Girl Midget

You might find this hard to believe, but I love Gidget. Here’s the quick synopsis: Gidget wants to learn to surf, but girls don’t surf so nobody will teach her. She persists and finally becomes part of the gang. She’s not busty, blonde and tall like the other women on the beach, so the boys think of her as their kid sister. All types of high-jinx occur as Gidget navigates the wacky world of high-school, Southern California, and surfing. There was a movie with Sandra Dee, then others where Gidget goes to Hawaii, Rome, other places, and then the TV show with Sally Field.

The Gidget movie has a good title sequence, but I’m not so keen on the Sandra Dee Gidget. There’s something wrong with her; she’s just too jumpy. I suspect enormous amounts of coffee before hitting the beach. If she were my child, I’d send her to rehab in Malibu or, at least, sedate her with Nyquil. Sally Field, however, has the right amount of cute with less frenetic nervous energy. She has a snappy style, is nice, and tries really hard to be a good surfer. Then there is the real Gidget, Kathy Kohner, who inspired the character. She's badass in real life, smoking, surfing, and eating crackers at the beach.

Kathy Kohner, 1957

Kathy Kohner, 1957

I love the fake surfing scenes. Her best friend LaRue is a wonderful sidekick. Gidget already has learned that you should hang out with someone less attractive and dowdy and you’ll look better. The title sequence must have cost 49 cents, and stole the type from I Dream of Jeannie. But how can you not love Gidget’s cute facial expressions and costume choices? For those who aren’t Gidget aficionados, Gidget is a mix of Girl and Midget, hence Gidget.

Gidget and LaRue

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.

Shooting the Tube

There is a huge difference between a dull photograph of Yosemite Valley and an Ansel Adams photo. Adams didn't photograph Yosemite Valley, he shot the weather in the valley.

Left: Carleton Watkins, Right: Ansel Adams

In the same way, there is a lot of bad surfing photography. It's the same shot over and over, someone tube-riding shot from below. LeRoy Grannis' photos, however, are good, really good, surfing photos. They are not the same shot over and over. Beside the obvious issues of lighting, composition, color, and content, Grannis' images work because they are not photos of surfing. He photographs the people surfing. The images are about culture and community. They objectively depict the surf community in the 1960s and 70s. This separates the work from traditional sports photography. The action is the backdrop to the individuals in the frame.

They also work because everyone is super groovy, even the elderly spectators with bitchin' sunglasses.

Primo Posters

This is something I learned when I moved back to Los Angeles from New York: in New York, you are respected for hard work. You talk about how busy and overworked you are. In Los Angeles, you never let anyone think you’re working too hard. You’re respected for making it all seem effortless, and having time to relax. The reality is that most everyone is working the same amount in both places. As John Baldessari said, “The only difference between Los Angeles and New York is 3 hours.” This difference, however, creates a communication gap. When I talk to friends in New York and they tell me how stressed they are, I think, “Boy, they work hard, too bad they can’t do it by the pool.” Alternatively, when they talk to me they think, “What a stoner.”

Since I don’t want anyone to think of me as a surf stoner, I’ve held back on some of my favorite items, surf movie posters from the 1960s. But, my insecurities should not deprive everyone of these fantastic items. I love the naïveté, and rawness of these. I love that they were movies shown at high school auditoriums. These posters communicate a clear sense of passion and community. There is no underlying presence of product placement. This is when design works. When it is authentic and betrays the sense of joy that the designer had when making it.