A few days ago I made it out to the Cleveland Museum of Art for Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome. As it doesn’t look like I’ll be entertaining visitors between now and the exhibit’s January 5 closing, and as I needed to do a bit more research for my next book, I took advantage of a relatively quiet day and some nice late Autumn weather to go have a look.
The exhibit is nice. I’m very pleased that more moderate counsels prevailed, after an attempt to “alter the terms of the deal” nearly derailed these artifacts’ trip to Cleveland. Between this, and Mike & Frank‘s recent expedition to the island, I think Sicily comes out looking like quite an appealing destination to the cultured middle American fwiw.
I don’t know that I will have opportunity to drop in any time soon, myself, but again I am very glad we could enjoy this small sample of the land’s cultural patrimony here at the CMA. It’s a modest exhibit in size, without much flab, but I think it was certainly worth the admission price. Just about every item is interesting, and without room after room to take into account, I was able to take my time studying each object, reading everything and listening to the audioguide material. Plus flipping through the splendid companion book that I wouldn’t mind picking up second-hand some day. (Sixty dollars seemed a bit much.)
Meanwhile, the Museum as a whole looks magnificent as its years-long expansion and renovation draw to a close. I confess that I will miss the old courtyard, which seems to have been sacrificed to the new plan; on a perfect summer day there was nothing better than sitting in that courtyard in the dappled light beneath the trees. The new glass-roofed atrium that replaces it is a breathtaking space, however. And there is such a great collection of material, even more of which can now be displayed than ever before; a few more rooms are still to open in January including a Himalayan gallery. Yes, our art museum is that amazing.
One final note: as the weather was good and I remain curious, I decided to bike down to the train station and take the Rapid Line out to University Circle. I don’t think the argument is quite as good as that for traveling downtown; I was cash-ahead without paying for UC parking but given the long hike from the station to the museum the trip became almost absurdly long. As it was a fine day, the walk and bike ride were not particularly objectionable, but I believe that if I go back in January or February, e.g., I’ll probably just drive. Ah well.
I’m not certain when I first heard of the proposed “Opportunity Corridor” development targeting Cleveland’s east side, but I probably first took notice of the idea back in June. I probably just skimmed this article, and then went away with a generally favorable idea of the plan based largely on established biases.
I’ll admit it. I’ve grown tired of people and movements—found at various points around the political map—who seem to offer nothing more than a perpetual “no” to everything. Development opponents included. My years as a hobbyist San Francisco watcher have probably been particularly influential in this case; the city by the Bay seems to have gone so far beyond the NIMBY of yesteryear as to require a new term, BANANA, for “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.” I find this tedious and stupid. Opposition to the OC proposal seemed to fit the same pattern.
Give the OC opponents credit, however, for a smooth little coup that not only got me to take a second look at their case but, upon reflection, says something more general about the actors involved here. In August I learned that the domain name opportunitycorridor.com having gone unregistered, activists had taken the initiative to purchase it for themselves, and it’s now home to regularly updated news and arguments against the plan.
By all means, go and visit for yourself, but for what it’s worth, I did so and found myself coming around to sympathy with the objectors. The reasons are various; I found the argument against building a big splashy new “corridor” when plentiful existing roads are falling apart for want of maintenance especially persuasive. I have also been increasingly turned off by what seems to be the fait accompli mindset of ODOT and other community Powers That Be. And this ties into what, I realize, is a measure of symbolism in the domain-name story: proponents seem entirely focused on barging ahead with bulldozers, while opponents actually gave thought to how can we promote a dialogue with the community, instead of taking it for granted that everyone who “counts” is already lined up.
Today I have a new creativity exercise to propose, which in tribute to its antecedent we might call “Remake/Redo.” In brief, this is the challenge:
Go back and revisit a project that disappointed you, and fix it. Perhaps something you had high hopes for, something that for any number of reasons just did not meet the standard it should have. I tend to think of graphic design projects, naturally enough, but potential subjects for Remake/Redo are plentiful. The only requirements are that you do the project over and make it right, this time; once you’ve done that, you win.
I’ve already completed the challenge, and have a few photos of the result:
I’m not sure if it’s compatible with freelancing “best practices” to say anything when a client relationship winds up; it may well not be, but in this case perhaps the circumstances make it a valid exception and, if not, who really cares.
This week brought what may very well be my last cover design commissions from John Wiley and Sons, my oldest client. The reason for this is to all appearances not a judgment on Modern Alchemy or my work. Wiley will continue publishing books and those books will continue to have custom designed covers, but in one sense their dispensing with my services is more like a client simply going out of business: if the people who actually work on the books remained empowered to hand out assignments I would likely receive them, but a corporate decision has closed down all design commissions from freelancers.
So it goes. Meanwhile, I am awash in cover design work right now; the inrush of commissions before the cut-off date tends to demonstrate the individual clients’ sentiment about all of this. As do a warm letter of reference from one US-based editor, and a lovely thank-you card received just today, hand-signed by everyone in the UK office. (The card’s from M&S, too; double-classy!)
Under the circumstances, it doesn’t seem absolutely final that this client will be gone for good, even when all of my in-progress work is finally completed, which will take months. We’ll see. If this is the end, though, it’s been a very good nine-plus years. Indeed it’s strange to wrap something up, like this; nine years is more than three times as long as my longest employment tenure. As a freelancer, projects end, and people come and go, but this is the first time I’ve had a regular, ongoing, long-term client relationship finish up. In some ways it seems amazing that anything should have lasted so long. “But,” per Patricia Pierce, “the time comes for every thing to have a rest.”
As that doesn’t yet include me, though, onward it is.
Way back at the beginning of this year, I posted the link to a listing of “500 Free Movies Online” hosted at openculture.com. This is a very nice resource, and has since expanded to 550 movies (and counting). But it’s entirely text-based, whereas cinema is very much a pictorial medium. Eventually, this gave me an idea, and sometime around March, I began a Free Online Movies tumblr presenting the same links with graphics. (Plus a tagging system, which I think is also useful.)
Obviously, most major and even many minor films already have promotional graphics, after all, i.e. posters. And even old posters are in most cases now online as electronic files, somewhere or other. (One of my new favorite search engines, ixquick, has a splendid image search.) So why bother with this, well, why not, basically. Here’s a little opportunity to add value by building upon something good in order to make it better.
I’m thrilled that people have responded, too. Almost 25 people follow Free Online Movies, now. Which is probably not a lot. But it’s still pretty amazing to me, especially as I don’t think I’ve posted a single cat photo. Occasionally I make a snarky remark, usually just for want of anything else to say; though the object of this project is a pictorial interface I try to provide some brief text note on each film given that some of these movies are rather old and obscure, but I also try to write my own copy rather than just rip off openculture.com’s. And while ideally I would watch the movie, well, look, I only have so much time to devote to this project…
Time does get away from one. Lately, my good friend The Design Curmudgeon has been hinting about a return (his predecessor The Sports Curmudgeon returned this year after a long absence). In preparing to post DC’s latest asides, I thought I ought to check the formatting of his first outing and only then realized it was nearly a year ago. Are you kiddin’ me? …well, The Design Curmudgeon though certainly crusty has not grown rusty, or something to that effect…
[DISCLAIMER: "The Design Curmudgeon" is presented for entertainment purposes only, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of Modern Alchemy, its proprietor, its clients, this blog, or Frank Deford. Any resemblance between The Design Curmudgeon and any real person living or dead is entirely coincidental. Please consult your doctor before deciding if The Design Curmudgeon may be right for you.]
Yes, I’m back, and I’ve got a few more things that need to be said. First of all, however, though speaking entirely hypothetically and certainly not in any way a commentary on a specific recent announcement … A tip for “rebranding” professionals: Changing the typeface used in your logo does not constitute designing a new logo. Or a particularly worthwhile exercise at all, nine times out of ten. In fact, odds are good that it’s in fact just the kind of thing explicitly discouraged by an “examples of what not to do” section in your brand guide, if you have one. Just saying…
Over Labor Day weekend, I moved my e-mail into the Postbox application. One week on, things are going well, and I can recommend it as a fine choice for modern desktop-based e-mail. In addition to its inherent features, meanwhile, it has indirectly provided a kind of oddly quiet ending to a saga that in one way or another has been as much as 15 years in the making.
Fifteen years is a very long time in the life of software; practically an eon in the life of the internet. It’s a fairly long time even in human terms, certainly at age 35. Thinking back to when my association of Eudora first began almost feels like one of those Kia commercials with Blake Griffin. “Take me back to 1998…”
When I started using Eudora, I was a college Junior just out of my teens, with a full head of hair. Bill Clinton was president of the United States, Murphy Brown was just finishing its last season, and the entirety of the 21st century still lay in some vaguely science-fiction tomorrow-world realm. Technologically, we had a world wide web, but no one had heard of Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, and while I think that by year’s end I had heard of “Google,” I was probably among a total of four or five dozen people, counting the employees. I was the proud owner of my very own computer for the first time, a 266 MHz beige-box PowerMac G3 running Mac OS 8.
It was a really long time ago.
Recently, I’ve found my thoughts turning back toward school days (more than is usually the case). Labor Day has been creeping up, and is now past; noisy gaggles of schoolchildren flood the streets of Lakewood for half of every weekday afternoon once again; the Iowa State Cyclone football squad has resumed its annual campaign to reduce fans to tears… and, after several years, I’ve finally cracked the pages of the ISU sesquicentennial history book for which I designed the dust jacket; some comments on this interesting text will likely appear in a few weeks. Meanwhile, what better time to revisit one’s own years in the world of formal study?
In a previous episode of Secret Origins, we left our hero “…at last [on my] own, standing by the arches in Old Richardson Court. Eighteen years old, completely clueless, and on the threshold of a great adventure.”
So what happened then? (Other than indulging a need to go spend money at Mayhem Comics with as little further delay as possible?) Obviously, I’ve already written many many times of school days at dear auld ISU. But there’s probably still room for a post or two dedicated to the whole picture of graphic design education at the College of Design in the late 1990s. In fact I can actually fit in one post before even getting to that, in a sense, because I spent a whole year in college before I was able to begin “graphic design education,” in earnest.
This is not because I entered school majoring in “undecided,” either. In fact I kind of (okay, not even “kind of”) scoffed at people who entered college without a firm career goal in mind, or those who changed their mind midway through. Ah the arrogance of youth; I did progress enough toward open-mindedness by my last year or so to feel more understanding, even respectful, of those willing to explore further and daring enough to change their plans. As remains my perspective today.
Nonetheless, in the autumn of 1996 I wanted to be a graphic designer, and was committed to my plan, and obviously didn’t really change my mind a whole lot subsequently, either.* But I still had to wait a year. read more…