They Always Come Back

It's hard to goof up a project that has a great subject, say a collection of Edward Stieglitz photographs or catalogue for MOMA. Sure you could mess it up by setting the entire thing in Curlz, but that rarely happens. So I recently decided that a project about something boring would be a better challenge for students. Make something amazing from something dull or disturbing. 

At the beginning of each term, I go to the used bookstore in North Hollywood and buy the most unsexy books I can find. Yes I get odd looks when I bring my stack of books to the counter. Last time I had 15 books on various subjects: The Book of Cats, Star Trek Compendium, John Nash and Game Theory, The Films of Judy Garland, NASCAR, MTV Video Music Awards 1992, and Puppy Potty Training Made Easy.

My favorite was The Art of Sensual Massage published in 1972. I forgot it in the back of my friend Erica's car, which proved awkward when her teenage son and a friend discovered it. It's a slice of time. The first thing I noticed, after the terrifying type, was how "natural" everyone was. Hair care in many body areas seems "casual". Then there is the decor. I want that room: a Mucha poster, spider plant, ferns, macrame, and rattan chair. There is even a chess set and candles.

The book is actually pretty good, except for the "Massaging Children" section. This seems wrong. I might be prudish, but I believe being massaged by your naked mother may cause later emotional issues. This is the copy: Children enjoy massage most at the end of the day when they're tired and slowed down. If your child jumps up in the middle of a stroke let it go. They always come back.

Of course you would wait until they're too tired to fight back. They jump up because they are desperate to get away. And they always come back due to Stockholm Syndrome.

The Art of Sensual Massage, 1972

The doll under the poster. Why?

The chess set and candles

Pirate bird and massage

This is wrong. Yes, I'm uptight.

This is Stockholm Syndrome

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/ 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.

Type of Tomorrow

I’m often asked, “Sean, what’s the future of design?” Fortunately, I know. I specifically know the future of screen-based design. I’ve seen it on television. There are several options.

If you prefer a future that is run-down and multi-cultural, Blade Runner shows us how to mix corporate identity and Japanese Kanji. LA Eyeworks is still in business, and the Los Angeles Police Department has hired a designer with a retro-digital outlook. For those preferring a modernist future, 2001: A Space Odyssey articulates a future with a nice and consistent on-screen typographic palette. Courier and OCRA are still all the rage. Many screens are now vertical to better see tall people.

Modernism still dominates in the 24th century on Star Trek, The Next Generation. Akzidenz Grotesk Medium Condensed has been determined as the only acceptable typeface, and tablet shapes are de rigueur. Screen based typography on the latest Star Trek movie has the problem of over-using Microgramma. However, any use of Microgramma is over-usage. In this future, we are obviously able to digest enormous amounts of information on screen with tiny type. Luckily, everyone seems to be under 30 and tech-savvy.

This is what I now know: if you are a designer in the future, you may be asked to use Microgramma or fill the screen with trivial information. Just say no.