Saturday, June 26, 2004

Finished sign for C'era Una Volta

Alameda is undergoing a retail renaissance (of sorts). It's been about 6 years since the Navy closed, and so there were a couple years of folks hanging on, then a couple years of folks casting about, and now finally the start of people moving back into the vacant spaces.

Hopefully selling the kinds of things we Alamedans want to purchase.

C'era Una Volta is owned and run by three delightful people. I hope they do very well. There are art showings, the food is delicious (it's Tuscan) and they know absolutely which wine goes with your meal. I'm learning to charge what I'm worth, so I'll be able to eat there, more!

Every job has an arc, and with this client, the theme was "recoverable detours." One example is the full-color print I used as a background for the sign had the green and the blue and the light yellow just perfect, but the output house turned the golden yellow into lime yellow.

The print operator told me he can only match one color on a full color job, which is in reality a statement of his skill level rather than an actual device limitation (when I trained digital print operators, I taught them how to match colors across an entire print).

So I airbrushed a yellow/magenta cast over the lime and turned it the right color. The color bar in the middle of the picture shows before and after.

The blade sign is a lightweight wood, plastic and aluminum box, with dimensional letters. It's beautiful, and although it looks small, it works well in the pedestrian traffic area.

Mojave Road Trip, SpaceShipOne

In the middle of getting all the work done, I felt compelled to drive down with my two children to the Mojave Inland Spaceport. Along with a crowd of other people (reports vary, between 10,000 and 30,000) who believe that the spirit of exploration and enterprise fit hand in glove, we watched history made. At Scaled Composites you can see and read all about it.

Two high points stand out, to me: The collective energy, the surge of awe and hope, swelled in us all as the little ship went faster and faster. Our hair stood on end, we all hardly dared to breathe, we all shouted encouragement as chills played up our spines. The other was calling home to KFOG and filling in the Morning Show about what was going on. They must have popped onto the internet or they are really smart, because they asked me really intelligent questions: How high will it go, who is the pilot, why hasn't anyone done this before, where is the money coming from, and so on. We stayed at White's motel, which you can read all about in "The Right Stuff."

We had a tour of XCOR, which is the company that built the EZ Rocket and which I predict is involved in Burt and Allen's next project.

I actually expected to be not very impressed. How exciting can a 3-1/2 minute trip in space be for someone standing on the ground? But when the SS1 came in and landed, and they towed it past us with Mike Melville standing on top, the impact hit me: this ship was in space less than 30 minutes earlier. It was on the ground less than two hours before that. It can turn around and do it again. And other ships will get built which will do it, too.

The power here is that it's more gentle, and more quick, than anything a government has done. Its power is precisely that it can get up and get back, with an ease and style that the world has never seen before.

Hmm, that's sort of how I like to work, too. Quickly, with ease and grace.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Castles in the sand

Alameda's 38th annual Sand Castle and Sculpture contest was great fun! Nicholas and I made this:

And here's another view

The overall winner:

My personal favorite, a sculpture of sea lions on the wharf at Pier 39. I liked not only how wonderfully executed it was, but also that every male who walked by had to give his rendering of the animals' barking.

And a wonderful castle by a family that should have taken a prize

Our books and DVD of our upcoming trip to learn how to build with SuperAdobe (click here to learn about Nader Khalili) arrived while we were playing in the sand. That sparked a connection in my head, that I can use his coiled sandbag and barbed wire technology as the superstructure for some amazing and beautiful environmental art!

So I am really, really excited, that I suddenly have a new tool with which to pursue my dream of creating public sculpture.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I Love my job, #2

As I think about it a little more, there's another aspect to this banner that is easy to overlook. I'll make it specific and clear.

Often, a promotion budget is far tighter than it should be. Spending a little more would create a far more memorable impression. But we work with what we've got.

A tight budget usually cuts out project management, or art direction, since the concrete expenses (# of flyers, # of mailers, etc.) is fixed. So what happens? The event is poorly promoted because the printer designs a flyer, the newspaper folks design an advert, the email newsletter is designed by office staff, and so on, until it looks like there are three or four events and everyone is worn out just trying to figure out what is really going on.


Yes, I am a design professional, and no, I didn't get contacted to develop the image or theme for this "Concerts at the Cove" event, but I did get the job of making a pair of street banners. The logo didn't fit at all, there were far too many colors, and the request included too much text but an awareness that there needed to be less text.

To help keep uniformity and consistency, I used the flyer and the newspaper advert to design the banner, artfully massaging the data so it presents a clear hierarchy of impression, and simply made the best banners I could.

It's because the goal is not to stroke my design ego. I hope I've let that monster go. The focus is not to one-up the other people working on the other components.

It's because the goal is to get folks to attend the concert. That is what I sincerely want. That the work I do, does its job, of promoting the client's event.

For "Concerts at the Cove," I met this goal.

So that's why I love my job.

I love my job, #1

I love to build relationships with my clients. It's a slower path to success than the "Sell, Sell SELL!" model. For my own part, I neither like nor dislike cold calling, but I hate receiving a cold call. So perhaps by building up through word of mouth and excellent service I am modeling the behavior I hope to receive.

I've been cultivating the relationship with WABA (West Alameda Business Association) not through any high-pressure sales method, but simply by showing up and being my natural self. The director has come to look out for me, and she enjoys finding good work for me to do. Although they have very little money to spend on promotions right now, the more I work with them, the more successful they will become, and we'll both be rewarded.

And here you have one of these successes. I am familiar with the type of banner the city's maintenance crew wants to install (note the GIANT wind slots, which are more for piece of mind than any real function) and I know how to artfully massage a logo and text so that the information forms a clear hierarchy for the viewer, and I'm excellent at putting this sort of thing together.

Banner over Park Street reads: Concerts at the Cove

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Building up or tearing down?

My response to learning of Denise's suicide has been to initiate preventive measures all around me. How do can I avoid finding myself or those I care about in this situation? It seems that preventing isolation is the key.

We'll always have circumstances that knock us for a loop: a failed financial deal, a relationship that sours or even becomes abusive, a sudden illness in the family, an expectation that isn't met... we each have our life journey to attend.

When these happen, don't we talk about it? Include someone else in our story? I know I hear people complain about how they've been treated. I hear it a lot. What I don't here is when someone feels that they've been made a fool of. At least not often. I know that's a hard one for me to share: "Hey, I feel really bad about this dumb situation I've generated for myself. Will you listen to me spill about how foolish I've been?"

And yet, these are the situations with the most to offer us as we learn to be better people.

Shoot, everyone makes mistakes. Pick yourself up, get guidance from a friend or a trusted person or from prayer, and leap into the next opportunity to make a mistake.

The concrete thing I've done this last week is to let people know that I'm willing to share stories about how Denise's death is affecting us. It's a risk, to turn a business call or meeting into a soul-search, but doing this has strengthened my connection to a half-dozen people, and weakened it in one case. That one acted very callous. Now I have a new insight about the type of person I choose to support in the good work I do.

We are here to be a blessing to each other. That's a two-way street, and this last week I've been much better at letting people bless me.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Asking for help

I might post a journal entry from a couple weeks ago, from back when things looked really scary and darkness filled me. Only for the reason of making it clear that I really understand how dark it can get for anyone, locked inside mind and fears. Why is this important today? Because I chose one path, and I just found out that a friend chose the other.

My friend Denise committed suicide on Friday. I've known her for a couple of years. I designed logos and a slew of branding elements for her business. One thing about the kind of work I do, is that people have to get very honest about what motivates them, and strong friendships blossom from that honesty. I feel like she really understood me, and I her.

Like her, I'm a vibrant person. Like her, lots of people like me. Like her, I'm doing a lot and getting a lot done. Also like her, the pressure to be the strong one, the one with the answers, the one who always says, "Can do!" clearly sets up an overwhelm, an internal toggle that switches and separates us from the people who could help us. What, me? Need help? I just have to push through this somehow, and then I can get back to my (self assigned) role as hero!

Honestly, I would not commit suicide. But I am capable of becoming a complete shut-in, and of holding the entire world at bay. My perception shifts so that abundance becomes burden, and I lack worthiness to consume anything stronger than air.

What I see is that I can't fight or sleep or drink my way out of these moods. As much as I hate it and as much as my internal tape runs to tell me it's not the right thing to do, I let someone safe know what is going on inside. And I mean, the real truth about what I'm feeling, to someone who can listen and accept. This simple act of relating to someone who doesn't need me for anything, opens doors to new paths of wholesome behavior. I don't "get better" but I do get a needed "reset." It's usually not my wife who can listen like this. In fact, Denise and I did just this for each other a few times.

Dang, I wish she had talked to me first.

I miss her already.