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Ches Perry: An American Sign Painter

I hold a special place for sign painters in my heart. It’s an art form that I have never really dove into on account that deep down I’m terrified of it. It brings back memories of art school and trying to draw these huge still-lifes on big, white, empty pieces of paper. A wall is just a bigger, more empty, white canvas of terror!

Obviously that means I’m fascinated by all sign painters and their abilities. I have spent years looking at type, learning the intricacies of letter spacing, type anatomy, type classification and the list goes on. But to try to not only design the typeface WHILE I’m trying to spell, letter space, be creative, and in a medium that does not include apple + z, well you can imagine it takes a brave soul to attempt such creative feats!

In my quest to learn more about sign painting, I came across Chicago-native Ches Perry who has been sign painting for 40 years. Now that’s a career. He co-founded Right Way Signs and while sign painting is only one sign service the company offers, it’s the part that Perry embodies. As I am finding true in many of these newly documented stories of masters in various crafts, Perry thought he was taking a commercials arts class and ended up in a lettering class and just stuck with it. I for one am very grateful he did.

On a broader view, I am so glad that videos like this one are starting to pop up. I’ve watched seemingly similar videos on people and their craft ranging from letterpress, woodworking, bookbinding, cloth makers, cheese making, and the list goes on. It’s a beautiful thing to capture the work of these people. Their dedication and mastery of their craft is a sight to behold. I also always find it amusing that an often held sentiment by the subjects of these videos is that they just do what they love and it’s not all that special. I’m glad there are people out there that recognize these people’s worth and ignore their grumblings of dismissal. Our culture is inspired and richer for knowing their stories.

Barrel + Ink: Drink up these enticing collaborations!

Yes. No. No. Maybe. Definitely not. No. Yes. No. Maybe. I guess I could take a chance…

That is my mental process when I am strolling down the wine aisles at the store trying to figure out what bottle of wine I want to purchase. Admittedly, I am only looking at the wine labels and trying to discern how much I will enjoy a bottle of wine based on the typography, interesting vineyard name, and level of cleverness present on that tiny 3 inch x 3 inch canvas. What’s worse (or better depending on if your perspective is mine or the vineyards), is that I have HUNDREDS of labels, er, bottles of wine to choose from.

But let’s be honest with ourselves here: Unless you have decided to educate yourself on the various wines, vineyards, and grapes out there, most likely you’re picking your wine based on a label. It is indeed a lot like judging a book by its cover and we’ve all been hoodwinked by that process in the past. So what is a customer to do?

Enter Barrel + Ink, a San Francisco based company that “pair designers and winemakers together to create exceptional, limited-run wines.” The idea is that winemakers and designers are makers in their own right and oddly their individual processes intersect on a regular basis, but perhaps without a ton of intention. Often the marketing of a wine is separated from the actual vineyard and perhaps doesn’t truly embody and pay homage to the winemaking process. Barrel + Ink decided that missed connection was an amazing opportunity not to be ignored again.

Barrel + Ink

The most recent collaboration is between design rockstar Jessica Hische and Napa Valley winemaker Andy Erickson. Whoa. Their 2014 White Blend is just beautiful. Not only the pale, golden wine within the bottle, but the way Hische’s design aesthetic embodies the craft, sense of fun, and taste notes of the actual wine is spot on. But this is not just a designer fulfilling a client’s design needs. It truly is a collaboration. As Hische mentions in her interview (which by the way, the website offers audio interviews with each collaborator, which is a beautiful extra touch!) she was able to actually meet and work with Andy. She visited the vineyard and was able to draw inspiration for her final design. As with any good collaboration, it was two maker experts that did 110% and created something exceptional. Other design collaborators include Erik Marinovich, Invisible Creature, and Lab Partners.

Barrel + Ink

Barrel + Ink: Winemaker Andy Erickson

Barrel + Ink: Designer Jessica Hische

Barrel + Ink is also pretty tight lipped on which designers and winemakers they’ll be bringing in on the future collaborations. Smart move. I’m certainly going to keep checking back to find out which of my favorite designers has now made a miniature piece of art aka wine label, that I have to purchase now (obviously!)

Interested in getting your hands on a bottle? You won’t be able to pick this up at your local shop. These wine + design collaborations are only offered through the website. But you can get on their mailing list and be notified as each new collaborative bottle becomes available for purchase.

Emirates Airline: Not your average brand!

I’ve had brands on the brain. The final project for the class that I recently taught at the University of Washington was based around brand channels ranging from logos to websites. So obviously, everywhere I look my brain is on brand overload. While my class focused on visual communication design skills, I knew that there were many brand channels that we weren’t even getting to discuss. One of which is sponsorship. Think about Coke: if there is ever a sporting event, you can bet their logo can be seen on every cup, to-go container, exit sign, and hallway (I’ve heard even urinal cakes can be branded! What won’t they think of next??). But as my amazing TA and design extraordinaire Chad P. Hall once said, “Brands are living, breathing, and growing. Let them.” That hit a note with me. When managing and designing for a brand, it’s important to be consistent in the message you’re sending your audience, but the form in which that takes can come in many varieties.

Emirates is an airline based on of Dubai. While I have never flown with them, I would certainly like to one day! Their brand represents high-class, luxury, and a dedication to full-filling any and all needs. But that level of service is available from their first class to their economy. They’re an equal opportunity service, if you will. Over the years I have seen several of their advertisements and all those brand attributes are strong, but there is always a playfulness present (See their ad with Jennifer Aniston). That could not be more true than in their sponsorship of football (soccer for you Yanks) games. They could have easily slapped their logo on a few banners (which I’m sure they did), but they went a step further to show just what they’re all about, perfectly combining their business (airline travel) with the activity they’re sponsoring (football). A truly perfect blend!

Viewers were obviously delighted when it went from a cute “safety presentation” of the stadium to full out and kick-ass football moves by their airline staff. You can tell that the audience’s experience will retain an even more positive image of the Emirates airline brand going forward. More so than any logo on a cup could ever do.

So the big questions is…when can I book my flight?

Do you have a favorite brand? One that delights you are every new turn? Tell me all about it in the comments section!

From Seed to Plate: IKEA’s Indoor Gardening Kit is Arriving!

I have a confession. As a design blog, Industrial Design draws the short end of the stick when I write most of my posts. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me because there are some AMAZING products out there, and not just phones and robots that sweep my floor. Products that find a user need not being met and after some kick-ass iterative work (usually taking place not behind a computer), there is a product that I would love to have in my home.

Lea Martin, one of my close friends and incidentally an Industrial Designer (ID), thinks very different about problem spaces and it’s amazing to be part of those conversations. The affordances for users that are considered from an ID perspective makes you find a deeper connection with your users than this designer thought possible. You often have to consider anatomy, psychology, and the tactile experience even more. Love it.

So this week, I’m talking about a new product from IKEA, an Indoor Gardening Kit via Hydroponics. Last time I grew anything hydroponically was a tomato plant in the 7th grade for my science fair project! As IKEA puts it, “Water, light, and love. That’s all!” and it looks like that could be very true. IKEA put together an upbeat and beautiful video that actually walks you through all the steps of growing lettuce (or possibly some other non-deep root vegetables too?) to your plate.

As a relatively new urbanite with very little space in general, and definitely no soil to call my own, I can see the possibilities of this indoor growing kit going over very well. I believe it’s an innate need and deeply satisfying for people to grow their own food. Plus, hello educational opportunities. Everyone should know where their food comes from and this is a great start in any agriculturally rich education.

Being IKEA though, this is not an ugly kit. Everything is beautifully rendered, precision manufacturing and in true Swedish design, is streamlined and beautiful. Still unclear of pricing (as it isn’t released until April), it’s worth checking out next month. Feel free to buy one for yourself and send one my way too!

IKEA Indoor Growing Kit

Oh, and be sure to thank your favorite Industrial Designer today. They do great work and certainly don’t get praised enough! I will also do better and start introducing more blog posts on what’s going on in the ID community as well 😉

Write On Campaign: A Cultural Movement!

“Writing letters lets me think about and honor my relationships.” –Egg Press

My favorite part of writing a blog post is that I am constantly on the hunt for new and inspiring people who are taking what they do best and focusing on enriching society. Those are good people. This week’s inspiring people are those at Egg Press and Hello!Lucky, two stationery studios that produce absolutely beautiful correspondence through letterpress and other delicious methods. In 2014, the Write On Campaign was founded by these two studios where they challenged themselves and those important in their lives to write 30 letters in 30 days to celebrate National Letter-writing Month, which is in April.

They knew that if they just put out this 30 letters/30 days challenge that it might not get done. A little incentive never hurt. So in 2014 they created 2,000 FREE writing kits to give away that included a few cards/envelopes and gelly roll pens (remember those??). The response was so large that within a week, all the kits were spoken for and were shipped out across the United States. In 2015, 5,000 kits were made. Gone within a week. So this year? 10,000 kits have been designed, produced, packaged and are ready to be shipped out! I’m not sure of the number, but I think anything over 10K is well on its way to being a cultural phenomenon.

Now I know some of you are giving me the eye as you read this: handwritten letters? Is that still a thing? Yes, it is. A wonderful thing. Email and text are great forms of communication. They make the world go round. I get it. But those closest to me (and not always through physical location) deserve a little bit more from me. Writing a letter to them forms such a deeper bond and gives them a little bit of my heart. In an age when things happen in an instant, isn’t it nice to think that someone took 20 minutes and thought about how special your relationship is? (See more funny and serious reasons here)

The physical artifact is nothing to ignore either. A card can be displayed and read again and again, bringing up those warm and fuzzy feelings. Don’t even get me started on the tactile love affair that takes place with a card…haha. Plus who has ever received a handwritten note and looked at it and said, “Not another one of these! Seriously, I got enough love. I don’t need this!”

Hammerpress: Letterpress & Design Studio

There are some seriously wonderful cards out there. Find what you like!

Lastly, don’t be intimidated. Not everyone is as loquacious as I am. But it doesn’t take a lot of words to get the point across that someone is special to you. It also doesn’t have to be mushy! Have a new joke you want to share? Or perhaps you want to draw a picture? Bring on the pictograms! It all counts. Just start communicating and growing those authentic connections!

So stretch those hands (I know it might have been a while since you’ve held a pen), start thinking of all those people you adore and want to see how they’re doing, and take the 30 letters in 30 days challenge! I promise it will go better and will be more rewarding than most 30 day challenges out there!

SIGN UP AND GET YOUR FREE KIT HERE! (Hurry! Supplies run out quickly!)

If you do participate, be sure to post a picture of your writing with the official hashtag, #WRITE_ON!

Vox: Visually Explaining the News

There is a lot of news out there. It is coming at us from so many directions, with so many views, and usually with a lot of intensity. Therefore, it is easy to kind of start dismissing all of it. But as conscientious citizens of society, we really should be trying to understand a good chunk of it. But then let’s say you do start paying attention. But then maybe you don’t actually understand what you’re hearing. Don’t be embarrassed. If you were an expert in everything, well you would be annoying for starters…haha What is happening in our world, country, state, city…well it can get a little tangled.

As a visual designer, I often find my job is to untangle complicated messages or situations and communicate it in a way that is less arduous on the audience. Making sure that I anticipate some of the communication pitfalls and build bridges for my audience that they can leap across to a better understanding. In the end, hopefully enriching their lives. Seems like that could be helpful in a couple of areas (news, insurance, banking, etc) of our lives, right?

So what if there was a news outlet that took that understanding of news and combined it with design and storytelling? That is where you will find Vox.com. They have popped up on my radar a couple times over the last year, each time to a resounding feeling of delight. But when I watched a video on gun violence that trotted out the data in a way that was so easy to understand, my little design heart knew I had found something special.

Stance on gun control in the United States aside for the moment…the best thing about this video? It’s so simple. There are literally black and white printouts, a red sharpie, and a voice over. So why does this work? Well, there are a couple reasons.

The first is that it is indeed simple. Good and clear design does not require it have a ton of bells, whistles, and shiny bits. It’s actually usually the exact opposite. When I was recently guest lecturing on visual design principles (specifically around presentations) to a group of Ph.D students in the sciences, I dropped the truth bomb that always gets everyone talking: Design starts in black and white. If you can’t explain it through these simple terms, adding colors, display type faces, or even motion is not going to help you reach your audience.  This video is already talking about a possibly confusing topic. Why add to the confusion by ill-placed design decisions?

The second reason is that the visuals are there to support the narration. Visuals can certainly stand on their own, but usually there is some well-written accompanying text so that the visuals make sense. When you hear someone speak, you’re there to hear new and interesting information through their particular lens view of the world. I rarely show up to a presentation to see someone’s awesome slides. I just need the visuals to support that narration and not distract from it.

The last reason why this video rocks is because of a very small detail that you might not detect the first watch through. She actually makes a mistake and misspells something. But she quickly scratches it out and keeps going. Pure gold. We are human. Talking about human things. It’s okay to be human. That show of human error that could have easily been edited out made me all the more ready to listen to what she had to say.

Vox is a news outlet that offers standard written news stories, video stories showcasing data, maps + data, and even card stacks for those of us that need to ingest news quickly and keep running through their day. We learned awhile ago that there is more than one way to interact with the news. Just look at The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Humor can go a long way in engaging an audience on topics that aren’t always easy to understand or pleasant, but still very important. The same can be said about data and human-to-human discussions.

Vox.com Offerings

With all news outlets, the information presented should always be taken with a grain of salt. No matter how enlightened you are, there is bias within each of us. News outlets are no different. But at least this is another version to review and try out. It beats being talked at in 30-second sound bites. Check Vox.com today!

 

Want to see more? This video discusses designing figures for communication and an age-old argument that I still end up discussing on a regular basis.

The Power of Motion

As a classically trained visual communication designer, I work with a lot of static things: imagery, color, type, physical pieces, etc. But you’re only a good designer if you’re constantly expanding your skills and gaining interest in new creative fields. Most recently? Motion. I still remember a RIDICULOUS project I had to do in Flash in undergrad that included moving letterforms, some jazz music, and a lot of cussing. This certainly wasn’t my forte, but I was fascinated by the prospect of what it could do. I do believe I got a B+ on that project…But I digress.

Since then, I have made friends and professionally worked with with quite a few talented people that work with video and with the invention of video being on DSLR cameras, some very talented photographers that made the jump from static imagery to moving pictures. It is such a different way of thinking. You would think that it would be easier, since everyday is one big film of moving pictures. But it takes a certain eye. It’s being able to envision composition after composition (think Wes Anderson films), layering them end to end, to be able to tell a story.

It always comes back to a story. What story are you telling? Why are you telling it? How does it impact people? These are the same questions that tons of creatives ask themselves everyday and in their own special medium, they tell those stories. Each of us tries to communicate an idea, by way of understanding humans, their emotions, and connecting in some way through our creative medium. It’s a powerful task and pure joy when it works.

I recently came across a short (that’s proper film jargon right there!) on National Geographic’s website by English filmmaker, illustrator, and composer Temujin Doran. This short is based on neuroscientist David Eagleman’s book Sum: Forty Tales from the AfterlivesThrough a lyrical approach, Doran presents what life would be like if we took the sum of activity spent on seemingly mundane activities, like trying to remember someone’s name, and reshuffled them so we experienced those sum’s sequentially in a single life. It’s truly fascinating and better explained by viewing.

Throughout the entire video, I couldn’t help wanting to overlay infographics that represented the data the narrator was speaking to the audience. We always interpret the world how we know it best. However, that need soon dissipated and I was swept up in the story he was creating. Between the music, the beautiful imagery, and the narrator, I was in the story, rather than just experiencing it. After being released from my mesmerization, I had a little pang of envy. The work I do is just different. Not less, but different. But there are some capabilities that motion brings that seems to heighten the senses and that emotional connection I always try to obtain through my work.

But that’s when collaboration becomes the key. I like knowing and gaining new skills, but I also know that simply working with someone that has made motion their career-driven passion in life…well that is just as amazing to experience. It expands my view of the world, introduces me to another creative medium, and another possibility appears on how to tell a truly fascinating story.

Do you have a favorite short (or even advertisement)? Perhaps a cinematographer that you follow from film to film? Please share it in the comments below!

 

Intricate Baroque Wigs…From Paper!

My love of all things paper is not a secret. I don’t exactly try to hide it either…haha If you walk around my apartment it’s pretty much devoted to showing off paper in its various forms: printed, bound, folded, and untouched (for future projects, of course.) It is because of this love affair that when I came across Russian artist Asya Kozina’s most recent work of creating Baroque wigs from paper I was truly stunned! I always knew that paper was capable of many wondrous things, but this was a new one. With Valentine’s Day in the near future and more than a bit of whimsy in the air, I simply fell in love with them.

Asya Kozina: Baroque 1

It doesn’t hurt that that she knows how to set the stage either. The models are put into period-esque clothes and while beautiful, take a step back so that the paper sculptures can shine. The photos themselves are also reminiscent of paintings or French La Mode magazine images. Wonderful from top to bottom!

If you love paper, history, fashion, and perhaps just feats of engineering, then this is the paper artist for you! Be sure to check out all of her work on her Behance site. She has made COMPLETE CLOTHES from paper. She’s my new hero!

Asya Kozina

Asya Kozina

Asya Kozina

Outside the Box: A new packaging book by Gail Anderson!

It is always a wonderful day when your friend’s do awesome things. Makes you feel proud and lucky to be able to stand next to such talented people. In this case, it is my mentor and friend Gail Anderson, a NYC-based designer, writer, educator, and co-owner of Anderson Newton Design. If you don’t know about her career and work, it is definitely inspiring and worth taking a closer look. She has worked at places like Rolling Stone and SpotCo, all the while teaching at SVA. Add to that, cranking out books on modernist type and found type (just since I’ve known her) and you have a person that knows how to work hard and produce some absolutely wonderful work.

Her most recent book is called Outside the Box and features packaging utilizing hand-lettering from designers and illustrators around the world. I was lucky enough to receive a lovely copy of the book and I can’t put it down. Projects range from those you might have seen and wondered who did them (Chipotle) to projects/designers/illustrators you’ve never even seen, but definitely should start following on Instagram! What’s even better is that there are process photos included of how these concepts came to be. It’s not always about the final artifact, but the journey of how you arrived there. Enough of my chit-chat. It’s time to see the book!

Outside The Box

Outside the Box Chapters

Outside the Box: Chipotle

Outside the Box: Chipotle Close Up

Outside the Box: Process

Outside the Box: Foodie Garden

Did I get your attention? Good! This is an amazing book and would be a great addition to any bookshelf (designer or not). Be sure to check out Amazon or your local book store to pick up a copy!

Design Your Own Parklet!

I remember when I first arrived to my Wallingford neighborhood and walked around, that every way I turned people had put in raised gardens filled with flowers and veggies in the space between the sidewalk and the road. I thought it was GENIUS! That space, often called an easement (which is usually owned by the city) always seemed like a waste of space if left empty. Apparently Seattle also agreed and allowed the space to work for its citizens and gave me wonderful things to admire while I took my evening strolls.

Easement Gardens

Well, Seattle has done it again in the form of a parklet. Supposedly originating in San Francisco (I swear Europe has been doing this for centuries, but I digress), the first parklet (or a streatery in some circles) was established in 2005 and was open for 2 hours as an installtion. Since then more long-term parklets have popped up around the city. The official seattle.gov definition of a parklet is “the process of converting a parking space [or two] into a small public ‘park.’ Parklets are, in effect, an extension of the sidewalk into the street, exchanging private auto space for additional public gathering space.” To be clear too, the idea is that these parkelts are truly public spaces and not just extensions of restaurants or cafes. A parklet for everyone!

The first parklet I saw was last year, just down the block from my apartment in Wallingford in front of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream. The overflow from that store on any non-freezing day is crazy! People are usually spilling out into the street, taking up parking spots anyways, just milling around consuming yummy goodness. So why not give the people what they want? The parklet felt like it appeared overnight, but obviously had been planned and well thought out. It offers up seating for two-legged and four-legged alike, lush plants, and an overall vibe of invitation to sit and chat for a while.

Wallingford Parklet, Seattle

The most recent parklet I literally stumbled upon is on The Ave and 42nd Street in the University District. If you’ve spent anytime on The Ave you know that it is not typically a place that you just hang out. Usually it is very stressed out students that are running to get food in to-go containers and then briskly walking back onto campus which is a mere block away. But the parklet is sending a different message now: It says, “Stop in, slow down, and sit for a while.” Admittedly, “hearing” that message when standing in a torrential downpour of rain doesn’t seem all that appealing, but once spring arrives, you can bet that parklet will have a waiting line around the block!

University District Parklet

Not seeing a parklet that is to your liking? Wish you had a swing or possibly even a sandbox? Not a problem! The Seattle Department of Transportation really wants to support citizens of Seattle to start building these parklets. They have made an extensive, but very accessible step-by-step guide to help you through all the stages (brainstorming, planning, construction, etc.) of getting a parklet in your neighborhood! See the full PDF here. So gather your creative peeps, download the guide, and get to brainstorming!

Not from Seattle, but still interested in getting a parklet in your neighborhood? You would be surprised how many cities across the United States already are dedicated to the idea of parklets. Google “Parklet Guidelines, [your city name here]” and you should find at least initial information to get your project rolling. Good luck!