“You missed one hell of a show!” I am told again and again by expats and fellow travelers during my first week in Antigua, Guatemala. “On Thursday, the schools closed down and we were on an orange alert,” they inform me. We gaze upon the now peaceful volcanic mountain, one of three that impose themselves upon the Antigua skyline. I had arrived in Guatemala on Feb 4, 2018. The Volcán de Fuego, just 10 miles southwest of the city, had just erupted on February 1, spewing lava down its side and releasing a tower of ash a mile into the sky. Fuego is a stratovolcano, known for being active at a consistent rate. As I settle in for my two week graphic design assignment in Antigua, I wonder what the volcano has in store for the next few weeks.
A Trumpian look at a holiday favorite, just in time for your family sing-a-long. Sung to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas.
The setting was 1930s Meraux, Lousiana, now a suburb of New Orleans, then a sprawling rural area with cotton fields and swampland. Ural Thomas — age 3 — his mother and a dozen or so of his siblings and neighbors settle down on their front porch at sundown.
“The porch was like our TV, that’s where all the stories were told.” Thomas relates before launching into one such story with a sly grin on his face. “The Greenwood [song was derived] from a story my Mom would tell about experiences from when she was a little girl. The Greenwood was a place that was too wild, where you weren’t allowed to go. Once, my grandfather went into the Greenwood to go hunting, he was gone 3 or 4 days. He hadn’t found anything. He sat on a log to rest and eat, and took his knife out and a block of cheese. He cut off a piece of cheese and he took his knife and he stuck in the log. He ate his lunch and then he pulled the knife out of the log and blood came out. He saw the blood running and he said, “Damn, I never seen no tree bleed.” He followed the tree to it’s end and it turned out to a great big snake, turning with his mouth open. My grandpa was so scared he threw down his rifle and he went running!” Ural clasps his hands as he laughs at the thought.
“It’s my first real day of full-time freelance,” Nick Misani says with nervous excitement. I congratulate Nick on getting out of pajamas on day one. “Well, half out of pajamas,” he admits. “I’m still just coming to terms with being accountable for my time and staying on schedule.” Nick is fresh from a three year stint working at Louise Fili Ltd, and before that, Penguin Random House. His book design, lettering and packaging design work is varied and strongly references historical design movements, which he says Louise helped impart. An Italian American, Nick was born in Italy, studied in Japan, and finally found his way to New York City and to graphic design.
My interview with Nick covers the winding path of this Young Gun’s career, his inspiration, thoughts on having a style and his hopes and fears for the future of his career.
The 1960s design scene in Portland had elements that may seem familiar to designers today: passionate creatives, a small community, and a collaborative work ethic. Out of this creative pool emerged Byron Ferris, Bennet Norrbo, and Charles Politz, three men whose careers overlapped, who influenced each other and yet left their mark in distinctly different ways.
Charles, Bennet and Byron worked to develop some of Portland’s biggest brands, like Jantzen and Pendleton, defining the city’s stake in outdoor and athletic wear. As mythologized in Mad Men, the “Golden Age of Advertising” claims New York City as its epicenter. But even in Portland, advertising was changing and practitioners were defining their craft. While Portland’s ad men may have had a few things in common with their fictionalized NYC counterparts, their differences are more stark.
“Aguacate…Aguacate!” A street vendor’s voice rang out, echoing down the winding colonial streets of Barrio San Antonio in Cali, Colombia. Every morning the vendor would wheel his cart overflowing with avocados as large as your face down the streets. You buy avocados in Colombia they way your buy a baguette in France, direct from a vendor and fresh, daily. Paired with salt and lime they were my go-to snack in Colombia, though they were filling enough to be a meal. Colombia is dripping with an abundance of fruit. Mango and lime trees are at every turn with excess fruit spilling on to the sidewalk and filling the shelves of every tienda.
In America it’s a rather taboo topic. As an independent designer for over 7 years, I often don’t have a good grasp of what my career looks like from a monetary perspective (leading to the yearly tax season surprise!). Without understanding and managing expectations about money, it’s hard to have a firm grasp on what a freelance career looks like. I put together this annual report in order to gain a better understanding about the way time and money breakdown, as well as to create a conversation with other independent creatives. Being self-employed, like running any business, is about embracing the ups and downs, the good and bad. At the end of the day, it is my choice to remain independent despite the wild ride.
“Beyond the mountains, more mountains” Our guide, Eddie, gestures broadly to the horizon. “That’s a Haitian proverb. It reminds you not to think you are that important; there is always someone greater than you.” Looking out at the mountainous landscape surrounding the ruins of the Citadel of Henri Christophe, I find myself wondering about other interpretations. The land here is beautiful, lush and tropical. The mountains jagged in every direction until the land hits the sea, the Northern Coast of Haiti. Eddie points to where Columbus’s Santa María ran aground, the point of colonization.
The Citadel and nearby ruined palace of Sans-Souci represent the lost dream of the Haitian king (and former slave), Henri Christophe. Christophe, together with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, launched the world’s first successful slave rebellion, dramatically overthrowing the French — who were outnumbered by a factor of more than ten.
“I had a crush on the Jantzen smile girl, Dolores Hawkins,” relates Tom Lincoln with a grin. “One of my first assignments was for Pendleton, to help direct the photography for an ad in front of Robinson’s Department Store in Los Angeles,” Tom recalled. “In the ad, we were using a lamb as a part of the wool story. The photographer brought models from New York City. One of the models was Cheryl Tiegs, who went on to become the most photographed in the world.”
Marvelous Marilyn. That’s what they called her at Portland’s influential freelancers collective, Studio 1030, where Marilyn Holsinger was the group’s only woman artist in 1960. Marilyn was marvelous by all accounts, but also a serious career woman. She held 11 design positions across 40 years and three states. She worked for ad agencies, newspapers and universities. Her clients included: Meier & Frank, Viewmaster, Revlon, the San Francisco Examiner, Oregon State University (OSU) and countless others. The references on her resume are a list of who’s who in the Portland design scene of that era. She was exuberant and stylish, athletic and a natural leader. She was cracking the glass ceiling just by showing up and doing her best work with grace. “I don’t remember her feeling like what she was doing was groundbreaking,” reflects her daughter Joan. “If anything she was just a woman before her time.”
If a council were formed to determine a list of the “Founding Fathers” of the Portland design community, Byron Ferris’s name would have to be near the top of that list. Sure, there were others who grew to be big-wigs in advertising, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone as talented, influential and well-loved as Byron.
Born in Portland in 1921, Byron’s creativity and organizational skills developed early; he drew his first cartoons for his classmates and for money at age nine. While attending Jefferson High School, class of 1939, he formed the Korny Kartoon Klub with fellow schoolmates which kicked off a lifetime of writing, entertaining, drawing and telling “korny” jokes. For Byron Ferris, who later be known as Portland’s “Dean of Design”, humor was always critical.
Congratulations! You moved to Portland to start your career as a graphic designer. You’ve just joined the ranks of the young, gifted and under-employed. Before you thrown in your organic cotton towel and head to the barista stand, try these foolproof tips to achieving creative success in the weirdest city in America.
Forget all the portfolio rules and marketing guidelines you learned at that Midwestern state school. In Portland, we do things differently. We value the obscure, the weird, the artisan, and the independent. So ditch that insurance brochure from your portfolio and re-vamp your image Portland-style.
Design a Hipster Logo
You pretty much have to do this first thing. Stop what you are doing right now, get out your protractor and get to work on a hipster logo. Portlanders LOVE those all-black logos that are rough around the edges with rugged type and text on a curve. Your logo should be contained in a seal shape or oriented around an “x”. Stuck? Visit any number of artisan coffee shops for inspiration.