Good News

Getting into college today is a hell of a lot tougher now than it was in my day. There are all those forms and tests. Everyone is trying to get into the same places. A couple of months ago, Matt Manos at VeryNice, connect me to a really swell group of people at College Access Plan (CAP). They help high school students that don't have the support they need to find their way through the quagmire of tests and options. It's nice to work with people that do good things for others.

When people say design is just decoration and not relevant, I think about the work for CAP. Maybe the annual report will help persuade a donor to give more. Or make it easier for someone to be the first person in his or her family to go to college and do great things. When I decided to move onto a different track and do work to help others, this is exactly the kind of project I hoped to do. Thanks Matt.

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.

Cruel Story of Youth

Communication Design 1 is the class at Art Center that is a student’s introduction into ideas, idea making, and the power of images. It’s also a hard class to teach. And sometimes other teachers have a snobby attitude, “Oh, those lower level classes. Well, I would never teach one of those.”  Now I know how people felt when my family members would say, “Bless her soul, what a sense of style. Of course, I could never wear something like that.”

I remember my first class in college. It was with a great designer, Milt Zolotow. First, I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with Milt. Secondly, he was standing right next to the words, “Fuck You,” that someone has scribbled on the wall. Now I am in the same spot, standing in front of people on the first day of their first class. I make sure there are not swear words on the wall next to me. The hard part of CD1 is helping students realize great concepts when they may not have the technical skills yet. But, when they pull it all together, the results are spectacular.

The final project is designed to push their limits and force some introspection, rather than simply making nice jam labels. The assignment is to design a poster for a fictional conference that is about dangerous ideas. The students determine what idea is dangerous for them. The best results come from someone taking a risk. The solutions that fail are usually safe and nice, and that’s all. I’d rather someone tackles a really difficult issue and go down in flames, than do something “nice.” For months I hammer on “less is more,” “make it clear,” “why is that there?” “What does it mean?” and “No bold serifs.” Then I throw a curve ball and ask someone who is twenty years old to tell everyone his or her deepest issues. That’s the fun in teaching.

 

Higher Education

My first teaching assignment was at Art Center in 1992. Yes, I am that old. At times, I felt like I was banging my head against a concrete wall, but for the last several years, it’s my favorite part of my job. Of course, there are still times when I’d like to throw a chair, but as someone who is there to encourage, inspire, and educate, that would be bad.

Last term’s Communication Design 4 class was a particularly exciting group. Yes, there was the typical range of students: amazing and dedicated, just fine, and stoners (I'm sure everyone is on the pot). This group was heavily slanted toward the amazing side. The class is about research, strategy, identity, systems, and application across multiple media. Thank God I didn’t have to take this in school. It’s hard. I did assignments like a coffee table book version of The Preppy Handbook.

Hanlu Cao made an incredible identity for China Broadcasting based on a changeable Chinese tangram. Shana Torok’s system for MOCA is a circus of energy and ideas. Ellen Flaherty took Bombay Gin and gave it a fresh life. Some of the programs challenged the idea of identity, like Michelle Cho’s poster for a new LAX system. And some were fantastic, stable, and beautiful old school logos like Bo Yeoung Han’s Fuji id. I love Lily Gregorian's poster for LAX with Betty White and the slogan "Deal with it." And Paul Hoppe's identity for the sausage restaurant Wurstkuche, with a logo made from cut paper is genius..

But, nobody should get a fat head. I still felt like throwing chairs when an assignment was late, or my instructions were not followed explicity.