Experimental Prototype Colors of Tomorrow

Epcot gift bag, early 1980s

When EPCOT opened in 1982, the concept was innovation and globalism. Wait isn't that what every conference today is about? The park was and is divided into two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World was where corporations like Exxon could prove how good strip mining was. World Showcase would bring cultures from around the globe to the American tourist. The visual theme of Future World was the same as the 1990s Star Trek: TNG, mid-level hotel or medical offices in non-threatening tones. The large spaces had lots of carpeting, an abundance of rounded corners, and odd geometric benches.

In my head, I've always pictured 1980s EPCOT as a unified and sleek place. The color palette was silver, blue, and white. The materials were aluminum and fiberglass. But, I was wrong. While researching the color palettes I found some truly hideous combinations. Now, I've always said no two colors dislike each other. Again, I was wrong. Some of the combinations are terrifying. It would never occur to me to combine pink, teal, plum, and orange. I'm still semi-sane. So what happened? Why the hard left away from the silver and blue? I don't know. I do know, however, that these combinations do not exist naturally, and no software product will ever provide a palette like these.

Bag palette
EPCOT 1982
Epcot map, 1983
Map Palette
Epcot mug
Mug Palette
Button Palette
Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982
Gateway Gifts palette
Guidebook paltette

Blood on the Walls

Black Flag, CalArts 1982

When I was at CalArts, the older crowd complained that things were never as fun as the "old days." But they seemed wacky enough to me. We knew to not drink any punch at an opening or party as it was laced with LSD. The pool had a clothing optional policy which was enjoyed, of course, by those who should not be naked. My dorm room was right about the jacuzzi which made me privy to conversations each evening, two people shout ing over the bubbling water, "What school are you in?" and "Do you want to come to my room?" The jacuzzi was quickly renamed the jiz-cuzzi.

During one class in a small windowless classroom, the punk group Black Flag came to play a gig. We all sat in our desk/chairs while they set up. Obviously, when they started, it was quite loud. Small classroom are not a typical punk rock concert venue. As Henry Rollins ran toward the class shouting and waving his microphone, everyone stood up and ran to the back of the room. When he retreated back to the stage, we slowly returned to our desks, and again jumped and ran as he moved into the room. Oh yeah, we were cool, but this proved we were all just white suburban punks.

For some reason, one woman who was sitting in the front row of desks refused to budge. She wasn't doing this because she was a major Black Flag fan. Her art centered on hard core feminist themes, so I imagine it was in protest, or as an act of resistance. Unfortunately for her, Rollins took this as a challenge and repeatedly shoved his crotch into her face. At the same time he slammed the microphone against his head until it was bleeding. So she sat there, resistant, while having a crotch thrusting and blood flying around her. Now that was fun.


My friend Peter Grant and I, CalArts, 1982

My friend Erica and I, Bob's Big Boy, 1982

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.

Staying on the Road

Last week at school, I introduced my first term students to the golden section. If you’ve worked as a designer as long as I have (since 1752), these proportions come naturally. I’ll work on a poster and then lay the golden rectangle on top of it, and what do you know, it all fits. But when you’re first starting out, it’s a little trickier. I can explain the math and show my Designorama film about it, I even show them Donald in Mathimagicland (we’ll tackle this on another post). Explaining it is similar to explaining how to drive; it’s pointless unless the student is in the driver’s seat.

I’ve been collecting examples to show my class, and each year I find more. Next term, I’m pulling out the Swissair posters as examples. They are so sublime and simple. They are rigid in their proportions, but fluid. Now I understand that a little Swiss typography goes a long way. Overused and the world could become a rather dull place. I’ve always believed that good typography is like a spider web; it is precise, perfect, elegant, ordered, and adheres to a strong grid. But it doesn’t work, unless one thing interrupts it.

My hair

The other day I was told, "You have Cape Cod politician hair." I think this was a compliment, unless you hate Cape Cod and politicians. But, we always want what we can't have. In high school, I was desperate for cool Keith Partridge hair. I wanted the feathered, easy, and groovy look. My hair is, unfortunately, big. It doesn't grow long like Keith Partridge's hair, it just gets bigger like Sideshow Bob. I tried endlessly, but my attempts ended with enormous hair that gets wavy. It is not fun to be asked if you use a curling iron when you are in the 9th grade.

Sean, Seaside High School, class of '82

Seaside High School id card, 1982

Sean, more big hair and bad attitude

Sean, freshman year, attempt at feathered hair gone bad