Return of A Tale of Two Cities

Epcot Center, calling the creepy robot on a land line, 1987

I've been cleaning out books lately. There are many duplicates and books I'll never read. I tried donating them to Goodwill, but they don't accept books. I considered making a pile of books on the driveway, setting them on fire, and yelling "burn, hateful Catcher in the Rye Satan book," But my neighbors already are wary of me so I didn't.

One of the books hidden behind another book was Walt Disney World and Epcot Center, 1987. I'll forgive the Cooper Black on the cover because the interior is so happy. The Epcot Center section is filled with images of people enjoying a creepy robot, watching belly-dancers, shopping for caftans, and watching marching Minute Men. I like the star filter, wide angle lens photos of the China Pavilion and American Adventure. I wish my iPhone had that filter.

In comparison, my photographs of Epcot (below) seem to be of another place. Mine are typically empty of people, details of signs, and vacant walkways. If the book had my images rather than the happy photos, people would expect either wonderful solitude or suicide. 

The depressing version

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.

The Stress of Decisions

People feel stress when they are pressed to make a decision. "Do I go that way, or the other way?" One of the tricks at Disneyland and Walt Disney World is the use of the hub. That's the area in front of the castle. Everything radiates out from here, so at any point the guest knows they can simply return to the hub. This takes away the stress of decision making with no information. I can go left toward the Mark Twain Riverboat or right to the Rocket Jets. Neither is scary.

The Hub

In addition, the parks are chock full of maps. Not giant directories that become jammed with people trying to find J. Crew, but personal maps that fit in your hand.

Its' time to revisit the world  Disneyland and Walt Disney World maps. I love that there are so many different types. Some rely on an illustration to give a simplified overview, while others detail every building. The ones that fail are, no pun intended, goofy. They treat the audience as if they were all three-year olds needing to add funny characters and cute rounded cartoon structures.

The most successful are works of art. They show clear and recognizable buildings, but never pander to the lowest common denominator. Don't pander.

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.

A Tale of Two Cities

Epcot Center, calling the creepy robot on a land line, 1987

I've been cleaning out books lately. There are many duplicates and books I'll never read. I tried donating them to Goodwill, but they don't accept books. I considered making a pile of books on the driveway, setting them on fire, and yelling "burn, hateful Catcher in the Rye Satan book," But my neighbors already are wary of me so I didn't.

One of the books hidden behind another book was Walt Disney World and Epcot Center, 1987. I'll forgive the Cooper Black on the cover because the interior is so happy. The Epcot Center section is filled with images of people enjoying a creepy robot, watching belly-dancers, shopping for caftans, and watching marching Minute Men. I like the star filter, wide angle lens photos of the China Pavilion and American Adventure. I wish my iPhone had that filter.

In comparison, my photographs of Epcot (below) seem to be of another place. Mine are typically empty of people, details of signs, and vacant walkways. If the book had my images rather than the happy photos, people would expect either wonderful solitude or suicide. 

The depressing version

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.

Experimental Prototype Colors of Tomorrow

Epcot gift bag, early 1980s

When EPCOT opened in 1982, the concept was innovation and globalism. Wait isn't that what every conference today is about? The park was and is divided into two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World was where corporations like Exxon could prove how good strip mining was. World Showcase would bring cultures from around the globe to the American tourist. The visual theme of Future World was the same as the 1990s Star Trek: TNG, mid-level hotel or medical offices in non-threatening tones. The large spaces had lots of carpeting, an abundance of rounded corners, and odd geometric benches.

In my head, I've always pictured 1980s EPCOT as a unified and sleek place. The color palette was silver, blue, and white. The materials were aluminum and fiberglass. But, I was wrong. While researching the color palettes I found some truly hideous combinations. Now, I've always said no two colors dislike each other. Again, I was wrong. Some of the combinations are terrifying. It would never occur to me to combine pink, teal, plum, and orange. I'm still semi-sane. So what happened? Why the hard left away from the silver and blue? I don't know. I do know, however, that these combinations do not exist naturally, and no software product will ever provide a palette like these.

Bag palette
EPCOT 1982
Epcot map, 1983
Map Palette
Epcot mug
Mug Palette
pin
Button Palette
Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982
Gateway Gifts palette
Epcotmap2
Guidebook paltette

An Encyclopedic Photographic Memory of Ephemera

I enjoy accusing others of illiteracy. “Don’t you people read?” I ask my students. “If you’d read the copy, you’d understand why the image works,” I say to clients, but in a nicer way. “For the love of God put down that iPhone and get a book,” I tell my niece and nephews. Then I find I am as guilty of the same sin.

I have a book about the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve never read it. I do, however, know each and every illustration, color palette, and photograph in the book. Who knows what it is about? I’m too distracted by the tiny drawings on divider pages. To make matters worse, I deconstruct the meaning of the imagery. And I make odd connections that require an encyclopedic photographic memory of ephemera. Fortunately, I have this. For example, the overview of the Fair is surprisingly similar to the layout of Epcot, which is a sort of permanent world’s fair (or beer walk, depending on your interest.) Finally, the color palette for the fair preview images is exactly the same as the preview book for Walt Disney World, published a few years later. Coincidence? You be the judge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The View from Here

I gave a talk about the narrative design of Disneyland at the Cusp conference a couple of years ago. I covered the idea of a cinematic experience and viewer participation. The visual landscape of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World is carefully planned to create an experience like a film. For example, the tunnels on either side of the Main Street train station act like the darkening of a theater, then the guest passes onto Main Street and the “film” begins. But, the viewpoint is not straight down Main Street toward the castle. It’s to the right or left, then as the guest moves into the park, the view is revealed. The castle acts as a draw, or in Disney terms, a “weenie” and the guest is pulled toward the center of the park.

Each vista is planned to serve as a setting, information delivery vehicle, navigation device, and entertainment. At the same time, the overall sense of security and familiarity is created. Think of the experience this way: there are long shots of a Panavision nature, medium shots of singular buildings, close-ups of pedestrian level windows and doors, and detail shots of individual elements such as a birdcage on a porch or old apothecary bottles in a window.

While others are taking photos of their friends or family members in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, I’m shooting the long shots and details. I’ve found shooting panoramas by standing in one spot and rotating 360 degrees, or moving down the street and taking a picture every twenty feet to work well. Of course it looks crazy, but so what?

As a side note, once again, bring your subject close and let the castle be a background. Unless you need to shoot their entire outfit with shoes, we don’t need to see their entire body. There is no need to be upset when people walk between you and the subject 50 feet away. If I see you do this I will purposely walk between you and the subject and stand there.

Walt Disney World Main Street east

The Other Side

You can’t tell if something is dark without also seeing something light. In the same way, it’s hard to know when something is bad, when it’s all you’ve known. When I was growing up, we moved constantly, as if my parents were on the run from the law. When I left home at 18, we’d moved 22 times on three continents. I didn’t realize this was bad until I was able to stay in one place for more than 18 months.

I had another realization like this last week. I was at Walt Disney World and saw someone wearing a completely groovy t-shirt with the original Walt Disney World 1971 logo. I assumed it was an old shirt until I found it in a store. Richard Terpstra designed the shirt this year. On a side note, Terpstra is a genius at creating new products that have a sense of history and never seem forced or bad replications. Then, I found more t-shirts that I loved. Yes, they all nod to the past and fall into a post-modern pastiche concept. Yes, they are ironic and something someone would wear at a coffee house in Brooklyn or spice store in Silverlake. But, I could wear them too. That’s a real accomplishment to create a product that can run the gamut from hard-core hipster to Fred MacMurray.

Now, why was this a realization? Because I’m not used to seeing something this well designed on my side of the country at Disneyland. I’m a huge fan of Kevin Kidney items, and own an amount of them others find “eccentric”. The other merchandise at Disneyland is, well, cheesy. I hear about the issue of annual passport holders not buying merchandise at Disneyland often. I’ve had an annual passport since 1984 and don’t buy t-shirts. But I’ve only seen the overwrought glittery hyper-cute Disneyland t-shirts.

The cat’s out of the bag for me. I’ve seen what is possible. Someone in Florida at Disney Park merchandising is doing something wonderful and exciting. They’re taking risks and designing for an audience other than the Housewives of Anaheim. Bravo (no pun intended).

Tomorrow's Child

I have a t-shirt with the logo for Seabase Alpha. This was a fictional place reached via the “hydro-lator” at EPCOT’s Living Seas. It’s gone now, replaced with a child friendly Nemo adventure. I like having a shirt from a fictional place within a fictional space at a themed fictitious place. When I go to EPCOT, I spend time looking for the remnants of the original EPCOT. When it opened in 1982, it was clearly about a forward thinking wonderful future. Technology would solve all problems. All nations would live together sharing native foods and shopping experiences. Obviously, I gravitate toward the areas that still talk about this. For example, the truly unattractive Odyssey Restaurant building is original. But sitting in front of this empty space is only fun for a short amount of time.

It may be hard to look at EPCOT in 1982 with a sense of nostalgia. You may be saying, “Handel Gothic? Chrome? Red carpeting?” And, yes, in addition to my clearly questionable taste in color palettes, I like these things. I won’t be redoing the living room with a red, white, blue, and silver theme, but the hexagonal brown tiles are quite enticing.

For additional EPCOT wonder check out one of my favorite sites, passport2dreams.

Diary of Details 1

I'm spending a couple of days at Walt Disney World. And I've been told to stop working. This is a preempted measure to keep me from injuring someone at some point in a meeting or just sitting at my desk. This also means, "Stop posting." So I will be keeping you up to date with my travels using images only. Think of it as BurningSettlersCabin for the illiterate. Oh, wait, that's me.

In My Own Backyard

This won’t come as much of a surprise, but my favorite part of EPCOT is the American Pavilion. I especially like the hall of flags with historical American flags. A couple of years ago, I had a flagpole installed in the yard. I think the idea terrified my landscape designer who repeatedly suggested moving it to the side. But a flagpole needs to be dead center on the lawn. My office has given me flags as gifts and I rotate them. I love the Gadsden flag (the yellow Don’t Tread on Me flag), but I can’t fly it any more. Since its been appropriated for current political issues, I’d rather not use it now.

This gave me a good reason to buy some new flags. The Commodore Perry “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag has wonderful typography. Of course, everyone should have a Betsy Ross 13 star flag, and I needed the Culpeper Minute Men flag as many relatives served under it. I’m desperate for a 48 star flag. Not because I hate Hawaii and Alaska, but because the stars fit so neatly in rows. My next step is to buy some nautical flags and spell out dirty words.