The Path to Hell

Here is a list of things one can do that will ensure that he or she will go to hell (beside the obvious such as murder):

  1. Use any Photoshop filter
  2. Use Live Trace
  3. Use Garamond Bold (or any old-style serif bold)
  4. De-saturate an image because it seems too strong
  5. Use a typeface that looks like handwriting

The faux-handwriting typeface is especially egregious. First, they are fugly. Second, the designer is lazy. Third, God gave people opposable thumbs so they could use their hands to write. If people were meant to only draw with a vector pen tool, or write with the fake handwriting type, we could have hooves like a cow and poke at the keyboard with a pen in our mouth.

Bad, bad, bad, and bad

Bad, bad, bad, and bad

When I show young designers work created by hand, such as Ed Fella's or Pablo Picasso's posters, they often say, "it looks hand-drawn. shouldn't it be vector?" or "my child could have done that." But the point is, your child didn't make that loose and spontaneous drawing of a bull or Ella Fitzgerald singing.

So, when tempted to use the brush tool in Illustrator rather than taking the time to pull out a piece of paper and use your actual hands, then scanning it, remember that you may go to hell.
 

Ed Fella, 1998


Below, Pablo Picasso, 1959–1970

Portrait of Pablo Picasso at La Californie, Cannes, by Irving Penn, 1957

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Acting Chair 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.

Sloppy, Lazy, Loafers

I once had a party and ran Bye Bye Birdie  on the television with the sound off. It looked so good, so much nicer than any framed image on the wall. If I could only achieve that intense and saturated color in Bye Bye Birdie I would die happy. 

What a wonderful world of happy people in bright colors. I watched it again this weekend. Just earlier some friends were complaining about teenagers today. "They don't understand the value of money, or hard work," one friend said. Another insisted, "They're lazy. They only want to look on their phones and text." Then, in Bye Bye Birdie, made in 1963, Paul Lynde sings a song about teenagers then. And what were the lyrics?

Kids, who can understand anything they say?
Kids, they are disobedient, disrespectful oafs
Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy, loafers
Kids, they are just impossible to control
Kids, with their awful clothes and their rock an' roll
Why can't they dance like we did?

Perhaps the teenagers today will be singing the same thing twenty years from now when their kids are using hoverboards and ignoring everything they are told about the sacrifices of using your actual fingers to text.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Acting Chair 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.

Kangaroos Loose in the Top Paddock

I went to grammar school in Melbourne, Australia. For some unknown reason, airline bags were the “in” thing to have. Looking back, this makes no sense. Why do 9-year-old children need to look like they spend their time jet setting around the world? Perhaps it was the one thing that stood out in a sea of grey uniforms. I had a BOAC bag that I proudly took to school each day. I also had a BOAC poster in my bedroom, perhaps again, to show my interest in international travel.

I came back to the U.S. when I started the 6th grade. This is the worst time to show up with an Australian accent. At that age, everyone wants to fit in. I was asked repeatedly in the halls to “say something.” I also sucked at American football. I had learned Aussie Rules Football. The rules are different, for example throwing the ball is not allowed and a player cannot get caught holding the ball. The first time I caught the ball on an American field, I immediately kicked it away. Not good I learned. I was Cracker Jack at cricket, but that skill was rather useless at Clayton Middle School in Reno, Nevada.

I continue to mix up English versus American spelling. But, by the time I reached high school, I lost my accent and knew that I could throw a football. And I didn't bring my BOAC flight bag to school.

Showtime

I admit I’m fairly out of touch with the lifestyles of young and sophisticated urbanite males today. I know where they are. I see them at skate stores at Sunset Junction and tiny restaurants in Brooklyn. I know that a beard is required, or a “scruffy” look. Jaunty hats of all types are good. And vintage ironic t-shirts are useful. I’ve tried the beard thing, but I look like Burl Ives, and when I don’t shave I hear my grandmother’s voice in my head, “a man who doesn’t shave every day is like a woman leaving the house in hair curlers.”

In the early 1960s, the same crowd took tips on life from sophisticated and intellectual magazines such as Esquire, Playboy, and Show. No, Playboy was not always just images of naked young ladies. Each of these magazines targeted that young man on the town with articles about hi-fi stereos, how to smoke a pipe, and current political thought. Show was a short-lived, but remarkable magazine devoted to the entertainment arts. Henry Wolf was the art director and responsible for unexpected and smart covers. Today, Show would be Us magazine. What a wonderful time it must have been when a magazine about entertainment could have a cover with a re-purposed Ukiyo-e print on the cover, not Kim Kardashian.

The Circus is a Wacky Place

As a design student, I was repeatedly told to study Polish poster art. This was in response to my work that was deemed, “too tasty, too polite.” I spent hours looking at these posters and..., nothing. They made no sense to me, and I could not understand what they meant, how they arrived at this odd aesthetic, or what they had to do with my work. Today, I realize the value of these posters. They transcend the expected. They follow an aesthetic that is fearless and non-traditional. And they allow for gesture and passion.

Now I find myself suggesting the same thing to my students. My students come back and say, “Professor Adams, I don’t understand what they have to do with my work.”  To which I say, "Look at them again."

The CYRK (circus) posters were designed during the golden age of polish posters, from 1962 to 1989. The state commissioned these posters to promote a new, modern circus. The designers followed this assignment with non-literal, suggestive forms. Often, these contained hidden anti-Soviet and anti-Communism symbols.

In all honesty, they still mystify me. I can imagine how Josef Muller-Brockmann designed a poster, or Alvin Lustig, or even Yusaku Kamekura. They are beautiful and mysterious, but are from a culture so far removed from my reality, that Martians might have designed them.

 

from the Lou Danziger Collection

Wiktor Gorka, 1967

Delight and Disgust

Everyone loves a story about the misunderstood artist, reviled in his time, and then lauded in his old age. Morris Lapidus is that story. When the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau Hotels were built, Lapidus was called vulgar, pretentious, artificial, and tasteless. Both hotels, however, were incredibly successful. The design challenge was to build a hotel where “the guy who can afford to pay fifty bucks a day will look around and think that a fortune had been spent to create the hotel.” The result did this. Lapidus used a cinematic approach to architecture. His buildings look the way America in the 1950s thought luxury looked like, via Hollywood. Granted, some of the design, such as the Lapidus Residence bathroom, escapes me. But, if you like fancy, it sure is “fancified”.

I find it endlessly fascinating that populist work is typically deemed, “unworthy,” while something created for a small minority of elite intellectuals is “worthy.” If a basic tenet of Modernism is to create good design for the masses, this is contradictory. Lapidus weathered the decades of criticism and kept working. In 1970, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy’s critique of Lapidus was typical: “Lapidus is a sleazy, self-promoting careerist, an architect on the prestige-make. Lapidus is a well-known phenomenon in the profession. He made his pile and excuses his aberrations with the nauseating clichés of ‘what people want’ (as if taste pollution did not go the other way from designer to public).”

We can dissect the virulent antagonism in multiple ways. Since the work was designed to appeal to the masses in Florida, and was not in New York or Chicago, there is a distinct sense of regional and class elitism. Ada Louise Huxtable wrote in the New York Times that his work was “uninspired superschlock.” This was a criticism of Lapidus’s ornate decor, but Huxtable’s use of Yiddish words subtly raises the question of the hotel’s Jewish architect and clientele, suggesting anti-Semitism.

Fortunately, by the time Lapidus had retired, and was 97, the architecture community began to acknowledge his work. The book, Morris Lapidus: The Architecture of Joy, is a wonderful collection of exuberant and interesting work that challenges our ideas of taste and modernism.

Images below are from this book

For Your Aural Pleasure

Many of you have written, and asked, "Sean, where can I find interesting ringtones and alert sounds for my computer?" The answer is here at the cabin. This collection has a sci-fi bent for those of you in the sci-fi nerd category. Since I made them, I must be in there, also. And I added an extra that we put on Noreen's computer for her alert sound about cookies.

Jetson's doorbell

HAL9000 moment

2001: voiceprint identification

Voyager door signal

HAL9000 Tracking

HAL9000 Message

Battlestar Galactica Action Stations

would you like a cookie?

Secret Love

1963 Cadillac

My family never had a Cadillac. My grandparents always had a beige or brown Mercedes, and the Wagoneer, "Old Blue," at the ranch. My father stuck with the Mercedes thing except for a detour in the late 1960s and the requisite VW bus. Other friends' families had Cadillacs. I coveted them and was deeply jealous. The Mercedes was nice and staid, and said, "Please. We're not flashy." But a yellow Cadillac said, "What the hell, let's have drinks and get into trouble." When you're 13, this sounds far better. Now the unfortunate part of this is that by the time I could buy a Cadillac they were, forgive me, ugly. For awhile I considered buying a vintage one and researched every year and make. Like most of us, I've been conditioned too well. It sounds like a swell plan, but when the time came to head to the vintage car auction, I thought, "well, they really are kind of flashy."

For me, 1964 was the pinnacle year. The fins were still in place, but had lost the trashy factor of the 1959 model. The profile is clean and almost a perfect rectangle. It's sleek and clean. It's probably a good thing that I'm not the CEO at GM. If I were, I'd be retooling and pumping out 1964 Cadillac Eldorados. If they worked like a new car and had all the features we now want, like seat belts, who wouldn't want one? And if they were all over the road, I wouldn't feel too flashy in mine.

1964 Cadillac Eldorado

1962 Cadillac Eldorado

1960 Cadillac Eldorado

1959 Cadillac, too flashy