Since this week’s Sunday Type was focused on Czech Type, it reminded me that I have been meaning to post about this site for a while now: The Little Czech Primer.
In my “spare” time, I’ve been trying to learn more Czech. There doesn’t seem to be as many resources for learning Czech on the web (if anyone knows of a good podcast, let me know), but in my searching, I stumbled across this little gem. LCP is basically a cute little flash card site, and I really like the simple illustrations:
When your mouse hovers over the word, you see its English equilivent. What fun, simple line drawings! I’m not sure if they are original to the site, or pulled from other language resources (some seem to have Russian in the background). It reminds me of some of the fun illustrations that were in my German textbooks while in school: wouldn’t a foreign language book be a fun project?
This past month, my family went up to Nebraska for a family reunion. Although I’ve shared the German-love in past posts, I’m actually more Czech than German. The region of Nebraska that both sides of my family are from was heavily settled by Czechs during the late 1800’s, and they brought not only their language, religion, and delicious food, but also a wealth of culture. In fact, you can still hear the cadence of spoken Czech in the way some small towns pronounce their English.
The reunion was held in a small community center belonging to the local church where I snapped some pics of these amazing velvet banners:
The banner in red is for the Society of St. Lucy, while the gray banner is for the Rosary Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both were used in parades, etc. What amazing embroidery! They’ve both held up well over the past century.
Also displayed were these beautifully lettered/illustrated certificates:
Unfortunately, they were a little faded from age and the sun, and when I took the picture, I couldn’t get rid of the glare from the glass. The more elaborate one was labelled as a proof of insurance, but I’m not sure that was labeled correctly: I think it has something to do with the Catholic Workman chapter. The middle one on the right wasn’t as old, but also wasn’t labeled.
Coming up later this week: Weekly Reader and my thoughts on Wallâ€¢E
After a short break, the Summer Interview Series is back for Round 2! This week, we’re featuring Eric Nyffeler of Doe-Eyed. After discovering Eric’s work through a friend earlier this summer,Â I noticed that he just so happens to be based out of Lincoln, Nebraska…which the honorary-Nebraskan in me loves. Doe-Eyed’s gig posters have been featured in numerous magazines and blogs including Print, HOW, and For Print Only, and also honored by both the AIGA and Addy Awards. Eric was kind enough to participate in this year’s interview series, so without further ado…
Many claim that cutting edge design only happens in the big cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, etc. Yet there seems to be a growing design scene in the Heartland (Design Ranch, Tad Carpenter and Hammerpress of my hometown, Kansas City, spring to mind). What are your thoughts on this? Have you felt being located in Nebraska has affected your career for better or worse?
I think the design scene in the Midwest is very focused on craft and tangible creations. There are more screen-printing and letterpress shops and handmade paper mills than I can count. While some people might argue that letterpress and screen-printing are hardly CUTTING EDGE, I’d argue the cyclical nature of art has pushed handmade objects back to the foreground. We’re all so fucking tired of Flash animations and animated websites and Youtube videos. However, the other side of the coin is that all that technology that we’re already grown so sick of has also helped level the design playing field across America. No one really cares that I’m in Nebraska or thinks I’m any less “hip” than any Los Angelan. I’m also not going to scoff at how much cheaper the cost of living is in the good ol Heartland.
You just had a show open in Chattanooga, TN on the 6th. Do you have any advice for others hoping to exhibit their work?
Kiss people’s asses and then talk shit behind their backs. Every artist does it…seriously! Or if that approach doesn’t work for you, try the opposite approach and try to make a lot of friends with people. I’ve had people tell me that I’m really good at “networking” but I can’t help but feel repulsed by the negative connotation of that word. I’d prefer to think I’m making genuine connections with people I actually like…rather than just numbers I can link to on the internetz.
You describe yourself as “strictly a print designer and staunchly against advertising”. How do your gig posters fit into that? Would you consider them advertising, or more as art prints?
Well, that phrase is kind of just a bit of fun, smart-assery…kind of… While a lot of my gig posters are actually used to promote shows and technically count as advertising, about half of them are used strictly as merchandise/memorabilia items. I guess my quote is just a bit more of a barb aimed at giant ad firms that work with giant clients…companies with names like John, Paul, George and Associates. Some people really seem to get off on making work for giant companies like Pepsi or Old Spice or Kanye West…and more power to them if that’s what they enjoy. I guess I just personally prefer working with smaller, more personal clients and actually creating objects and products that people truly desire. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.
Since you live in Lincoln, NE, it’s hard to avoid any talk of the Cornhuskers. Are you a college football fan? And what is it like to work in a college town?
Ugh. I hate football…especially Nebraska football. It really brings the whole town to a complete deadlock every game day. I honestly try to not even leave my house on game days! I guess it’s an excuse to stay home and work?
Well, a week ago I posted about how having passions outside of your job can fuel your creativity and motivation. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the things that I am passionate about, and how they might relate to my future. Now, a week later, I’m doing a bit more than just reflecting: I was laid off yesterday. Our office decided to get rid of their entire print design department along with 12 others. (And just when I was thinking I had a routine down for keeping up posting/AIGA stuff too!) I’m not going to lie: I’ve been through a whole range of emotions in the last 24 hours, but for the most part, they’ve been positive. (…aside from the panicky feeling I get when I think of insurance.)
I’m not sure yet what I want to doâ€”as I mentioned before, I have a lot of interestsâ€”but I am excited. This isÂ exactlyÂ the opportunity I need to try something different: a different city, a different state, (different country?), different field of design…the sky’s the limit. And I plan on taking full advantage of every positive in this situation. Job opportunity in NYC? I can be there in a week. Grad school for web design? Animation? German? Sure! Freelance work to pay the bills? You bet!
I know job hunting is a full time job, but I plan on expanding and keeping my Design Resolutions. I want to use this “extended vacation” (or is it a sabbatical?) toÂ take the time to learn how to cook, more seriously pursue learning Czech, or even finally open an Etsy shop. If James BaxterÂ (or Pixar/Disney) calls, I’m totally moving to California. And if you know of anyone wanting to adapt an animated film about the rock cycle into a book that’s translated to German, give me a call!Â
So much of what we hear lately is doom and gloom. (And let’s face it, looking for a job is pretty depressing in this economy.) But life is what we make of it, and I choose to look on the bright side of life (cue whistling). There is a lot of opportunity if we only focus on it.
This post may be totally off-topic, but I just needed to put it out there because perhaps others struggle with the same issue. So I’ve been having a bit of a quarter-life crisis (to quote John Mayer) on and off for the past year. And in helping my sister make some decisions about whether she should double-major, I seem to have thrown myself back into indecision about my own future.
You see, I’ve always had a hard time narrowing down my passions into a career path. How do you know what you are “supposed” to do? My friends and family are probably tired of me wondering that over the past ten years or so (if you’re reading, sorry to bombard you with it again). Basically it comes down to this: I’m passionate about many things…none of which really seem to interrelate.
For one thing, I’m immensely passionate about design: one of the reasons why I started this blog and have gotten involved with our local AIGA chapter. I love book design and would love to one day work at a publishing company. Screen-printing and letterpress open so many options not available in digital technologies, and I can’t wait to explore all of the ideas bouncing around my head. Likewise, I’ve noticed I have a totally different aesthetic in my approach to web-design, and want to learn more, more, more.
Similarly, I’m absolutely and totally in love with animation—have been since I was about 5. I could bore you with long rants about how Sleeping Beauty is one of the most perfect films of all time. Listening to the Animation Podcast episodes and reading blogs like Animation Treasures or Colorful Animation Expressions are enough to have me ready to go back to school. But I really am in love with traditional 2D animation (and maybe claymation), so it’s hard to find outlets for that in the current industry. (Unless James Baxter is hiring right now…I would kill to meet him and pick his brain over a cup of coffee.)
On a totally unrelated note, I’m a (not-so-) secretly reformed science nerd. Sitting at our brother’s Regional Science Olympiad tournament, my sister and I were discussing what was wrong with the two of us for not going into something that we both obviously loved to do. Chemistry/geology…I can’t get enough of both of them—even now. And after coaching my brother for the past several months of tournament season, I’m ready to go spelunking. I think I almost died of happiness just visiting the Rock/Mineral section of the Natural History Museum in D.C. last month. The discovery that there are actually people who do forensic qualitative analysis to determine the make-up of pigments used in illuminated manuscripts was almost enough to drive me back to a college admissions office. (Btw, art history is another of my favorite subjects…)
Yet another interest of mine is linguistics: specifically European languages. If you’ve read my blog for very long, you’ll know I’m a German-phile. After taking German since middle-school, I found that I missed it too much in college and had to add it as a minor. If I had known that the field of linguistic anthropology existed, I probably would have switched my major. Luckily, an internship over seas with a German design firm allowed me to combine the 2 passions…and I never fail to get energized by the reunions we’ve had every year since. Particularly because all of us are from such diverse educational backgrounds. Each year, I come back wanting to educate others about German-American relations. Currently, I’m trying (slowly!) to teach myself Czech so I can better articulate my appreciation for the kolač.
Mind you, this is all very much an internal conflict, so no need to worry about me making drastic life changes. (And short of designing a German book based on an animated film about the rock cycle, I doubt I’ll ever be able to use all my passions at once.) But I often ponder just how things might be different if I had gone to college for a very different path… But what all of this has taught me is that it’s perfectly okay—if not necessary—to have interests outside of your line of work. They give you inspiration, motivation, and a unique perspective to approach it with. Milton Glaser addressed my classmates and I during a college trip to NYC. The biggest thing I took away from that talk was him saying how important it was to have interests outside of design: how it will fuel your creativity. He then followed that up with the advice to “always be astonished by what you see around you.” I think about that quote a lot: you don’t have to eat, breath, and sleep one thing for the rest of your life. There is so much wonder in the world and so much to be passionate about.
Whew!! Now that the week from hell has turned into the Long-Awaited-Vacation, I’m back to posting! And just in time for a Thanksgiving-themed edition of Weekly Reader. Enjoy, and Guten Appetit!
For the Feast:
If you’re like my family, then a plain ol’ turkey just won’t do. Grandma never fails to serve up a delicious blend of Czech (and German) cuisine including rohliks, sauerkraut, dumplings (knedliky), babovka, and kolÃ¡Äe. If you’re feeling up for something new (or happen to be living in Germany), Linden has a mouth-watering post to give you some ideas (or just make you jealous of her dining options).
For the Table:
Creature Comforts has a really cute napkin ring/paper doilie set that you can download for free. Score!
For Family Bonding:
Stickers and Donuts has a hilarious post about an annual paper bag turkey contest….and are sneakily asking for ideas…
And Last, but Certainly Not Least, Friday is Annual Cross Country Shopping Day:
A few good tips to scout out the best deals
I’ve been overwhelmed with the number of great books that just keep popping up…that, and I realized I’d forgotten a few on last week’s list. Hence the continuation. But before I get going, an important announcement: It Came!
This past weekend, I got the book I won from Johno over at iLT: Designing Books. It’s marvelous! And the first book on the Fall Booklist I can cross off for reading. So now, without further ado: part 2.
- I can’t believe I forgot to post this one last week: Animation Podcast announced thatÂ Eric Goldberg has come out with a great book, Character Animation Crash Course!, detailing how to animate for character animation. Complete with sample reels on an included disc, it sounds like it’ll be a great resource for any artist: animator or otherwise.
- Spatium profiled a book chronicling the work of Hermann Zapf: Alphabet Stories is published in English and German and is available from Linotype.
- The NY Times reported on two inspiring book cover designs this past week: Harper Perennial’s Olive Editions and The Good Thief. I haven’t added either to my list yet, but want them on my shelf for eye-candy.
- Finally Chronicle Books’ blog profiled the children’s books designed and illustrated by Paul Rand. Might make a good baby gift for your designer friends (or Christmas gift for myself ).
On a related note:
I’m a little behind on posting inspiration, so I thought that I would try and make a regular habit of posting links in a weekly post rather than posting them willy-nilly as they come up in my feed-reader. It’s hard to narrow down all of the items I’ve noted lately, but figure this is a start…even if some of them have already made the blog rounds.
I’ll start with an aside: my friends and I have started a Fantasy Olympics to root for the underdogs this year. The goal was to pick a country to root for that isn’t already in the top 10 medal-winning countries. Since the Czech Republic was already taken, I went with Austria. As you can see on Gavin’s blog for the event, I’m already in the top third or so! “The hills are aliiiiive with the sound of medaaaaals!” (cheesy, I know…) Who are you rooting for?
Oh, to own a press!
- iLT has had a couple great posts about letterpress lately â€”Getting Started and also some good inspiration in his past couple of http://ilovetypography.com/2008/07/21/sunday-type-napkin-type/
- Joie Studio posted a great series on Learning How to Letterpress (via Poppytalk)
You know I have a soft spot for the Germans, so here are a few German/linguistics related items
- Etsy posted an insider’s look to Berlin’s vintage stores/flea markets that made me homesick for my favorite city.
- If you can’t go to Berlin, Poppytalk posted a great way to bring Berlin to you with some sweet wallpaper.
- Grain Edit has a great post pointing you to German and Swiss Modern Book Design
- And this Guess the Accent game is just fun (via Coudal)
And finally, Marion Bantjes + bringing out of print books back to market = amazing design. (via Coudal)
(seriously, I’m in love with her work and am just jealous I didn’t make it big first)
I’ve been waiting to post this set for last, as it’s my favorite. I think the highlight of living and working in Germany a couple years ago, was actually my trip to Prague. While there, I soaked up as much Mucha as I could. For those not in the know, Alfons Mucha is perhaps one of the most influential designers of the Art Nouveau period (of which it’s hard not to be a fan of in and of itself). I could go on and on about the beauty of his work, not the least of which are his murals depicting the history of the Czech people.
The Smith Museum actually owns stained glass panels of his 4 Seasons series. According to the exhibit card, the panels were originally windows in a Chicago home. Although I can’t remember all of the details (my photo of the card didn’t turn out), either Mucha spent some time in Chicago or the original owner knew him from Europe. Either way, the originals eventually made their way to Navy Pier.
Although they didn’t have as much depth as the works by Tiffany, they were simply gorgeous with the glow behind them. I could just imagine them in a beautiful house backlit by the setting sun.