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This Is NOT A Sagmeister



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Eric Heiman, principal and co-founder of the celebrated design agency Volume Inc., muses on what happened when he took a seven month sabbatical from all things work and design. Delivered at Western Washington University in December of 2012.

This Is NOT A Sagmeister

  1. 1. Hello.
  2. 2. So a little over two years ago I turned 40—Trevor is a nickname my wife and close friends have for me—and had a big party. It was all going well—probably the most meaningful and fun I’ve ever had. I rented a house at the beach. Had a great dinner with close friends the first night, a big blow out party the next day and night, and then on Sunday my dad calls to wish me a happy birthday and makes this comment:
  3. 3. YOU ARE HERE* “Wow, I can’t believe I have a son that’s 40. You’re halfway around the baseball diamond—
  4. 4. YOU ARE HERE* *IFF YOU’RE LUCKY —if you’re lucky.”
  5. 5. Now, I come from a long line of neurotic Jews on my dad’s side of the family, and this threw me for a serious existential whirl. I started to think about how, IF I’M LUCKY, I might see good friends I only see once a year 40 more times, and so on.
  6. 6. Meanwhile, I had been working hard for the last ten years to make Volume, my design partnership, successful. And the most recent two years, in the wake of the financial crisis, had been bumpy ones. (This is some of the gang at a recent party we threw.)
  7. 7. I had also been teaching regularly at the California College of the Arts—great place, by the way —since 1999. (This is my current crop of students.)
  8. 8. And doing other various design-oriented activities, like writing for SFMOMA and Eye magazine, putting together design events. So I was very busy and pretty consistently so over the last decade.
  9. 9. Lastly, the shifts in media and the way we interact, with social media and the iPhone, were starting to leak into my life in ways that didn’t seem healthy. This constant voice telling me that as a designer I needed to be up on everything going on in design, not to mention the creepy voyuerism that something like Facebook allows you to engage, was wearing me down and seemed to be getting in the way of my work and what was important.
  10. 10. (I need a break.) Essentially, I was burning myself out, and decided I needed a break. Now luckily I had a business partner, who was game to cover for me. Plus my wife and I pride ourselves on living on very little overhead, so I had some money saved for something like this.
  11. 11. So in May of last year, after my spring semester finished at CCA, I took almost 8 months off from work, school, everything.
  12. 12. Now, of course, the second I started telling people in my peer group I was doing this, they all responded, “Oh, you’re doing your Sagmeister.” (Everyone know who this is?)
  13. 13. And I would respond, angrily, defensively, “No, no, no. This is not my Sagemeister.”
  14. 14. Stefan: Bestselling book Museum exhibitions TED talk Documentary film in production Made giant wooden type and floated it down a river Sported a lot of groovy suits Case in point, this is what Stefan accomplished on his break:
  15. 15. Eric: Read 50 books Shot 3000 photos Visited 22 cities Spent $30,000 Quit social media Contracted upper GI infection (that still hasn’t healed) And this is what I accomplished on my break.
  16. 16. And this was intentional. Eventually anyway. At first I did feel the pressure to make a project out of the time. Life is short, right? I may never do this again! I must get a book deal! I must write every day! I’m going to interview famous designers about taking breaks! I’m going to make conceptual art!
  17. 17. This is my friend, sometimes Volume freelancer, and super talented designer (but not the bassist of Radiohead) Ed O’Brien. Who also attended Western Washington U for a year before relocating to SF. (You guys wouldn’t let him into the art department here.) When I mentioned I was taking this break and told him of all these ideas, he simply replied: “Dude, it’s not a break if you make a project out of it.” So I may not have published a book, but you’re at least getting this talk, which I’m lovingly calling:
  18. 18. This is NOT a Sagmeister This is not a Sagmeister, or
  19. 19. (or: “If you’re looking for some enlightenment in the form of type made out of rotting bananas, I can’t help you.” (or: “If you’re looking for enlightenment in the form of type made out of rotting bananas, I can’t help you.
  20. 20. Sorry. Sorry.”)
  21. 21. At CCA, I sit on the undergraduate thesis committee and have become notorious for asking students this question of their work:
  22. 22. Why should I care? At the end of the day, why does what you do matter? We ask this same question of our clients, and of ourselves at Volume when we decide what jobs to work on. When I started on this break, though, I was at a pretty low point. And the question I was asking myself now was:
  23. 23. Why should I care about design? I had basically reached a place where I was doubting the next half of my life could be dedicated to this practice that I thought I loved. Questions of doubt swirled in my head.
  24. 24. Form Depth Space I’m going to focus on three lines of inquiry that occupied my mind in my time off.
  25. 25. Form Depth Space One of the first things about taking time off is that suddenly I had more time to simply look, appreciate and contemplate what was around me. Be 100% sponge.
  26. 26. Beautifully crafted typography everywhere.
  27. 27. Wonderful architectural details.
  28. 28. Wonderful architectural details.
  29. 29. Small things, like stamps—
  30. 30. To memorials and museums—
  31. 31. To memorials and museums—
  32. 32. To memorials and museums—
  33. 33. To art both in galleries—
  34. 34. To art both in galleries—
  35. 35. To art both in galleries—
  36. 36. and out in the world.
  37. 37. To the beauty of words visualized—
  38. 38. To the beauty of words visualized—
  39. 39. To the beauty of words visualized—
  40. 40. To incidental beauty—
  41. 41. To incidental beauty—
  42. 42. To incidental beauty—
  43. 43. And the music of chance.
  44. 44. Now, this probably comes as no surprise to anyone. This is why we’re designers, right? To create cool stuff!
  45. 45. Not to mention collect it. Whether virtually on Pinterest, or through the seemingly thousands of design books that are on the market now.
  46. 46. Any when things don’t reach our high standards, watch out! As was the case with the Gap logo redesign fiasco a few years ago, where the supposed guardians of good design and taste rose up to stop this supposed travesty.
  47. 47. Yet when we’re front-facing our audience or our clients, expertise in this vein is suddenly diminished. This is a section on the fairly newly designed AIGA National website called “Why Design?” Pretty much every current design buzz word is here—Strategy, Sustainability, Design for Good, Social Engagement, Transparency—but nothing about craft, beauty, form, as if it goes without saying; or we’re simply embarrassed of these skills once we start talking to clients and collaborators.
  48. 48. Form: Why are we so ashamed of it? So my question is why is the fact that we make beautifully crafted work so downplayed? Is it very possible that if the designers of that Gap logo had followed their intuitive formmaking voices and not their overly strategic ones, the result would have been more honest and authentic to the Gap?
  49. 49. Form: Why are we so ashamed of it? (or: “That’s pretty. Does that make me a shallow designer?”) The problem is how do we sell intuition? No one wants to hear the reason a design works is,“Man, this just feels right? Don’t you feel it, too?”
  50. 50. We think that any talk of form and beauty will cast us as shallow decorators, rather than strategic business partners.
  51. 51. Case in point, a little before I left for my break, AIGA had this “One Day For Design” conversation on Twitter, and for kicks I posted a little message to them about this oversight on their website.
  52. 52. And amidst all the social networking din, someone actually called me to the mat on it. At first I was amazed, but then realized this is the crux of why we don’t talk about form and beauty. Because we often don’t have a framework other than our subjective tastes.
  53. 53. (Ads like this don’t engender much confidence either.)
  54. 54. Beauty = the sensual realization of an internal truth My colleague Hamish Chandra from Hattery defines beauty—
  55. 55. Beauty = the sensual realization of an internal truth as “the sensual realization of an internal truth.” If anything, this is our job as designers.
  56. 56. Beauty = the sensual realization of an internal truth = more than just visual form I love this definition because in the context of design it opens up our realizations to go beyond surface articulation. Because a part of my and Adam’s experience is in architecture and exhibition design, we are always looking to push past just the visual and into the physical, the tactile, the experiential, and facilitation of action.
  57. 57. For example, with the ReadyMade book we designed—a book about making things from reusable materials—the exposed chipboard, inset sticker, and tape binding are tactile “truths”; the spine doubling as a ruler is a functional one.
  58. 58. At the Academy of Sciences, the physical module’s open-air, see-through design reinforces the “truth” of the open-air building and bucolic site in Golden Gate Park.
  59. 59. At the Academy of Sciences, the physical module’s open-air, see-through design reinforces the “truth” of the open-air building and bucolic site in Golden Gate Park.
  60. 60. At the Academy of Sciences, the physical module’s open-air, see-through design reinforces the “truth” of the open-air building and bucolic site in Golden Gate Park.
  61. 61. For a poster about film remakes, the poster physically embodies the “truth” of the remaking idea.
  62. 62. Even our business cards, by there being a series of six (and counting) instead of one, the design reinforce our studio’s other mantra, “that there are different Volume levels for everyone,” by allowing us to customize the business card transaction experience.
  63. 63. There’s also beauty in the experiential and functional. While I was traveling during my time off, the AirBnB app was indispensable. It’s certainly not ugly, but it’s beauty is in how it functions, its utility. The visual is also wonderfully realized, but is almost beside the point.
  64. 64. For this annual report for a non-profit that assists the people of the Tibetan plateau, we hired Tibetan craftsmen to make the cover paper, the block stamp, and the yak bone letter openers, so the annual benefits these people directly before it even gets into potential funders’ hands.
  65. 65. For 826 Valencia, we designed a website that not just visually embodies the character of the 826 Valencia Pirate Store location, but functionally allows its employees themselves to customize type, video, and product frames of content through a CMS we created.
  66. 66. In this last project (a collaboration with MendeDesign) for a exhibition featuring artists that don’t make artifacts but instead facilitate the art-making process for others, our design solution does exactly that. The actual graphic design of the elements is considered, but also somewhat incidental.
  67. 67. Back to the original Twitter question. I did have an answer, and it’s my other point about the importance of our skills as formmakers.
  68. 68. It’s not far-fetched to think that if we left the engineers, the software developers, the money people to their own devices, everything would end up like the Google search results page—
  69. 69. —extremely useful, obviously well-meaning, but ultimately soul-sucking as hell.
  70. 70. Rock POP ROCK The Mojo Men. 1964-69. Rock/pop. Brit-rock ripoffs produced by Sly Stone. Minor hit in 1965. On Autumn Records. POP ROCK The Vejtables. 1964-66.Pop/rock. From Millbrae. Mid-60s. Lead singer Jan Errico was also drummer (female drummer an oddity at time). POP ROCK Boz Scaggs. 1967-present. Came to SF in 1967, Multi-decade musician, part owner of Slims. Grew up with Steve Miller. Had big solo hit in 1976. From blues to disco POP ROCK Electric Flag. 1965-68. Led by Mike Bloomfield who later appeared in Mitchell Bros. porn. Had a horn section. POP ROCK Cold Blood. Formed in 1969-1978. Soul/rock/jazz. Fillmore hit, led by Lydia Pense. F, R POP ROCK Elvin Bishop. Blues/rock/country. 1965-present. Moved to SF after Chicago. Played with Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Biggest hit with 1976 single “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” T POP ROCK Durocs. Pop/rock. 1975-80. Songwriters Ron Nagle and Scott Mathews wrote for Streisand, The Tubes, Michelle Phillips. POP ROCK Malo. 1972-present. Teenage rock group. First album 1972. Carlos Santana’s brother Jorge led. POP ROCK Steve Miller Band. 1967-present. Rock/pop. Started as Steve Miller Blues Band, played with Dallas-buddy Boz Scaggs. Formed in 1967, but scored “The Joker” hit in 1973. Marin rock. POP ROCK Doobie Bros. Rock. 1970-present. From San Jose. Formed in 1970. Had a Hell’s Angel following. POP ROCK. Rubinoos. Power pop in Berkeley. Recorded with Beserkley. 1970-85. “I Want to Be Your Boyfriend.” POP ROCK. Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Band formed in MA, but moved to CA in 1975. Folk/pop. Recorded with Berserkley Records. POP ROCK. Rubicon. Ex-Sly Stone. Pop. Mid-late 70s. Two members went on to form Night Ranger. POP ROCK Journey. Formed in 1973-present. Originally called “Golden Gate Rhythm Section.” Steve Perry joined in 1977. Biggest hits came with 1981 album. POP ROCK Santana. Born in Mexico, graduated from Mission High. Formed first band in 1966. Played Woodstock. Signed with Clive Owens in 1970. POP ROCK Huey Lewis and the News. 1980-present. Corte Madera. Marin Rock. Formed in 1980, first big album in 1982. “Power of Love” in 1985. Original band name: Huey Lewis and the American Express. Pop/slowcore. Mark Eitzel. R POP ROCK. Eddie Money. Rock/pop/city rock. AKA, Ed Mahoney. Ex NYPD, moved to Berkeley. First album in 1977. POP ROCK. 4 Non Blondes. 1989-96. Linda Perry. F POP ROCK. Mr. Big. 1988-2002. “To be with you.” POP ROCK. Earth Quake. 1966-1979.Power pop from Berkeley. Formed in 1966, released albums in 70s. Formed Berserkley Records.  Imagine if information was all like this. Hook me up to the Matrix, I’m done.
  71. 71. Wouldn’t you rather see it like this? (This is a poster we did for McSweeney’s on the history of Bay Area Music.)
  72. 72. I think this is all summed up by the artist Paul Madonna with the wise words he inserts at the bottom of this piece: “In hard times beauty can seem frivolous—but take away the beauty, and all you’re left hard times.”
  73. 73. Beauty Depth Space The idea of depth in our work is not a new aspiration, but certainly one that is often hard to realize.
  74. 74. I was asked to contribute a cover to National Novel Writing week. They gave me a synopsis and I had a day or so to design a cover. This story was about the near future where only a select group of people in the world can remember their dreams, and are enlisted to help the government in illicit goings-on. It focuses on one of these dreamers.
  75. 75. Now this isn’t a masterpiece, but I thought it captured the sinister, paranoid tone and dream- based content of the novel well enough, and wasn’t too much work for the audience since it would stand out like a sore thumb in a bookstore. But people went apeshit, because basically they couldn’t read the typography right away. (And wait, what’s a bookstore?)
  76. 76. I was reminded of when, on my break last year, I was a guest critic at a summer design class held in Paris by a colleague of mine. I met Pascal Béjean of Pascal Béjean-Olivier Körner- Nicolas Ledoux. Among other work, they do these really interesting Theater posters that require repeat, or at least concentrated viewing to fully grasp. I couldn’t imagine work this dense and beautiful in America’s subway stations.
  77. 77. Depth: Can design be complex, challenging and realistic? So my next question is can design have this kind of capacity anymore?
  78. 78. Depth: Can design be complex, challenging and realistic? (As opposed to simple, clever and idealistic?) Especially outside of the academy or very rarefied environments?
  79. 79. I was in design school when this stuff was blowing up. Does anyone know this publication? Yeah, Emigré! While stylistically it’s dated (as are some of the ideas these designers had about communication), I was very drawn to the challenging nature of the work. That design could be more than just “clever solutions.”
  80. 80. Ah, those heady days of experimental type, where you’d be given a random adjective and noun and had to create a poster around the phrase to these two words made. (This was done before all the info crawls you see on TV news now. And in Photoshop 2.0, before Layers, and History, and even Undo. Every move I made took about an hour to render.)
  81. 81. The tough part about this question is that we as designers have always been looked to for our idealism, to be the Pied Pipers that play the music to lead people into doing, making, or buying something. It’s not outright deception, but I personally struggle with this part of our job. That we can’t acknowledge doubt. But the “Pied Piper” model is changing.
  82. 82. These are diagrams by Clay Shirky, who talks a lot about how social media has changed our media landscape. His theory is that what used to be a centralized, linear form of information dissemination is now much more non-linear and decentralized. It’s hard for companies or anyone to control the message now. The message is really in the hands of the masses. The bad news is that maybe we designers don’t have as much control as we thought. The good news is that this should keep us honest, and gives us an opening to do better, more complex and true work.
  83. 83. How to evaluate design Not sure if a piece of design is any good? Just remember this easy-to-use chart. Huh? WOW! = Success! WOW! Huh? = Not so much At Volume we have this deceivingly simple equation on how to identify “successful” design. It’s a simple idea, but one that I hope leads to complexity in the work. The Huh/Wow equation says that after we get your attention you might have to do a little work to be rewarded. The Wow/Huh could either be “Wow, that’s interesting, but Huh, I don’t get it.” OR “Wow, that’s clever, but Huh, upon further immersion I find it to be shallow and lame.”
  84. 84. San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2007-2009 Branding/Promotion Case in point, for three years we created the branding and promotion for the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. As a half-Jew and film buff, this was a dream gig. And I figured that the combination of film and Jewish culture would have a rich legacy of promotion in this sphere.
  85. 85. I was wrong. Isn’t this clever? And very lame. And it gets worse, just a simple Google image search of “Jewish Film Festival”—
  86. 86. —brings up enough Stars of David and film clichés to gag me on a matzoh ball.
  87. 87. No Stars of David No film strips No dreidels No Holocaust imagery No cute Bubies (grandmothers) No Hebrew No yarmulkes No Jewish deli food I felt my culture deserved better and no amount of Jon Stewart self-loathing was going to let me fall back on these tropes.
  88. 88. We also decided to avoid the common device of using film stills as imagery and instead create our own, as a way to distinguish the festival from the others in the Bay Area. For this year we “painted” with light—a uniting symbol in both Judaism and film. The logotype hints at the strength of both film and Jewish culture when the previously dispersed come together at this festival.
  89. 89. The next year was about the multifaceted aspects of Jewish culture and the festival offerings. It hints at a Jewish star but transforms it into something wholly new.
  90. 90. The final year we imagined the Bay Area as this mélange of culture that the film festival emerges from every year. There are four lines that break the horizontal axis that could hint at a Star of David, but no more than faintly.
  91. 91. Attendance increased every year we did the branding for the festival. I’m not saying we were solely responsible, but it certainly gave the organization a certain presence and sophistication not present before.
  92. 92. That said, there are some traditions you can only do so much to upend. The first year we did this job we also designed the promotional trailer. In the past these spots were often humorous, but usually playing on bad Jewish stereotypes. So we decided to eschew tradition (and traditional narrative) and create more of a motion-based version of the branding. Every year on opening night they show a selection of previous trailers and then the new one.
  93. 93. People cheered for the ones that used the bad stereotypes, and then ours ran. And then....silence. This happened every year afterwards, too. The lesson? Your audience will only go so far with you. Sometimes you need the familiar to engage people. (And ridding Jewish people of self-deprecation was much harder than we thought...)
  94. 94. Complexity in our projects also comes from open collaboration both within the office and outside it. We do weekly group creative meetings where everyone puts everything they are working on up on the studio critique wall. We also use that time to brainstorm as a group on projects that are in their infancy, so get all the big ideas out on the table.
  95. 95. Mohawk Fine Papers Solutions Promotion We were honored to be asked to design a paper promotion for Mohawk, who we consider the gold standard of all things paper. They usually use Pentagram or VSA or Adams Morioka so it was both exciting and scary since we had a lot to live up to.
  96. 96. The brief is usually minimal at best: “Just say a few things about the Solutions line and make it cool!” I can probably count the paper promos I’ve kept over the last 15 years on one hand. So our goal was to see if we could create one that people would keep—and not design the common “here’s a collection of cool stuff we like” kind. We went through a lot of bad ideas, and in our first session we came up empty.
  97. 97. Our second session was better. Of course, we still entertained the “collection of cool stuff” idea just in case we had to punt. And then we came back around to the paper line’s name— Solutions. How could we possibly avoid addressing this? Why not just turn it on ourselves in some way? We began to think about how difficult coming up with a solution can be. And then how we often come up with multiple solutions, yet unfortunately only get to choose one. We often wonder what might have happened if we chose direction B instead of C.
  98. 98. We realized that we wanted to create the Run Lola Run / Groundhog Day of paper promos, where we could pose the question, “What if we made a different choice?” What if we gave the same image sequence—that we more or less quickly and randomly assembled from 10 different photographers’ work—and gave it to three different writers to interpret?
  99. 99. BOOK 2 7.25 x 9.5 FC IFC 1 2 3 4 5 Flannel Feltweave Flannel Feltweave Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, 100c 100c Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Letterpress 1 color Offset 1 PMS Silver PMS Silver PMS Silver PMS Silver PMS Black PMS Black Offset 1 PMS PMS Black PMS Black PMS Black Monotone PMS Black 2 PMS Black 2 Blind emboss (Duotone) (Duotone) 6 7 8 9 10 11 Short Story Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t PMS Black PMS Silver PMS Black PMS Silver PMS Silver PMS Black PMS Black 2 PMS Black PMS Black 2 PMS Black PMS Black (Monotone) PMS Black 3 PMS Black 2 (Duotone) PMS Black 2 (Tritone) PMS Black 3 (Duotone) (Tritone) 12 13 14 15 16 17 Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t PMS Black PMS Silver PMS Black PMS Black PMS Silver PMS Black PMS Black 2 PMS Black PMS Black 2 PMS Black 2 PMS Black PMS Black 2 (Duotone) PMS Black 2 PMS Black 3 PMS Black 3 PMS Black 3 (Duotone) PMS Black 4 PMS Black 4 (Tritone) (Quadtone) (Quadtone) 18 19 20 IBC BC Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Flannel Feltweave Flannel Feltweave Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t Feltweave, 80t 100c 100c PMS Black PMS Silver PMS Silver Offset 1 PMS Silver Letterpress 1 color PMS Black 2 PMS Black PMS Black Offset 1 PMS (Duotone) PMS Black 2 (Monotone) Blind emboss (Duotone) One writes a short story.
  100. 100. BOOK 3 7.25 x 9.5 FC IFC 1 2 3 4 5 Eggplant Feltweave Eggplant Feltweave Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, 100c 100c Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Letterpress 1 color Offset 1 PMS Silver PMS PMS CMYK CMYK CMYK Offset 1 PMS PMS PMS Red Touch Plate? PMS PMS Blind emboss PMS PMS 6 7 8 9 10 11 Short Play Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t CMYK CMYK CMYK CMYK PMS CMYK PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS Red Touch plate? PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS 12 13 14 15 16 17 Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t CMYK CMYK CMYK CMYK PMS CMYK PMS PMS Touch plate? Touch plate? PMS Red Touch plate? PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS PMS 18 19 20 IBC BC Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Eggplant Feltweave Eggplant Feltweave Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t Super Smooth, 80t 100c 100c CMYK CMYK CMYK Offset 1 PMS Silver Letterpress 1 color PMS PMS Touch plate? Offset 1 PMS PMS PMS PMS Blind emboss PMS One writes a short play.
  101. 101. BOOK 4 7.25 x 9.5 FC IFC 1 2 3 4 5 New Spirit Red New Spirit Red Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Feltweave,100c Feltweave,100c Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Letterpress 1 color Offset 1 PMS Silver PMS PMS CMYK CMYK CMYK Offset 1 PMS Red Touch Plate? PMS PMS Blind emboss 6 7 8 9 10 11 6-Word Memoir Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t CMYK CMYK CMYK CMYK PMS CMYK PMS PMS PMS PMS Red Touch plate? PMS 12 13 14 15 16 17 Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t CMYK CMYK CMYK CMYK PMS CMYK PMS PMS Touch plate? Touch plate? PMS Red Touch plate? PMS PMS PMS 18 19 20 IBC BC Carrera White, Carrera White, Carrera White, Flannel Feltweave Flannel Feltweave Linen, 80t Linen, 80t Linen, 80t 100c 100c CMYK CMYK CMYK Offset 1 PMS Silver Letterpress 1 color PMS PMS Touch plate? Offset 1 PMS PMS Blind emboss And one writes a six word memoir. What might happen?
  102. 102. You get a promo that captures the complex nature of creation, and hopefully is something someone wants to keep.
  103. 103. What’s fun about these projects (though I can’t imagine how much more they will be around) is that the client wants you to go crazy on the different kinds of paper stock and processes, so there is foil stamping, metallics, crazy ink coverage.
  104. 104. (Hey, at least the paper is primarily made of recycled material.)
  105. 105. Each section keeps the same image layout and sequence, but varies the typographic layer.
  106. 106. Each section keeps the same image layout and sequence, but varies the typographic layer.
  107. 107. Each section keeps the same image layout and sequence, but varies the typographic layer.
  108. 108. Each section keeps the same image layout and sequence, but varies the typographic layer.
  109. 109. By nature, I’m more of a punk rock guy. I live in the Bay Area, and I’m pretty progressive in my views, but, at least stylistically, I hate the hippie shit—the clothes, the jam bands, the new age stuff. I think anger can be directed in ways that are beneficial at times. And this sometimes comes through in our work.
  110. 110. The first version had small type so it read, “shut (the fuck) up,” but we knew AIGA would balk, so we added a “please” instead.
  111. 111. For a local AIGA fundraiser we were asked to stylize one of those Kid Robot Munni dolls that they would auction off for charity. It was at the time of the Guantonamo Bay abuses and the Patriot Act, when calling someone an “enemy combatant” allowed the U.S. to lock him up, no questions asked.
  112. 112. The hoodless doll is the hypothetical endgame of such a policy.
  113. 113. This is my bike, made by the company Public Bikes. It’s a more European style city bike that works for old guys like me with fairly discerning style, a bad back, and think the fixed gear bike is way too much trouble to go through in order to get around.
  114. 114. Public Bikes Public Works Poster So we were pretty flattered and excited to be asked to design a poster for the company’s new Public Works initiative, which they would later sell through their website.
  115. 115. The only parameter was that it needed to address the issues of public space and/or biking in some way. It didn’t even need to say Public. There were some pretty heavy hitters in the mix— Sagmeister, Paula Scher, Jason Munn, Jennifer Sterling, Milton Glaser—so I was feeling the pressure. The good thing about being in such company, is that you could generally predict what many of these designers would do.
  116. 116. Sagmeister makes the word Public completely out a bike chain. Paula Scher, out of type. Michael Schwab, a bike in his silhouette style. And there were others equally as predictable. This isn’t a bad thing—after all, people like to purchase a familiar name and look—but it presented an opening for us to carve out our own space.
  117. 117. CAR BIKE ROAD GRASS SIRENS BIRDS PRIVATE PUBLIC PROTEST PROGRESS EXPLOIT INVEST DESTROY DESIGN TYPE SPEAK you us I’m a huge biking advocate, but have no illusion that making it as popular as it is in Europe and other places is a serious uphill climb (pun intended). I mostly bike, but do drive on occasion and experience the frustrations of both roles—cars cutting me off, bikers running lights, etc. I saw this conflict a microcosm for city life in general. There are multiple antagonistic parties at play all the time. What if the poster could acknowledge this and have the viewer actually experience that conflict?
  118. 118. And what if it could actually hurt your eyes?
  119. 119. SIRENS BIRDS PRIVATE PUBLIC PROGRESS PROTEST EXPLOIT INVEST DESTROY DESIGN It’s even worse in reality. No camera can actually capture how much those colors vibrate.
  120. 120. My good friend Jeremy Mende, with whom we did the SOEX project from earlier, did as equally a challenging poster, but stealthier. He created which at first seems like innocuous wallpaper.
  121. 121. But when you look closer, the art is actually provocative scenes of a biker getting doored, a biker passing by EMT’s trying to revive a victim of a car accident, someone spraying Occupy movement graffiti, and a bike completely stripped of its valuable components and still locked to a post.
  122. 122. What’s reassuring is that some people out there like to be challenged. I didn’t take these pictures.
  123. 123. They are random snapshots from one of the poster exhibit openings the client actually took.
  124. 124. Beauty Depth Space That last slide is a good segue into my last subject, Space.
  125. 125. As I mentioned before, social media and technology has revolutionized our existences—our space—in ways we could never have imagined.
  126. 126. Isn’t it amazing that I can send my name to John Baldessari via a website—
  127. 127. and my name is displayed in lights in Sydney a few days later?
  128. 128. Or that I can go to a music festival, text my memories about my favorite concert to anonymous phone number, and everyone will see it on the walls of the concert hall moments later? (Work by Troika.)
  129. 129. That the artist Ben Rubin in the lobby of the New York Times building creates an installation that can stream continuous content from the paper’s vast archive—even the crossword puzzles? And these are works that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.
  130. 130. Space: Can design be introspective, not just distraction? (or: “Is it my fault your kids have ADD?”) But are we just creating more distractions?
  131. 131. Space: Can design be introspective, not just distraction? (or: “Is it my fault your kids have ADD?”) Are we negating the space for meaningful reflection?
  132. 132. So backtracking a decade or so, one of my first jobs as Volume, was this little brochure for CCA(then CCAC)’s Public Programs.
  133. 133. It was a tri-fold brochure and I had 2 empty panels. The idea on the left was to create a little call list calendar that indicated what days the events fell on, so you could call your friends to go. (Ah, the innocent days before social media and smart phones...) For the right panel I thought, “You know, we don’t get a lot of so-called white space for reflection—in print or life — so let’s make some.”
  134. 134. If you were lucky enough to see Arcade Fire in their early years, they usually started the show by playing a song in the crowd. The lead singer, Win Butler, in an interview remarked that they stopped doing this because they felt too many people were snapping photos, taking videos, or calling their friends rather than relishing this amazing moment right in front of them. Now the Arcade Fire’s hard line isn’t going to change anything, necessarily—hell, I take photos at concerts with my phone all the time.
  135. 135. But I worry that design coupled with technology is starting to be the equivalent of the audio tour in museums. Maybe some of you like the audio tour and I can understand the desire to learn some background about the art on display. Personally, I don’t like it because I get information at the cost of contemplation and reflection. This is the dilemma of our times, and we designers are right at the heart of it.
  136. 136. DESIGN TECHNOLOGY I worry that these new technologies are too often the tail wagging the design dog. That they are already the default and making us lazy as designers. Let’s make an app! Let’s use social media!
  137. 137. Does anyone know what this is the score to? 4’33’’. It’s a piece by John Cage, which is basically a pianist sitting still at the piano and does nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. “I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry. We need not fear these silences— We may love them”—John Cage
  138. 138. Instead of the iPad, why can’t the new paradigm for a magazine be a live presentation and NOT documented for a change?
  139. 139. Instead of the Kindle, why can’t the new paradigm for the book instead be a performance by actors live on stage? This is the play, “Gatz!” which is a cast performing The Great Gatsby—the entire text—as a play.
  140. 140. Instead of an online social network, why not create a restaurant to connect and engage members of a rural community? Like the Pie Lab restaurant in Greensboro, Alabama that has single-handedly help revitalize this small town?
  141. 141. Peter Saville is famous for designing the record sleeves for bands like New Order in the 1980s, shown here. With these sleeves, he talked about wanting to create a pause or space within the context of the busy, commerce-obsessed world; to make a sly commentary on commercialism while still embracing it. I like this idea, even more so in our technology / information- saturated culture. And it was this kind of strategy we applied to this next project.
  142. 142. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts “YBCA: You” Campaign Just this year we were asked by the Bay Area museum, YBCA, to create a new identity and campaign around a new program YBCA: You, that for $10 / month, gives you access to VIP events, free tickets to YBCA events, and even a personal art coach who will walk you through exhibits, give you homework, etc.
  143. 143. YBCA: You -“This is the future of YBCA” -Populist -Social -Inclusive, friendly, even fun -NOT prescriptive, educational YBCA is seeking to attract new audiences and cast the organization in a more populist light. It’s goal is to make new and challenging art more social, less “educational”.
  144. 144. We’ve worked with YBCA before, and they are very open to offbeat ideas. This was a campaign we did three years ago which involved graffiti-like disruption of banal photographs. They’re the rare arts organization that feels they don’t just have to lead their promotion with the exhibition content. And, luckily, their idea of inclusive is not the dumbed-down kind.
  145. 145. +Y O U +S O M +Y E +Y O U SE O to be presented. +A I R +A O U C + RT U C G +$ ES UI S +Y O U +S 8/ S DE M +D M S +Y O YB ET O O +Y U O O AV YO C A I N U U A .O L S R AT T G / H LA E +Y O U +G +Y O ET U +Y +A EX W O +Y O U +G PE HO U U + R L +$ I +Y O 8/ +A DE AR I E E M C S T U +D O C +Y O N NE YB ET U YO C AIN ES C W U A .O L S E R AT TH S G / $8/MONTH FEEL? YOU WILL WHAT CHAOS ACCESS GUIDES ART +Y O U +S TH EE +Y R RI O U O G U H +Y +Y G T O U +G H O +$ U + U ID A 8/ +A E R S U M C S +T +D O Y E C Y O B C TA I N E S YOU U A .O L S T R A H S G T / materials. Many early ideas struggled with not being undone by the amount of info that needed Initially, they hamstrung us by demanding that we put all the benefits of the program on all the
  146. 146. YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best one, if you can bring some complexity and originality to it. If this is “YBCA: You,” it should be about the people coming to the museum. And everyday people, not just the arty hipsters (though there are some of those here, too). It’s not about what YBCA is offering, but the reactions and emotions the offerings trigger in people, which vary widely depending on who one is.
  147. 147. So we collected a wide breadth of heads and filler and got to work. This was the best client meeting we’ve ever had. The director quietly solicited everyone’s opinions, and then said, “I’ve waited 20 years for a campaign like this. It’s fucking brilliant!” Then he got up and gave both Adam and I a hug. (It’s all downhill from here, folks!)
  148. 148. And as more of these heads are combined, the more “social” and inclusive the implications.
  149. 149. We haven’t got all the numbers in yet, but we do know that the is has generated a lot of buzz with audiences, and partially because we refused to over explain the idea and let the audience “use” it in the way they saw fit.
  150. 150. We’re hopefully going to roll out a phase 2, which will involve blank face imagery that we will have artists create limited “portrait editions” for sale, as well as wild post them to allow the people on the street to get involved. What’s funny is that YBCA has been besieged with requests to buy posters of some of the heads without any artist (other than us) involved. Who says stock photography can’t be turned into art?
  151. 151. When I went to check out the wavy wall in front of YBCA a week after it had been installed, I saw no less than three separate instances of this kind of activity in the course of 30 minutes. People wanted to engage with the wall in ways one rarely sees with what is essentially outdoor advertising. And if you and your clients have the courage to resist the urge to say everything, and instead create room for contemplation and participation, it’s probably more memorable and meaningful.
  152. 152. One last thing. One last thought before I go. Well, maybe a few. But around the same topic.
  153. 153. Happiness = ? In a sense, taking a break like I did was, inadvertently, a search for happiness. Maybe it’s these apocalyptic times—Sandy, these rainstorms—but it seems like everyone is really focused on what will make them happy. Within the first month on my break I realized very quickly that I am very lucky to do what I do, whatever the successes and failures. Design has so many potential outlets and paths, that I will never long for creative stimulation.
  154. 154. Happiness = ? That’s enough to make me happy.
  155. 155. Which brings me back to our friend, Mr. Sagmeister.
  156. 156. Stefan is actually making a MOVIE about how to be happy. Now Stefan has his little list of what he thinks will make all of us happy, and he’s entitled to that opinion—I respect his opinion enough to at least listen to what he has to say.
  157. 157. But I actually think he’s overselling it. Here’s my take:
  158. 158. Now, I may be a seemingly happy dude, but along with the neurotic Jews on my father’s side of the family, I also come from a long line of tortured inventors and artists on my mother’s side.
  159. 159. My great grandfather and namesake, Foster Reznor, invented the Reznor gas heater but was also know for being a moody guy. And (a little name dropping here)—
  160. 160. my cousin is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame. (No, I can’t get anyone tickets to shows. We’ve met a few times and that’s it.)
  161. 161. It is simply unreal to think I have made it this far, To think that I tossed almost everything away to get to this point. A new deal, noway are you going!” they said, their faces flustered in anger. “There is no way youcan just pick up and leave. You have obligations to nobody I know. Every face is new. There is a slight knot in my stomach, like that first day of Kindergarten, when you leave the care of your parents for the first time. Only thank God they aren’t here toforget her face. It will not exit at the sound my memories, not even of some sort ofmentalanywhere Ion plant mybody evacuation. can damnplanet ring this , but my mind sp drifts backhome, where I was being limited in too many ways. Now, surrounded by peers who fuel my fire rather than struggle to put it out, I am coming out of my shell. A shell thatI’m crawling right back into. I won’t initiate something newhere, because I still attach myselfto those I thought I had left behind. HereI thinkI’ve started this new only damn people Ilife. But the am intimate with are the ones I writeto who are 3,000miles away. I complainabout being own fault, alonefeel my God, I and it’s my here, like a new man whocan’t fucking the leave behind past him. But, hey, see the resemblance? This is a poster I did in design school around the same time as this photo. Trent is amazingly successful, capping his career with an Oscar a few years ago, as well as getting married and having two kids. But the few times I’ve ever really spoken to him, I’ve never gotten the sense he’s worried about being happy. He’s worried about being as creative as possible, and if that means getting a little tortured and angry to get to that point, that’s OK.
  162. 162. And that’s true for me, too. The biggest realization I had on my break was that I will ALWAYS be tortured and conflicted when it comes to my work. And that’s OK. It’s not a self-destructive thing. It’s what makes me a better designer. (Though I love the idea of getting beat up, putting my hand on some glass, throwing up blood on it, and then using whatever print it leaves behind as the logo.)
  163. 163. It’s not about trying to find the generic how-to list to be happy, it’s about being engaged with the world, which leads to your own kind of happiness. But what does it mean to “be engaged”? It’s probably no accident that these last nuggets on how to do this come from two authors not known for being cheerful. David Foster Wallace in his Kenyon College commencement speech tells this story of two fish who encounter an older fish that asks “How’s the water?” The two young fish look at each other and one says, “What the heck is water?” The moral? Having an intentional awareness of the world around you.
  164. 164. He also talks, though, about the deliberateness in how and what you choose to engage with. Whether it’s as general as your outlook on the world, to the objects you choose to surround yourself with. My desk is usually a mess, but by surrounding myself with these things—some beautiful, some sentimental—I stay engaged, challenged, and that makes me happy.
  165. 165. But it’s not enough to just choose things. If anything that’s the curse of our age—too much choice. Too many options. Jonathan Franzen, in his Kenyon College address—
  166. 166. says that to experience the rewards of life, to be happy, you can’t just “like” something and move on.
  167. 167. You have to “get down in the pit” and LOVE it, whether it’s design, another person, a book, an animal, a work of art, your skateboard, a song, whatever. It needs to be something specific, and you have to be willing to engage it directly, where you might get embarrassed, you might fail, you might feel pain. Not cheer from the sidelines. Not fill in for a few minutes. Play the whole damn game as if your life depended on it. Then, you might be happy. And hopefully a better designer, too.
  168. 168. Thanks. @ericfheiman @VolumeSF Thanks.