Flowers for Algernon

Walt Disney World Preview Center 1971

This week, Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut were in town for the Design Observer Taste conference. I had dinner with Jessica and she kindly came to school to discuss her new book. If you don't know Jessica personally, you need to understand that she is fast, smart, and hilarious. She also is humble, sweet, and filled with energy. The downside is that I need to stay on my toes. I can't skirt by with funny comments and swearing. This is the big leagues of smart.

On that note, I felt that a post today should engage the reader and focus attention on issues such as the state of the profession, the intersection of fine art, architecture, business, and design, or how stupid the term "design thinking" is. But I was sidetracked by these two brochures from Walt Disney World.

One is from a magazine after the park opened. The other was handed out at the WDW Preview Center before the 1971 opening. These may not challenge the epicenter of design or critical thinking, but the colors are nice. And I'm a sucker for a fancy layout, ochre and purple buildings, and random closeups.

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.

Damn the Torpedoes, Full Steam Ahead!

Last Friday night, I was awarded the AIGA Medal at the AIGA Centennial Gala. As Nancye Green said after the first AIGA gala, "This is like the best high school reunion with everyone you've ever known." It was the most successful gala in AIGA's history and proves that we still care about design and designers above all else.

Michael Bierut summed up the essence of the evening by pointing out that almost every Medalist talked about someone in the room who gave them his or her first job, or someone in the room they had hired. That AIGA is about our community was made exceptionally clear at this event. There was no mean-spiritedness, envious disregard, or minimizing of another designer. Nobody had the attitude that success was finite and another's meant less for them. There was an honest sense of pride and pleasure for everyone's successes. We may think, as designers, we are competitive and cut-throat, but compared to other professions, we're pussycats and pretty damned supportive of each other.

There's been a huge amount of discourse over AIGA's direction over the last year. Last term, a student in an Art Center class asked me why there was so much arguing. But this isn't arguing. It's discourse. It's what happens when people are deeply committed and passionate. It's what every organization hopes to have. The opposite is a listless disengaged community. We have emerged from a major shift in AIGA's history that will lead to decades of stability and vitality.

As designers, we all have the predilection to critique and analyze. We may have various opinions on the day to day issues of the community, but it was clear at the gala that, in the end, we are all working to the same goal.

As I was sitting there, watching the other Medalists accept their award, I found myself feeling that sensation we all share; seeing something wonderful and having that contradictory sensation of the joy of discovery and that twinge of envy that someone else made it. I tend to use one too many sailing metaphors, but in this instance, going forward, I can only think of Franklin Roosevelt's quote, “To reach a port we must set sail. Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.”

Angela Jimenez Photography:

The Avant Garde in Felt

Sean Adams, AIGA 100 project: 1955

A few weeks ago, I was asked to create a solution for an AIGA project celebrating the 100 year anniversary. 100 designers were asked to choose a year, and design a piece that highlighted an event from that year. Michael Bierut got to 1968 before I could, so I took 1955. In 1955, the Ford Thunderbird was released and Disneyland opened. Obviously, Disneyland ended up as my subject.

As a roundabout explanation of the process, I've been a huge Cathy of California fan for years. I was having lunch at our local groovy Los Feliz Mexican restaurant, Mexico City, when I recognized Cathy Callahan herself. I'm not easily impressed by celebrity. I've met my share of famous actors and such. But I was super freaked meeting Cathy in real life and probably a babbling fool.

Around the time I started the 1955 project, I bought Cathy's book, Vintage Craft Workshop: Fresh Takes on Twenty-Four Classic Projects from the '60s and '70s. Something clicked, or broke, in my brain, and I decided to make my piece out of craft materials. It seemed fitting for a 1955 concept and I obviously have too much time on my hands. I could have cheated and Photoshopped the whole thing from stock images, but I actually went to Michael's craft supplies (that was a terrifying experience) and bought stuff.

I cut up my felt, raffia, burlap, and glitter paper. I found old buttons and cufflinks. I used the hot glue gun to attach the stuff to the burlap (which smells weird), and voila. I know most designers are looking for a cutting edge, an extreme approach to the avant grade, and the next big thing. I now have clear evidence that I am as far from hip and cutting edge as Lawrence Welk or Barry Goldwater. At the same time, I think my craft solution this proves that I am incredibly brave or, more likely, clueless.

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Bless the Beasts and the Children

People always tell me how funny kids are, “Oh, Jane said the funniest thing last night,” or, “You should have heard him explain how the solar system works. It was so cute.” But I find children to be rather poor at storytelling. I typically get this story, “… and then I put my left sock on…” My grandmother would stop us when we were telling her stories and say, “This is boring.” We learned to plan a conversation with her and avoid stories about outfit options.

One thing I’ve learned is that the most talented people have the best stories and information. Michael Bierut always has something interesting. Michael Vanderbyl has hilarious stories. Marian Bantjes has a wealth of information about subjects I never considered. For example, Marian knows what to call any group of animal. I would say, “Hey, dude, check out that bunch of zebras.” Marian knows this is not a “bunch”, but a dazzle of zebra.

Last week, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation held their annual gala in Washington D.C. We designed a poster for the gala as a tool for children and members of the United States Congress to learn animal group names. Obviously, the actual goal is to raise awareness for the ICCF’s mission to promote the projection of U.S. leadership for international conservation worldwide. It was an honor to have this opportunity, and I know Marian will be proud that I know this information now.

Color Me Mad

I believe I’ve found the root of one of my issues. Yes, it’s the bad taste in color issue. I wish I could be like Michael Bierut, or Chip Kidd, or Dana Arnett, and work with sophisticated and elegant tones. It’s always my goal, but as many of you have noticed, the train always derails and I end up with violet and fuchsia. Why is this? What has driven me to this aberration? My parents had flawless good taste in color. Navy blue and beige were acceptable, pink was okay during the summer, but only tasteless people wore turquoise or purple. My grandparents had a thing for red, white, and blue during the bicentennial, but then it was back to off-white.

The answer is On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’s credit sequence. I saw this when I was six. Isn’t that the age when individuals begin to form creatively? If you want to mess someone up big time, don’t you begin locking him or her in closets at five or six? The credits are clearly (no pun intended) designed to impart the idea of infinity. Let’s look at the facts, though. It’s 1970. Most of the audience was probably on some kind of dope. This was a psychedelic trip visual. And I sat there, soaking up the garish combinations. Now I am ruined, unable to maintain a desire for beige or taupe.

Note: bypass the singing and jump to 1:30. This is where Barbra Streisand begins to fly like the Flying Nun and the drug induced graphics begin.

The Angry Dog and Soft Core Porn

Last week at the AIGA Pivot Conference, Command X was, as always, a huge success. The young professionals who are contestants are the bravest people on the planet. There is no way in hell I would get up in front of 1,500 designers and defend my choices. This year’s group, Spencer Charles, Wendy Hu, Matt Hunsberger, Susan Murphy, Mark Nizinski, Jesse Reed, and Sarah Sawtell are remarkable designers with nerves of steel. The judges, Ellen Lupton, DJ Stout, Michael Vanderbyl, and guest judges, Karl Heiselman, Chip Kidd, and Matt Munoz had the unenviable job of determining who moved on to the next challenge. Michael Bierut hosted the competition, and I mentored and filmed the behind the scenes updates.

Behind the scenes, drama ensued. Michael Vanderbyl was reprimanded by an attendee for suggesting the use of a shamrock on a piece. Supposedly this is deeply offensive to Irish people. I asked Command X contestant, Susan Murphy, who is an actual Irish person, if she was offended, and she was fine with it. In fact, she suggested many names and comments that could be quite offensive to the Irish.

And then another speaker attacked my great friend Bonnie Siegler for Command X. According to an onlooker at the party where the bloodthirsty attack occurred, Bonnie stood defenseless as this person became increasingly furious. As this onlooker said, “it was like a chained angry dog who was let off its leash. There was spitting, snarling, and lunging.” I didn’t realize that “fun” is clearly a filthy word we should never use. Design should be laborious and we should refrain from making artifacts. Charts and meetings are the future.

As usual, nothing shocking happened to me, except for the scandal in Marian Bantjes room. Marian needed to learn how to tie a tie. I can’t do it backwards, so I sat behind Marian to teach her. The result was a photograph that looks like a cover of Viva or Oui magazine, or a soft-core porn film. Thank God it was Marian and I wasn’t teaching one of the Command X contestants how to tie a tie.

No Splashing. No!

Somehow by attrition, I have become the “go to” designer when color is involved. This amazes me because my color theory is pretty simple: everything works with everything. Just don’t be wimpy. I love hateful combinations such as almond, maroon, and teal. I’d make every project avocado, burnt orange, butter yellow, baby blue, and magenta if I could. But, oddly, I love black and white. It’s the color combination used the least. Everyone assumes it’s ubiquitous, so everything is full of color. When was the last time you saw a stark black and white ad, billboard, or television commercial? Color is an evil temptress; we attempt restrain, but are lured with the promise of excitement. Be brave. Try black and white. This isn’t black and white with a splash of orange. No. No splash. You must deny any additional color.

Yes, Master. I will do your bidding.

The UCLA Extension Masters of Design program was conceived and managed by InJu Sturgeon. InJu had the genius idea to elevate the utilitarian course catalogue covers working with some of the world’s best designers. Paul Rand designed the first cover in 1990. The program soon became the coveted assignment. Other designers including Saul Bass, Paula Scher, Woody Pirtle, Ivan Chermayeff, and Michael Bierut have tackled the same assignment: education, Los Angeles, the season, and extension. In 1998, we were honored to be asked to design our first cover. This was daunting, solving the same assignment as some of our heroes. Michael Vanderbyl was the encouraging voice for us, and convinced us to have fun. The series could easily have become a hodge-podge of crazed egos. But InJu’s remarkable skill handling designers consistently leads to some of the best work. When working with InJu, it is immediately clear that there is no room for diva-esque behavior. Hence my typical screaming, demanding, and abusive approach was not welcome. And I have never net anyone so adept at motivating me to do better.

Mash-up o' Crap

I have a big plastic bin labeled “Favorite Things”. This bin is filled with; you guessed it, our favorite things. Every few months I go through the bin and weed out the garbage. It seems that the Favorite Things bin can become a dumping ground for any item that has no home. If you came into the office and found the bin, you would probably say, “Whoa, what a bunch of crap.” I imagine Michael Bierut’s Favorite Things bin filled with beautiful items designed by Massimo Vignelli, Paula Scher, and Woody Pirtle. Bill Drenttel and Jessica Helfand’s box has rare books by Paul Klee, Alvin Lustig, and Paul Rand. Michael Vanderbyl must have a box filled with a magnificent collection of classic black and white photography.

Our bin, as you can imagine, is filled with Dixie Cups, a piece of wallpaper with a repeat pattern of antique cars, 1972 maps of Berlin from a European Bus company, and other worthless artifacts. Today, I will begin the slow reveal of the items. Today’s mash-up of crap is a 1964 travel pack of Kleenex Tissues, a Technicolor brand envelope, a lovely package of napkin/guest towels, and a Dinah’s Fried Chicken menu. Don’t say you can’t find the height of western culture here at the cabin.

Inside Job

Writing books is hard. First you are required to write; that’s hard. Then you need to find images. That's hard. And you must have the rights to use the images; harder. Somehow my friend, Steven Heller, manages to do this continuously. If I heard that the United States government was going after Steven for having a monopoly, I wouldn’t be surprised. If you need a well-written book about design, go no further.

Steven’s recent book, Graphic, Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers, co-written with Lita Talarico is a gem. Sharing your sketchbooks is not easy. They reveal a sliver of your internal processes. In some instances, such as Ed Fella, it is clear that Ed’s head is a complex swirl of forms and ideas. Ken Carbone’s remarkably beautiful and numerous sketchbooks betray a mind that is disciplined, careful, and sees a world that is lush and beautiful. Michael Bierut’s sketchbooks seem to point to an obsession with the letter “M”. They also have that wonderful mixture of words and images that is integral to Michael’s work. Marian Bantjes sketchbooks, are, surprise, unlike anything actual human beings can create. Since she lives in the backwoods of British Columbia, and alien abduction movies seem to be set there, well, you do the math.

My sketchbooks do a wonderful job of revealing just how shallow I am. Pretty colors and funny charts. I was there when they were created, and typically, I was sketching while someone was explaining something. This led to my standard response of looking up from my book, as if I were taking notes, and saying, “I’m so sorry, could you repeat that?”

Just Say No to Snarky

Last week I went to Chicago to speak at the Cusp Conference. Pat and Greg Samata, Dave Mason, and Kevin Krueger of smbolic are the organizers and couldn’t have been more gracious, or accommodating. I’ve known Pat and Greg for 15 years and they have always been a huge inspiration to me. Some of the presenters made me rethink some basic issues. It was an amazing experience.

During a break, I sat down with a well-known character in the design world (to be named when I write the book, when I’m old). For 15 minutes, he told me about his enormous success, invention of everything, and impatience with everyone else in the world. He said nothing positive about anything else. He finished with a fine story about slamming other speakers at a different conference.

Now, I may be old fashioned, but I’ve spent a career with designers who embody generosity. From Saul Bass, Michael Vanderbyl, Paula Scher, Dana Arnett, Michael Bierut, Jennifer Morla, and a long, long list (also to be included in the book), the example has always been to give back, reinforce others and be kind. I think the days of unkind and snarky designers are over. To paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, “whenever we tear at the fabric of the lives which another designer has painfully and clumsily woven for himself, whenever we do this, then the whole profession is degraded.” I would propose that the next time another designer is patronizing or unkind to you, you say this, “You sir, are no gentleman,” unless it’s a woman, in which case, “You, madam, are no lady.” You may slap them with your gloves, if you are inclined to a duel. Unless it’s me, then remember I’m easily confused.

The grass is always greener

William Christian Bullitt, Paris 1939

This last year has been a hard one for everyone. It’s easy to think that the next guy has it better. Michael Bierut never has to get work and solves problems instantly, Dana Arnett has no worries, Marian Bantjes is sitting calmly at her studio in the woods or feeding the happy woodland creatures, Sean Adams is listening to the Beach Boys and driving around Beverly Hills. But like everyone else, they and I still pump gas, pay bills, load the dishwasher, and worry. I tend to think the same thing about previous generations of my family. They seemed to spend time touring Europe, leisurely riding through the countryside, and occasionally running for office. My grandmother’s cousin Bill (William C. Bullitt) was one of these people. I have photos of him looking dapper and sophisticated. He, seemingly, led a charmed life of privilege.

I recently finished a book, So Close To Greatness, about Bill Bullitt and his life was far from charmed. Like all of us, he worked hard for his beliefs, juggled a career and family, and wanted respect from his peers. He was born in Philadelphia in 1891 to the Philadelphia arm of the family. He went to Yale and Harvard Law. He served President Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference. He was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and then France, and was one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s inner circle. This would all appear, on paper, to be charmed. But, life wasn’t that easy.

Bill Bullitt’s second wife was Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keaton in Reds), widow of the radical communist, Jack Reed. Bullitt and Bryant lived in Paris and were part of the ex-pat community of the 1920s. Once again, on paper, this was a golden time. But Louise slowly went mad, became an alcoholic, enjoyed entering dinner parties in the nude, and they were divorced. The invasion of the German army ended Bullitt’s service as the ambassador to France. After his return to the United States, he lobbied to be part of Roosevelt’s cabinet. A mislaid plan to expose Secretary of State Sumner Welles’ predilection for Pullman porters ended his friendship with Roosevelt and ended his political career.

However, throughout all of these trials, Bullitt remained gracious and elegant. His response to the invasion of the German army was to order all good champagne and caviar to be taken with him and the embassy staff to the basement. “We may be killed,” he said, “But I’ll be damned if we’ll be annoyed.”

William Christian Bullitt, Camp Pasquaney, 1918

William Christian Bullitt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

Louise Bryant in Russian costume 1920

William Christian Bullitt and Pie-Pie

Terror and Courage in Memphis

the back of Michael Bierut's head at Command X

I’m sitting in the Admiral’s Club at DFW on my way home from the AIGA Make Think Conference. While spending time with friends is the best part of a conference to me, Command X was a highlight. Similar in structure to Project Runway, Command X works this way: seven contestants are assigned a project, such as redesigning the Cap’n Crunch cereal for adults. They present their solutions and four judges ask questions and make comments. Two contestants are retired on each episode, leading to the final winner. This year, I took the “Tim Gunn” role, interviewing and mentoring the designers in their work area. I did this because Tim and I have the same hair color. Each morning at 8am I met the contestants in their work area and we filmed an update. We then rushed the footage up to the main stage to be presented to the audience during the morning sessions.

Last season's Command X winner, Nichelle Narcisi works here at AdamsMorioka. I asked her about the experience before coming to Memphis, and she downplayed it. But  this is hard. I don’t have the courage to do what these young designers did. They took on a challenge, produced a solution in 24 hours, presented it to a daunting group of legendary designers (Host, Michael Bierut, judges: Bonnie Siegler, Chip Kidd, Paul Sahre, and several guest judges), in front of 1500 designers, and then defended the finished project. Oddly, they had little problem doing this. I was more nervous for them, than they were themselves. The solutions worked, and sometimes they failed. But, this was less important than the overriding emotion in the audience: awe and respect for these incredibly brave young designers.

The final challenge, to design a piece for civil rights, created three unique and successful solutions. Monina Velarde left the stage as the winner after receiving a standing ovation. I watched from the wings as they announced the decision, and tried to give all of them a measure of support when it was all over. I asked them if they were OK, and glad it was finished. They all said they were too exhausted to feel anything, but I’m pretty sure the odd gaze on their face was shell shock.

It is easy to minimize this as a funny reality show, but these seven designers threw themselves to the mercy of the judges, the audience, and the blogosphere. It is far easier to stay in the shadows and never risk public criticism. Few people have the courage to stand in front of the moving train of public opinion. Nevertheless, finalists Alison Yard Medland, Monina Velarde, and Ryan Fitzgibbon collectively said it best backstage just before heading out for the final decision, “Someone out there might be inspired, or feel a little better about their work.” Damn those kids and their remarkable nature.

Matthew Carl, Elmont, NY

Ryan Fitzgibbon, San Francisco, CA

Bobby Genalo, Brooklyn, NY

John Graziano, Lewisville, TX

Alison Yard Medland, Silver Spring, MD

Monina Velarde, Wheaton, IL

Katherine Walker, Chicago, IL

Many thanks to Alissa Walker at www.withgelatobaby.com and www.160over90.com for some of these images

The early morning interview, Ryan Fitzgibbon and Sean Adams

Ryan Fitzgibbon

Alison Yard Medland

Bobby Genalo

The Cap'n Crunch solutions

Alison Yard Medland, Ryan Fitzgibbon, Monina Velarde

Katherine Walker, John Graziano, Matthew Carl, Bobby Genalo

A Map of the World

Last night I had dinner at Jar with my good friend, Michael Bierut, who is always a perfect dinner partner providing a mix of great stories and smart insights. I regretted the 2 martinis at 3:00 in the morning, but that’s probably a bigger issue. Michael talked about some of the things that tie all designers together. Since I had the two martinis I don’t remember what they were, but I do recall they were smart ideas. I know that as designers, we share the predilection to collect and covet odd items that others find confusing. One of the items that I collect, and you may find this hard to believe, is Disneyland and Walt Disney World maps. I love that there are so many different types. Some rely on illustration to give a simplified overview, while others detail every building. Each exists to help direct a guest around the park, but they all presume different ways that the guest thinks. Anyone who has ever designed a signage program has faced the problem that a client insists on a floor plan for a directory. But, large percentages of people stare at floor plans and have no idea how to read them. The next time an office building or hospital signage program needs a directory, I’m going to follow the cute 3d building and funny people with a trombone style.

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