I was fortunate to have three Mentors when I was at CalArts (yes Mentors, as in an official title, not a Yoda-like master): April Greiman, Lorraine Wild, and Lou Danziger. These three widely varied points of view gave me a range of conceptual approaches that have been incredibly useful over my career. 

Recently, Tracey Shiffman collected a suite of materials from Lou for me to scan and archive. To see one project is wonderful, but to see a collection of work at once, well that made my month.

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.

The Opposite of Nothing

When I was in college, I rigorously adhered to neat and minimal aesthetics. “Sean,” Lorraine Wild said, “Try loosening up. Do something that isn’t polite.” Lou Danziger told me, “Do something ugly.” Since I couldn’t understand this, they suggested I take a year and study in the fine art department. Theoretically, this would lead to a creative epiphany and I would be flinging depressing paint colors around a room. It all started fine, and I made some big expressive paintings of Patsy Cline. On the next iteration, I added text to create an image/text narrative. Then I decided the image wasn’t necessary, so I painted only the text. Finally, I didn’t like the hand-made expressive quality of the text; it seemed forced. So I typeset the text in 8 point Bodoni and mounted it to the canvas. By the end of the year, I had come full circle and was creating minimal type driven work.

I am in awe of those who can work with complexity and decoration and maintain a sense of rigor. So often, this approach can lead to something sentimental and feel like an overwrought Get Well card. Like all good design, a sense of joy is critical. Jessica Hische’s covers for Barnes and Noble Classics are a great example of this. The intricacy of detail is countered by a clear sense of order. The result is something that has an emotional connection to the viewer. You may not have owned a worn copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but Jessica’s cover looks like the one you would have had next to your bed. The reality of something is never as important as our memory. These covers tap into our own narratives and remind us that books are treasured. I also appreciate that Jessica said I was like a "really cool Uncle," as opposed to "my ancient grandfather."

The Young and The Restless

LA LA LAND from | Yero | on Vimeo.

It’s that time of year again when a new batch of designers lands in the real world. I’ve been told that approximately 30,000 design students graduate each year and enter the market. This sounds terrifying but shouldn’t be. The reality, as in most of life, is that the cream will rise to the top. Out of that huge number, there is a much smaller group dedicated and really talented designers. I was worried as I approached graduation. Lorraine Wild gave me this advice, “if you’re good, willing to work hard, and keep learning, you’ll do well. Nobody good slips through the cracks.” It turns out that this was true; short of those people I know who self-destructed by smoking pot all day.

Here, then, is a slate of amazing designers who graduated last Saturday from Art Center. I know each of them, and can vouch not just for their abilities, but also for their dedication and willingness to work.

However, just to make this clear, I am not an employment service. The last time I posted a group of grads, one of them sent me an email clarifying that she would only work in Los Angeles or San Francisco and would not accept less than $50,000 salary. To this I sent a simple reply, “Not my problem.” Yes, I too can be mean.


Josh Finklea - Teodros Hailye - Tyler Hamilton -!home|mainPage Ben Hickman - James Ihira - Kevin Lam - Scott Langer - Chanmi Grace Lee - Chul Lee - Christian Morin - Tomo Ogino - Aldis Ozolins - Yerem Tagvoryan -


Ominbus Film Festival from chul lee on Vimeo.


SyFy Summer Identity from T on Vimeo.

How to be a Good Designer

History of Electricity cover

Years ago, Lorraine Wild showed me a publication that Eric Nitsche had designed for General Dynamics and it changed the way I look at design. Nitsche had been a hero of mine for years. I tend to like the designers who aren’t the huge names, but do great work just under the radar, like Alvin Lustig, or Lester Beall. Am I self aware? Probably not. Steven Heller wrote a wonderful essay about Nitsche in 1999. Nitsche is not the rock star like his contemporaries, Paul Rand, or Saul Bass, but he is remarkable. His simple modernist aesthetic combines a scientific rigor and precision with an emotional fluidness. That’s not easy.  Michael Bierut says, “Design is 90% persuasion.” (Michael forgive me if I have the percentage wrong, its' not that I don't try hard, it's that I'm stupid). How Nitsche convinced his clients to give him enormous amounts of real estate on a page for nothing is genius. When I showed one of his spreads from a General Dynamics project to Chris and Monica in my office, they both said, “Yeah right. A client would demand that you make the image bigger, or add a few paragraphs.” We’ve religiously collected Nitsche’s books, and I’ve been warned by my staff to not share this secret. But I am convinced that we all need as much inspiration as possible these days. Does that sound political? Sorry, it’s in my DNA.

April issue of Gebrauchsgraphik, 1956

La musique et l’humanisme by Romain Goldron Volume 4 in the series 1966, Editions Recontre

La musique et l’humanisme by Romain Goldron Volume 4 in the series 1966, Editions Recontre

History of Transportation, cover

Advertisement, general Dynamics

postcard, General Dynamics

Annual Report, General Dynamics, spread

General Dynamics, Convair 800 advertisement