Ray of Light

Each term, I curate and install the ArtCenter Graphics Gallery. It's exciting to see the breadth of work produced, and get a sense of the tone of the department. A couple of terms ago, as I was waiting for a batch of posters to arrive, I wandered into the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, which is behind the student gallery. The exhibition was Ray Eames: In the Spotlight. Now this is a case of discovering something wonderful in your own backyard. I've walked by the gallery several times a week, but was always too busy to stop. Boy, that was dumb.

When I finally stepped in, I was shocked to find the best exhibition I've seen in years. After multiple visits to the great museums of Europe and New York, this was the one collection that inspired me the most. The exhibition highlights Ray's work, not just more Eames LCW chairs. It contains the incredible collections in her drawers, the rack of slide carrousels, her early artwork, even her own incredibly tailored dresses. The density of visual ephemera is remarkable. This isn't an exhibition for minimalists. But there is a rigor and tightness to the chaos, and an unrelenting sense of optimism. Even the Computer House of Cards talks about the beginnings of things and the possibilities of technology.

Of course, I wanted to buy many of the items, but since it was a gallery exhibition, they said no. That seems very unfair.

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.

X Stands for the Variable

Over a year ago, I began talking with Nik Hafermaas about a graduate program in graphic design at ArtCenter. The undergraduate program had been through a remarkable revitalization and metamorphosis, and the time was right to apply the same thinking and ArtCenter's stellar reputation and network to a masters degree.

I've spent over two decades looking at portfolios from recent MFA grads from other schools. While they were almost all impressive and conceptually thorough, I saw a disconnect with the professional world. Projects were personal and unique, but were often so removed from applicable design I wondered if the designer would be terribly bored leading a branding campaign.

In 2011, ArtCenter embarked on a new course "to learn to create, and influence change". The Graphic Design MFA program embraces new ideas, innovation, and technology, while maintaining a connection to the profession here and now. We can explore the "C" word that everyone runs from, craft: typography, form, content, and the artifact. And we had the physical and intellectual resources to be the leader in leadership and entrepreneurial thinking.

What was truly unexpected was the reception the philosophy of innovation in the real world for real people resonated. Very quickly, several of the profession's leaders signed on as Advisory Board and Visiting faculty. This connection to the field and practice is critical as they will help guide the program, injecting ideas and wisdom based on their professional, rather than purely academic, experience.

Today the site for the ArtCenter Graphic Design Graduate (MGx) program is live and we are building an amazing space with a national American furniture company. I'm excited to serve as the Director of the program, providing designers with the skills and tools to not just succeed, but be the next generation of leaders.

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.

Books on Fire

I am quite proud of my most recent project, to build a bookcase in my office at home. It still needs some trim work, but the books are in and nothing has collapsed. The most surprising aspect of the project was how many books I had. Who knew? These are only the design books, there are other bookcases in the house with more. I had quite a few duplicates that I tried donating to the Art Center library, but they didn't need them. I didn't want to throw the books away. I considered burning them in the driveway and telling my neighbors they were evil books: Catcher in the Rye, etc.. But I left them in a box on the curb, and they were gone in an hour.

Of course, that doesn't stop me from buying more. One of my favorite publishers is Unit Editions. It's a collaboration between Adrian Shaughnessy and Tony Brook in London. They focus on books with incredibly high quality and remarkable content. Rather than producing 25,000 copies of a book about business cards on cheap paper, Unit Editions publishers smaller quantities that will last for generations.

When I hear people ramble on about sustainable practices and how they used recycled paper for their brochure I nod approvingly. But, in the end, isn't the truly sustainable action to create an artifact that will be used, saved, and not thrown in the trash?

As Lou Danziger told us as students, "Stop buying drugs. Buy books instead." Very good advice, although as a student, I was spending my money on Cup o' Noodles not drugs.


Surprised by Joy

RayEames
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Each term, I pull the Art Center Graphics Gallery together. It's exciting to see the breadth of work produced, and get a sense of the tone of the department. At the end of the Spring term as I was waiting for a batch of posters to arrive, I wandered into the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, which is behind the student gallery. The current exhibition is Ray Eames: In the Spotlight. Now this is a case of discovering something wonderful in your own backyard. I've walked by the gallery several times a week, but was always too busy to stop. Boy, that was dumb.

When I finally stepped in, I was shocked to find the best exhibition I've seen in years. After multiple visits to the great museums of Europe and New York, this was the one collection that inspired me the most. The exhibition highlights Ray's work, not just more Eames LCW chairs. It contains the incredible collections in her drawers, the rack of slide carrousels, her early artwork, even her own incredibly tailored dresses. The density of visual ephemera is remarkable. This isn't an exhibition for minimalists. But there is a rigor and tightness to the chaos, and an unrelenting sense of optimism. Even the Computer House of Cards talks about the beginnings of things and the possibilities of technology.

Of course, I wanted to buy many of the items, but since it was a gallery exhibition, they said no.

Left of Center

margetlarsen

Many of you have written me and asked, "Sean, WTF? What happened to Burning Settlers Cabin?" The simple answer is that I have four jobs: AdamsMorioka, Art Center, AIGA, and Lynda.com. As you know, I was also in Berlin for three months for the Art Center TestLab. And, of course, I have a very busy routine hanging out at the country club drinking martinis, tennis lessons, and playing golf every afternoon. But now, I'm getting a handle on it all and back to bring optimism back to the world.

In between my freshman and sophomore year at college, I was asked to interview at Landor and Associates for an internship. The interview was remarkably humiliating. The first comment being, "Uh, you might want to consider cleaning up the rubber cement on your projects, and using something other than a chainsaw to trim them." The downside was no internship. The upside was a great lesson that my sloppy, messy CalArts portfolio wouldn't fly in the actual professional world.

In my head, I imagined all the work in San Francisco to be like the remarkable packaging Marget Larsen did there. Her projects for Joseph Magnin were light and playful and people coveted them. They have a tinge of counter-culture, Victorian eclecticism, and clear Modernism. Most importantly, they were fun. They didn't look constipated, uptight, and angry. It was clear that the designer enjoyed making them. Today, when every project is run through ten committees and budget is the highest concern, it is hard to imagine anyone giving the green-light to a box that turns into a Thonet chair or multi-colored set of game boxes. Larsen's work is ground-breaking and was widely imitated. She had the misfortune of working at a time when few women in the profession were recognized on a coast where only "far-out and wacky" work was produced.

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1992 in Black and White

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

While I think wikipedia is a swell tool sometimes, it is not an educational substitute. Each term in my foundation class at Art Center I give an assignment that requires research. This term the students returned with presentations on politics and photography. It's obvious which ones are just reading from wikipedia: "Social documentary photography is the recording of humans in their natural condition with a camera. Often it also refers to a socially critical genre of photography dedicated to showing the life of underprivileged or disadvantaged people." My response, "And...?"

I used to assign a film poster which required watching a movie outside of the class room. How hard is that? It's not reading Joseph Conrad. Then I found that people were only watching snippets on YouTube. So now, we watch the whole movie in class. This makes me feel like Bad Teacher.

In contrast to this is the enormous energy and effort that Robert Cha put into this publication. Robert worked on the Fires in Our Time book as an independent study with me. When he mentioned the 1992 L.A. Riots as a subject I expected a nice 18 page booklet with big headlines and photos. Instead, Robert created a relentlessly dense document that reports and deconstructs the riots. 300 pages of interviews, newspaper reports, television, and first hand accounts. This enormous amount of information would be enough, but Robert then applied a design solution that did not try to aestheticize the issue. His book dogmatically sticks to a rigid rule system. Each type of information is assigned a typeface, size, and position. The final result are pages that feel like elements slamming against each other, none willing to compromise.

Many issues and multiple viewpoints collided in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The riots were more than one thing. To minimize them and assign a pithy one line answer is a disservice to the complexity of the ongoing problem. Robert's book is the best example of this put into concrete form.

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

 

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Come Fly with Me

Continental Airlines, Boeing 747, 1970s AA-747-vi

I've been away from the burning settlers for awhile doing my five other jobs. Some of you already know that I've signed on for a second term as President of AIGA. This time it's as a co-president with the very brave Drew Davies. I'm getting ready to film a new course I've written, Fundamentals of Layout, for Lynda.com. I'm teaching at Art Center. I'm doing Command X at the AIGA Head, Heart, Hand Conference. And, of course, still a partner at AdamsMorioka. In September, I'm heading to Berlin for three months and leading testlab Berlin. I always think I'm industrious, but I'm probably just frenetic.

When I decided to go to Berlin I immediately began to get quite nervous. Sure I'm nervous about moving to another country, learning German, and leading 12 incredible students. But, I was mostly concerned about the air travel. I'm not scared of flying. I'm scared of flying in coach.

I'm often told I live in a bubble, usually by people who don't know each other. It's not a compliment. It's usually followed by, "You make me sick." So it might be true.

My reasoning is this: I can't work in a little seat. I'm too tall. If I lose billable hours, I cost the firm money. If I fly in first class, I can work, so the ticket price usually matches my hours. See, it all makes sense.

Unfortunately, I'd really prefer to fly in first class on a 747 in 1975. I know everyone goes on and on about how air travel has become worse than the bus and people used to dress to travel. But when I see the photos of life on a 747 in the 1970s, it's looking pretty groovy. People seem more interested in lying around and having swinging singles parties or getting high on marijuana. I'm not into that kind of thing, but I would love to fly in an orange and rust cabin.

It's all too navy blue and grey now. Perhaps the reasoning is that passengers are more comfortable with a square and professional flight crew than one that looks like they are shooting a porn movie.

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1970s aircraft interior

Knife in Water

Here are two things I don't know: how to speak Polish, and how to code a full screen video image run behind the content on a website. I probably won't learn Polish. But I am determined to solve the video issue. I'm sure anyone under thirty, or any tech smart people are already saying, "That's like way easy." The website for Nowy Teatr in Poland does this and is a joy to explore. The site, designed by Huncwot, a remarkable agency in Warsaw could be the trickiest site in the world. The content leans toward the avant-garde, but the site's design remains consistently concrete and provides gravity. The minimal typography and restraint is piercing. The full screen moving imagery could be obtrusive, but it's hypnotic. If you ask me, the people at Nowy Teatr and Huncwot should be pretty darn proud. The site was the talk of the school last week at Art Center, and left me, a complete philistine, thousands of miles away, speaking only SoCal english, awed.

Nowy Teatr, Huncwot, Warsaw

 

American Psycho

When I decided to go to CalArts, my mother said, “Well, once you’re eighteen, you’re on your own.” I’m not sure if my parents lack of interest or support was due to my choice of school, art school over Harvard, or because they were too busy arguing to notice. They seemed confused about my college until I graduated, telling friends I was at CalTech. The upside of this was absolutely no interference with any of my own decisions. The downside was the financial responsibility to pay for college on my own.

I hate that some of my students now have similar financial struggles. This is the time they should be free to focus on becoming the best possible designer and finding their own distinct voice. I do what I can personally with the scholarship fund but this can’t solve someone’s entire college expenses. When Moo.com asked me to design a set of business cards, I was interested. They are the best quality, printed on beautiful Mohawk Superfine paper. When they told me I could dedicate the Art Center Scholarship Fund as my charity, I was thrilled.

Now, this is one of those classic “do whatever you want” assignments. These sound great, but lead to sitting at my desk staring at a blank pad of paper. So, I thought about cards I want. First, I’d love a set of nautical themed cards, and a set of vibrant patterns and color, then, disturbingly, a set of really depressing places. The nautical and pattern cards are perfectly logical. Who doesn't want nautical business cards, or bright and cheerful color and pattern.

I admit the depressing cards are odd. But I love the idea of shaking someone's hand, smiling and handing out a business card with an image of a place of despair. These are the spaces where people gave up. They stopped trying. They are about lethargy and exhaustion, places where all else failed. What could be more fun?

To paraphrase Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, "I don't ask for much." Now I'm asking that everyone spread the word, order some cards, look better when trading business cards, but most importantly, help a young designer as they struggle financially.

The Young and The Restless

LA LA LAND from | Yero | on Vimeo.

It’s that time of year again when a new batch of designers lands in the real world. I’ve been told that approximately 30,000 design students graduate each year and enter the market. This sounds terrifying but shouldn’t be. The reality, as in most of life, is that the cream will rise to the top. Out of that huge number, there is a much smaller group dedicated and really talented designers. I was worried as I approached graduation. Lorraine Wild gave me this advice, “if you’re good, willing to work hard, and keep learning, you’ll do well. Nobody good slips through the cracks.” It turns out that this was true; short of those people I know who self-destructed by smoking pot all day.

Here, then, is a slate of amazing designers who graduated last Saturday from Art Center. I know each of them, and can vouch not just for their abilities, but also for their dedication and willingness to work.

However, just to make this clear, I am not an employment service. The last time I posted a group of grads, one of them sent me an email clarifying that she would only work in Los Angeles or San Francisco and would not accept less than $50,000 salary. To this I sent a simple reply, “Not my problem.” Yes, I too can be mean.

 

Josh Finklea - http://joshfinklea.info Teodros Hailye - http://teodros.tv Tyler Hamilton - http://www.tylerhamiltondesign.com/#!home|mainPage Ben Hickman - http://benhickmandesign.com James Ihira - http://cargocollective.com/jamesihira Kevin Lam - http://kevinclam.com Scott Langer - http://work.scottlanger.com Chanmi Grace Lee - http://chanmigrace.info Chul Lee - http://chulgrafik.com Christian Morin - http://mdistrict.net Tomo Ogino - http://tomoogino.com Aldis Ozolins - http://aldisozolins.com Yerem Tagvoryan - http://yero.tv

 

Ominbus Film Festival from chul lee on Vimeo.

 

SyFy Summer Identity from T on Vimeo.

The Ballad of the Boring Logo

 

I prefer to not use this blog as a ranting venue; it is, after all about optimism. But, I really, really, really hate when my students refuse to take risks. It’s my job to help educate designers who can question the obvious, look at the larger picture, and challenge those ideas that exist only out of habit. If they can’t do that, they are doomed to a life of being “layout monkeys,” politely arranging type and images into a nice composition.

Lately, I’ve found this issue to be especially true in my trans-media branding class at Art Center. Perhaps it’s because branding has been elevated into some kind of nightmarish and unforgiving religion. “Branding is sacred.” “Bad branding will lead to the downfall of western civilization” “A logo is more important that the product, customer service, distribution, or financial issues—it is the center of an organization.” Of course, this is all hogwash. A logo is important, but it’s more like a great suit. It’ll make you look good and present a better image to the world, but it doesn’t turn you into a better person.

When I hear someone say, “But a logo can’t be like that,” I say, “why not?” If there is a good reason and it works, it can be anything you can create. We all have an image in our heads of a good logo such as the CBS eye and the Apple apple. They are successful and elegant. But there are other ways to create identity. When I look at these 18th and 19th century marks, I am reminded that branding exists to identify a products origin and ownership, not change a company’s banking options. Let me assure those who are fearful. God is not watching you, planning to punish you for a choice that is unorthodox.

Swiss, 19th century, Tobacco mark

The Graduate

Quite often, I receive notes from designers looking for freelancers or designers to hire. Since my mind is a sieve, I only recall the last person I saw. Typically, I send an email to Petrula Vrontikis and Nik Hafermaas and ask for any Art Center grads who are out there. Now here is the problem: I’m sure they are tired of my relentless harassment. I don’t know who has been hired, and who is looking. I don’t have anyone’s email address after they graduate. The solution is to create an interactive job bank for Art Center alumnus. But, I don’t want to be the person watching the doors to check the quality of employers, or graduates. And I have a full time job, so that’s not going to happen.

As a simpler approach, I’m using this post as a center for a list of recent graduates and their websites. If you are looking for a designer, feel free to peruse the amazing work on each website. If you are a recent grad and are contacted, I’ll let you be the judge about the person contacting you. A good tip: if you are asked to remove your shirt and send in bare chested photos, don’t. This is typically not required for design interviews.

Adam Hale
Alexia Pellegrini
Andrea Lee
Paul Kim
Caroline Kim
Christina Nizar
Dominique Wu
Douglas Chang
Eugene Art Seo
Guea-Yea Lian
Gyum Heo
Jaime Lopez
James Bogenrief
Jeff Han
Jesse Merrell
Jiin Kim
Jinhee Jung
Jeong Youn Choi
Nico Sala
Randi Cheung
Sora Park
Steven Ligatsa
Tracy Hung
Winnie Yuen
Yerina Cha
Also the grad show (showing faces with names) can be seen at:

Cruel Story of Youth

Communication Design 1 is the class at Art Center that is a student’s introduction into ideas, idea making, and the power of images. It’s also a hard class to teach. And sometimes other teachers have a snobby attitude, “Oh, those lower level classes. Well, I would never teach one of those.”  Now I know how people felt when my family members would say, “Bless her soul, what a sense of style. Of course, I could never wear something like that.”

I remember my first class in college. It was with a great designer, Milt Zolotow. First, I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with Milt. Secondly, he was standing right next to the words, “Fuck You,” that someone has scribbled on the wall. Now I am in the same spot, standing in front of people on the first day of their first class. I make sure there are not swear words on the wall next to me. The hard part of CD1 is helping students realize great concepts when they may not have the technical skills yet. But, when they pull it all together, the results are spectacular.

The final project is designed to push their limits and force some introspection, rather than simply making nice jam labels. The assignment is to design a poster for a fictional conference that is about dangerous ideas. The students determine what idea is dangerous for them. The best results come from someone taking a risk. The solutions that fail are usually safe and nice, and that’s all. I’d rather someone tackles a really difficult issue and go down in flames, than do something “nice.” For months I hammer on “less is more,” “make it clear,” “why is that there?” “What does it mean?” and “No bold serifs.” Then I throw a curve ball and ask someone who is twenty years old to tell everyone his or her deepest issues. That’s the fun in teaching.

 

Higher Education

My first teaching assignment was at Art Center in 1992. Yes, I am that old. At times, I felt like I was banging my head against a concrete wall, but for the last several years, it’s my favorite part of my job. Of course, there are still times when I’d like to throw a chair, but as someone who is there to encourage, inspire, and educate, that would be bad.

Last term’s Communication Design 4 class was a particularly exciting group. Yes, there was the typical range of students: amazing and dedicated, just fine, and stoners (I'm sure everyone is on the pot). This group was heavily slanted toward the amazing side. The class is about research, strategy, identity, systems, and application across multiple media. Thank God I didn’t have to take this in school. It’s hard. I did assignments like a coffee table book version of The Preppy Handbook.

Hanlu Cao made an incredible identity for China Broadcasting based on a changeable Chinese tangram. Shana Torok’s system for MOCA is a circus of energy and ideas. Ellen Flaherty took Bombay Gin and gave it a fresh life. Some of the programs challenged the idea of identity, like Michelle Cho’s poster for a new LAX system. And some were fantastic, stable, and beautiful old school logos like Bo Yeoung Han’s Fuji id. I love Lily Gregorian's poster for LAX with Betty White and the slogan "Deal with it." And Paul Hoppe's identity for the sausage restaurant Wurstkuche, with a logo made from cut paper is genius..

But, nobody should get a fat head. I still felt like throwing chairs when an assignment was late, or my instructions were not followed explicity.

Angels in Malibu

I have a reel that I show my first year students at Art Center. It’s a collection of my favorite classic film titles. Of course I have multiple Saul Bass titles, such as Psycho and North by Northwest. I have Stephen Frankfurt’s beautiful sequence for To Kill a Mockingbird, and other incredible examples. I also have the title sequence for Gidget. Why? Because I love Gidget. If you don’t you are probably a Communist. The sequence is pretty cheesy, but perfect. So laugh if you must at my inclusion of Gidget in my Top 10 titles list. Some day, however, Gidget will be recognized as genius. A little bit of trivia: Sally Field played Gidget, and her brother on Brothers and Sisters, Ron Rifkin, played Mel, one of the gang on Gidget.

The Great Wall(s)

This term, Nik Hafermaas, the chair of the graphic design program at Art Center, asked me to help curate the gallery. It seemed like an easy job. How hard could it be to choose some posters and hang them evenly spaced apart? The reality was more complicated, in a good way. In the end, I was faced with an enormous wealth of incredible projects. My first impulse was to put everything in the gallery. That, unfortunately, would lead to an episode of Hoarders. I didn’t want to be faced with a professional organizer, television crew, unhappy movers, and weeping family members while I tried to climb over mountains of design projects.

Let me define “incredible projects.” These aren’t the perfectly made and tasteful wine labels, or nice and tight simple logos. These are the projects that go beyond the assignment and ask fundamental questions about culture, how we read symbols, and what we make. And they are perfectly made. The high point of the gallery task was seeing the work and being endlessly energized and inspired. The low point was not being able to fit everything in our space. I need design a solution that allows for more projects and doesn’t point to a psychological disorder.

Below is one of my favorite projects from last term, Dawn Kim’s map poster for Knotts Berry Farm. First, it’s beautiful, like a Jackson Pollock painting. Dawn’s poster is so dense and multi-layered. It isn’t collage to solve a problem of filling space. It’s frenetic energy and possibility of discovery does the job of redefining the Knott’s experience beautifully. I would gladly show more great projects from the gallery if my students sent me their pdfs. Hint, here, guys.

A Generous and Compassionate Country

For the last couple of days, I’ve been putting together the gallery space at Art Center. But that’s another story. I stopped the insane measuring and rearranging to go down to the theater and see Lynda.com’s new documentary on Doyald Young. Yes, I put completion of the gallery before graduation at risk. But, there was no question. Doyald, Lynda Weinman, a great film: uh, yeah I’m going to that.

It’s a challenge to make what we do seem interesting to civilians. Hmm, I have a choice of watching car chases and steamy love scenes, or a documentary on someone who works with letterforms. Typically, the 3d explosions win. In this instance though, the letterform film is the right choice. I could carry on about Doyald for hours: he’s one of my great friends and mentors, has a salty sense of humor and the best jokes, is an inspiration to teach and truly help young designers, and, yes, talented as heck. But you can find all of that on the AIGA Medalist page, except the dirty joke part.

At Saturday’s commencement ceremony, he will receive Art Center’s Alumnus of the Year Award for his dedicated work as an educator and lifetime of legendary work in typography, logotypes and alphabets. At Saturday’s commencement, he’ll receive an honorary degree from Art Center, where he studied Advertising in the ’50s, and where he has taught lettering and logotype design in the Graphic Design Department for decades.

This is what made the evening so remarkable: the 2010 graduating class was in the theater also. While Doyald made a few closing remarks, they looked on with mixtures of awe, delight, gratitude, and excitement. In school, they learn how to make beautiful form and combine this with conceptual thinking. This short time in the theater is, perhaps, one of he most valuable hours of their education. This generation of designers is shown first-hand, what it means to be a “good” designer with dignity and magnanimity by one of the great masters. Fifty years from now, when they sit where Doyald is now, they will know that talent is nothing compared to kindness and generosity.

Unwholesome Desires

Whenever someone suggests the idea of a reality show of a design firm, I roll my eyes. It sounds exciting, and Mad Men is kind of that, but it would be like watching paint dry, or the NASA channel. Let me give you an example. Last week, Nathan and I were talking about photo-type and some of the lost display fonts. Exciting, huh? This discussion led me to the Art Center Library and I checked out a book on ITC fonts from 1980. When I was in school, I was told that Herb Lubalin, one of ITC’s founders, was rotting in hell for ITC Garamond. And I’ve walked around with a snobby disdain for all ITC fonts since then. Like this, “Well, I’m sure they work for some people, but I could never.”

Something, however, has gone horribly wrong. I look at Lubalin and Tom Carnase's work and find myself loving the flamboyant thicks and thins, swashes, and extreme x-height. I have a strong desire to use ITC Firenze on everything, including body copy. Is that so wrong? What's next, green shag carpeting, plaid polyester suits, and mauve?

I don’t know what is happening, but I remind myself that life is a journey, and I should allow this to happen. Was this desire for hideous overwrought typefaces always in me? Did I repress it and do bad things without my knowledge? Was I overly zealous in my hatred for ITC Caslon X-Bold No 223 Italic, and those people who engaged in its usage? Was it simply a case of self-hate? I’m facing a difficult time when I will clearly need to re-examine everything I believed.

Here, I expose my new unwholesome desires.

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

Sad Men

The 1950s and 1960s are called the “Golden Age” of advertising. America was filled with new products that had been developed to fight World War 2, people had money in their pockets, and the baby boom created the need for housing, appliances, cars, and anything one might need to raise a family. These products needed to be sold. Advertising was the way to create that desire to own that washing machine, Cadillac, or new sofa.

I show some of the classic ads in my first term class at Art Center. They are well crafted, beautifully composed, and smart. I don’t show the ads that I really like. These would point a group down the wrong path. I like the bad ads. The corny ones are fine, and I enjoy the funny atom bomb/gum ad as much as the next guy. The ads that are depressing and contradict the message are wonderful. Rather than enticing the viewer into a product, they say, “Life is sad and banal. Nothing will ever be good.” My favorite is an ad for Nevada Warehouse Corporation. Nothing says breadth of experience, and abundance like a sad scattering of products on a black background. And I can’t wait to head over to Gray Reid’s to buy my dungarees next to the emergency room.

The Path Not Taken

Louis Danziger

For the past week I’ve been cranky, very, very cranky. There was a guy at the locker below mine at the gym who was getting dressed slowly and staring at the wall while I waited to get into my locker. I restrained myself from slamming him against the wall. Driving home yesterday, a minivan with the stickers of the family cut me off twice before deciding to turn right from a left hand lane. I wanted to follow them and drag the driver from the car. And I seem to be getting the message that no good deed goes unpunished repeatedly. Clearly less coffee is in order. I am then reminded that some of my heroes are the most patient and compassionate people I know.

Most Mondays at Art Center, I see Lou Danziger working with a student in the Faculty Dining room. He is doing the same thing with patience and invaluable help that he did with me when I was in school. Back then, I thought, “That makes sense, I’ll try that.” Now I realize how fortunate I was to work with Lou. It seems that there are two courses that you can follow as a designer. You can become increasingly bitter and angry and deride younger designers, or you can give back, mentor others, and champion younger designers. Lou clearly chose to be a mentor. I’m at that fork in the road where I need to make that choice. Perhaps I will choose to be a good mentor to designers, but a serious a-hole to people on the street.