Notes and comment related to Sibley House's work and the communications industry in general.

18.October 2012

We can’t get ourselves back to the garden.

Notes on what style means, and how an aesthetic doesn’t necessarily connote a movement

I choose fonts for a living. And because I’m a straight player, I buy fonts rather than boost them, and as a result receive newsletters once a month from various foundries and other sources of type. And yesterday, I got one from FontShop, who are both an excellent foundry and a respectable syndicate for other foundries.

At any rate, this particular issue included a bit about “Hipster Type and Lettering”, which was illustrated with an image of a lovely mid-20th-century neon sign and contained this paragraph:

When in 1952 The Dahl-Beck Electric Company folks needed a sign for their new location, they didn’t approach a graphic design firm. They went to a sign shop. When they needed letterhead or business cards printed, they went to a printer. Did the marks match? No. Was that a problem? Good question. Practitioners of hipster design would argue no. When a company’s design consistency is a lesser priority, that means other things take higher priority, like showing up to the…

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02.March 2010

Joe Jost: a tribute.

A Long Beach, California tavern offers one of the few remaining legitimate tests of character

The grand façade of Joe Jost, Long Beach, California.

I’m in Long Beach – for what seems to be the rest of my life – working for General Motors. The hours are long and the rewards are spotty, but one of them has to be my introduction to the venerable neighborhood tavern Joe Jost’s, by the agency of my old friend Ronnie “The Sloth” Mendoza, a photographer1 and lifelong resident of these parts.

Some background: I’m staying at The Avia Hotel, which is near the marina and is very nice. It is, however, located in a shopping mall, or one of those modern outdoor equivalents that are designed to look like small towns. Very clean, very pleasant and indistinguishable from any other modern outdoor shopping experience in any other comparable city in the nation. Moreover, there is house music playing everywhere in and around the hotel around the clock (with the exception a dead zone near the parking garage where I take my morning coffee and tobacco).

Beyond earshot of the hotel, the mall’s sound system takes over and I can enjoy being…

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14.September 2008


How long do objects hold memory? And at what point does honest sentiment become sentimentality?

I spent the weeks following my father’s death cleaning out my attic. I mean this in the literal sense: I deal with loss using a method that is derived in equal parts from both of my parents: like my mother, I brood when no one else is around. When I am with others, I detach, compartmentalize and push on through, like my father. But though I was alone during this time – my wife and daughter were in New York attending to one of my wife’s projects – the cleansing of the attic was an exercise of the second sort: a physical activity meant to shove feeling aside, where it can safely be forgotten.

This is the logic of the hoarder: like many in my line of work, I hoard. If you work in design, you probably believe, as I do, that no scrap is without potential. Old drawings, books bought for one-time research, pictures that may have seen service in some job and others that survived because of some undefinable interest. Old toys. Samples of work. I have financial records reaching back to…

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25.June 2008

Smaller is better.

The Portland Art Museum's narrower, more focused view of regional contemporary art satisfies fewer artists, but makes for a good exhibition

The Portland Art Museum’s first Contemporary Northwest Art Awards soft-opened a week ago Saturday (the official public opening is later in July, though you can – and should – go see the show now). It’s an uncommonly strong exhibition; in fact, I can’t remember a denser or more interesting contemporary show in my twenty-odd years of attending the museum. During the preview, I felt as if I might be at the Henry in Seattle: historically, PAM has had a timid hand when it came to contemporary work, regional or otherwise. So: kudos to Jennifer Gately, the museum’s young curator of Northwest art, who put it together; and especially to Whiting Tennis (who took home the first Schnitzer Prize), Jeffry Mitchell, Dan Attoe, Cat Clifford, and our own Marie Watt, each of whom put together disciplined, considered and largely brand-new bodies of work in almost no time (six months is nothing when you work at the scale that these people do).

The critics have had their say, and although…

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18.May 2008

Old brands never die, dammit.

Notes on popular culture as homeostasis

Rob Walker has a piece in this morning’s Times Magazine about companies who purchase the rights to dead brands – e.g., Brim decaffeinated coffee, Underalls, Eagle Snacks – and revivify them. The brands return to market, however, having first been updated: the plan for Brim is to contain a full portfolio of coffee-related drinks, caffeinated and non-, because consumers – while remembering the brand name well – have apparently forgotten that it was a decaffeinated brand.

I’m the kind of guy who flips through old magazines and thinks, Ah, hell. Why can’t a fella buy a box of Quisp anymore? I wouldn’t think twice about Quisp if it were still on the shelves [Actually, it’s back, too. —Ed.]. And though I remember my mum buying Brim, I wouldn’t think about it at all if it hadn’t been name-checked in the Beasties’ Root Down. But here’s what bugs me: the complete separation from the brand and the product, which seems … well, cynical. Mr. Walker’s subjects refer to the return of…

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18.April 2008

An Oregon writer.

A reflection on the 101st birthday of Northwest author and accidental feminist Evelyn Sibley Lampman

Today is the Oregon writer Evelyn Sibley Lampman’s 101st birthday. She was a remarkable woman: the only child of a country lawyer, Lampman graduated in 1929 from Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) and moved to Portland, where she became a respected and award-winning copywriter for KEX radio. In 1934, she married into what passed in those days for a celebrated literary family: her husband, Herbert Sheldon Lampman, was Fish & Wildlife editor for the Oregonian; his father, the theatrically-named Ben Hur Lampman, ran the Oregonian‘s editorial page and was our state’s first Poet Laureate.1 But writing, to that family, was man’s work: After marriage, she left her job and was forbidden to drive; her new husband thought operating an automobile unseemly for a woman.

A publicity image of Evelyn Sibley Lampman, probably from around 1945.

A publicity still of Evelyn Sibley Lampman, probably taken in the mid-1940s, when she was making the transition from radio writer to novelist.

Widowed at 35, with six- and three-year-old daughters…

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