The Salacious Lives of Others

I'm in the middle of looking at the first cut of my new course on Lynda.com, Foundations of Graphic Design History, the Arts and Crafts Movement. We did this course because the Graphic Design History course was surprisingly successful. Many people asked for deeper dives into different subjects.

When I started the Arts and Crafts course, I expected beautiful typography, textiles, pattern, and architecture. Yes, that's all in there. But, I didn't expect the Vanity Fair version of the subject. In smarter hands, the course would have stayed on the serious track with simple names, dates, and insights. But, there was so much drama.

John Edward Millais, left

John Ruskin

John Edward Millais, Ophelia

Euphemia Chalmers Ruskin

Charles Dickens

For example, the writer, John Ruskin, was great friends with the painter, John Edward Millais, and supporter of the pre-Raphaelite movement. This ended after they took a trip together with Ruskin's wife, Euphemia, to Scotland. Euphemia and Millais began an affair. Ruskin then spent the rest of his life savagely attacking Millais publicly whenever possible.

Charles Dickens got in on the fun too, calling Millais’s painting “the lowest depths of what is mean, odious, repulsive and revolting”. 

Elbert Hubbard

May Morris

Roycroft Press

The Lusitania

Then there's Elbert Hubbard, who founded Roycroft Press in Aurora, New York. The founder of the Arts and Crafts movement was William Morris. Morris' daughter May visited the United States in the early 20th century, but refused to see Hubbard. She called him, "That obnoxious imitator of my father." Harsh. Soon after, Hubbard died when a German U-Boat sunk the Lusitania.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Fallingwater

The Headlines

And finally, the most dramatic was Frank Lloyd Wright's tragedy. After many years of marriage, Wright left his wife and children and ran off with a client's wife. Wright and Mamah Bothwick Cheney fled to Europe together. They returned to Wisconsin where Wright built Taliesen. In 1914 while Wright was away, a servant poured gasoline on the floor and lit a fire. When Mamah and six others ran from the house, he waited outside and killed them with an axe.

Sure, there is a huge amount of incredible work and the beginning of a profession. And, yes, we are in a parallel time dealing with new technologies and the loss of craft. But someone needs to write a television mini-series. On of the artists or designers must have said, at least once, "Which one of you bitches is my mother?"

"Which one of you bitches is my mother?" Lace, 1984

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.

The Friendly Swiss

Herbert Matter

There are two sayings in Hollywood that I like: "The ass you kick on the way up is the one you kiss on the way down," and "Blame others, take credit, deny everything." I know quite a few people that live by the motto of blame, credit, etc., and ignore the ass kicking advice. I've known fine designers who, after the first taste of fame, became heinous and awful divas making demands and driving kind conference organizers to tears. And I know fine designers who have been famous for years and are the first to wrestle credit away from others. My friend, John Bielenberg, suggested I start a magazine or blog that is like Vanity Fair of the design world, telling all the stories. That sounds fun, but I'd like to keep at least the few friends I still have.

Conversely, I am endlessly amazed at the down to earth, generous nature of some of the industries legends. 90% of them are just good people, willing to help others, devote time, and always have a funny story at dinner. From what I understand, Herbert Matter was one of the least pompous designers in the field. I've never heard anything that paints him as difficult or negative. From all accounts, he was a true mensch. You wouldn't expect that from his work. It's so brilliant and confident that the author would have all the right in the world to be a jerk. But, it's proof that either we as designers are, on the whole, pretty darned good. Or we're nitwits and falling behind while other in different professions claw, stab, and blackmail their way to the top.

Don't be alarmed, three "Herbert" stories in a row does not mean the next one will be about Herbert Hoover.

How to do good layout

Cover design options, Create magazine

A few  months ago, we were asked to look at a new magazine. Our good friend Tom Biederbeck was the editor, and a pleasure to work with. We solved the problem of the interior fairly quickly. The work would be prominent, colorful, and take center stage. The graphic language would be 2 color, minimal and extremely rigid. The headline font would change for each issue, using a recently designed typeface. I need to credit Marian Bantjes for some of the great thinking. I’ve found the cover design of a magazine to often be the political lightening rod of a project. We played with a variety of logos and cover layouts, and at one point suggested using portraits of a designer featured in each issue, ala Vanity Fair. Unfortunately, try as we might, none of us are George Clooney or Angelina Jolie

Feature design, Create magazine

Feature design, alternate headline font

Feature spread, alternate headline font

Feature spread

Cover design option

Cover design option

Cover design option, giant sell-lines

Cover design option, Michael Vanderbyl

Cover design option, Noreen Morioka, Marian Bantjes

Cover design option, Sean Adams, image by Blake Little

Vanity Fair magazine