What is one of the intern’s most important roles here at the studio? Besides making cool-graphic-art, it’s actually the preliminary research we conduct before we start any project. While “research” includes looking at the obvious; I’m looking for everything else– things people don’t often notice or realize. People are always looking for that secondary layer, and my role is to dig up and infiltrate everything you can about the competition, the people, the industry, the product, so we can make that experience of that product or service, exactly what it should be. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s part-espionage and part-design-process. Everyone knows someone who knows you, who knows your past employer, who knows your mother, who knows your ex-lover, who knows your future employer, who knows that you have a dog named Spot. San Francisco is a small city. I’ve been surprised every time what I can find out about people with a simple google-search. Apparently, a lot.
My point is, I’ve learned that getting to know the people who are making the decisions in the industry you’re about to create work for, can be quite advantageous for the designer. While it may not look so great to name-drop, it may be better than not-knowing any names at all.
Today was a long day of research for a client that is thinking about using “pioneering women motorcyclists” as a visual motif. Bad. Ass. This means that I’ve been learning a vast amount of information about early women motorcycling. Did you know that many European women who rode motorcycles were often journalists? Apparently that was a popular occupation. Anyway, besides photographic research, I did quite a bit investigating into how custom patches are made for the same client. While I’m not explicitly allowed to talk about the client relationship.. I will say that it is nice to have a project that balances out with some fun applications. Alongside the custom patchwork and visual motifs, there’s also some to-go containers, a website, sexy-girl tshirts and some interior decoration. If only this was my personal diary with a lock, and not a wordpress public feed.
It seems as though I’ll be able to work on the menu once the content gets finalized. Pretty exciting. Setting type that has to do with food? I’m okay with that. Only as long as I get a free pizza.
We learned a lot about each other today in the office. We also cleaned and organized the comp room, I never thought it would be possible. There’s still 4 large piles of cool design books that need homes, but hey, I can’t complain. I feel as though when you do spring cleaning at home, you never “find” anything neat– the most you’ll find is that dusty pen you’ve been looking for or even a quarter or two if you’re lucky. Whereas a part of being an intern here is being surrounded by cool things. I “accidentally” find awesome stuff. Life is hard.
Christopher had a 3 hour client phone meeting today and I helped research for things while he was with the client. I also watched some lynda tutorials today (thanks to CCA and the free lynda account) on responsive web design which was very enlightening. I’ll be on my way to rendering some new features to the MINE™ website.
Today Christopher was teaching Transitions to Professional Practice in the morning, so it was a slow start to the day. I took care of some to-do lists he had prepared for me to work on when I came in. I’m also working on putting together a simple video showing the assembly and installation of some signage MINE™ did for a client. It’s pretty epic. I’ll make sure to share it once it’s finished.
In other news, I chipped away at the to-do list which included building some mechanicals for a project. Not too exciting, but someone has to do that stuff. Naturally, it’d be me. #lifeofanintern The office and I also caught up on the traumatic Superbowl events, collaboratively photographed Christopher for nearly an hour, and attempted to solidify a song that would fit the video I’m working on.
On an ending note, you should check out the youtube video above. Jonathan Harris is a computer programmer and.. I’d say a social philosopher of sorts. Nathan showed me this film as my current thesis proposal is the “myth of happiness.” Nathan always manages to find a way to be inspiring at least 1x a week. Or your money back.
Today we had visitors from the Northwest. Tyler and Nicole swung by the office as part of their San Francisco studio-tour all the way from Portland. We talked about hosting our own poster shows, compared the design scene in each other’s cities and shared food references. They were a cute duo; I believe Tyler was the sole designer while Nicole handled the business management side. They had mentioned they just hired a full-time intern, but I wonder what kind of magical powers they can conjure by completing all of their work with only two designers. Then again, here at MINE™, it’s just Christopher and Nathan and, well, myself. So, I’m sure we can relate.
Anyhow, their design firm is called Factory North, check them out and ask to drop by their studio space if you’re ever in Portland!
Afterwards we went to grab a bite to eat at 903, right up the street from the office. While we had to fight over who got the last Kirin beer, food was nevertheless still tasty.
Onto the next day.
Happy New Year.
We are back in action after a nice little holiday break. When I got into the studio this morning, a variety of holiday cards and greetings from various design firms and designers were waiting to be open and read. The incoming mail here can be great (from my perspective, anyway), and this one piece in particular caught my eye, from the studio Office here in San Francisco. Unfortunately the mail carrier decided to crunch the wonderfully crafted envelope containing this limited edition print haphazardly into the mail slot, resulting in slightly damaged goods.
Even being a bit roughed and creased up, however, the print doesn’t lose a thing.
A couple of exciting things happened since the last time we spoke.
First, last week was my final one as a student. I have officially made it through California College of the Arts’ rigorous undergraduate Graphic Design program. My experience culminated with a Friday full of thesis presentations and and an evening exhibition/reception. It was nice going to sleep on Friday night not worrying about getting up the next day to work on my thesis project. While it is a great feeling of accomplishment to be done, I know that in reality this is only the beginning. And that is even more exciting.
Second, I designed the annual MINE™ holiday card that will be mailed out in the next week or two. Every intern during the fall/winter season gets that honor (along with assigning secret santas to Christopher’s family). The goal with each holiday card is to show the transition from one year to the next in an interesting manner. Once all the cards are mailed out and the recipients have a chance to read them, I will post a few images of my design. Here’s a clue in the meantime…
We are approaching the end of the year. For those people in school it is crunch time right about now. Don’t worry, you’ve got all next week to sleep. For those people out there working, it can get a little hectic managing workload and clients’ timeframes. If you cancel your vacation/travel plans to finish jobs in time, the chances are high that your clients will suddenly decide to take the next two weeks off. If you don’t cancel your vacation/travel plans, all egg nog might break loose at the office. Whatever your situation, whether student or pro, young or old, tall or short, there is nothing like a little dose of motivation to get through this time of year, especially when it comes in the form of:
When I was younger I spent hours practicing my signature. I filled notebooks with my name rendered in different styles and with varying writing instruments. Because I had played sports since a wee lad—and knew I would be continuing as I grew older—I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a sweet-looking autograph in case I started gaining a big fan following or they started making basketball cards with my picture on them.
Those two things never really happened (although I did design my own cards in middle school). Then, a few weeks ago I realized I could have spent all that practice time doing something else and just “borrowed” a “Justin” signature from somebody else, like James Victore:
Since my last skateboard deck post, we have received three more completed boards. From left to right, some fine-tip brush work by Graham James, Art Director for FTC Skateboarding (spot all the letterforms?); a classic Sam Flores illustration with lush colors; and a clever submission by design firm NOON, showing a mastery of the woodburning tool. Nice.
Almost every day we get something interesting in the mail. Sometimes it is a big, shiny, bubble-wrapped envelope, sometimes it is a cardboard box with a hammer in it, and other times it is simply a nice piece of mail from a fellow design studio saying hello or recent graduate looking for work. Yesterday we received two such pieces (not the shiny envelope or hammer).
The first is a smartly designed invitation from the studio Dowling Duncan. On one side is a nicely typeset bio of one of the partners and a large embossed D. Flip the invite over and you find the bio of the second partner along with that same D now appearing debossed. Smart.
The second piece of mail is from a fairly recent design school graduate from the state of Ohio; a simple but well put together mini-package of work. The outer envelope has a paper band that wraps around the envelope and is a nice touch. It takes what would ordinarily be a gray envelope and elevates it just enough to become a little bit more.
The other day I watched a documentary titled 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless, a film that follows adventurer Jeff Johnson deep into the heart of the Patagonia wilderness as he retraces the 1968 journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins. It is a well made film that I recommend you check it out if you have the chance. There is a quote that stood out that I wanted to pass along, as I think it is applicable to creative endeavors. The quote especially resonates with me as my thesis class is in full swing…
“The best journeys answer the questions that in the beginning you didn’t even think to ask.”
At first it sounded a little Hallmark-y, but it does indeed ring true. This idea of just having a starting point—something that you are interested in or passionate about—and then jumping right in and doing things is one that comes across throughout the film, and is one that is reiterated time and time again by my thesis instructors, past thesis students, and other instructors that I speak to about the process. At first it can feel a little strange for some—or even backwards—to be asked to start making things before they have a perfectly formulated statement of what they are trying to accomplish. I think, though, that this quote encapsulates much of what the thesis class is getting at. In the process of trying things out that are in some way connected to your original starting place, no matter how unresolved that starting place may be, new ideas can shake loose and prompt you to go down paths that you would not have come across had you kept your thoughts inside your head.
A smorgasbord of activity was on the menu for today, beginning with a little packing and shipping of some Collector Plates and World’s Greatest Mugs. Lately these have been leaving the studio at a fairly swift pace, so if you’re thinking about picking one or both up, do it now while they’re still in stock! (wink, wink.)
I also worked on some logo sketches for the REALM charter school project. I scribbled out some initial ideas on paper, took a lunch break, then came back and explored my ideas a bit more. Christopher then came over and we reviewed what I had roughly sketched, looked at what we had done last week, and then made decisions as to the most interesting ideas to explore further. I then scanned the sketch of one of my better ideas and got it to a point in Illustrator where we can present to the client. Tomorrow we’ll pick up where we left off.
A little earlier in the day, we were paid a visit by Graham James, Art Director for FTC Skateboarding, and his beautiful Siberian Husky, Angel. This dog had the brightest blue eyes and softest coat of fur that I have seen in a while (the pictures don’t quite do her justice). Plus she was very well-behaved, even with the scent of the cat everywhere. Graham dropped off his skateboard submission and we spent a few minutes chatting with him before they headed out. It was a nice surprise visit.
When I got to the studio this morning there were a couple more skateboards that had been delivered over the weekend (I mentioned them in last Thursday’s post). That bumps up the count to five that we have in our possession, with more on the way. (From left to right, in order of arrival: Robynne Raye, James Victore, The Decoder Ring Design Concern, Frank Chimero, and Michael Hodgson.) Every day I come into the studio I look forward to our friendly neighborhood postman paying us a visit because of the possibility of him delivering a new board.
This afternoon we spent some time brainstorming possible titles for Christopher’s latest book. Several names have already been proposed to the publisher; they came back with some ideas of their own, and so now we’re approaching the last round of back and forth, most likely reaching a conclusion this time tomorrow. If I am allowed to reveal the chosen name then, I will post it here. We shall see!
One of the projects we are working on with House of Air is a fundraiser for local charities that will take the form of an auction of custom one-off skateboard decks. We asked a handful of artists and designers (twelve to be exact) if they would contribute to the cause, and we are now starting to see the decks trickle back to us in the mail. Last week, Robynne Raye of Modern Dog alerted us via Facebook that her board was complete (hers is the board on the left). Then, just this morning, the postman rung the doorbell with a box from James Victore, with his completed board safely packed inside (his is on the right). I will keep you updated as more come in.
It’s an exciting time to be a skateboard deck.
Some of the most insightful talks that I have heard and books I have read have come when the person writing or speaking lets you in on not just their successes but also their failures. With design-related talks and books, it’s inspiring to hear about all the ups and downs, highs and lows of their experience, rather than sitting through a recount of greatest hits. Friend of the studio, and CCA instructor Bob Aufuldish gave such a talk about a year ago. It was one of the best talks I have heard and I find myself at various times thinking about different parts of it as I carry out my work.
This post is in no way meant to be inspirational, and in no way am I on the same level as Bob Aufuldish or any of the designers that I would find in the books hinted at above, but using the spirit of the that idea as a starting point, here is a list of things that I failed to do this week. [more]
One of the great things about working with a diverse range of clients is getting the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of topics. For the past several months, MINE™ has been working with House of Air, a state of the art trampoline park that will be opening this fall in a former airplane hanger in the Presidio. We have been involved in many aspects of the project, and most recently have begun designing a timeline of a history of Crissy Field that will exist there inside the building. A big part of the task involves research. The good folks at House of Air pulled a number of historic images, and we have been digging through archives as well, slowly starting to construct a visual and written narrative of the place. It has been pretty outstanding seeing some of these images and hearing the stories of the area over time. As a bonus, we (or at least I) learned some new things about San Francisco’s Trafficways plan from the late 40s and the Freeway Revolt in 1959 and early 60s. Quite interesting.
I’m getting more and more excited for this trampoline park to open.
Because we observe Federal holidays here at MINE™, today is our first day back after the long Independence Day weekend. As I was packing up my belongings and about to head out the door on Friday, I didn’t realize this, and was preparing to be back to work bright and early Monday morning. If it wasn’t for Christopher’s wife nonchalantly wishing me a happy long weekend as I was about to head out, I probably would have been here ringing the doorbell at 8:25am yesterday! Close(ish) call. To celebrate the extra day off, I decided to check out a few books from the studio’s library.
This week we are waiting to hear back from a client with feedback on a design direction for an exhibition catalog. We spent part of the day today communicating with a few printers about the job; getting proposals, making adjustments to paper stocks, quantities, etc. It was nice having Christopher walk me through the steps he normally goes through when reviewing/comparing proposals from printers. I love being involved in details like that, as in school it’s just not the sort of thing one is typically exposed to.
Funny & Interesting Friday Announcements
A smattering of thoughts from the week. Have a great weekend!
I never remember that monkey claw, said Christopher, referring to the hand contortions required to execute a particular InDesign super-keyboard-combo-shortcut.
#1: Don’t do it. #2: Do the minimum. #3: F* it and go all out. Your three options when deciding whether or not to take on a project with no/low budget.
Impress your employer with a new diploma of Harvard. was the subject line of an email from “Will Smith.”
Own goals are bad. Or good. (Depends on which side you’re on.)
Sometimes you just don’t know when your work on a particular project will come full circle and be the very reason that several months—or even years—later someone approaches you about new work.
In the Spring of 2009 I created a video while a student in Christopher’s level 2 Graphic Design class at CCA. Part of the assignment was aimed at getting us to work outside of the more typical design projects—posters, logos and books—and getting us working with tools that maybe we weren’t as familiar with. The assignment was to create a one-minute video narrative on the subject of secret(s). I created this piece that follows a DJ through a record store digging for gems buried beneath the dust (video after the jump): [more]
You never know when you’ll need to say “hello” in a different language from your own… to impress a new client, while traveling to a different country, when the boss’ son gets home from Chinese school.
English (America, Australia, UK): Hello
English (Australia): G’day
Cantonese (China): Néih hóu
Cassubian (northwestern Poland): Witôjze
Icelandic (Iceland): Góðan daginn
Canela (Brazil): Hââ-pô
Zulu (South Africa, Lesotho): Sawubona
Chamorro (Guam): Hafa
Egyptian (ancient Egypt): Iiti em hotep
Welsh (Wales): Dydd da
Tahitian (Tahiti French Polynesia): Ia ora na
Shor (Russia): Ezen
Norwegian [Nordmørsk] (Norway): Goddág
Mien (Laos, Thailand): Yiem longx
English [New Oreleans dialect] (Lousiana): Where ya’at
One of the things that has been on my mind recently is the upcoming creation of a portfolio of my (mostly student) work over the past few years while at CCA. I will receive my degree at the end of this year (knock on wood), and am currently enrolled in a class called Transitioning to Professional Practice, in which the actual creation of said portfolio takes place. In addition to an online portfolio, we are creating a printed piece, despite the fact that these may be becoming more and more irrelevant in searching for work. There is definitely less emphasis placed on them, at least. Still, a succinct printed presentation of ones work can make a [more]
Last week Christopher’s oldest son finished his school year, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to end.
I send you on your weekend way with
Bounty from the Bottom of Baker’s Book Bag.
Today’s entry consists of a few brief quotes/phrases/insights collected over the past week or so. Listed in no particular order except the one you see here, with limited additional commentary.
05. “Going to a design conference is like going to a spa.” People are in a good mood. Ideas flow; inspiration is abundant. Everyone is a winner.
04. A new MINE™ website is in the works, and during a recent discussion surrounding the “Clients” page, it was offered that visually-inclined people might like seeing a big grid of company logos rather than a big blocks of company names. In response, it was reasoned that a huge list of names is “in itself a visual.”
03. “If everybody did this, would the world as we know it still be able to exist?”
02. “I’m not a coupon” —During a discussion partially related to this.
01. “I want to color in the future.” —Proclaimed this morning by Christopher’s three and a half year old.
Today, Friday, May 28, 2010 is Tim Belonax’s last day at MINE™. He is leaving the studio to go live next to an amusement park (as Christopher puts it). I have had the pleasure of working beside Tim for two weeks now, and while a little bummed I won’t be able to continue learning from him, I am ultimately excited for him.
(Never fear, MINE™ fans, as we have a great designer stepping in to get busy.)
I will post more about that later, but for now will let Tim take it home.
On Friday, after taking care of business in the studio, we headed over to CCA to check out some of the graduate thesis exhibitions. Here’s a taste. (Photos by Christopher and me.)
Throughout the work day while carrying out my various intern duties—whether it’s filing away print samples, conducting image searches, or even just being a part of conversations that pop-up—there always seem to be little moments of humor or inspiration or just general interestingness that reveal themselves (grammatical correctness pending on that last one). Sometimes it’s a funny phrase or comment said by someone here in the studio (I’ve noticed that the best phrases get written down by Christopher on a post-it note and slapped up onto a vintage Denoyer-Geppert wall map). Other times it’s just an interesting image that prompts me to construct a whole backstory for the people/places/things in the image.
So anyway, I figured that every now and then I’d post a few items from my list. Here are five to start out.
1. Your work is successful like an obituary is successful. It’s probably not a good thing if someone says this to you.
2. I went to file some business cards the other day in the studio’s growing collection. One particular card had a thin layer of what looked like a blue cotton coating, clearly not part of the original design. (The small tuft of cotton on the back set it off.) I went to file it but stopped short when I saw an identical (save for the cotton fur) pristine white card in a protective sleeve. It made me wonder about the blue-ish card in my hand. Where had it been? What adventures might it have gone on, and what stories might it have to tell? Instead of filing it, I placed it on my desk with a few other items. I planned to take a picture of the two cards the next day, but when I came into the studio the blue-ish card was gone. Vanished. Off for more adventure, I guess.
3. Because the physical studio space of MINE™ is located on the first floor of Christopher’s home, there are brief moments in the morning and afternoon when his kids come bursting through the door and fill the place with joy (and sometimes crying). I feel somewhat fortunate (privileged, even) to be a part of this home/office routine and the chance to get to know his family.
4. Time-lapse videos are soothing. Poetic, even, in that the busiest, most chaotic activity amounts to a slow crawl over an extended amount of time. Here’s a time-lapse video from the House of Air folks:
5. MINE™ is a small studio in terms of square footage. I’m 6’7″ on a good day, but this doesn’t phase me one bit, because for the past few years, I haven’t been able to stand up straight while showering at my apartment. Compared to that, MINE™ is an auditorium.
Hmm, that’s interesting.
Today is a Tuesday like any other Tuesday at MINE™. Nothing exceptional happened on my end. There was some file making, WordPress tinkering, and package preparation. It’s strange to feel so comfortable with my routine, but at the same time know that I will be leaving soon.
I was helping Christopher prepare the Haiti Poster Project posters to be shipped out, and I totally felt like Ralph Macchio in the Karate Kid. In one scene Mr. Miyagi has instructed him to wax the car, and has a very particular way of doing it. “Wax on, wax off,” he chants. Ralph is a little peeved because he doesn’t understand what waxing a car has to do with karate. Finally he understands that there is a state of mind that he must achieve that will then permeate everything he does. That is totally what this internship has been about for me. Working at MINE™ has helped me reach a higher design sensibility that will then permeate everything I do. Preparing that package is my car to wax and Christopher and Tim have collectively been my Mr. Miyagi.
For the past two days, we’ve been having a really great time watching videos posted by Mr. Bob Aufuldish. Mr. Aufuldish is Christopher’s colleague at CCA and one half of the design firm Aufuldish and Warinner. If I were to describe one of the videos, you would probably wonder why said video was interesting. I might even go as far to say that you would think it was boring. For example, one minute and 31 seconds of a rock drying in the heat. Doesn’t sound interesting right? You are very wrong. Mr. Aufuldish has a gift for making the mundane seem artful, beautiful, and at times ethereal. To see them, you’d have to be his friend on Facebook.
This is our homage to Bob Aufuldish (video after the jump).
It was a long night, but we did it! Haiti Poster Projectposters are ready to be stamped and shipped off.
We arrived at CCA in the afternoon with the hopes of everything going quickly and without hiccups. That is never what really happens though. At least this time we knew what we were doing. After our first batch of ink ran out, things got a bit trickier. The viscosity was not the same, which lead to some trial and error. Eventually we got it down and were rolling again. At first we were looking at the prints and thinking that they weren’t turning out the way that we wanted. Tim pointed out that the beauty of this art were the imperfections, which caused me to remember what Jim Sheridan of Hatch Show Print told us in a print making workshop that I attended once. He instructed us never to throw away a print that you make. Save it and look at it another day. Mr. Sheridan explained that with print making, we often have an idea of what the outcome is suppose to look like in our heads. When our prints don’t look like that image, we get disappointed. Well today is the next day, and they look pretty fantastic. The imperfections and sometimes hasty looking washes of color add to the urgency of the message. The five posters spell out the word Haiti and have the national motto overprinted in magenta on top of the letter. It says “l’union fait la force” or “unity makes strength.” The posters will be sold as a set on the Haiti Poster Project website.
You can see all 5 posters and some of the process on our Facebook page.
It’s been an interesting few days at MINE™. I myself haven’t been terribly busy, but I feel like I’ve been learning a lot nonetheless. Whether or not I am directly involved in the things that are going on around me, I’ve been soaking it in. I have found that just knowing the possibilities is the first step to actually doing something. The more knowledge you have, the more you can participate in the conversation.
For example, Christopher invited Tim and I along for his GD2 class’ film viewing at CCA yesterday evening. We watched a lot of shorts done by students who produced video for the first time. If I had been given that assignment, I would have been in their exact same shoes. I remember how daunting it can be to dive into something that you’ve never done and have to go through the pains of learning tools before you can stylize just the way you want it. Just by viewing the videos and talking about them with Christopher and Tim, I learned about uses for software programs that I hadn’t considered before. Now if I’m ever in the position of producing a video, I at least know where to start and where to look for help. The other thing that I’m not doing, but am more familiar with now is creating email newsletters. Christopher has been working on one all morning and asked me to look up some code. Again, if I ever need to create an email for myself or a client, I’ll know where to begin.
Video after the jump [more]
One of the outcomes of my intern blog is that my parents suddenly know way more about me than they have since I was 10. Or at least they’re proving to me that they have an idea of what I do now.
I asked my mom to send me some ski gear from home. When I opened the box, not only did I find an airless vacuumed plastic pack of clothes, I also found a newspaper clipping and a small note in a plastic bag sandwich bag.
“James Joyce wrote, ‘In the particular lies the universal.’ Which means that the more authentic and genuine you become in your expression, the more others can relate to it. So, if you want love, attention, and appreciation, you need to give love, attention, and appreciation. You need to put it in the work. I think this is what separates great work from the herd. Working with the truth, and not just a trite design motif like CSA clip art takes a bit more effort, but also makes my work and life worth it. And I have found it also excites other people.”
That is an excerpt from an interview with James Victore from STEP Inside Design magazine.
AHH! I’m ready to check out for the day. Or at least ready to not stare at any glowing rectangles for the rest of the evening.
So, I seem to suck at answering the phone. Ha. I talk quietly, and I can’t keep some names straight unless I’m writing it down. I need to work on that.
Today is what seems to be what a typical Monday around the office will be like.
4 of which are for Viagra
1 Fake salami sand which
1 Head cold that’s making me cranky.
1 Cup of tea made by Tim
1 Good Design Book request made to American Apparel.
1 U-line sample request for the World’s Greatest Mug.
1 visitor proposing an exciting opportunity for MINE™
2.5 Successful entries/exits through the baby proof gate
1.5 Failed attempts
0 Contests entered sponsored by David E. Carter
1 Arrival of New Normal: The Netherlands, courtesy of Niko (With shout outs inside to previous MINE™ interns, Jennifer, and Oona. Seems like an amazing experience.) Which also inspired my thoughts on Korean Design today.
PHOTO CREDIT: nikoskourtis.com
Today I accompanied Christopher to Oscar Printing to do a press check for the next installment of the Everything is OK Action Kit. I had been to Oscar before during my time in Sputnik when I went on my first press check for my design of CCA’s President’s Letter. Everything went smoothly today because Frank is Franktastic. I also got a chance to try out Christopher’s new Holga conversion lens to document the trip. Below are the (admittedly shaky) results.
Checking the colors, registration, and signing off
Proofs in hand, we headed back to show Tim
Today was the second installment of our weekly lunch sessions here at MINE™, where we discuss inspiration and whatever else is on our minds. Christopher set the theme of today’s conversation – designer monographs. As we passed around examples of books that we loved and hated (and more often a combination of both) – I began to consider the dilemma of how a firm goes about representing itself. It’s an odd situation when your business is based on providing a service to others and it comes time to provide the service to yourself. An issue that I felt with many of the monographs were that they felt either rigid and calculated or careless and self-indulgent. My favorite of the books was Cahan and Associates’ I Am Almost Always Hungry. Not necessarily because of the work included (although it is nice), but the scope of material, both structured work and “why not” moments. Found objects, snapshot photography, full spread type. It felt alive and personal and immediate but also presented the goals and attitude of the firm.
An issue I’ve been grappling with for a long time is the balance between designing for designers and designing from the gut. And I’m finding that it’s an issue students and professionals alike confront on a daily basis. I’m constantly questioning the choices I make when designing something or even when thinking about design in general. The broader question is whether to abide by the rules that have been established and upheld by your predecessors or to make things because you feel it boiling in your gut. Basing your decisions on your raw, brash instincts. Usually the best work comes from a masterful balance of both.
I’ve heard time and time again throughout my education at CCA that you have to learn the rules to break them – and a part of me feels like that’s a very “designer” way of looking at the debate. Something that Massimo Vignelli would say from behind his spotless modernist desk and Eames lamp. Designers have this deep-rooted desire to justify every choice, and to lean on reasoning rather than raw feeling. The grunge movement in the 90s sought out to destroy that notion but even the anti-establishment, kick in the throat approach popularized by David Carson, Emigre and the Cranbrook Academy has become a commodified visual language endorsed by “edgy” Reebok campaigns and MTV culture. So where do we go now? Where does a student go to become inspired by something other than annuals, fancy import books or hip blogs?
I find myself looking more and more for inspiration outside of the design world as my education nears it’s end. In a lecture Stefan Sagmeister gave at the 2004 TED Conference he spoke about the moments that stood out in his life when he realized he was truly happy. The story that always stands out in my mind is when he spoke of listening to the brand new Police album (1983′s Synchronicity) while piloting his brothers motorcycle through the mountains of his hometown in Bregenz. The design of the Yamaha motorcycle, the Police cassette tape and the Sony Walkman certainly did contribute to the wonder of his experience while speeding through the mountains, but it was ultimately his emotional connection to the setting, the freedom of the open road and his willingness to let go of the rules that allowed all the elements to define the experience as one of his “happiest”. Maybe sometimes we just need to get out there and ride.
As part of the immersion into the intern program at MINE™ you are granted your very own, highly-coveted, ffffound! account.
During the past school year, I spent countless hours obsessing over the wonderful user empowering image bookmarking site (mostly during classes I will not mention here) and having an account is even more of an enveloping experience. The simple interface and link-based navigation makes it dangerously easy to get lost in the sea of beautiful typographic specimens, architectural photographs, foreign product packaging, modernist design posters, vintage paperback design, dutch industrial design, toy-camera photography, cutting edge illustration and and pretty much anything else you can think of. The number of styles, new artists, and interesting works you can discover on ffffound! is about as extensive as the length of time you’ll find yourself clicking endlessly through it all.
The most surprising aspect of ffffound! is the quality of the imagery – I’m not talking about dpi or color vibrancy – but the taste of the users. Generally I’ve concerned pretty much everything to be of some visual interest or conceptual merit – and I have yet to stumble across a single image of tasteless nudity or anything remotely approaching derogatory (although I have seen some aggression towards Bush, Cheney and Palin which might shed some light on the political leanings of most ffffound! users).
There is something to be said about the experience of sifting through all the images – and the fact that the majority of them are up for viewing without context. Explanations are absent – and they can be judged almost purely on their formal qualities. Two unrelated images juxtaposed side by side start to have a conversation with each-other. A visual relationship which was never intended by the creators and wholly unique to the viewer. I find inspiration in a lot of these serendipitous happenings – a photograph of vintage signage from a candy store in Norway, displayed next to a Donald Judd minimalist sculpture start to poise interesting questions about the rigidity of the structures within art and design. What happens when a road sign is inserted into a gallery space? Or when a Donald Judd sculpture is placed in a playground? And what does that say about the place of graphic design within the larger art world? Does it have a place there? It seems that online galleries like ffffound!, flickr, manystuff and others are bridging the gap between art and design closer and closer by the link.
Here are the past 10 tagged images at the time I last checked:
Most of today’s work was spent brainstorming for the re-naming of a national non-profit we’re working for. I really enjoy the freedom of these sessions and I’m slowly becoming more and more comfortable with speaking my mind in the office. Christopher and Tim have been really good about considering my ideas and we’re coming up with some really exciting concepts.
It’s a completely different experience to work in a design-focused environment like the office – a productive change from all the distractions of one’s own bedroom and a springboard for concentration and productivity. Although if I feel like going to grab a book and spending some time absorbing the material within – or even just appreciating the pretty pictures then that’s ok as well.
We spent the day with our shoes off, brewing up possible names and utilizing mind maps attempting to balance both institutional strength and human compassion. It’s a nice change from the student design experience, where most of these larger questions and decisions would be forced to be made concrete in much less time. Having a concerned client is a blessing because they understand the need to nurture ideas, let some slowly develop and others quickly wilt. Time is much more on your side in the professional world than the student world – a luxury I’m really appreciating.
Every Thursday at MINE™ we take some time out from the work day, enjoy lunch together and share some things we’ve recently been inspired by. On this particularly sunny day in Bernal Heights, we relaxed in the backyard and indulged in some Indian pizza from local restaurant Zante’s.
Having a ritual like the Thursday lunch is another one of the really great aspects of working at MINE™. It’s a chance to get to know each other from a different vantage point – not from behind a desk or under the pressures of a strict deadline. The opportunity to recline in the back patio underneath the trees, talk loosely about design and life in general, and take a much deserved break from the work we’ve been putting in was a nice breath of fresh air and a tradition I’m looking forward to upholding.
After we had our fill of Indian pizza (pretty incredible by the way) we headed back downstairs and I showed some of my most recent work to Christopher and Tim. I was pleasantly surprised with the range and scope of the work I’ve done at CCA. It’s not every day that I pull out all of the pieces and look at them as a body of work. The progression from Level 1 to current work was pretty startling – assignments that seemed stressful and challenging at the beginning of my design education look simple and almost trivial now. I suppose those feelings are evidence of my own progress as a designer – and I’m sure I’ll have similar feelings in a few years when I look at the work I’m doing now. I can only hope to keep progressing and learning and challenging myself with every new project.
Some really nice work that has been inspiring me lately is by the studio Hort in Berlin. They do some really unexpected and beautiful things with type and lo-fi imagery that are really discordant and dynamic (Nathan Cowen, a CCA grad works there as well! See his work here). Also check out the gorgeous print work by Neil Donnelly.
Today was an eventful day at MINE™ as it was the last day in the office for both previous interns, Heidi Reifenstein and Nathan Sharp. We started the morning with some standard intern duties like shipping some Everything is OK posters and tape from the MINE™ site (one to Stefan Sagmeister), and some more creative moments during our brainstorming session for the re-naming and re-branding of a national non-profit. I was really surprised to see how strongly encouraged we (the interns) were to contribute ideas to the pool of names. We all spoke out when we felt we had something worth proposing (and sometimes even when we knew it wouldn’t work). The simple act of exhausting all the possibilities creates the most stable ground from which to move forward. Once we’d dumped the contents of our brains onto sticky notes and transcribed through scribbles in Moleskines – we left to celebrate the final work day for Heidi and Nathan at a Korean restaurant on Polk Street.
Nathan rode shotgun and I was in the back as Heidi piloted us in her veggie oil powered Volkswagen towards Hahn’s Hibachi. It was great to hear Nathan and Heidi reflecting on their time at MINE™, the ups and the downs. It gave me a little taste of what is to come and I have to say I’m more than excited. Seeing the four of them at lunch, talking, joking and laughing really showed me that the interns at MINE™ are treated less like employees and more as peers. It’s inspiring and comforting to see that familial aspect of MINE™ up close. Past interns like Jennifer Hennessy, Emily Craig, Oona Lyons, Dexsy Repuyan and others all have expressed the same sentiment to me – that once you stop working at MINE™ the relationship doesn’t cease with the position. I know Heidi and Nathan know this and that they truly enjoyed their time here. I was sad to see them go – but simultaneously excited for the future and for my own relationship with MINE™, the working world, and design in general to develop in an environment that I know is much more than a paycheck.
So this is the first entry in what will become a daily (or every working day) blog entry straight from the mouth/mind of the intern at MINE™. That would be me. My name is Shaun Durkan and I’m a senior graphic design student at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA and am interning at MINE™ for the summer. This will be a daily feed of happenings, ideas, frustrations, new experiences, documentation of process, found inspiration and an overall stream of thoughts about what it’s like to be a student/intern.
My desk, my computer my lamp and my chair for the next four months.
Today was my first day visiting the office even though I had been invited over as a student of Christopher’s while taking his Graphic Design 2 class at CCA. Christopher’s class was one of the main factors I fell in love with graphic design, so it was a natural progression for me to become interested in working for Christopher and Tim at MINE™. I rode my bike for the 10 minutes it takes me to arrive at 190 Putnam and discovered Christopher already at work rearranging the garage. I parked my bike in the garage alongside Tim’s and entered the studio. The space is small but surprisingly comfortable with 3 work stations, stainless steel desks, a great library of design books and a comp room.
The previous intern, Heidi Reifenstein, was here to show me the ropes and make sure that I had a smooth transition into the position she would be leaving in two days. She showed me the cataloguing and archiving system, the library (organized chromatically by spine), setup my intern email address and introduced me to some general duties that I’ll be covering while working here. I assisted Heidi on a preliminary round of notecard designs for a new client and generally started to adjust to the place I’ll be spending most of my time this summer.
I’m really excited by the opportunity to be a contributing force to help make MINE™ an even more productive, rigorous, and innovative design firm. Even just being in the work environment is inspiring and I can’t wait to get my hands on some work.