Experimental Prototype Colors of Tomorrow

Epcot gift bag, early 1980s

When EPCOT opened in 1982, the concept was innovation and globalism. Wait isn't that what every conference today is about? The park was and is divided into two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World was where corporations like Exxon could prove how good strip mining was. World Showcase would bring cultures from around the globe to the American tourist. The visual theme of Future World was the same as the 1990s Star Trek: TNG, mid-level hotel or medical offices in non-threatening tones. The large spaces had lots of carpeting, an abundance of rounded corners, and odd geometric benches.

In my head, I've always pictured 1980s EPCOT as a unified and sleek place. The color palette was silver, blue, and white. The materials were aluminum and fiberglass. But, I was wrong. While researching the color palettes I found some truly hideous combinations. Now, I've always said no two colors dislike each other. Again, I was wrong. Some of the combinations are terrifying. It would never occur to me to combine pink, teal, plum, and orange. I'm still semi-sane. So what happened? Why the hard left away from the silver and blue? I don't know. I do know, however, that these combinations do not exist naturally, and no software product will ever provide a palette like these.

Bag palette
EPCOT 1982
Epcot map, 1983
Map Palette
Epcot mug
Mug Palette
Button Palette
Gateway Gifts sign, Epcot, 1982
Gateway Gifts palette
Guidebook paltette

Missionary Position

AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

Some of you are probably aware that AIGA has been working on some primary issues for the last several months. The future of the organization, whether the headquarters building should be sold, and a multitude of other issues have been debated vigorously across 67 chapters and 23,000 members. Many of you have sent me kind notes, worried that the stress is getting to me. In all honesty, and this is probably not something I should divulge, I'm not that stressed. First, I know we'll end up in a good place. Second, between the national board, advisory board, and chapter leadership I have the smartest people in the industry working on this. And, third, genetics must be at play. Yes, it's important, but it's not founding a nation.

I found an old issue of U&LC from 1975. It has an interesting article from AIGA about typeface copyright protection. I like that it's set in justified, tightly leaded Tiffany. If a typeface needs protection, it's Tiffany. It's sort of the fat friend who dresses a little too glitzy. I'm also struck by the extreme niche subject matter. It was a time when AIGA was primarily a small New York club with 1700 members. An issue like typeface protection merited a whole page. And I now believe AIGA should drop the current clear and classic logo and go to the Tiffany solution.


AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

U&LC magazine 1975

The Interrogation


A couple of weeks ago we took a tour of The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial. Hohenschönhausen Prison was used during the Soviet Occupation and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1945 until 1989 for political prisoners. It's cold and grey here in Berlin. So the combination of grim weather and brutal prison made for a rather disturbing afternoon. We've heard stories from Berliners about life before the wall came down. "There was nothing to buy over there," or "There just weren't freedoms and options." What shocked all of us, in our southern California ignorance, was how the system dominated the population by oppression and paranoia. That evening, we watched Das Leben Der Anderen, a movie about a Stasi agent at Hohenschönhausen. This resulted in the toughest of us (not me) running from the room in tears when the movie ended. Good times.

Not to minimize the harsh reality, but we were also shocked at the wallpaper and linoleum. It really did look like stuff you'd expect from a Soviet prison. One of the downsides of coming from Los Angeles is that the rest of the world looks "themed." We say things like, "Oh, that little Bavarian village is so cute. Maybe a little over-themed." or, "Europe is just so European." The prison was the same for us. We deny the reality and think it can't be authentic. It must be a set for a TV movie about life in the GDR or Soviet Union, like The Americans when they have flashbacks.

I did, however, hear the best sentence I've ever heard, "And now, let's move on to the interrogation room." Perfection. Why not have an interrogation room in every house? It could be small with a single light bulb, desk and chair. "Janie, did you break that vase?" "You are lying! let's start all over again."










Yes, It Can Be This Good

This could be YOUR home

I've had many conversations with designers who want to start making products. "I was thinking it would be cool to make stationery and paper goods for people," is the most common concept. This sounds nice, but there really are too many stationery and paper goods things out there already. That doesn't mean we don't talk about it as well. I'm always up for diversification. My ideas tend to not go very far.

First, I wanted to open a brothel that was nicely designed. I imagined a "W" Hotel kind of brothel, not the kind in old mobile homes with flocked red wallpaper. As it turns out, this is illegal in California. And Noreen wasn't that keen on the concept.

Then I wanted to make a bar for alcoholics. It seems like total sobriety is rather severe, so why not make a bar where the drinks are super weak. You could have ten cocktails and still be fine. Also, we would make more money because the drinks were watered down. This idea didn't work either. I now know that you can't give alcoholics just a little drink.

Noreen solved the problem when she realized we had products already. Twenty years of posters that people buy from us already. We thought about making a section of our website a shop, but that's a lot of work. So we went to people who already know what they are doing and have great taste. Our friends, Doug Jaeger and Kristin Sloan have a fantastic online store. Now anyone can buy limited edition AdamsMorioka posters and wallpaper entire rooms. And it doesn't encourage alcoholism or prostitution.


Show your friends your fine taste

Kitchens should be cheerful

Variation is the spice of life

Blood on the Walls

Black Flag, CalArts 1982

When I was at CalArts, the older crowd complained that things were never as fun as the "old days." But they seemed wacky enough to me. We knew to not drink any punch at an opening or party as it was laced with LSD. The pool had a clothing optional policy which was enjoyed, of course, by those who should not be naked. My dorm room was right about the jacuzzi which made me privy to conversations each evening, two people shout ing over the bubbling water, "What school are you in?" and "Do you want to come to my room?" The jacuzzi was quickly renamed the jiz-cuzzi.

During one class in a small windowless classroom, the punk group Black Flag came to play a gig. We all sat in our desk/chairs while they set up. Obviously, when they started, it was quite loud. Small classroom are not a typical punk rock concert venue. As Henry Rollins ran toward the class shouting and waving his microphone, everyone stood up and ran to the back of the room. When he retreated back to the stage, we slowly returned to our desks, and again jumped and ran as he moved into the room. Oh yeah, we were cool, but this proved we were all just white suburban punks.

For some reason, one woman who was sitting in the front row of desks refused to budge. She wasn't doing this because she was a major Black Flag fan. Her art centered on hard core feminist themes, so I imagine it was in protest, or as an act of resistance. Unfortunately for her, Rollins took this as a challenge and repeatedly shoved his crotch into her face. At the same time he slammed the microphone against his head until it was bleeding. So she sat there, resistant, while having a crotch thrusting and blood flying around her. Now that was fun.


My friend Peter Grant and I, CalArts, 1982

My friend Erica and I, Bob's Big Boy, 1982

The Time Machine

Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Thomas Walker 1780

MOO recently did a survey on handwritten communication. It turns out that 56% never sent anything handwritten. Forty-one percent valued handwritten letters over digital, and fifty-one percent never threw out the handwritten notes. So we thought it was about time to print a batch of postcards with MOO. I like the MOO people; they understand paper and design. They make the beautiful, heavy, wonderful cards like the one in American Psycho.

Call me a materialist, but I like things. I like to keep things. I don't have a little box of websites, but I have one with letters, cards, and bits of paper.

Why do we care about these sheets of paper? They define us. They tell us who we are and where we came from. Not surprisingly, I have copies of many letters written by family members, the originals long ago donated. These letters tell me these things: work hard, be prudent, serve your country, and you'll never be as good as we were in the 18th century. They aren't beautiful. They don't have fabulous handwriting. But they have survived and have the power to help me determine who I am.

Dr. Thomas Walker to Elizabeth Thornton, 1780

When my distant grandfather, Dr. Thomas Walker, sent a letter and marriage agreement to his first wife's cousin, Elizabeth Thornton, I doubt he thought I would read it 240 years later. There is a note from Thomas Jefferson, appointing his guardian and father's best friend, Dr. Walker as a Captain during the Revolutionary War. Another letter serves as a legal document signed by Elizabeth Thornton's cousin, Meriwether Lewis and annotated by William Clark a year after Lewis was murdered or committed suicide. These items transcend their physical presence and describe the complexities of relationships that I could never find in a history book.

Mary Walker Cabell 1863

Mary Walker Cabell 1863

I find two letters rife with unstated content. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, while her southern culture was collapsing, Mary Walker Cabell created a family tree to share with another cousin. There is something more here than a genealogical study. This is an attempt to capture Cabell's history and values and preserve them for others. She was raised in a world of privilege and her status in society was clear. Now, as this life disappeared, she used pen and paper to anchor herself to another time.

Hugh Walker Fry, application for pardon, 1865

The correspondence that carries the most emotional weight, however, is a note from Hugh Walker Fry in 1865. After the war, Confederate leaders and wealthy planters needed to apply for a pardon to restore their American citizenship. The letter itself is mostly boilerplate wording, but the exterior of the letter, addressed to "His Excellency Andy Johnson" is the most salient part. Andrew Johnson was the President of the United States. Did Fry intend "His excellency" as a slur or was he simply unaware of proper protocol when addressing the President? Again, his fortune was lost and way of life radically changed. What is left of this dramatic and intense experience is a piece of paper with three words.

These written letters may have seemed irrelevant, or simply part of everyday life, when created. But due to their intense personal connection and the evidence of the writer's own hand, they serve as a time machine.

Thomas Jefferson to Francis Walker Gilmer

Meriwether Lewis signature 1809

Meriwether Lewis letter annotated 1810

Declaration of Independence signatures, 1776

Benjamin Powell letter

Survey by George Washington, 1749

Compositions by the Sea

Foundations of Layout, Lynda.com

A few months ago, my friend Terry Lee Stone suggested that I do a course for Lynda.com. I've known Lynda Weinman for years. We served on the AIGA national board together. She's one of the smartest people I know, and Kristin Ellison, who has been my editor on several books was joining Lynda.com. So I knew I could trust everyone. I liked the idea of teaching to a wide audience of people. Lynda.com has over 2.5 million members.

I went out to the huge and impressive  production facility and headquarters near Santa Barbara to do a screen test. I thought about saying "I don't do screen tests," but that sounded a little too Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard. I had a little trouble convincing the make-up person that the white people makeup made me look like someone from The Walking Dead and I was actually not that pale. Fortunately it worked and they weren't revolted.

I started working on a course, Foundations of Layout. I thought it would be easy. I've been doing layouts for a long, long, long time. But each movie covers one piece of the puzzle: scale, grids, imagery, etc.. It was like teaching someone how to walk. You do it every day so you forget all the individual things that work together to make your legs move and body stay upright.

I didn't expect it to be as rewarding as it was. I had to go back and distill an idea like harmony into something understandable and digestible. After doing that, I remembered things I'd long ago forgotten. It helped me as a designer and teacher at Art Center.

I spent a week at the studios working with a cracker jack crew. I became obsessed that my hair looked like an old woman's hairdo and they had the crappy job of persuading me otherwise. Of course nobody likes to watch themselves on camera, myself included. But if I get past my old woman hair I'm really pleased with the result. And that has everything to do with the people at Lynda.com.

old lady hair


Getting Lit

Dunham & Deatherage

When I was in middle school, I had friend who's family owned an inexpensive motel in downtown Reno. Yes, it was that glamorous. After playing basketball we'd go to his house and his mother would give us quarters that came from the slot machine in the motel office. We'd take the money and buy pizza then hang out in my friend's big brother's room. I'm sure everyone had a friend with a big brother who smoked pot, had an American flag hanging on the wall, needed a haircut or two, and loafed around all day. I should have been impressed by his coolness factor, but never really was. He was always too stoned, looked dirty, and his balls would fall out of his too short shorts when he passed out. But his room was covered with black light posters lit by an overhead black light. Seriously groovy.

The black light posters of the 1960s and 70s were printed with fluorescent inks and displayed under black light that intensified their psychadelic-ness. If you've been on a dark ride like Buzz Lightyear at Disneyland, you know the effect. The subject matter was aimed at horny teenage pot smoking boys: naked women, marijuana references, rock and roll, and comics. Some of the early Fillmore posters were beautifully designed, the later ones fall into the category of black velvet paintings of leopards. I can't decide if they are truly hideous or so hideous that they transcend into wonderful. I do know that if you find yourself in a friend's room filled with these you may be with the wrong crowd.

Silver Surfer

Alexander Rotany, 1972

il_570xN.272147053 a5ee808cc6e846bea2b46ba84fe1dcdc

Steve Sachs, 1967

Zodiac Lovers 1975

War Queen, 1970


David Norda, 1968

Enjoy, 1973

Design Sexy Time

Paul Hesse photo  

When I was in college, a visiting artist gave a presentation on "Sex in Advertising." As this was in the midst of the women's art movement and high critical thinking, the audience expected a relentless assault on the horrors of sexuality in advertising and design. Instead, the artist presented an intelligent examination. She discussed issues such as objectification, subjugation, and patriarchy. But she also talked about less black and white points like seduction, human nature, beauty, and the power of primary impulses such as sex and eating. When she turned from the attitude du jour of the evils of sex and began to explore the possibility that sex might be positive, the audience responded with outrage. They stomped out of the theater in disgust and fury. It was like a stampede of crazed buffalo.

Of course, sex in design can be detrimental and negative. But are there instances when it works? Is it okay to like a poster or ad because it is "hot." For some reason, a large proportion of older male designers in the 1960s and 70s retired and made fine art that was really just thinly disguised soft core porn. Henry Wolf used imagery that might work in Playboy on mainstream advertising.

I've always liked the definition that "good" is about creation and construction, "evil" is about destruction and making someone "less than." Perhaps this is the filter to view this type of work. Is the subject glorified and celebrated, or minimized and objectified?

Milton Glaser

Henry Wolf

Advertising 1950s

Navy Recruitment poster, WWII

Henry Wolf

J.C. Leyendecker

Colin Forbes

J.C. Leyendecker

Tadanori Yokoo

Victor Moscoso

Robert Brownjohn

Men's Fashion, 1978

Peter Behrens

Aubrey Beardsley

It's The End of The World As We Know It


A couple of weeks ago I spent a day attempting to go to the Altes Museum to see the Roman stuff. Somehow I lost my way and spend two hours walking in a circle in the Tiergarten. So I gave up my plan to see Roman statuary and stopped at Haus der Kulturen der Welt.

I would sound smarter if I said it was to see the exhibition on the intersection between European and African history, but I needed a bathroom. The exhibition was good, but the building is spectacular.  It was the USA’s contribution to the INTERBAU 1957 building exhibition in Berlin and designed by Hugh Stubbins. This is modernism in its heyday. Today it is beautifully empty. It's like a set from an odd 1960s European film about life after a global pandemic. Abandoned ticket booths, vacant cafés, and a bookstore with one listless cashier.

Now I know what life will be like after the end of the world. I don't think that was the original intention for the building, but it sure does work. FYI, the Fleischmann Planetarium at University of Nevada built in 1963 is a clear ripoff.

P1010836 P1010835 P1010833 P1010829 P1010827 P1010824 P1010819 P1010795 P1010794 P1010791 P1010789 P1010788 P1010786 P1010785

Fleischmann Planetarium, University of Nevada, 1963

Fleischmann Planetarium, University of Nevada, 1963

Geradeaus, dann nach links und rechts


You may have noticed that the settlers were not communicating for the last month. I've been in Berlin since the beginning of September. I'm there as the faculty lead for the Art Center TestLab project. This term, 12 dream team students from Pasadena and I are spending three months working on a transmedia project. The core of the project is to redefine Americana with a European millenial audience. How can we communicate the positive aspects of American culture today or in five years? We don't have the luxury of the reputation as the "good guys" in the world anymore. So what remains that has positive resonance?

Here are answers to the questions I've been asked most frequently since taking this on:

How do you do AdamsMorioka work?

In all honesty, Noreen is carrying the burden of being in the office every day and keeping things running. I work on projects, art direct, and am engaged every day via Skype. When I get up each morning, the office in LA is ending their day. So I work on projects during my day in Berlin and the night in Los Angeles. By the time I'm turning in, I've shipped off the work and they start their day. I'm the graveyard shift.

Why did you agree to do this?

First, it was a remarkable honor to be asked. Second, I know we will do some truly groundbreaking research and work. Third, the students are the cream of the crop and I actually personally like all of them, and finally, I've never done anything but go to work and go home since I was 20 years old.

How can you be AIGA President 8000 miles away?

I have a great c0-president, Drew Davies. I work via email and Skype, but Drew has the weight of responding in real time and being boots on the ground. I will owe him a lot of cocktails when I get back in November.

Where do you live?

I live in an apartment hotel with the students. It's a change from a house in the hills with a pool to a 300 sq ft room. I tried washing my clothes in the bathtub, but that went badly.

Is it fun?

Absolutely. It's hard hard work and takes a huge amount of energy, but it's an adventure. The solutions are inspiring and I know this is an experience that is life-changing. And when asked for directions on the street, I get to send people in the wrong direction. I really only know how to tell someone to go "straight ahead, turn left, or turn right" in German. So that's what I always say, no matter where they want to go.

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Take Care. The Flesh is The Grass.

the hidden message

Clearly, there was a "War on Children" in the 1970s. This was a covert and widespread conspiracy to infiltrate our minds with complicated subliminal ideas and confuse us with non-sensical connections. If you're old enough, you remember the nuclear war film from middle school. It told us that we would:

1. Probably have to be in a shelter with people we didn't know.

2. Put on a radiation suit and take freshly dead people outside every morning, even if they were your loved ones

3. Determine who was too far gone and immediately cease care

4. Assign someone for latrine duty to discard human waste outside in the radiation zone

Obviously, sneaking this in between Shock and Its Symptoms and Compound Fractures and Splints was a way to subliminally terrorize us.

I recently found an old chemistry textbook that also seems to have a hidden agenda to cause disturbing dreams and paranoid delusions. I especially like the text innocently placed like a caption that reads "Flesh is Grass". What in the name of God does that mean? It sounds like line from  A Nightmare on Elm Street. It's creepy and clearly written by someone very, very sick.

There is a super strange tongue diagram that makes me want to try to find these alien growths on my tongue and scrape them off. And finally a bizarre diagram that tells me poison gas and soldiers equals a tasty dinner. WTF? I like the seemingly harmless and nice illustrations of disparate elements (or are they subliminal metaphorical symbols that might be used to "activate" us in the future?).

If you have any doubt about this evil subliminal campaign, consider the McDonald's characters: Hamburglar, Grimace, Mayor McCheese, Birdie the Early Bird, Captain Crook, Fry Kids, and Uncle O'Grimacey

these growths may be on your tongue

why children have night terrors

gassed soldiers create tasty meals

Freudian symbols

good endpaper

The evil Grimace

Freaky and Funny

Originally, I planned to do a post today as a long and angry rant against something. I didn't know what that would be. I considered people who walk in front of you very slowly and weave so you can't pass them. Or, spending an hour and a half today in traffic to sign one piece of paper that could have been faxed. Or, clients who share a project in process with a "designer" friend who has no ethics and no problem pointing out issues like "that capital E looks like a backward 3." Really? Wow, I ever noticed that. See, now I'm ranting.

Instead, I'm going to do the opposite. Rather than focusing on the negative, I'm going to play the glad game and find things I like (are you sick yet?) First, Nicole Jacek's placeholder for her website under construction. It's the most exciting work I've seen in years. It's out of control and may push the viewer to a seizure. There is no attempt to make it feel like high, classic print design. It's RGB and screaming. I read some criticisms about it from people who didn't like its frenetic energy. So, go to the DMV website. Nicole's site is freaked and proud.

I also found the Jarritos website designed by Daniel Arenas at Sunday Morning. Again, its for Jarritos, so that makes it great already. But it is unapologetically fun. There are Day of the Dead characters, Mexican wrestlers, and  flat voice-overs. I could do without the "letterpress" type, but I like pretty hideous typefaces like Tiffany Ultra Bold Italic, so I can't be trusted. That's a tiny piece; it's pretty wonderful. Like Nicole's placeholder page, it's honest and doesn't try to convince me that Jarritos is healthy with real fruit grown locally and picked as gently as possible to cause no pain to the tree.

www.Jarritos.com, design: Sunday Morning

www.Jarritos.com, design: Sunday Morning

www.Jarritos.com, design: Sunday Morning

www.Jarritos.com, design: Sunday Morning

www.Jarritos.com, design: Sunday Morning

Last Chance, For Love

Before I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, my only perception of the city was through television and movies. I imagined the valley to be like the Brady Bunch or Adam 12. The beach communities were a hotbed of swinging singles and fern bars like Three's Company. Hollywood was a place where teenage runaways became prostitutes and got syphilis via Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. West Hollywood was incredibly hip and the center of disco and cocaine as in Thank God It's Friday.

If you are old enough to remember drive-in theaters, Thank God It's Friday is a movie that you would see at one. I think I saw it with some older cousins at a drive-in theater on the border of Reno and Sparks. It was a double bill with Corvette Summer. The only parts of the plot I recall is Donna Summer wanting to sing, the dance floor had a giant spherical DJ Booth, and everyone was rather seedy. It all seemed very dangerous and slick.

By the time I was in college, the disco in TGIF was still there, but was a rock and roll venue. There was also a restaurant with a big whale's mouth across the street. Today, I drive through this intersection every morning. Unfortunately, a hideous Loehmann's and bizarre upscale apartment building replaced the Fish Shanty and Oskars disco.

People in New York complain that neighborhoods are too gentrified and sanitized. They miss the urban danger and grit. In Los Angeles, the gentrification has taken away something more precious: glamorous disco glitter, rows of gas guzzling rust colored Cadillacs, lines of people in sequins and parachute pants, and restaurants with hungry whale entrances.


slick leather outfit

TGIF title

TGIF poster




The Millionaire's Club (pre-Oskars)

Oskars replacement: Loehmanns

the intersection

New apartment where Fish Shanty was

Fish Shanty

The Delighters

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2010

In my own town people know me, so they just think, "Oh yeah, Sean, what a nitwit." But in other cities they may not have yet figured this out. So I am treated either  with warmth or derision. That's all fine. The worse case scenario is when someone assumes I must be a super serious designer. Sitting at dinner next to a designer who is insists on discussing the current state of design is kind of dull. I'd rather know who is sleeping with whom at the table. Actually, the worse, worse case scenario is sitting next to a communist. This happened once. We didn't get along.

When someone rambles on about design being of service to business and how no design can be judged without looking at effectiveness I want to go to the bathroom and slit my wrists just for excitement. Yes, I agree design is a critical component of success in business. Design should be judged by its effectiveness.

But where does that leave the work that I love that really wasn't that effective? Does that mean I shouldn't begin making form until I've filled a wall with post-it notes and focus group studies? Here's the dirty little secret: sometimes I make things just because I want to.

When our great friend, Terry Lee Stone, asked us to design a series of books for her on Managing the Design Process I immediately started thinking about graphs and simple shapes. The end product may not be purely functional or effective. But I sure had fun designing it. A friend sent me a link to Franz Ferdinand's video for Right Action and said it was similar, so it must be cool. Maybe its okay for design to be effective, and once in awhile simply about designers making something wonderful.

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2010

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2010

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2010

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2010

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2011

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2011

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2011

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2011

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2011

AdamsMorioka design, Managing the Design Process by Terry Stone, 2010

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

Jai Guru Deva. Om


I like the news. Last week CNN aired Our Nixon, a collection of home-movies and media reports from President Nixon's administration. It's not like I was enthralled, wondering where the plot led. Sorry for the ruining the ending, but Nixon leaves office after the Watergate scandal.

At the height of the Vietnam War, Nixon invited the über square group, the Ray Conniff Singers to the White House. President Nixon said, "And if the music is square, it's because I like it square." Oddly, I might say that, which scares me. Carol Feraci, one of the Ray Conniff Singers, hid a message reading, "Stop the Killing" in her dress. Once she walked on stage she removed it and said, "President Nixon, stop bombing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays and pray to Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were here tonight, you would not dare to drop another bomb. Bless the Berrigans and bless Daniel Ellsberg." Then she and the group break into a super saccharin rendition of Ma! He's Making Eyes at me.

The response from the room after the group finished included comments like, "She should be torn limb from limb."

The salient moment here is the time between the speech from Feraci and the start of the music. The schizophrenia of the time is remarkably obvious. A revolutionary response to an unpopular war is thrown at the audience with clear language about death and reality. Seconds later, this is swept away and replaced with music that is intended to sanitize and sedate. It is astonishing to see the obvious desperation here with everyone: the desperate revolutionary act, and the frantic desire to shut reality out.

Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970

Ray Conniff, Friendly Persuasion

Un Año De Amor


Signage is serious. People may not find a restroom in time. They may get lost and miss the Gap. If you are a signage designer you must be serious. You must make big, black, monolithic directories that include serious information. There is no room for fun. None. Don't even think about color. Helvetica, red and black dammit!

Urban signage is hard. There are multiple committees made up of government officials who previously worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The signs need to be clear in a complex and changing environment. They need to withstand weather, vandalism, climbing children, and birds. These are the factors that lead to the 2001: A Space Odyssey black monolith directories.

Lance Wyman's system for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics are what every Olympics tries to outdo, and nobody has come close (sorry to my friends who have designed some of these. they're swell, but not 1968 Mexico City). But, today I want to talk about Wyman's program for the Mexico City Metro from 1969. This solution achieves all the difficult  goals, but maintains a sense of exuberance and joy. The program reflects a Mexican color palette and sensibility. And it looks like it was fun to design. How can a subway system with orange, pink, teal, and avocado green not be magnificent? I would ride the Los Angeles Metro all the time if it had icons of grasshoppers, sailing ships, and a duck for a station.

Wyman's work is a beacon of optimism in a dull, drab, and serious world.



Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Stamp, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Tipo font, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Station icons, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969

Lance Wyman, Mexico City Metro, 1969


1992 in Black and White

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

While I think wikipedia is a swell tool sometimes, it is not an educational substitute. Each term in my foundation class at Art Center I give an assignment that requires research. This term the students returned with presentations on politics and photography. It's obvious which ones are just reading from wikipedia: "Social documentary photography is the recording of humans in their natural condition with a camera. Often it also refers to a socially critical genre of photography dedicated to showing the life of underprivileged or disadvantaged people." My response, "And...?"

I used to assign a film poster which required watching a movie outside of the class room. How hard is that? It's not reading Joseph Conrad. Then I found that people were only watching snippets on YouTube. So now, we watch the whole movie in class. This makes me feel like Bad Teacher.

In contrast to this is the enormous energy and effort that Robert Cha put into this publication. Robert worked on the Fires in Our Time book as an independent study with me. When he mentioned the 1992 L.A. Riots as a subject I expected a nice 18 page booklet with big headlines and photos. Instead, Robert created a relentlessly dense document that reports and deconstructs the riots. 300 pages of interviews, newspaper reports, television, and first hand accounts. This enormous amount of information would be enough, but Robert then applied a design solution that did not try to aestheticize the issue. His book dogmatically sticks to a rigid rule system. Each type of information is assigned a typeface, size, and position. The final result are pages that feel like elements slamming against each other, none willing to compromise.

Many issues and multiple viewpoints collided in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The riots were more than one thing. To minimize them and assign a pithy one line answer is a disservice to the complexity of the ongoing problem. Robert's book is the best example of this put into concrete form.

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013


Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013

Robert Cha, Fires in Our Time, 2013