Jealousy and Desire in Book Form

If you are a designer, you’ve had the experience of discovering that the same person or firm designed several of your favorite items. It’s like playing favorites without realizing it. This happens to me repeatedly with work from Volume. I pick up a book at the bookstore, admire it, turn to the colophon and yep, it's a Volume design. Now I could be angry, jealous, and spiteful, which I usually am. But, in this instance, the best recourse is to recognize the great work. I've known Eric Heiman and Adam Brodsley for two decades (yes, we’re all that old). If they were a-holes, then I could simply ignore them. They’re not, unfortunately. They teach at CCA, devote time and energy to AIGA, and are magnanimous genuine people. Damn them.

Several of my favorite books are Volume designed. They have an innate sense of when to stop. The books are true to the subject, never rely on typographic circus tricks, and are remarkably crafted. They present the content in a way that is clear and objective, but never dull or sterile. The commonality is a sense of warmth, value, and cinema. Pacing is the trick with publications. A good publication should be paced like a film: quite moments, crescendo, intimate sequences, and a defined plot. The Volume work does that and injects long shots, details, and close ups. This isn't easy.

There are two emotions that I do my best to avoid, pride and jealousy. Any decision I have ever made based on pride has been a bad one. So what if someone thinks I’m a dingbat? It doesn't cost me anything and investing resources to combat this is often pointless (I’m not talking about Noreen here. I accept her judgment of my dingbat attributes). Jealousy is a hard one to avoid. I’m human; I ask myself, “How come Volume has such great projects? How is it fair that they get to design a magnificent book on Cliff May, but I don’t? I bet they get free Heath ceramics.” But this takes so much effort, and it is so much easier to enjoy their amazing design and relax.

images courtesy Volume, Inc.


Jennifer's Body... of Work

Tomorrow, my wonderful friend Jennifer Morla is having an opening in San Francisco. I am trapped at my desk and will miss the fun, but at least I can talk about her here. Now I know, someone is probably muttering, “Why promote someone else? It should only be me, me, and me. I’m cranky.” In this instance, it’s obvious. If we looked at the work of Jennifer Morla alone, we should bow at her feet. Jennifer’s vision is so clear, and focused, its razor sharp. Her work is intensely energetic and unapologetic. It has a no holds barred approach paired with surgical finesse. And then, there’s Jennifer herself. She’s committed to the profession, an educator, and an industry leader. She is also a remarkable and rare friend. Whenever I feel tired and think, “I can’t take so and so out for dinner. It’s a Wednesday night.” I consider what Jennifer would do. She would ignore being tired and go to dinner. Which she has done for me many times.

On one visit to San Francisco for a speaking event at CCA, she, Clement Mok, and Michael Vanderbyl stayed up late on a Wednesday and took me to dinner. Afterward, Jennifer drove me to the CCA apartment. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the exact address. I only knew it had a steel door. We found a house that matched the description, and the key fit.

Once I opened the door, however, I realized I was in someone’s hallway. There were coats on a rack, little children shoes on the stairs, and umbrellas in a stand. I didn’t know if the CCA apartment was upstairs, or down the hall. I also, wasn’t convinced I hadn’t broken into someone’s house. I opened the door on the right; it was the garage. I opened the door on the left down the hall; it was a closet with clothes. At the end of the hall, the door opened onto a bedroom. Either this was the CCA apartment, or someone’s bedroom who wasn’t home yet.

I put my pajamas on and went to bed, hoping that I wasn’t sleeping as a surprise guest for a sleepy owner. Nobody ever came home, but I didn’t want to be discovered sleeping in their extra bedroom by the innocent family upstairs, so I left at 5:00am and waited for the sun to come up.

Jennifer is having an opening Friday, November 5th at 6pm at California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth Street, San Francisco.