An Encyclopedic Photographic Memory of Ephemera

I enjoy accusing others of illiteracy. “Don’t you people read?” I ask my students. “If you’d read the copy, you’d understand why the image works,” I say to clients, but in a nicer way. “For the love of God put down that iPhone and get a book,” I tell my niece and nephews. Then I find I am as guilty of the same sin.

I have a book about the 1964 World’s Fair. I’ve never read it. I do, however, know each and every illustration, color palette, and photograph in the book. Who knows what it is about? I’m too distracted by the tiny drawings on divider pages. To make matters worse, I deconstruct the meaning of the imagery. And I make odd connections that require an encyclopedic photographic memory of ephemera. Fortunately, I have this. For example, the overview of the Fair is surprisingly similar to the layout of Epcot, which is a sort of permanent world’s fair (or beer walk, depending on your interest.) Finally, the color palette for the fair preview images is exactly the same as the preview book for Walt Disney World, published a few years later. Coincidence? You be the judge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Slow Descent into Madness

I imagine being an interior designer is a hard job. So many people seem to have revolting taste. How do you tell a client that the orange deep shag carpeting and gold columns are tacky? As graphic designers, we face the same issue with typography. I’ve worked with clients who have the most beautifully designed offices, filled with Mies van der Rohe and Eames furniture. But, they invariably pull out a horrible piece of typography and suggest that for the logo. It isn’t the client’s fault; they don’t have the same OCD issues around a correct serif resolution that we do.

For my entire career, I’ve been a typographic purist. We managed to maintain with a handful of tried and true standards. We avoided trendy fonts and anything slightly degenerated or techno. In the past year, however, things have changed. We recently used ITC Avant Garde as a starting point on a wordmark. We re-purchased it, because I deleted it from every computer a decade ago. Last week, I designed a poster for our twentieth anniversary with ITC Bookman Swash Italic. What’s next, clown outfits for everyone at the studio? Linen paper?!

Once, when a client showed me a brochure with Avant Garde, I explained that this was the same as wall-to-wall green shag carpeting. Alternatively, Univers was a fine, tasteful, and well-made area rug. If I’ve accepted ITC Bookman, have I moved into liking Harvest Gold appliances? Is that so wrong? Perhaps the severity of my rules needs to be examined.

When not choking is good

Tomorrow, Thursday December 6, at 11am PST, 2:00 pm EST I'll be hosting a webcast about AIGA's 100 year history. "Boy, Sean," you say, "That sounds as interesting as a lecture about the history of the UAW." And, if it weren't for the incredible images, you might be correct. The difference is the design solutions created by the nation's leading designers over a century. They didn't design an ordinary poster or publication. These pieces ended up in the hands of their peers, and we know that designers often can have opinions. I've had the experience of asking a designer to create something for AIGA, and then watch them choke. There is something about the pressure that all of your friends, enemies, and heroes will see it. That's understandable. But, the opposite is true. When they succeed they create work that is often some of the best pieces of their career. So, if you want to see some pretty nifty design, and you don't mind listening to me blather on about history, join intomorrow, http://www.aiga.org/webcast-100-years/.

 

 

 

On Being Plain

Every once in awhile, I get a hankerin’ to be taken seriously. I’ll see a critical theory article that deconstructs one of my friends’ work and think, “Maybe I should be doing that kind of work.” Envy is a terrible and pointless emotion. But then, I remember our mission. When we started AdamsMorioka in 1993, we wanted to go the opposite direction. There was so much desperate work then that screamed, “I’m serious! I have no sense of humor. I am only intended to be understood by a select group of intellectual theorists.” I wanted to be the Beach Boys, not Bauhaus (the band), Rodgers and Hammerstein, not Karen FinleySteven Speilberg, not Luis Buñuel. This doesn’t mean I'm anti-intellectual, or don't admire artists who push limits. I love things that are way out of the park. And I refuse to deny anyone the right to create whatever they desire. So, what does this mean?

Ed Fella said it best when he called my work American Pragmatism. It’s about being plain spoken and honest, not fancy and oblique. Maybe it’s because I'm from the West and can’t think differently. I'm interested in speaking to the broadest audience possible, making life a little better for them, and treating every other designer with respect and dignity. I'm not interested in excluding or demonizing others because they do work unlike mine. Everyone deserves to be celebrated and revered.

Now the funny part of this is that we both came out of a deeply theoretical education at CalArts. I can subvert, deconstruct, and pastiche with the best of them, but I do it with stealth. As long as the form is seductive, appealing, and aesthetic, I can pour in as much meaningor contradiction as needed. But, I'm human. When someone at a conference says, “You’re so funny. Everything you do is so cute.” This feels minimizing and I’m tempted to do that oblique and complex poster in the nude that nobody understands. Then I remember why I like plain and honest, something that has optimism and joy. So I leave you with these sentiments:

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” — Will Rogers

 “The world belongs to you as much as the next fellow. Don’t give it up.” — Rodgers and Hammerstein

 “T-shirts, cut-offs, and a pair of thongs. We've been having fun all summer long.” — Beach Boys

 “ET phone home.” —Steven Spielberg

Art Direction

 

There is a rather severe difference of opinion about using a cliché in the design world. I like them. They are clichés because we all understand them. As long as the idea is presented in an unexpected way, it’s all good with me. An arrow is cliché. “Oh, Sean,” I’ve heard, “Arrows are so 20th-century.” But, why be oblique and complicated when it is so easy to point someone in the right direction?

Arrows are wonderful because they are symbols that command. The viewer is not being asked, “Would you prefer to turn right, perhaps?” An arrow screams, “TURN RIGHT! TURN NOW!” How many other symbols can do that? Lester Beall introduced me to the wonderful world of arrows. Not, Lester, personally, but through Lou Danziger’s vast historical knowledge. At a time when design was racing faster toward more is more with less and less clarity, the arrow was a revelation. The zeitgeist of that time was , "make less with more." I wanted to make more with less (follow me? More meaning, less stuff.). I could put an arrow on a poster next to a headline and the viewer would read this first. Who knew?

Unfortunately, arrows are a temptation. Like all wonderful things, too much is not good. Judicious usage is needed. As Groucho Marx said: “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charm Lesson 1: Flattery

It is easy to tell a friend or new acquaintance that he or she has a nice shirt. But, even the most sophisticated man or woman can say this and appear insincere. Flattery is a cornerstone of charm. It is said that flattery is the devil’s tool. And used for selfish personal gain, it is. The secret to successful flattery is sincerity. Almost everyone, with the exception of those truly hideous or unkempt people, has an attribute that can be complimented.

Complimenting a haircut is always a good bet, if the haircut is indeed attractive. It’s a given that all people with hair have had a haircut at some point. Noticing that a friend has had a haircut lets them know you care enough to notice they have had a haircut. This also reinforces the decision he or she made when determining the hair-cut. It’s a win-win solution for everyone.

I find it best to tell a person something true. If you like Cricket’s blouse, tell her. Most people are too scared to say anything; you’ll stand out. It’s hard to dislike someone who has given you a compliment. But you must say the compliment in a sincere way, and when first greeting someone or saying goodbye. For example, at the end of a lunch when everyone is parting, reach over, touch the person on the arm and say discretely, “That is really a snappy tie.” If you sit through lunch quietly staring at them, and then blurt out suddenly, “I like your tie,” it will sound creepy and you may seem like a serial killer.

Flattery can backfire if you are not careful. I once mentioned to a woman who usually wore a hat that her hairstyle was attractive. I offended her as she had quite thin hair, and thought I was making fun of her. In actuality, I wish I had been, and now can use this as a backhanded compliment.

Good Flattery Subjects:

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Flattery Subjects:

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Giving

People send me things. Sometimes they're great, like a thank you box of wine from AIGA Orange County. We're now using the box as the stockade for dolls. Or, they send funny images such as these. Alternatively, they are odd and disturbing, as in: please don't Photoshop my head into your family photos. I have no common theme for these images today, beside the fact they are all kind and thoughtful gifts. I've been sitting on them for awhile. I'm sorry about the motorcycle bumper sticker. It's so bizarre, I had to share it.

Religion and Penises

 

How to Teach a Donkey

My normal routine in the morning is to eat breakfast and watch the news. I switch between CNN, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. This morning, I was derailed and accidentally tuned into How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. How to Stuff a Wild Bikini is one of the teenage movies from American International Pictures, also responsible for Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, etc. In the 1950s, AIP was the studio behind the teenage science fiction and horror movies such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and Teenage Cave Man. As a side note, the original title for Clueless was I Was a Teenage Teenager. In the 1960s, they focused on beach movies. The 1970s saw drugs, gangs, and blaxploitation films.

The Beach movies are awful, but hypnotic. How can they not be? They have Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, teenagers is very scanty bathing suits, bad musical numbers, motorcycle gangs, fake surfing, and slapstick comedy with Buster Keaton. The posters follow the same less than subtle approach. Albert Kallis designed many of the remarkable 1950s AIP posters. I often say the right way to communicate is like teaching a donkey; first hit it over the head with a two-by-four. Then give it the message. These posters do this in spades.

I understand good taste movie campaigns like Lincoln. The poster is minimal and states, “This is a serious masterpiece, and this is an Academy Award movie.” The other side of the coin is the blunt approach.

Good marketing and advertising typically works when the viewer is given a command: Just do it, Enjoy Coke, Think Different. The Kallis posters do this and more. Often they listed the commands on terms of seeing: See strangest of all rites in the temple of love! See earth attacked by flying saucers! AIP posters in the 1970s were never subtle, but I’ll watch a film that promises, “Shamelessly loaded with sex and violence,” and “She’s brown sugar and spice, but if you don’t treat her nice, she’ll put you on ice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unsinkable Brown

Recently, a client asked for brown as a color option on a project. A couple of years ago, I would have resisted. But, brown has slowly been creeping into my mind. First, I found myself admiring the brown tile at the Honolulu Airport. Then, I decided I should move away from my earthquake safe Melmac dinnerware. So, I bought several settings of Heath Ceramics dinnerware.

The Heath colors are subtle, subtle and subtle. Seeing one brown combined with cream or tan plate convinced me that brown could be alright. Some of my favorite design solutions are brown. Does this mean I'm mellowing, or developing, God forbid, good taste? I still resist any attempt to put brown in bathrooms. Brown wall, tiles, fixtures, or accessories should never be used there. I won't go into details, but how do you know if someone previously had an "episode" in the bathroom if everything isn't bright white?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberty and Freedom in Grids

I like odd grids. How’s that for a catchy opening at a cocktail party? Probably not too good. Nevertheless, complicated and unexpected grids are wonderful. One of my favorite examples is the structure for the book, The World of Franklin and Jefferson, created for the exhibition of the same name. United States Information Agency and the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration proposed the exhibition with funding from IBM. The exhibit toured New York, Paris, Warsaw, London, Mexico City, Chicago, and Los Angeles and was one of the last major works completed by the Eames Office. The accompanying book’s structure is, let’s be honest, bizarre. There are almost no margins. The italic captions have their own column in the center of the page. The images seem to invade the text like wild animals. Clearly, there is a structure under here I do not understand. But I love it. It’s a world of wackadoodle grids. Now, that’s a good title for a new design book.

 

 

 

The Circle of Life Part II

As it’s Election Day, and almost every man in my family line was a politician, I’m posting about someone who went down another path. Chester Alan “Gavin” Arthur III was President Chester Alan Arthur’s grandson. His grandmother, Ellen Lewis Herndon Arthur is one of the family members who looks exactly like my mother. After President Arthur died, his son, Chester Alan Arthur II withdrew from Columbia Law School and sailed for Europe. He then spent his life mingling with the social elite of Europe and America. He was interested in horses, women, and fine cuisine. He owned a 250,000-acre ranch in Colorado, but never dirtied his hands with actual work. Oddly, I’ve found this to be a pattern with a large portion of family members.

Conversely, his son, Chester Alan Arthur III rejected the elegant living and embraced political and social issues. In his 20s, he joined the Irish Republican Movement. In 1930, he founded the magazine, Dune Forum, which promoted communication between the masses and intellectual elite. He was a member of the Utopian Society of America with John Updike. In the 1950s he taught at San Quentin State Prison.

By the late 1950s, Arthur moved to San Francisco and was part of the Beat Movement, devoting his time to astrology. In 1966, he wrote The Circle of Sex, a book about gay, bisexual, and gender issues in astrology. His life intersects mine in 1967. He used an astrological chart to determine the date for the Human-Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I was there. At the end of his life, in 1972, he was a leader in the gay movement, and had been married to three women.

This seems to be the pattern in the family:

Generation 1: Someone works hard, does well, and is engaged politically.

Generation 2: Uses the money from the previous generation and enjoys the high life.

Generation 3: Goes counterculture

Generation 4: Works hard, does well, and is engaged politically.

And it starts again.

If I could do it again, I’d rather be in Generation 2, than 4. Its sounds like so much more fun to spend life worried about first class tickets on the Queen Mary, than going to meetings and meeting deadlines.

President Chester Alan Arthur I

Putting the Gloss onto Glossy

Lately, I’m missing shiny. After two decades of adhering to the flat world, I’ve begun to admire the shiny stuff. For years, clients asked for shiny and sparkly type in three dimensions on every motion design project. Of course, we didn’t do that. We took the opposite point of view, focusing on the simple forms and lack of ostentation. So, why now, am I drawn to airbrush illustration of the 1970s and 80s? Everything in these images is so clean. Even skin is glossy because it’s so pure.

I assume the crystal clear, high gloss approach was a reaction against the earthy and organic design of the 1970s. Much of the airbrush work was done for the music industry at the time. The crunchy political music was replaced by slick disco that celebrated hedonism. So it makes sense that the illustration would also celebrate a slick veneer and present sex, fast cars, and youth as the subjects.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that our Eames conference table at the studio was too matte. Somebody had repeatedly cleaned it with 409 or Windex. That’s not so good with wood. So I brought in my trusty wood oils and wax. After one application of oil, the table still seemed dry and flat, so I flooded the surface with it. “I’ll let this sit overnight and soak in,” I thought. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on someone using the conference room for a meeting. Since I am one of the owners, I couldn’t be fired. But, if I weren’t, oh boy I’d be out the door fast. People don’t like oil soaking onto their shirts and presentations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Post About Nathan, Andy, and Shoes

One of my favorite people from the old days at AIGA was Nathan Gluck. I never quite understood Nathan’s role. He seemed to be the archivist and keeper of the stories of AIGA’s history. When I met him, he must have been in his 70s. Nathan was like your friendly uncle who knew all the family gossip. When I’m older, I plan on writing a tell-all book. By then everyone Nathan gossiped about will be long gone, and I won’t care if everyone hates me.

We were all star-struck by the fact that Nathan worked with Andy Warhol on his shoe drawings. It was hard to imagine lovable and disheveled Nathan as part of the beautiful people Factory scene, but there you have it. Long before Warhol became a pop icon, he worked as an illustrator. He won awards from the Art Directors Club, and illustrated pieces for AIGA. In the mid-1950s, Warhol made most of his income with shoe illustrations for I. Miller. When he started, the shoes were represented faithfully. As the work evolved, they became increasingly fanciful. Nathan worked for Warhol as an assistant. He drew the shoes, and then Warhol made corrections and refined the illustrations.

In 1955, Warhol published a self-promotional portfolio, A la Recherché du Shoe Perdu. The portfolio capitalized on the increasing fame of the shoe illustrations and combined a shoe poem by Ralph Pomeroy. Warhol’s mother handwrote the poems in a careful and ornate script. When she became too ill to continue, Nathan took over, imitating the style perfectly. I spend a great deal of time explaining that reality is irrelevant, perception is everything. In other words, it doesn’t matter what a shoe actually looks like. That it is presented powerfully and dynamically is more important.

 

 

 

 

Lot's Wife and Mushroom Soup

Over the weekend, I saw a television program about torture methods through the ages. One of these was forced feeding of large quantities of salt. This usually made the victim incredibly thirsty, or killed them. I know what this is like. My grandmother was a terrible cook. Everything was unbelievably salty or overcooked. Mushroom soup seemed to be the base of any recipe, and she deemed crisp vegetables undercooked and unhealthy. Her taco salad was of particular terror. As she aged and lost her sense of taste, the taco salad became increasingly salty. We would never be impolite and not eat it, so a large carafe of water was always needed.

I recently found her recipe for the taco salad. It is in a Better Homes and Gardens book, Jiffy Cooking, published in 1967. I am especially keen on the cover type. I need to find this font, or redraw it. I may be seeing things, but this cookbook is heavy on the phallic imagery. There are sausages, pickles, and other penis shaped foods on almost every page. I also like the spread for a teen party. Ice cream and pickles are featured. Here is a word of advice: if you have a teenage daughter and she requests ice cream and pickles, worry. If the sausages, heavy cream, and canned mushroom soup don’t kill you, there is always the cake with multiple balls of butter for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad, The Powerful, and The Beautiful

At lunch a few weeks ago, Paula Scher asked me if I had any criminals in my family history. The British considered most of them criminals and traitors during the revolutionary war. During the Civil War, some ended up in Union prisons. The most notorious family member was Lewis Thornton Powell, a distant cousin (we have common ancestors on the Lewis, Thornton, Powell, and Harrison lines). Powell was convicted and hanged with the other conspirators in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Otherwise, the family scandals or rumors of unorthodox behavior were of a romantic nature.

William Christian Bullitt married the noted communist and ex-wife of John Reed, Louise Bryant (played by Diane Keaton in Reds). She slowly went mad, had an affair with Gwen Le Gallienne and died alone in Paris. Amelie Rives Chanler Troubetzkoy divorced her first husband; Astor heir Archie Armstrong Chanler, then married Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy. Troubetzkoy was described by the women of New York and Newport society as “a fine specimen of a man.” Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's true love from 1915 until his death in 1945. She was with him the day he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Georgia.

The most controversial story is about the nature of cousin Joshua Fry Speed’s relationship with President Lincoln. If nobody ever discussed Lucy Mercer and FDR at dinner, you can imagine that the Lincoln and Speed issue was never mentioned. The facts are these: Lincoln moved to Springfield, Illinois as a young attorney. Upon his arrival, he went to Speed’s store to inquire about a room. Speed suggested Lincoln stay with him, as he had a large bed. Lincoln moved in and they lived together for seven years. Speed eventually returned to the family plantation, Farmington, in Kentucky to marry Fannie Henning. Lincoln had a nervous breakdown and went to Farmington to recover. He then returned to Springfield and married Mary Todd. Speed and Lincoln remained best friends, although a cooling occurred during the civil war. Speed was a southern Democrat and opposed the Emancipation Proclamation. He made many confidential trips to Washington to visit Lincoln, and saw him two weeks before the assassination (refer to Lewis Thornton Powell above—see how convoluted this all is). Speed’s brother, James served on as Attorney General in Lincoln’s administration.

Now whether this friendship was platonic or more isn’t particularly important to me. Who knows? Who cares? What matters to me is that this is now an interesting anecdote to be told at cocktail parties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Illustration Takes a Holiday

The first image we recognize as human beings is a face. Babies can recognize parents and mimic expressions within days of birth. We operate as social animals by identifying other people we know. The human face is the first place we look. It gets our attention. This is why every magazine cover is an almost life size image of a face looking at the viewer. It works to get our attention, but not particularly exciting or unexpected.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Frank Zachary was the art director at Holiday magazine. He hired relatively unknown illustrators for the covers. Most of these star illustrators later. The illustrative covers never fail. They are light, often funny, beautiful, and smart. Holiday’s photographic covers, however, have been relegated to history’s sloppy seconds. Perhaps it is due to the surplus of photographic covers now. The illustrations seem completely fresh and new. But, why do I keep going back to the photos on the covers?

First, they are not the standard big head staring at the viewer. Second, the scale, point of view, and overall composition are often unexpected and odd. Third, the subject matter is never the obvious. An issue on Park Avenue has an abstract image of car lights. No attempt is made to show Park Avenue clearly. The issue covering the Caribbean’s photo is shot from a bird’s eye view, minimizing the bathing suit clad woman in the hammock. I especially love the September 1952 issue on Colorado. At first glance, it’s a standard portrait of a young woman and her horse. But, look closely. The young woman is not focus on the center of the page. The horse is. This is a beauty shot of a lovely horse.

many of these covers are from gono.com

Seven Thousand Pelts in the Bins

At lunch today, we discussed which fiction books changed each of our lives. People talked about Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion, anything by Walt Whitman, and The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When the group asked me to list my top three, I admit I was ashamed to admit the truth. “Hmm, well, hmm,” I said in a scholarly tone, “I'm quite fond of anything by Raymond Carver. And, of course, Grace Paley.” I did not tell the whole truth. Yes, I do like Raymond Carver, but one of my favorite books is one I had at my grandparents’ house. It’s The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens. It doesn’t have interesting symbols, metaphors, or complex narrative structure. It’s a standard issue boy’s adventure book about “The adventures of a party of young men on a trip from Boston to the land of the midnight sun.”

I know every page and spent hours as a kid staring at the maps of Nova Scotia and etchings of sailing adventures. The Knockabout Club was published in 1883. No, I did not read it when it was first released. When you’re eight, and there are icebergs, polar bears, Vikings, and the northern lights the publication date doesn’t matter.

            The deck—when we were able to catch sight of it for “skulps” (seal cub scalps)—was almost slippery with gore.

Lines like these are thrilling to any young boy. No worries, I do recognize now that clubbing seal cubs for scalps is not okay. I look at the book now, and am impressed with the actual design. The bright cover screams sailing adventure. I love the detailed initial caps, or in some instances, initial words. For years, I’ve wanted to go to Antarctica. Now I know the genesis of this desire. I am, however, a little confused as to why my grandparents gave me a book from 1883 to read while my friends were reading Deathwatch.

 

The Brutalism of Books

Years ago, there was a wonderful school supply store in Los Angeles. It didn’t have an inventory of fine new textbooks, cute brand new classroom decorations, or specialty learning tools. This was the warehouse of the misfit supplies. This is bad if you want to teach children up to date information, but wonderful if you prefer to live in the past. Noreen bought a huge roll up wall map of the world with all the nations in 1958. We found old textbooks, cursive lettering wall charts, and diagrams of evolution from the late 1960s. There were no prices on anything, which proved to be a bonus. When we were checking out, the cashier looked at our cart of old stuff and said, “Hmm, what about $20.00 for everything?” Pretty nifty.

I especially coveted a collection of Life Nature Library books. These are the books that explain all types of scientific information in simple terms. For me, this is good. But, it’s the design that is the high point. The books are clear and simple. They are almost industrial in their functionality. This is brutalism in publication design. They are elegant in their minimalism. Nobody was trying to show every design skill they had all on one page. Even the charts are miraculously un-designed. This isn’t about laziness. It’s about restraint.

Stolen Memories

Have you ever accidentally stolen something and felt like Lindsay Lohan or Winona Ryder? I’m not talking about jewelry, scarves, or children. This is about accidental design theft. It happens to everyone, myself included. I’ll finish a project, be quite pleased with it, and then months or years later find the original inspiration. Usually it’s a piece of design that I love, but have filed somewhere in my brain. My unconscious mind must be saying, “Remember that Alvin Lustig poster? Steal that.” Consciously, I simply presume I had a wonderful idea.

When a friend sends me an example of how they were ripped off, I usually tell them “Imitation is the best compliment.” Sometimes it’s obvious, a poster for an event in Alabama looks exactly like one by Marian Bantjes. Or, a student designs a poster for Vertigo and gives me Saul Bass’s poster. On my way to work, I pass a billboard for the band XX’s new album Coexist. It is remarkably similar to a poster we designed for the AIGA Capital Campaign in 1999. Now, I know an “X” is an “X”, and claiming I was copied is like claiming I own the golden section. I’ve decided to use it as an affirmation, that 13 years later, the original poster is super groovy.

 

The Big Story

Lately, you may have noticed a longer time between postings here. Yes, of course, I’ve been busy. A new term at Art Center just began; I’m working on a new book, several time intensive projects, and heading to the Dice conference tomorrow to speak. Nevertheless, I’ve been busy for years. The saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” applies to me. The issue is graphic design. I spend all day with it. I teach, write, and yammer on about it. Lately, when I think about posting something I look at possible design pieces and think, “I am so over this.” Don’t worry. It’s a passing phase, and I’m bound to find some design I’m inspired by soon.

To escape typography, I watched Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, and Ryan’s Daughter again recently. They are all remarkable. If you haven’t seen these, they aren’t what you think. Yes, Doctor Zhivago and Ryan’s Daughter are love stories. But they are played out on such a vast scale against epic times. And, they are extraordinarily and exquisitely designed.  David Lean’s vision is clear and refined. Julie Christie (who looks remarkably like Paula Scher) is the most beautiful woman who ever lived. The Panavision cinemascope and color is unbelievable. These are big, big, big movies. This is what a movie is supposed to look like.

I admit, there are some aspects that didn’t age well. Everyone’s makeup in Doctor Zhivago is a little heavy and runs toward a groovy 1965 dark eyes, light lips look. As T. E. Lawrence, Peter O’Toole captures a complex and troubled character, but he should have said “no,” to the third application of mascara.

Finally, there is a scene in Ryan’s Daughter that is my favorite in any film. It’s only a moment, when Sarah Miles lies on the forest ground and looks up. The camera points up to the tree's canopy. There is no music, only the sound of the rustling leaves and creaking of the branches as they barely move in the wind.