I made a realization about screenprinted posters for concerts. The imagery used does not need to have anything to do with the type of music, the band or the album. Each of the shops that print the posters have a signature style and all of the posters they produce have that same style. It doesn’t seem to matter who they are designing for. There are a few rare instances when image and message/genre of the band mesh together to form a strong concept, but it is a form of design that is mainly eye candy. Plus, these types of posters win a LOT of awards. Examples can be seen at the site for the rock poster documentary Died Young Stayed Pretty. Two of my favorites are Aesthetic Apparatus and Jay Ryan. Other examples and proof of my theory can be found at Gig Posters. I would like to go to Flatstock some day.

So What I need to do is get a signature style and start designing posters. Easier said than done.

PS: The one thing most of them have in common is French Paper. Good stuff.


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Day One

In an experiment to write something about design every day.

I noticed today something that interests me. The use of abstract geometric shapes in combination with vintage photos, line art, nice sans serif type and 1970’s color palettes. This combination can be seen used well in the work of Mark Weaver, Scott Hansen of ISO 50 and Cristiana Couceiro. It is a visual and aesthetic direction I am interested in exploring.

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Behind the looking glass

Old image, partially exposed

It is fun living in an older house. I have been painting the downstairs rooms over the last 2 weeks or so. We inherited a large mirror that was hung in our front entryway. When I removed it to paint the space the above photo fell to the floor. It is interesting to think about how long it has been there, who put it there and why. I think it is a picture from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. taken by a child with a parents camera. Every house has a history, and it is fun when little clues like this surface.

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Realization made

The problem of designing books, or having the desire to design books, is that content is absolutely necessary. And the problem with content is that it is hard to create. This is my burden.

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Selling Your Life

I have seen the link to this website in a couple of different places over the last couple of days. I finally gave the link a click when I saw the domain name. I mean, how awesome is

Selling all of your stuff as an art project is not new. This guy did it almost ten years ago and got a book deal out of it too. My favorite part is the journey to visit his stuff. This seller has a different goal, to fund a 14 month stay at M Lab in Alabama. I also like that is is going to give away the rest to a local charity.

Having sold or donated all of my possessions not once, but twice in my life on different sides of the world I can say that it is liberating to dump the junk and travel light. But I can also say that starting over is harder than you might think. Especially when you have to start buying things like pots, pans and silverware.

I wish Megan luck in her goal of selling her things and making a difference in Alabama with M Lab, and more luck in re-establishing herself 14 months from now. It’s not easy.

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I Love Books

Books on a  shelf

I really do. I love the texture of the paper, the crack of the binding, the smell of the ink on the page. Especially the smell of the ink on the page. Mainly uncoated paper, it smells better. Just ask my kids. They think it is weird. One thing I REALLY like is getting free books. And whenever I see a post like this one at Design Observer I find myself thinking “How can I get a stack of free books like that?” And it is a great spread of topics too, not just best business card designs or how to make something spin in Flash books. Those are easy to get for free. I am talking about books like this one and this one.

Man, I need to get famous so I can get some free books.

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Ruscha in real life

Stack of books printed by Ed Ruscha

I have been a fan of the work of Ed Ruscha from the first time I saw his work. I was trying to pin point that time but have been unable to do that. I know it was when I returned to SIU to finish my BFA, so around 2001. And I am pretty sure it was in my wanderings in the library. Needless to say I have really enjoyed his work for some time and was really excited to learn that our library had copies of some of his book work, so I checked them out.

The first thing that I found interesting about these books is that they were in the general population, not in special collections. This is a small stack of books that at auction could fetch thousands of dollars. Granted, they are not all in pristeen shape, but five of them are first editions, two of which have their original covers. These are rare books.

The second thing I noticed was the re-binding of a few of them. I guess that is standard procedure for most soft cover books at a university library so they last longer. One interesting thing is the removal of the soft covers so they can be glued to the hard cover as seen in the image below.

Various Small Fires by Ed Ruscha, 1964

It is interesting to interact with something that you have only ever seen reproduced in two dimensions. I have seen a lot of these books reproduced in various catalogs and books, including the blank pages. You don’t get a feel for the pacing until you are holding it in your hands and are flipping through all of those blank pages. It is a surprise when you finally arrive at an image. Had these books been full of images, or all of the images at the front, blank pages at the back, the element of surprise would be lost. And they are much smaller that I would have thought. Only 5.5 x 6.75 inches. Scale is lost in reproductions.

I appreciate this work much more now that I have held it in my hands and looked through them. Amazing little books. I also made a great discovery one day while wandering around the library. We have an original Ed Ruscha lithograph hanging in a study area. Again, reproductions do not do justice to the pattern and texture he creates. So I guess the moral to this story is two fold. First, look at original art whenever and where ever you get the chance. It is NEVER the same in reproductions. And second, spend more time wandering around in the library. You can find amazing things.

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Jan Wilker Lecture

Jan Wilker lectures at Michigan State

I went to a lecture last night in East Lansing sponsored by Michigan State University and the Detroit chapter of the AIGA. Jan Wilker, half of the New York design team of karlssonwilker inc. was the speaker, and he did a fine job. It was so nice to be able to go down and see him speak. To go from a complete barren wilderness of design lectures (with the notable exception of Tasmeem) to a 1 hour drive is heaven. I will be going back down in February to see Stuart Bailey from Dot Dot Dot.

Jan had some interesting work and ideas, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak. I will leave you with my favorite quote from the evening. The context was a story about all of the interviews he and Hjalti were giving in Belgrade, Serbia while working on a project there. “It’s so exhausting, trying to be smart”

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A Fine Farewell

Drawing of leaving faculty

A teacher often wonders if the work they do actually helps their students in life. At least I do. That question was answered a little bit yesterday when a group of my students gathered together to give me and the other faculty of the Art Department and farewell party. They had a cake with the above image (can you guess which one is me?) on the top and these cards that they all signed. It was great to know that they all learned something from me and will miss me when I am gone.

The drawing was done by a student named Kulood who goes by KiKi. Left to right is Michael Rodriguez, Terence Dowse, me and Sean Hottois.

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The Roots of My Profession

Albrecht Drurer print

Jason Kottke linked to a wonderful BBC Documentary the other day on the development of Gutenberg’s printing press. Stephen Fry goes on a quest to discover how and where the original press was created. He also works with master printers and a type founder to re-create a copy of the press and cast some type. I have seen pictures of a matrix used to cast lead type, but have never seen how one works.

You can’t watch it on the BBC website (unless you are in the UK) but it is available in six parts on YouTube: part one, two, three, four, five, six.

I hope to somehow get this all in one place and show it to my students how this whole thing started. Without Gutenberg, I wouldn’t have a job.

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