The Gremlin in the Machine

I recently came upon the 1972 American Motors catalog. My first thought was, "how many typographic widows can one publication have?" Then I saw the page with the Javelin interior and thought, "how do I get an eight-track player and that cool handle for the gear shift?" Granted this catalog paints a picture of an alien world or alternate dimension where auto buyers don't all demand bland interiors and equally dull silhouettes. But what an amazing world. 

Your car was like your living room. You could fit 20 people on the front seat. There was plush upholstery with bizarre patterns, exterior colors that said, "I'm wacky, but wild," and shapes that stopped people on the street. 

I had a friend whose family owned an Ambassador wagon in avocado green (not the Bradys). They never put the seats up, but left them down creating a flat dance floor environment. It wasn't uncommon to pile 10 kids in the back and let us slam back and forth with no seat-belts. Fun times.

And what about that Gremlin? WTF? It must be the ugliest car ever designed. What was the thinking? Why name it after a mythical creature responsible for the sabotage and subsequent crash of World War II airplanes? That's an odd naming choice that appears to have occurred after a three martini lunch. But it's the caption, "Gremlin 'X' in Wild Plum metallic" that is an incredible string of words that contradict each other.

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.

Call Me Eunice

One of the upsides of being obsessive is having perfectly organized drawers. One of the downsides is that I become engrossed in the wrong story. When we read Wuthering Heights in high school I was bored to distraction by Cathy and Heathcliff. Whiney, whiney, whiney. They were pretty people who did a lot of whining. I wanted to know what happened to Heathcliff’s tortured wife, Isabella. Unfortunately, she is only a secondary character and we are left to imagine her story.

The same is true in the case of What’s Up Doc?Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand play the main characters, Howard Bannister and Judy Maxwell. But, I only care about Madeline Khan’s character Eunice Burns. She has a nice wig, wears good Republican dresses, and is quite concerned about maintaining traditional behavior. Eunice is incredibly annoying and wonderful. And as they say, if someone has dressed with propriety and buttoned every single button, they must have a huge fire inside to be contained.

Eunice: I'm not looking for romance, Howard. 
Howard: Oh? 
Eunice: No, I'm looking for something more important than that, something stronger. As the years go by, romance fades and something else takes its place. Do you know what that is? 
Howard: Senility?
Eunice: Trust! 
Howard: That's what I meant.

I know that I’m supposed to like Ryan O’Neal’s confused professor character and Barbra Streisand’s wacky free spirit, and they’re fine. But the entire movie should have been about Eunice. I would suggest a remake, Call Me Miss Eunice.

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.

They Always Come Back

It's hard to goof up a project that has a great subject, say a collection of Edward Stieglitz photographs or catalogue for MOMA. Sure you could mess it up by setting the entire thing in Curlz, but that rarely happens. So I recently decided that a project about something boring would be a better challenge for students. Make something amazing from something dull or disturbing. 

At the beginning of each term, I go to the used bookstore in North Hollywood and buy the most unsexy books I can find. Yes I get odd looks when I bring my stack of books to the counter. Last time I had 15 books on various subjects: The Book of Cats, Star Trek Compendium, John Nash and Game Theory, The Films of Judy Garland, NASCAR, MTV Video Music Awards 1992, and Puppy Potty Training Made Easy.

My favorite was The Art of Sensual Massage published in 1972. I forgot it in the back of my friend Erica's car, which proved awkward when her teenage son and a friend discovered it. It's a slice of time. The first thing I noticed, after the terrifying type, was how "natural" everyone was. Hair care in many body areas seems "casual". Then there is the decor. I want that room: a Mucha poster, spider plant, ferns, macrame, and rattan chair. There is even a chess set and candles.

The book is actually pretty good, except for the "Massaging Children" section. This seems wrong. I might be prudish, but I believe being massaged by your naked mother may cause later emotional issues. This is the copy: Children enjoy massage most at the end of the day when they're tired and slowed down. If your child jumps up in the middle of a stroke let it go. They always come back.

Of course you would wait until they're too tired to fight back. They jump up because they are desperate to get away. And they always come back due to Stockholm Syndrome.

The Art of Sensual Massage, 1972

The doll under the poster. Why?

The chess set and candles

Pirate bird and massage

This is wrong. Yes, I'm uptight.

This is Stockholm Syndrome

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.

Jai Guru Deva. Om

 

I like the news. Last week CNN aired Our Nixon, a collection of home-movies and media reports from President Nixon's administration. It's not like I was enthralled, wondering where the plot led. Sorry for the ruining the ending, but Nixon leaves office after the Watergate scandal.

At the height of the Vietnam War, Nixon invited the über square group, the Ray Conniff Singers to the White House. President Nixon said, "And if the music is square, it's because I like it square." Oddly, I might say that, which scares me. Carol Feraci, one of the Ray Conniff Singers, hid a message reading, "Stop the Killing" in her dress. Once she walked on stage she removed it and said, "President Nixon, stop bombing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays and pray to Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were here tonight, you would not dare to drop another bomb. Bless the Berrigans and bless Daniel Ellsberg." Then she and the group break into a super saccharin rendition of Ma! He's Making Eyes at me.

The response from the room after the group finished included comments like, "She should be torn limb from limb."

The salient moment here is the time between the speech from Feraci and the start of the music. The schizophrenia of the time is remarkably obvious. A revolutionary response to an unpopular war is thrown at the audience with clear language about death and reality. Seconds later, this is swept away and replaced with music that is intended to sanitize and sedate. It is astonishing to see the obvious desperation here with everyone: the desperate revolutionary act, and the frantic desire to shut reality out.

Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970

Ray Conniff, Friendly Persuasion

Magic Journeys

 

I'm a sucker for a nice map. A couple of years ago, I posted about Walt Disney World and Disneyland maps. As a nice by-product, we were then hired to design a new souvenir map for Disneyland. I can't show this to anyone due to the contract, but believe me, it's good. A kind follower of burningsettlerscabin recently sent me this remarkable map of Walt Disney World by Arthur de Wolf. Holy cheese and crackers, I am blown away. This is one of those times I find myself saying, "I wish I'd done that." It's reminiscent of Massimo's 1972 New York Subway map. Fortunately it isn't like the most confusing map I've ever used for the Tokyo Subway system. Try to figure that one out. Now I know why I see photos of passengers being shoved into trains in Tokyo. They obviously are all lost and endlessly changing trains to find the way home.

 

A Story of One

It’s the old story, 500 channels and there is nothing to watch. But, back in the olden days, sonny, it was much worse. When I went to the family ranch back in the 1970s, we had one television that received transmissions from an antenna mounted on the tallest pine tree. This allowed us to get one station sporadically. That one station seemed to endlessly play cop shows, or Emergency. I don’t think I ever understood the premise of The Streets of San Francisco, but there were many scenes of cars flying over a hill and bottoming out. There probably wasn’t much of a premise, i.e. no “high concept”. All shows had a grizzled old cop/editor/pizza shop owner, but with a big heart, and a young rookie and brash cop/reporter/single girl. The title sequence for Streets of San Francisco makes up for any lack of concept. It’s not as good as Hawaii 5-0, but close. And there is that voice over that you can never forget, “a Quinn Martin Production.”