lunging.” I didn’t realize that “fun” is clearly a filthy word we should never use. Design should be laborious and we should refrain from making artifacts. Charts and meetings are the future.

As usual, nothing shocking happened to me, except for the scandal in Marian Bantjes room. Marian needed to learn how to tie a tie. I can’t do it backwards, so I sat behind Marian to teach her. The result was a photograph that looks like a cover of Viva or Oui magazine, or a soft-core porn film. Thank God it was Marian and I wasn’t teaching one of the Command X contestants how to tie a tie.

Schralped Fetus Donut Shop Siren

A few months ago Joe Marsh asked me to contribute a skateboard deck design for AIGA Colorado’s Bordo Bello. Bordo Bello is a skateboard art charity fundraiser. If you’re in Denver, check out the opening on September 30.

As Noreen said to me, “You? You? Why would they ask you? You’re so square.” Noreen may know what she is talking about. She infamously shocked the English judges at the British D+AD judging when she snatched up a skateboard from the industrial design table, and rode it around the room. I wouldn’t do that. I’m not that cool.

Since I’m square, I don’t need to worry about doing something groovy. I love skate slang. I don’t use it in meetings, as in, “Dude, that logo is so off the hook. Gnarly.” But, this gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my love of skate slang, and late 60s chain restaurant typography ala Farrell’s. I suggested adding people in red Victorian vests running around with the skateboard decks while a siren wailed, but the kind people at AIGA Colorado politely said no.

Beyond the Reef

Be warned, this is a travelogue post. As many of you already know, each year we go to Kona Village in Hawaii for the first week of September. This year, because the tsunami closed Kona Village, we moved next door to the Four Seasons Hualalai. I was nervous about this. We were used to seeing the same crowd at KVR and knew most of the staff. The Four Seasons seemed so fancy-pants, I was worried it would be like a week at a stuffy Westside Los Angeles restaurant.

I was wrong. Four Seasons was wonderful. I couldn’t find much online about the resort before our visit. There was the official site, and other travel sites had reviews that were typically positive, as in, “It was expensive, but worth the price.” What does that mean? I need actual facts. Of course, several people posted who clearly are never be satisfied, “I was forced to dry my own feet. I demand my feet to be dried with a young virgin’s hair.”

Now here is the lowdown if you plan on going:

  1. Get a room in the Palm Grove. It’s the no children pool area. The rooms are close to the beach, and it’s quiet and secluded.
  2. Ask for a ground floor room. They have an outdoor shower. At first, I thought, “creepy,” but it was great. I took showers and watered plants at the same time.
  3. Make sure Cody at the Palm Grove pool is there to help you. Everyone, without exception was gracious, down to earth and friendly. But, Cody had a great faculty to make us feel pampered and among good friends. He was endlessly patient with my aimless questions, and was a highlight of the stay.
  4. Eat at Pahu i`a's Surf, Sand and Stars, a barbecue on the beach. No, it’s not like an old macaroni and cheese, ancient fried chicken buffet. The appetizer section, sushi, and lobster alone are worth the price.
  5. Go to Safeway or Costco for booze. Yes this may seem rather low-rent, but why spend enormous amounts of money for cocktails when you can make your own.
  6. Take a good hike up around the golf course every day. Otherwise you will eat a great amount of food and get fat.
  7. Eat at the Resident’s Beach House. The Mai Tai is actually a rum Big Gulp.

For over a decade we went to Kona Village, and I thought moving on to Four Seasons Hualalai was treason. It would be loud, with snobby guests and staff. It wasn’t in the least. The Hualalai staff went above and beyond to create a perfect spot. And to quote Patrick Henry, “If this be treason, make the most of it!” (Pretty impressive to combine a founding father and a Four Seasons in Hawaii.)

Tomorrow's Child

I have a t-shirt with the logo for Seabase Alpha. This was a fictional place reached via the “hydro-lator” at EPCOT’s Living Seas. It’s gone now, replaced with a child friendly Nemo adventure. I like having a shirt from a fictional place within a fictional space at a themed fictitious place. When I go to EPCOT, I spend time looking for the remnants of the original EPCOT. When it opened in 1982, it was clearly about a forward thinking wonderful future. Technology would solve all problems. All nations would live together sharing native foods and shopping experiences. Obviously, I gravitate toward the areas that still talk about this. For example, the truly unattractive Odyssey Restaurant building is original. But sitting in front of this empty space is only fun for a short amount of time.

It may be hard to look at EPCOT in 1982 with a sense of nostalgia. You may be saying, “Handel Gothic? Chrome? Red carpeting?” And, yes, in addition to my clearly questionable taste in color palettes, I like these things. I won’t be redoing the living room with a red, white, blue, and silver theme, but the hexagonal brown tiles are quite enticing.

For additional EPCOT wonder check out one of my favorite sites, passport2dreams.

Shout how-now to Mrs O'Leary's cow

Chicago is one of my favorite cities. Beside the great food, friendly people, and wonderful neighborhoods, several of my favorite people live there. Greg and Pat Samata, Dana Arnett, Jamie Koval, Bart Crosby, and Ric Valicenti are designers I deeply admire, and who are just plain fun to hang with. I assume it’s a Chicago thing that eliminates any snotty, diva-like behavior, and creates good down to earth attitudes.

Each year, Greg and Pat present the Cusp Conference. Cusp isn’t a design conference. It’s about big ideas. It’s been described as, “inspirational, funny, thought-provoking, eye-opening, informative, inspirational, fascinating, humbling, soothing, shocking, awesome, inspirational, unbelievable, wise, touching, smart, healthy, honest, confusing, inspirational, affirming, creative and just friggin' amazing.”

Last year, Greg invited me to talk about whatever I wanted. I’d been on the road speaking about AdamsMorioka and our ideas for so long I wanted to do something different. A couple of months before, TypeCon asked me to speak about the typography of Disneyland. I had a great time pulling this together and it was extremely well received at TypeCon. So I expanded on the idea and told Greg I wanted to talk about design at Disneyland through an optimistic lens. So far so good.

I’ve been speaking publicly for 20 years. I think I have a pretty good grasp of what an audience will respond to. Sometimes I get it wrong. When I spoke in Norfolk for AIGA Hampton Roads in Virginia, I started by talking about my family’s Virginian roots, and put up a list of family names in case anyone in the audience was a cousin. I didn’t realize the family names were the same as the street names in Norfolk. So it came off as, “Hi, I’m fancy. I’m from Beverly Hills. I go to the Academy Awards. My family is fancy. You’re not.” This was not my intention. I’m actually kind of a goof ball.

The Cusp Disneyland Design lecture wasn’t received as well as the TypeCon lecture. Now there could be several reasons why: it is a dumb lecture, I’m dumb, I came off as smug, or I looked fat. But, I had a wonderful time doing it. I had time to see Pat and Greg, and had a great lunch with Greg and Ricky Wurman. And I went to Chicago.

All the joy that love can bring

If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Sandpiper, you will recall Elizabeth Taylor playing an artist living at the beach at Big Sur. She spends her time making abstract seascape kinds of paintings. Her studio is cluttered with driftwood-like art. It sounds like fun to live at the beach on the California coast, feel moody, and collect driftwood. It must have been a wonderful time in 1965 when poor artists could buy beach houses and wander the dunes. In 1954, the Pasadena Art Museum held the first of a series of exhibitions celebrating design in California. Graphic design wasn’t included, and there seemed to be a prevalence of handcrafted ceramics, and woody furniture. It was all very natural in a California eco-friendly pre-hippie way. Of course, now I would love to own some of these items. Or I could move to the beach and begin making ceramics and driftwood mobiles.