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It’s here! It’s here! It’s here!

The title of this post could mean a multitude of things, such as: Friday is here! Autumn (my favorite time of year) is here! My birthday is here! (Yes, today is my actual birthday! Hello 27!) In short, the title means all of these things because they are all true. But what’s really here is even bigger!

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane for a moment. Two and a half years ago I met a lovely woman named Gail Anderson at the HOW Conference in Denver, Colorado. Name ring any bells? It should! She has a career that others only dream about, she has authored/co-authored many books, teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and travels the world speaking on numerous topics. The words “design royalty” come to my mind…

At this particular conference she was presenting on graphic designers and the things we collect. While her collections ranged from bottle caps and salt/pepper shakers, I was running through my own head of the collections I have. We’re creative people, we can’t help ourselves! It’s during her talk that I realized that she was THE Gail Anderson who had co-written New Vintage Type and New Ornamental Type with Steven Heller. Whoa! I had been in love with the covers and content of those books for ages. I had to meet her without a moment to loose!

I waited until the swarm of people had abated and then I approached her. I think I had stopped breathing at that point. I asked her politely if she would mind signing the book (Incidentally I had a well-worn copy of New Vintage Type at home, but I went and bought another copy so that she could sign it! Total nerd moment!) She graciously accepted. As she was signing (I’m still not breathing), I told her that I wanted to design books and then wanted to see them in bookstores. That’s all I wanted to do. She paused and asked me what I did currently. I replied that I worked for a medical device company. Her reaction was one that I had clearly had many times…haha We quickly moved on…

So I asked her if she would be willing to take a look at my website that I had just put up and give me some feedback. She graciously said yes and we exchanged business cards. After that, everything changed. A couple months later Gail approached me about this book she and Steven Heller were working on about modern type. If I decided to work on it, it would be like an internship: little pay and long hours. I believe my response was was polite and concise. However, in the privacy of my own home, I believe I jumped up, yelled out a “yippee” and did a happy dance!

That was several years ago now, but the product of that chance meeting and me mustering up some courage, has finally seen the light of day. Through countless hours, ridiculous amounts of emails, and the hard work of Steve, Gail, Christine (head researcher and all around fantastic person!) and myself, the editors and staff at Thames & Hudson, world-class type designer Bonnie Clas, plus all the work contributed by awesome and amazing designers and studios around the world, we have a completely beautiful book.

I am proud to announce the publication of New Modernist Type by Gail Anderson and Steven Heller.

It’s a heady experience to type that and know that I was part of it. The experiences I had because of this book, the things I learned, the conversations I had, the people I met…Well I will never forget it. I will forever combine my birthday celebrations with the week that “the book” (as my friends and family so fondly called it) was published and was introduced to the world. Thank you to everyone who supported me and kept excited about the prospect of this book. Really, thank you.

This book is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and basically any good bookstore that knows what they’re doing!

I don’t have my official copy yet, but the good photos are coming soon! Plus be sure to check out the acknowledgement’s page…you might just see a name you recognize!

The Typographic Universe: Steven Heller & Gail Anderson

Expanding my horizons…

So sometimes you don’t realize how dense you’re being when you’re, well, being dense. I most often live in a world where a graphic designer either does, print, web, or both (the most marketable). But with technology being what it is today, that’s pretty much loosing it’s validity. Graphic designers, more than ever, are starting to add their 2 cents or even 10 cents to projects around the world that would otherwise be “none of our business.” Move over traditional roles: Graphic designer coming through.

My preamble was to introduce my thoughts on video. My friend Laura, a great graphic designer out of Chicago, sent me this link (see below) of a video of lightening striking 3 buildings simultaneously in Chicago. One of the most amazing things I’d seen! So I start looking at this man’s other videos and low and behold! He had just gotten back from HOW in Denver! I knew I recognized him! His name is Craig Shimala. Truly his work is phenomenal. I sat at work and watched all his films. I just couldn’t get enough.

As I was watching I started thinking: A t-shirt designer (He works at Threadless), a graphic designer, and a movie maker. That’s a lot of hats! But it all started to make sense. T-shirt designer and graphic designer, we can easily see the connections. The movie maker part took more pondering, but then it hit me: Graphic design is the organizing of information to best communicate an idea, and at best to communicate an experience. And there was the connection! On a print piece we organize words, colors, fonts, and pictures to create an experience. Isn’t movie making just that? Organizing moving images, shot in certain color palettes and laid out in a sequential order (possibly to music) to create an experience for the audience?

So I see my horizons changing. While I most likely won’t be picking up a camera tomorrow to make a movie, the divisions I once saw between what a designer could/could not do are no longer quite as defined.

Lightning strikes three of the tallest buildings in Chicago at the same time! from Craig Shimala on Vimeo.

HOW Design Conference: Upon further consideration…

Well I’m back from my trip and more confused than ever. That sounds negative, but it’s not meant to be. This year’s set of session’s and speakers seemed very unique to me and well planned. Last year’s sessions/speakers were much more about the environment designer’s work in and practical tips for day-to-day designing. This year’s were more about the designer themselves; the kind of person they are outside of being a graphic designer and how that in turn helps them be better at their jobs. Sessions ranged from looking at all the stuff we keep on our homes and desks (toys, pencils, pens, posters, books, etc) to what inspires us. I think it made several people stop and think: Wow, there is a person behind all this work we all produce daily. Often I think designers feel like human computers that components are put into and out we spit a marketing piece or a website. We can start to feel very “unspecial” and that can affect us deeply.

For me these sessions made me start thinking of so many things and made me really question who I am independently of graphic design and then who I am with my work and how they interlock. It was amazing how so many graphic designers were baffled when asked what we draw inspiration from. It was clear that many people, including myself, hadn’t had time or even thought to ask ourselves what inspires us to come up with that new great idea. We all get so focused on the job/project/pitch/new idea that we had forgotten about ourselves.

So this is what I take away:
1. I am unique and to do my job it takes a little bit of nurturing and understanding of myself.
2. Don’t dismiss the little things: You never know when a red kick ball can change the world.
3. There usually is another person in a worse work situation than you, so keep that in mind.
4. Find a mentor if you don’t already have one. They will change your life.
5. Be a collector of inspiration. It never goes out of style.
6. Network. Even if it feels weird, you can only get better at it.
7. Be open about who you are. You’re not alone.

So my confusion comes only from looking in at myself, being intrigued, and trying to figure out who I am and what truly inspires me.

Most likely my company won’t pay to send me again next year, but based on this year’s experience, you can bet I’m already saving for next year.

HOW Design Conference

Well the waiting is almost over and that special time is quickly approaching…HOW Conference! Watching designers all over the world get excited about this conference is a sight to see. You could easily say the anticipation is equal to little children waiting for Christmas. The event is also like Christmas too in many ways: We get tons of gifts (Who doesn’t love paper sample books, free iphone apps, t-shirts, and beautiful silkscreened posters?), great amounts of amazing food is consumed, and in the end you come away with some funny and sometimes awkward photos…

This will be my second year attending HOW and I have to say, last year was one of the best experiences and I’m sure this year will measure up. The gist of this conference is this: You walk in and there are at least 500 other people who are exactly like you. Okay, not EXACTLY like you. Everyone has their different industry, but under it all, we’re all designers that face the same struggles with clients or a pesky glitch in a software program. You find a few people, grab a beer and let the talking start! No having to explain what kerning is or that 300 dpi is really not negotiable on a print piece. You instantly get a sense of place amongst all these people.

So everyone leaves feeling relieved of their stresses, more informed, their bags slightly heavier than on arrival and creatively rejuvenated. ::Sigh:: I’m counting the days! Look for a blow-by-blow when I return!