The Paper Trail

Paper promotions are the first items to be discarded every time I’ve judged a competition. The other judges typically say, “Well, they don’t count. You can do anything you want.” Oddly, that’s not true. There is a client with specific needs, audience goals, budgets, and logistical issues. So when the other judges say that I want to knock them up the side of the head. I will admit, however, that working on projects for Mohawk Via is my favorite activity. There are so may moving parts between the concept and technical issues. I need demonstrate multiple printing situations on multiple papers. The most recent project that will hit the streets in a few weeks, Mohawk Via Paper and Printing, used 20 forms, each with different inks. I love piecing it all together to take best advantage of the presses.

One of the reasons I love working on Via is Mohawk’s commitment to sustainable practices and education. The most important aspect in making something sustainable is to make something useful that will be kept. The Mohawk Via materials have always been educational. There are no fancy photos of a flower for no reason. They are textbooks on printing and paper.

Mohawk Via Paper and Printing started with the idea of making a satirical sex education manual, but about printing. It was a cute idea, but quickly became apparent that it was a one-liner joke. It was getting in the way of the purpose of the piece—to provide printing solutions and examples. Around the same time, I visited Virginia. I found a unique American point of view in the art, architecture, and design at Williamsburg, Monticello, and the Virginia Historical Society.

This American point of view: expansiveness, honesty, plain speaking, compassion, diversity, and courage tied in perfectly with the attributes of Mohawk Via. So the final piece moved in that direction. The sex ed manual might have been funny, but the Albert Bierstadt painting on the Via Smooth page is sublime. The final version will be in inventory on October 18th at

No More Waitin' for the Robert E. Lee

One of my bizarre obsessions is riverboats. I don’t particularly want to take a ride on a new casino riverboat in St. Louis, but I’d be fine taking a riverboat cruise in 1850 up the Mississippi. I’ve found a repeating motif of riverboats in illustrations between 1950 and 1960. They were used on ads for pharmaceutical products, handkerchiefs, posters, and wallpaper. If the riverboat craze happened in 1940 it would make sense. Gone With the Wind was released in 1939, and all things antebellum south were the cat’s pajamas. Perhaps the 1950s trend with riverboats had something to do with the nostalgia for a simpler time when atomic warfare was a constant worry.

Maybe that’s my issue too. Noreen keeps telling me, “Sean, it’s not 1955. The Soviet Union is not planning a strike. You can stop digging that bomb shelter.” Or, maybe I just like the way these riverboats look. Like Mark Twain said, "Riverboats look like floating wedding cakes." In the past few months I’ve been able to use riverboats on two projects. I made one for my lecture poster for AIGA Orange County, and I used a wonderful painting of another riverboat in the latest Mohawk Via promotion (to be released soon).

Scary Monsters and Super Imitation Leather

Each time I begin working on an identity project, I think, “Wait, let’s not make a logo, let’s make a mascot.” Most of the time, common sense weighs in, but I’ve actually made it as far as the first presentation. Mr. M. TV, and Sunny Sundance didn’t get any further, but Verbenia Via for Mohawk, and Mr. Cecil for Mr. Cecil’s Ribs became real. The Nauga Monster for Naugahyde is a mascot and a toy. In the 1960s, George Lois proposed the mythical Nauga as part of the advertising campaign to distinguish Naugahyde from its competitors. At the last minute before the launch, the legal department became concerned that people would be confused and think the Nauga was a real animal. Fortunately, people are smarter than house cats (who would frankly also know it was fake).