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Still so much in love with her…

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The Art of the Business Card

My anonymous friend from high school, DigiGirl, sent me a link to the Art of the Business Card.

Within this album are 549 photos of some very well designed business cards, collected by the dailypoetics group on Flickr.

Most of the cards are very well designed, with good concepts. What struck me more, was the high level of typography. I found myself  pouring over the type treatments and the choices each designer made with the type. Typography is so important to design, and so many designers out there just don’t respect it at as a separate, unique, and necessary discipline.

Can you be a good graphic designer and not be good with type? I would tentatively say “yes.” But, you won’t be a GREAT designer without putting more effort and focus on typography.

Sorry my typovangelism hijacked my own post on the business cards. Check out the cards, they’re really fantastic!

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Ghost Signs

When I lived and worked in NYC, I would be drawn to the older sections of Manhattan. Tribeca. The East Village. Even sections of Midtown. I would look for “ghost signs.” Ads that were from another time, another era, another New York City, different from the one in which I existed. I was drawn to them. The typography, the boldness, the antiquated merchandise or service they were selling.

Advertising so permanent that a century of pollution and progress haven’t been able to wipe them away. I imagine the lives of the painters, up on the scaffolds, painting their typographic letterforms with exact precision. Pioneers of typography. Truly a lost art today.

Ben Passikoff, a New York City high school student, spent his junior and senior year walking the streets of NYC, sweet-talking doormen to let him up to their roofs, and photographing ghost signs from the past. He has compiled his work into a coffee table book, “The Writing on the Wall, Economic and Historic Observations of New York’s Ghost Signs,” that is sure to be on my coffee table in the future.

More details on Ben, and his book, over at Ad Age, discovered via Brand Autopsy.

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Chaos or Calm

How does the level of neatness around you affect your work? Back in college, I could have dirty clothes on my dorm room floor, spiderwebs under my bed, be walking on paintings still wet, and not be able to see more than 10% of any furniture surface area…absolute visual chaos…and yet still get my work done on time, and well.

As I’ve gotten older,  I’ve come to appreciate a neat desk. My level of efficiency and creativity expands as the clutter and chaos around me contracts.

I just spent the last 10 minutes cleaning up my office and I probably trashed more than 80% of the clutter. Why do we find ourselves holding onto paperwork and old notes and files when we know they’ll be obsolete in a matter of days, or even hours?

It feels nice to have a clean desk. Like starting the day with a clean slate.

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Please Touch

A few weeks ago, we took the girls to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia [map]. What an amazing place.

The museum was designed for children to explore, play, interact and TOUCH everything – all while learning about the world they live in. Our oldest (almost 3) absolutely loved it. She shopped in the grocery store, drove a bus, sailed a boat to Where the Wild Things Are, had a tea party with the Mad Hatter and Rabbit, worked on a farm, played drums, and so much more.

I was impressed at how clean everything was and how seriously the audience (children) were considered in every decision. The museum was designed with children in mind, not their parents, which I think is really cool.

If you’re in Philly, with the kids, check it out. Worth the admission price.

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Robots in Disguise

TransformersI’m generally not a big fan of film reviews because critics will eventually stop reviewing the technical aspects of the film and move into their own personal aesthetic. This doesn’t work because everyone likes different things. If you don’t enjoy certain genres, or you’re not within the film’s target demographics, then odds are you won’t give it a favorable review – rendering your critique pointless.

Worse yet,  when you read a film critique from someone who hasn’t even see the film… like mine below…

I’m very upset at Micahel Bay (director) and Transformers the Movie. I have every intention of seeing Transformers as soon as possible, but I don’t think seeing the film will make me any less upset. I was a Transformer kid. I had the toys. I played with them until they broke apart. I own the original feature-length cartoon film. I have most of the 80’s theme song memorized.

The reason that I’m upset is that two of the main characters, the backbones of the Autobots (the good guys),  Jazz and Bumblebee, have been given new vehicle types for the movie. Jazz was (and always will be in my mind) a white Porsche and Bumblebee was a yellow VW Beetle. The financial backing from General Motors that the movie received was apparently enough to alter the creative decision making on the film. Jazz, no longer a white Porsche, is now a silver Pontiac Solstice. Bumblbee, no longer a beetle, is a yellow Camaro. Surely I can devote an entire blog in the future to the pros and cons of hollywood and corporate product placements.

I’m not sure which of these changes upsets me more. The vehicle type added so much to the character’s personality. Is a Camaro as funny as a VW Beetle? I don’t think so. Is Bumblebee even going to have a sense of humor? The comic relief is now a muscle car, and the witty white Porsche looks as mean as the Batmobile.

When I do see Transformers, it better be more than meets the eye.

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Coming Soon

Well, I’m back from my nearly 3 month blogging hiatus. If you’ve kept me in your RSS and news readers all this time, I really appreciate it. I’ve tried to make mental notes of things I’ve seen or heard that would really good blogging fodder. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember a few of them. So, stay tuned. I’m back.

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Process is Art, Part II

So to continue in my random thinking of the previous post, I pose this question to myself.

If process is art then what exactly is hanging in Art Museums?

For we cannot physically frame the blue feelings Picasso felt, or the rare moments of sanity Van Gogh may have experienced while painting in the fields, or the painful light-headedness as Michelangelo painted and admired his ceiling.

We are admiring, in an art museum, works of art. Not the art itself. Surely we’ve all heard the term “work of art.” But have we ever really dissected what it meant? For art is the process, the method… not the result. It is a personal thing. Art is the private relationship between the artist and the work, not the result. Unless you are the artist, or viewing the work as it is being created, you are never actually looking at art.

So how does this apply to design? For me, this idea began to hit home when recently I lost several hours of design work when my computer crashed and I had neglected to save. As I painfully relaunched Photoshop, muttering under my breath that painful mantra “Jesus saves. So should you! (CTRL+S)” I began to think over my design process. I realized that, not only will I be able to recreate more quickly the work which I had lost, but the end result – the WORK – will most certainly be better because it will be more thought out the second time around.

The recreation of my lost work was the art. The final design was my work of art.

Aside: Man, I really need to spend more time wording these posts better. The inner ramblings of my brain is a scary, mixed-up place sometimes.

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Process is Art

Something I’ve been pondering…

The discipline of Graphic Design ceases to be Art when the creation process, the craft, ceases to create Joy in the designer.

Clearly, that could be worded better, but I hope you get the gist.

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Are we in San Antonio or Seattle?

I’ve been away from home this weekend. My wife and I have an agreement that when I travel, I won’t blog about it before I go. Something about the entire planet knowing that I’m away from home… Anyhow, through the mighty power of WordPress, I’m setting this post to publish automatically at approximately the same time my plane home touches down.

I’m writing this from my friend, Scott Hodge’s backyard in Aurora, Illinois. I’m here in Chicagoland visiting him and helping him out with a few things. Exciting things that hopefully I’ll be able to blog about in the future… but not quite yet. Just like back home on the east coast, the midwest USA is experiencing some awesome spring-like weather this weekend. I love it. As much as I claim to dislike hot weather, it sure does feel nice after our long winter.

Now, if you do any amount of travel around this country (and admittedly, I do much, much less than some), you’ll understand what I’m about to say…

At what point did every town, every city, every suburb in this country start looking the same? It’s actually possible to lose track of which city your airplane just landed in! As you drive away from the airport – any airport – you pass stripmall after stripmall and see the same stores. One after another. It’s deja vu all over again, as Yogi would say. Wait, haven’t I been here before? Is this San Antonio or Seattle?

WalMart, Target, Starbucks, McDonalds, Bed Bath & Beyond, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, Chilis, Macaroni Grill…. it doesn’t end.

And it’s not just the stores. It’s the architecture too. The same sandstone-colored stucco, the same red lettering, the same parking lots, the same employee uniforms, the same products on the shelf.

Widespread consumerism has enabled these large corporations to go national in a way much bigger than was possible in previous generations. Not to mention how easy e-commerce has made it to go global.

Anyhow, not a condemnation of big consumerism. Just a melancholy observation on the death of the ‘Regional Uniqueness’ in our country.

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