Gael Towey: A life in stories beyond Martha Stewart Living

After spending nearly 22 years at the creative helm of Martha Stewart Living, Gael Towey left in late 2012 to pursue something different, though she didn’t know what that would be at the time. She and Martha had practically invented the DIY revolution, encouraging their readers to craft their own lives, from cooking to sewing to entertaining. Towey led the brand strategy for everything Martha, including magazines, books, and products.

She took a much needed hiatus for six months, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and pondering her next move. Since Towey is so adept at storytelling, she decided to do documentary shorts, thus she started her next venture, Portraits in Creativity, which features artists and artisans doing what they do best. It’s an intimate look at the creative journey, through the experiences of the makers.

Here we talk to her about the creative journey from Martha Stewart Living to now, and the inherent challenges and benefits of being so intimately linked to a brand everyone identifies with.

Was it hard going out on your own after being at Martha Stewart Living for so long?

It was time to go. I knew that they were going to downsize and start closing magazines, and I didn’t really want to stick around for that. It was the end of 2012, I had just turned 60, and I thought, I’m still young and energetic and have lots of ideas, I need to have time for myself so that I can do something that’s really from my heart.

I’m so glad that I had the nerve to think that I could do something for myself. When I left, I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I knew I wanted to keep working but I gave myself six months to just decompress, travel, get together with friends who I had not seen in a long time. I almost never had time go out to lunch with friends for 22 years! That’s a slight exaggeration, but being able to do that opened a world of building relationships, and reconnecting and networking, which is good. I needed that.

I had amazing experiences at Martha Stewart. I was there for all the inventions and creativity and I feel enormously lucky. I learned so much and I was exposed to so much. Some of my happiest days at Martha Stewart Living were out shooting stories around the country: flowers and gardens, profiles of farmers, chefs and entertainers. Whether it was shooting peonies in Illinois or cheese making in Vermont or a new chef in Colorado, the opportunity to get around America and learn about makers and growers was enormously gratifying. I worked with incredible photographers, editors, and stylists to create our iconic photographs and tell stories in visually stunning ways.

At Martha Stewart I learned about creative, visually seductive storytelling. I bring that sensibility into my Portraits in Creativity series, where I have tried to capture the essence of a person in a profile that is only eight to twelve minutes long.

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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Jennifer Kinon, Hillary Clinton’s Design Director: What happens when the campaign is over?

Despite the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton had the most memorable branding and social media campaign ever. Michael Bierut’s design of the “H,” started it all, but the campaign branding was carried out by Jennifer Kinon and a team of 16 designers over a 16 month period. She will tell you it was the most grueling and most rewarding experience of her life.

How do you build a brand in one of the most contentious presidential races we’ve ever witnessed, with a constantly evolving news cycle and berating Tweets from the opponent? Here we talk to Kinon about the campaign branding, her team, and what happened when it was all lost in the end.

How did you end up being the person in charge of Hillary’s brand?

I was recruited by Michael Bierut. I had worked with Michael for four years before Bobby C. Martin and I started OCD, and he knew my obsession with creating identity systems. He knew me and how I lead projects, so I was flattered that he reached out and said, “This thing just went live. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. I think you should be the design director.” I was like, “Well, I have a company, haven’t you heard? I have a lot of other things to do.” He’s like, “Well, you should do this instead.” I kind of knew from the minute he called that I would say yes, but it was a long process for Bobby and I to discuss and figure out how we would divide and conquer the world at that point, knowing that we wanted to keep OCD going. We had some of our most exciting clients that we’ve ever had at that time. We couldn’t just walk away from it.

The campaign interviewed a whole pile of people, so I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to get the position. But I got the call back, and when they said yes, I knew that I would say yes, and the rest is history.

It was sort of too good to pass up, wasn’t it?

It is. I often get asked, “What do you miss most about the campaign?” It took me a while to figure out an answer. At the beginning I was like, “Nothing. I’m glad I have my life back.”

But, the real answer is, every day I knew I was doing the most important thing that I could be doing. It was a huge, exciting moment that changed dramatically throughout the experience.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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Art Chantry: Design’s Anti-Hero Receives AIGA’s Highest Honor

As a guy who rose to popularity for his crude album cover designs for bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Sonics, and Mudhoney nearly three decades ago, Art Chantry is still trying to figure out the design world. In fact, he’s adverse to most design these days and resists technology as much possible. The man prefers to work with his hands, manipulating materials, images, and type in a way that the computer just can’t do, in his opinion.

Chantry is an outspoken critic of modern design and designers, but despite that, he’s being honored as a 2017 AIGA Medalist. The irony hasn’t been lost on him. It just goes to show that good work is good work, and you can be welcomed into the club even if you’re an outsider with a bad attitude. Even he couldn’t believe it when he received the call from AIGA.

Here he talks about what’s wrong with design today, his hoarding habits, and why he’s such a pain in the ass.

Do you like design today?

That’s a loaded question. I do like SOME design done today. But, frankly, I look at old design, not new design. Old design, pre-computer design—when the IDEA was the coin of the realm. I look at contemporary design annuals and see this incredibly high level of mediocrity. Page after page of beautifully rendered (crisp and clean) design that all looks the same. About every 10 to 20 pages one piece will pop out like a huge sore thumb. At first you can’t figure out why. Then you realize it’s because it actually has an idea being presented. Most graphic design today is not really design. It’s decoration. Graphic decoration. It just has to look nice, or pretty, or cool. It has to fit in to a very high standard of production values that only computers can give you.

Any design work that doesn’t look exactly like your ‘comp’ is pounded down like a nail that sticks up. Ideas are erased so fast in an environment like that. These are all things that I try to avoid in my work. Strangely, ideas are all I have to offer any more. Computers don’t have “idea” buttons (yet).

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

Joe Duffy: Reflecting on his contentious debate with Tibor Kalman 28 years ago

At the 1989 National AIGA Conference, Tibor Kalman took the main stage and talked about what was wrong with design. He then proceeded to point the finger at an ad Joe Duffy and Michael Peters put in “The Wall Street Journal” as an example of bad design. Duffy, who was in the audience, was stunned and completely caught off guard.

It was unprovoked and unfair, to say the least. After the onstage debacle, Duffy called for a session in which he could respond to Kalman. It was perhaps too little, too late. Kalman’s wrath had already gone viral, or as viral as things could go in 1989. So, Print magazine’s editors invited the two to sit down in their New York office, with Steven Heller as moderator, and published the debate. It’s recently resurfaced online, so I wanted to talk to Duffy today, 28 years after the fact, to get his take on it. Kalman, of course, passed away in 1999, and was feisty til the end.

Duffy is still designing, but his son and daughter—who are his business partners—are mostly running the show at his Minneapolis-based office. He prefers to paint as much as possible.

Tell me what happened at the conference?

Tibor was a different guy. I was in the audience. We knew one another, at least by reputation back then. I think I was on the national board of AIGA at the time. He knew I was going to be there. He took it upon himself to tell the audience all the things that were bad in design, and as a summation he projected this full-page ad that I took out with Michael Peters and said, “Now here is a perfect example of what’s wrong with design,” or something like that.

It was a cheap shot, to say the least. It was like this 12 year old boy on the playground that was jealous, basically.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Yo Santosa: Putting her Branding Experience to Work in Her Entrepreneurial Endeavors

You know how when you see something new and say, “Gee, I had that same idea. I could have done that.” But you didn’t? Most of us say that, but we never act on it. Meet Yo Santosa. When she puts her mind to doing something or filling a niche that hasn’t been filled, she goes for it.

Santosa, who has called Los Angeles home for 13 years, was born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, before emigrating to the U.S. at age 17. She graduated from Art Center College of Design, just four years later. In 2006, she opened her branding agency Ferroconcrete, where she helped her first client, Pinkberry, grow from one store to a global brand with more than 200 stores worldwide.

She’s taken that branding expertise and created her own start-ups in vastly different categories. In 2013, she launched Commodity, a fragrance company with a mission to make fragrance personal (it has been featured in GQ, Fast Co., Esquire and W Magazine), and in September 2014, she founded and published the first issue of LA Downtowner, a cultural publication for Los Angelinos looking for fun, food, and fashion.

Here Santosa talks about her entrepreneurial drive and the realities of wearing so many hats at once.

What is the meaning behind the name of your agency? 

Ferroconcrete is another term for reinforced concrete, which enabled the building of bridges and multiple-story buildings. It’s a metaphor for building brands into skyscrapers. But that’s the long answer. The short one; simply, I love concrete. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Robert Smigel: The Man With the Dog Puppet Fist

News coverage of the 2016 Presidential Election was overbearing and underwhelming. Late night television provided some of the best comic relief, but one of the greatest characters taking on the election was Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, aka Robert Smigel, in “Triumph’s Summer Election Special 2016,” on Hulu.

Smigel has had his hand up Triumph’s ass for 20 years, after debuting on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. As Smigel stands out of the camera’s view, Triumph openly pokes fun at people on the street—whether at Star Wars premieres or political rallies—often inciting laughter and sometimes hostility. Either way, it’s always comedic gold.

Here, we talk to him about his election specials last year with his cigar-smoking puppet, and how he prepares for these events.

Where did Triumph’s voice originate and why the cigar?

My mom’s parents, aunts and uncles were all from Russia, so I heard that accent all the time as a kid, and always imagined dogs would talk that way. I really don’t know why dogs, as opposed to other animals. I’ve said in the past that maybe it’s because they have the same wide-eyed wonder as a turn of the century Russian immigrant arriving on Ellis Island. … “Loook at all of dees!” Yes, it’s horrible, or at least horriblish. But I was 8. Read the rest of the interview here.

A Duo of Glitschkas

Von Glitschka has been in the logo trenches for more than 20 years. His illustrative logo solutions are as varied as his clients—from local brewers, pubs, and mechanics to national artisanal brands, sports monikers, and software companies – and no doubt you’ve seen his work right here at LogoLounge over the years. We’re thrilled to have him as one of our esteemed judges for LogoLounge 10. In addition to designing logos, he also does lettering, patterns, characters, and icons, and he has authored and illustrated several how-to books on creating vector-based art.

Although he’s done quite well on his own all these years, he took on a partner of sorts last year when he hired his daughter, Savannah, as a full time designer and illustrator after she completed the two year design program at Chemeketa Community College. Here we talk to him about going from a solopreneur to working with his daughter.

Was it an easy transition?

While she was going through school, I’d hire her on a freelance basis to work with me on some projects, and it worked really well. She helped in the exploration on the Dungeons and Dragons brand mark I did, and she helped me create all the art for my Take and Make book.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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Scott Dadich: The Making of the Netflix Series, “Abstract”

If you haven’t yet watched “Abstract: The Art of Design,” which features eight extraordinary designers, practicing different disciplines, then set aside a day for an inspiring binge-watching experience. The making of the series is as complex and beautiful as the people portrayed. Executive producer Scott Dadich discusses the two-year journey to make the series, and reveals some of his favorite moments in the process.
While working on the series, Dadich was still deeply entrenched as the Editor and Creative Director of Wired magazine, which boomed under his leadership. He tripled the publication’s reach on social media and increased traffic to the website by 50 percent. Wired also earned ten Webby Awards, more than 50 Society of Publication Designers medals, a James Beard Foundation Award, and four National Magazine Awards for design. He recently left the magazine after more than a decade, to start Godfrey Dadich Partners with Patrick Godfrey.
Here, the bearded and bespectacled 40 year old talks candidly about the process of creating Abstract—from conception to delivery—and the delicate balance of filming people in their environment without disrupting the creative process. Read the interview here.

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On the Road with Aaron Draplin

Aaron Draplin needs no fancy introduction in this part of the logo hemisphere. He has rocked the design world in the last year, surprising even skeptics, with his bestselling book Pretty Much Everything, which details his work and reveals much about himself–the man behind the big beard.

As a judge for this year’s LogoLounge competition, we wanted to catch up with him and get the highs and lows of his whirlwind book tour last fall, in which he visited 24 cities in seven weeks. And he’s going to do it all over this spring.

Give me a little background on this whirlwind tour … was it all for the book?

For the book…and for SURVIVAL. Well, mainly the book. Do graphic designers go on book tours? They do now. I wanted to take the whole story of the book to the people. I mean, why not? The book wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place, so why not tack on a 34-show, 7-week tour to the whole mess? And we did it, and, pulled it off with flying colors. All in an orange van. So proud of the whole thing.

When did you find time to actually work?

I didn’t have a lot of projects going on the tour. That freed up my nights. But when things popped up, I’d just work late in the hotel room. Or get up early and do a morning shift before we got rolling. Wherever you can find the time, you know? Might be at lunch, with my laptop open in some restaurant, suckin’ off their Wi-Fi to send a file.

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

Fred Dekker: Life at 24 Frames Per Second

Forget what you’ve heard from Old Blue Eyes about making it in New York. Hollywood is the veritable make or break town for filmmakers. If your movie’s a hit, everyone wants a piece of you and your next project; if your movie bombs, you’re down and out in Beverly Hills. The phone stops ringing, and people you thought were your friends suddenly have no time for you.

Fred Dekker has experienced both the highs and lows as a screen writer and director in his 30 year career in filmmaking. In the late ’80s he co-wrote (with Shane Black) and directed the now cult classic, Monster Squad, about a bunch of kids fighting a gang of monsters led by Count Dracula. Though it didn’t achieve box office success, it’s since gained momentum among its core audience of geeky guys, who are now in their 30s and 40s.

In the early ’90s, Dekker was hired to direct his first big budget studio movie, Robocop 3. Unfortunately, the movie flopped, and in one fell swoop, his directorial career was over. Kaput. Done. Fizzled. He has not directed a movie since.

But this is a comeback story, ya all! The kind of story Hollywood banks on. Dekker didn’t crawl in a hole and give up. Hell no! He’s been quietly and steadily working as a writer for television productions, and he’s currently working on his biggest project to date—the latest Predator movie—with his old friend and collaborator, Shane Black.

Here, he talks about the challenges and myths working in La La Land.

Although Monster Squad didn’t achieve box office success at the time it was released in 1987, it has since become a cult classic. Has that ever surprised you?

“Surprised” isn’t quite the right word since the turnaround happened over a long period of time—it just took a while for it to find its audience. On one hand it’s very gratifying, but there’s also some melancholy, because had the movie done well when it opened, I would have made a lot more movies since then. So, despite the huge fan base it has today, my career definitely suffered … and those are years I’ll never get back. Read the full interview here.