Chistian Helms: Hot Dog on the HorizonPresentation Transcript
Christian was a very picky eater.Only rice… with butter,noodles… with butter,and naked hot dogs.mimi
VIVIAN RODRIGUEZDeeper than honorable mentions, building a design shop and meatshrine from the ground up, or any of his other ventures. Truly, it isnot the companies, or the steaks—er, stakes, he’s raised, but, rather,the company he keeps that reveal his most notable triumph, and hismost estimable tool-- his spirit. Through the perspective of friendsand family one gets a clearer picture of the spirit Helms has beenpioneering since he was a child, the resulting camaraderie, andthe curiosity he champions and inspires.Interviewing some of his closest and dearest felt more like meetingfriends out for a drink and bawdy banter than a journalistic process.Some stories are told through beer-filled goggles, sometimes cupsoverflowed with juicy insight, but, ultimately, so as not to mar thesweet and salty jewels I dug up, what follows are the naked quotesthat tell the frank story, relished with some narrative.It’s a fitting analogy: that of a common everyday Frank who,through naked ambition, becomes a sophisticated top dog. Notably,however, this Frank never loses touch with his Frank-ness—thatis, that inextricable meaty goodness of who he is. After his recentCommunication Arts feature, it’s easy to think of Christian Helms assomewhat of a star on the rise, frank-ly though, Helms’ successesrun much deeper than the platitudinous
VIVIAN RODRIGUEZThey realize that the search may raise more questions than answers, but theypush on, towards a larger design. Whether it is through Helms Workshop,Standard Grit, the Timmy Bob boot, or home improvement, Helms’ constant thirstfor knowledge expands not only his horizons, but the horizons of those aroundhim. It’s this thirst that informs his influence on life and design, both of which areinterchangeable. Ultimately, family being the most important thing to Helms, hisson will certainly be his most inspiring legacy, but, as a designer, his eyes set onhorizons as if they were infinity pools.His passion to create not only lends itself to a vast community of peers whorespect him, but a vast community of individuals who treasure his friendship. So,while good design may boil down to technical skills, it seems to me that whatmakes design such as Helms’ pervasive is one of those things that, while etherealin character, elicits something very real, physically. Something you can’t bottle—or, simply, as Daniel Northcutt so eloquently put it, “Heart, Heart.” Phillipe Starcks, in a TED conference, reminds us that the human story does notend with the individual. The human legacy, Starcks points out, is vast. We setourselves up for mediocrity by allowing ourselves to be constricted by our sub-jective empirical gaze. After all, one who perpetually walks with his eyes glued tothe floor can’t ever truly see what lies ahead. Thus, Starks claims, true visionarieslook to the horizon. And an exceptional designer does just that. Sees the largervision—seeks out challenges: looks for solutions.
I think it’s delightful.I especially enjoyed that the story of himgetting carded at the Drafthouse was the lead.Also, Pappenhagen looks a bit like a serialkiller in the group photo, which is nice.
Chris BilheimerI thought it was tacky for CA toedit out the whole part aboutChristians chronic bedwetting.
Im sure its pretty good—I havent read it yet cuz Im not a designgeek. I do not have a subscription and I havent decided if I reallywant to pay $5.95 for a 30 day trial for one dang article that I knowIll thumb through the next time I think about it and happen to be atone of my design geek friends houses. I sat in on an interview withXian, Geoff Peveto and Mathew Porter (I just call him Matt)—prettysure that if Matt quoted me instead of Peveto on anything in thearticle then its probably a phenomenal piece of literature.daniel northcutt
WELL DESERVED.Christian has worked hard andis one of the smartest designers Ihave ever known. GEOFF PEVETO
Amanda Summers McCauleyI think it’s terrific and he deservesevery bit of credit for all of his hardwork and talent.I AM SO PROUD TO KNOW HIM!
I think it focused a little too much on howyoung he looks and gave me a bit of acomplex since I’m the only one in ourrelationship who never gets carded.But other than that, I think it was outstanding and I’mlooking forward to the next article! Especially since I’mbetting he’ll be on the cover for that one.Jenn
SUSANI think it is fantastic!Christians accomplishments never ceaseto amaze and inspire me.Having seen his evolution as a designer over the eight or soyears that I have known him, it was an especially proud momentto see Helms Workshop on the cover of Communication Arts.
MATTI THINK HE DESERVESEVERY BIT OF IT.He is so driven andfocused on his craft and hiswork ethic is admirable.
I loved the feature on Christian in CA and it is spoton with the way he works. Its great to see so manyof his projects and accomplishments in one place.It really does capture much of who Christian isand what makes him work, which really is a keyto his success—work, and he does. Brian + Cindy Hatley
TimThe feature in CA was wonderful. Through theyears I have been aware of the things he has beendoing and the recognitions for the good works butto see them all in capsule form was overwhelmingto say the least. I’ve always known the boy hadtalent, even at an early age, and it’s nice thathe has been recognized for his efforts.
Hey, its about my #1 son! Whats not to like?…Hes an awesome son (as is his brother).Seriously, the article showed the real Christian, someonewho doesnt boast or brag about what he does or is doing,but will tell you if you ask. The article also gave someinsight into how he picks the clients he wants to work with.mimiHe really cares about his clients and wants them to do well.
The Things people learn MOSTfrom Christian
Chris BilheimerWhat I would like to learn fromhim is how he is so socially adeptand calm and charming in groupsituations, even though he is a massof anxiety and neurosis inside.Oh, and always use Futura Bold.
Amanda Summers McCauleyHow to be a leaderand a team player atthe same time.
He’s a great teacher that way. Through this method, Christianhas taught me how to look at a piece of paper, space, or walland know whether whatever typography or visual referencethe designer has chosen to place there properly representsthe brand or not. The content, sizing, the angles, curves,color, placement, etc., its all relevant to the brand. Thatswhat anything and everything pertaining to a brand is—either an example, summary, or a definition of said brand. Anyone can slap a name up but the identity is what makesit a brand and identity makes the brand work (or not). Abrand might identify the product but the identity shapesthe brand. Mind you, this does not make me a designerbut does allow me the privilege of enjoying andappreciating really good design. daniel northcuttChristian has taught me mostly byignoring the stupid shit I say and politelyencouraging me when I accidentallyvoice something of relevance.
DONT SETTLE FOR AVERAGE.You can always make an idea better. GEOFF PEVETO
Designcreated by Christian
Chris BilheimerHis design almost always encapsulatestwo of his greatest personality traits:SINCERITY AND HUMOR.Or at least the ability to feign sincerity.
Aesthetic is following a feeling first instead ofthe rule—thats what Christian does. His workspeaks for itself because it is emotional first andthen falls into design protocol.That’s Christian, all heart, and by the book.Unless he decides to reinvent the rule.(Fuck, is that a Yogi Berraism?)daniel northcutt
ITS ALWAYS SMART.The concept is always wellexplored and then he alsoexecutes it. A rare combo. GEOFF PEVETO
Amanda Summers McCauleyHIS DESIGN SENSE IS ANEXTENSION OF HIMSELF—beautiful, playful, charming, retro andmodern, too. His aesthetic always looksso easy, clean, and uncomplicated—Atrue sign of talent and skill.
JENNEvery single thing he does has those elements to it—fromwhat he wears, to what he designs, to what he listens to.His design can be appreciated from a superficialstandpoint because it’s always cool/pretty/interesting,but VERY much like him if you pay a little more attention,there’s so much more to it.HE’S A THINKING MAN’SDESIGNER, BUT HE’S ALSOFUCKING HILARIOUS.
SUSANCLASSIC AND SIMPLE.Christians love of yesteryear andthe ideals and icons that representthem shine through to me in somany ways, from his design to hisown personal style.
MATTHis design issmart, thought provoking,and it delivers a certain message bothdirectly and indirectly.
Christians design aesthetic iskeeping things simple—no unnecessaryclutter. Meat and potatoes if you will...and he knows what he likes.He isnt ambivalent about how hebelieves things should be. Brian + Cindy Hatley
TimChris has always liked looking at antiquesand collectables because we have drug himthrough enough antique stores while growingup. I see a lot of old script/type in his designsand a leaning toward an old, simple, but eyecatching finished product.
Christian sees things differently.His designs are intricate,clever, thought provoking, butthey are never boring.mimi
VIVIAN RODRIGUEZA conversation with Chris Hill sums it up:“I ended up respecting him and liking him as a person well before I knewhis work,” Chris Hill drawls on the other end of the line. A volunteer at the2002 Creative Summit, Helms never mentioned to Hill that he had entered.So when Hill won that day he not only garnered a great deal of respect fromChris for his design, he garnered an even deeper respect for his humility andsincerity. It quickly became evident through the interview with Hill, and theones that followed that, for as many professional successes as Helms has seento date, his personal relationships are by far his most cherished accolade.They all spoke of his kindness, his ability to be a teacher,as well as a friend, and the respect he’s garnered along the way—but, mainly… well, mainly, they spoke of his ability to drink.Yeah… especially his ability to drink.HeartIsn’t just an adjective that describes Helms’ work—it describes Christian.
THE MOST SURPRISING THINGabout Christian
HIS FEROCITY.Hes like a honey badger.What Christian lacks in stature,he more than makes up for withflailing limbs and unhinged fury.
John BielenbergHis humility,his sense of humor,and his privately enjoyedcross-dressing.
HOW MUCH COLD BEERTHAT DUDE CAN DRINK…and then hell disappearwith out a trace. daniel northcutt
Amanda Summers McCauleyNothing surprises me about Chris anymore—HE IS UNSTOPPABLE!
HOW MUCH THAT ‘LILDUDE CAN DRINK.GEOFF PEVETO
We have a secret passagebetween our offices.Make of that what you will.
John BielenbergDEEP RESPECT ANDFRIENDSHIP COMES FIRST,then a mutual passionfor bat-like canines.
Chris BilheimerHe is phenomenally easy to stalkand to be around.
BUSINESS PARTNERS,PALS,BROTHERS.daniel northcutt
SUSANI am so fortunate to have gained such a wonderfulfamily when I married Matt. I may technically bea sister-in-law, but Christian, and Jenn, havealways made me feel loved like a sister. Nothaving any brothers or sisters of my own, that is arelationship I am so grateful for.
MATTChristian and I have always been really close.He is my best friend. We are very different incertain aspects and it makes our relationshipspecial because we always have somethingdifferent to talk about.
Brian + Cindy HatleyHe also is an honest, hardworking youngman who makes his own luck in this world byworking harder and doing more than the other guy.He doesnt complain. He just does it.There are many creative, talented people in theworld, but Christian seems to have the more rarecombination of creativity and great business sense.He is always looking for interesting new venturesand figuring out ways to benefit both parties.He comes from great stock, and was raised well.Christian is our son-in-law.He is a good provider, a loving husband to ourdaughter, and an amazing father. He gets excitedabout each new discovery or accomplishmentHatley experiences, and he wants to be a hands-onpart of each and every one.
TimWhen growing up Chris and I were often like oil and water.Two Type-A personalities, butting heads. There could beonly one leader—and I was it, when he was younger. As hespread his wings and left the nest, we have become muchcloser and are now good friends. We now discuss all sorts oftopics, and I very much respect his opinion and insightswithout finding it necessary to be a guiding force.
A JOKEthat commemorates your relationship with Christian
John BielenbergHe had beautiful hair!(He’ll know.)
Chris BilheimerTwo guys walk into a bar.One orders a coke with no ice.
Hell, any one liner—especially onedirected at Pevetos expense...i.e. first response, last line.daniel northcutt
GEOFF PEVETOHOW MANY OFTHOSE CAN YOU GETUP IN THERE?
Amanda Summers McCauleyHe would be telling ME thejoke and I would be the onelaughing most likely.
MATTSomething about Steve Urkel,he loves that guy. He also likes itwhen I tell people what they cango down the street and do.
PIONEER PRIDE!Brian + Cindy Hatley
ONE MEMORY THAT STANDS OUTwith Christian
John BielenbergWhen I first saw him smoke meth.A habit he hides well.
Chris BilheimerIt involves a cab ride andchemically induced paranoia.
daniel northcuttIll be good God damned if he didnt send me mock-ups thenext day of the flag that now proudly hangs above the FrankBar. Not sure I would have remembered that conversation if hehadnt designed it and sent it over.Now, I cant imagine Frank with out that flag—itsa huge part of our identity.Funny kid, that Christian. Standing at the Continental Club watching Redd Volkhaertand having a few cold beers. We discussed the Battleof Gonzalez and the "COME AND TAKE IT" flag. Wethought that replacing the cannon with a sausage wouldbe funny because, well, sausage is funny. I assured himthat it would be legit because I was a Son of the Republic ofTexas so I had that authority (beer talking).
Standing in the rain at 2AM at Tumans Alcohol AbuseCenter in Chicago realizing we had no idea how toget to Jay Ryans house. Then realizing Jay had writtendirections on our arms three hours earlier knowing wewere too drunk to ever find our way home. GEOFF PEVETO
Amanda Summers McCauleyThe comical illustrationshe would draw duringPC seminars.
FLY AWAY, ME!(It never actually happened, butinvolved a bat suit with floppy feet andbat ears and is the best visual memory Iwill ever have of any human being everin the history of the world.)Jenn
SUSANAlley beers. ‘Nuff said.
MATTIVE NEVER SEEN HIM HAPPIERthan when he proposed to hiswife in Montreat by the creek.
This is hard, but a few years ago, Christian and Jennifer spentChristmas in CA with us at my mothers home with aunts anduncles and cousins and friends, most of whom he had nevermet. I remember seeing him sitting quietly in a chairat the edge of chaos, enjoying a beer and an old book,with a quiet smile on his face. He was enjoying it all froma short distance, and taking it all in, which can be a littleintimidating at times. He was gracious with it all.Brian + Cindy Hatley
TimOne of the many moments that stands out in my mindwas when Christian quit his job in NY and sold all of hisbelongings and arrived at our home in Gastonia. I waswondering how he was going to attack this hurdle in his lifeand was amazed at his tenacious approach.Every morning he was up as I left for work and I got uppretty early in those days. He would get on the computerand telephone and begin contacting and conversing withfriends and associates in the design world. He was stillworking tirelessly when I arrived home in the evenings onlytaking a break to eat with the family and then back at thetask of finding his next position.Within two to three weeks I helped him pack the carfor his trip to Austin, TX to find a job. Again within twoweeks Chris had a job and has never looked back.
Even as a young child (4-5 years) he always had acrayon, (or pencil, as he got older) and paper with him.That was all he needed to entertain himself. He woulddraw pictures, write his name, color his pictures. As hegot older, he would write stories. Skits. Draw caricaturesof people he knew... He was always writing or drawing.mimi
WHAt keeps yourrelationship teatheredto Christian
John BielenbergShared secrets from theClaremont Lounge.
Sausage... that and I tend to bug him alot with dumb ass ideas.Because we own a business together,he eventually has to answer my calls.daniel northcutt
GEOFF PEVETOWe own a couple of businesstogether for one and we have moreof a family relationship than abusiness relationship.
Amanda Summers McCauleyOur time spent together at PC.
SUSANFamily is very important to Christian,so he is never more than a phone callaway. I am also fortunate enough to workwith him through Standard Grit. Thoughwe are miles apart it is always exciting tocome together on a project.
MATTI cant go more than a few dayswithout talking to him.Family is very important to usboth, as well as our friendship.
Jennifer and Hatley...BLOOD IS THICKER!Brian + Cindy Hatley
TimThe Helms family has always been close. Im not just talkingabout Chris, Matt, Mimi, and myself. Im talking about mybrothers, their wives, their children, etc. Chris is big on familyand spends as much time being with us, and, now, the Hatleys(Jenns parents) as he possibly can. He loves family and all thebenefits thereof. He has always been taught that when timesget tough he could count on his family being there for him.Tim
THE MOST Important partof your friendship with Christian
Drinking, mostly.But seriously, I cant stress this secretpassage thing enough.
Chris BilheimerSHEER SEXUAL TENSION.
Knowing that if we dont talk for a while, wellalways pick up right where we left off. That,and the fact that we have each other’s back nomatter what—thats family. daniel northcutt
GEOFF PEVETOThat it exists.
Amanda Summers McCauleyRespect
I have never been and will never be ashappy as I am when I’m with him.Even when he’s being a butthead.Jenn
SUSANHe is such an inspiration to me.I feel so lucky to have him in my family.
Its honest, mutually respectful and weenjoy being around each other. We havelearned so much from him about thingswe had never considered and he iseager to learn what ever he can aboutanything and everything.Brian + Cindy Hatley
WHAT WE LOVE MOSTabout the man
OH, MAN…No comment.
Heart, Heart. daniel northcutt
GEOFF PEVETOHes super funny andpractically a genius.
Amanda Summers McCauleyHIS DEPTH AS A MAN, ANDHIS BREADTH AS A DESIGNER.
He’s hilarious!And thoughtful.And a great dad to themost important child anddog in the universe.Jenn
Whats not to love?Hes a loyal friend and brother,a brilliant designer, and a lovinghusband and father.
SUSANThe way he sees the world andhis value in truth, hard work,and character.
Christian is so open to seeing someone elses pointof view. He doesnt always agree, but considers it.He looks at the world with "fresh eyes," and interest. He also gets and appreciates Jenn.They have their own world of humor andwonder, and understanding. Its a beautiful thing.Brian + Cindy Hatley
TimLove the man, the son, the designer:Chris is unselfish, honest, and very talented.He also has good taste in that he chose Jenn.And thank God she accepted.He is always looking for various talents in others andrelishes the chance to help that person succeed.
What I love most about Christian, other than theobvious: Christian is a good person, ethicallyand morally. He treats people well, hes veryopen-minded, and hes a good friend.Hes grown up to be a person I really like.mimi
But as much as it pains me, I will probablykill and devour him—likely within thefirst couple of hours.I suspect he will be gamey, tough andoverly salted by my tears.Unless he kills me first, which he very well could.Lets say were stranded somewhere, he and I. Now, Imnot going to want to break down and eat him. Im goingto want to be strong. Ill put up the pretense of foraging,trying to sustain myself off the land and whatnot.
ONE MEALto share with Christian
Chris BilheimerI dont know, but it would probablyend up being at Frank.
It would have to be good steak,good wine, and good company.Brian + Cindy Hatley
GEOFF PEVETOWed get burgers and beers and talk aboutmusic and art and nothing important.JUST LAUGHS.
Amanda Summers McCauleyI know he loves hot dogs, and beer.Or pizza and beer.Or just beer.
MATT + susanBeer and BBQ.We wouldnt needanything else. It will be the sameas always—awesome.
TimI cant quite decide what the one meal withChristian would be, especially the menu. The mealitself would have to include pasta, bacon, andpork. Im thinking pasta Carbonara with some sortof beer around the family table. On the porch.Overlooking the creek in Montreat, NC.
Chef’s tasting at Uchi!It would consist of him talking through every single nuanceof every single flavor and me giggling over his subtle jokes.After the fourth round of drinks, I believe theconversation volume would be substantially elevated.Which I love.Jenn
As a child, Christian…would swallow veggieswhole so he didnt have to chew or taste them.The meal I would want to share withChristian now is sushi. We both love it—especially at Uchi.mimi
Christian As A CHILD
He had FANTASTIC hair.Jenn
MATTHe was skinny, artistic, and sneaky.You never knew exactly what hewas thinking. I still dont.
ISNT HE STILL?Brian + Cindy Hatley
TimChris was a well-behaved young man as a child.He grew up playing outside with his brother andour three goddaughters who lived up the street.He enjoyed his hot wheels, bike, and Star Warstoys but the one thing we could always count onwas giving him a pencil and paper and watchinghim lay in the floor and draw, draw, draw.
Christian was a delightful child. He loved to talk,ask questions, he was interested in lots of things. Heattended a pre-school program when he was 4 andshortly after he started, he came home one day with anote pinned to his shirt that said"I TALK TOO MUCH." He did learn to follow the rules, but it didntchange his personality.Mimi
CHRISTIANas a hot dog or beer
He is a person, and I should showhim enough respect to at leastacknowledge that hes not ahot dog when I eat him.
Chris BilheimerPROBABLY GROSS.
Is this a gay rag? If so, Im cool with it—Im aboard member for the largest Gay and Lesbianfilm fest in the southwest… a GLIFF. daniel northcutt
GEOFF PEVETOIf you cut him open, hed bleed IPAs. He wouldlike to think hes complex and bitter likethe beer he drinks mostly, but hell pound ashitty PBR any day, so hes not that deep.The dog is easy: Carolina Pork It.
Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap.He has enough of it coursingthrough his veins.And I’m avoiding the hot dogconversation because I can alreadyhear Thomas in my head. Pervert.Jenn
TimIf Christian were a beer hed taste like a MexicanMartini and on that note the one inside joke to sharewith him is, "Well son, what bar do we need to visit tosee if they make a better Mexican Martini than thelast 20 plus that weve visited over the last 7 years.”
Amanda Summers McCauleySmooth, crisp, frothy rich, with a delightful buzzand plenty of snap.(Beer, hot dog combo platter.)
HOW CHRISTIAN WILL CHANGEthe worldand how he has changed yours
TimChris changed my world the day hearrived and continues to change itwith each stride he makes.
THE PH BALANCEOF OUR YARD.Jenn
Amanda Summers McCauleyChris influences everyone andeverything he touches.Like I said, he’s unstoppable.
By producing the mostamazing grandchild, and bymaking our daughter’s worlda happier place to live.Brian + Cindy Hatley
MATT + susanI think through design he will bringawareness to whatever he works on. Hewill set the bar for others in his field andchallenge them to be better.He has challenged me to be better.
CHRIS HILLChristian’s spirit is fresh and pure. His passion isinfectious. He inspires everyone around him.I’m so glad that our paths crossed. It’s an honor andprivilege to have him as a friend.Christian is a great designerBUT AN EVEN BETTER PERSON.
Well, it looks better when hes done with it, so theresthat. In my world? I like going into the office a lotmore now than I did a couple of years ago.Secret passage!
GEOFF PEVETOIdeally, appreciation for thinkingthrough visual expression.He changed the way Iapproach design.
Whether folks know it or not, his designchanges their thought process daily…my thought process on design…daniel northcutt