Design inspiration: the Thermos

I love a good vintage Thermos. They usually have great graphics and logos representative of the era they were made. I also like them for the fact that a vintage thermos has usually been somebody's workplace companion for many years. There's something interesting there. I used to have way more, with the 70s, 50s and 60s represented (it gets boring after that), but somewhere along the way I got rid of a bunch. Now I have only a few, which are headed out the door to make way for whatever is next.

Design inspiration: Random vintage junk

I keep a pile of cool things that can kick start a design idea if I'm in a void. These things start to stack up, so I occasionally employ catch and release practices and send them back into the world for others to discover. If I'm smart I'll take a photo before they go. I guess I've been smart, because here are a few random items, some vintage others just old. I love the Best Test Rubber Cement can too much to not include it.

Design inspiration: Leaves

Sometimes it's good to stop and look around. I did this yesterday in my front yard, and found an amazing abundance of shapes and textures. Props to the gardener who makes it all happen. Probably way better than a rusty car hanging over your head.

Design inspiration: Build your own car

Found images pulled from bringatrailer.com. Something about these shots just looked so cool together. I'm really tempted to buy the body, hang it on a wall and just enjoy the decay. (or maybe mount it on the ceiling...) Plus I'm really perplexed about the green and yellow flags. Freaks me out if I go there for too long.


Shaun Tan's work is amazing

My dad is a great finder of cool stuff. He’s a constant explorer, digging through mounds of music, books, art, cooking techniques, spices, and so on to find something new and interesting. A random drop by might find him cooking Moroccan food to Okinawan pop, or solving physics problems to Ry Cooder’s Chavez Ravine. The latest thing he shared with me was the work of Shaun Tan, an Australian illustrator whose work is powerful, beautifully detailed and wonderfully off center.

He’s got a long history of great work, but he’s new to me. As soon as I opened the first book, it blew me away. He ranges stylistically a bit, but there's a consistent synthesis of future and past, plus a loving care for details, fonts, misfits, creatures and humanity. His book The Arrival is remarkable in the way it conveys the experience of coming to a new land and culture. It's truly epic, and to think of the work it took to produce is astounding. He’s also recently released a collection of some of his shorter stories, which includes his wonderful meditation on depression/artistic struggle/life, The Red Tree.

Tan has done a great amount of sharing around his process, and there's some really honest and engaging writing about the creative process and all the failures, successes and work that come through it. I’ve excerpted some of his quotes as picture captions below, but you should really go check out his site, spend some time reading and look at some amazing pictures.

Some of his books. First found in the library and now being converted to private ownership. As he says,
“Good ideas don’t just turn up, you have to go looking for them.” His books are a source of much inspiration.

A detail from inside one of his works. Says Tan, “Research - reading, looking at pictures, playing with different media - provides freedom from the creative paralysis that comes with infinite possibility. I need specific points of reference to develop ideas, and also a kind of resistance to my own stylistic ‘default settings’ so that I think outside the usual circles, and actually learn something new.” Bottle caps, words, charts and drawings indeed.

A spread from within his epic Arrival. Says Tan of the process, “I know I’m on the right track when there is a sense of unfamiliarity about what I’m doing, that I’m actually being surprised by the way mixed drawings and words make their own novel sense.”


Patterns: the two car garage

Last February I took a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend a funeral. My sis had moved into a mid 70s neighborhood after many years in the less suburban avenues neighborhood. I noticed an abundance of two car garages of a similar design and it kind of freaked me out. Here's a few.


Has your lawn been mowed?

This is not a metaphor. This is not something you should ask yourself before you pursue a creative endeavor. This is not the title of my new book. This is not code. This is not ironic. This is not a dirty joke. This is not the next big thing. This is not the name of a band. This is not the start of the revolution. This is not relevant to many people. This is not the tipping point. This is not art. This is not the end of the world as we know it. This is not a lyric from a song. This is not fake. This is not an underground campaign for a major brand trying to establish street credibility. This does not rhyme. This is not an internet meme. This is not an inside joke. This is not the mantra of a secret cult. This is not the tip of the iceberg. This is not the start of something big.

It is just a question a signboard asked me this morning. Feel free to answer honestly.