Perhaps it was raining very hard

Richard Brautigan and Michaela le Grand, 1967

People are contradictory. They are liberal and conservative, optimistic and cynical, and angry and happy. It would be so much easier to be one thing, like a character on a TV show. But we are trapped in this conflict. I like to think of myself as a good American: patriotic, love of country, remembering the good times when you spent a day fishing and eating apple pie from the window ledge. But, I also have that other side, the counter-culture anti-establishment thing. Maybe it’s from being a child in the Haight in the 1960s, or maybe I’m just weird. But it works for me.

Richard Brautigan is one of my favorite authors. Granted the work is haaaaard to get through. In Watermelon Sugar is not an easy idea to understand, but oh so beautiful. There is that revolutionary approach that says, “I am not interested in the right way. This is my experience.” I love that. So if you have some extra several weeks on hand and plenty of mind-altering substances, I suggest a walk on the wrong side of the street and Richard Brautigan. How can you not love someone who said, ““I have always wanted to write a book that ended with the word ‘mayonnaise.”

I will be very careful the next time I fall in love, she told herself. Also, she had made a promise to herself that she intended on keeping. She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive or fun they could be. They weren’t worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it. She wanted her next lover to be a broom.” ― Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout

“I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.”

“He created his own Kool Aid reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.”

“Excuse me, I said. I thought you were a trout stream.

I’m not, she said.”

Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America

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.

The People's Post

  NOLA, No. 16

A couple of years ago, somebody went on a rant on a website about the graphic design profession. This person named a batch of designers, myself included, who they considered the establishment that was holding him or her down. They insisted that the time was coming soon when we would all be the first ones lined up against the wall. I rather liked the idea that I would be put in front of a firing squad because I had the wrong group of friends, or perhaps used Franklin Gothic one too many times.

I've been reading Geoff Kaplan's book, Power to the People. Now to remind everyone, I was not raised on Nantucket, I lived on the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park at the height of the counter-culture movement (1965-1970). Don't get too excited, I was in pre-school. This exposure to radical revolutionary ideas and eccentric characters has left me with a mistrust of anything named "People." People's Park, People's Bank, People's Taxi and People's Co-op are simply code for socialism. Yes, now you know so be careful with the organic food from "People's Farms". I did, however like Geoff's book.

There is wonderful collection of underground design created by civilians. They rejected the look of expertise, Swiss typography, and Madison Avenue gloss, as part of the establishment. The proliferation of cheap reproduction technologies and DIY materials like Letraset allowed non-designers to create work that was concerned with the message over form. We look at this work now as quaint and naive. It has the same sentimental sense of nostalgia as a handmade book of recipes from a church bake sale. It is, however, hard to ignore the intensity of belief displayed here. The raw expression isn't tainted by a decorative or professional graphic design veneer. But, most of these people were probably socialists.

Sean, 1967, San Francisco

img014 img012 img013 img010 NOLA img015 img011

The 59th Street Bridge Song

Hills Bros. Coffee Menu

Last week, the crew in the studio allowed me to link to the stereo system and play music from my library. After a few hours of easy listening after the Longines Symphonette played Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, it was disconnected. Now there is a ban on my hip tunes. In the same vein, I can prove I'm super groovy by sharing these out of this world pieces from Disneyland in the late 60s and early 70s. You might think, "Oh, Disneyland. How square." But check it out dude, this stuff is rocking. Who knew wacky duo-tones and overprinting could be so swell?

Now if we deconstruct the genesis of this style we land in a place about counter-culture mind-altering drug use. I'm sure some guests insisted on taking psychotropic substances and riding Alice in Wonderland. I remember smelling pot in Adventure Thru Inner Space when I was a teenager. I once had a friend suggest we all go to Disneyland and get high. I said no of course. That just sounds un-American. But, I have collected the cool and happening graphics. I'm groovy.

Hills Bros. Coffee Menu
Show logo
Grad Nite  1971
Grad Nite 1971
Disneyland Cookbook, late 1960s
Disneyland Bag
Vacationland, 1981
Grad Nite 1970
Grad Nite 1975
Grad Nite 1971
Grad Nite 1971
Grad Nite 1968

Walking in Space

I’m pretty sure people are who they are when they are born. My parents were firmly entrenched in the counter-culture movement. I refused to wear jeans when I was 4 because they were what those “dirty people” wore. It sounds kind of prissy to me now. I liked grey flannel trousers like my grandfather’s. When I was 8, my mother started giving rides to hitchhiking hippies. “Mom,” I would plead, “This is illegal. They might be ax murderers.”

In particular, there was a hippie lesbian couple with three kids who were always hitchhiking on their way to Lake Tahoe or Truckee. Once a week, we’d see them standing near the entrance ramp and pick them up. I was sure they had kidnapped the kids, had dope in their bags, and probably committed countless other crimes. My mother insisted they weren’t ax murderers and I should be polite to everyone.

So I sat in the back of the station wagon with a peace sticker on the window, wearing my trousers and button down shirt, shocked by the free spirit of the hitchhiking family. I’m sure they thought my parents must have kidnapped me from an uptight square family.

The East Village Other, February 1971

Welcome to the World of Love

I was pulling together some postings from this blog yesterday for a book Steven Heller is writing. This led me to discover a predominance of posts about counter-culture in the 1960s. Who knew? I’m really square, so I found this odd. Nevertheless, I decided to avoid posts in this vein for a while. Then I found this Call for Entries for the New York Art Directors Club (now the Art Directors Club). Peter Max designed it in 1964. Yes, this is about counter-culture, specifically the psychedelic experience. The collage device refers to Victorian decoupage, Picasso, Matisse, and the Dada movement. The booklet could fall into the trap that much of today’s “collage” approach does, a mishigas of more mishigas.

The strict use of typography and tight composition, however, give it gravity and allows the imagery to take center stage. The spread with the Victorian people looking at the psychedelic cloud is remarkable. It is such a simple juxtaposition, but alludes to so many issues, including the Victorian taste for psychotropic drugs such as opium (see Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). Allusions aside, the composition is about wonder and different perspectives. So, you see, I had to post another one about counter-culture.

Being Not Square

I have never taken Lysergic acid diethylamide, or acid as they say on the street. I don’t endorse revolution (except for our original one in 1776). I don’t own any clothing with fringe or tie-dye. I get up every day, go to work, pay taxes, and keep my front yard neat. I am square. I’m the establishment. But, as you know, I did spend formative years in the Haight during the late 1960s. My parents were never pleased that I ended up so square, but they would be pleased that I love counter-culture culture. I love the colors, the attitude, the optimism, and the naïveté.

In San Francisco, in the late 1960s, a group of counter-culture characters formed the Diggers. This group was a theater troupe and endorsed a non-capitalist society without money. They provided free food service in the Panhandle every day, arranged places for homeless hippie teens to “crash”, and opened a series of “Free Stores”. They gave free concerts with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. The Diggers are the originators of some of your favorite sayings: "Do your own thing" and "Today is the first day of the rest of your life". The Digger Bread, which was baked in coffee cans at the Free Bakery, popularized whole-wheat bread.

The Diggers did not "fall apart," they evolved and integrated with other groups: The Free Bakery, the Gypsy Truckers, and my favorite Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers, and became the Free Family.

Arthur magazine provided some new knowledge to me about the posters and broadside. Novelist and poet Chester Anderson and his protégé Claude Hayward, created the “Communication Company,” or more commonly, “Com/Co.” According to Claude, the broadsides were “handed out on the street, page by page, super hot media, because the reader trusted the source, which was another freaky looking hippie who had handed it to him/her.” This quite possibly was my mother or father.

My father was a pinko hippie. And I liked that.

Sherman Adams, high school, before the 60s, 1959

My dad was a character. I was talking to my brother, Ian, yesterday, and he said, “I think Dad was really crazy or super cool.” He had found a photo of my dad taken the year before he died. Admittedly, he was odd looking by then. He had a big shock of white hair like Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future and a modified Fu Man Chu beard. And my dad was incredibly smart. He was a program designer back in the 1960s and 70s, and one of those people that talked about a Googolplex, a numeral with 1 and 100 zeros following. Granted his conversations tended toward the binary, “Yes,” and “No.” I liked the fact that my dad was counterculture from 1960 to the day he died.

Non-student narc and teachers pet, c.1969

These pages from an underground magazine circa 1969 or 1970 were thumbtacked to my dad's bedroom wall for most of my life. The “Of the Faith Teachers Pets” page describes the alleged spying on liberal faculty and students at University of Washington, Brigham Young University, and Fairleigh Dickinson University by individuals posing as R.O.T.C. cadets, and in the case of Linda Hobbie, as an undergraduate. The caption under Ms. Hobbie’s image reads, “Non-student Narc.” The addition of Kaiser Wilhelm is a delicate touch.

Wanted, c.1969

The “Wanted” page describes an episode when the secret service investigated Chuck Popke, pictured above. Popke had written, “Johnson’s war in Vietnam makes America puke,” on the back of an envelope that was intercepted by the secret service. The inset image is President Lyndon Johnson showing a surgical scar. The secret service agent defended the government’s action against Popke, “If enough people puked on the President, it would kill him.”