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.