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Happy Memorial Day! Bike To The Beach!

Happy Memorial Day all! I'm actually on vacation now and the blog will be updated again next week...miss you all!

If you're in Boston sans car but need to get to the beach this summer, have no fear! The T will be there to help you out. The T
offers service on the Greenbush Line to Nantasket and South Shore Beaches, and on the Rockport Line to reach Cape Ann beaches. I recommend the Cape Ann beaches. Driving up there is easy enough but parking is a pain which is probably why the beaches are a little more desolate (at least the ones I found). The commuter cars are equipped to accommodate bikes and gear (click here for another article) and with the price of gas and cars, this could be a good choice for you. Don't forget the sunblock!

Singing Beach (also pictured above):

Favorite spot in Rockport:

Roadside America and Muffler Men

Today, I thought I'd share more about one of my favorite web distractions: Roadside America. I came across this site years ago when I was looking for more information on Muffler Men. Yes, you read that right. I was mini-golfing in Lake George, NY at this fabulous course: Around the World Golf. Half was around the world themed (hence the name) and the other half was around the United States themed. It was really the highlight of Lake George. (Have you been to Lake George? Yeah...) Seriously though, it was very fun! So, on the around the world side there is this huge guy:

I had to know more. Where did he come from? Which is how I found out about Roadside America. Muffler Men may ring a bell to you if you ever watched the Sopranos, in the opening a
carpet-clutching Muffler Man in Jersey City is pictured. The site also has a guide to all Muffler Men and other sorts of fun distractions too. I loves me a corny distraction. This probably explains why I've been to such esteemed places as the Four Corners and the highest point in the US where beef jerky is sold. Yeah...

So before you head out on your next road trip, check out
Roadside America to see what lies ahead!

Design Challenge: Money For The Visually Impaired

I came across
this article online that I found quite fascinating. I'd never thought of how paper money could be discriminatory because I'm able to see it. But imagine reaching into your wallet and not being sure what your handing over.

Interestingly enough, the
new $5 bill released into circulation in March has a large number 5 on the back which helps the visually impaired. This site from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has lots of really interesting information and interactive tools, be sure to check it out.

While some people think that the design of the bill and US money is abhorrent, I disagree. I like the use of color and many different elements, all to deter counterfeiters. The story behind the design is why I find the money most fascinating, that's what made me a fan of the notes. I believe that a lot of time and effort has gone into the design. I understand the argument that it's the US Government, they have money to change it and make it look pretty so why don't they? After poking around the Treasury Department's website I found

"The Department of the Treasury has historically continued to honor previous designs of our currency. Furthermore, the Department has never recalled currency when introducing a new design. There are billions of dollars in U.S. currency circulating worldwide. Any new design, when issued, would enter circulation in a deliberate and organized way, avoiding any recall or exchange. This will ensure the continued confidence of people in the value of the U.S. currency they now possess."

(Cheesy) video on the new $5:

The number one goal of redesign (which happens every 7-8 years) is to maintain confidence in U.S. currency. Billions of dollars in money are out there, 60% of it abroad, it's something people see and use every day. Imagine if it all changed suddenly. Redesigning the currency is done in partnership with the Federal Reserve System, the Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the United States Secret Service. The Secretary of the Treasury establishes the design and appearance of the U.S. Currency. Have you even worked in government or a bureaucracy? Yeah, that's one reason why there hasn't been any huge changes in money. So, if you want prettier money, one of us designers needs to become the Secretary of the Treasury.

In the end though, it seems that paper money may be going the way of the typewriter. Years ago Mexico and
Australia traded in paper money for plastic. The U.S. has even tested different ideas to replace paper money. What would those designs look like? Mobile phones can double as credit cards now. In 2005 purchases with cards topped cash purchase...are we headed for a cashless society where everything is electronic?

In the short term, I hope a resolution can be found to help the visually impaired. Yes that would be a design challenge but just because something poses obstacles doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted. In the long term, this topic may be a moot point as more and more people use debit and credit cards for purchases.

The next bill up for a new design is the $100, one of the only denominations that I carry.

I Love Being a Bag Lady

Back in December the New York Times Business section had a great article on reusable bags, "
Never Mind What's in Them, Bags Are the Fashion." Well duh! Any person who has lots to carry could tell you that. The article focused on shopping bags and how retailers from high end to low end are competing to make the most durable, fashionable shopping bags. In addition to looking good, reusable bags cut down on waste, it's a win-win.

Lord & Taylor is mentioned in the article and indeed last fall while I was traveling to a wedding, I carried one of their newer bags with my dress in it and I was complimented on it! A shopping bag!!! I don't even get plastic bags from the grocery store anymore, I'd rather pay $1 to get a reusable bag. My favorite that I own though, is this fabulous bag from Trader Joe's:

It comes in handy when I have to bring packages to the post or carry around my design work. Not only is it durable and easy to carry, it's so cute! I love the collage, hand-drawn and text elements.

In other bag news, look out for the new, "secretly redesigned" Bergorf Goodman bag to be released this fall. I think I'll just have to go shopping and investigate for myself! Thanks to Martha for the bag tip.

A Rose By Any Other Color...

...Still means you'll be able to shop!

This spring
Lord & Taylor, America's oldest department store, shook things up a bit by introducing a new color palette, sunrise, to stand in for their old signature red rose. Since the mid-1940s red has been the color of choice, but in an effort to revitalize business Lord & Taylor decided to spice things up with marigold-hued roses on everything from buses, bags, awnings, gift cards, direct mail and signage. Sadly, these spring roses will last only through Memorial Day. For an article from the NY Times click here.

The good news: each spring Lord & Taylor will sponsor a contest to choose a new rose campaign created by a different artist each year. That artist could be you! But hurry, the deadline to submit an entry for next year's campaign is May 26. The top sixty submissions for the first round will be posted online for public viewing (don't worry, I'll remind you). The top thirty with the highest number of votes will advance to a second round of voting and a winner will be announced on July 2nd.

I think it's a great way to create buzz and update an iconic image. I can't wait to see what's to come.

Bob Dylan + Paul Rogers = Super Excited Sarah

So, I don't even know where to start, I've been amped since Thursday. Why you ask? Well, you may remember a post I wrote on one of my favorite artists, Paul Rogers. On Thursday I decided I'd email him via his blog to tell him what a big fan I am and say how excited I am that he'll be illustrating Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" book. I didn't have any expectations of hearing back from him. But get this: HE WROTE BACK! Wow. I get very starry-eyed with people I look up to. He thanked me for my post, told me a little bit about working on the book, told me my work has "a lot of promise" (WHOA!), and that's not all...wait for it...he sent a picture (and permission to post) of the soon-to-be-released book:

AAAAHHHH!!!!! That's pretty much sums up how I was, actually still am, feeling. I can't wait to see the rest of the book. I think I'll be pre-ordering it...

On top of all of that excitement, I saw Bob play at the Worcester Palladium on Friday night. Wow. Wow. Wow. The Palladium is a really neat venue because it isn't very big and there didn't seem to be a bad spot in the place. I was pretty close to the stage. I probably could've been by (on?) the stage but I didn't want to scare my concert companion Colleen. I played it cool, sort of.

Bob came out and started rockin' with Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum. He just kept hammering the whole night. You could feel the energy in the hall and I felt quite privileged to be a part of the night. Just writing about it gets me amped again! The band looked fantastic and had so much energy. Everyone was dressed in grey suits and hats, except for Bob who was in black. The band: Tony Garnier on upright bass, guitarists Denny Freeman and Stu Kimball, drummer George Recile, and steel guitar (a fave) and mandolin player Donnie Herron. Bob busted out the harmonica (my favorite) and smiled throughout the show. IT WAS AWESOME!

The set list included:
-Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
-Girl from the North Country
-Watching the River FLow
-Can't Wait
-The Levee's Gonna Break
-Simple Twist of Fate (one of my absolute favorites because it reminds me of Will and I meeting "She looked at him and he felt a spark...I still believe she was my twin..." Bryan Ferry does an amazing cover of it, I highly recommend it.)
-Rollin' and Tumblin'
-Tryin' to get to Heaven
-John Brown
-Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
-Spirit on the Water
-Highway 61 Revisited
-Workingman's Blues #2
-Summer Days
-Ballad of a Thin Man
-Thunder on the Mountain
-Like a Rolling Stone

Then super sad face because it was over. But, I've got the memories and a not-so-great picture because the picture police were in full force.

Michael Schwab

"The basic premise of my work is this: The message must be succinct, immediate, and legible from 'way across the room'." -
Michael Schwab

As promised in my
National Train Day Post, I have more on a favorite artist of mine: Michael Schwab. As with the work of Paul Rogers, I learned about Schwab while researching travel posters. His work for Amtrak instantly drew me in with his use of silhouette, bold color and illustration.

Merrill C. Berman, in
an article posted on Schwab's website, says "His work is dramatic in its simplicity." I couldn't agree more. Schwab's work is the kind that truly speaks for itself.

His list of clients is a designer's wish-list (well, mine anyway), and includes such clients as: Pebble Beach (more on Pebble Beach in an upcoming In Focus post), Nike, The North Face, UC Berkeley, the Muhammad Ali Center, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, Amtrak and many, many more.

There is a great little interview with Schwab on Green Museum's
website. There is also an interview in Sunset Magazine that discusses Schwab's design of the book California Wine Country: A Sunset Field Guide. After reading that post it's making me itchy to get back out to California ASAP. At least I'll be doing some wine tasting out in Healdsburg in a month (look for future posts on that). This link has a slide show of illustrations from the book.

Some of Schwab's work is also
for sale (hint, hint). I'd love to hang a piece out in Boulder, maybe this one (extra big hint, hint):

For even more on Schwab you can read an excerpt from the book, Inside the Business of Graphic Design: 60 Leaders Share Their Secrets of Success, here or you can buy the book here.

I'll end the post with this quote from Schwab which does a great job of summarizing the design field: "To do what we do, there has to be a healthy blend of creativity, integrity, bravery, and just a pinch of salesmanship." True, true.

Valspar Colors Rock!

Over the weekend I was busy picking out colors for my new decorating project in Boulder. While my mind started to numb walking up aisle, after aisle, after aisle in Lowe's I finally came upon one of my favorites: COLOR! As I looked over all of the swatches, Valspar's paint caught my eye with this little logo in the top right of some swatches.
Upon further investigation I've learned that these special swatches, several options pictured below, came out in 2001 (better late than never that I found out) and are based on colors used in National Trust Historic Sites. Samples from sites across the country were scientifically analyzed and documented in Munsell notations. Munsell notations you ask? That's a way of identifying colors in terms of three attributes: hue, value and chroma. I like how Valspar left a little cutout square to make it easier for you to compare colors.

Some favorite colors:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to saving historic places and revitalizing America's communities. They do great work and Valspar donates a portion of every sale to the organization. Philanthropy, history and home remodeling: I love it! For a fun color and decorating blog click
here and for the National Trust's blog visit this site. Happy painting!

A few more favorite swatches:

Flogo a-go-go

"It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's a Flogo!" I came across this story in the Sunday paper and thought: wow, there is an idea for brand awareness. Francisco Guerra, a former magician and entrepreneur, invented a machine that produces foam clouds in the shape of logos. Next month the Walt Disney Co. will use the machines to make Mickey Mouse heads at Disney World in Orlando, Fla. I think they're kind of cute.

Mr. Picassohead

Looking for something to do online? How 'bout create your own Picasso? Yes, the marvels of modern technology now make it possible for you, yes you, to be a talented artist! Check out this fun link, guaranteed to bring some smiles. Well, it did for me anyway. I created this one of a kind masterpiece, I call it "Sarah and Will."

Plus, when I went back to the website this masterpiece was on the front page! Mom- I'm famous! There are all sorts of fun pieces people came up with, let me know what yours is and I'll post it. Enjoy Picassoheads!

Wedded Bliss? It DOES exist!

There's a new exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum up in Salem and I must go! Yup, I've got wedding (and marriage) on the brain.

From the site: "
Wedded Bliss, The Marriage of Art and Ceremony explores the wedding as a source of inspiration for the creation of art in cultures around the world." The show has over 100 objects from around the world including paintings, gowns and jewelry (bling, bling!) from such artists as Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall. This site has stories and photos from real weddings, I couldn't handle actually looking through all of the sweet-as-wedding-cake stories but there was a funny anecdote I caught about one couple walking down the aisle to the "Star Wars" theme. Don don don don don don don don don. "Luke, HAAAAAA, resistance is futile, HHHAAAAAA, just say OK and do what she says." The show runs through September 14, 2008.

National Train Day- Get Your Choo Choo On!

Hey folks! Can you tell, I'm into public transportation? I thought it would be good to note that this upcoming Saturday, May 10 is the first-ever National Train Day. CHOO CHOO! Why May 10 you ask? Because on that day in 1869 the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways were joined to form the nation's first transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah.

You can check out lists of events happening on Saturday here. And if you're feeling adventurous, Amtrak makes it so easy to organize your own event! You can download information on how to organize as well as templates for stickers, posters and stationary. Fun, fun!

Also of note is the absolutely fabulous Train Day poster that was designed by another one of my favorite graphic artists, Michael Schwab (more on him here). I'd love (hint, hint) a limited edition, individually embossed poster of the event, but may have to settle on the regular poster as it seems the limited edition is out of stock! Sad face.

Visual Complexity

I came across this website, Visual Complexity, while I was researching information for my NYC map post. This site is fantastic! From the site: "VisualComplexity.com intends to be a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks." That would be me! Networks exist everywhere, we encounter them on different levels every moment of the day. As a designer, I am very interested in infographics and presenting complex ideas simply and beautifully; taking information and turning it into art. Several weeks ago I came upon this great post on NotCot covering artist Stefanie Posavec. Posevec created maps that illustrated patterns in literature, more specifically Jack Kerouac's "On The Road," for a exhibition entitled "On the Map." The resulting work is jaw dropping.

Posavec's work is included on Visual Complexity's site along with hundreds of others from such categories as: Art, Biology, Music, and Political Networks, to name a few. Much of this work is born out of the philosophical idea of deconstruction. The term was coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida in the 1960s; from the dictionary: "a philosophical movement and theory of literary criticism that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth; asserts that words can only refer to other words and attempts to demonstrate how statements about any text subvert their own meanings." I don't claim to be an expert in this area whatsoever, it's actually a little hard to wrap my head around, but I do find it fanscinating how this idea can tie into so many facets of graphic design. I also found this interesting explanation if you've got some time, and patience, to read it.

Some of my favorites on Visual Complexity include the following:

Another cool link to check out, which I found on Visual Complexity, is
The Shape of Song site. Enjoy!

NYC Transit (and a shout out to the Kingston Trio!)

I've moved from my Bob kick on to transit (for now anyway, I got tickets to the concert on the 16th, if you have a car would you like to go?).  I heart public transportation. I appreciate it more and more now that I don't have a car and my brother-in-law is a transit planner. Thanks Will for helping grow my enthusiasm for the T!

Vignelli's 1972 map

I thought I'd write a bit about the famed NYC transit map. In 1972, Massimo Vignelli redesigned George Salomon's subway map, which was the City's guide until then replaced in 1979 by Michael Hertz's design (which is still in use, with some modifications). Vignelli's design took some liberties (Central Park as a square?) to lay out an easy-to-read subway (not street) map. Each subway line was represented by a color, and each stop by a dot. What's not to like? Many did not appreciate the abstraction. But have no fear if you are in the first group, Men's Vogue commissioned Vignelli to update the famed '72 map. 500 signed limited-edition prints were released and sold out on May 1- bummer, heavy sigh. If you can't find a copy on eBay you can read more here or pick up the May Design issue of Men's Vogue. If you're a real collector of NYC subway maps be sure to check out this awesome site that has pictures of maps dating back to 1924!

Photo of the current map, the Kick map, and Vignelli's map

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Kick Map. From their website: "The Kick Map is a 'hybrid' concept that resolves the 50-year debate between the exclusive use of either a diagrammatic or topographic mapping of the New York City Subway...It is designed with a combination of both diagrammatic and topographic features, thus enhancing the strengths and eliminating most of the weaknesses of both types." It's easy to read and I love that you can put into context where you are in the city. This is very helpful for those of us who haven't lived their life in NYC, and probably to some people who have lived all of their life in the Big Apple.

Also, back in January, The Times had an article "Does the MetroCard Need a Makeover?" YES! But sadly, as with many large businesses, design is not the first thing on everyone's mind. Which, I guess is a good thing in this case since transporting people should be. But, and don't get me wrong I don't consider myself a Boston-girl at all even though I live here, NYC could probably take a page from the Charlie Card book.

I think that the MBTA card is cute and funny and ties in with the overall "rebranding," shall we say, of the T. Although, if you actually listen to the entire Kingston Trio song (which I have; yes I own it and enjoy a sing-a-long here and there) you come to understand that the song was written to protest a fare increase, very ironic considering the Charlie Card was introduced during a, wait for it, fare increase! "Now you citizens of Boston, Don't you think it's a scandal that the people have to pay and pay? Fight the fare increase!"