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.

Debbie Millman: Design Matters & Beyond

Debbie Millman might be the nicest person in the profession. That’s not just my opinion—that’s a fact. I’ve heard that sentiment from many people over the years, and I’ve experienced her generosity firsthand. But don’t let that fool you. She’s no pushover. She’s a vocal proponent of using design and branding to create awareness and action for social causes she believes in. She doesn’t just sit on the sidelines observing the world, Millman gets involved and incites action in others. She’s a leader and a fighter.

Whether she’s teaching branding in the graduate program at School of Visual Arts that she cofounded in 2009 with Steven Heller, or interviewing someone for her popular Design Matters podcast, or fulfilling her dual roles as creative director/editorial director at PRINT magazine, she is immersed in the design community, speaking at events all over the world, and serving as an active board member of several organizations. She has also written six books, with more in the works. Her work clearly fuels her soul.

Millman recently left Sterling Brands, where she served as president of the design division for 20 years, working for some of the world’s largest brands. Here we talk to her about her career in branding, the surprise success of her podcast, and what’s next for this adventurous lady.

As someone who’s been immersed in branding for more than 20 years, how have your perceptions changed over the years about brand expectations and limits?

I find the role of branding now incredibly, incredibly exciting. I think that the ultimate goal of the discipline of branding is to reflect the culture in which the brand or the product or the company participates, which evokes a unique composition of sensory perceptions, which in turn create brand tribes. The extension of any one of these sensory perceptions impacts the way we think and act—and the way we perceive the brand or the product or the company. When these perceptions change, people change. I also think movements such as Black Lives Matter, is one of the most important movements to enter our cultural discourse in a long time. Design has finally become democratized, and these efforts are not about anything commercial. They have not been created for any financial benefit. Read the full interview here.

John Fluevog: Designing Unique Soles for More than Four Decades

John Fluevog has been crafting high quality, funky shoes for more than 46 years, yet he’s not a household name like Jimmy Choo, Jessica Simpson, or Steve Madden. Mainly because his shoes are not sold in department stores, and the designs are bizarrely unconventional. Let’s just say, when you wear a pair of Fluevogs, expect to get noticed. People either love them or they don’t know what to think of them, which is precisely what Mr. Fluevog has intended.

He’s kind of like the Tim Burton of the shoe design world. Like Burton’s films, Fluevog’s designs are colorful, over the top, and decidedly offbeat. He’ll never fit in, but that’s perfectly fine with him. It’s all part of his brand strategy. Fluevog has been creating “unique soles for unique souls” since 1970. The shoes aren’t just showstoppers though, they’re designed to last many, many years, constructed with high quality, eco-friendly materials. He lives his motto, “good soles leave small prints,” by specifying vegetable tanned leathers and water-based glues.

Fluevog’s mission is to bring his customers along for the fun and quirky ride. The Fluevog community, called “Flummunity,” encourages customers to submit shoe designs and create ads that reflect their own sentiments about the brand. There’s even a “Fluemarket” for buying and selling used Fluevogs. This brand strategy of involving his customers has paid off handsomely, as “Fluevogers” are repeat customers and tend to evangelize the brand mission. Every point of contact with the brand has been carefully curated from the online shopping experience, to the delivery of your product in a beautiful blue box, containing a custom shoe horn, Fluevog stickers, and sometimes a personal note from the person who shipped the shoes.

Here we talk to Fluevog about his brand’s unusual heritage, his inspirations, and staying ahead of design trends.

Did you have any training as a shoe designer?

I have been self-taught. I did not even take art in high school. In fact, I’m not sure I ever graduated from high school. I have never taken a shoe making course nor an art or design course, and have never done any post-secondary training. Art was not encouraged in my family. Music yes, art no. Read the interview here.

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Cindy Gallop: Building the Brave New World of Sex Tech

When Cindy Gallop introduced her social sex start-up concept to a live audience in 2009, she really had no idea what she was getting herself into. She unwittingly tapped into a huge global category, but found it damn-near impossible to get any backing—financial, technical, or social. It was a conundrum of epic proportions.

However, that did not deter her. In fact, if you tell Gallop she can’t do something, it will only strengthen her resolve to prove otherwise. This is a woman who likes to “blow shit up.” Her words, not mine. Having worked in business communications for more than 20 years, mainly with Bartle Bogle Hegarty as the founder and former chair of the U.S. branch, she now runs her own consulting business, as well as her start-ups If We Ran The World and Make Love Not Porn. She knows a thing or two about getting shit done and if you don’t like what she’s doing, then move along. She has no time for you.

This is not a story about sex. This is about one woman’s relentless pursuit to build an entire business category in order for her company and others like it to succeed, despite countless obstacles that would have deterred most sane people. Read the interview here.

“I am doing what I tell other entrepreneurs to do, which is when you have a truly world changing startup, you have to change the world to fit it, not the other way around.”

Jennifer Sterling Finally Gets the Last Word

Having lived and worked on both coasts, Jennifer Sterling knows a thing or two about cultural and political discourse in design. Her illustrative typographic renderings have produced praise and ignited loathsome critiques from her peers.

She experienced a profound backlash in the early 2000s for her design of the now infamous 2001 AIGA 365 Annual. No designer has ever taken such a public beating for their work as she did. And she never responded. Until now.

That catalog sent designers into a tizzy. Today, I doubt anyone would raise a brow. Sterling did what she did best: She created typographic and textural images to create meaningful discourse and showcase the work as it was meant to be seen. But, perhaps she was ahead of her time. People didn’t get it and the reaction was visceral and harsh. Today that book would be a precious keepsake, and anyone featured within would be honored.

It seemed as if Sterling—then in San Francisco—dropped out of the design world, only to re-emerge five years ago in New York. That’s not quite the case. She has continually worked, but she intentionally kept a low profile. She was never looking for the spotlight, but it found her in the ugliest of ways. Despite that, her love for design never wavered and she continued to work with clients like Adobe, Aveda, Gilbert Paper, Hillary Clinton, and more. Her work has been included in the permanent collections of The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Library of Congress, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Museum Fur Kunst Und Gewerbe, Hamburg, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Here, we talk to her about her passion for design and typography, and we let her have the final word on that book she designed more than 15 years ago. Read the interview here.

Edel Rodriguez Doesn’t Melt in the Face of Adversity

The political discourse in this country has been at a fervent pitch for months, up until the shocking outcome November 8. Political cartoonists and illustrators have been having a field day, but none more so than Edel Rodriguez who has created two of the most talked about cover images in recent times. As a Cuban immigrant he has a great appreciation for the artistic freedom he is allowed in America, and he has a lot to say in his work.

Rodriquez immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, when he was just nine years old. He studied art and design at Pratt Institute, where he graduated with honors. He then received a Masters of Fine Arts degree in painting from Hunter College. His illustrations have graced the covers of books and magazines like TIME, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and more. In addition to his commercial work, Rodriguez’s fine art paintings voice human concerns, mortality, and cultural displacement.

Here, we talk to him about the influence art has played in his life and life work, and how visual ideas play out in the media. Read the interview here.

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Illustrations: Edel Rodriguez

Virginia Postrel on What Constitutes Glamour

Glamour is in the eye of the beholder … or is it? Unfortunately, we get a lot of our cues from celebrities, which in this day and age, can include anyone from rap stars and actors, to YouTube and reality television stars. Even our First Lady, deservedly so, is a style icon.

Here, we talk to Virginia Postrel, author of The Power of Glamour, The Substance of Style, and The Future and Its Enemies about our obsession and longing for glamour and what it all means. As an author, columnist, and popular speaker, her work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture and commerce. She has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Forbes and its companion technology magazine Forbes ASAP. She is currently a regular columnist for Bloomberg.

Do you think the rules of glamour have changed over the years—i.e. what people perceive as glamorous compared to 20 or 30 years ago?

Definitely. What audiences find glamorous can change for two reasons: What people long for may change or different glamorous things may represent the same longings. One example I often use is the glamorous image of feminine indulgence. In the 1950s, nothing beat a fur coat. It represented an adoring man sharing his financial success: love and money in a publicly visible form. Nowadays, the common image of feminine indulgence is a hot-stone massage or maybe a bubble bath in a spa tub. Nobody needs to know you’re there—it’s not about keeping up with the Joneses—and you probably paid for it from your own income. It represents the desire to escape the demands of a busy life. (A lot of spa tubs and bathroom remodeling have been sold with this kind of glamour.) Read rest of interview here.

 

Brian Singer: Not Just Any Guy, But Some Guy

Brian Singer has been employed by some of the most progressive design thinking companies in modern times including Apple, Facebook, and Pinterest. Most designers would cut off their right arm to work for these companies, but Singer—although grateful for the experience—walked away from his most recent gig at Pinterest to pursue personal projects.

Singer, aka someguy, has become widely lauded for his pet projects which have netted national publicity, not only in the design community, but among mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times, the Today Show, CBS News, Huffington Post, and more. From inviting strangers to collaborate and share their sentiments in a blank journal and pass it on for the 1000 Journals Project, to exposing people who are driving and texting by placing their photos on billboards, to his #pileoftrump campaign, Singer has created controversy and discussion about what is and isn’t tolerable—or with the case of texting and driving—what is safe. (bio photo: Skyler Vander Molen.)

His main goal with most of his projects is to connect with strangers and to have strangers connecting with each other. Here, we ask him about his experiences, his personal projects, and what’s next.

You’ve worked for some high profile, design-driven companies. What’s the biggest takeaway from those experiences?

Every company (design driven or not) has real, challenging, business problems to solve. And no matter the company, I think it’s safe to say that design isn’t easy. Probably the biggest takeaway is that while design skill is important, it’s not the only thing needed to succeed and have an impact. You need strategic thinking skills, empathy, holistic problem-solving, leadership, great communication, the ability to hire and motivate talent, and of course, you can’t be an asshole. You know, all the things they don’t teach in design school. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Jessica Hische on the Art of Procrastination

If it seems like design darling Jessica Hische’s rapid ascent in the design world came easy, she’ll be the first to tell you that she worked her ass off to get where she is today, pulling all-nighters pursuing her passion. And she’s still kicking ass and taking numbers.

Known for her illustrative hand-lettering, Hische has worked for an impressive roster of clients including Starbucks, Wes Anderson, The New York Times, Target, Tiffany & Co., and Samsung. Last year she released her first book, In Progress, for Chronicle Books, which details her exacting process for drawing type. Part information, part inspiration, part eye candy, this is a fun romp through her sketchbook and how she approaches her projects.

Always one to share (or as she says, “over-share”) on her website, Hische offers great advice when it comes to creative burn-out, getting paid, and being productive. Here, we talk to her about her penchant for procrastination and how it’s actually benefited her over the years.

You’re a self-described procrastinator … in fact, you’ve coined the term “procrastiworking.” What does this mean, exactly and how bad are you?

To me, procrastiworking just means putting off the work you’re supposed to do by working on something else [that is also productive / challenging creatively]. It doesn’t always mean putting off work until the last minute—sometimes I procrastiwork by hopping around on different projects in a single day (when I start losing steam on one, I’ll work on another, assuming I don’t have an immediate impending deadline). Sometimes it means rearranging my schedule so that I can fit in passion projects. When I am really fired up about a personal project, I work on it during the work day, and work on client work in the evenings (because I know I HAVE TO stay up to finish it, because of a deadline, versus the personal work).

I do it quite a bit. But the thing that’s odd is that the more I do it the more productive I am. I’m probably more likely to hit a client deadline and make great work if I have bounced around on a lot of things in the process of getting there. Read the rest of the interview here.

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Marty Neumeier on the Transformative Branding Industry

You could call him the boss of brand thinking, with six notable books on the subject and more than 45 years of experience in the design field, or you could just call him Marty—which is what he likely prefers. Branding is under his skin, part of his DNA, and it’s something he constantly thinks about, and rethinks, as consumer habits change.

How did an Art Center drop out become such an enigma in the world of brand positioning and strategy? Well, as you’ll learn here, through hard work, intuition, and failure. Seven years ago he sold his brand design think tank, Neutron to Liquid Agency, where he serves as the Director of Transformation. In this role he helps companies transform themselves through brand strategy.

Neumeier recently updated his bestselling book, The Brand Gap, and retitled it The Brand Flip to account for all the changes that have happened in the past 13 years since the book was released. But he believes the core ideas he communicated in the original still hold true, as he explains below.

How did you become such an expert on Branding?

I’ve been thinking about branding since design school at Art Center. I love the aesthetics part, but surely it’s not important to anybody unless it connects with a business result. It took me a long time to connect the dots and the role for designers to be strategic thinkers.

Back in 1970, a booklet came out called Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind, and it was a little orange booklet you could stick in your pocket. I read it, and was like, “Oh wow, this is what we have to do.” It’s better than all that advertising stuff that had come before. This is solid, logical stuff. I started thinking about the designer’s role in creating a position for a company vs. the competition. The more I thought about it, the more I was able to sell that to clients. I’d say, “I know what you’re trying to do, and this is who you want to be. You need to make some changes, and this is how I can help you.” That was the start of my branding career, but it was a long-time coming. Read the rest of the interview here.