This "Arc of a Career" was first put together in the spring of 2002, while on the national board of directors of AIGA, in response to a request to map a career path, to show students one way that a career may go. This "arc" does not address the nature of "lessons learned." Even the causal observer will note cause and effect, and rather interesting crossroads.
Kindergarten teacher accuses mom of drawing a pirate that I copied from the "Captain Bob" show. Penchant for earrings, funny hats & eyepatch begins. Mom reads me Dr. Seuss; demented desert scenes. Three Stooges and the Honeymooners on tv. JFK shot and I come home from kindergarten to inform mom.
Folks split up and on weekends dad starts taking us to the movies. Lawrence of Arabia becomes eyeopening to a little kid. Other memorable films include The Defiant Ones, which informed me of race relations. Cool Hand Luke became the morality tale of right and wrong. "What we have here is a failure to communicate!" The path is set.
First grade class does 3-D art projects: I make an African hut of clay and sticks; a papier mache volcano that erupts vinegar and baking soda. Lead wagon-pulling kids on Frontier Day, wearing coonskin cap, in Lexington, Massachusetts.
5th grade. Mom gives me a kid's version of Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey. I fall in love with maps, history, myth, lettering and the flat graphic style the book is illustrated in. Travel across the U.S. to Texas and Mexico with dad. More maps. Love travel. Keep journal.
Do written/illustrated reports on the Alamo and Wyatt Earp.
Mom gives me my first record, a Beatles 45rpm, "Lady Madonna," backed with the obscure Indian-raga inflected "The Inner Light." I love it. In art, we are given one-inch square sponges and paint. I make a grid pattern of color and call it "The Inner Light." Teacher looks at me quizzically.
Mom buys me Beatles "Revolver" album, which sets course (unknowingly) for all aspects of musical, artistic, theological(!) exploration.
Dad takes brother and I to see "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." Opening graphics are amazing, as is Ennio Morricone's score. And of course the morality and its setting in the American Southwest scars me for life.
TV western, The Guns of Will Sonnet, with Walter Brennan, teaches me about humility and hubris, although I know neither word. The quckest draw around, when folks taunt or question him on his presumed prowess, he answers: "No brag, just fact." Other tv shows: Branded!, the Rifleman, Gunsmoke, Wanted Dead or Alive, Zorro. Notice a thread?
1st trip to Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archeaeology & Ethnology, my favorite museum.
6th grade. Rat Fink influence. I meet artist Big Daddy Roth three decades later. Use the goofy alphabet stickers that come with goofy cards and bubble gum to spell S-E-X on my brown paper bookcover as they are the only letters I have. Mom has me make new bookcover. Dad takes me to see "The Wild Bunch," which inevitably leads to the love of cross-cultures, the juxtapostion of old and new technologies, and "who you make a promise to!" Lisa Aurilio is my first girlfriend.
7th grade. In letterpress class(!), I make my first business card, which reads:
111 FRANKLIN STREET
ARLINGTON, MASS. 01730
CALL ANYTIME, FOR
Flush left, rag right, over centered aliteration. I stick it in a few girl's lockers. Land role in school production of "Lord of the Flies." Stare at covers of Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Abbey Road, Let it Be, over and over and over and over. While absorbing the message. "Say the word, and you'll be free . . ."
8th grade. Using construction paper, make life-size cutouts of Achilles and Hector, copied from The Iliad. Editor of school newsletter. Do illustrated science reports on sharks, UFOs, spacecraft. Role of Demetrius in Midsummer Nights Dream. Get copy of Rolling Stones "Sticky Finger." Cover design by Andy Warhol.
9th grade. Report on marijuana, typed on lined paper, utilizes marijuana leaf icons by folio. No art in high school: too busy taking "college" classes. Read profusely.
Act in Pajama Game, Sandbox, Our Town, others, in high school and local Arlington Friends of the Drama. Fellow actor gives me an old copper printing plate, as I think it looks cool. It is still in my studio.
Start playing guitar in first band. We suck, but play at parties, youth centers and the closing bankruptcy for a local chain store. I learn that even depressed people will dance to a good beat.
Discover the work of Aubrey Beardsley, Frank Frazetta, Salvadore Dali, and N.C. Wyeth.
Buy first vehicle: 1967 Econoline long-bed van, for $150. The road is at my feet.
Graduate from high school in Bedford, Massachusetts, right between Lexington and Concord and right in the middle of the Spirit of '76.
Out of youthful indecision (and what I much later learn is fear/lack of confidence) do not decide to study acting or literature, but instead go to local community college to study business. Because my girlfriend's dad was a businessman. I do take an "Introduction to Graphic Design" class with Prof. Choudry, of India and the Museum of Fine Arts. Transcendental!
Weekends at the Harvard Square Theatre find me regulary watching "Casablanca." See "The Harder They Come" at the Orson Welles Theatre in Cambridge enough times to care.
Blow off b-school and contemplate art or music. Attend Berklee College of Music and study composing, arranging, and harmony. Leave after a year, as I feel like a rock and roller in a jazz school. And besides, these are the heady days of punk rock. Play rock and punk clubs of Boston and vicinity. Most noteworthy club, though not highest profile, was The Rat. Years later, they call the stuff we were playing post-punk. Paint contractor by day, with a small crew working for me.
Audition for a band called Moving Parts, that later turns into Mission of Burma. At the audition, to separate the wheat from the chaff, they play the first album by Pere Ubu, the Modern Dance. A few days later Pere Ubu plays at The Rat. I rip an album cover off the wall in the stairwell. Still have the cover, it inspired me to later tell students "Make them want to steal your work." Design band flyers and record sleeves. Play in bands that open for The Specials, Captain Beefheart, Gil Scott Heron, Mission of Burma.
After a Tubes concert at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston, I hitckhike that night directly to Washington, D.C. to attend a rally protesting nuclear power and the recent Three Mile Island catastrophe.
Someone gives me both a kalimba (African thumb harp) and a copy of American ex-pat Paul Bowles' definitive novel The Sheltering Sky. Phenomenal read, sublime cover art.
Find E. McKnight Kauffer calender, from MoMA, in dumpster by my Boston apartment (see RANTS on this site). See connection between Beardsley's work and mid-18th Century Japanese prints, which I love. Discover the work of Eric Gill, typographer, stonecutter, and all-around interesting guy, start to dig Frank Lloyd Wright.
For grins, take a Continuing Ed class at Massachusetts College of Artt, skipping the prerequisite. Get interested in design history.
Hang up music career path, as I see too many starving, and not enough people willing to commit to the band.
See exhibit of Aubrey Beardsley at Harvard's Fogg Art Muesum. Check out how he scratched ink, used white-out (so to speak) and made mistakes.
Attend MassArt full time. At age 25, I'm older than most other students. And more focused. Cram 4-year program into 3 years (a benefit of having been around the block a few times). Live, eat, breathe, and shit design. I love it.
Became president of student-run, non-profit studio, Design Research Unit. Do senior thesis project: "A Means to and End: Visual Communication of the 4-Corners Region of the United States," after documenting petroglyphs and pictographs with team of archeologists/researchers in Utah and vicinity.
Design poster for local Milton Glaser lecture/exhibit. He signs it for me! Attend Design Management Institute (founded my my identity prof. Bill Hannon) conference, on Martha's Vineyard, as intern. Knock back a few gin and tonics with current director Earl Powell. Meet Apple Computer wunderkind Clement Mok; same age as me. Got some catching up to do.
Meet Milton Glaser at MassArt, as I am awarded job of designing poster for his exhibit. Just before graduation, department chair says "if you ever want to teach, come on back." Hunh? Graduate. Become member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)) - #003149 - so as to continue my education. Get married.
String of jobs: Fortune 500 boutique, industrial design studio, interactive computer graphics for museums. Do pro-bono, freelance work between jobs.
Attend first design conference: "On the Edge" at the Grand Canyon. Intimate affair of 200 people, amazing location, sharp people. Meet Woody Pirtle, Joe Duffy, Chuck Anderson (same age as me!). Just regular guys. That happen to be killer designers.
Design my first poster with computer, which I then silkscreen, for performance by Laurie Anderson, with Burma' Roger Miller opening. To benefit the Boston Film/Video Foundation, at Berklee Performance Center. Several paths of mine overlapping on that evening.
Join ABC-TV affiliate WCVB, Boston. Their logo has been designed by Lance Wynam of NYC, whom I meet in 2001 in Tijuana, Mexico of all places. Sorry, I'm jumping ahead.
Steady gig, steady pay, baby Rebecka on the way. Department heads think I'm Design Director, but I'm Assistant Design Director. As no one knows what that means, when I redesign the identity, my new card reads "Design Shaman." The company, owned by the Hearst Corporation, is run like no design studio or corporate design department I know. I implement standards, meetings, procedures.
Step down from MassArt alumnae board to serve on AIGA Boston board. When I ask chapter prez why I was asked, she says "you're the only one who signed up for every committee." So that's how it works. Asked to teach corporate identity, as adjunct prof. at New England School of Art & Design by fellow AIGA board member. Alma mater hears that and offers me adjunct position.
Nice drive to Montreal takes me to ICOGRADA Socio-cultural Convergence. Nice to be surrounded by creative minds from around the world. ICOGRADA = International Council of Graphic Design Associations.
Attend first AIGA retreat in Breckinridge. Meet long-lost brother DJ Stout. We close the bars. Attend regional AIGA retreats in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Realize great design (hello Bill Gardner!) is everywhere: location not important. Also realize that less-than-stellar designers are in business for themselves. Hmmm.
Quit TV station as job has been tired for years: too cyclical. No clients, no money: open studio, with same name that I use when answering phone at TV station, "Design . . ."
Get poster in ACD 100 show, for wrong reason as they accept make-ready sheet I've sent along for grins. Realize that it's a beauty pageant. Write them letter saying so. Same poster goes in museum in Germany. Working out of basement of house.
Judge first design show: Cleveland rocks! Become prez AIGA Boston. Realize that teaching design history must start with understanding own history.
Start AIGA B.o.N.E. Show (Best of New England).
Nasty divorce. Move to Texas. Start life over.
Am asked to write book on logos. I say no, will write one on identity, which encompasses more. Fight over title of book. I win.
Help start AIGA Austin chapter. Who has presidential experience? I do. Start teaching again at Southwest Texas State University.
MassArts Mass Arts: Art in the Marketplace, a communication design exhibition, featuring the work of 23 alumni from 1944-1996.
My book comes out: Designing Identity: Graphic Design as a Business Strategy. Publisher likes title so much that subsequent volume - which I do not author - has essentially same title. Funny how success makes one forget the earlier go-'rounds. Stop teaching; start lecturing; more judging. Start lecturing on The Way of the Design Shaman. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright's studio in Chicago. Paint my studio same gold/green color scheme.
Join national board of directors of AIGA, having already served as president of two chapters.
Am asked to lead workshops, lectures at Guatemala's first design conference. Sure! See hand-made Nike logos down there: kids just want to belong to the tribe.
Offered opportunity to open L.A. office of Miami studio, but after a week in Guatemala, decide Austin is half-way between the two. Stay. No work for two months. Subsequently land identity project for Paris-based software company. Realize conference calls are great if one is wearing flip-flops and bathing suit, Austin-style. Hire three full-time staff.
Play guitar in nightclub where I'm to give a lecture: has career come full-circle? Lecture less on corporate identity, and more on developing one's own identity, based on personal design history.
Start AIGA Austin's Design Ranch, a national design retreat modeled after 1st conference I attended back in '88. Invite heroes Woody Pirtle and Joe Duffy as workshop leaders, whom I met at that conference. A circle closes. Visit Frank Lloyd Wright's studio in Scottsdale. Play on three of the five pianos there.
Twenty years later, fulfill my literary (The Sheltering Sky) and cinematic (Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia) goals of wandering through Morocco and continuing my nomadic ways. Join board of directors of Austin Film Society.
Have an exhibit of my work at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, in Mexico City, at the request of Felix Beltran, a leading Mexican designer/educator.
Perform first play in 25 years, an old Sam Sheppard number, Back Bog Beast Bait, where I get lead role: a mercenary gunslinger dreaming of 'the ranch, the wife, the kid' and hired to kill the beast of the Apocolypse, in a Louisansa bayou. And then I turn into coyote. Essentially play myself.
Realize that one of my prime purposes is to inspire others, to open eyes and minds as my parents and educators and friends and heroes did for me. And enjoy life in the process.
Layoff full-time staff as economy hits the skids. Back to 100% interns.
AIGA holds annual retreat in Austin. Opening party at my studio. There was no AIGA chapter when I moved here. When I went to my first AIGA retreat in '92 I only knew the folks from Boston, so things have changed, as many who attend now know or know of me. Communication Arts juror.
Land first of several projects for The Criterion Collection, top producers of the best dvds, best film directors in the country/world. Recommended by director Richard LInklater, with whom I became associated as I am on the board of directors of the Austin Film Society, which Rick started back in 1985.
Trip across the southwest with my daughter brings us back to the Four Corners, 19 years after I did my research there. She is face to face with glyphs at Chaco Canyon, horseback thru Monument Valley, and under the stars at Muley Point, Utah. Full circle in many ways. Only better.
Back to Boston for AIGA conference, after 10 years in Austin. Along with Milton Glaser (whom I met in '86), Massimo Vignelli (with whom I studied in '91) I host a breakfast discusssion group first day of conference. How did I get here?
Return to Austin to find note from woman, 15 years in biz, that read my words in Inspirability, which came out in June. She finds strength to go on, almost cries. Same for me. Re-work presentation, change from The Way of the Design Shaman to Perspective, having been asked to speak in Colorado, where I had attended my first AIGA retreat, thirteen year earlier, when I knew nobody and few knew me.
Skulk around the Port Clyde, Maine studio of the late, great N.C. Wyeth, MassArt class of 1899.
Invited to join Appleton Coated Papers advisory council.
Bottom line: the early influences remain with one and can be nurtured.
December. I give the mayor a call as I need to pick his brains. We're acquaintances, not drinking buddies. His people call my people: Can I meet him at such-and-such Irish bar at 4.30pm? I get there early - a fake Irish bar, with nic-naks brought over from the equivilent of an Irish Bennigans or Irish TGIF. A lot of people like the place - real Micks behind the bar [I'm Irish, so I can write that]. But having spent time in the REAL Irish pubs of Boston, it's just not the same.
I think back to my days at Massachusetts College of Art, and the occasion straying from my studies to join my friends for a draught in the smoke-stained environs where generations had tipped pints long before me.
Then: Art/design student, sitting in smoky Irish pub, nursing a beer, wondering about my future.
Now: A 20 year professional, some-time professor, sitting in a fake Irish bar with paint the color of smoke-tanned white, waiting to shoot the bull with the mayor and get his take on my trying to get the largest private art school in the country - the Academy of Art Univerisity, of San Francisco - to open an Austin campus. Not a long way from Tipperary, but a long way from Boston and still wondering about my future. But all in all, not bad.
Start teaching in the graduate program on-line at the Academy of Art, having gone out to San Francisco the month before to sit down with the prez and chat. End up with students from Korea to Pennsylvania.
At AAU final reviews, in May, meet actor/athlete Jim Brown, and explain how for the past several years have used his film The Dirty Dozen to explain the notion of inter-dependance to my students. He approves.
Speak at the HOW Design Conference, more than a decade after I attend the '94 HOW gig in Boston. Back then I became personally acquainted with Chuck Anderson, the brothers Smith of Seattle, and David Carson. Now I hear people saying the best talks came from Chip Kidd and myself. Of course I don't kid myself that the best WORK came from me - but we have to embrace what positive things come our way. After my talk am invited to speak in South Africa and India (the week before got an invite to Ecuador). First day back to work and I have nine at-risk kids (13-18) in with their counselors to talk about what goes on here. Brings me right back to earth.
Begin work on the sole, lone, definitive book on the Indigenous Art of Coahuila, by Dr. Solveig Turpin, an archelogist at the University of Texas, bringing my 1985 research on petroglyphs and pictographs full-circle.
Finding we are birds of a feather, director Monte Hellman checks in and sings our praises for packaging we'd done for the re-release of his existential American road film, Two Lane Blacktop.
Start the year teaching for a week at UDEM - the Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico. Met prof Marcos Garridos in Apr 07, at Design Ranch (which I'd started back in '99) in Hunt, Texas, when he brings 20 of his students up for the design retreat. Two more weeks to go with UDEM over the course of the semester. Viva Mexico!
Almost 13 years after moving to Austin, I end up as the cover story of the Austin Chronicle: "English As a 2nd Language".
Seventeen years ago, Christmas 1991, am driving from San Antonio to Austin, as at that time there are no direct flights from Dallas to Austin. Going to try to find work. A dark and rainy night, I see a sign that reads "San Marcos." Something about the name that I like, and I'm hungry, to I pull in to eat. I see nothing of San Marcos, but a small town.
Ten years ago, 1998, after having taught in San Marcos for two years, often taking my class down to the San Marcos river and teaching class along the grassy banks I am not invited back to teach. I think it is because I made a stink about last minute students not being allowed to take my typography class before they graduate, with no type under their belts. Rumor offers other reasons. Students under my direction start the Southwest Texas State University chapter of AIGA, even though tenured faculty suggest their will be an AIGA chapter "when pigs fly".
So . . . 17 years after that burger, ten years after my book comes out and I'm no longer teaching at what is now Texas State University, the 11-year-old student chapter invites me down to speak. To extend the story, when I pulled in to fill my belly in search of a job in Austin, hardly imagined San Marcos playing any role in my career. Which leads to . . .
In 1993, when I start my business I have joined every design organization: AIGA, the Broadcast Design Association (BDA), The American Center of Design, and the Society of Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD), as I'm involved in several aspects of design.
In 2000 am invited to join a panel at the BDA conference in New Orleans.
This year I am asked to moderate a panel at the SEGD conference in Austin. Then I find it's more than just moderating a panel, but actually being the intro act to set the tone for the conference on opening day. A far cry from sitting in my basement studio in Lexington, Massachusetts, and going thru SEGD materials to figure out a signage job. I could never have imaged that 15 years later the director of SEGD would be sitting in my Austin studio telling me why it was suggested that I best captured the spirit of Austin and best exemplified the theme of the conference: Interplay.
A strange world, no?