monday december 10th will be the last day of my exhibition at you who have stopped by and sent emails. i learned that facebook isn’t really the best way to invite people, so next time i’ll send a proper invitation. please come and have a beer and tell me what you think of the show. i hope to see you there.
yes, that is what someone said to me yesterday, after winding her way thru the maze of denim, ties, leather goods and assorted items at this year’s mostly have stuff from my collections. there are paul rand items, 19th century chess sets, olivetti packaging, my 1927 swiss army bike, and of course staplers. all for sale. my daughter’s there too, selling totes with her artwork, cookies, pickles and pound cake, all made by mom in alabama. please come and take a look a say hello. it’s here.
here’s a photogram of my paper clip collection. yes. i collect paper clips. i’m sure i have mentioned this collection numerous times before. and yes i made this photogram—in a dark room. they still exist for my pleasure.
paper clips. a perfect collection for new york city. they don’t take up much room and they are pretty cool. i have written about this collection before, in that, when i attend paper fairs, i look at old documents hoping to discover a paper clip that i don’t have. there are many different discover a shape i have never seen before. i thought the best way to display my collection was in the form of a photogram. the last time i was in a dark room was in grad school, twenty five years ago. quite a while ago. wow a generation in fact. my daughter came along and actually kept things going when i would got too obsessive. nice to have a level headed person around. an amazing fact about new york is that there is just about everything for everyone. i went to this great brooklyn studio where theo, the owner, had prepared a proper darkroom for me and my daughter. the chemicals mixed. proper instruction and everything in it’s place. we spent the next three hours getting the right density of black and making several compositions. at twenty bucks an hour it was well worth it. spending three hours with your daughter and doing something cool. a wonderful memory. she added a great deal to the experience and what a wonderful result it is. i put one of the photograms in my show but this particular one did not make it. the one that did is gridded and shows a more taxonomy-like approach to the clips. happily, gladly, surprisingly someone bought it. how about that. my show ends on the tenth of december do stop by.
for those of you who made it to my first opening, thanks so much. i was so worried that i would need to stand on the corner and hand out ten dollar bills. it was lovely to see old friends, current friends and make new ones. a special thanks goes to andrew, patrick, lulu, laura, brad, pedro, marlene, and stephanie. all of which, without their help, this event would not have taken place. these last few years have been trying ones for me. i have had support from friends and family which is so important. i am not an easy person to live with and i often cannot see the forest for the trees. i hope everyone enjoyed themselves. for those of you who didn’t make the opening, here are a few pictures. i do hope you can stop by and see it. tell me what you think and most of i hope you enjoy it.
this thursday at made of bronze, you look at it differently. i remember at risd, a sculpture student transformed benefit street by simply laying grass the entire block east of waterman street. i watched amazed as students took off their shoes, reached down and touched it. a grass lawn was but 100 feet away. something familiar had changed and how they perceived it changed too. this is my hope as well. please drop by the show. it’s up until the 5th of december.
the but designers who simply had an avid and passionate interest in the design history. i have acknowledged the depth and insight in christopher burke’s ‘active literature,‘ the monograph on tschichold, and strongly feel that all monographs about designers should be this informative. the time, the place, the reactions to current events—so many factors that contributed to the evolution of a particular piece of design are truly intriguing. this letterhead for a book binder—was he so progressive in his company’s marketing? was he even aware of the current design movement or did the designer simply do a barter and so got his way? whatever the case, the design is memorable and worth considering. enjoy.
sutnar. certainly one of my favorite designers. i have posted about him before, but included only one of his letterheads. here are two that i attribute to him but cannot confirm that definitively. i suspect they are sutnar, but they lack a certain forcefulness that i have come to ’38 respectfully. sutnar was art director of prague’s largest publishing house, drustevní praise, at that time, so it’s feasible. no matter who designed them,they represent another study in the evolution of the avant garde letter-head that ihave come to love. simple, ordered and exhibiting all the sighs of tschichold’s ‘neue typographie.’ these were a real find. ebay strikes again.
i enjoy searching for vintage ibm materials. i recently purchased a new book (at least new to me): ‘the interface, ibm and the transformation of corporate design.’ i have only skimmed it, but it has already heightened the pleasure i take in that period of design. i started out as a lover of corporate identity, long before the phrase ‘branding’ was used. i often prefer to use the word ‘identity.’ it’s more manageable, in my mind, and often more relevant to many of the clients with whom i work. i’m not sure if rand designed this letterhead, but i expect so. i would guess it’s a relatively early design given the logo. rand was designing pretty much all ibm’s materials himself during the early years. there should be an exhibition of just the ibm stationery materials. there were vast quantities of them. i believe at one time ibm was responsible for using more paper for promotional materials and company literature than any other company in the world. incredible. i remember interviewing at saatchi in the ’80s. i was told that i would be working primarily on the ibm account and was asked how i felt about bodoni. since it was the ibm house font, i gathered i wouldn’t be using anything else. this letterhead is certainly before those days. i love the use of city typeface, too. it works perfectly for me. and that blue edge….hey, i’m a happy collector.
the letterhead. in my mind, it remains my most active collection. that is to say, if i see or am offered one, i usually buy it. the finite piece of paper—either eight and half by eleven or a4—gives me infinite pleasure. i never tire of looking at letterheads, albeit old ones. i recall while working in my second job in houston, texas, i had the opportunity to design a program for a company called milpark that made drilling products. ‘mud,’ in fact. i learned that ‘mud’ is a lubricant that aids in drilling for oil. the logotype was already set when i arrived, but the application had not yet been completed. the colors were black and red, and i happily set to work. i recall taking out my ruling pen, mixing red gouache and using a red rule for the design element. i went to town, working on it for a couple days. the creative director was a designer from cranbrook named craig minor. super great guy. (though he fired me after six months, a story for another time.) this was the feeling-out process for the new designer: a simple project with narrow constraints. after a few days, i pinned all the designs up in the conference room. they filled a whole wall. i remember craig coming in and being a bit surprised. i had done very little editing. hell, i was having fun. i didn’t care about the client, i just loved moving that little red rule around the page. the letterheads i’m sharing from my collection use the square much more successfully than i used my red rule. these designs by max huber are from the 60s or 70s, i believe, though i’m not sure. my apologies, as i do not have access to my reference books to check if these letterheads are included. they were bought at auction along with a pile of other items by max huber. i have always enjoyed the a4 format over the u.s. format. the slightly narrow vertical just seems right. there is an art to placing something on a piece of blank paper. i recall the 2d assignments of my freshman year. a small black square on a ten-inch white square. then, in the spring semester, learning in art history about the story of two squares. i even use this image as my skype picture. (yes, I carry design way too far). the swiss style is always comforting to me. i love the order. i love the simplicity. everything has its place, and moving anything on the page changes it altogether. it was obvious when i made my presentation to craig that my designs did not have this sense of completeness or uniformity. i was learning then. i still am.
it doesn’t have to be old nor found at the flea market to find its way into one of my collections. i have a box, several in fact, filled with tear sheet after tear sheet. (sadly, when we moved out of our studio and into our loft, i threw out 20 boxes filled with tear sheets.) unlike most of my collections, these tears sheet are easily categorized—stills, home, portraits, interiors, beauty—and all of these have subsets. for portraits, there are folders for women’s fashion, men’s fashion, kids, etc. then there are the specific photographers: richard burbridge, miles aldridge, raymond meier, hans gissinger. all favorites of mine. the tears sheets serve as inspiration and are used for concept work. i have many instances where these images—mostly photography, though there is a category for illustration—actually drove a particular design.
once we were hired by the pr firm kcd to work on the pr materials for isabella rossellini. the ad agency leagas delaney in london was handling the positioning and they had come up with the name ‘manifesto.’ it coalesced ms rossellini’s idea of individual beauty into a basic concept of ‘accept who you are no matter what race, size or color, and celebrate yourself.’ (and buy the cosmetics behind this concept, of course.) it seemed simple enough to me. upon getting the assignment, i pulled out folder after folder and looked through my trove of tear sheets. (this was before flickr and google search.) i am one of those people who garbage-pick magazines, and subscribe to way too many, and i still love tearing out my favorite images. i found a beauty image by mile aldridge in allure magazine of a young girl, 14 or so, wearing braces and bright red lipstick. his lighting is just amazing. everything about this image was a home run and it spoke directly to the core message. the braces juxtaposed with the lipstick was so perfect. so we built our brochure around this series of images that miles had done in allure. the design was presented and accepted. everyone was happy. (you can see a bit here and here.) but there’s a twist to the story. the agency in london did the casting and selected the perfect model with braces for the shoot. a week before the shoot, she came in for another go-see and she’d had her braces removed. oops. it was too late to find another model with braces so we had to pay to have this young girl’s braces replaced. she wasn’t too happy about that. ah, the things we do for fashion.
now, these tears sheets. wieden and kennedy, circa 1993. sports illustrated. odd, since i rarely read sports magazines, but they are a ten in my book. for content as well as photography. the photographer is kenji toma. after seeing these images, i hired him to shoot some 18th-century tureens for a magazine i was designing. ‘classic home,’ now long defunct. you might not be able to read the text on the twinkly. it says “ingredients: who are you kidding? you know what this stuff is made of, nothing. it’s not good for you. you know what’s good for you? tennis. a nice healthy sport. fresh air, exercise, sweating, and no partially hydrogenated animal shortening.” great, right? how often do you find this level of design in advertising? makes you work harder, doesn’t it. it did me.