Time for Time

I recently answered a question for a magazine article about focus. Oddly, Michael Vanderbyl told me about two international clients who insisted that he must, “f#%k us!” It was very important he, “f#%k us very hard!” Only later, after several awkward silent moments did he realize they meant “focus.”

Time, of course, is at the heart of the issue. Is there enough time before the deadline to focus on a solution? Can you carve out time during the day to not be interrupted? Does the email requesting another pdf. need to be answered immediately? For me, it’s easy. I can’t think about more than one thing at a time and am rather dull witted. So I have no choice. I must concentrate with no distractions to solve any problem.

I also realize that work expands to fill the time you give it. And nobody has run screaming into the path of a bus because they didn’t receive an email response about a paper issue. Time to think and concentrate uninterrupted is not a luxury; it’s a requirement, regardless of the profession.

Which brings us to this incredible promotion about Time designed by Massimo Vignelli and Peter Laundy fort Champion Paper in 1983. I’ve carted this promotion around with me since I received it in college. It’s a little dinged up, but one of the possessions I don’t allow away from my desk. And it took several hours today to photograph it, stitch the pages together in Photoshop, and post it to this blog. But, it’s important, so it deserved the time.

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.

Sending the Elevator Back Down

Filmforum, 1994

When I decided to step away from AdamsMorioka and focus on, forgive the do-gooder tone, working with younger designers, or sending the elevator back down, I worried that people would think I stopped designing myself. Then I realized this was vanity and pride and had no place in moving forward. But every once in awhile it rears its ugly head. At a meeting today, someone asked, "do you have time to work with your own clients in addition to the Art Center work?" I had to admit I recently turned down a signage project because I was already over booked and did not want to start a studio with large staff again. But, I just finished a bandana design for a client.

I felt small. But again, that has nothing to do with the work. It's just pride. And doing something or not because of pride is always a bad idea. The day ended with seeing work I could never imagine doing myself from a group of younger designers. That made it worth it.

I'v been adding work to the BSC site over time, which is like using a time machine. I found a series of projects I did back in 1994, before AdamsMorioka, AIGA, Lynda.com, and Burning Settlers Cabin. You aren't supposed to share old work. It makes you look old. But it reminded me that I was once that young designer, who was helped enormously by Saul Bass, Michael Vanderbyl, Michael Bierut, and Paula Scher.

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.

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 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.

867-5309

Jennifer Morla, photo: Jock McDonald

I was in Las Vegas yesterday doing a speaking engagement for AIGA Las Vegas and Mohawk. The term "design rock star" was thrown about quite a bit. While this might seem flattering, it's remarkably unsettling. I'm just me, kind of a bozo. A "design rock star" is someone like Jennifer Morla. Since we're on a roll with powerful women designers in San Francisco, Jennifer must be included. She is from the generation that followed Marget Larsen and Barbara Stauffacher Solomon. She began her career when San Francisco was a field of Michael's (Vanderbyl, Cronin, Mabry, Manwaring, Schwab...). See no girls here. Jennifer entered the scene and stood as tall (sort of) as the dudes.

Jennifer made and continues to make work that could only be made in San Francisco. It is playful and light, Victorian and sleek, dark and complex. Like San Francisco, the work is a study in contradictions. A DWR catalogue has organic imagery of a bird set, not in a forest, but on a minimal modernist white background. Jennifer's felt screen uses forms that would typically be constructed with materials such as lace, but are re-presented with a utilitarian textile. The Mexican Museum recasts Frida Kahlo as a large set of photo-mechanical halftone dots, denying the painterly or sentimental representation typical of Kahlo. Each project slams one form against another creating work that is always unexpected and wonderful.

I can't say that envy is a big part of my emotional composition. I know that everyone has their own wacky shit going on even if the exterior looks perfect. And like every designer, I have the sensation of joy and discovery when I find a designed item that I wish I'd done. However, when Jennifer showed me her solution for the Clorox 100 Anniversary book, I was jealous. I was envious that she did something so remarkable and simple using the Clorox plastic material as the cover, and I would never have thought of that. And I was really envious that she owned that artifact. I wanted to have it for myself. This is pretty positive proof that a solution is great. I regret my sinful thoughts of envy, but excuse myself as it was caused by the extraordinary. And she has the most magnificent laugh.

 

morla_mexican-museum MD_MorlaJ_IranianDissent_640 public MD_MorlaJ_DWR_Outdoor_Ctlg_640 morla_design_clorox_100th_anniversary_book morla_design_tcho_chocolate_packaging_morla_collection morla_design_alphabet_poster_04 1454647_432072390225770_1200930537_n morla1morla_design_levis_501_jeans_book_02 morla2 morla_design_stanford_university_comparative_literature_poster

Reject the Small

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Sea Ranch

After my last post about Marget Larsen, Michael Vanderbyl reminded me about the remarkable Barbara Stauffacher Solomon. Solomon was another woman working in San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s. And, again, another incredible talent who left the field too early. In Solomon's case, she left graphic design in 1977 to pursue a career as a fine artist.  This was predicated by the choices and options that were available to a working woman designer with children at that time.

As Solomon points out in a recent interview in Creative Review"Now that I happily live alone with my dog I have time to think, and I realise that I was always so frantically busy making money to live, taking care of my daughters and worrying about men, that I never had time to think, least of all about my work. At my office I just drew up the first design I visualised so that I could leave to pick up Chloe or Nellie from school, shop for dinner, cook and clean, play wife and do all the stuff that working mothers do."

Reading this description without seeing the work would point to delicate and polite typographic solutions, not Solomon's aggressive and bold aesthetic. This work has balls. It is unapologetic, confident, and in your face. It transforms architecture and space. When she left the field, Solomon wanted to unlearn the Swiss modernism she was taught. Put this in the context of work in the 60s and 70s; precise, refined, and modernist design spoke to the idea of expertise. Raw, hand-made, and "bad" work was counter-culture, rejecting the idea of expertise and authority.

What Solomon created, was indeed counter-culture. While it relied on modernist forms, it pushed them past the limitations of rigorous Swiss typography and commanded attention.

 

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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.

Time Time

I recently answered a question for a How magazine article about focus. Oddly, Michael Vanderbyl had just told me the best story about two international clients who insisted that he must, “f#%k us!” It was very important the he, “f#%k us very hard!” Only later, after several awkward silences did he realize they meant “focus.”

Time, of course, is at the heart of the issue. Is there enough time before the deadline to focus on a solution? Can you carve out time during the day to not be interrupted? Does the email requesting another pdf need to be answered immediately? For me, it’s easy. I can’t think about more than one thing at a time, and am rather dull witted. So I have no choice. I must concentrate with no distractions to solve any problem. I also realize that work expands to fill the time you give it. And nobody has run screaming into the path of a bus because they didn’t receive an email response about a paper issue. Time to think and concentrate uninterrupted is not a luxury; it’s a requirement, regardless of the profession.

Which brings us to this incredible promotion about Time designed by Massimo Vignelli and Peter Laundy fort Champion Paper in 1983. I’ve carted this promotion around with me since I received it in college. It’s a little dinged up, but one of the possessions I don’t allow away from my desk. And it took several hours today to photograph it, stitch the pages together in Photoshop, and post it to this blog. But, it’s important, so it deserved the time.

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.

The Rape of the Bear Logo

Typically, I don’t comment on design or events post-twentieth century. Today, however, I set this aside. I’m sure many of you have already received the AIGA Action Alert regarding the copyright infringement paradise logogarden.com. Bill Gardner writes beautifully about this at rockpaperink.com. He covers the issues far more eloquently than I could and clearly took notice of yesterday’s post on catchy headlines, “Love thy Logo, Charlatan, Huckster, Moron, Thief.” Bravo to Bill. Yes, logogarden.com, is a remarkable and audacious example of thievery. It’s also a fantastic teaching tool. Teaching why plagiarism is wrong is often like explaining calculus to a housecat. Some get it, others keep repeating, “but I never saw the original CBS eye logo.”

I’m especially proud that one of my best friends has the logo that is best represented. Michael Vanderbyl’s logo for the California Conservation Center is a classic example of flawless craft, message, and function. It’s one of those logos I could never imagine creating. My mind isn’t wired that intelligently. Obviously, the folks at the logo garden feel the same, and have cleverly re-used it as often as possible.

Following AIGA Executive Director, Ric Grefé, here is action all of us should take:

We believe the most powerful response we can make as a community is to demonstrate the profession’s outrage and the threat of clients’ legal action, if the rights to the design belong to the client. Several legal actions are already in process.

Your course of action, immediately:

Check logogarden.com for your own work using the “try it free” button.

If your creative work has been misappropriated, contact Williams (see below), contact your lawyer, contact your client and have your client contact his/her lawyer to make it clear that this is a violation of copyright law.

If your work is not on the site, contact Williams to make it clear that this represents illegal, unethical behavior; that it fails the basic test of decency, common sense or business acumen; and that it also exposes his customers to liabilities for copyright infringement.

Send a copy of your correspondence to copyright@aiga.org.

Three possible addresses to use for your correspondence:

LogoGarden, LLC
1011 Centre Road, Suite 322
Wilmington, DE 19805

John Williams
230 Halmerton Drive
Franklin, TN 37069

Email: service@logogarden.com

This is an issue that affects us all and is such an egregious case of violating creative rights that we must take action.

 

 

 

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.

The Customs Of The Barbarous And Civilized

I planned on taking photos of the good and awful outfits at the AIGA Bright Lights event. But, then I was sidetracked by the sight of the bar. Clearly, my drinking is getting in the way of my fashion photo-journalism (is that an oxymoron?). What I need is another person who follows me around and takes photos while I'm busy spilling cocktails on someone.

This year, the event called for cocktail attire, as opposed to black tie. Personally, I prefer the black tie option. It's nice to show respect for the Medalists who are honored for a lifetime of work. This year, however, I was relieved to not wear the tuxedo. When I tried it on for another event, it was like putting on a child's suit. I must have been ten pounds lighter when I bought it. I guess those Sunny Von Bulow dinners of martinis and ice cream sundaes were a bad idea. I was confused about the "cocktail attire" idea. Was this what I wear at home at cocktail hour? Pajamas? Fortunately, Michael Vanderbyl, the best dressed man in design, gave me the low-down. The other guests ranged from elegant and gorgeous, like Pam Williams, to clownish. Sorry, I won't name those people. I still need to work in this profession. But look for the tell all book ten years down the line.

 

Nitsche Didn't Say, "Design Gods are Dead"

There’s been an ongoing debate for a few years regarding design heroes. Some say the younger generation no longer needs or wants heroes, others argue that heroes are a vital part of our design experience. Personally, I cannot imagine my career without the inspiration and guidance of so many “hero” designers. In school, I looked at their work and tried to understand how they made something, and what I could take from that knowledge. When I graduated I followed the career paths already blazed by these designers. When we started AdamsMorioka, I turned to them for support and advice. Today, I show their work to my students. I do this, not so they can copy someone, but to show them different ways of thinking and making. I have never taught a class when someone did not say, "I never knew. I never thought about it that way."

Last night, I went to the AIGA Bright Lights event. This was previously the AIGA Design Legends Gala, but it was renamed this year. Brian Collins pointed out to me that Design Legends Evening sounded like a drag show in Las Vegas. Jennifer Morla, Steve Frykholm, and John Maeda were honored with the AIGA Medal. This event has always been like the best high school reunion you can imagine. It’s as if every single great friend you’ve had is in the same room. This is also a time when we celebrate and recognize the achievements in our profession. This may seem frivolous, insular, and self-congratulatory, but it isn’t. It’s vital that we support and celebrate one another. It elevates all of us and maintains our commitment to excellence and generosity.

I don’t want to live in a world where there are no heroes, where all designers have been deemed ordinary. What we do is a remarkable gift, unique to each of us. I want to look at someone’s work and be humbled. I want to be at an event and feel awkward meeting a famous designer. We need heroes for ourselves and for those outside our profession. Some are saying there are no heroes, that this is an idea of the past. But they simply do not know where to look.

John Maeda, AIGA Medal 2010

Jennifer's Body... of Work

Tomorrow, my wonderful friend Jennifer Morla is having an opening in San Francisco. I am trapped at my desk and will miss the fun, but at least I can talk about her here. Now I know, someone is probably muttering, “Why promote someone else? It should only be me, me, and me. I’m cranky.” In this instance, it’s obvious. If we looked at the work of Jennifer Morla alone, we should bow at her feet. Jennifer’s vision is so clear, and focused, its razor sharp. Her work is intensely energetic and unapologetic. It has a no holds barred approach paired with surgical finesse. And then, there’s Jennifer herself. She’s committed to the profession, an educator, and an industry leader. She is also a remarkable and rare friend. Whenever I feel tired and think, “I can’t take so and so out for dinner. It’s a Wednesday night.” I consider what Jennifer would do. She would ignore being tired and go to dinner. Which she has done for me many times.

On one visit to San Francisco for a speaking event at CCA, she, Clement Mok, and Michael Vanderbyl stayed up late on a Wednesday and took me to dinner. Afterward, Jennifer drove me to the CCA apartment. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the exact address. I only knew it had a steel door. We found a house that matched the description, and the key fit.

Once I opened the door, however, I realized I was in someone’s hallway. There were coats on a rack, little children shoes on the stairs, and umbrellas in a stand. I didn’t know if the CCA apartment was upstairs, or down the hall. I also, wasn’t convinced I hadn’t broken into someone’s house. I opened the door on the right; it was the garage. I opened the door on the left down the hall; it was a closet with clothes. At the end of the hall, the door opened onto a bedroom. Either this was the CCA apartment, or someone’s bedroom who wasn’t home yet.

I put my pajamas on and went to bed, hoping that I wasn’t sleeping as a surprise guest for a sleepy owner. Nobody ever came home, but I didn’t want to be discovered sleeping in their extra bedroom by the innocent family upstairs, so I left at 5:00am and waited for the sun to come up.

Jennifer is having an opening Friday, November 5th at 6pm at California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth Street, San Francisco.

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.

Warts and All

Noreen's and my office

I love visiting other designers when I travel. Michael Vanderbyl’s office is, as expected, immaculate and classic. Pentagram in New York is a hotbed of activity and energy. VSA in Chicago is deeply impressive. Each office is consistent with the designer’s personality. When I’ve asked designers for photos of their office for a book or magazine I don’t get them. It’s like pulling teeth. You’d think I asked for personal sex videos. Typically, it’s because everyone feels like they need to clean up and have a professional shoot done. Bit that’s not real, and everyone seeing the final images thinks, “I’m a pig.” So here is a visit to AdamsMorioka with all the mess exposed. I came in early today before everyone was in and things were flying all over. I didn’t clean up anything. This is the reality.

We’re in the Flynt Building in Beverly Hills. William L. Pereira & Associates designed the building in 1972. It started life as the Great Western Bank Building, hence the 21 foot John Wayne sculpture at the entrance. AdamsMorioka is on the 6th floor. We face west; we have a great view all the way to the beach. But we get afternoon sun directly for half the day, so when people ask me why I’m tan, it’s my office. I’d love to say we demand a clean desk and spotless tables, but I can’t hold to that, so I can’t make everyone else do it. The one aspect we couldn’t control was our sign; it matches the signs throughout the building. We even offered to design a news signage program for free to fix it, but someone in building management loves brass and Tiffany. My biggest concern is that it’s a fairly open space and everyone is forced to hear my music. It ranges from Rosemary Clooney to 100 Strings. Today, I’m playing American music like America the Beautiful. It’s a hardship for those who decide to work here. But it could be worse, well maybe not.

8484 Wilshire Blvd

The beautiful Tiffany typography

lobby wall of posters, we running out of space, so we hide the ugly ones

The lobby wall

Conference Room

The library wall

Some books

These are the good designers who come to work early

The Shah of Iran poster that looks over the crew

Noreen's side of the room, bitmapped so she won't hurt me

My desk this morning

Today's donuts Noreen brought to make us fat

The tiny kitchen

Riverboats and God

Memphis City seal

There is obviously an enormous amount of vernacular typography in Memphis. It's a treasure-chest of hand painted signs and funny placards. Walking to lunch with the other members of the Gang of Four (what I hear we've been called: Michael Vanderbyl, Dana Arnett, Jamie Koval, and our special guest, Bonnie Siegler) I came across this remarkable sign. A riverboat on a city seal, and a very cool shape; there is a God.

Riverboat detail

Door decal

I am not an animal

Living room, after

This is how I feel when I visit other designers’ houses: I usually feel like I live like an animal after I leave. Down the road, I’ll track down images of some of my favorites: Michael Vanderbyl’s Napa house, Debbie Millman’s slice of Palm Springs in Manhattan, Jennifer Morla in San Francisco, and others. But today, I only have photos of my own renovation. We moved into the house a couple of years ago. The family who built the house in 1954 lived there until we bought it. Fortunately, they had maintained most of the original qualities. Most of the renovations had to do with making things more functional, or better suited for the way we like to live. The most recent addition was the flagpole I got for Christmas last year for the lawn. Next up is the oddly enormous laundry room that is mysteriously bigger than the bedrooms. This comes in handy when I throw dirty dishes and laundry on the floor so I can really live like a wild animal.

Living room, after

Living room, Before

Kitchen, after

Kitchen, before

Kitchen, after

Kitchen, before

Den, after

Den, before

Back yard, after, with new flagpole

Back yard, before; the pool pump was dead

Pool equipment wall, after

Pool equipment wall, before