Friday, September 30, 2005

Crazy Farm

Hold onto your horses and get a load of this . . . .

After two weeks of working from home in the comfort of my sweatpants, yesterday I ventured back out into the working world for a new freelance gig.

The client: Concept Farm

The office: What happens when an award-winning ad agency with oodles of money hires an interior decorator and says, "Welcome to Concept Farm! We want you to work your magic and go hog wild!"

When the elevator doors opened and I found myself standing in front of the rustic receptionist's deck, it could have been a sick dream. To my right was a waiting area where plexiglass coffee tables filled with straw sat bewteen plush leather chairs. And to my left, was the silo conference area.

Yes, I said silo:

I thought, as I was lead up to the second floor of the homestead to work, that I was leaving the land of farm decour for the benefit of high-paying clients. However, I was wrong. Enroute to my plywood farmer's desk, past the barn doors of indivdual offices, I encountered stuffed pigs and cow sculptures.
In one corner stood post signs that said things like, "No Hunting" and "Protect Our Cornfields", and throughout the entire office the furnitute and decorations were crafted from such objects as milk jugs, wood barrels, horse shoes, saddles, tractor wheels, cowboy hats, fake burlap cornstalks, wheel barrows, pitch forks, fake lanterns and cowbells. I noticed the farmers also enjoy an old-fashioned shoe shine station and a very fancy pool table. The only thing missing was a constantly looping soundtrack of farm animal noises.

It gets better.

Amoung the farmers and cows I experienced the ulitmate awkward freelance experience. Mid-day, while quietly working at my desk, I was summoned by an over-excited young male recpetionist to the birthday party of a co-worker about to take place downstairs. So I went, and joined 20 strangers while they sang happy birthday to someone, whose name I didn't know, clapped and served blue-frosted ice cream cake. I dutifully took my piece of cake and stood off to the side eating it while one-by-one, the other farmers would get their cake, check me out from a safe distance and then quietly proceed past me to strike up conversation with someone else. Slowly I chewed, smiled and waited until I could slip back upstairs to the comfortable anonimity I had experienced earlier that day.

I couldn't have felt sillier. Me, in an office disguised as a farm!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stock Full of Crap

Excuse me while I . . .

This month I have somehow managed to have not one, but two jobs, entailing some heavy duty photo researching. Ick! Searching through stock photography sites is an unpleasant and frustrating experience not unlike searching for a new apartment in New York City. When you set out, you know that what you want is out there (or something close enough to it anyway), but you have to look at and filter through SO MUCH CRAP to find it! And all along the way, you slowly lose hope as to whether or not it might really be out there.

Deap breath . . .

But seriously, what good could this photo do anyone who is searching for some photography of junk food?
A hot dog on a purple feather boa?! Gross! Why?

. . . Anyway,
here is something else silly and wonderful (?) that I stumbled across today on the good ol' world wide web. A vending machine stock full of not crap, but lobsters. That's right.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Lot of Sun and a Little Bit of Soul

Brad and I spent this past Friday and Saturday at the beach on Fire Island, where I passed several college summers living and working. The family I babysat for in college who are now my dear friends, the Sugarmans, invited us to stay at their house. Not only did I get a little bit of a suntan and a chance to visit with old friends, but it looks like we were enjoying what might have been the last warm days we see this year.

Here are the top ten things that were great about being on Fire Island this weekend:

  1. Sun, sun, sun!
  2. Beach
  3. Bare feet and sand (which always seems to get brought back)
  4. Hammock time and a lot of relaxin'
  5. Bike riding
  6. Scrabble
  7. Grilling
  8. Old friends
  9. The Sugar boys
  10. A Sugar-style feast
*Thanks Beth and Stu!

Wondering where the little bit of soul comes in? Well, this morning Brad and I had one of those experiences that makes New York City special. We went to a brunch performance by Allen Toussaint to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina (of which he is one) at Joe's Pub.

Allen Toussaint is a living legend of a song writer, who we were privileged to see being that he so rarely performs. Watching and listening to him play the play the piano and sing was something so special, it made me smile, wish there was room to dance and even brought a few tears to my eyes.

To make the experience all the more amazing, it just so happened that a friend of his, Mr. Elvis Costello was in the audience and joined Mr. Toussaint on two songs! I walked out on a bit of a cloud and a big coffee buzz, with sweet soul music swimming in my ears.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Food, Recipes and More Food

Last night Brad told me that he thinks I should make a point of blogging regularly about food.
Why? Becaus
e we sure spend a lot of time making it, eating it and talking about it.

Soooo. . . here's what to look forward to:

(and how appropriate that I begin this as I am sitting at my Mom's computer copying some slow cooker recipes!)

New recipe findings.

Some of my favorite mainstream sources for finding recipes* are the Food Network and the Martha dynasty, mainly Living, Real Simple and best of all Everyday Food. I just received a new issue of EF in the mail yesterday which has lots of yummy recipes for fall using sweet potatoes, fall squashes (both of which should coincide nicely with what I'll be receiving from my garden share (more to come on that) in the next few weeks) and apples, mmm! There will definitely be some new favorites popping up as I try out these recent recipes in search of gems.

* Of course I'm always on the hunt for recipes from all sorts of sources, nothing like an unusual find!

Suburban Classics Revisited.
When Brad and I got married, I was given not one but two (!) collections of family recipes. If you like casseroles, these are where it's at. However, many of the recipes call for canned veggies, dried and preserved ingredients. So, what does a fresh, organic, garden share-loving girl like myself do with this? I am hoping to remake the classics with a hip, fresh spin. Look out delicious! I'll be sure to post links as I successfully complete these new-old recipes.

What's happening in my kitchen tonight.
Brad and I are tasting and talking about it, so why not write? Tonight for example, we will be making the most of the remainder of the 5lbs of tomatoes I picked up from the garden share last saturday. Now, tomato sauce has already been made, but we'll be whipping up some salsa to take to the beach this weekend (I use this recipe, doctored by adding a red bell pepper, cleaned and quartered, plus 2 cloves of garlic to the first step. If you're brave add another chipotle). For dinner we're having our latest and greatest favorite, Pesto Pizza!!!

To make the pesto pizza I have been using my pizza stone and a ball of frozen dough from the store, however I have been tempted to stroll up the street for some dough from my local and super-Italian pizzeria. We top the pizza with my pesto* and slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes (garden share!). A little corn meal on the stone and some fresh ground salt and pepper - it's a dream come true in your mouth!

* I make my pesto like so, put:

1 bunch of basil
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 generous handful of toasted pine nuts or almond
1 small handful of grated parmesan cheese
fresh ground salt and pepper to taste (a little heavy on the salt, I think)
in the blender and blend until smooth. Test the consistency, if it seems to thick, blend in water a tablespoon-full at a time until it seems right (no more than 1/4 cup).

For the pizza, we bake it at 450˚ for 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese looks like bubbly, gooey goodness.

Enjoy, until . . . .

Monday, September 19, 2005

Pools, Parks and Boats

Poor me, I am sitting here minus one wisdom tooth and recovering from the first half of a root canal. I am not really feeling my best, but finally slowed to sit down and blog about the past few days that have kept me too busy to do so . . . .


McCarren pool is just a few blocks away from our apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. During the year we have lived here it has been much a place of facisnation and curiosity for us. Built as a WPA project in 1936, this public pool is 50,000 square feet in size (that's 3x an olympic swimming pool) and certainly bigger than anything either of us had ever seen before. However, due to racism and other neighborhood conflicts, the pool was abandoned in the 1970s to be since overgrown , populated by stray cats and homeless people, littered and covered in grafitti.

Here is a photo of the pool in its prime:

This past winter Brad and I were lucky enough to go into the pool one day when a section of the protective fencing was knocked out. Here are photos of what the pool looked like a few months ago:

Recently the pool has entered a new phase of transformation thanks largely to a site specific choreographer. Noémie Lafrance is a native of Quebec with some Martha Graham in her dance background, whose choreography has tranformed the pool into a stage. The work,
Agora, uses controled lighting within the pool, spotlighting from the roof of the facade structure, an eclectic mix of music and 30 dancers to transform the pool into a magical, eery environment.

My friends that I attended the performance with last thursday had mixed and not entirely positive reviews of the choreography and the overall performance. I liked the choreogography, some sections more than others, but what impressed me more than anything and what I think is the most important and sucessful part of the work, was the scale. I read that as a swimming pool, the space could hold between 6000 and 7000 swimmers, so you can imagine how large of a stage the space was for 30 dancers. Any choreographer would dream of having 1/10 of that area to work within, and this work pulled it off. Not only did the dancers use and fill the space, but they engaged the audience of several hundred and caused them to move themselves, following the movement around the pool as it developed throughout the performance. I have seen many dance performances in my life and know that I have never and will never again experience anything like Agora, which to me is impressive in itself.

In preparation for the performance, the pool has been cleaned of much of the trash and debris, and the facade stucture and walls have been painted and reinforced. We can only hope that the community will continue as planned, the renovation of this amazing public space back into a funtional pool in the next few years.


During the years when I lived on the upper west side, I frequently spent time in
Central Park and grew familiar with many of its treasures. However this past saturday we took Francine and for the first time visited it's counterpart in Brooklyn. If you have never been, Prospect Park is a gem of man-made nature in the middle of Brooklyn. The park was created by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (after they created Central Park) and is said by many to have been their masterpiece. Prospect Park presents me with a vast and unexplored territory into which I hope we will escape from our urban lives during many weekends to come.


Last night Brad and I attended a
Prefuse 73 concert aboard a booze cruise that circled Manhattan with our friends, Royce and Masako. It was an awesome show of live electronic music and a killer view of the city under a full moon.

Here are some photos:

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


One of the funnier This American Life episodes I have heard, is one in which Jonathan Goldstein and Starlee Kine compete against each other doing karaoke stand-up comedy routines, to determine who has more comedic chops. I like to think one place I've got some chops is in my kitchen.

I love to cook.

New recipes are a hobby, and the food only seems to get better.

Tonight I made a dinner that topped many. Talk about chops, these
pork chops were jammed with
bulgar, apricot, almond stuffing. Makes my mouth water just thinking about the taste, the texture . . . mmmm.

Tell me this doesn't make you hungry:

Monday, September 12, 2005

Magnificent Havoc

Holy crapola! If you thought the MTV2 two-headed dog campaign was out there, wait until you get a load of this . . .

Here comes Coke with a crazy and magnificent(?) manuever to reach youngsters who they say, don't relate to Coke (the soft drink that is). The effort is described as "iconic branding" without direct marketing. You can read all about it in this Ad Age article. The jist of it is that 5 design firms from around the globe have designed collectable packaging (some of which change color under black light!) and complementary music videos that will be distributed in "red hot night clubs that cater to influentials". Don't you want to be an "influential"? Do you wonder how many youngsters, no matter how pretty the bottles, are going to be drinking Coca Cola at a night club???

Ok, so as crazy as it sounds, here is the twist. This shit is RAD!
Graphic Havoc, who rock the design haüs, designed and directed the campaign, called M5. Wondering what M5 stands for? Magnificent Five, referring to the five studios chosen to create these marketing devices. And let me tell you, this is some yummy stuff. The designs are amazing, the studios chose super cool music, the videos make no reference to the product, look like they were WAY fun to make and are even better to watch. So stop reading now and go to the site! Watch the videos (there are three available so far and though it is a hard choice, I'm going with Guided By Voices, by MK12, as my favorite) and let yourself be mezmorized by all the pretty motion graphic.


Fall Fresh

Today was a fresh start kind of a sunday.

Seems appropriate with the noticable changing of weather and season, the start of a new month and a new week.

After a non-stop work and socially eventful week, I had a good, full night of sleep and woke up feeling well-rested for the first time in over a week.

This afternoon was the first day back, after a month-long break, for the final fall leg of our
street hockey season. Our team, the Dark Rainbows, won our game and are off to a great start in the countdown to playoffs.

This evening, Brad an I spent several hours doing a much needed clean. It has been one whole year since we moved into our apartment and we were in need of the kind of dusting, mopping, sweeping under and behind, purging clean and organization that took place.

Finally, I am off to bed with a fresh face, thanks to my mud mask, and will wake up to a clean and clutter-free apartment tomorrow morning as I begin a new work week.

This is a picture of
me, as a Dark Rainbow, at a hockey game:

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Life vs. Advertising

My life, that is. It is saturday morning and I am sitting in the office of another advertising agency where I am pinch hitting on a new ad campaign to be pitched on Monday. While I may or may not ever work for, or see these people again after Monday, they are desperate as usual for me to give up my life for them RIGHT NOW. Do I sound bitter? I came in yesterday morning and by the afternoon they inquired about my weekend plans – "you're free saturday but not sunday? Great, we'll take it!" – And by the end of the day I was booked for Monday too.

But let's just say that I design one of the new campaign directions, and the high-end health club, whose name I am told not to mention, buys it. Will I be returning to carry out and take credit for designing the campaign?

Nope. Well, probably not.

This is what it means to be a "freelancer".

But hey, the pay is good and the days off (whenever I want them) are even better. Looking at the bigger picture, I still have a life, unlike many of those who are the full-time slaves of advertising.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Fillings and Fur

I just returned from the dentist where you never want to hear words like,"cavity", "root canal" or "oral surgery". Here's a new one – my dentist refered to my impacted wisdom teeth as "wizzies".

It has been several years since I have had dental insurance, so after finally purchasing a plan for Brad and I, I just attended the inital cleaning. In case you haven't already guessed, my dentist used those words. All of them. It looks like I'll be seeing more of my dentist, less of my wizzies, hopefully NOT a root canal, and it will all cost only a small fortune.

Oh yeah, and I am very frightened of the pain involved.


On the BRIGHTER side, I also picked up my dog Francine today from my parent's house in NJ where she was vacationing while Brad and I were in San Francisco. Even though it is nice to have a break from the many necessary and sometimes inconvenient dog walks every day, our apartment is missing a lot of love and life without Francine in it. Who else jumps up and down and gives me a hug EVERY time I walk in the front door (even if I've only been gone 5 minutes)?

This is Francine:

Being someone who owns pets and loves animals very much, I have been wondering about the many pets that must have suffered from Hurricane Katrina. It is a sad truth that people need to save people first, when there are so many animal that must have been killed, stranded or abandoned during the devastation. Although it is good news to hear there have been rescue efforts, this article in the NY Times will tell you what is happening (or has happened) to those pets, and it made me very sad.

This is our other pet Turtle:

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I brought my heart back from San Francisco

Ahhhh, vacation.

After a long and grueling summer in an over-air conditioned corporate cubicle, Brad and I ran off to visit his sister in San Francisco over the long Labor Day weekend. It was wonderful!

Having spent most of my adult life in New York City, it was a strange realization to find that not all cities are urban in the NYC sense. Amanda has been telling us that if NYC and Santa Fe (our other love) had a baby, they would give birth to something like San Francisco. She might be right.

Throughout the weekend, while we walked and bused and shopped and ate and partied, I did have the familiar sense of the land of mañana. San Francisco is a city in the proper sense of the word, but it is not fast-paced, it is not "tall", the public transportation leaves something to be desired in expedience and efficiency, and there are plenty of hippyesque granola crunchers. Did I mention there are an over abundance of homeless crack heads? On the flip side, the architecture has tons of character, the apartments are big and they have a union square.

Here are some other highlights:



Nature and fog.

Sand and the Pacific.

New city, new restaurants. We chowed.

I know I just said eating, but these burritos are in a class of there own!

Where else could you work up an appitite for a 2am burrito, but at a beer garden?

SHOPPING (shopping and more shopping!)
The five hour flight to the west coast seemed to propel us three months ahead in time. Not only did I stock up on some fall wardrobing essentials, but I wore them all weekend! How greatful I was for that new sweater. . .

One of the items on my itinerary was to visit the 2x4 design showcase at the SF MOMA. A super cool show, where the collabrative studio's portfolio was displayed, along with some video and writing, as wallpaper! The museum also had some permanent collection contemporary and modern highlights, an awesome historical photography retrospective, and an exhibiton - Jeremy Blake: Winchester - of some really trippy video collage. Oh, and these super sexy salt and pepper shakers I found in the SFMOMA design store!


PALACE OF THE FINE ARTS and the view from the Marina

Need I say more???

Thanks for having us Amanda!

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Milton Glaser is a rock star design god.

If you don't think you know who he is, you probably do. Here is a reminder:

Today I was looking for some visual refreshers when a friend asked me to design something that refrences the I heart NY logo seen above. During my visit to Milton Glaser Inc. I came across this essay titled, Ten Things I Have Learned. Hence the props, not only is MG a G-O-D in my design world, but a wise man. Life would be good if I could keep these rules in my mind to follow, especially the first 3 . . .

Ten Things I Have Learned

Part of AIGA Talk in London
November 22, 2001



This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially. Then some years ago I realised that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.


One night I was sitting in my car outside Columbia University where my wife Shirley was studying Anthropology. While I was waiting I was listening to the radio and heard an interviewer ask ‘Now that you have reached 75 have you any advice for our audience about how to prepare for your old age?’ An irritated voice said ‘Why is everyone asking me about old age these days?’ I recognised the voice as John Cage. I am sure that many of you know who he was – the composer and philosopher who influenced people like Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham as well as the music world in general. I knew him slightly and admired his contribution to our times. ‘You know, I do know how to prepare for old age’ he said. ‘Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceedingly well prepared for my old age’ he said.



This is a subtext of number one. There was in the sixties a man named Fritz Perls who was a gestalt therapist. Gestalt therapy derives from art history, it proposes you must understand the ‘whole’ before you can understand the details. What you have to look at is the entire culture, the entire family and community and so on. Perls proposed that in all relationships people could be either toxic or nourishing towards one another. It is not necessarily true that the same person will be toxic or nourishing in every relationship, but the combination of any two people in a relationship produces toxic or nourishing consequences. And the important thing that I can tell you is that there is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energised or less energised. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.


Early in my career I wanted to be professional, that was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything - not to mention they got paid for it. Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation. After all, what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks. So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time. I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn’t want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings. Please do it in the way that has worked in the past. Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative – I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.



Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realised that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realise that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

I think this idea first occurred to me when I was looking at a marvellous etching of a bull by Picasso. It was an illustration for a story by Balzac called The Hidden Masterpiece. I am sure that you all know it. It is a bull that is expressed in 12 different styles going from very naturalistic version of a bull to an absolutely reductive single line abstraction and everything else along the way. What is clear just from looking at this single print is that style is irrelevant. In every one of these cases, from extreme abstraction to acute naturalism they are extraordinary regardless of the style. It’s absurd to be loyal to a style. It does not deserve your loyalty. I must say that for old design professionals it is a problem because the field is driven by economic consideration more than anything else. Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx. Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often. So every ten years or so there is a stylistic shift and things are made to look different. Typefaces go in and out of style and the visual system shifts a little bit. If you are around for a long time as a designer, you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act. The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult. We have all seen the work of illustrious practitioners that suddenly look old-fashioned or, more precisely, belonging to another moment in time. And there are sad stories such as the one about Cassandre, arguably the greatest graphic designer of the twentieth century, who couldn’t make a living at the end of his life and committed suicide. But the point is that anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.


The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how - that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us? We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behaviour. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.



Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being sceptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential. Of course we must know the difference between scepticism and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one’s openness to the world as passionate belief is. They are sort of twins. And then in a very real way, solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.
Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy. Self-righteousness and narcissism generally come out of some sort of childhood trauma, which we do not have to go into. It is a consistently difficult thing in human affairs. Some years ago I read a most remarkable thing about love, that also applies to the nature of co-existing with others. It was a quotation from Iris Murdoch in her obituary. It read ‘ Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.’ Isn’t that fantastic! The best insight on the subject of love that one can imagine.



Last year someone gave me a charming book by Roger Rosenblatt called ‘Ageing Gracefully’ I got it on my birthday. I did not appreciate the title at the time but it contains a series of rules for ageing gracefully. The first rule is the best. Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ‘It doesn’t matter that what you think. Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.’ Wisdom at last. Then I heard a marvellous joke that seemed related to rule number 10. A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’

The rabbit joke is relevant because it occurred to me that looking for a cabbage in a butcher’s shop might be like looking for ethics in the design field. It may not be the most obvious place to find either. It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behaviour towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. We expect a butcher to sell us eatable meat and that he doesn’t misrepresent his wares. I remember reading that during the Stalin years in Russia that everything labelled veal was actually chicken. I can’t imagine what everything labelled chicken was. We can accept certain kinds of misrepresentation, such as fudging about the amount of fat in his hamburger but once a butcher knowingly sells us spoiled meat we go elsewhere. As a designer, do we have less responsibility to our public than a butcher? Everyone interested in licensing our field might note that the reason licensing has been invented is to protect the public not designers or clients. ‘Do no harm’ is an admonition to doctors concerning their relationship to their patients, not to their fellow practitioners or the drug companies. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.

Wild Ride

Here we go. . .

How much time did I spend reading other people's blogs before I finally started my own? Enough, trust me. So here it is, and we will see what it will be.

New month. New start. New blog.