Get ready for the E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D version re-cap of AIGA Minnesota’s Design Camp 2011!
Most of us live in a word of traffic jams, deadlines, undue stress, and hours upon hours of staring at a glowing screen. We keep many hours at work and we work them hard. We compartmentalize our life and leave the smallest containers for leisure, free thinking and enjoying other people’s company. We book our friends and families into our calendars, like a stadium reserves sports games or concerts. We don’t wait for life to happen, we orchestrate it.
The more I think about it, something tells me that, perchance, this isn’t quite how the universe wanted us to spend our limited time on this amazing planet. Generally speaking, it takes a major life event for us to slow down, smell the pine trees, and feel grateful for our lives. We might experience an accident that leaves us immobile. Or we lose a loved one. Or we simply escape to the woods, to nature, to connect to something deeper, which reminds us to slow down. To pause and reflect. And then, like perfectly engineered gears, we revert back—back to traffic jams, deadlines, stress, and work.
In my post-camp bliss, I’m reflecting on my notes and memories from the keynote speakers and the activities of a most glorious of weekends. My thoughts center on two themes: time and choices. How we spend time and what we get out of it.
Jamie Koval of VSA Partners shared this quote from his childhood days at camp: “Take what you want, but eat what you take.” Direct link to the dinner table? Yes. But it also totally applies to how we choose to spend our time. Do you want to gorge and binge on work or do you enjoy it in bite size amounts? Life isn’t about efficiency and working all the time. Work is necessary to live in modern society, but we should remember to do it in moderation, balancing it with the other aspects of our life. This will allow us to experience all the parts, like in a chef-crafted meal: smell, temperature, visual, texture, taste, aftertaste. Sometimes I barely have time to enjoy the euphoria of having finished a project before I’ve already started thinking about what’s next.
Jamie said, “Whatever projects we get, we make them great.”
Jan Wilker takes the time to experiment with his designs, even using the liquify tool in photoshop! It may not be profitable to spend so much time “playing,” but if life isn’t a little about playing, what’s there to live for? He describes this playful way of working as “enjoyable but inefficient.”
Michael Osborne of Mod SF provided a good reminder to choose to spend our time and resources doing something worthwhile. In addition to running his own design firm, Michael owns a letterpress studio and runs a 501c3 non-profit design studio providing design services to other non-profits. Check out Joey’s Corner here.
Peter Buchanan-Smith lives in Manhattan but is alive in the wilderness. He turned in his 9–5 design job for an entrepreneurial opportunity he’s passionate about—Best Made Co. Best Made is known for axes. If you’d like to know more about how Best Made Co came to be, read my blog post on Peter’s presentation at the 2009 Insights Lecture Series. Peter’s words have encouraged me to meditate on finding out what makes me tick in the same way Best Made Co does for him. He also inspired me to set a goal and make a plan. See, Peter adds one new product to his website each and every week. If we wait to do something, we miss out. So set a goal and start right away.
Jolby is design studio collaboration between Josh Kenyon and Colby Nichols. They reminded me why the people in our lives are important. Even though we arrive and leave earth naked and by ourselves, the journey on earth is all about companionship. Collaboration is important and two heads are always better than one. As I “ooo-ed and ahhh-ed” over the fun, fresh visuals they shared, some of their illustrations reminded me of my husband’s style of drawing. I felt the urge to come together with my husband (that’s what she said!) and collaborate. I want to collaborate on an art project, one that is not photography related.
Shel Perkins taught me many legal lessons and reminded me to always have solid footing before leaping into the unknown. Solid footing and excellent use of contracts will allow you to live freer, free from the fear of scary legal problems. Shel’s book Talent is Not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers is super great. I’ve already polished off two chapters! Buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Time to slow down for just a minute and appreciate a well crafted object. We already learned this from Peter’s axes, but the craft of letterpress teaches the same lesson. Who doesn’t love running their fingers across the depression in a thick paper stock formed by the kiss of a letterpress plate? I’d like to send a shout out to Studio on Fire for printing the design camp materials and also to Spark Letterpress for teaching the letterpress workshop.
If you read the abridged version of my Design Camp 2011 re-cap, you learned that the board did indeed call a 3 am (unofficial) board meeting. The AIGA board is filled with talented, interesting and extremely fun people. I’m so glad for all the conversations: some centered on design, others were just crazy and silly and some were really deep conversations about our lives. I feel a deep camaraderie among my teammates on the board and I look forward to serving another year with this wonderful crew.
It was, indeed, another great Design Camp. While sitting in stopped traffic on they way to camp, I cursed the time it took to travel to the woods. But the woods provide an amazing backdrop for taking time away from design work to reflect on design thinking.
Ax-Man: Peter Buchanan-Smith
Make everything great: Jamie Koval
Down-filled vest + mittens
3 am (unofficial) board meeting
Jazz hands every time I say Target®
Creative philanthropist: Michael Osborne
Inspired collaboration: Jolby
REAL pine scent
The “Borat” of Design: Jan Wilker
Blue skys and puffy clouds
Coming soon…the re-cap extended version.
2011 See Change Conference: Karin Fong, Jon Forss, Ian Adelman, Paul Nelson, Jeff Johnson, Doug Menuez, Margo Chase, Matthew Atkatz
Friday was quite the day! My brain and notebook are plum full of tidbits shared at the 2011 See Change conference.
Going the Distance, Herman Miller, Dead Man on Campus, The Cat in the Hat, Boardwalk Empire. Karin Fong of Imaginary Forces dazzled the audience with her opening sequences and animations. When Karin’s designing an opening sequence, her goal is to bring people from the everyday realm and transport them into the story. She not only concentrates on creating something vivid in imagery—but she tries to get into people’s hearts. Without realizing it, I have admired Karin’s work from afar. When Boardwalk Empire premiered last year, one of my first comments to my husband was how great is the opening sequence. It was fun to get the inside scoop on the creative process Karin and her team went through to create it. Her team first imagined showing bits and pieces of the Boardwalk itself, rich in imagery and complete with old fashioned music. HBO gave the team feedback that they didn’t want to see a montage of the show—it wasn’t necessary to duplicate what the audience will see each week in the series. HBO wanted to see something more metaphorical and depict the idea of change since it’s a core theme in the show. Karin and her team started to look through the lens of liquor. The opening sequence starts sunny, moves into a storm and then shows the aftermath. The finished product is amazing and emotional. Watch it here.
Ever been asked as a designer, “What’s your style?” Jon Forss of Non-Format spoke about, “The Wheel of Style.”
- Avant Garde: excitement because you’ve made something new!
- Hot: your new idea is getting attention
- Established: you are winning design awards
- Mass market: people are paying you a ton of money for your idea
- Cliché: you are being copied. Everyone is doing it.
- Re-invented: you take your idea, turn it on it’s head and end up back at the top of the list with avant garde!
A good example Jon gave is the Apple iPod and the Braun T3 Pocket Radio. Nostalgia turned re-invented.
In fact, this interesting article says Apple didn’t just get their iPod styling from 1960s Braun products.
How to be as a designer by Ian Adelman of The New York Times:
- Remain uncertain and be open to new patterns
- Learning how to draw is learning how to see
- Set-up is everything: create a way for yourself to work
- Think about how to make things work better
- Stay curious
During Ian’s presentation, I especially enjoyed seeing his amazing dioramas and paper cut outs:
I love innovative photography. I first saw Paul Nelson’s bird photographs on Minnesota Original (if you haven’t seen this before, it will quickly become a favorite! It airs on PBS and you can also watch online here.) Nelson’s love of birds began on his wedding day when he and his wife released an owl! Paul became enamored by the illustrations in Audubon books and wanted to find a way to photograph small birds that usually fly too fast for him to capture on film. He innovated an outdoor photo studio in which tagged birds are released through a shoot. When the bird flies through a laser beam, the shutter is tripped. Super cool. Check out his commercial work here and the bird photography here. To support Paul’s bird project, purchase prints and postcards on the Wild Birds Flying website.
Each time I hear Jeff Johnson of Spunk Design Machine speak, I think, “Wow. That guy is so cool.” He doesn’t just design pretty pieces for his clients, he comes up with strategic solutions that make his clients money. Galactic Pizza has monetized their pizza box. Formally, all Galactic Pizza boxes were bound for the landfill, with too much grease content to be recycled. Galactic Pizza boxes are now worth a $1 off your next order. The pizza company collects the boxes along with their restaurant food waste, which is then hauled away and turned into mulch compost. Another Spunk client is Principle Six which is a co-op of co-ops! Together, the co-ops are able to purchase food in larger quantities, and the economies of scale mean they buy more for less and can therefore make more money. Principle Six has a hall of fame of products. By simply labeling these products, already on shelves in co-ops, there was a reported 2% raise in profit. Check out Spunk here.
Martha Graham said, “No artist is ever satisfied. There is no satisfaction, ever, at any point.” However, Doug Menuez still strives to create meaning in life through photography. He said, “Through the act of taking a photo, I learn who I am.” Doug’s career started as a photojournalist, traveling 200,000 miles a year. The man has been all over the world and has photographed some amazing stuff. All the travel and being away from his family burned him out. Instead, he began shooting advertising photography, but to the same effect. Doug began to only show work he loved in his portfolio, leaving out the shots that he thought would get him business. Doug learned the secret to happiness was the power of no. Saying no to fear. To soul-killing assignments. Saying no to categories. He realized, “I’m not for everyone.” His goal is to “find beauty.” He photographs the story of human beings, looking for quiet moments of interaction as well as gestures and human behavior. The summary? Simply get paid to do what you love. Doug is selling his photography stock at menuezarchiveprojects.com
“Never say oops. Say: ah, interesting!” Margo Chase was a delight to listen to. In her early days, she was pegged as the go-to designer for vampires, dragons, skulls, witches and tattoos! She has done work for Madonna, Cher and Prince. Additionally, she designed the logo for Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Lao Tzu said, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.” Margo needed to change direction. Although famously good at being the vampire expert, she wanted to do more than decorate things, she wanted to design things. She began doing work for Matteo, a luxury linen company, a small company that she taught how to act like a big one. A new identity led to designing the actual linen product which lead to designing the interior of their show room. Margo said she didn’t know how to do product or interior design prior to working with this client, but if someone was going to pay her to do something, she would learn how to do it! She said, “Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it!” Through her work with Chinese Laundry, a shoe company, Margo learned never to assume clients understand design. The brand identity of the company was a mess, with name recognition difficult due to the number of names within the Chinese Laundry brand. Nothing tied the sub-brands together. Margo suggested that all brands starting at the top go by “Chinese Laundry” and all brands utilize a humming bird illustration to tie them together to the parent brand. Go to Chase Design Group’s website to see amazing work!
Matthew Atkatz of Crispin Porter + Bogusky shared twenty guidelines for interactive design:
- Never assume a consumer is interested in what you have to say.
- Provide value.
- Every interaction is an opportunity to build love for a brand.
- Viral is a verb and not a noun. Viral is the result of making something great.
- Don’t be intimidated by technology. Ground your idea in a human need or behavior.
- Sometimes the framework is just as important as the story.
- Share your ideas. The days of working alone on a project are over.
- Don’t be afraid to admit you need help.
- Hire a specialist. You can’t know everything.
- When brainstorming, say something stupid.
- Stay open minded.
- Don’t fall in love with your first idea.
- Save ideas: put them in the deep freeze for later.
- Don’t wait. If you have a good idea, do something with it. It’s not a matter if someone else will come up with the same good idea, it’s when.
- Prototype: move beyond the idea.
- Iterate: work out the kinks. See it. Touch it. Play with it.
- Add magic.
- Don’t be afraid to fail.
- There is no substitute for hard work.
Matthew also shared the top five next technologies:
- Social indexing (Bing, Google and Yahoo are doing it)
- Cloud computing (Google Chromebook)
- Gestural interfaces (think Xbox Kinect but on a bigger scale)
- Near field technology (all your devices will communicate with each other)
- Natural language processing (the computer named Watson)
Big thanks to The University of Minnesota and AIGA Minnesota for organizing this great event! And thanks to Best Buy for sponsorship!
Flipbooks, sound chips, built in 3D glasses, accordion folds, pop-ups, water proof, leather, rubber, faux pink crocodile, Muppet fur. When Charles Melcher creates books, he uses the form to express the ideas of the content—you must engage the head, heart and hands. Charles showed some amazing examples of premium book designs from his company’s portfolio. It’s in the details of these designs that Charles captured my attention. Little did I know that his presentation would blow my mind. I feel smarter from just being in the same room as this guy!
Everything from the Neiman Marcus Pop-up book to the Six Feet Under book were beautiful examples of book publishing at its best—creating objects that I want to consume because of the choice of materials, manufacture and design.
He made a book for GE featuring a cover made out of whiteboard material. The book came with a marker and a bookmark that doubles as the eraser. So cool.
Although I was captivated by just seeing the work this man has produced, his topic, “The Future of Storytelling,” really makes me think.
We all know the World Wide Web has changed the way traditional media exist—but it’s also changed the way we think and our culture at large. Nicholas Carr believes that deep reading is lost as we skim web pages, consuming more information than ever before. He believes that without deep reading, we lose deep thought. Charles Melcher believes differently. He thinks we are on the cusp of a new renaissance. And let me tell you, the future according to Charles Melcher sounds brilliant.
Using historical context, Charles explained that people simply need to learn how to use digital tools correctly and our brains need to create neuro-capacity and connections. Let me explain as he explained it. The tradition of oral storytelling was forever changed with the advent of publishing. The philosopher Socrates fought the idea of reading and writing. Socrates reasoned that there would be a loss of control over language, the destruction of memory and inflexibility in the written word—gestures and vocal variations would not translate to the written word. Socrates feared the loss of intelligence.
When the roman alphabet was first used to publish words on paper, there were no spaces between words, no punctuation. Try to read that sentence again in what is called “Scriptura Continua” because this is how written language first existed. WHENTHEROMANALPHABETWASFIRSTUSEDTOPUBLISHWORDSON
One of the problems associated with consuming content on the web is fatigue. But look at how labor intensive it is to read the above example. Charles doesn’t think the problem is the technology, he thinks we need some rules of syntax—punctuation and grammar—for the digital age. What are these rules of syntax going to be? Time will tell. But Charles did show an amazing example of an iPad app that is an interactive book. Check out the “Our Choice” app. You will be amazed. Seriously, don’t keep reading until you have clicked on the link and watched the demo. This iPad app is a great example of how to blend deep reading, video, interactive info graphics and photography—making it all consumable.
As Charles said, we’ve only had the iPhone for four years. Through the invention of the iPhone, the iPad was birthed. Let me repeat myself—we’ve only had this technology for four years. Think about the XBox Kinect—a video game console where your body is the controller. Now think about where technology will be in four more years. Amazing.
What exactly is design?
A calculated, thoroughly thought-out solution to a set of problems. It can be a process to making a decision. It can be the creation of an object. It can be a graphic solution, a way to display and distill information. Or a graphic solution that’s sole purpose is capturing attention. A design can be a purely visual end product as long as it solves a specific set of problems. Sometimes I think design can be a hard thing for non-designers to comprehend. EVERYTHING in the world has been designed. I did not say that everything has been WELL designed, only that every object was made with intention within a set of parameters. Non-designers may not realize what it takes to get from idea to production.
Does the best design come from inspired individuals or through team effort?
There is a place where ideas go to die. It’s called a committee. Very often, committees fail to make good design decisions because individuals are unable to seperate their want to contribute from the need to do what’s best. The most productive committees aren’t thinking of themselves, but of the greater good. When thinking in this manner, ideas thrive. How to do this? Committee members should leave their egos at the door and truly open their minds. We’re but one human race and actually have the power within us—collectively—to solve all problems. We just let our egos and closed minds get in the way. We are a race of people who isn’t concerned with the greater good, but with number one. We’re each so concerned with our own selves that it can keep us from being truly great.
In my line of work, the best ideas stem from two people tossing ideas back and forth. One person is able to expound upon another person’s idea and think about it in new ways that, very often, the first person hadn’t thought of. And through this process, an end product is much stronger and better because two brains contributed to the solution. Each person has a set of life experiences that shape and mold our brains. Put two people together who have different life experiences—and open minds—and your end product is going to be dynamic and fantastic.
How much do you care about design?
Very much. It’s ingrained into my very being. I think about design improvements all the time. I describe myself as seeing the world through my design lenses. Like rose colored glasses, the way I view objects and systems is different from the next person. Even though I’ve lived in my house for over five years, and used my bathroom in the same way for all this time. I have recently come to a design solution that will allow me to use the space better, which will help me get ready safer and faster in the morning. This should help me to be a better person in the morning, which will in turn, improve the lives of those around me. (You might ask how I can make my bathroom safer. I have a pedestal sink. My flat iron balances on the sink and is heating up as I brush my teeth. It could fall into the sink and electrocute me! This solution is necessary. And why not get a new bathroom mirror while I’m at it!)
Design is bigger than the types of design: product, graphic, web, experience, interior, etc. Design is life. We each are designers whether we know it or not. Every single human being makes design decisions to make their or others lives better. We design our homes for comfort and entertainment. We purchase specific products—tools—which make our lives easier. Not only is the person who designed the product a designer, but the person who uses the product is also a designer, making calculated decisions about how to use the tools we have available to us. The visuals on the labels of the products we buy are a definition of our tastes. The graphics we see around us define us as a culture.
Design is important. Design is culture. Design is life.
If your career or trade is design, your work is never done. There’s always a better way. A whole society of people depend on you to make the right decisions.
Candice Olson has a new show, titled, “Candice Tells All.” I have to say, I miss her old show, “Divine Design.” Candice’s old show focused on design, showing Candice in her studio drawing room elevations and choosing finishes. The old show did not worry about the tactics of construction and install, but more on the design process and final product. The new show is about Candice finding inspiration from others—using the color black was inspired by a Mies van der Rohe skyscraper and Candice’s friend a fashion designer. This part of the show isn’t so bad. But the majority of the show is focused on construction and the “problems” that her team solves along the way. I put problems in quotation marks because the problems are actually common sense knowledge a contractor/designer should have. Like:
- Not pre-measuring doorways and furniture to make sure it will be able to move in. On the first episode, the team shoved a piece of furniture up the stairs, scuffing and ripping up the walls. That’s just embarrassing.
- Spending 10 minutes on the show trying to figure out how to install a fireplace without installing gas lines. Ding! (ten minutes later) the crew realizes they can install a clean burning, vent-less ethanol fireplace. Duh.
- Doing a “primer test” to see which primer will be the best to use as a base over wood paneling—the cheap stuff or the stuff designed for this purpose. Painting it on the walls and then coming back after it has dried to see which primer passes the “scratch test.” Just buy the right product the first time. And if you’re trying to educate the audience, have one of the contractors talk to the camera, explaining they purchased the type of primer that is best suited for wood paneling.
- Needing to tear down an entire ceiling to install recessed lights because there is plumbing up there. This should not be a surprise to a contractor. The show should showcase the knowledge of it’s contractors and designers, not dumb them down to show “problem solving” to the audience. Oh shoot, Candice needs to do another lighting plan. “And I hate doing lighting plans and extra work,” exclaims Candice.
When Candice says things like, “Hopefully we won’t have any more surprises,” it just further proves my point that the “problems” are built into the show. The fake problems (and don’t even get me started on the fake hair bun) are enough to keep me from tuning in.
This is what I think happened. Candice’s contract was up. And she decided she wanted to work less and get paid more. So she hired design assistants (who do all the work). And then Candice just shows up on TV for discussion. It’s likely that the producers changed the show’s format based on the success of other shows like “Holmes on Homes” and David Bromstad’s “Color Splash.” But it doesn’t work for Candice.
What happened to Candice’s brain, personality and humor? And what about Chico the electrician? Candice’s new project manager Steve is super boring. I miss the “swee daw” intro music. I miss the focus on design thinking and finishing options. But mostly, I miss the smart and funny Candice.
One more word on the fake hair bun—Candice, you’re not fooling anyone. We all know you don’t have long enough hair to wind up into a giant hair bun. Especially when we see you in a scene with the bun and the next scene is a nubby pony tail.
Basically, the producers have dumbed down the show to appeal to a different audience. And that new audience is not me.
Last night I attended Evolve Design put on by AIGA Minnesota. The program had a panel of design professionals spanning generations, discussing design business then, now and the future.
I’d been looking forward to the event for a couple months, and because of that, had high expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointed by the discussion, it was simply different than I had expected.
It was interesting to hear that back in the 60s, advertising was thought of as persuasion and design as information. Today we are much more focused on problem solving and problem identification. The worlds of design and advertising used to be segregated and today to compete most companies are hybrid of marketing, advertising, design and technology. Companies need to think media agnostic, focusing more on ideas than how the ideas come to life—be it an ad, website, brochure, et cetera. Focus on producing ideas and experiences, not as much “things.” Monica Little shared some great thoughts about design not being about image anymore—people can see right through it if it isn’t real. Little said not to focus on image, but on driving behavior and put forward authentic messages. I like Joe Duffy’s thoughts on people wanting to design their whole life and that design is about life—about being an individual. (Reminded me a little of Ellen Lupton’s book Design your Life.)
Much of the discussion focused on education, and although interesting, I had hoped to hear more about MY future working in the profession. I wanted to hear predictions of the future based on what we’re doing today—continued evolution in web design, creating design experiences and how technologies—like the iPad—are going to change how we do what we do.
All panelists were chosen for their particular view point, yet I feel like I only heard from a portion of the panel. With so many panelists, taking a cue from political debates could have been good. For example, giving each panelist two minutes on the clock to address a question so we could have heard more from each person on the panel.
In conclusion, I want to hear more from each panelist! I believe this is an amazing opportunity for a director with similar aspirations to Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified). Interview each panelist individually and create a documentary movie, interview-style. I’d love to have that movie in my iTunes cue, right alongside Helvetica and Objectified.
Let me start this post by posing a question: Which of these two bottles is the new and improved re-design? The answer may surprise you. In fact, it is the bottle on the right-hand side that is newest. Improved, let’s leave that to the eye of the beholder. And the beholder, in this case, is me. I love this hand soap, it is an amazing product. Friendly to my hands and the environment as well. The fragrance is divine, the perfectly soothing scent and lather is just what my hands need after a long day spent on the mouse and keyboard.
Now it’s story time. A few weeks ago, I ran out of EO hand soap. I went to Whole Foods to purchase a replacement and couldn’t find it on the shelf anywhere! After staring at the shelf for five long minutes, I found the re-designed bottle. You can imagine my disappointment as I gazed upon this new design, complete with twenty different typefaces, gigantic-sized new logo and label, along with lots of useless information that I don’t want to view from my sink everyday (including the tagline shoved right up against the logo). I didn’t purchase the soap that day. Instead, I went on a quest to find a new lavender hand soap. Yes, I decided not to purchase the soap, not because of a poor quality product, but because of a poor quality package design. On my quest for new soap, I realized that nothing matches up to EO’s formula. So a week later, I went back to Whole Foods and made the purchase.
I like the simplicity of the old design. I like reading the copy, set in italics, that just rolls off the tongue, “with pure essential oils and organic herbal infusions.” This is a lot more romantic sounding than a listing of all the special ingredients staring me in the face—daily. I like the smaller sized label which allows the lovely blue plastic bottle to shine. The simplicity of matching serif roman and italics is sophisticated. And I like the white space, a place for my eyes to rest.
I considered using goo-gone and removing the ugly label from the pretty blue bottle, but I haven’t the time/energy. However, I want you to know that I won’t buy this new bottle design again because a good friend presented me with a brilliant solution: purchasing EO hand soap bulk online and re-using the old, well-designed bottle. Not only is this easy on my eyes, but it’s better for the environment. Sure, I will need to fork over $65 to purchase one gallon of soap, but hey, this supply should last me at least five years!
Last night I attended the Minneapolis Community and Technical College Portfolio Show. I was quite impressed by the portfolios—these students are showing some great work! The show is up through the end of day today (from 10 am to 7 pm, address listed below). If you can’t make it to the show, check out the show’s website featuring the portfolios of the students: http://gra2010.com
After perusing the show, I experienced an amazing sunset. Here are a couple of my favorite photos. I took these from the top level of the MCTC parking ramp.
MCTC Portfolio Show | 1501 Hennepin Ave | Minneapolis | Wheelock Whitney Hall (they have signs directing you to the show)