California Dreaming

Someone wise said, "Surround yourself with people smarter than you." I find that to be sage advice and not too difficult. The problem is spending time with my friends that are all smart. They discuss books on semiotics, who won the Rome Prize this year, essays in the New York Times about an artist at the Whitney, and so on. I nod along and hope someone asks about Battlestar Galactica or something about American history. But nobody is interested in either. However, I have learned that you can pepper your sentences with these words to sound smart: vernacular, visceral, oblique, didactic, epiphanic, and artifact.

One of my smartest friends, who mysteriously is willing to spend time with me, is Louise Sandhaus. Louise just released a book that was a true labor of love, years in the making. Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires & Riots: California & Graphic Design 1936–1986. I'm not in it; I didn't graduate until 1986. I'm a media hog, but I love it nevertheless.

Louise found work that was buried and forgotten. It's remarkable and hugely inspirational. When the media center and most of the design magazines were in New York, much of California design history was dismissed as "wacky." Even good architects like Frank Gehry were categorized in the "weird California stuff" pile. The review of the book in the New York Times is titled, "The Colorful History of California Design," translated as "Aren't those Californians all just "wacky?" Louise has gone back and reintroduced many of the most influential designers in the last century that you may never have known. And, most importantly, they are presented with intelligence and honesty. And the book is a beautiful artifact (see that word adds a level of intelligence).

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.

Paul Rand Migraine

Continental Airlines, Hawaii poster

On Wednesday I did a panel discussion with Louise Sandhaus and Michael Carabetta about Paul Rand. It was lively and the audience was full of great stories, strong opinions, and well dressed designers. Unfortunately I had the most horrific migraine and had to try to appear upbeat. Now some of you may say, "Just be yourself, everyone would understand." But a photo of Louise and Michael cheerfully discussing a Rand book cover while I stare into space vacantly won't translate well on facebook. 

As a result, I left as soon as the event finished and didn't have a chance to say hello to many people in the room who I really like. I'm sure they saw me hurry out and though, "What an asshole diva." And...

Following up with a post about Paul Rand is rather pointless. It's amazing, but he gets more coverage online than funny cat videos. So I end this week with simply the cool stuff I found or like, and one Paul Rand.

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.

In Praise of Ochre

Wallpaper, 1966

I was at Louise Sandhaus' AIGA Fellows Award event last week. I've become sort of a shut-in, so it was unusual for me to go out at night. I prefer to stay in the house and peak out the window behind the shades when anyone drives by. But I absolutely love Louise and wouldn't miss this event. I had a good time seeing old friends and watching the amazing Armin Vit and his very difficult quiz show about design. Louise's work was, of course, inspiring and sublime. I left with many ideas that I could steal.

There are certain colors that will drive any but the most adventurous clients running from a room screaming. Unfortunately, these seem to be the colors that graphic designers prefer. I noticed this in Louise's presentation. "Ooh, I love that green," I would think as she showed a slide, and "That is the most perfect warm red." For some reason, designers love avocado and yellow-greens. Baby-shit is what I've heard these tones called by clients. And we love orange-reds, which are usually met with, "I really hate orange." So we use these colors in our own personal work, or when we get a project with unending creative freedom. I try to use ochre on every project. This is usually rejected. For some reason, nobody can see the wonderfulness of ochre, or butterscotch if you need to sell it. It's a wonderful tone, somewhere between yellow, orange, brown, and green. There was a time when the world embraced ochre. Southwest Airlines used it as a primary color. Porsche called it Bahama Yellow. This was, no pun intended, the golden age of ochre.

If only we could convince the word that bisque, almond, plumb, and mauve were very bad, and return to ochre, avocado green, warm red, butter yellow, and sky blue.

Porsche 912, Bahama Yellow

1969 Stan Bitters installation at Duncan Enterprises, Fresno, California

Volkswagen Bus, 1967, Canary Yellow

Main Street, Walt Disney World, 1971

Termo Temp

2001 A Space Odyssey, 1969

Branniff Airlines, Alexander Girard, 1965

Disneyland Monsanto's Plastic Home of the Future, 1967

My bar

Mohawk Show 2, catalogue, AdamsMorioka

The Bus, Honolulu, Hawaii

Southwest Airlines colors

Housing project, Capetown, South Africa

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