Sometimes words are best

I like when designers solve problems with words in a straightforward and simple way.

I nearly opened the wrong end of this carton of heavy cream. But then I saw the all-caps instructions to OPEN OTHER END. So I did.

Not hard to imagine a designer using an illustration (which you’d probably decrypt right after screwing it up), or trying to redesign the carton so that the user is inclined to open the correct end. Or to design a new package where opening either end works. But you know what? This gets the job done, cheaply and simply.

Franz Ferdinand and Priests at First Avenue

Hit this show a few weeks back. So glad I got to go. Franz Ferdinand was a bucket list band. Just as fun and dance-y as I expected. They have a hell of a catalog. You think you’ve heard all the hits and then they go right into another one.

Franz Ferdinand knows how to work their stage lighting.
Franz Ferdinand knows how to work their stage lighting.

The opener, Priests, had some interesting things going on, and room to grow. I can’t imagine it’s an easy gig on your first night opening for Franz Ferdinand in front of a sold out First Avenue Mainroom crowd.

Priests opening for Franz Ferdinand. Foreground: the guy who sells beer from a box he carries on his head.
Priests opening for Franz Ferdinand. Foreground: the guy who sells beer from a box he carries on his head.

Ecosystems and origins on The Content Strategy Podcast

The boss had me as a guest on her new podcast about content strategy, The Content Strategy Podcast (great name).

I can’t bear to listen to it but I hope you will. There’s a transcript, too.

Behind-the-scenes: I went home to record from my apartment so we wouldn’t have to mess with a multi-mic set-up or echo. We talked to each other on the Zencastr service which worked great as far as I could tell.

From the notebook: Maps and stories and journeys

Been developing a new workshop to help orient practitioners to all of the various tools available for being user-centered in their content strategy work. It’s been interesting and maddening at the same time. There’s a good deal of semantic diffusion across the various tools and methodologies. And many were blatantly misnamed to begin with. In practice, at the individual project level, it doesn’t matter what you call things. But all of the mish-mashed terms can make it hard to find the right thing in the first place.

It’s all confusing as hell so I’ve been making lots of little diagrams and putting things into tables to sort it out for myself so I can make some sort of sense of it for the attendees. Story and storytelling is not a regular part of my own design vocabulary (though in practice it’s not so different from many of my methods) so I’ve had to do the most learning on that front. Donna Lichaw’s book on storymapping has been excellent in that regard.

Letterpress printing at MCBA

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The first phrase set and ready for printing.

Took a one-night class on letterpress at MCBA recently. There were about 10 people in the group. Ruby, the instructor, had us start by making exquisite corpse poems based on the loose theme of “circus”. We picked the best two, divided into teams, and got assigned words to pick out letters for from the trays.

There was a group of young designers from a local agency there together who did a lot of fine-tuning of the letters and layout, which was fine by me. I was content to touch all the things and ask questions about how the press worked and is maintained. (Mostly a lot of scrubbing and WD-40.)

By far the most satisfying thing is when the rollers are re-engaged after applying ink and watching it smooth out and blend together. Downright hypnotizing. I wish I’d gotten video of it. Actually rolling the print is fairly magical itself, though.

I’m considering adjusting my schedule in June to take the one-week intro class. I found letterpress to be more interesting and satisfying (and less fussy) than screenprinting, and it suits my skillset a bit better anyway.