Nitsche Didn't Say, "Design Gods are Dead"

There’s been an ongoing debate for a few years regarding design heroes. Some say the younger generation no longer needs or wants heroes, others argue that heroes are a vital part of our design experience. Personally, I cannot imagine my career without the inspiration and guidance of so many “hero” designers. In school, I looked at their work and tried to understand how they made something, and what I could take from that knowledge. When I graduated I followed the career paths already blazed by these designers. When we started AdamsMorioka, I turned to them for support and advice. Today, I show their work to my students. I do this, not so they can copy someone, but to show them different ways of thinking and making. I have never taught a class when someone did not say, "I never knew. I never thought about it that way."

Last night, I went to the AIGA Bright Lights event. This was previously the AIGA Design Legends Gala, but it was renamed this year. Brian Collins pointed out to me that Design Legends Evening sounded like a drag show in Las Vegas. Jennifer Morla, Steve Frykholm, and John Maeda were honored with the AIGA Medal. This event has always been like the best high school reunion you can imagine. It’s as if every single great friend you’ve had is in the same room. This is also a time when we celebrate and recognize the achievements in our profession. This may seem frivolous, insular, and self-congratulatory, but it isn’t. It’s vital that we support and celebrate one another. It elevates all of us and maintains our commitment to excellence and generosity.

I don’t want to live in a world where there are no heroes, where all designers have been deemed ordinary. What we do is a remarkable gift, unique to each of us. I want to look at someone’s work and be humbled. I want to be at an event and feel awkward meeting a famous designer. We need heroes for ourselves and for those outside our profession. Some are saying there are no heroes, that this is an idea of the past. But they simply do not know where to look.

John Maeda, AIGA Medal 2010

From the Academy Awards to Tuna Fish

I think humility is a virtue. I do my best to practice it.  I feel uncomfortable with praise, and am usually far more impressed with the people I meet than I am with myself. This post, however, may seem to lack that humility. I’ve been trying to figure out how I could recap last night without seeming like a total douche. But that’s probably unavoidable, so I’ll pass on some highlights.

Last night we went to The Academy Awards. The Academy was extremely generous and made sure we had great seats and felt wonderfully welcome. My biggest concern before going was shallow at best. Would I fit into my tuxedo? I took it to Armani and asked them if I should let the pants out. They said no. I didn’t want to wear Spanx. Fortunately, it fit and I didn’t need the Spanx.

Driving along an empty Hollywood Blvd. was surreal, at best, weaving through barricades, with crowds of people with cameras watching from both sides. Like everywhere in Los Angeles, there was a valet. Once we passed through the metal detectors without incident, none of us were packing, we were in the middle of the official “Red Carpet” area. I expected the people in bleachers and press, but it was that times ten. The press was three people deep with television cameras and interviewers. The bleachers were filled with people shouting and taking photos. This was far beyond a premier at Sundance. Who knew?

The nominees and presenters were in the first few rows and like an AIGA Gala, were all out of their seats talking to each other at every commercial break. The announcer began the countdown at 30 seconds and then said “5 seconds to the world.” I liked that. It was a good way to start.

I did my best to stay on top of things on Twitter, but it’s hard to be witty when you are trying to type and not have everyone around us say, “Well! How rude.” This show is a machine. The efficiency was incredible. Within the three minutes of commercial breaks, a crew of stagehands in tuxedos changed the sets completely. Presenters in dresses were helped down the stairs that looked perilous for presenters with high heels and lots of fabric. Most impressively, at the end of a commercial break when the announcer said, “30 seconds,” people got back in their seats. Try that at an AIGA Gala. Obviously, designers need to be commanded to sit down in 30 seconds over a loudspeaker too.

Now the other trivial issue in the back of my head was the valet. How were they going to return 2,000 people’s cars? Would we be there all night? And, I somehow lost my claim ticket. I’ve never done that in my entire life. Now in the most complicated valet situation possible, I lost it. Like the rest of the evening, though, it worked out beautifully. I told the valet, “It’s a Range Rover with an American flag sticker,” and in five minutes, they found it. Now real life kicked back in. Monday is an Art Center day, so I needed to prepare for class. I, also, didn’t want to eat at 10:30 at night, so we all passed on going out for dinner. At home, I had a bowl of tuna fish and 3 pretzels. Glamorous.

Security, valets

Designers in Black, Part 2

Marian Bantjes and dapper Stephen Doyle

Continuing on from yesterday’s shallow posting about the attire at the AIGA Design Legends Gala in New York, I want to make sure that we don’t cover the articulate messages, inspirational medalist stories, or engaging conversation. So back to the issue everyone has on mind, who looked good and who looked like hell? I’m actually too nice to do the worst dressed list, For the most part, everyone looked purty darn snazzy. There were a few missteps, but I’m sure some would find these “adventurous”. I’m too old school and think there is nothing wrong with the classics. The best fashion moment happened the next day, when Marian Bantjes and I went to Debbie Millman’s really amazing house for cocktails. After a couple or more G+Ts, Debbie agreed to show us her second choice dress that didn’t make the cut. I’ve never seen Debbie in orange, and she should wear it all the time. For a moment, we felt transported to a glamorous evening, Palm Springs, 1971. Debbie, I strongly advise you to wear the orange dress to every client meeting.

Jennifer Morla and Chip Kidd stylish in stripes

Connecticut bigwig Kim Rogala sleek and slim

Glowing and silky Louise Sandhaus

Lovlier than her logo behind her, Lynda Weinman

Emily Carr proves that designers CAN wear color

Terry Irwin silver fox

Madame President Millman in 2nd choice dress

Slim Aarons, Palm Springs 1971

Designers in Black, part 1

Sean Adams and the wonderfully jewelled Madame President, Debbie Millman

Last Thursday, I attended the AIGA Design Legends Gala in New York. I was in Kona the week before, and it was a helluva flight from Hawaii to LA to New York, but the Gala is an evening that reminds me why I’m a designer. Of course, there are inspirational speeches and presentations. Debbie Millman gave an eloquent speech about the current economy and why designers are more important than ever. The Medalists, Carin Goldberg, Doyald Young, and Pablo Ferro were remarkable and seeing their work is exactly the shot in the arm I needed. But, many of you are probably asking, who looked good? Fortunately, I’m shallow and took my camera to find some of the best dressed. Now I admit I’m bad at this job. I started and then had a couple of Gin and Tonics, then the gorgeous Marian Bantjes sat on my lap, then I lost interest in the photography. Nevertheless, for your pleasure, here are some of the highlights I found before forgetting I needed to do this post.

Stefan Sagmeister with snappy tie and Marian Bantjes in a dress of her own fabric design

Petrula Vrontikis unbelievably gorgeous and dapper Armin Vit

Pam Williams outdoing Madame Pierre Gautreau by John Singer Sargent

This defines classic and glamorous, Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

This defines classic and glamorous, Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

Board heartthrob Brad Weed and beautiful wife Susan Pappalardo

Clement

Immaculately dressed Michael Vanderbyl and ever-charming Gaby Brink

Sean and Kenna Kay absolutely perfect