It’s Awards Season

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The 30th Anniversary Edition of the Print Regional Design Annual 2010 is out and Commercial Article 02 and the 2008 AIA Indianapolis Year in Review have been included in the Midwest section. This, of course, is a great honor and we’re proud to be one of only two Indiana design firms featured this year.

We were also very pleased to hear that our redesign of Earlhamite magazine has been awarded a 2010 Silver Award for “Most Improved Alumni/Institutional Magazine” from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Region V. Congratulations to Earlhamite editor Jonathan Graham who received CASE V Awards for his Research/Scientific/Medical writing and feature writing in 2008 and 2009. CASE is an organization for fundraising and public relations professionals at educational institutions.

Commercial Article Observed on Design Observer

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Commercial Article, our little design history experiment disguised as a pamphlet, has garnered some impressive attention over at the influential design blog Design Observer.

In an article entitled “Designer Finds History, Publishes Book” Andrew Blauvelt reflects upon the path design history seemed poised to take in the 80s and 90s, but then never did. He praises Commercial Article as an example of a new type of self-promotion (one not necessarily focused on the self), and places it in the context of contemporary design history efforts.

It’s exciting to read Andrew’s thoughts on the subject, but perhaps more exciting to think that his article may prompt someone else to initiate their own project and explore the design history of their own community.

Avriel Shull – How a small town girl made modernism sexy in the Heartland

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We are very pleased to present Commercial Article 03 which tells the story of Avriel Shull:

Avriel Shull, both a renaissance woman and a futurist, was an artist turned master home designer and builder in a period when women typically spent their lives tending homes, not building houses. Avriel, whose name became synonymous with modern house design, was a woman ahead of her time. She ran a business and a construction site (sometimes showing up to supervise in a bikini), swore like a sailor, married a reporter, cared for two children from the seat of a front-loader, and didn’t hesitate to take over or redo what she considered to be an incompetent job by one of her workers. She was a flamboyant character who cooked like a top chef, sewed her own clothes, and looked like a red-haired bombshell. And she did all of these at the highest level of her very estimable abilities.

We welcome Connie Zeigler, the de facto authority on all things Avriel, as our guest writer on this issue. We are also pleased to announce that the Avriel issue (as well as previous issues profiling Gene and Jackie Lacy, and Fred Bower) are now available for sale in our brand new Etsy shop.

Please check it out and remember that Christmas is right around the corner!

Small Stones Cause Huge Waves

Our fascination with Damien Dempsey began the day after seeing him open for Morrissey, and we absolutely could not get his songs out of our heads. This is remarkable considering we had only heard these songs one time! Many years and many albums later and we’re still in awe. We often ask ourselves how on Earth we could like an Irish folk singer who raps and sometimes throws a little reggae into the mix. The only answer is because he’s great! We’ve been hoping to come across a powerful live version of “Massai” for quite some time, and my currently Damo-obsessed wife Nicole scored the other day. And now it’s your turn.

OUT OF EARSHOT

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I initially became interested in becoming a graphic designer when I found out that it was the one profession where you could create record covers. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to design a number of cd packages, but the opportunity to design an honest to goodness RECORD cover had never presented itself. That is until now.

I’ve been a longtime friend and fan of drummer Eric Melin, and I jumped at the chance to work with him when he told me that his band The Dead Girls were putting out a new record and were in need of a cover. Imagine my delight when we came to the conclusion that a gatefold jacket and colored vinyl were a necessity.

We ended up spending a few months back and forth over the phone and email which led directly into the anticipation (anxiety?) of waiting for the actual manufacturing of the whole package. Thankfully we’ve ended up with an LP that suits their power-pop sound and gives them a strong presence in the record bins springing up in music stores all over the world.

The Big Picture Show Part Deux

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Here’s a follow-up to our earlier post regarding the The Big Picture Show. Our contributions (In Cold Blood and Chinatown) were included in a very strong collection of film posters by a host of Indiana designers. The show was a blast and it was great to be among such a talented group.

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We are very pleased to be participants in The Big Picture Show, an exhibit of classic film posters re-imagined by Indianapolis graphic designers and illustrators. The show was organized and coordinated by Lodge Design and benefits the Indy Film Fest. Thirty original designs will be on display at Big Car Gallery in the heart of Fountain Square. Select your favorite and make a bid! Opening Friday, May 7 from 6 to 11 p.m.

Whether you’re high or low

It would just be mean not to share this dope jam. I don’t even have to tell you to enjoy, because I know you will! Go Janelle! Go Big Boi!

When is an invitation more than just an invitation?

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This 1991 poster was designed by Andrew Blauvelt, Laura Lacy-Sholly and myself and served as an invitation to a lecture by Katherine McCoy, then the chair of the Cranbrook Academy of Art’s graphic design program. The lecture was part of the programming of the Art Directors Club of Indiana (ADCI), a professional (yet highly social) organization for all types of people in the advertising and graphic design fields.

The ADCI was a vibrant and active group that regularly sponsored rigorous competitions and lectures by figures of national and international significance. Ms. McCoy was to speak in Indianapolis about the Cranbrook curriculum and the attention it had recently garnered. Our challenge was to distill a complicated and layered educational philosophy into a basic and straightforward announcement that would hopefully enlighten and attract.

In its most simple terms, our translation of Ms. McCoy’s program (of which Andrew was a recent graduate) advocates an expansion of understanding by asking a viewer to read (rather than see) images, and to see (rather than read) text. It may have been a lot to ask of someone who was probably only thinking about grabbing a beer and catching up with colleagues at a social gathering after work, but I’m still glad we made the attempt.

This has remained one of my favorites projects, and despite (or perhaps because of) some unintended similarities to Cal Arts materials of the time, has been reproduced in publications like Graphis. It was also included in the Cooper-Hewitt’s 1996 show Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture and singled out (albeit unflatteringly) by Herbert Muschamp in his New York Times review of the show.

Henrik Nygren Design

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I recently had the opportunity to travel to Sweden as part of the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Creative Renewal program. Of the many indelible experiences I was fortunate to have (and there were many), meeting with Stockholm-based designer Henrik Nygren was among the best.

I first became acquainted with Nygren’s work in the mid 90s when I stumbled across a copy of Stockholm New, an annual magazine that showcased the best in Swedish culture, fashion, food and design. The design of the publication was elegant, simple and beautiful, but also strong and confident. It was catnip to my half-Swedish design sensibilities!

Over the years I tracked down as many back issues as I could get my hands on, and went about finding out as much as I could about this remarkable (and seemingly mysterious) designer. I would only find the occasional book or online article, and it wasn’t until the launch of his site in 2007, that I could really take in the depth and extent of his work. It almost sounds insulting to describe the aesthetic as minimal and basic — would Scandinavian be any better? His profile in the graphic design survey publication Area 2 is shocking in it’s simplicity.

When I found out I would be going to Sweden, my friends Vida and Jonathan urged me to contact Henrik. They had recently and successfully reached out to designers that they admired in New York. To my great delight and surprise, Henrik quickly responded and we set up a meeting.

I arrived at his office (a very sharp renovated brewery) with my list of carefully prepared questions and notes which proved to be useless In no time we were chatting away about his life, my life, graphic design in Sweden, obscure furniture designers, letterpress printing, and on and on. In his transition from “abstract design hero figure” to “actual human being” he was kind, funny, generous and someone I think I would be friends with if we weren’t so geographically-challenged.

All in all, a great reminder that people are people and that the world really isn’t that big.