About Sibley House

What Sibley House does, how we do it, and who's responsible.

Sibley House are designers …

We make things to help other people tell stories: books, collateral systems, complex brand executions and websites. But these things are only the artifacts of what we do. Design is a process of learning, thinking, talking, listening, planning, writing (and editing); and, of course, making, all in service to story. Story is root, branch, leaf, and blossom. And good design ends in the revelation of that story in a way that is not merely clever or engaging, but inevitable. That’s what we’re looking for.

… and publishers

We make things for ourselves, and other people who may be interested: original books and other artifacts – printed and digital – concerning subjects that interest us, focusing on but not limited to the culture and history of the Pacific Northwest. Why the Northwest? Well, as the old saw goes, write what you know. But beyond the glamour of the tall bikes and food carts and vegan strip joints, this is a strange and thoughtful place. You can see some of these things in our projects section.

About the name, and the crow

Sibley House is named in honor of two women: Evelyn Sibley Lampman (1907–1980), a Northwest author, historian, and single mother who raised and educated two daughters by writing over fifty meticulously researched novels for young people; and her mother, Harriett Bronson Sibley (1873–1940), a rural autodidact and genealogist who taught herself to read Latin and Greek by mail order.

Driven by curiosity – of place, of other cultures, of history – these women did uncommon things in a time when women were expected, and in some cases required, not to. They did not ask permission.

Our device is the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), a noisy bird characterized by curiosity, intelligence, and long memory. Crows scavenge; they hoard; they make their own tools.

Crows are also common as rainwater here; but ours was drawn by our friend Paul Mort, whose roots in the Northwest run deep and in fact intertwine with our own. Binfords and Mort, the venerable publisher of books about the Northwest, was founded by his grandfather, run by his father, and during that time published the books of Herbert and Ben-hur Lampman, Evelyn Sibley Lampman's husband and father-in-law, respectively.

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Contact information

Sibley House is currently located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Southeast Portland. By far the easiest way to raise us is via e-mail, though carefully handwritten letters are always appreciated.

Shipping address
3806 Southeast 10th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97202
Speak to a live person
503-267-3867
E-mail
info@sibleyhouse.com
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Working for us

We're always looking for good people to work with: writers, designers, producers, planners, strategists, coders, animators, photographers, illustrators. If you are one of those people, and you like what we do, then we want to know you. Drop us a line at work@sibleyhouse.com.

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Working with us

This would be a good place for a diagram of our proprietary process. We don’t have one. We work in the same way as everyone else: yes, there's a discovery phase, and a planning phase, and so on. But their shapes are organic and the lines between them can be blurry, as in all enterprises undertaken by humans. And as much as we’d like to codify everything into a neat, measurable package, there's a lot of intuition and luck involved. Design is the product of human relationships, which are not necessarily neat and measurable. There are only a handful of principles that we know apply to all engagements. Here they are:

  1. Making something good is hard work. This doesn't mean it can’t be fun, or mostly fun; and we pride ourselves on close, long-standing client relationships. But commitment has to be complete on both sides of the table. A project always ends up being more work than you may have wanted. We're going to push you. You're going to push us. Neither of us is always going to like it.

  2. Sometimes it can help to know how to build a clock, even if you only want to know the time. Our clients don’t hire us to be a set of hands: like any consultant – an attorney, an accountant – we’re there because we offer a specialized set of skills, and because we see a client’s business from a point of view that they don’t – or can’t – have. To wit: we will never know as much about your business as you do. That’s a good thing. As outsiders, we perceive your story more like your audience will, and we can find ways to get to that audience that you may not have considered.

    A small example. We once worked on a public affairs project where the brief called for a busboard campaign as one of its components. Out-of-home advertising is necessarily broad in message, because you can never tell who is going to see it. And it’s expensive, because in order to get decent reach, your media buy has to be pretty big. But we noticed that the client already knew who they needed to reach – about 30,000 people out of a metro area of 1.5 million – and they knew who and where those people were. Instead of the busboard campaign, we recommended a more detailed direct mail piece targeted at those 30,000 people. Much cheaper, and much more effective.

  3. You can’t work from the bottom up. There are stakeholders and there are stakeholders, but on any given project there are only a couple of people to whom the outcome really matters. Those people have to be onboard, engaged, and available throughout the project.

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Staff

Adam McIsaac
Director

A sixth-generation Oregonian, Adam McIsaac was born into a newspaper family. His maternal great-grandfather, the grandly named Ben-hur Lampman, was editorial page editor for the Oregonian and the state’s second poet laureate. His mother and maternal grandfather also worked for the paper; and his maternal grandmother was a Peabody Award-winning writer for early radio and the author of over fifty novels for young adults. His father was a sportswriter for AP and later ran the communications department at Pacific Power & Light.

McIsaac cut his teeth designing annual reports for Fortune 500 companies for Thom Smith, and co-founded the Portland brand development firms The Felt Hat and Pinch. He later served as a creative director for the New York-based brand turnaround office Johnson+Wolverton, where he helped pitch, win and execute rebrands of Cadillac and Comedy Central as well as other projects for the Lincoln Motor Company, Showtime Networks and others.

He returned to Portland in 2013, where he lives in the Brooklyn neighborhood with his wife, the sculptor Marie Watt, and their daughters Maxine and Evelyn.

Selected collaborators

Over the last twenty-odd years, we’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with some remarkable people. Here's a list of many of them, with a brief blurb for each, as well as their personal links should you want to get to know them better. And you should.

Keira Alexandra
Creative director, designer, mother hen, mensch. Preternaturally social, yet social media-averse.
Jaime Barrett
Designer, typographer, researcher, teacher. Good-humored, meticulous, thoughtful.
Kyle Barron-Cohen
Writer, strategist, namer of things, digital enthusiast, wag.
Patrik Bolecek
Creative director, designer, filmmaker, living link to the 1920s Central European avant-garde.
Ian Boyle
Pathologically cheerful, inexhaustible, socially conscious art director and designer.
Mark Conahan
Designer, teacher, illustrator, activist, cartoonist.
Gene Ehrbar
Polymathic developer and mobile evangelist.
Neil J. Gust
Celebrated film editor and indie rock godfather. Yes, that Neil Gust.
Eric Hillerns
Designer, design impresario (founder of Design Week Portland), outdoorsman, boulevardier, gastronome.
Peter Jennings
Photographer, cinematographer, director, master sergeant.
Johnson+Wolverton
New York-based brand boutique focused on turnarounds. Takes no prisoners; takes no shit.
Alicia Johnson
Strategist, creative director, writer; Blessed Mother of all creatives.
Joe Johnson
Celebrated composer, sound designer, bassist. Once ran away to join the circus.
Michael Jones
A consummate craftsman, and the Swiss Army Knife of Portland photographers.
Kiffer Keegan
Animator, designer, Kennedyesque Texan – and all that implies.
Jerry Ketel
Streets-educated advertising creative director. Social strategist. Gadfly.
Timothy Leigh
Writer, orator, scribe, bullshit detector. Master of the imperative.
Paul Mort
Genial, avuncular designer and illustrator of apparently unlimited range.
Eron Otcasek
Film editor with a natural sense of narrative, and of wonder.
Allison Pickard
Even-keeled, good-humored and conscientious producer. Puppeteer, amateur meteorologist.
Pinch
Portland-based brand development firm founded by Eric Hillerns and Adam McIsaac.
Meticulous print producer with deep expertise in printing in Asia.
Mark Reber
A marcom who gets it. Also: writer, cyclist, outdoorsman, sybarite.
Thom Smith
Designer and businessman of the old school, now retired.
Hal Wolverton
Director, designer, machine.

Selected clients

We try to choose clients based upon the strength of our human relationships with them as well as our interest in their objectives. We’ve worked at every scale and budget, from tiny brochures to sprawling, multinational brands, from short-run works of literature to mass-market broadcast identities. Here are a few of the organizations with whom we've had the honor of working, linked to projects on this site when possible.

AMC Networks
Sundance TV website re-skin
Beverly Warren-Leigh
Red Letter Days
Black & Company
Brand development
DirecTV
The Audience Network identity
Excellent Gentlemen
Music packaging
Fios, Inc.
Brand development
Ford Motor Company
Lincoln “Feel Smarter” print campaign
Gardenburger
1996 Annual Report
General Motors
Cadillac brand development
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Marie Watt: Lodge
Hawthorne Books
Design for book covers
House style
Int'l Male
Brand development
Marie Watt Studio
Forget-me-not: Mothers & Sons
Identity
Marylhurst University
Heather Watkins: Recurrent Work
Metro Regional Government
Multifamily recycling resource guide
Recycle at Work
MTV Networks
Comedy Central on-air identity
Northwest Film Center
Festival circulars
Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife
Access: Oregon
Oregon Humanities
Web development
Magazine redesign (proposed)
Portland Brewing Co.
1996 Annual Report
Portland Center Stage
Web development
Robert Dozono
Accumulation
Showtime Networks
Showtime Extreme on-air identity
Sibley House
Admonitions useful to a spiritual life
Artist's books
Smith & Fong
Web development
The Forest Park Conservancy
Brand development
Triangular Press
Half-life