I Go to The Hills

Every day I hike to the top of a hill in Griffith Park. I know this is very The Sound of Music, climbing a mountain in the fresh air and getting good exercise. I don't sing. There are other people hiking and that is scary.

My hiking trail

I will admit, with some fear, that I actually like The Sound of Music. There are good lessons here: face life's problem and climb every mountain, ford every stream, and have confidence in yourself when no-one else will, and think about your favorite things like brown paper packages tied up with string when you are sad.

What works in the movie is not the story about singing children. Like the Baroness, I think they should be sent off to school. It's Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews that keep it from slipping into too saccharine. 

I saw a production on Broadway of the revival and it sucked big time. Without Christopher Plummer or Julie Andrews it was sooooo sweet. It made me want to do something really vile and repulsive after too get off some of the gooey and cloying acting. Plummer has a slightly sardonic and edgy tone that says, "I may discipline any one of you severely with no warning." Andrews also reads as kind and firm, but maybe a little nasty. That's what saves it and makes it work; that injection of the negative in the midst of all the goodness.

And there is that filthy language. I'm sure everyone already knows this, but it happens when Maria returns to the Abbey and meets with the Mother Superior. Before singing Climb Every Mountain, Mother Superior asks, "What is it you cunt face?" That nun had some anger issues and it seems rather passive aggressive to slip that in when pretending to be helpful. 

Herb Lubalin, 1965



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.

On Being Plain

Every once in awhile, I get a hankerin’ to be taken seriously. I’ll see a critical theory article that deconstructs one of my friends’ work and think, “Maybe I should be doing that kind of work.” Envy is a terrible and pointless emotion. But then, I remember our mission. When we started AdamsMorioka in 1993, we wanted to go the opposite direction. There was so much desperate work then that screamed, “I’m serious! I have no sense of humor. I am only intended to be understood by a select group of intellectual theorists.” I wanted to be the Beach Boys, not Bauhaus (the band), Rodgers and Hammerstein, not Karen FinleySteven Speilberg, not Luis Buñuel. This doesn’t mean I'm anti-intellectual, or don't admire artists who push limits. I love things that are way out of the park. And I refuse to deny anyone the right to create whatever they desire. So, what does this mean?

Ed Fella said it best when he called my work American Pragmatism. It’s about being plain spoken and honest, not fancy and oblique. Maybe it’s because I'm from the West and can’t think differently. I'm interested in speaking to the broadest audience possible, making life a little better for them, and treating every other designer with respect and dignity. I'm not interested in excluding or demonizing others because they do work unlike mine. Everyone deserves to be celebrated and revered.

Now the funny part of this is that we both came out of a deeply theoretical education at CalArts. I can subvert, deconstruct, and pastiche with the best of them, but I do it with stealth. As long as the form is seductive, appealing, and aesthetic, I can pour in as much meaningor contradiction as needed. But, I'm human. When someone at a conference says, “You’re so funny. Everything you do is so cute.” This feels minimizing and I’m tempted to do that oblique and complex poster in the nude that nobody understands. Then I remember why I like plain and honest, something that has optimism and joy. So I leave you with these sentiments:

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” — Will Rogers

 “The world belongs to you as much as the next fellow. Don’t give it up.” — Rodgers and Hammerstein

 “T-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs. We've been having fun all summer long.” — Beach Boys

 “ET phone home.” —Steven Spielberg

Hoochee Koochee, Tootsie Wootsie

This may be hard to believe, but I don’t particularly like musicals. I’m a big Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, but that’s due to brainwashing at the ranch. I’m the type of person who fast-forwards over the singing sections of a movie. Last week, Meet Me in St. Louis was on television. I could live without the singing parts, and if I were the father and had a big promotion, I’d tell everyone to shut-up and start packing. The titles, however, had that saccharine and Technicolor “Gay Nineties” style. I love that. Flourishes and fancy frames need a revival. I’ve slipped them in here and there, but nobody particularly loves them—yet. However, there is hope. Last week’s Milner Gray post was passed around all over the web. Maybe it’s that time; the time when fancy frames, Victorian pink and yellow houses, old fire trucks, and handlebar mustaches come back into fashion.

Cockeyed Optimist

19 The Sermon

20 You'll Never Walk Alone

Some weeks are just plain hard. I know I've had a difficult week, when I find myself listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein albums. Oh, and drinking heavily, too. Many of you already know that when we were at the ranch growing up, the only records we had to play were Rodgers and Hammerstein records in my grandmother's den. The lyrics had an evil way of knitting themselves into my head. So now, when I feel really crappy, one of those lyrics pops into my head: When you walk through a storm, keep your chin up high, climb every mountain, don't worry about others not liking you, just try liking them, and you'll never walk alone are the bits of advice I tell myself. But don't knock it until you've tried it. There's nothing wrong with a little pep talk. And when you're feeling a little beat, play some Rodgers and Hammerstein. And when you're really, really beat, listen to The Sermon from Carousel (above).