The Gremlin in the Machine

I recently came upon the 1972 American Motors catalog. My first thought was, "how many typographic widows can one publication have?" Then I saw the page with the Javelin interior and thought, "how do I get an eight-track player and that cool handle for the gear shift?" Granted this catalog paints a picture of an alien world or alternate dimension where auto buyers don't all demand bland interiors and equally dull silhouettes. But what an amazing world. 

Your car was like your living room. You could fit 20 people on the front seat. There was plush upholstery with bizarre patterns, exterior colors that said, "I'm wacky, but wild," and shapes that stopped people on the street. 

I had a friend whose family owned an Ambassador wagon in avocado green (not the Bradys). They never put the seats up, but left them down creating a flat dance floor environment. It wasn't uncommon to pile 10 kids in the back and let us slam back and forth with no seat-belts. Fun times.

And what about that Gremlin? WTF? It must be the ugliest car ever designed. What was the thinking? Why name it after a mythical creature responsible for the sabotage and subsequent crash of World War II airplanes? That's an odd naming choice that appears to have occurred after a three martini lunch. But it's the caption, "Gremlin 'X' in Wild Plum metallic" that is an incredible string of words that contradict each other.

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/ 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.

It's Not Easy Being Avocado Green

Once again, I was driven to drink by an HGTV home improvement show. Rather than naming these shows Color Splash or Spice Up My Kitchen, they should be named more honestly. I’m thinking, “Search and Destroy Historic Value”, or “Incredible Vintage Tile Replaced: A Spa Bathroom Cheap.” Why would anyone look at a beautiful bathroom with turquoise tile and fixtures that would stand after thermonuclear war and think, “If I could only rip that out and replace it with some bamboo paneling?” On a show last weekend a new homeowner decided her avocado green bathroom was dated. Uh, yeah, that’s what makes it good. So they ruined it. Why? Why? I kept asking as they tore into the tile, “Boy this tile sure is set in here. It’ll take days to take this bathroom apart.” Of course this is God’s way of telling you to stop.

I understand that avocado green is difficult for some. I’ve found that there are two ways to make some one turn beat red with anger in a presentation. First, urinate in the corner and say, “That’s how you treat my work.” Secondly, use avocado green. People really get mad when they see it. Personally, I love it. It’s important to differentiate avocado green from hunter green. Hunter green has more blue, and avocado (or cactus) green has more yellow.

Coming out of the flower child, granola movement in the 1960s, avocado green was popular in the 1970s because marketers wanted everyone to feel good about buying a station wagon that got 7 miles per gallon. As it was avocado green and brown, it was clearly natural. The same went for plates, dresses, washing machines, fondue sets, and anything that needed to be cloaked in “natural.” If marketing people were smart now, they would realize the same thing was happening. Then you could buy an avocado green truck and leave it running all night long, just in case you needed to leave in a hurry. It’s a natural tone; it’s good for the earth.