Monday, October 25, 2010

Catch-All Post of Wonderment

It's 3 a.m.. I'm tired. I should be asleep, but I'm not. I'm here delivering a blog post to you, because you deserve a blog post.

It's been another week of food adventures and wandering around Ohio. Brothers Pizza in Warren has the best pizza and subs in the world. That's all you need to know.

I have been trying to find a snow shovel for a while now and making a fool of myself with every attempt. Both times I have asked about it I was laughed at and asked, "Do you know something we don't?" No, I'm just a southerner with an irrational fear of frozen precipitation. Fortunately the customer is still always right (sometimes) at Walmart and a guy was ordered under protest to retrieve one for me from top stock. I also got the heavy duty, 3 foot ice scraper and a 35 lb. bucket of kitty litter. Now all I have to do is avoid wrecking my truck once I have excavated it from the glacier.

Three of my classmates and I have decided to get a place for next semester. After getting really excited about repurposing an industrial space downtown and being deflated upon discovering that they actually have laws to prevent college students from doing just that, we have settled on a house about a block north of campus. We are going to do quite a bit of refinishing on the house ourselves and this project promises to be the blog fodder mother-load. More on that once we sign a lease.

Yes, that is an actual burrito. Yes, that is an actual human head.

This fan in Walmart was ten to twelve feet in diameter. I have never seen one.

The new common computer work station in the grad studio. If we can just find a
couple more lamps it will be perfect.

This was taken on 10/11/10. I stopped and stared in bewilderment for
quite a while wondering if it had snowed the night before or if perhaps
this was just left over from last year. I found out later that its from the
ice arena.

Highlight of the week! Goupil brought back legit soul food from
Cleveland. We have ribs, fried chicken (smothered in bbq sauce),
macaroni and cheese, baked beans, greens, candied yams, and ox
tails and rice (never had it before, but it was the best part of the meal).

Helped Bacher stain his parent's deck and saw this beauty hanging
in the garage. Incase you don't know its a vintage Schwinn Stingray
and it's worth quite a lot of money.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I wish that I understood motion graphics well enough to make something in a reasonable amount of time. I'm thinking that I will get After Effects next semester when I get CS5.

Can't get enough of this stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back in Class

Thursday my classmate, Brian Buirge (who, lacking a proper online portfolio, I will reference by linking to the NSFW sensation that he co-created)*, was generous enough to allow me to sit in on a critique that he was conducting in his class. I really felt like an undergrad again, it was a strange sensation.

The class is a first semester junior level design studio so the students had all passed the first portfolio review. They seemed confident about their work for the most part. It was surprising to see that this was a preliminary critique of what equated to sketches and many of the students had well developed looking printed layouts already. Many of the pieces were beyond what I think I would have been capable of at their level.

Bryan told me that the method of teaching for that particular class level was deliberately restrained. The idea being that the instructor steps back during crits and allows the students to draw more of their own conclusions about their work and to help each other, with the end result being the development of individual styles. The students were particularly quiet that night which made for some long pauses and many threats of forced caffein consumption. I have to hand it to my colleague, he held back a lot and I know it took discipline. The project involved creating editorial type spreads about celebrities of the twentieth century and I found myself aching to share my insights into the careers and personalities of the people being featured and to explain why the pieces were hitting and missing. I could tell Brian was giving them bread crumbs which some of the students followed and some didn't. I would have found it very difficult to let any of them go knowing that they had missed a feature here and there that would really make the project perfect; but that was the point, they had to arrive there on their own, the instructor was just around for nudging and technical support.

I can't wait until I get a shot at teaching. I will be observing a freshman class next semester and I have been told that I will get to teach a class this summer for non-design majors. Having sat in on the juniors and having heard a lot about the freshman level, I have decided that I really want to teach the sophomores and I am going to work as hard as I can this summer to get that opportunity next fall.

*Apparently I was wrong.

Since I have no visual aids for the subject of this blog, I offer you this photographic study of geometry:

Maybe Bryce will render it for me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thesis Narrowing

I have Narrowed down my potential thesis topics to three areas of interest:

Integrating sustainable practices in traditional preparation of southern barbecue and the effect this has on the transmission of culture. 

Sounds convoluted, huh? One thing that I learned this semester is that I have acquired a lot of knowledge about pit cooked barbecue over the years. It isn't just the quality of the food that interests me, but mostly what comes with the traditional cooking methods. Pit cooking a 100 lb. hog over hard wood coals takes a lot of work and a lot of time. These are qualities of process that are more and more frequently being lost to technological innovation, but they are practices that teach us things, specifically they teach young people that working hard with their family and community has far reaching rewards that can be drawn upon for the rest of their lives.

This method of cooking also has bears qualities that detract from the overall health of our society as a whole as well.  Green, slow growing deciduous trees are not the most environmentally friendly fuel source. Is it possible to find a more renewable wood to use to make coals? I also have serious reservations about the commercial pork industry (yes, me, Jason "Spam and Honey Bun sandwiches" Richburg). There is enough suffering in this world without lowering an animal's quality of life to make my food cheaper and faster to attain, and I don't even want to think about what sort of genetic engineering and pharmaceuticals are necessary to grow a full sized pig in half the time it takes nature. Surely someone can make organic, grain fed hogs more readily available to people in the rural south for a reasonable price.

How could I use design thinking to effect change in this small segment of society that is so important to my culture?

How people over the age of 50 learn new technology.

The personal computer (what an outdated term) is something that has risen from nothing within my own lifetime. I remember distinctly when my dad bought his first DOS machine when I was seven or eight years old and I remember how easily I learned to use the small handful of games we had on floppy disk (If you're too young to know what those are don't bother looking it up, it doesnt matter), it probably weighed 30 pounds. Of course there was also that old Atari with the feux wood grain panel on the front. If I only had a dollar for all the frogs I allowed to be flattened by cars.

A couple of months ago I got my first iPhone and it changed my life far more significantly that those old 8bit machines ever could. I can navigate my college campus or a major city without ever looking where I am walking. I can have a real-time video conversation with someone on the other side of the planet. I can take surprisingly high quality images, play video games, browse the real web, read a book, listen to a song, watch a full length movie in HD, and, oh yeah, call and text message people. I no longer carry my $2,500 laptop around with me everywhere I go, my phone is a sophisticated computer.

In just thirty years look how far we have come. Think that's a long time? To put it in perspective it took us 427 years to get from the first printing press to the first type writer.

So, what's the point? well, there is a huge and ever growing sector of the developed world that learned most of their professional and marketable skills before 1980. This new digital life form that is omnipresent in the world of a 10 year old is a invasive and often frightening (if not threatening) species in the world of a 50 year old.

Some older people take to computers quite easily, some just can't get it no matter how hard they try, some are just not interested in trying. I would propose that it is the interface that makes the difference. In a single generation we went from every physical world action having physical world results that were apparent and easy to teach through repetition to every physical world action having numerous, minute, and ever changing virtual world results that may or may not be apparent and require a certain degree of technological sophistication to understand.

How can we better transmit this valuable knowledge? Could augmented reality effectively bridge this gap between what we do with our hands and what we see with our eyes? How could what is second nature to a ten year old become second nature to a 50 year old?

The 529

Before I left Columbia I had the honor of working with some very talented folks in The 529 Collective. In a nutshell we worked to bring high quality, professional design oriented solutions to nonprofits and community driven individuals. We worked for the community, not for the client and not for profit. This idea suits me really well. I hate charging for my work. I wish I could just make the most awesome branding in the world for everyone and never have to deal with putting a monetary value on what I love to do.

As most of you are aware, the world of the graphic designer is unrecognizable nearly from one year to the next. What we actually do on a daily basis and how we do it is up in the air at the moment. Outsourcing to other countries, virtual information, and the accessibility of creative software have almost made the t-square and exacto knife antiquated. This makes the value of a traditional design education somewhat ambiguous if not altogether empty.

This has brought about a call to arms from professionals and educators. We have had to take a serious look at ourselves and determine where our value really lies: with our "problem solving" abilities. When Paul Rand said that design is a way of life he meant that it is more like a neurological disorder than a skill set. Designers are people who can't leave things alone when they are out of order. Whether this phenomenon is the result of genetic disposition or training is difficult to determine.

There is more out of order in the world around us than typographic treatments and spacial relationships. It has been a trend for some time now to direct our efforts toward helping the little guy. Riggs just finished their thirteenth Createathon, a 24 hour anual event to barrage the nonprofit world of Columbia, S.C. with free work. So it's no break through to say that this sort of work is becoming more and more important or to ask, " How can we make money from it?"

What I want to know is how can design philanthropy become it's own industry? How could I partner my small, local design boutique with a shop in India to deliver a high value product to an entity that serves my small town directly with it's own work? How could I harness the power of the global community to serve the betterment of the local community?

My Space

The one area of my life that I have allowed to be centered around material objects is my studio space. I have been working to personalize it with some of my finds from Big Fun vintage toys in Cleveland.

Now if I could just do some work.
Remember these?

My first taste of real Indian food. Saffron Patch was a good place to start, this was a real feast.

A Surreal Experience

My friend Jason Goupil is heading up a project for N.A.S.A. (National Aeronautics and Space Association to revitalize an interest in space exploration in American youth culture. He is going about this in part by partnering with the electronica-house artists of N.A.S.A. (North America South America). Two weeks ago we went to Columbus to see Sam Speigel of the latter, a.k.a. DJ Squeak E. Clean perform a set at a club called Skully's. It was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.  Sam was the headliner, but the DJs that went on before him were dressed as Jawas from Star Wars, so all you saw of their faces were laser eyes.

The highlight of the evening was actually hanging out with Sam and learning about the world of dance music that I knew nothing about. For an internationally selling L.A. musician who has scored numerous famous commercials he was a really down to earth guy and I hope I can meet him again some day.

I was fortunate enough to spend the evening in the green room where the talent and the promoters hang out and have drinks between sets. It overlooks the dance floor and stage where the insanity is happening. I managed to take a couple of shots of my friends when they were on stage and I even got a shout-out during the show (Squeak E. Clean demonstrated his familiarity with the south by referring to my home state as "Souf Kackalacky").

My View from the green room. This was as close as I needed to getto the fray.

Read more about Jason's project on his blog.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chip Wars II

One of my earlier blog posts recognized some interesting variety in the world of snack package design. After my recent trip to chinatown in Cleveland I learned that the world of asian snack chips is a highly competitive market where potentially negative cultural stereotypes are valuable design elements, and the quality of your cartoon mascot can really make a difference in getting a product out there.

Those aren't chips.

By far the coolest design. They have a nice hand drawn thing going
on there. Combined with the colors this gives it a crafty feel while 
staying true to an asian random crazy style.

Syrup? Sweet n' sour sauce? Gravy? who knows.

I think that name translates into: "Exciting crab 
Those aren't crackers.

Nothing ends a hard days work in the fields like some 
nice, refreshing peanuts.

He's really surprised to see that kid on the right.

Cracklin' is  pieces of fried pork skin that have had the lard 
pressed out of them. They do not exist in vegetarian form.

There is absolutely no reason to put a cartoon on this, but
they did it at the last minute anyway.

Winner: Best name and most efficient use of cartoon mascot.

Everything cheese flavored in the entire store 
involves a sombrero. I suspect that mexico is a 
pretty disappointing place for asian tourists.

BBQ flavored garlic? Well, he clearly has no problem
with the ladies.

Old Stuff

The final stops were at the Arcade and some vintage stores. The arcade is a french style building from the turn of the century and it's a mark of professionalism that my tour guide knew that the building was in danger of being demolished when it was discovered that the ceiling was tiffany glass and the paint was removed from the solid brass railings. It was purchased by Hilton and now contains guest rooms and shops. In a word: fancy.

The vintage store had small rooms arranged with similarly styled furniture and accessories and I would have spent a thousand dollars in the toy store if I had it to spend.

Sorry about the hand shake on some of the photos, but I was moving pretty fast and I took over 200 photos during the day.

Great sign on the vintage toy store.

This strip ran the entire wall and it was all laminated 

G. I. Joe 1. These guys cost about three dollars in the 80s and Snake Eyes 
is going to $40 now.

Masters of the Universe, all bad guys (with good guy vehicles).

Good guys (with bad guy vehicles). I had all of these.

Is that Will Ferrel?

Remember these? I had to grab a couple for the studio.

About a quarter of the Star Wars figures, these are the old ones.

Too many Tie Fighter X1s and not enough X-wings.


The store front was decorated with most incredible
Ninja Turtles scene in history. My photos can't do 
it justice. I had the majority of these.

Dim sum

The second leg of the Cleveland adventure was to chinatown. We stopped at a couple of markets and some tourist shops, but the highlight of the trip was the dim sum restaurant. I have seen these restaurants where you order unrecognizable items from carts traveling from table to table on T.V. for years. I couldn't have been more pleased.

I know that I have added a lot of photos, but I left a lot out too. Many of the shots from the market demonstrate either really interesting or really poor package design.

I call these the creepy candy, read the label and you'll see why.

Durian. I have never seen them up close before. They are a very
 controversial fruit because they have such a strong odor that they
aren't allowed in many public places, but the flesh is reported to be
addicting once you have tried it. If I had my own place I would have 
had to try them.

I think that is supposed to read, "snake-'head'
fish fillet."



These are real squid. You can find graphic representations of these 
guys on every shelf of the store.

My favorite packaging in the store.
"Hello, Boss! I'm ready for work because
I'm all jacked up on caffeine!"

I have no idea what this stuff is and the only way to tell them apart is the  
little face, so I would go for the one on the right.

Brilliant marketing.

Powdered pork in a jar? Two kinds? I'll take it.

Second favorite design in the store.

Looks expensive.

I don't know if i want to feel that way.

If only they knew what's going on across the hall from the gift shop.

These made me feel kind of guilty for shopping in the gift shop.

Cheap wooden swords. Yes, I bought one for the grad studio. We need it.

Makes perfect sense.

Round one of dim sum, I was too occupied eating to record the 
following rounds. Yes, those are chicken feet, not what I expected.

"Take out only!"