Month: February, 2011

The Show ‘n Tell Show

The Show ‘n Tell Show will be at my alma mater, University of Illinois in Champaign, this Friday the 25th. If you’re in town, you’d be silly to miss this talk show representing designers, photographers, poster artists, and more.

First of all, check out this amazing video. It’s kind of perfect.

Secondly, here are the Chicago-based guests that will be there this time around:

Jay Ryan
If you’re in Champaign or Chicago and know posters, you know Jay Ryan who runs the bird machine.

Chris Strong
Strong is a photographer with a pretty great, and versatile, portfolio.

Jason Harvey
Harvey is a book designer (among other print work) who does both covers + interiors, including working with Jay Ryan on his book shown below.

Jennifer Beeman
Beeman is a photographer turned fashion designer who started HOUND making be-a-utiful clothing.

Mike Coulter
And finally, Coulter writes for buzz magazine in Champaign with such pieces like this one on e-mail: “It’s like talking, except that we get the impression that other people pay attention to us when we e-mail. They’re effective and easy, yet ultimately kind of unfulfilling. Many people worry that their actual intentions and tone often aren’t being fully communicated, and I totally get that. On the other hand, I’m often afraid my frequent use of sarcasm isn’t being conveyed in the rat bastard way it was intended, so it can bite you in the ass either way.”

More will be added later… but regardless of who it is, if you’re in Champaign you should be at the Link Gallery on Feb. 25th at 7:30pm.


Letter Envy

I’ve been thinking lately how I wish I was better at lettering or type design… even though I’ve never really tried. I am not a great illustrator, though I am a pretty good draftsman. It seems as though you need a little of both, right? And while I am officially ending my part-time job at the end of next week (!), I will be awarded with ten shiny new hours every week that are mine, all mine—and perhaps that’s the best time in the world to start a new goal! Take a peek at these great sketches from Matt Braun of Brain vs. Braun that get me in the mood:






via designworklife

A Wandering Book

A lovely project from Caroline Prietz, a second year grad student in North Carolina State’s graphic design program:

Moment #4 | I wanted to explore the idea of wandering and how that could manifest itself within different designed environments. I imagined a printed piece/book that wandered. In order to create similar attributes of wandering I constructed a piece that presented options to explore.

Erik Spiekermann

FF Unit Slab

Typographer, graphic designer and businessman Erik Spiekermann has created timeless, influential and, yes, Meta-physical work over the past three decades.

Next to founding MetaDesign and FontShop, the latter being the first ever digital distributor of fonts, and designing more instant classic typefaces than any other, he has been recognized as an outstanding expert internationally.

Listen to the design genius talk about new visual languages, design processes, the analogies of music and typography, and why we need better client culture in our latest video and you will easily realize why. Before heading to new visionary pastures, the bike enthusiast will make a short stop to receive the German Design Lifetime Achievement Award 2011 in February.

FF Meta Serif

So ironically enough, they call him a “design genius” above even though he protests the idea of the word genius in his video. But yes, I think he’s great and love hearing him talk about his fascination with the physical and visual shape of language. His correlations to music make my heart go pitter-patter… what we read is the contrast between thick/thin, black/white in letters, in words, in text… designing the silence between the characters is where the typeface actually takes form and holds a rhythm. Swoon.

Some other highlights from this 14 min piece include him talking about the inspiration/influential process of working: when he is super excited about work he sees elsewhere but can’t use for whatever reason, he’ll sit with it, will concentrate on it, draw over the type, etc. And then he’ll walk away from it and the next day will draw it from memory. What he sketches then is really different… influenced by it, but not a copy. Isn’t this how everyone else works anyway? We have a repository of everything we’ve seen in our life, and we’ll always draw from it, inadvertently or not.

He also talks about the gravity of government design. Specifically, the ultra-famous design fail of a case—the 2000 election with the Florida ballots:

Bad government forms serve to separate us from the government. They make us stupid… we don’t understand, so we do what we’re told. If things were more designed in the sense of more open, more accessible, then we would be able to communicate more with each other. […] the system doesn’t really want to communicate, because then it becomes messy and dirty. We’re supposed to shut up and make our little crosses and fill our forms and be quiet.

[on the Florida ballots] because the forms were so bad, they didn’t know where to put the bloody crosses… so they voted for an asshole. And we started a war.

Maybe a bit dramatic, Mr. Spiekermann… or… maybe not?


While my last post expressed my profound love for having a flexible work schedule, as of laaately, my schedule has been pretty packed. A couple new projects have filled my schedule with little to no time in between. The last year averaged out with work sprinkled about at a patient stride, providing enough to make it work and giving me enough time to do… really, anything. And now, while I’m super thankful to have more work (!) need to figure out a pace that allows me to not just hit it super hard for 2 or 3 weeks, then be so burned out, that I don’t get anything done for the rest of the month. Specifically where I’m seeing the lack is in my reading. I was able to drown in so many books when I moved here (hey, no-work-to-do) and now I’ve been stuck on the first ten pages of my current book for a month. Ack.

Well. I welcome all new time management challenges. Especially when it means I have things to manage. (Thanks clients!) As I have been out of the intake loop lately—just been producingproducingproducing and besides not reading “real” books, haven’t even had much time to tend to my blogs every day (or post here… have you noticed?)—I think I need to revisit what is necessary for my daily intake load. If I miss two days on my google reader, I’m up to about 400 missed posts. Ha! Totally impossible… at least, when you have work to do.

But one that won’t be getting the cleaning house axe is Design*Sponge. They recently posted great eco winter reads to digest as we finish out the next two months of winter. She took the synopses from of all titles at that post, but I’ll only snag the top three here. Head over to their site/her post to read the rest!

1. Farm Together Now by Amy Franceschini, Anne Hamersky, Daniel Tucker

With interest in home gardening at an all-time high and concerns about food production and safety making headlines, Farm Together Now explores the current state of grassroots farming in the U.S. Part oral history and part treatise on food politics, this fascinating project is an introduction to the many individuals who are producing sustainable food, challenging public policy, and developing community organizing efforts. With hundreds of photographs and a foreword from New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, Farm Together Now will educate, inspire, and cultivate a new wave of modern agrarians.

2. The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

What happens when two New Yorkers (one an ex-drag queen) do the unthinkable: start over, have a herd of kids, and get a little dirty? Find out in this riotous and moving true tale of goats, mud, and a centuries-old mansion in rustic upstate New York—the new memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of the New York Times bestseller I Am Not Myself These Days. A happy series of accidents and a doughnut-laden escape upstate take Josh and his partner, Brent, to the doorstep of the magnificent (and fabulously for sale) Beekman Mansion. One hour and one tour later, they have begun their transformation from uptight urbanites into the two-hundred-year-old-mansion-owning Beekman Boys. Suddenly, Josh—a full-time New Yorker with a successful advertising career—and Brent are weekend farmers, surrounded by nature’s bounty and an eclectic cast: roosters who double as a wedding cover band; Bubby, the bionic cat; and a herd of eighty-eight goats, courtesy of their new caretaker, Farmer John. And soon, a fledgling business, born of a gift of handmade goat-milk soap, blossoms into a brand, Beekman 1802. The Bucolic Plague is tart and sweet, touching and laugh-out-loud funny, a story about approaching middle age, being in a long-term relationship, realizing the city no longer feeds you in the same way it used to, and finding new depths of love and commitment wherever you live.

3. The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn. Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the “whole diet”—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball’s vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible.

4. The Self-Sufficient-ish Bible by Andy & Dave Hamilton

5. The Creative Family by Amanda Soule

6. The Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman

7. The Urban Homestead by Erik Knutzen & Kelly Coyne

8. Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich

9. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

10. Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets

Eco winter reading list from Design*Sponge.

A Reflection

It’s been a year since we’ve arrived at Iowa City’s doorstep. Sometimes it’s hard to believe. I lied and told a stranger I’ve only been here for six months the other day, and didn’t realize that wasn’t the truth until hours later. It feels at once a rather quick period of time and also established + comfortable. As we’re snowed in today (from driving, that is—legs and snow boots are alive and well), it feels like great timing for a reflection on the past 12 months.

The biggest change, beyond geography, was leaving a comfortable job in Chicago which reliably paid me every two weeks in exchange for at least 80 hours of work. How strange. I was told where to be and what work to do Monday through Friday for the majority of my waking hours. Also strange, I was guaranteed money. Coming to IC meant it was up to me to gather work, what decisions I made while working, and convince people to pay me for doing said work. While it’s a lot easier to sit on my butt and have the work brought to me, it’s not so much easier when you’re daydreaming about what else you could be doing. Also… 40 hours a week? It’s America’s standard after all. But the perspective of just how demanding that is shifted when I left that scene. You know how it’s always harder to go back to work when you return from vacation? Typically (as a 9-5er) you don’t even think about making a choice when your alarm goes off—beyond whether or not you want to snooze and be late… again—you just get up and go. Leaving town, or even a staycation, helps to literally distance you from the routine. You start to think about all the other ways you can fill your time. All the other things you wanted to do… to read… to think about… to drink over, that your job is either logistically keeping you from time-wise or consuming so much of your energy or mental capacity that you have little to give during your off-time. And then you return from that vacation, and usually you feel more bummed out than rested. Well the same goes for living the life of a freelancer. It’s hard to imagine giving up all of that self-fulfillment (or at least a more purposeful drive/search/responsibility for self-fulfillment) in exchange for something as “measly” as security—though I can’t say there aren’t days where I look back just a wee bit wistfully on the ol’ reliable paychecks… (and of course the ol’ reliable officemates!)

On a less-than-100%-satisfied note, I’ve also learned that even (or do I mean especially?) some of the fun and do-good projects have a boatload of politics involved. This year has helped me to further solidify the notion that working with good people who do good things doesn’t always mean a good work process or a good group dynamic. It’s kind of the idealistic student dream (mine) to land these jobs/projects that are entirely for honorable causes. Well a) what exactly is an honorable cause? and b) these projects are often still riddled with disfunction on some, or many, levels.

::sigh:: So with that said… yes, I am officially still pleased to not have a full-time job. When I hit a couple slow (ok, realistically, they were dead) months over the summer, I was worried about rent. And even then, I turned down an offer for a full-time position and instead took on a part-time job to make ends meet. Maybe one day… especially one day where I have much more responsibility in my life… will I return to the stability of that former lifestyle. Until then, flexibility and harder, more rewarding work for me, please.