The Rape of the Northland

I was once asked after a lecture, “How do you respond to the accusation that you are mining the past?” I should have talked about appropriation, pastiche, nostalgia, and using familiar forms to create a sense of reassurance. But did I? No, of course not. I said quickly, “Mining the past? I’d say raping the past.” This is one more example of my nitwittiness adding to the sense that we are shallow and stupid people spending their days surfing.

Years ago, we designed the signage program for all Old Navy stores. I was especially happy with the primary directional signage for the flagship stores. The sign was made with interchangeable disks that could be rearranged by a store manager. There was concern that children might try to climb it, but my idea of adding barbed wire fencing around it was dismissed.

Then I found an example of Alvin Lustig’s exhibition for American Crayon at the Aspen Design Conference. Damn that Alvin Lustig, he beat me to the lollipop idea. Lutsig’s environmental work is light and delicate. The signage for Northland Shopping Center is one of my favorite programs. Why don’t shopping centers still look like this? The signs are fresh, optimistic, and functional. They use three-dimensional space structurally. And they are not garish, desperately screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” Now I need to be careful not to design a sign that has an asterisk symbol on the top of the poles. Wait, I think I have.

Oh, To Be 80 Again

Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka, Blake Little photographer, 1997

It’s Wednesday, and I’m on the road to the AIGA Make Think Conference in Memphis. I’ll do my best to post about the conference (and not the standard press release stuff) over the next several days. Yesterday, I needed to find some images for a Japanese magazine including a portrait of Noreen and me. Now we have the official AdamsMorioka headshots that have been forced down everyone’s throats, but I came across all of the old images as well. So for a walk down memory lane, we will prove that we’re not so vain that we won’t remind people what we looked like 15 years ago (thinner and darker hair).

Noreen named the image above, "The War Bride" photo. We were trying to be serious in the hopes that people would believe we weren't just happy and clueless nitwits.

This photo was made for a Strathmore case study promotion. They asked us to look "professional". I think we look more like extras on LA Law.

Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka, Penny Wolin photographer, 1995

We were working on a book for David Hockney. On our first visit to his studio on Mulholland, Noreen asked for Gin and Tonics and for him to take Polaroids of us and make art. He gave us the Gin and Tonics, and kindly took Polaroids and made cool printouts.

David Hockney, Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka, 1998

When we spoke at the Aspen Design Conference, we brought matching sweater without any planning. Being from LA, we aren't sweater rich, and these were the ones we bought at the Norway pavilion at EPCOT. In the middle of this bike ride, Noreen passed out in front of the Jerome Hotel. She begged for us to leave her, but it seemed wrong to leave a half-conscious woman lying on the sidewalk.

Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka, Aspen, 1996

A large French design company had expressed interest in merging with us. We thought this was a good excuse to go to Paris for a few days. The highlight of the trip involved Noreen, the Louvre, off-limits areas, security guards, and a chase. After meeting us, the French company owners politely said good-bye with a terrified look on their faces.

Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka, Michael Boshnaick photographer, 1999.

Jump forward to last year and our trip to South Africa for the Design Indaba conference. We spent several days on safari which was truly life-changing. I was concerned that Marian had been given the rifle, but was reassured that it only had 2 bullets, so she couldn't take us all out.

Donald, our ranger, Marian Bantjes, Michael Boshnaick, Sean Adams, Noreen Morioka, Rattrays South Africa, 2008

Surprisingly, the media in Capetown was deeply involved with the Design Indaba conference. It was great to see mainstream media cover all of the design arts and designers so passionately. The Design Indaba staff were incredible at organizing the interviews. As you can see, we have graduated to looking very mature and professional. Or we look like morticians.

Noreen Morioka, Sean Adams, TV crew, Capetown South Africa 2008.