everything repeats itself.

I've begun to go through the volumes of U&LC I acquired through an EBay auction, and found this quote in an issue from 1973 ...

"Graphic designers today are borrowing—or reviving—traditional forms with increasing frequency to create exciting graphic images. The compelling nature of these images invites imitation. Prolific imitation creates trends. And trends result in a prevailing style, mode, or fashion. When something is fashionable it becomes contemporary, no matter its origin."

I find this extremely interesting given how relative this still is today. I knew that "borrowing and reviving" was a tremendous "trend" right now, but I guess I didn't realize that designers over 30 years ago were doing it too. At times I feel like I'm guilty of falling into the trappings of imitation or trendiness and feel like everyone right now is borrowing and that nothing is new, so finding this quote somehow makes me feel better about it all. Of course, it's still important to try to use things in new ways.

"Everything repeats itself. It's amazing that everybody thinks things are new, but it's all repeat." Andy Warhol


a few of my favorite things

Last year I went on a trip, visiting design studios in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Rotterdam, Eindhoven (all Netherlands) and Antwerpen (Belguim).

We visited KesselsKramer, an advertising agency based in Amsterdam (don't be turned off by their website ... they basically poke fun at everything and their website plays off of all of the horrible examples of web design that are out there ... and it changes daily—to a new badly-designed site!). Anyway, one of my favorite things was a promotional piece they gave us when we visited their studio—which is another point I'll go into in a minute.

Pictured here is "The Privacy Creator." Simply a bee-keeper's hat with enhanced packaging. The back of the package reads, "In the hustle and bustle of today's world, a little privacy is one of the most expensive commodities. That's why KesselsKramer originated the idea of creating instant privacy: The Privacy Creator is the latest in identity headwear. Wear this Brain Cap to maintain the utmost discretion in thought, idea and personal private moments. We all know the feeling of wanting to be alone for a moment during a trying meeting. The privacy creator now offers just that. It gives you an oasis of rest and lets the outside world know—in no uncertain terms—that you don't want to be disturbed. Although KesselsKramer Private Moment Masks look the same, yours is extremely unique. Worn correctly, this Privacy Creator can conceal and nurture identities in crisis!"

This crazy bunch of advertising trend-setters are housed in an old church. From the outside, it looks like the rest of the block, but upon entering, you might feel a bit like an Alice in Wonderland. They've built log cabins in the nave, including diving boards for those employees who just can't handle the height. A black tiger sits atop the altar and they've turned the south transcept into a quite a place to lunch.


Rules & Hints

Some rules & hints for students and teachers
by Corita Kent

//1// Find a place you trust and then, try trusting it for awhile.

//2// (general duties as a student)
Pull everything out of your teacher.
Pull everything out of your fellow students.

//3// (general duties as a teacher)
Pull everything out of your students.

[ I think of #2 and #3 as being similar to the Girl Scouts creed: "Leave everything cleaner than the way you found it." Only in this instance it would read, "Leave everyone smarter than the way you met them." In other words, share everything you know. Pass on info. How else would we and our society evolve?]

//4// Consider everything an experiment.

//5// Be self disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.

//6// Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail, there's only make.

//7// The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is those people who do all the work all the time who are the ones who eventually catch on to things.

//8// Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.

//9// Be happy wherever you can manage it....enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.

//10//"We're breaking all of the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for the "X" qualities." John Cage

Helpful hints: Always be around; Come and go to everything; Always go to classes; Read everything you can get your hands on; Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything,—it might come in handy later.



OO La la ... my soon-to-be collection of 30 editions of Herb Lubalin's U&LC typography journal from the 70's!! Now that's a winning Ebay find!


Signage >v.2

After posting that last blog, I began to go through some of my old photos to see what other signs I have taken photos of for one reason or another. The first one that I came across is this photo of a sign seen on a ferry in Bermuda.

This one also made me laugh. Not because I thought it was idiotic, but because I actually thought that it meant, "No Burgers." (Don't you?)

I realized a bit later that it more likely means "No Food."

I find it disturbing that anyone would think that a burger is an international symbol for food. Is that what this McDonald's Nation has come to? The possibility that an icon of a burger—which no doubt has gained it's fame and increasing popularity due to McDonald's worldwide recognition—might actually be a symbol that we recognize generally as "food," more so than a pile of fresh fruit and vegetables (for instance) is frustrating and a bad sign of where we stand in terms of eating habits.


If you have ever lived (or even visited) Boston, then you have more than likely experienced one or more frustrating encounters with bad signage and the T (subway). The people at the MBTA seem to create new subway routes with their bad signage—I think it would be called the "Rainbow line". Almost every time I take public transportation in Boston, I notice something ridiculous. This time, I happened to be coming from a nice day at the beach on the North Shore. Tired from the spending all day in the sun, all I wanted was to get home.

I was listening to a woman nearby whine to her boyfriend about how screwed up it is that you have to use "Charlie Tickets" (a new system of payment currently being integrated—similar to the NY Metro card) at some stations but at others you can only use a token, which you have to wait in line for to purchase from a clerk (cash only). As I was listening to this, I was looking across the tracks and noticed something that made me laugh. Not because it was humorous, but because it was idiotic.

Note, the sign above the "Green Line" sign, denoting the "Orange Line." The Orange Line Outbound does, infact, pick up there. The Green Line, does not. It took me a lot of pondering to figure out what was going on and why someone even thought this could, in theory, be a good idea. The only conclusion I could come to is that the "Green Line" sign is meant to go along with a couple of other signs (which aren't very close to one another) that had arrows on them. If this is true, I can't understand why they didn't put an arrow on this one as well. But then again, I've stopped trying to understand the MBTA.

Basically, what they have done, all over the subway, is applied a "band aid" approach to their signage. BAD IDEA. Rather than adding to the readability and making it easier for riders to comprehend, they have made the space even more congested with unnessary and unclear signage. It seems that maybe they had to deal with some places where the existing signage was not really working (due to new construction) and rather than starting with a clean slate, they drew on a dirty one. It's not working. And don't even get me started on that "Green Line" typography!!

Multi-sensory input

I knew this was going to happen. It's been 12 or so days since my last post. Can you blame me? Look outside. Who wants to spend their evenings and/or weekends online? Not I.

But since I have been thinking all day about typography during a design "camp" at MassArt (Advanced Expressive Typography with Liz Resnik, co-curator of the Graphic Imperative exhibit), I figured that perhaps I should jump on my blog and write down some thoughts I've had or have had passed on to me within the past two days.

So far, the class has simply been a well-needed refresher of basic typographical exercises. The same type/image exercises which I did about 4 years ago in John Kane's class (Northeastern), but since I have matured and have gained a greater interest in my field and a greater understanding of the significance of typography, I think now is a good time to be reminded of the basics. It is also beneficial to me to work on my process. I think that there was not enough emphasis placed on process when I was getting my degree, and I always wished that there had been a push for more.

Today, Liz brought in her colleague, also a professor of design at MassArt, Gunta Kaza, who spoke to us about process. She began her lecture by giving us something to work on while she spoke. Essentially, all we were doing was folding paper. Do you ever remember being called-out in class for doodling while the teacher lectured? Not in Gunta's class. She encouraged us to stay busy and while we carried out this busy work, she talked to us, and—OH MY!—we listened!!

Her point was to show us that the PROCESS of design is not something that happens while sitting at a computer screen waiting for that brilliant idea to "come" to you, but that process is actually multi-sensory input and occurs while you are observing and doing in different ways. She referenced the book "Meaning in Technology" by Pacey, which speaks to this point. Perhaps this is why there has been an increase in the comeback of hand crafts—knitting, sewing, etc.—which keep one's hands busy, at a time when everything is done digitally. This physical action essentially interrupts (or perhaps punctuates) our regular mental thoughts and causes the synapses of the brain to connect in different ways. These new connections are what lead us to make new discoveries and reach more developed solutions.

A fine example of how doing different tasks can aid and develop your process, is the story of Archimedes and his discovery of density. Supposedly, Archimedes was having trouble understanding how he could determine the density of an object. When he went to draw his bath, he noticed how when he climbed in, the water was displaced. He realized that he could measure the density of the object by placing it in a tub of water and measuring how much water was displaced! Whalaaa! This is known as the "Eureka" effect (not sure that's really a scientific term) and relates the significance of observation to ideas that come suddenly.

So, to sum it up—get off the damn computer and start sketching, sewing, weeding, painting—anything, and you'll have ten times as many ideas.

On that note ... I think I'll get to work on a BAG!


BAG addict

I am one. And I'd like you to be as well.
Here are just a couple examples of my bags. Please comment or send requests for purchase or custom design!

1// Vintage Levi's tan corduroy bag, hand-sewn leather embelleshments on rear pockets, chinese slipper embellishments on back and front, Ralph Lauren beige interior with pink pocket and velcro closure
2// Citizens of Humanity denim tote, embellished with a pink, polka-dotted, pleated opening, lined in grey

Going Dutch

Next step: search my brain for HTML skillz in order to turn this "blah" template into something a bit more interesting. That will give me something to do in all of my free time at work!
This little dish I have posted here is something I found on Ebay. I love it. Didn't win it, but love it! It's a piece of 1960's Poole Pottery (based in Dorset—England & one of the oldest manufacturers), but it has this Early American/Pennsylvania Dutch design feel. So folky. See here for some other stuff I love I have a book full of Early American design motifs ... I need to go through it and scan some things in that really relate to the relief in this dish.

Twirling my baton in the big parade.


This is my new blog. I've tried having a blog in the past. It didn't go so well. But I've decided that I need to blog. Well, really, I just need to write more. Since I already spend so much time online, I figure I might as well begin putting it to better use. It will be a challenge to begin thinking on a daily basis about things to write here, and that's the point. THINK MORE.

So many other designers have fabulous blogs. I have so much to live up to. For instance, Ellen and Julia Lupton's site, and this collaborative design writing blog.

Let's get started.