May

I was fortunate to have three Mentors when I was at CalArts (yes Mentors, as in an official title, not a Yoda-like master): April Greiman, Lorraine Wild, and Lou Danziger. These three widely varied points of view gave me a range of conceptual approaches that have been incredibly useful over my career. 

Recently, Tracey Shiffman collected a suite of materials from Lou for me to scan and archive. To see one project is wonderful, but to see a collection of work at once, well that made my month.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com 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.

Tight

Strathmore Archives


One of the most elusive skills for a designer is kerning. I am asked often, "How do I know if it's right yet?" regarding the kerning of a word or letterspacing in a paragraph. You know when it looks right. Which is like saying, "make it better," or "I know it's pornography if I think it is." It's frustrating for someone looking for a binary direction, good or bad. 

When I began my career, very open letterspacing was the fashion. It was the 1980s, and the combination of 1950s nostalgia, the introduction of a Basel aesthetic, and the rise of new wave demanded space. It was about optimism, whereas the ultra tight letterspacing of the 1960s and 70s seemed to be about commerce.

That tight letterspacing was more about technology. Photo-typesetting, introduced in the 1960s, allowed the designer to specify type that was touching. This wasn't possible when it was made with individual slugs of metal. Like all new technologies, such as a cool new Photoshop filter, everyone jumped all over it. The tighter letterspacing also allowed for larger typography. Using less real estate horizontally, a word could now be enlarged for more impact. This was especially popular in advertising when the name of the product could be even larger.

I like tight letterspacing. It makes me feel secure. Nothing is lucy goosey and about to fly away. And it kind of screams at the viewer, "13! Dammit."

Michael Manwaring, April Greiman, 1984


Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com 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.

Poo Poo Platter

Let's Hula guide, 1956  

Several years ago I judged the ID Magazine Awards and Rick Valicenti entered his controversial piece, "Just My Type". This is an alphabet made from the interaction between Rick and an online porn actress. He suggests she make a letterform with her body, but she tries to maintain a scripted sexual role. Eventually both parties understand what needs to happen and an alphabet is made from her body positions. The piece caused a huge divide with the judges. The issue had more to do with the objectification and use of a woman rather than anything sexually explicit. I fought to include the piece because it forced a dialogue. And it was incredibly well made and thoughtful. Ten years later, it is the only project from that entire day of judging I remember.

As much as I would like to do a project that causes that level of controversy, I don't seem to have it in me. After Stefan Sagmeister sent us his first naked promotion card we considered doing a naked poster also. It worked for April Greiman and Stefan. But we could only think of taking it one step further and making something truly explicit and disgusting. But then we would need to face each other at work the next day. So that idea was out. Instead we stayed the course with a fresh sense of optimism. This seemed to piss people off already.

I've kept a hula dance guide for twenty years, thinking that someday I could make a hula girl typeface, like a watered down version of Rick's project. Unfortunately, there are not enough poses to do this. Nevertheless, the hula guide is a cherished possession. It makes hula dancing look so stiff and un-fun. There is a note that it should be used with "Hula Record's cassette #CHS-500." I sure wish I had that cassette. I hope it's as stiff as the guide, with someone barking orders over Aloha Oe, " Sway! Now! Like the ocean! STOP! Wave to the left!"

Let's Hula, Hula Records, Inc. 1956

Let's Hula, Hula Records, Inc. 1956