This past week, the Whitney opened their newest show to pay tribute to the man endeavored to "produce the greatest benefit to the largest segment" of society. While the very mention of this approach is incomprehensible to even the most industrious, Richard Buckminster Fuller was anything but bound by convention. We'd agree that any designer worth his salt pursues interests both deep and broad, yet Fuller's surname was beyond apposite. Spooky, really. As architect, mathematician, visual artist, engineer, writer, designer and soothsayer, Fuller should be equally heralded for his earliest principles of sustainability; a crackpot notion in those years, to be dismissed as merely alarmist. Beyond the tensegrities or the livingries, the geodesics or the Dymaxions, who couldn't love a guy who's favored bar buddy was Isamu Noguchi?
Last evening, and by way of AIGA Portland's new quarterly Designspeaks series, we had the pleasure of hosting our friends from Modern Dog Design in Seattle. As is their custom, Robynne and Mike provided a heapin' helping of engaging commentary—and, of course, no shortage of visual inspirationals—for the gathering of eighty-five. Among the highlights, there was talk of mullets, naked men, pet posteriors and icebox magnets. On hand to share their work and to sign (and illustrate) their new book, Modern Dog: 20 Years of Poster Art, the event was an ideal initial installment for this series, which has been developed to showcase the work of designers right here in the Pacific Northwest. The Cleaners at Portland's Ace Hotel served as a fitting venue with sponsors FILTER, Mohawk, and West Coast Paper providing the financial means to keep the dream alive. Special thanks to Erik Ratcliffe, Lisa Holmes and Jeremiah Raidt for their assistance.
Obligatory shouts-out: Lloyd Eugene Winter IV, Jeff Pollard, Dave Selden, Johnny Levenson, Tiffany (Miss Jackson, if you're nasty) Jackson, Laura Luethje, Debra Haines, Kelly Chrey, and of course, the Modern Dog studio mates and alumni who either made the trip or now haunt our fair city. Good to see you all about.
The Portland Art Museum’s first Contemporary Northwest Art Awards soft-opened a week ago Saturday (the official public opening is later in July, though you can – and should – go see the show now). It’s an uncommonly strong exhibition; in fact, I can’t remember a denser or more interesting contemporary show in my twenty-odd years of attending the museum. During the preview, I felt as if I might be at the Henry in Seattle: historically, PAM has had a timid hand when it came to contemporary work, regional or otherwise. So: kudos to Jennifer Gately, the museum’s young curator of Northwest art, who put it together; and especially to Whiting Tennis (who took home the first Schnitzer Prize), Jeffry Mitchell, Dan Attoe, Cat Clifford, and our own Marie Watt, each of whom put together disciplined, considered and largely brand-new bodies of work in almost no time (six months is nothing when you work at the scale that these people do).
I was five years old when this ad ran. I'm not sure I even had a bike yet. I did learn to ride a two-wheeler ca. 1966. This ad contains several signifiers of my youth. The bubo encrusted Ed Roth character, The Little Red Wagon wheelstander (which I saw once at Lions Dragstrip and later constructed in plastic model form) and the Sting-Ray style bicycle. As amazing as the ad is, the TV commercial will transport you back to the kinder gentler days of the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings. Advertisers back then could promote their products using gangs of kids performing outlandish stunts on their bicycles which today would give whole corporate liability departments the vapors.
I found this at Skate and Annoy who got it from the archives of Scott Starr.
Last evening, our man Mark Conahan was featured on KPDX Channel 12's "Oregon Sports Final" with FOX sports anchor Mark Ross. The gist of the piece was to showcase the old man's (Conahan is a mighty handsome 47) ability to "shred" and—in direct contrast to the perception that skaters do little more than shred—to lobby for and develop Oregon skate parks while working in graphic design, producing his comic, Hopeless Old Men On Skateboards, and blogging (primarily about skateboarding). But mostly, it was about his ability to shred. The interior shots were produced right here at Pinch House. The balance was of Mark and other shredders deep in the concrete bowls of the very parks that Conahan helps to produce. Shredding.
We're quite pleased to learn that Mad Men, the AMC Originals series from Matthew Weiner, has been tapped for a second season. Rooted in the not-so-squeaky sixties Madison Avenue myth machine, the weekly is served cold in the mold of pioneer ad pillars Doyle Dane Bernbach and Grey. Alex Witchel of The New York Times Magazine delivers a fine profile of Weiner and provides the color for Weiner's produce. Set direction is a mid-century cocktail; a cool tumbler of Hitchcock's Manhattan in North by Northwest and Claude Chabrol's Les Cousins or The Champagne Murders/Le Scandale. In one fell swoop, Gawker sums up what to expect; "Lots of sex, booze, smoking, shellacked hair, and modular furniture, but also some of the smartest scriptwriting on television..."
If you only watch one show on television, this might be it. But if you set your clock to the smooth stylings of say, The Baby Borrowers or America's Got Talent, perhaps you should just stick to what warms you.
I've received notes from a few loyal Bespoke-ians regarding the glaring omission of past Tuesday's Flickr set. For that, I will attempt to atone, but I do hope you'll allow me to explain. You see, I found myself away from from Pinch House on a junket well overdue; deep in the Deschutes canyon pursuing resident trout with a dry fly. As many of you know, it's that certain itch of mine that rarely gets the deep tissue scratching it deserves, but this past week made up for previous opportunities missed. Be warned, this post has little to with business communications. That is, unless your business is fly fishing. Or writing about it.
When my good friend, Scott Richmond (creator of Westfly and the author of more than one volume on fishing the Deschutes) suggested that we depart on Tuesday for two nights and three days, it took little to light the proverbial fire within. (The office was significantly slower than I would care to admit and too many previous weeks' end opportunities had delivered unsavory conditions. Besides, both Adam and Lisa knew that I needed out.) We had Scott's fifth wheel trailer, two inflatable boats, a king cab full of fly rods and, between us, enough boxes of tiny hooks wrapped in deer hair, elk hair, peacock, and other creatures to outfit a zookeeper's angling retreat of twenty. As we traveled up and over Mt. Hood and dropped down into the tiny desert hamlet of Maupin, our conversation ranged from the price of fuel, to what we had obviously forgotten to include while apparently covering every possible base (I; a toothbrush, pillow, and life preserver. Scott; some other stuff, I'm sure). It mattered not.
During a recent archiving exercise, I stumbled upon a small pile of reference works containing a handy nugget for describing brand. But before I go further, if I may, I'll take a step back and explain.
In our client work, the conversation of "brand" regularly turns from one of "we need to brand this" or "let's focus on our branding" to one of defining what the very term means. (If you'll indulge me, I'll add that I believe we have all engaged in conversations where each party seems to be having their own unique discussion about what is an assumed shared collection of terms.) From there, I'll either enquire as to what, exactly, the client understands the term (brand; in its harried verb tense) means to them. And invariably, the focus of their answer relies mostly upon the practice of applying a logo to any number of applications.
I can't say I really blame them. We've all gotten used to the ill-informed concept of branding as it applies to, say, Nike. Or NASCAR. In both cases, we've come to identify the "brand" as what we see. The Nike Swoosh on Tiger's pristine golf cap, or your uncle's undersized, unauthorized, and likely soiled, Lakers jersey (KB24 4 Life!). Or the malt liquor, battery and aftershave logos plastered on the Dale Ernhardt Jr. 8(8) car. Fact is, those are indeed part of the brand (as is your uncle or the fuel economy of that left-turn-only stock car), but only a part. Sure, they've technically been "branded"—in the same way that the steer receives his fiery mark—but the discipline of brand is actually about a complex set of relationships and the intersections that make them interesting.
I'll return to the point at hand; that handy reference piece. Way back in 2001, Hugh Dubberly and his team at Dubberly Design Group developed an excellent visual reference to illustrate and map the elements of brand. If you're a client and you've not studied this piece, then you've likely been talking in circles (as I did in illustrating the argument above). And if you're a creative firm who hasn't shared this with your clients (at least at the conversational level) then you too, have been working too hard. Kidding aside, it's a fine piece of work that's worth coming back to again and again. Download this PDF, and a handful of other useful models here.
Man-about-town Mr. Mark Conahan suggested this set from UK photographer Mike Stimpson (known as Balakov on Flickr). Seems that Mr. Stimpson has spent the better part of his leisure recreating and photographing historical scenes and cultural milestones. Using Legos. Many of his foremost sets reimagine the famous photographic works of (now) famous photographers. And nearly all samples link to the original reference as well as Stimpson's own creative process. An interesting—and at times, disturbing—diary of life and living, conflict, tragedy and personal triumph as remembered in smiling plastic.
Via Conahan, via Gizmodo.
On a related note, a new friend of Pinch, John Fulton, from Seattle's Pyramid Communications, was reminded of this project from European art collective, Henry VIII's Wives. Hint: Click the right arrow button above the menu.
A couple of weeks ago, Adam logged a post about Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, two fellows on an American road quest to correct typos. I had visited Jeff's blog and was hardly surprised that the duo (Herson replaced for this leg by another college pal, Josh Roberts) would eventually make their way to Portland. And I wasn't terribly staggered to pick up this morning's The Sunday Oregonian which chronicles their visit to our fair city (and provides Deck's favorable comparison of Portland to Seattle). That having been said, I was a bit taken aback to notice that, in anecdotal support of the TEAL (Typo Eradication Advancement League) cause, Margie Boulé (likely, her copy editors) managed to spell Chicago’s Milwaukee (or Milwuakee) Furniture as, wait for it... Milwaukie (and, Milwuakie). Yes, it happens twice. While our quaint suburb (the one ending in -ie) is indeed our own, our midwest neighbors promote the most common spelling. In an exchange about the blunder, Jeff points out that "Somerville" is also misspelled. Ugh. I'll go ahead and agree to maintain hope that Ms. Boulé's closing line, in reference to Deck's possible book, "it just better not have any typos," is an inside joke designed to prompt attention to her story's grammatical detail. And perhaps, to solicit feedback. Mine.
I was describing Portland designer Charles Politz the other day, trying to explain to somebody what kind of man he was. I didn't do well. Then, my memory flashed on a letter I'd written to Charles' wife Eiko on the day of his funeral. I found the letter, and offer it here. A characterization of the man's spirit, it is.
I came today to Contemporary Crafts to attend the memorial service for Charles. What I found was a crowd out the door and down the block, no place to park my car, and a kind of milling pandemonium. I know he was much loved and the turnout was understandable, but the scene did not fit my picture of peaceful Charles, and it would not have allowed me to say the things to you I wanted, so I kept driving. I'm writing you this letter instead.
When I first arrived in Portland 25 years ago, Charles Politz was already an icon for design, an accomplished and acknowledged classical master we youngsters spoke of in reverential voices. He was what he aspired to be. He got the assignments we hoped we would someday. He wore roll-collar shirts from Savile Row. He did life drawings with a long stick. He traveled to Italy. He was respected and substantial. He defined good taste. We regarded him with wide and admiring eyes indeed.
And do you know what Charles did? From his lofty place, he reached down to us and brought us up. He looked at our portfolios and encouraged. He took seriously our small efforts and projects. He participated in our groups, offering his skills where they would help. He welcomed us to be with him, and seemed glad when we were. In so many ways, he helped us to recognize ourselves, to find our form and place. It was a precious, invaluable gift.
At his heart, Charles seemed a simple, humble man who knew (and did) what he liked, recognized that others might want something else, and respected completely the difference. He is and always shall always be a foundation pillar for me, a mainstay on my short list of great, giving men.
Besides that, he was my friend. I will miss him a lot. I know you will, too.
Last night, your correspondent reaped the benefits of a fine three-way with AMA Oregon, Portland Ad Federation and AIGA Portland at Connect Networking 2. (I mean it was fine, yes. But not in that way.) I was quite pleased with the turnout from our local chapter in this initial networking partnership with our brothers and sisters on the marketing and advertising sides of the fence. Just the type of collaborative shot-in-the-arm that our little creative community needs to thrive.
Obligatory shouts-out: Heather Dougherty, Dave Selden, Lisa Holmes, Ryan Smythe, Johnny Levenson, Steve Potestio; all current or future AIGA board members. And new friends in Stacy Garrett, Seamus Kennedy, Doug Crouch, Edis Jurcys, Elicia Putnam, and young Will (the pizza player). Always a pleasure to see familiar faces in Lindsey Hammond, Heather Barta, Tom Vandel, Melissa Delzio, Kim Malek, and of course, the ever-present Steve Gehlen. Hats off to Brian Wright and his group at AMA for pulling it off. Good to see you all.
Kris Sowersby has a nice writeup of the late Evert Bloemsma's sans-serif masterwork Balance on I Love Typography today. I admire Balance, and bought it to use in WebTrends' re-brand a few years ago, but wasn't able to make it work. I think that was a shortcoming on my part rather than the typeface, which has an arresting, unsentimental color and a noble underlying principle, to wit: the top halves of letters are the part that people actually use to determine word shape; word shape is what determines legibility. In most typefaces, the upper part of a glyph is smaller, so that the glyph "sits" nicely on its baseline. With Balance, Bloemsma reversed that tradition. The upper part is equal ("balanced") in weight to the lower, and in some cases a little larger. In large sizes, the glyphs can appear almost topheavy. In text, they work beautifully in the service of reading. I need to sack up and figure out how to use it better.
I've been terribly fond of Grain Edit for some time. Dave is one of the better curators (of some of the finer examples) of mid century goodies found on the interwebs. His Flickr set is testament to the truly playful product of many 20th century masters; Saul Bass, Alain Grée, Charley Harper, Richard Erdoes, and Ryohei Yanagihara to name a few. As such, it can be a tad tough to pick just one set in this bunch. And since it's Tuesday and it's raining yet again, I won't pick just one. No, today it's like Christmas in June. Toys and books for the kiddies with a few sweet treats for mom and dad.
Peep this fantabulous set of Ian Fleming's James Bond titles from San Francisco illustrator Michael Gillette. The hardcover collection, available exclusively in the UK from Penguin, marks the centenary of the birth of Mr. Fleming. Each of the fourteen covers features a deliciously dangerous beauty. In matters related, Sebastian Faulks has penned the newest Bond title, Devil May Care, released 28 May.
Via Ms. Kate Andrews' excellent design:related.
And of course, the man himself.