Fearful Symmetries

Guests visiting AdamsMorioka for the first time are often disgusted. William Pereira designed our building in 1969 as the Great Western Savings and Loan headquarters. Today it is the headquarters for Flynt Publications. The classic mid-century aesthetic has evolved into a lush “Las Vegas casino” style. I’ve grown to embrace the beautiful silk flower arrangement on each elevator lobby and the faux-marble elevator walls. The disgust our guests experience comes from our door sign. Clearly Tiffany Heavy and Optima are not expected here.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the “black rock.” The New York headquarters for CBS designed by Eero Saarinen in 1962. The signage for the building is a flawless version of Didot. Lou Dorfsman commissioned a new version of the font specifically for CBS. This served as the corporate typeface for over a decade. As designers, we disagree on many issues: Fillmore posters sucked or ruled, modernism is over or relevant, AdamsMorioka does vapid and fun or smart and seductive. I don’t think anyone would argue, however, that the CBS Didot signage and collateral is remarkable.

Think of it this way: a client asks you to do a signage program, a designer in your office suggests Didot, what would you say? If I weren’t aware of the CBS program, I’d probably say, “Are you out of your mind? Do you really think that’s legible? Who is going to fabricate these letterforms and not break the very thin parts of the letters? Get the hell out of my office! In fact, leave for good.” Actually, I probably wouldn’t say that. I’m the nice one. Noreen would say it.

Warts and All

Noreen's and my office

I love visiting other designers when I travel. Michael Vanderbyl’s office is, as expected, immaculate and classic. Pentagram in New York is a hotbed of activity and energy. VSA in Chicago is deeply impressive. Each office is consistent with the designer’s personality. When I’ve asked designers for photos of their office for a book or magazine I don’t get them. It’s like pulling teeth. You’d think I asked for personal sex videos. Typically, it’s because everyone feels like they need to clean up and have a professional shoot done. Bit that’s not real, and everyone seeing the final images thinks, “I’m a pig.” So here is a visit to AdamsMorioka with all the mess exposed. I came in early today before everyone was in and things were flying all over. I didn’t clean up anything. This is the reality.

We’re in the Flynt Building in Beverly Hills. William L. Pereira & Associates designed the building in 1972. It started life as the Great Western Bank Building, hence the 21 foot John Wayne sculpture at the entrance. AdamsMorioka is on the 6th floor. We face west; we have a great view all the way to the beach. But we get afternoon sun directly for half the day, so when people ask me why I’m tan, it’s my office. I’d love to say we demand a clean desk and spotless tables, but I can’t hold to that, so I can’t make everyone else do it. The one aspect we couldn’t control was our sign; it matches the signs throughout the building. We even offered to design a news signage program for free to fix it, but someone in building management loves brass and Tiffany. My biggest concern is that it’s a fairly open space and everyone is forced to hear my music. It ranges from Rosemary Clooney to 100 Strings. Today, I’m playing American music like America the Beautiful. It’s a hardship for those who decide to work here. But it could be worse, well maybe not.

8484 Wilshire Blvd

The beautiful Tiffany typography

lobby wall of posters, we running out of space, so we hide the ugly ones

The lobby wall

Conference Room

The library wall

Some books

These are the good designers who come to work early

The Shah of Iran poster that looks over the crew

Noreen's side of the room, bitmapped so she won't hurt me

My desk this morning

Today's donuts Noreen brought to make us fat

The tiny kitchen