debbie millman

Friday, June 29, 2007

75th Episode and Season Four Finale of Design Matters: Today with Shepard Fairey

Joining me today on the 75th Episode and Season Four Finale of Design Matters is the one and only Shepard Fairey.

Shepard Fairely is the mind behind Obey-- the most prevalent urban street meme in stencil art propaganda history. An astute student in the arts of persuasion, Fairey began his epic satire on the science of celebrity endorsements and the alchemy of suggesting desire back in 1989, while he was still a student at The Rhode Island School of Design majoring in illustration. One night in 1989, when Fairey was still at RISD, he had a friend over who wanted to learn how to make stencils. Fairey flipped through a newspaper and picked out a picture of Andre Roussimoff--or Andre the Giant, the (now deceased) professional wrestler best known for his role in The Princess Bride. The friend balked because the image was too "stupid." Fairey was intrigued. No, he countered, it's cool. It's cutting edge. "Andre the Giant," he told his friend, "has a posse." They proceeded. Next to the smeary image of the wrestler's face, Fairey scrawled "Andre the Giant Has a Posse." He took the results to Kinko's and made stickers and slapped them on stop signs and in clubs. Then--randomly, in places like his local grocery store--he started hearing people talk about the stickers, asking each other what it might mean. So he put up more of the images, in New York City and Boston. He encouraged others to join in, with stickers, spray-paint stencils, and wheat-pasted posters. Later he shifted away from the longer tag line to the concise "Obey Giant," and started making visual variations, reworking the face in Russian constructivist styles and working it into different graphic contexts. Since then his propaganda has been proliferated through stickers, clothing, skateboards, posters, stencil based graffiti and even a documentary film, and has spread all over the world.

Currently Shepard is based in Los Angeles, where he runs the design firm Studio Number One. His most recent exhibit is in New York City and is titled, “E Pluribus Venom.” This translates to “Out of many, poison,” and is derived from “E Pluribus Unum,” (out of many, one) which is an early motto adopted by the U.S. Government which appears on U.S. coins and dollar bills. The show is comprised of artwork designed to question the symbols and methods of the American machine and American dream and also celebrate those who oppose blind nationalism and war. Some of Fairey’s works use currency motifs or a Norman Rockwell aesthetic to employ the graphic language of the subjects they critique. Other works use a blend of Art Nouveau, hippie, and revolutionary propaganda styles to celebrate subjects advocating peace. The art addresses monolithic institutional power and authority and the role of counter culture and independent individuals to question the dominant paradigm. Shepard Fairey’s new body of work contains politically-charged paint, screen print, stencil, and collage mixed media pieces which use metaphor, humor, and seductive decorative elements to deliver provocative but beautiful results. These works blur the perceived barriers between propaganda and escapist decoration, political responsibility and humor with the intent of stimulating both viscerally and intellectually.

VoiceAmerica is now the industry leader in Internet talk radio, and Design Matters has over 150,000 listeners. We were also voted a "favorite podcast" on IF's Marketing Podcast survey at, and the show is available as Podcasts on iTunes, where over 45,000 people download the show every month.

Design Matters is from 3-4PM EST and you can view the VoiceAmerica Business site and listen to the show from a myriad of locations:

You can go here, through the Sterling link:

Or you can go here, through the Voice America link:

Or you can go here, through the Designers Who Blog link:

Lots of choices.

Please note that you will need Windows Media Player or the equivalent program to listen in, but you can download the technology for free here:

Or finally, you can listen to this show, or any of our previous shows, as a Podcast on iTunes, for free. To listen to the Podcasts, you can do either of the following:

Subscribe manually, by going to the iTunes advanced menu, then select "Subscribe to Podcast," then enter the following: as the feed.

Or simply do a search on the iTunes music store Podcast directory for “Design Matters.”

Everyone is welcome to call in live and toll free--the number is 1.866.472.5790.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2007 AIGA Leadership Retreat

2007 AIGA Leadership Retreat

We had a blast at the 2007 AIGA Leadership Retreat in Miami this past weekend, and AIGA National President Bill Grant created this slide show video (make sure your sound is on) for us to enjoy:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Katharine Umsted: My Best Friend's Art Show

Katharine Umsted
July 27-July 18
Sterling Brands
Empire State Building
by appointment only

Katharine Umsted
written by Cary Leibowitz

Katharine Umsted did not help Madonna with her bustier but she could have-she was too shy and was probably too busy watching Murder She Wrote (besides Madonna didn't want to "push it" enuff.

Katharine Umsted has been making art for 20 years.
Who's afraid of Katharine Umsted?
These scary creepy funny sculptures in the form of head gear are a just another tangent in the artist's body of work.
Katharine Umsted has made sad dolls, big hairdo's (and Don’t's) and glittery cheerleaders.
The Helmets are formal and are sculpture.
Arp and Brancusi are having drinks and run into Nancy Grossman and Niki De Saint Phalle (Richard Serra is at the next table)

Any fashion matriarch will covet them
Any fashionista will encourage them
Any 6 year old girl will make her boy counterparts jealous.
Diana Vreeland and Truman Capote are at serendipity--DO NOT INTERRUPT!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Separated at Birth

Separated at Birth

Life in Branding


Monday, June 25, 2007

Heart Made Out of Sound

From Very Short List, another not-to-be-missed new video, this time by the California quartet the SoftLightes.

Their first single, “Heart Made of Sound,” is the perfect roll-the-windows-down-on-a-warm-day ditty, managing to be sunny, mellow, and catchy. The video, directed by Kris Moye (who knows a little something about rockers; his brother is in the popular Sydney band the Presets), uses stop-motion photography and takes a clever and literal twist on the poppy song. The words appear as they are sung and are formed with materials that match their meaning: cloud from fluffy flour, been out of green beans, spring with Slinkys.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Horror of Horrors

No matter how many times I’ve tried, I could never sit through a horror film. No witches and ghosts for me, no creepy-crawlers and slack-jawed ghouls, no fangtooth vampires and slime-stink monsters, no werewolves in London or Paris, no walking dead with moonstone eyes, no muddy-boot psychos in hockey masks and no burn cases with knives for fingers, no killer clowns from outer space and no creatures from the black lagoon, no exploding heads and flying limbs, no geysers of blood, and please, please, no disembowelments. I hate Halloween, prefer summer to winter, and all the gold in the Federal Reserve couldn’t get me to sit through a grindhouse classic. In a universe brimming with beauty, with the ever-glowing stars in the sky, mysterious planets sparking out of recession, and a sun whose licks rim the battlements of the earth, I find it more soothing to ponder the violence of creation then to watch it unspool on reel-to-reel.

I don’t understand the fascination with violence and gore, a communal bloodlust that most Americans, or should I say, most American men, seem to share. They love to watch things explode, to see bodies ripped apart in astoundingly creative ways, with a little help from household items made by the likes of Black and Decker and whatever else you can pluck off the shelves of your local Home Depot. We home in on the gruesome, as if the bandwidth in our skulls is perpetually tuned in to blood-and-guts radio.

Does watching another human being carved and flayed arouse our hidden appetites? Does it make the truly gritty horror of life more palatable? Or is this the final satiation of our hidden bloodlust—sublimation, catharsis, call it what you will? When we’ve reached the meridian of our lives, gray-fingered and long of tooth, I doubt that we will recall the amazingly choreographed death on the big screen, the wreck of tortured metal and the wild fling of sundry body parts, the ball of fire soaring into the sky. It will more likely be the hopeful glimmer in a child’s eyes, or the first time a heart-in-throat lover purred the three magic words into your ear, or the sound that the rain makes against the windowpanes of our lonely Sunday mornings.

I live in a city with a long history of violence. City of tears, city of blood, city of red lights. A unidirectional city, much like our own lives, for we go from birth to the grave and no more. Death is the one constant in life, the one true knowable thing in a span rife with unknowing. There is no refusing it and no rebuttal, for one cannot bargain with Death, let alone play chess with it on a windswept shore. Were we exacting and monomaniacal enough, we could measure our lives through the very seconds, minutes, hours that have sheared past, fallen away and whispered into the dust, for tick-tock-time is a universal ending, and our final hour will wash over us like a midnight wave. Death is fathomable, unlike the human heart.

Many years ago, in the desert in Israel, my guide recounted a story that I remember from time to time. The sands play tricks, he told me, and the sun, which blackens the skin, also spills its taint into the mind, like the discharge of an octopus. During one of his solo explorations, lost and starved in a blistering storm, he found himself on a high sweep of furrowed sand. Up and up he climbed, hand before his face to ward off the stinging particles, bone-tired. He glided along effortlessly, as if the sand shaped steps for his ascension. Once he achieved a ridge he had to crouch, for the ceiling, which miraculously blotted the sun, lay endlessly black and starless and seemed to hang low. He felt as if he could not fit his head into the sky; it refused his star. Suddenly, the sky broke in two, bent inward at the center, and amid a shower of demonic light, stood what appeared to be a man. Only this man was eighty feet tall and climbed a glass stairway that illumined the air, glowing like the bioluminescent organs of deep-sea life forms. This gargantuan man stood and glared down upon him. At least my guide thought he was a man, for he seemed to be faceless and formless, constantly shifting shape to evoke an everyman guise, dressing and undressing by night’s whimsy. The gargantuan man shrunk down to human size, and when this man stood before the guide he knew that it was the devil. Only he found that he was glad to see him. As if he knew that the devil would fold him into his embrace and leave him all the richer for it. Because, he realized, and with great shame, he had wholeheartedly welcomed the devil.

I often think that we all harbor dark passions, as this is our primitive inheritance. But instead of merely charting the course of human violence, I believe we could seek to compass what lies within the human heart, which Faulkner declared was in conflict with itself. I know that this is the more difficult to negotiate, for how do you describe what you cannot see? Invisible map for invisible ghosts, no doubt, but well worth looking into.

Special Thanks to Edwin Rivera

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Scientists Simulate Jet Colliding With World Trade Center

A computer simulation of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, by Purdue University researchers, shows how hijacked planes crashed through the Twin Towers, stripping fireproofing materials from the steel columns and eventually leading to their collapse. The 3-D animation, part of a Purdue study that took two and a half years to complete, will hopefully help engineers design safer buildings, researchers said. "When the developers of the World Trade Center first designed the complex, they did take into account of an accidental plane crash," said Christoph Hoffman, one of the study's lead researchers. "The only thing they didn't anticipate is the fire. If the crash impacts the water line, then a fire can burn for a long time."

Friday, June 15, 2007

Two Brief Moments in Time

photography by nick ut
Photographs by Nick Ut, top photo June 8, 2007, bottom photo June 8, 1972

On the sunbaked drive of a palace in West Hollywood, a young socialite weeps within the confines of a police cruiser, shielded from the questing cameras and machine-gun voices of frenzied paparazzi. She does not weep because she has been cruelly stripped of all her worldly possessions by a fascist government. Nor does she weep because she has been permanently displaced due to her family’s political affiliations. She does not weep because she is starving or dying of malnutrition and she does not weep because her family was slaughtered in a barrage of military bullets. She does not weep because her village was disintegrated in the fiery flash of napalm and she does not weep because she had been photographed in 1972 running across Route-1 in South Vietnam, screaming “too hot too hot!,” the skin of her back seared, a young girl running with her pain and confusion alongside a handful of bawling children while their village succumbed to a wartime apocalypse.

The young socialite wept because she had been remanded to the state of California to serve out a meager sentence of twenty-three days, a mere short-timer in a furnished cell, with three hots and a cot, as they used to say. Once she is released, in no time at all, she will regain all the accoutrements of her wealth and fame, but the world’s citizens, much like the fleeing nine year old child on that battered strip of Route-1, captured tempestuously by the expert lens of a photographer by the name of Nick Ut, who, coincidentally, captured the photo of a weeping Paris Hilton the same exact day thirty five years ago, must carry on with their sorry burdens.

The very idea of justice, or injustice—which is far more prevalent— is one that has haunted me for some time. With all that is transpiring in this fragile world, from the separation of families due to the immigration sweeps in states as varied as Connecticut and Ohio, to the photo in the Times of two Palestinian boys in American hand-me-downs scraping their father’s blood from the walls of their home in Gaza, I’ve long been shaken out of my sense of quiet panic and historical ineptitude. I resolved to arm myself against the tyranny of misinformation and rampant stupidity, but every response I would put to query remained specious at best. I am not an expert in economic policy, nor could I profess to being especially knowledgeable in political affairs. But I am not so blinkered that I do not ask pointed questions, particularly about the origins of our existence.

Who determines where we will fall upon inception? Whose hand conducts the rolling of the dice, the turn of the roulette wheel? It is a form unanswerable and unassailable who dictates our births and our pangs. For if this bit of smoke we refer to as the deity of modern religion were given bodily form, imagine all the law suits the multitudes would file in search of mitigating justice. There would be lines bisecting the earth from end to end, for this deity would stand before the tribunal of the people, tried for what some would consider to be egregious crimes against humanity. Just think about it for a moment. How different would your life be if you were born into a favela in Brazil, as opposed to a middle-class home in Cranford, New Jersey?

I often find myself overly concerned with the universe’s dilemma. Our very randomness is what confounds me. It is this that inspires the creative spirit to seek out who we are as a race, in vain, in pain, in order to discern why one is doomed to dust and poverty and why another is bereft of the agony of a toiling existence. It is the artist’s task, visual and otherwise, to make sense of this disorder, to interpret the poetry of the random, and to try and bring justice into a world that sorely requires it. If a profound knowledge of history is enough to subtract the soul-killing fear of our daily lives, when we are so easily mired in the crowdsource of information, then this could be shared in a demotic language, one that could be understood, or resonate, with the people. If we heed the lessons of history, then we could truly become masters of our domain.

The photo taken by Mr. Ut, on June 8th, 1972, is a monumental study of history in action. It is burned into generational memory, a profound reminder of the horrors of Vietnam, and proof that another individual’s agony could be transmuted into an artist’s majestic expression. One only has to examine Picasso’s “Guernica” to see the truth in this. The artist tracks the evil invisible, for so often it traverses the night undetected, sly and oily, with the moonless shimmer of a mindless sturgeon.

I am reminded of Lodge Kerrigan’s powerful social indictment, “Keane.” In the film, the camera obsessively tracks the daily travails of the titular character, who may or may not have lost his daughter in the Port Authority bus terminal. We watch this mentally unbalanced character as he eats shabby meals, babbles incoherently, drinks to excess, fucks in a lady’s toilet, snorts cocaine, flourishes disability checks, sleeps on a highway’s grassy divider, beats a man severely, and, ultimately, kidnaps the eight-year old daughter of a woman who he’d befriended in a seedy New Jersey hotel. Surrounded by the run of humanity, who pass this bedeviled man as if he does not exist, it is easy to note the parallel with our own lives among the dispossessed, who we pass obliviously on the beat streets of the city as they sleep on the sidewalks, shoot heroin on building stoops, walk with a menacing talk, and play the part of transparent pariahs. In Keane, we see the promise of democracy in ruins. He is the perennial outlier, the shadowman who skulks along society’s fringes undetected, a danger to others and to himself. I am rooting for a world that will be divested of blindness, so that it can see the people like Keane, and strive for the proper medicine for the mendicant soul.

But, for today, all I know for sure is this: we are possessed of mysterious organs and mysterious skin, and our looping lives are the emblematic dispersal of riddle and befuddlement. Oh the better to preach joys upon. Throughout all the horrors, we persevere, dreaming specks in the universal wonder, struggling to see the sun through the thorny trees. Every now and then, may we look to a new day with an unglancing eye, drink in the joy, and leave the death and sorrow to the angels, if only for a brief peace.

Special Thanks to Edwin Rivera

Design Matters Today with Alan Dye

Joining me today on Design Matters is Alan Dye.

Alan Dye dreamed of being a pro basketball player, but his love of type and lack of a jumpshot led to his becoming a designer. After working for various advertising and design agencies, including a four year stint at Ogilvy’s Brand Integration Group, Alan went in-house and became design director of kate spade in February 2004. Alan’s group was responsible for the overall aesthetic of the brand, from the advertising campaign and the website, to the paper line and the home collection, and more than a few things in between. In December, Alan moved to the west coast where he is currently a Creative Director with Apple’s graphic design team, where he focuses on all things music. Besides working with Apple, Alan has worked with the New York Times, Simon and Schuster, the National Basketball Association (as close as he’ll ever come to getting paid for basketball), and New York Magazine. Alan’s work has been recognized by a number of design shows and publications, and he is a regular speaker at design and advertising events. Before leaving the East Coast, Alan was the Vice President of the AIGA’s New York chapter, and served as the chairman of the ‘Young Guns’ committee for the Art Director’s Club. Alan lives in San Francisco, works in Cupertino, and continues to work on his jumpshot.

VoiceAmerica is now the industry leader in Internet talk radio, and Design Matters has over 150,000 listeners. We were also voted a "favorite podcast" on IF's Marketing Podcast survey at, and the show is available as Podcasts on iTunes, where over 45,000 people download the show every month.

Design Matters is from 3-4PM EST and you can view the VoiceAmerica Business site and listen to the show from a myriad of locations:

You can go here, through the Sterling link:

Or you can go here, through the Voice America link:

Or you can go here, through the Designers Who Blog link:

Lots of choices.

Please note that you will need Windows Media Player or the equivalent program to listen in, but you can download the technology for free here:

Or finally, you can listen to this show, or any of our previous shows, as a Podcast on iTunes, for free. To listen to the Podcasts, you can do either of the following:

Subscribe manually, by going to the iTunes advanced menu, then select "Subscribe to Podcast," then enter the following: as the feed.

Or simply do a search on the iTunes music store Podcast directory for “Design Matters.”

Everyone is welcome to call in live and toll free--the number is 1.866.472.5790.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Design Matters Live, Tonight with Elliott Earls

marian's design!

Adobe and AIGA San Francisco are presenting a very special series—Design Matters Live: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Design. Joining me tonight is Elliott Earls.

Elliott Earls is a highly respected graphic designer and performance artist. His work melds traditional graphic design with stagecraft—incorporating traditional media (including painting, sculpture, and photography) with digital video, spoken word poetry, and music composition—resulting in delightfully curious, historically rooted, unprecedented art. He is the founder of the Apollo Program, whose commercial clients include Elektra Entertainment, Nonesuch Records, Elemond Casabella (Italy), The Cartoon Network (UK), Imaginary Forces, PolyGram Classics and Jazz, and Janus Films. In May of 2002, Earls, in association with Émigré, released Catfish, a 55 minute film on DVD that traces his work from the lab to the stage in a highly manipulated digital film incorporating animation, stop motion photography, drawing, typography and live action.

Earls received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1993. He has spent time at numerous American universities, and he has given workshops on design, culture and new media in both Europe and America. Earls spent September 2000-May 2001 as a Designer-in-Residence at Fabrica, Benetton’s studio/research center in Treviso, Italy. He has also taught typography, design, and multimedia at the State University of New York at Purchase. Earls was appointed Designer-in-Residence and head of the graduate graphic design department at Cranbrook Academy of Art in July 2001.

As a typographer, Elliot Earls has designed original type distributed worldwide by Emigré. As a performance artist, Earls was awarded an Emerging Artist grant by Manhattan’s prestigious Wooster Group. He has performed at the Cretiel Theatre Festival in France, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Oak Street Theatre in Portland, Maine, at Experimenta 99 in Lisbon, Portugal, at the Opera Totale in Venice, at Typo 2000 in Berlin, and at Living Surfaces in Park City, Utah. His work has won numerous awards and was included in ID Magazine’s 1996 Annual Design Review, the 1996 American Center for Design 100 Show, and the 1996 New York Art Director’s Club Show. The work of Elliot Earls has been featured in the books The Graphic Edge, Cool Type, Faces on the Edge, Type in the Digital Age, One and Two Color Graphics, and Cutting Edge Typography. His serial examination of “spiritual gangsters” has been published by Emigré. In 2001, Earls was a finalist for the Chrysler National Design Award in New Media. He was profiled in 2002 by Eye, Print and Punk Planet Magazines, and he has work in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

This is the agenda:

6:00 - 7:00 pm
Registration, Technology Expo & Reception

7:00 - 7:10 pm
Welcome & Keynote, John Loiacono, Senior Vice President, Creative Solutions Business Unit, Adobe Systems Incorporated

7:10 – 8:00 pm
The Creative Backstory Demo, Colin Fleming, Solutions Engineer, Adobe Systems Incorporated

8:00 – 9:00 PM Design Matters Live

Future Design Matters Live Events:
Noreen Morioka & Sean Adams of AdamsMorioka, live in Los Angeles, June 19
Emily Oberman & Bonnie Siegler of Number Seventeen, live in New York, June 25
Marian Bantjes, September 13
Alan Dye, November 8

Many thanks to ADOBE for making this event possible!
(and to Marian Bantjes for the incredible poster and all graphics)

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Last Supper

the first family

With all of the negative press from last nights final episode of The Soprano's, I wanted to add my two cents. I thought it was freaking brilliant. Absolute genius. Heart-attack inducing. Slightly subtle. Highly manipulative (in a good way). The subjective, non-ending ending did what David Chase tried to do all along with The Soprano's: it made us THINK. Not having a "pat," wash and wear type ending was the best possible way to close the show. Naysayers are pontificating on the lack of closure. Please! It was the greatest finale of any show in the history of television.

ADDED 06/12, this just in from my dear friend Andrew:

"Check out these interesting details:

Anybody who says "nothing happened on the Sopranos" is completely missing out on the ending! This is NOT a life goes on ending! And anyone who thinks so should go back and watch it again.

Watch the last scene of The Blue Comet (the 2nd to last episode) first. As Tony sits on the edge of the bed he contemplates his demise.

Then, there's the flashback to Tony and Bobby in the boat discussing being whacked, "You probably never hear it coming." Remember when Tony was speaking with Bobby...basically saying that you don't see or hear death? It just happens and you would never feel it.....aka fading to black.....

Fast forward to Tony in "Made In America" final scene.

So, the point would have been that life continues and we may never know the end of the Sopranos. But if you pay attention to the history, you will find that all the answers lie in the characters in the restaurant.

The trucker was the brother of the guy who was robbed by Christopher in Season 2. Remember the DVD players? The trucker had to identify the body.

As Tony walks in the door of Holstein's he looks into the diner and sees nobody from his family. He is the first to arrive. The there is a very odd cut. The camera cuts back to Tony's face looking into the diner and then cuts back to the diner where, if by magic, Tony is now sitting.

This odd cut is provided to show us that "cut to Tony's face means the audience = Tony's perspective."

Fast Forward to AJ arriving. The are two black youths weren't these guys the ones who tried to kill Tony and only clipped him in the ear, circa season 2 or 3?

And the "Members only" guy at the bar. This guy is credited as Nicky Leotardo. The same actor played him in the first part of season 6 during a brief sit down concerning the future of Vito. That wasn't that long ago. Apparently, he is the nephew of Phil. Phil's brother Nicky Senior was killed in 1976 in a car accident.

Tony takes a look at both. After the "members only" guy walks to the restroom we see a close-up of Tony anticipating Meadow to walk through the door - again - Tony's perspective. Absolutely
incredible!!!! There were three people in the restaurant who had reason to kill Tony and then it just ends. This was Chase's way of proving that he will not escape his past. It will not go on forever despite that he would like it to ......"DON'T STOP" --- BELIEVING....

Suddenly CUT to black, music stops, black screen for several seconds. Tony (and the audience) got WHACKED - and he didn't hear it coming. It is crystal clear and not open to interpretation. WE GOT WHACKED! Chase is showing Tony's perspective.

Tony's finished...and Chase is truly rewarding the true fans who pay attention to detail."


Friday, June 08, 2007

From Daily Heller: Unauthorized Celeb Biography

Daily Heller: Unauthorized Celeb Biography

Today's post from the Print Forum site, Daily Heller, written by Steve Heller:

"One of the most significant pieces of popular cult literature ever written, but sadly forgotten, is "Morris: An Intimate Biography by Mary Daniels." For those who barely remember or were not yet even born in 1974 when the book was published by William Morrow & Co., Morris, a golden tabby cat, was the meow-person (ahem, cat) for 9 Lives (and what a great name for cat food that is). Personally, I don't like cats (I'm a cockatiel bloke myself), but Morris caught my (and millions of others' fantasies) - and he didn't even speak, he just slinked (or slanked). Anyhoo, the book with black and white and color shots of the fab feline was not just a piece of fluff, or hairball if you prefer, but a full fledged, highly literate, and decided page-turning biography. No joke! While cleaning out my office I came across a presentation copy, which given its intrinsic cultural value will stay safe and sound - no ebay for me - until that day when I can hand it down to my (cat) heirs."

Rushing over to Amazon now...

Thursday, June 07, 2007's Celebrity Logo Lookalike Contest


From the website, compiled by Kristine Arth, Mary Kotyuk, Josh Downs, Jonah Ansell, Mike Raspatello, Dan Raspatello, Scott Merz, Pete Keeley and the writers of

"Do you ever watch a sporting event and think, "Who the hell does that mascot look alike?" Yeah, we did the same and took it a couple steps further. Even if you pay attention to the games and not the mascots dancing on the sideline or stitched to a jersey, we have compiled a list of the top celebrity/logo look-alikes for your viewing pleasure."

Number 14: The Chicago Bull and Harrison Ford

The rest of the list can be found here.

But to keep it fair, separated at birth? You decide:
RivalFish logo
RivalFish logo

Flipper logo, from the album Generic Flipper
flipper, one of the greatest bands of all time

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sunset At The North Pole

sunset at the north pole

A photograph of the sunset at the North Pole with the moon at its closest point and the sun below the moon.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Word Play

I have always been fascinated by words. I love to say them, I love to learn them; I even like to play with them. I get enormous enjoyment composing new lyrics to popular songs I hear on the radio, I create funny nicknames for people I love and I abbreviate and manipulate words that I like to use. Brill is short for brilliant, lunchville is my witty way of saying I am leaving for lunch, heading to snoopville means I am off to sleep and taking a trip to Louisville is slang for going to the loo. I also love to twist the meanings of things that aren’t quite similar, but should be. This started quite by accident; when I was little I confused windmills with helicopters and band-aids with rubber bands.

Sometimes words confound me. Years ago, after a particularly bad break-up with a boyfriend, I hopped into my Ford Escort with the exact intention of heading anywhere the road would take me. I put the pedal to the metal and ate up the highway, rudderless, lovelorn, but with the bubbling animal spirits of a free individual, American Woman to the core. I drove along sinuate bi-ways and over long shaky bridges in their autumnal bleakness, seeing nothing but the dust of the road and the endless sky, and when I pulled off an exit ramp and entered a town in New Hampshire whose name I have long forgotten, I was struck dumb by the cloud-cuckoo landscape in which I had found myself. Here there were bent-backed trees with leaves in full bloom, high fields rife with flowers for which I had no name, and a scent in the air that was unblushing in its reminiscences of love. But, most troubling of all, was the main commercial drag, which sported stores that seemed to cater to those undismayed by romantic yearnings, the lovers who held hands on sun-drenched mornings, the married who shared kisses on moon-rippled nights.

I walked the avenue as if spellbound, oblivious to the sidewalk strollers. There were storefronts that had the airy goodness of bath bubbles, touting Cupids and poetic baubles, confectionaries with heart-shaped chocolates ensconced in velvet, stationary stores with the inevitable rank of Susan Polis Schultz greeting cards, restaurants with romance lighting, and, as if to add salt to the festering wound, a bedding retailer with a display of deep-dish mattresses that begged for languishing bodies, the embodiment of cozy sleep and dream. And though I forgot the name of the town itself, I never could blank my memory of the name of one particular flower shop: Turnsole of Rainy Lane. For a reason I couldn’t quite fathom at the time, this sounded the alarm strobes within my skull, and I hightailed it out of there, back into the Escort, back to New York and the comforts of slag cement and building brick, but thankfully, not back to the bad boyfriend.

In hindsight, I understood that it was the vital force emitted by the word “turnsole” that struck me to the quick. The turnsole, which is a plant that turns toward the sun very much like the heliotrope, signified for me not just a turning of my own soul— away from love, responsibility, and possibly even my sanity. The imagery conjured by the flowershop’s name, that of a sun-facing plant immersed by a pouring rain on a lonely stretch, was too much for me to withstand. Sometimes, as James Joyce so aptly stated: “The longest way round is the shortest way home.”

Words can be used to transport and amuse and entertain, but they can also be used to destroy. They can freeze you over and douse you in flames. Words can be hurled like grenades, shot like bullets, and slung like arrow. They can radiate the kinetic energy of a shaped charge. Used correctly, they can elevate men and women into positions of power. But used incorrectly, like a politician who straddles a third-rail issue, they can be one’s downfall. You don’t have to delve too deeply into this country’s history to see how many have come undone: Michael Richards with his racist onslaught, former senator George Allen’s “macaca-gate,” and Don Imus’s strangling of urban slang. No one, regardless of class or ethnicity, is beyond language’s pale. We are, to paraphrase the poet Michael Schmidt, at its beck and call, servants of the servants of the muse.

Lately, I have been pondering the necessity of words. In as much as I can hardly imagine what it would be like to be mute, there is something strangely compelling about choosing not to speak. Years ago, a good friend of mine went to a monastery for a week wherein she wasn’t allowed to talk. Sure she wouldn’t succeed, Suzanne ended up triumphant in her effort, and returned from the experience imbued with more cognitive clarity than she had ever experienced before.

Human beings have the ability to communicate unlike any other creatures on earth. Graduating from gestures to the first guttural eruption—a leap that our evolutionary ancestor, the chimpanzee, can not make—we use language as our prime mode of communication. This is a first development akin to the sparking of man’s first fire. Yet this aptitude, this capacity for connectivity, is only as authentic as our intentions. Even though I remain steadfastly attached to language, I can’t help but wonder how any communication can be as profound as the wordless smile you give a loved one. Or how about the unspoken transmission of emotion between pets and people? Not a word is exchanged and yet the knowledge that affection is mutual is unquestionable.

Or is it? Given my penchant for silly, made up language, instead of asking my dogs if they want to go for a walk, I started asking them if they wanted to go to Milwaukee. They got so used to this, all I had to say was “Milwaukee” and they would exuberantly race to the door. Last week, in an effort to curtail the ritual stampede, rather than ask my furry friends if they wanted to go to Milwaukee, I asked them if they wanted to go to Wisconsin. They looked at me for a moment, cocked their little heads in unison, and then made a mad, merry dash to the door.

I laughed as I realized that sometimes go means stop, sometimes a windmill can look like a helicopter, and sometimes (just sometimes) you can take your dogs for a walk or you can take them on a trip to Wisconsin.

Design Matters Today with Helicopter

Joining me today on Design Matters are Josh Liberson and Ethan Trask of Helicopter.

Ethan Trask and Joshua Liberson are the founding principals of Helicopter, a full-service strategic design consultancy founded in 2002. Helicopter has worked with Condé Nast, Capitol Records, André Balazs Properties, Hachette, Time Inc., Warner Brothers, Universal, Arista, Rizzoli, Bloomsbury, The New York Times, and the Washington Post Company on a host of projects ranging from magazine design, book design, identity, web design and packaging to concept creation and luxury package production. Helicopter has won awards in ID, Print, AIGA, ADC, and been nominated for a Grammy Award in packaging. For more information about their work you can go to

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