Archive for Copy / Writing

If These Wheels Could Talk

If These Wheels Could Talk

If These Wheels Could Talk book; 34 x 6.5in. (spread), 116ppg. / 2004

Soon after the dot-com and 9/11 crashes, my design job also crashed. I set about looking for another, through other firms, recruiters, friends, friends of friends, and so on. All unable to take on the frivolous weight of an underdeveloped type and image manipulator, I broadened my search criteria: assistant… receptionist… data enterer… Anything that would have me back in the office environs to which I had grown so entitled. But there was nothing to be had. Facing the loss of everything, the idealization of pre-crash innocence struck me. I printed out a few standard government forms, borrowed a friend’s car and found myself driving southward to the King County Metro headquarters. I was on my way to becoming a bus driver.

Public transportation is one of the great noble causes of our time, and the bus embodies the struggle most colossally: angling through bourgeois car traffic to transport the proletariat affordably to their destination. Having grown up without a car, I had developed a keen appreciation for the bus’s role, and, as the false hopes of cubicle walls crumbled, to give my hands to one of their great helms all of a sudden seemed right. But, for all my idealization, I also knew the motley reality of what goes on above the turning wheels: The bus riding masses are an odd bunch, particularly in a city where almost everyone who can drives a car instead… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Information / Mapping, Naming / Words, Photography / Film, Print / Editorial


What Happenned?!!

Election 2000 introductory screen; Flash interactive interface; 1024 x 768px. / 2004

All U.S. citizens are deeply affected—for better or worse—by the president in office. However, very few people know the intricacies of the presidential election process. This is not surprising, as it is super freakin’ complicated. The problem is that most are too jaded to care, even when their country is on the line.

For Interaction Design, one of the Senior year courses in the University of Washington Visual Communication Design program, we were given the task to explain the unexplainable to your average ignorant know-it-all who doesn’t want to be explained to. The aim of this project was to create an interactive interface to help inform the average high-school or university student about the United States presidential election process. As with several classes before, the project was divided into two distinct phases: In the first, we worked in groups to research the process and the various forces involved and brainstormed different interpretations thereof. In the second phase, we set off individually to define and create interactive Flash-based demonstrations of our particular concepts.

I had the good fortune of having three brilliant brains with whom to storm in phase one: Stephanie Cooper, Luke Jung and Tim Turner. As part of our comprehensive research process, we developed various interpretations of how the presidential election could be understood. We first set out to describe the components, both legal and otherwise influential…
[roll over images to enlarge]

U.S. presidential election variables, influential and legal; digital output; 11 x 8.5in. / 2004

We then divided the country (as elections do so well) to figure out how the importance of different factors were distributed geographically… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Information / Mapping, Interactive / Web, Naming / Words



heart CD jewel case cover; type printed on red paper, removable double-stick-taped to album jewel case / 2004

Because it’s always on, and only on, February 14th, no matter what, Valentines Day can be particularly stressful for young relationships. Bleary-eyed cherubs come out of their 364-day slumber, all jacked up on chocolate truffles and sweethearts, and just shotgun cloud-loads of heart darts into the crowd, their mercenary instincts leaving accuracy second to volume when considering targets. If you are as neurotic about these sorts of things as am I, it’s crucial to position yourself properly so you don’t fall prey to misfires.

The problem is, there are only a few kinds of arrows in the cherub’s standard arsenal, and they’re pretty blunt: “I think you’re hot,” “I love you,” or, “(Believe it or not) I still love you.” If you don’t happen to be feeling—and comfortable expressing—one of those three sentiments, you better be ready to scramble come 2/14. Valentines Day can be rugged terrain for “We’ve only been out twice and I don’t know your last name,” “You’re kind of crazy but maybe I’ll get used to it,” or “We’re doing OK, right?”

Come 2/14/2004, I was actually about three months into a relationship that was going much more than just OK. Indeed, it was going better than I had imagined it could and better than any relationship before had gone by that point. But I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to communicating feelings and the fact that I did feel deeply for her made me even more nervous about getting too vocal about it… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Copy / Writing, Industrial / Product, Type / Fonts

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A Killer Project

lives being lost to Cardiovascular Disease (shown in real time; multiply by 25,000 for annual number) animated illustration for presentation; source: 2000 U.S. Census; originally 10 x 7ft. (projected) / 2004

Data is boring. It’s just facts and figures; numbers on a page. There’s no life in it: No blood, sweat or tears, not to mention sex. But actually, there almost always is. Nearly all data is merely classified results of the choices people make. If someone didn’t make enough money to pay their phone bill. If someone trained hard enough to win an Olympic bronze medal. If someone was found 30 stories below a penthouse balcony. There is data that can tell us all about these things. Unfortunately, it’s too often left flat, or worse, twisted up in knots, suffocated and sputtering in it’s own purple ink. It is in the mindful extrication, marrying and expression of data that its ones and zeroes may come to life, breathe in our faces and tell us to pay attention for a minute because it’s going to help us understand the beautiful and the terrifying things we’ve done. This is information design.

Nothing should teach us more about ourselves than adversity, and that’s what we were faced with in Information Design, one of the most sweat-worthy courses in the decidedly rigorous Visual Communication Design program at the University of Washington. Indeed, the subjects of our designs were nothing short of catastrophic: groups were assigned strains of natural disasters or epidemics to seek out, research and present based on their potential merit to inform through design. After this, we were to design at least three magazine spreads of narrated information graphics individually.

Our research team, comprised of Jesse Graupmann, Jim Nesbitt and myself came upon Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), by far the United States’ most prolific killer. In terms of deaths and monetary expenditures, raw data makes it clear that CVD, which encompasses Heart Attack, Stroke, and various other arterial conditions, is a significantly larger problem than any other known phenomenon.

comparison of annual deaths between Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease and AIDS, as well as annual deaths by accident, automobile collisions, suicide and murder, and the total deaths accrued in all significant U.S. wars

comparison of annual deaths between Cardiovascular Disease, and other notable causes of death, as well as the total deaths accrued in all significant U.S. wars; (roll over to enlarge) [sources: American Heart Association, 2003; Centers for Disease Control 2003; U.S. Pentagon, 2000]; originally 10 x 7ft. (projected) / 2004

Currently, on average, CVD kills about 1.5 million people per year in the U.S. or one every 33 seconds, accounting for 39.4% or one of every 2.5 deaths in the year 2000. Even all forms of cancer combined don’t kill as many people as does Coronary Heart Disease alone, just one of several types of Cardiovascular Disease. This is not to mention non-disease related deaths such as murders or accidents, which also pale in comparison to CVD. Perhaps most shocking is that more people die of Cardiovascular Disease each year than were killed in every major U.S. war, combined.

comparison of annual costs between Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease and AIDS, as well the combined annual budget for the U.S. military

comparison of annual costs between Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and AIDS, as well the combined annual budget for the U.S. military (roll over to enlarge) [sources: American Heart Association, 2003; Centers for Disease Control 2003; U.S. Pentagon, 2000]; originally 10 x 7ft. (projected) / 2004

In our presentation to the class, we introduced these and other such daunting facts with the animated chart at the top of this post projected behind us, illustrating deaths occurring due to the disease even as we were making the presentation. We made a pretty good case, and we were off on our own to dive in and make those facts dance their deadly dance in the pages of our own magazine articles.

But having the undisputed king of killers wasn’t enough for me. I was thirsty for more blood. I suppose I wanted more sex in it, too. Based the numbers above, Cardiovascular Disease sounds pretty bad, but how could it be worse than HIV and AIDS? I set out to answer this question by comparing the two based on five critical factors… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Drawing / Illustration, Information / Mapping, Print / Editorial


I Have Something Important to Tell You

holiday card; front cover; 5 x 4in. (folded) / 2003

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Filed under Copy / Writing, Print / Editorial


Multiple Choice

Multiple Choice, Alternatives to the Worn Out Model of U.S. Transportation booklet; front cover; 4.5 x 4.5in.; 28ppg. / 2003

Teen angst is a powerful force not often harnessed for forward progress. At the same time, many of today’s most overwhelming transportation problems are fueled by inertia. There is one predominantly accepted model that most people of driving age accept as given and therefore perpetuate. If there’s one thing kids hate, it’s being told that they have to do something a certain way. Multiple Choice plays between both of these phenomena.

This book, one of a few projects undertaken for the Publications course in the UW Visual Communication Design program, was designed as a thought leadership piece that might be put out by a major car maker to mark an openness to new ideas, sparking productive discourse on the future of transportation… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Drawing / Illustration, Naming / Words, Photography / Film, Print / Editorial


Working with Nature

National Park Service Research Opportunities promotional brochure; front cover; 5 x 8.5in.; accordion fold / 2003

Because I am into competitive cycling and ride outside all the time, many people assume that I am one with nature, which is actually pretty far from the truth. It’s not that I dislike the great outdoors, but the thought of being in the woods doesn’t give me any kind of rush. However, there’s a big difference between knowing nature is there and being on a mountain. There are some points of our environment that are undeniably awesome, and I got to experience many firsthand in a project for the National Park Service.

Our design team at the Design + Innovation Lab, including myself, Jim Nesbitt and Jason Tselentis, and directed by Doug Wadden, worked with The National Park Service to create an informational brochure and comprehensive web reference for their collaborative research program, dubbed simply “Research Opportunities.” This program invites public, private and academic researchers to conduct their studies in seven Pacific Northwest parks. This symbiotic relationship allows researchers access to some of the greatest ecological resources in the Northwest, while the Park Service gains additional relevance by being linked to significant scientific research and discovery in prominent publication… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Interactive / Web, Print / Editorial


Don’t Forget… You’re Invited

2003 law school graduation party invitation (side A); 4.5 x 6in. / 2003

In studying the prevailing American mindset on the subject of career success, perhaps the most insightful text on the matter is the collected works of TV Guide. Skim past the prologue of red-eyed shills, the hazy caffeine of morning droll and other timefill of pandering feel-good talk, geriatric game shows and irrelevant local news, and and start taking notes at prime time. Discounting the relatively recent, unfathomable minefield of “reality” as desperate scatter-shot, you are left with memes so powerful and enduring as to have riddled prime slots snowy and black and white all the way through 3DHD: Doctors and lawyers. Television’s ethereal blue glow has taught us to revere these two professions more than any other, and, in the interest of the court, I was guilty as any.

This TV-fed fascination with doctors and lawyers comes not from their contribution to society, but on their sheer entertainment value. Prime time has served up their appeal on silver platters. We see doctors tussle with human life, which is kind of like what God is all about; the appeal is obvious. Lawyers are the cunning oral marksmen, toggling between cool recitation of obscure precedent and impassioned appeals for basic decency. Each have their own brand of exotic diction that elevates them from the rest of the bread and butter world, leaving us to assume their impenetrable turns of phrase are ingenious shows of mental strength. Moreover, both are assumed to make boatloads of money… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Copy / Writing, Photography / Film, Print / Editorial, Type / Fonts


Let Me Introduce You To…

No matter how long it lasts and what happens along the way, the most fascinating aspect of any relationship is almost always the beginning. When was the last time you met someone new? When was the last time you met someone that made you feel new? How did it go down? Can you believe it happened? A proper introduction isn’t just an exchange of information; it’s a chemically transformative event that forever changes the course of your life. In 2003, the heads of state at the University of Washington engaged our team at the Design+Innovation Lab to help them properly introduce the school to the world wide web.

As a great ad man (or woman—I’m not sure) once warned on behalf of a deodorant: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Well, leading up to our project, more and more people were getting their first impression of the University of Washington from its web site and, frankly, it stank. The UW is an expansive, influential institution of over 50,000 students, faculty and staff that has been an established leader in many academic and athletic programs for well over a century, and it’s Seattle setting is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It had the brains, the brawn, the experience and a pretty sweet place. But then was a transitional era in the understanding of communication and media, and web site design was oft-still an afterthought doled out to reluctant comp-sci geeks. As such, the UW’s site betrayed a persona that was uncharacteristically inscrutable, unsightly and unwelcoming; you probably would want to steer clear of interacting with this one.

By the end of this summer-long project, our team—comprising myself, then fellow Visual Communication Design (VCD) undergrad student Jim Nesbitt and then VCD grad student Jason Tselentis, and directed by Doug Wadden, then Chair of the UW Division of Design and now Executive Vice Provost of the entire University—had redesigned the UW web site; a not-inconsiderable feat. However, we initially were not charged with doing anything with the actual site; we were only supposed to design an introduction to it… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Content / Architecture, Copy / Writing, Interactive / Web


Building, A Brand

Washington State Convention and Trade Center building (back/garden) / photo taken 2003

Sometime in the 1940s or ’50s (I’m not sure of the exact year), the term “corporate identity” was coined by Lippincott & Margulies—one of the first major design firms in the world—to describe both the idea that even large businesses have inherent, relatable characteristics, not unlike human beings, and the practice that could express their character through a fitting, comprehensive and consistent design program. An organization’s identity is expressed in every way they communicate, from their name and logo to their brochures and web site, to the way they answer the phone—whether those “touchpoints” are designed by professionals or not—so this was an important “call-to-action” (to use another industry term) for organizations to pay attention to everything they were communicating, and, ideally, to pay top-notch professionals like L&M to help them make sure they were doing so effectively.

Sometime in the 1990s, the term “brand” began to take over as more formal business strategy was becoming more prominently integrated into large-scale identity design programs, and it quickly went from buzz word to industry category, on which uncounted firms jumped. I have always found this nomenclature shift ironic. “Branding,” literally translated, is the superficial process of stamping a logo on your property (livestock, originally); this superficial logo stamping is exactly the perception that the “new” practice of “branding” was supposed to be rising above. Meanwhile, the word “identity” could already encompass every aspect what an entity is, from what they do to how they express it. But like many P/C nomenclature shifts of late, whether rational or not, “branding” has taken hold, and “identity” (preceded by “corporate” or not), has been deprecated.

Whatever it’s called, my formal introduction to the process of figuring out what an organization stands for and expressing it in a fitting design program was in a class called Identity Systems in the Visual Communication Design program at the University of Washington, sometime in 2003. Like a few other courses in the program, this one was broken into collaborative group and individual phases. Three-person groups were assigned one of four or five major local entities and tasked with research and analysis of the entity, en-route to the creation of a strategic brand platform. Based on this platform, we were then set about designing a fitting logo and building a supporting visual identity system, individually… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under Copy / Writing, Identity / Systems, Industrial / Product, Interactive / Web, Signage / Display


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