Archive for April, 2012
+ Randomizer.org picked entrant number 8, Brendan Beale from Australia, as the winner of the Sonnenzimmer poster! Congrats, Brendan! Sonnenzimmer & I are so grateful to all who entered.
+ What it Means to be a Geek offers the freedom to devour your interests with all the enthusiasm you can muster. Screw cool, care instead. I wish I’d read this when I was in high school or college.
+ Had a chuckle over the World’s Longest Invoice that’s been making the rounds this week. Currently the deadbeat clients of the world owe over 10 million to the freelancers who worked with them.
+ 37signals founder Jason Fried wrote an excellent article for Inc. Magazine on why most business writing is awful. Finally someone is stepping up to the plate and explaining the difference between compelling business writing and the watered down jargon-y crap we’re so used to seeing. Also makes an excellent case for using a more informal, conversational tone for online writing, thank goodness, I’ve been pushing for this for years.
Happy weekend! On the dock for next week: co-working tales & behind-the-scenes tour of ze Walker Art Center.
I’ve been wanting to explore Detroit for ages and finally there were enough reasons and planning to make it happen two weeks ago over Easter.
At the outset it’s hard to prepare for Detroit’s massive abandonment, decay, and poverty, even though I knew to expect it. To fresh eyes, large swaths of the city look, no jokes, like the leavings of a war zone. It’s pervasive, you can’t go more than a block or two before encountering it. Once opulently designed & crafted buildings are now windowless skeletons, sunken and rotting like forgotten jack-o-lanterns, scrappers having come and gone long ago. A particular image that won’t be leaving my head easily is the sight of the former Packard Motor plant. It’s a carcass that goes on for literal blocks. When Christina from printmaking shop Perfect Laughter showed us around her brand-new printmaking studio in the Corktown neighborhood she told us of the rubberneckers on the hunt for “ruin porn” documenting as if Michigan Central Station were the Acropolis or the Coliseum in Rome. And I can certainly understand that pastime, though it’s not my particular style, because the ruins really are a breathtaking sight to see.
Yet it’s undeniable that there are just as many marvelous things happening despite the sad parts of the city. Everyone we met in Detroit is doing something or working for something, their efforts beautifully poignant in the face of the city’s hard edges.
Culture is also on the rise in Detroit too. Chicagoans would not believe the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) rivals our Art Institute, but you’d be wrong there. It’s every bit as good, if not better. MOCAD, the contemporary art museum, is consistently one of the most creative and innovative contemporary spaces out there. Every visit it’s completely remade new and you can expect to be surprised, that’s for sure. This time around we enjoyed an incredible installation by Joshua White & Gary Panter’s Light Show. The best way I can think of to describe it as a modern fun house, a huge echoing space vibrating with psychedelic rhythm and sound. So intense it’s almost repellent at first, but then little surprises and funny things start appearing and then it’s all smiles if you hang out awhile. It’s like a little mini vacation, and a pretty perfect metaphor for how the city is itself.
We stayed at the adorably rustic yet modern inn, Honor & Folly, run by Meghan McEwen of Designtripper. The space was filled with plenty of handmade and thoughtful cozy touches, just as I imagined when I posted about it before. We made good use of the full kitchen and even hosted a meal with our families who hiked in from the suburbs to hangout.
Every place comes with a story in Detroit. At the Peacock Room, a little boutique near the DIA, the shop owner told me how she tore down the drywall in her space, only to discover it was hiding a 1920′s ballroom with mirrored walls, marble columns and tin ceilings. Talk about hidden treasure, eh? Or Café D’Mongo’s, a former speakeasy which is a feast of 1920′s nostalgia. It only reopened recently, pretty much intact from it’s original heydays. The charming & feisty older lady running the joint seems like she came back to life with the bar too.
We ate really well, plenty of BBQ and soul food, as well as fresh picks from the open air Eastern Market. Lafayette or American for Coney Island Dogs, though I can’t say I can tell the difference between the two places. Maybe the joy of a boiled hot dog in a white bun with chili and mustard is lost on me though. There was also plenty of music, we saw live shows almost everywhere without even trying. Detroit’s got Motown in its blood and that influence is clear. If there wasn’t live music at a venue there was a fatty juke box instead – the real kind – not the cheesy wall-mounted electronic ones with the same 20 songs that are popular in Chicago pubs. One place we went to (The Bronx) even has a bench thoughtfully placed by the juke box so you can get comfy while you rifle through the extensive collection.
The Heidelberg Project, while not exactly new (it’s a non-profit art installation that’s been evolving since the 1970′s), is a totally unexpected response to the city’s downfall. There is color and brightness on every possible surface, with bizarre objects in not normal places, it’s like Dr. Seuss came and built landscape with trash. Here it’s okay if nothing makes sense, it’s a nice reminder that chaos can also have beauty and meaning.
For next time: bookbinding classes at Signal Return that come with home-cooked farm-to-table dinner, another visit to the DIA, Belle Isle Park, a closer look at the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. I’m sure there’s plenty else to do and see, I just hope I get to come back for it soon!
Giveaways aren’t something I’m really all that excited about most of the time, but occasionally it’s just too good to pass up. Someone out there needs to have this gorgeous 18″ x 24″ screenprinted poster, with seven glorious layers of texture and color. By Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi, aka prodigy poster duo Sonnenzimmer. No one does gig poster design quite like Sonnenzimmer, not even close, which is impressive alone, but of course they don’t really stop there. What’s so brilliant about their work is the process doesn’t change much in any of the media they use. Whether it’s a print, a painting, installation, or even music, the project is structured around a system or concept, and then the ensuing visuals or sounds for the most part get to happen accidentally. That’s a decision that I have heaps of respect for, because it takes major guts to just go with whatever comes out of you, as it happens. And the outcome manages to be technically well-founded, elegant, and some how effortless all at once. Plus, Nick & Nadine are so gracious to be around, the types who just show up and get to work, sans bullshit. They’ve been a solid foundation of support in Chicago’s creative faction for years it’s only fair I should give them their due.
Further if you’re into jazz you can buy Free Jazz Bitmaps Vol. 1 and get a free copy of the poster with purchase. This album is a brand-new collaboration, a perfect little capsule of Chicago’s jazz scene right now. Have a listen here.
You can enter up to two times! The giveaway will be open until April the 25th at 12am and I will announce the randomly drawn winner on Thursday of next week.
Other than the thinly-veiled hint or two, I’ve neglected to properly mention that (spoiler alert) I’m speaking at Weapons of Mass Creation in Cleveland this June. Further details about the event are still pretty murky at the moment, like uh, what exactly is going to come out of my mouth for the duration of 30 minutes (my vote’s on puppies!). And/or how Chad & I are getting there…At the moment it’s hard to say much else other than, hell yes, this is happening. And I’m really excited and trying my very best not to think about just how many awesome people are coming. (Real talk: it’s enough to make my brain melt. Go look at the line-up if you need more convincing.)
Every year there’s a fresh crop of conferences and seminars all touting to be the Awesomest Event to End All Events (at least since last year!). Most seem a bit grandiose like a traveling circus Freak Show promising thrills of the the century. It’s sometimes hard to believe they’ll really be so amazing, especially since most of them come with price tags that would make the world’s fattest lady seem small. That’s what’s so special about WMC Fest though, it’s as grassroots as they come. Huge effort has been poured into making it one of the most diverse design conferences around (did you check the line-up yet?) making it the type of high brow event that also manages to be come-as-you-are.
WMC takes this grassroots idea to genius with a sponsorship campaign on Kickstarter. It’s nicely produced and doesn’t feel sales-y. It’s just giving people another way to share in event, a small sense of ownership, even if they can’t go. Crowd-sourcing at its best right there, more funds for the funs. Might as well back the project if you’re thinking of going. Pledging $50 comes with the 3-day festival pass. You just bought your ticket in and made some people really freaking happy in the process, WIN!
If you’re already going, speak up and say hey would you! I can’t promise to bring puppies, but there are promises of awesome anyway, that I do know.
Oh, my dears. I’ve missed you. Thank you for being patient with me during my extended quietness here. I’ve been experimenting with my schedule & my billable hours, trying to find a better structure & schedule so I can bring home both the bacon and the blog. It’s been a tough process. And I’m slowly working out a re-design. This site’s been the same for almost four years now and I think that is a major part of my reluctance to write. The internet is different now than when I first created this site and doing some restructuring around here will do a lot in terms of re-investing my time. Never fear, I’m never going to pull the plug entirely, having a growing internet presence is too important to me personally & too important in terms of growing my business for that.
It’s funny, this process is so specific and personal. It’s like a ritual of sorts. I’ve been thinking a lot about the rituals of making things ever since my friend Vaughn Fender asked me to participate in the ninth issue of his online magazine, Peculiar Bliss. The theme of which is creative rituals. I didn’t even really think about what mine were until this topic came up, but now I can’t stop, and in some ways that’s kept me from producing here. Navel-gazing has diminishing returns after while…So here I am, consider this me getting over it. Jumping back in again, with a bang.
Vaughn’s done a lengthy interview with me on my process, background, and yes my rituals. The article also includes a whole bunch of my work that’s never been published anywhere, and my friend Julia Stotz was kind enough to take all the pictures of me. Ellen Hunter of Word Couture Consulting made sure I did my commas and grammar right. I owe major thanks to them for their hard work, you’re only as good as your fellow collaborators and these kids really threw down. Thank you friends, from the bottom of my heart.
Flip through the digital pages on ISSUU, Cargo Collective, or PDF. My piece starts on page 17, and there is plenty of other gorgeous illustration and photography on either side of the article as well. If you can take a few minutes to kick back and take this in, inspiration is sure to follow.
Have an excellent Friday! Next week is going to be a doozy over here. We’re talking WMC Fest, stories from our trip to Detroit, and a giveaway – which I never do, but this one is a unique one so I don’t think you’ll mind. :-)
It’s good to be back.
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