Building Pages

I was asked recently in an interview what magazines I look at for inspiration. I hate questions like that. The truth is, beside Print with Debbie Millman involved, I spend most of my time going through old issues of Architectural Forum, CA, and Graphis. And I mean old. Not last year, but 1955. I also have a large collection of Better Homes and Gardens from 1950-1965 that I enjoy. These make me sad sometimes because I see products that I want to buy, like a turquoise stove, but I can't.

Nostalgia aside, the covers of Architectural Forum are by far the most amazing. It was one of the best architecture magazines until it's demise in 1974. 

It isn't surprising that the incredible Will Burtin was a creative director. His work with Scope magazine is classic and changed editorial design. 

I love these covers because they presume the audience is smart. They are abstract and rely on symbols. They don't have glossy photos of a living room corner with uplighting. They aren't screaming "I'm rich, I'm rich. Look at my fancy house." or "I'm avant-garde, I'm hip." They are confident and beautiful. They do, however, suffer from the same issue as my other old magazines. I need that pink intercom system on page 55.

Another great article on Architectural Forum at Codex99 

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Acting Chair of the Graphic Design Graduate Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for lynda.com/Linked In. 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.

I am fairly out, and you are fairly in.

President Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, 1960

"I am fairly out, and you are fairly in. See which of us will be the happiest." This is a quote President George Washington said as he passed the presidency to John Adams. I thought about this today as tomorrow is my last day as AIGA president. On July 1, the job is Su Mathews-Hale's. She will be a dynamic, smart, and visionary president. And, clearly infinitely more patient than me. The floggings will stop.

I stepped in for a second term 2 years ago. I did this, not because I have a huge ambition for power. If I did this is the wrong job. AIGA was in the midst of a controversial issue, the sale of the building. This and the next challenge, the search for a new Executive Director, were critical. And I might be of some help.

Me and Debbie Millman (my first term) 2008

AIGA Presidents, L-R: Clement Mok, Sean Adams, Bill Drenttel, Debbie Millman, Michael Bierut, Ric Grefé (Executive Director), Michael Vanderbyl, 2009

My first term as president from 2007-2009 was like the Eisenhower years. It was a good time. Membership and revenue was high, chapters were growing and thriving, and the organization was efficient and had a remarkable support system of Ric Grefé, Denise Wood, an amazing staff, and nation of volunteers. We had board retreats in Palm Springs (yes, board members pay for it all themselves). The only thing missing was Mamie.

Mamie Eisenhower, 1954

This term was more like the Clinton years. Change is never easy and progress seemed to happen in hard jolts, not a seamless walk. Social media and online conversations create an immediate response to every decision. This is good because dialogue is the basis of a vital democracy. The downside is that rumor and conjecture quickly became facts. At times it felt like there was a vast right wing conspiracy. But, to keep it in perspective, it's AIGA, not the United States Senate.

President Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton

me at the end of my second term, 2015 (OMFG!)

me at the end of my second term, 2015 (OMFG!)

People ask me how I feel about leaving after so many years. In fact, I'll be staying on the board to work with the Executive Director search committee, but my days of demanding that others bow to me are unfortunately over. 

The best part will be the chance to devote more time to education, supporting young designers, and actually designing. I look forward to spending less time on conference calls (which I hate because I never know who is speaking, and am easily confused). But, I will never again feel the same pride, as I do now serving the profession. 

Me and the fabulous Katie Baker, May 2015, Grand Rapids, Michigan

AIGA is more vital and stronger than any time in history. To all of you who have been part of this two year journey: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the organization and design profession stronger, and we leave it in good hands. All in all, not bad.

I will leave with the greatest pride for this organization of ours and eternal optimism for its future. Su, you're on.

The flawless Su Mathews-Hale, Madam President

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Acting Chair of the Graphic Design Graduate Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for lynda.com/Linked In. 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.

That Sanitarium is Very Expensive!

A couple of years ago, Debbie Millman and I were staying at the Parker in Palm Springs. No, we weren't there together for a romantic getaway. There were 13 other designers there also. Debbie began reading a copy of Jacqueline Susann's  Valley of the Dolls that was in her room. When we left, she mentioned that she'd like to own a first edition. I immediately began looking for one, but before I could track one down, Debbie had bought her own. If you don't have time to read, or prefer to look at books with pictures only, I suggest watching the movie. Forget reading Machiavelli for tips on politics and business. Valley of the Dolls will give you all the information you need when you want to get your way. Throwing tantrums, overdosing, blackmail, seduction, and back-stabbing are all covered thoroughly.

Here are some examples of some of the dialogue that can be used for almost any situation:

When you don't feel like getting up from the sofa and want some soda: "I can't feel my legs!"

This can be said at any design conference if someone looks at you funny: "I don't need ANYBODY. I got talent, BIG talent."

I like to say this when I tell everyone that they need to work over the weekend while I plan on reading by the pool: "Having FUN kiddies?"

If someone suggests an independent film that sounds dull: "Art films? Nudies! That's all they are. Nudies."

This is good to say loudly on your cell phone in any public setting: "You told me Gramp's been sick, Mother, and I know about the oil burner. Okay, I'll pawn the mink. He'll give me a couple hundred for it. Mother, I know I don't have any talent, and I know I all I have is a body, and I am doing my bust exercises. Goodbye, Mother. I'll wire you the money first thing in the morning. Goodbye."

Not the Betty Ford Center

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, entrance

During my term as AIGA president, I discovered that I had three favorite tasks: calling people to tell them they had been awarded the Medal, meeting chapter leaders across the entire country, and picking the spot for the annual board retreat. Now before anyone gets in a huff about AIGA board members living high on the hog, this retreat is on everyone’s personal dime. It gives the board a chance to sit down and do some hard work together. As a California grown president I felt it was important to have our retreat in Palm Springs, just like Presidents Ford, Nixon, and Reagan. I chose the Parker Hotel. Formerly Gene Autry's Melody Ranch and Merv Griffin's Givenchy Resort and Spa, the Parker Palm Springs is a smallish hotel designed by Jonathan Adler.

I’d seen the Bravo reality show, Welcome to the Parker, and I thought it would be too chic-alors, and hip. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there were the standard Hollywood types who were very hip and groovy, but the Parker staff was down to earth and friendly. Nobody frowned at my madras shirts. In the end, I felt bad that I chose a beautiful sunny spot, and then forced the board to sit in a dark meeting room all day. But we finished each day with some quick time at the pool, and making s’mores and marshmallows by the fire pit in the evening. Being very trailer trash, and needing to save money, I smuggled in a bag of liquor from the local supermarket. Hey, the drinks at the bar were expensive. It was only slightly embarrassing to be mixing my favorite cocktail, Rum or Bombay Gin with Fresca while we toasted the marshmallows. The always elegant Debbie Millman now has the heavy responsibility (I mean this, it’s true) of the AIGA presidency. Debbie has good taste and is a well-raised person and I’m sure she will move the board away from Albertson Grocery runs for Fresca.

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, guest room

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, the fire pit where the s'mores happened

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, cafe

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, pool. I need the pagoda umbrellas.

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, lobby

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, front desk. I love big keys.

I am not an animal

Living room, after

This is how I feel when I visit other designers’ houses: I usually feel like I live like an animal after I leave. Down the road, I’ll track down images of some of my favorites: Michael Vanderbyl’s Napa house, Debbie Millman’s slice of Palm Springs in Manhattan, Jennifer Morla in San Francisco, and others. But today, I only have photos of my own renovation. We moved into the house a couple of years ago. The family who built the house in 1954 lived there until we bought it. Fortunately, they had maintained most of the original qualities. Most of the renovations had to do with making things more functional, or better suited for the way we like to live. The most recent addition was the flagpole I got for Christmas last year for the lawn. Next up is the oddly enormous laundry room that is mysteriously bigger than the bedrooms. This comes in handy when I throw dirty dishes and laundry on the floor so I can really live like a wild animal.

Living room, after

Living room, Before

Kitchen, after

Kitchen, before

Kitchen, after

Kitchen, before

Den, after

Den, before

Back yard, after, with new flagpole

Back yard, before; the pool pump was dead

Pool equipment wall, after

Pool equipment wall, before

Designers in Black, Part 2

Marian Bantjes and dapper Stephen Doyle

Continuing on from yesterday’s shallow posting about the attire at the AIGA Design Legends Gala in New York, I want to make sure that we don’t cover the articulate messages, inspirational medalist stories, or engaging conversation. So back to the issue everyone has on mind, who looked good and who looked like hell? I’m actually too nice to do the worst dressed list, For the most part, everyone looked purty darn snazzy. There were a few missteps, but I’m sure some would find these “adventurous”. I’m too old school and think there is nothing wrong with the classics. The best fashion moment happened the next day, when Marian Bantjes and I went to Debbie Millman’s really amazing house for cocktails. After a couple or more G+Ts, Debbie agreed to show us her second choice dress that didn’t make the cut. I’ve never seen Debbie in orange, and she should wear it all the time. For a moment, we felt transported to a glamorous evening, Palm Springs, 1971. Debbie, I strongly advise you to wear the orange dress to every client meeting.

Jennifer Morla and Chip Kidd stylish in stripes

Connecticut bigwig Kim Rogala sleek and slim

Glowing and silky Louise Sandhaus

Lovlier than her logo behind her, Lynda Weinman

Emily Carr proves that designers CAN wear color

Terry Irwin silver fox

Madame President Millman in 2nd choice dress

Slim Aarons, Palm Springs 1971

Designers in Black, part 1

Sean Adams and the wonderfully jewelled Madame President, Debbie Millman

Last Thursday, I attended the AIGA Design Legends Gala in New York. I was in Kona the week before, and it was a helluva flight from Hawaii to LA to New York, but the Gala is an evening that reminds me why I’m a designer. Of course, there are inspirational speeches and presentations. Debbie Millman gave an eloquent speech about the current economy and why designers are more important than ever. The Medalists, Carin Goldberg, Doyald Young, and Pablo Ferro were remarkable and seeing their work is exactly the shot in the arm I needed. But, many of you are probably asking, who looked good? Fortunately, I’m shallow and took my camera to find some of the best dressed. Now I admit I’m bad at this job. I started and then had a couple of Gin and Tonics, then the gorgeous Marian Bantjes sat on my lap, then I lost interest in the photography. Nevertheless, for your pleasure, here are some of the highlights I found before forgetting I needed to do this post.

Stefan Sagmeister with snappy tie and Marian Bantjes in a dress of her own fabric design

Petrula Vrontikis unbelievably gorgeous and dapper Armin Vit

Pam Williams outdoing Madame Pierre Gautreau by John Singer Sargent

This defines classic and glamorous, Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

This defines classic and glamorous, Michael Donovan and Nancye Green

Board heartthrob Brad Weed and beautiful wife Susan Pappalardo

Clement

Immaculately dressed Michael Vanderbyl and ever-charming Gaby Brink

Sean and Kenna Kay absolutely perfect