Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Design assistant search: update

I've walked around town and put postcards in dozens of places: coffee shops, galleries, the IPRC, independent bookstores. So many coffee shops. Sometimes I drop by Ace and stamp the shared newspapers. Jeff at Half & Half let me stamp a few dozen of their muffin envelopes.

I contacted top design teachers at PNCA, Art Institute, University of Oregon, OSU, PSU and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. I've placed notices on the campuses as well. I spread the digital word and got multiple thousand of deliveries (in theory, at least) via facebook, Twitter, blawgs, etc. Posted on Craigslist. I made tiny slips of the same info and tipped them into interesting design magazines in bookstores. I'm working really hard to find you.

With two weeks to go, I've received 89 applications by email and several more in person. I'm surprised, because a lot of creative people take until the last minute to get their work done.

I've met some super interesting people, potential collaborators if not all potential design assistants. I'll meet with 6 or so folks based on what I receive by January 15.

I'm so excited. Here's to 2010. Here's to growth.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Client update: Oregon Humanities

This fall I finished up my work for Oregon Humanities, all except for one little piece I was particularly excited about, a neon sign. It arrived last week.

Anybody west of SW Ninth & Alder with a view of downtown Portland, take a look up in the late afternoon. These dark days are good for viewing.

The sign was made by Keith and Robert at Habromania, two more Portland artisans/craftsmen I am happy to know about and work with. Serifa 45 Light has never looked so tasty. I believe Adrian Frutiger would be pleased.

Here, some of the women of Oregon Humanities take a first look.

This was the cherry on a real ice cream sundae of a project. Thanks Cara, Kathleen, Jennifer, Laura, Raina, and everyone at Oregon Humanities. They're doing good and important work for the city and for Oregon. And they're fun to work with.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Design assistants: What to expect, pt. 3

I'll close this Words From Past Design Assistants feature with Stuart Jennings, who assisted me at Adcenter before joining W+K/NY as an art director. Besides being hilarious and super pro in his work, Stuart impressed me with his story of spending three hours on the phone with the Apple customer support woman until she agreed to send him a free laptop. He talked with her the entire drive from Richmond to DC. Determined.

Name: Stuart Jennings

When worked with Jelly: 2002-2003

Current job: Creative Director/ Wieden and Kennedy New York

What the experience of working with Jelly was like:
Jelly was one of the few mentors I've ever had in my life. I know that sounds cheesy but as I get older I realize that there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to spend their precious time helping someone else learn something. He was very direct and honest and had good taste. That's the most you can hope for from a boss, or a mentor in this business.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Client update: Imperial Woodpecker

The branding/identity began with the name: IMPERIAL WOODPECKER, regal and ridiculous, perfect for a film production company that embraces the tension of making "Finest Television Commercials."

With the logo and look, I tried to evoke an enduring 19th century brand, steeped in history and mystery. (Much like the bird itself: Extinct or not? Who knows. Last siting was in 1954.)

Stacy and Doug breathed life into the brand themselves, not only by delivering a good product - they truly make fine television commercials - but through a series of artful, inspired and ridiculous decisions, like ordering artisan, hand-made-in-Great Britain apple crates for their company, sponsoring the Japanese National Cricket Team, and, working with photographer Corey Walter, taking formal, period portraits of each client/agency at the conclusion of every job.

(The above agency is DDB Chicago, and the tuba player happens to be Chris Carraway, an art direction student from Adcenter days.)

As a year-end gift to each agency they worked with, IMPERIAL WOODPECKER had me design a artist's folio case holding all of the prints. I was so excited to get this assignment, to have anything to do with this incredibly well-executed idea.

To begin, Riswold introduced me to Phil at Cirrus Digital, and Phil printed gorgeous epson prints on an all-cotton museum rag in two different sizes: 16 x 20" for the agencies, and mammoth 22 x 28" prints for the photographer and the Imperial Woodpecker offices. To my eye, they look like hand-dipped vintage photo prints. The colors and detail and feel of the paper are incredible.

After getting the prints made, I worked with Pam and Carol and JoAnn over at Grossenbacher Bros. to create cases.

Grossenbacher is a craft/art/design person's dream workshop. It's a huge warehouse full of vintage and scary punching and glueing and pressing and cutting and binding machines. They can make anything and their level of craft is superb.

I brought my kids along with me one morning and they were blown away by the place. One of them also noticed this sign.

For the smaller box, I wanted something that felt '30s-era, with humble and earthy materials. We found a remnant roll of cloth in the back of Grossenbacher's that looked great and took the brown emboss really well. Actually, really not well, and it bothered Pam a little to deliver it this way, but it was just what I wanted.

Here's JoAnn working on the larger box and you can get a sense for its scale.

It's styled liked something super luxury from the '20s, flat black cloth with gold emboss, a one-inch wide plum ribbon attached to the box bottom to help lift out the prints, the top lined in ivory moire satin. It's so pretty I want to eat it.

Design assistant candidates: there will be a bunch of fun stuff like this to work on in 2010.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Design assistants: What you're in for, pt. 2

Next up is Tracey Morgan, art director turned copywriter turned mom, whose facebook bio reads:
I hate iceberg lettuce, Ellen, visible butt holes on animals, people who back into parking spaces, when you think you're getting a chocolate chip cookie and it turns out to be raisins, cream cheese in the bagel hole and pick-a-size paper towels!!

Tracey Morgan

When worked with Jelly:
September 2000 thru May 2001 as a graduate assistant.

Current job:
I’m an unemployed copywriter and stay-at-home mom to my 4-month-old son. Despite always being very career oriented, I consider raising my son the most important (fun, rewarding, amazing) job I’ve ever had. I credit this, in part, to two things Jelly impressed upon me: ‘life is short’ (we share a mutual love of walking around cemeteries) and ‘if you’re going to do something, do it well’ (whether you’re sweeping a floor, kerning type or in my case: nurturing a life).

What the experience of working with Jelly was like:
Jelly has always made me pretty nervous. I think part of the reason for this is that I’ve never been a very confident art director or designer (or even copywriter). Despite (probably) realizing my lack of confidence, Jelly always had every confidence in me. This is powerfully motivating. He would have never yelled at me if I did a bad job, he’d only be quietly disappointed. Even though I’ve never had a problem doing my best, I tried harder, dug deeper and even pulled all-nighters on assignments he gave me. I learned a lot from Jelly and think of him often. He has an appreciation for life that’s infectious, he’s hilarious (goodness!), and the person who gets to be his design assistant is very lucky.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Design assistant: What you're in for

As a courtesy to candidates, I asked the seven or eight people who've served as design assistants to me in the past what it's like.

First to reply was Loren Boggs. Here's a photo of her home studio and the two-sided desk she shares with her artist boyfriend.


When worked with Jelly:
2005 in WK12 and again 2007-2008 at WK Portland

Current job:
Art Director at WK New York

What the experience of working with Jelly was like:
Working with Jelly is great, he makes what you do feel important no matter how small and fills everything with meaning. He also kicks your ass and makes you surprise yourself.

Client update: Wikipedia

Started the day with the good news that we are a million dollars ahead of last year in our fundraiser for Wikipedia, despite having started two weeks later. On any given day, we're performing at 300%-500% of last year - amazing.

Much of the success has to be associated with the continuing rise in the passion that people around the world feel towards Wikipedia. People love Wikipedia, they rely on it, and they feel good about giving them money. I sure do.

I also feel good about the work we've created, particularly the donation page, and the way we've tapped into that passion and made it visible.

A few skinned knees along the way, but I've learned as much on this as on any project. A fantastic experience. Learned from mistakes, adapted and adjusted as a team. Feeling good that we're seeing results.

But we're still only halfway to our goal. Help!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ooh! Ooh! Barack! Pick me!

I went to go see Aaron Draplin at the AIGA designspeak event last night. What a generous, exhuberant guy. I hope I get to work with him sometime.

Anyway, he says he got a job doing some creative work for the White House - the logo/visual identity for the stimulus package, and a Dept. of Transportation project. He got the jobs because they read in his blog about how much he loved Obama.

Longtime blawg readers know, I am not shy about my Obama love.

Analytics tells me I have a handful of readers in DC, so just in case, let me be explicit. I want to work with you, Barack. I'll make time.

What would I do? We'll have to talk about that a little bit. I'm a storyteller, and the world and the country is hungry for a story right now, a uniting story. I think it's the one you are telling. I could help you tell it, I think.

I have another idea cooking that I think you will like, too. Email

[If you're here for the design assistant position, please see next post.]

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oldie but a goodie

Joseph Campbell's map/model of the universal story. Or as he calls it, the adventure.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I love maps and models

Wow. Incredible. I'd recommend watching fullscreen.

Thanks David Baldwin for sharing. "Wish U.S. was in there," he said.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Notes from Tom Spanbauer

Gregg Clampffer sent me this drawing today. It's from 2005, and it was inspired by a visit to 12 from guest Tom Spanbauer, one of the best teachers I know.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanks to everyone who shared this video

Including photographer Nico Goldberg, whose face you'll see at 1:30. I finally got around to watching it, and enjoyed it very much. Many of Stefan's insights on the value of a sabbatical resonate with me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Keeping Quiet

I found a photocopy from an old friend, one of his favorite poems.

"Keeping Quiet"

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

-Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Your name, please.

I was playing Mancala on my iPhone recently against an anonymous player somewhere else in the world. His user name was HURRYUP, mine was MrHiggles, I think. I change names a lot and always try to pick a name that will make my opponent underestimate me, like Granny1919 or Puffybear.

HURRYUP gave me about six seconds to make a move, then sent me a chat message. The game has a few standard messages you can choose from to send your opponent during the game: It's your move, Nice move!, Good game!, Thank you!, I love this game!, etc.

It's your move
, HURRYUP said.

As the younger brother of a sister seven years older, I know a thing or two about passive-aggressive tormenting, so I decided I would make HURRYUP wait a little while.

In a few seconds, I got a second message. It's your move.

Thank you!, I replied, and continued to do nothing.

After a minute or so, I moved. He instantly played his move, and I responded, of course, by doing nothing.

It's your move.

The hardcore Mancala players don't like to quit, because if you quit, you forfeit the game, and it affects your overall record.

It's your move. It's your move. It's your move.

More nothing. And more. Then I sent a chat. Good game!

It's your move. It's your move. It's your move. It's your move. It's your move.

I love this game!, I chatted.

It was sort of funny, sure, but the seven minute A-hole Contest also made me heat up a little and feel creepy. It's strange how online anonymity can easily lead to trollish behavior - assuming the worst of the other, acting aggressively. Makes me wonder how different of a place the online world would be if everyone had to put their name on everything they did and said.

Here's an interesting story about how anonymity threatens civil discourse the off-line world as well. It's the from the October NW Examiner, and it's by publisher and editor Allan Classen.

An essential element of civilized dialogue is the personal introduction; everyone should be known to other participants in the discussion. The internet has shattered that assumption for much of what passes for public dialogue these days. Unidentifiable mystery people comment on blogs and internet forums as the norm. Not surprisingly, the communication often goes from rude to acerbic to ballistic, as a false bravado overtakes otherwise meeker individuals hiding in anonymity.

An entirely different attitude would reign if these keyboard crusaders were suddenly confronted in person by the targets of their venom. And hyped accusations would boomerang if presented before a roomful of peers, the ultimate keepers of one’s reputation.

One of the virtues of neighborhood politics is that the players generally interact face-to-face. Most have known each other for some time and have multiple connections. The person you tell off may be the parent of your child’s playmate or a business client of your best friend. Imprudent words can come back to haunt you. Being a known member of a community also helps keep things in perspective, holding us accountable for how we behave while also imbuing a degree of tolerance for our well-known tendencies and foibles.

I witnessed a case of self-righteous sniping from a Pearl resident at a board meeting of the neighborhood association last month. With a stern tone, this man accused the organization of violating proper protocols in not informing him and residents of his building, Tanner Place, of plans for a public loo in nearby Jamison Park. He spoke of being “blindsided” by a “terrible lack of information” and feeling “very annoyed” that he didn’t know earlier of the association’s support for the loo.

He further suggested that the unstated purpose of the project was to serve the homeless, a goal he opposed. He felt a restroom was needed for park users only during warm-weather months and daytime hours.

He wasn’t endearing, but I’ve heard worse. What pushed my buttons, however, was that after the meeting I asked for his name, and he refused to give it because he didn’t want to be quoted. He must have reasoned that I wouldn’t quote someone if I didn’t have a last name, and even if I identified him as “Frank N.,” no reader could know for sure the reference was to him.

I replied that it was a public meeting, but he still wouldn’t give up his last name. I ran into him the following night at the Pearl Party and renewed my request for his name. Still mum.

It didn’t take me long to track it down.

When I addressed him as Frank J. Niezgoda in a later email, he was a more circumspect person. He confessed a heretofore undetected reticence for public speaking, explaining that he didn’t give his name when asked because he was “a little flustered.”

No longer an unknown, Mr. Niezgoda felt he had some explaining to do. He emailed me three times with further self defenses. He didn’t recognize me at first. He didn’t know a reporter was in the room when he spoke. He wasn’t really calling anyone into account. He’s afraid of identify theft. He wasn’t trying to be rude or secretive. He even wished me a nice day.

As with many people, the anonymous Frank N. behaved differently when his full identity was known. He was less critical and more humble. That’s a good thing. Public business goes better when everyone must stand behind their words, and everyone is equally accountable for positions they take.

Maybe we can’t all get along, but the chances are better when we know who “we” are.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on social media/ hyperinstantconnectedness

Went to go "check" facebook a couple of weeks ago, feeling the standard ambivalence of wanting to be there/not wanting to be there, feeling a little uncomfortably out-there in the world, not wanting to spend more time trying to navigate the waters, and I hit send on this update without censoring.

It was like chum in the water. It got more play than anything I'd posted, ever. Quite a few people commented on the friend weeding, an unseemly topic in facebook.

Some gave practical tips on making facebook work for them.

Some shared what they liked about being connected.

Some shared what they didn't like.

Quite a few people expressed a similar struggle to get their heads around it. I always find this comforting. Other people's confusion.

I was given the most pause by the thoughtful and revealing comments by Kat Walsh.

I am interested in Kat's and Eugene's thoughts about engaging mindfully in this media. How does the screen/Interpipe enhance our humanity? How does it detract from it? How can it add more joy to our lives? When does it take away joy?

I'm here to practice expressing my voice. I'm here for the connections. I'm here for the laughs.

I'm here because it's the place to be in 2009, like hanging around the drive-in in the '50s.

I'm here for the experiment. I'm here because I am curious. I'm here because I think it's going to be a key piece in the next step of our advancement. I'm fascinated to see how it plays out.