Let’s compare..

So I do spec design work sometimes for practice (I know, I know, it’s a travesty against the design profession, but I need all the practice I can get. Almost exactly a year ago, I came up with this design for a 99designs contest (I know, I know, 99designs is a terrible website where people can steal your work and blah blah.)

logo before

ooh, edgy

Ok, this was supposed to be for an edgy marketing company, and I tried to make it edgy. With little success. Now, a year later, I’m updating my portfolio, and I decided to re-vamp the logo to see how far I’ve come, design-wise, in a year.

logo after

...the after version

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s better. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve improved a surprising amount in a year that has contained little design work, freelance, spec, or otherwise. Hope this helps me land a job.

Thoughts?

Lets talk about vacations

I’m all hopped up on ADD meds and anticipatory glee. My best friend and soulmate, the talented, lovely Leila Sales, of the hilarious The Leila Texts (which has been featured on the NYT blog and in some rather famous magazines) has gotten her first book deal. This means 2 things. One: she is just as amazing as I always thought, only now she has proof, and Two: she is taking me on a celebratory vacation. Yes, I realize that I am the luckiest of the lucky girls to have such a good friend.

So after months of deliberation, with both of us moaning random things about “villas” and “warm weather” to various travel agents, we finally just decided to book the vacation ourselves. The choice was between the Greek Islands, Tuscany, and Provence.

Now, it’s true, I do love the Greek Islands. I grew up reading Gerald Durrell’s sunny descriptions of his idyllic childhood catching bugs and frolicking amidst olive groves. Correlli’s Mandolin made the area seem lovely (you know, despite the whole World War II backdrop). But there was one thing that we were looking for, abstruse and conceptual as it was, and that was…a villa. Yes, villa means “house,” however that wasn’t what we meant by it. We mean…well I can’t describe it. Why don’t I just show it to you, since we found one and are going to be occupying it for a whole week in April!

villa

VILLA! See?

Note the outdoor arbor overgrown with vines? Yep. Villa. I plan on making home-made tomato-sauce by oven-roasting some local tomatoes and garlic, and then dipping some crusty italian bread in it. Or maybe putting it over orrechiette with some artisanal olive oil. You know, nothing fancy. Just the type of food you eat in Tuscany. Villa food, if you will.

villa

Interior villa shot

The inside of the villa is actually quite modern and nice. Since we will be staying outside Lucca, a medieval walled town somewhere in Tuscany, perhaps near Sienna (or not), all we need is some good books, some bicycles, and some cameras, and we’ll be set for a week. Leila has another novel to work on, and I’m trying to write a novel, too. Probably I’ll just spend all my time cooking and taking photos. God damn, how nice does that sound?

So just two more months and its bon voyage and a big middle finger to cold, snowy, dreary Boston.

Because we are jet-setters. And that’s what we do.

See ya, suckers.

Boston Valentine’s Day Gift Guide – For Him

In case you didn’t know, Valentine’s Day goes both ways (kind of like your boyfriend—rimshot!) If you want to get some pretty flowers, cupcakes, or anything I listed in my “For Her” gift guide a few posts ago, you’re gonna have to shell out yourself. Most guys would probably be satisfied with a hummer and a bottle of Jameson (or maybe I just need higher standards), but getting your special dude at least something a little original is a nice way of showing that you care. Otherwise who are you going snuggle with after an afternoon of Who’s the Boss? re-runs.

This gift guide is going to be a lot shorter than the girls one, because really, if I knew what guys wanted, I’d probably have a boyfriend. As far as I know, guys want sex, video games, and girlfriends who aren’t diagnosed sociopaths. And since there are no girls who aren’t at least 76% crazy, your boy toy is gonna have to settle. Make it up to him in other ways:

Food Gifts:

You can’ go wrong with bacon. And since you’re a girl, you can suck it up and actually cook something. I know that statement is a travesty of gender-role reinforcement and a gang of feminists will probably sneak in through my window tonight and bleed uterine lining on me, but I don’t care. If you bake your boyfriend These bacon donuts with maple glaze he will probably propose marriage–after telling you that you’re hotter than Scarlett Johanssen, with better boobs. And if you’re too lazy to make something (like me), take him out to dinner atRedbones for the best barbecue in Boston. Yeah, I said it. It’s better than the East Coast Grill, unless it happens to be Hell Night, but that doesn’t come near VDay, so Redbones gets my vote. Pro tip: you can drown yourself in margaritas while he can choose from the 28+ beers on tap. 

Redbones

What says romance like a huge pile of meat?

Food Gift Runners Up: Well, it depends on what kind of boyfriend you have. If he’s one of those post-meta-neo-hippies from Somerville or Jamaica Plain who listen obsessively to Neil Young and dress like Devendra Banhart, hang out at the Diesel Cafe reading the Weekly Dig and drinking chai, no problemo. Take him to The Boston Cheese Cellar, and watch him get lost in locavore heaven. Balsamic vinegar or whatever–he’ll be happy. If, on the other hand, you’ve got the kind of boy who’s seen Independence Day 400 times, gets all geeked out for Comic-con, and eats at Taco Bell 3 times a week…take him out for a scoop at Christina’s, which is basically the best ice cream in the country. Coconut butterfinger and burnt sugar is such a good combo it will make you both forget that it’s an arctic subz-zero wasteland outside, and it won’t get any better until April.

ice cream

Yeah, that's right. Winter, go fuck yourself.

Gifts for classy gentlemen:

Wiley Valentine has beautiful letterpress cards and printed ephemera. If you have an artsy boyfriend, he’ll appreciate the craftstmanship. If you don’t have an artsy boyfriend, Bioshock 2 is coming out soon. Or Dante’s Inferno is on it’s way, if your guy is more of a fan of lyric poetry than obectivism.

Bioshock 2

Be a Big Sister to your boyfriend. But not in an incestuous creepy way.

Ok, I’m going to stop pretending that I know anything about the male organism. All my past relationships have been based on vaguely schizophrenic attraction and mutual love of books. So I’m going to post some books here and then be done with it. Sorry, dudes. I’m relatively sure you only care about VDay because you think your girlfriend cares.

Book Gifts

Get him The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, because it’s a classic.
Get him the brilliant Achewood: The Great Outdoor Fight (he’ll go over the moon)
Get him Watchmen, The Sandman series, Marvel Zombies, or Hellblazer.
Get him anything by Kurt Vonnegut or Charles Bukowski. Guys dig that stuff.
Get him Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. He’s a bad-ass, and he writes like one.
Or get him Beatles Rock band, because no guy is gonna say no to that.

Bourdain

Cooking with cocaine...

Have a happy Valentine’s Day, dudes. Don’t worry–most girls hate it too. Really, it’s just an excuse for sex and chocolate. Treat it as such.

Design crush

So, like all girls, I tend to get all giggly and moony over truly hot, sexy, rugged, manly, ripped, gorgeous graphic design. Graphic design that you imagine probably has great hair. Graphic design that would take you out, buy you a wagyu steak tartare dinner and a sidecar, take you back to its loft apartment and spend the night giving you multiple orgasms. Phew. Even thinking about it gives me an attack of the vapors.

My latest crush is on this guy, Michael Freimuth, who works out of NYC. Actually, I don’t technically have a crush on the guy himself (I have no idea who he is, outside of the internets). Just his layouts. His conceptual flair. His art direction makes my heart beat a little faster. What I’m saying basically is that I want to have his design babies.

Materiel

spread from Materiel magazine

 

See what I’m saying? I tend to get in these moods where I get all burned-out on print design and how predictable it can be. There are only so many rip-offs of David Carson deconstructed-grid magazine layouts and cute, organo-friendly Orla Kiely patterns that I can stomach at once. So it always lifts my spirits when I stumble across something like this:

Logo

sick logo design

 

Now that is a logo design I can get behind. Not surprisingly, Michael Freimuth has been honored in Print Magazine and Communication Arts multiple times. Cheers to that. Thanks for the inspiration, Mikey. I needed something to keep me from being buried under the deluge of rejections sent by design firms and art galleries. Here’s to you!

March

web design for an NYC firm

 

(p.s. black and white is where you shine, dude.)

Materiel

Another spread from Materiel magazine

 

Logo

sick logo design numero dos

 

Proximity

Spread from Proximity Magazine

Typodolatry

I find it comforting whenever I come across someone who shares my obsessions. I think the idea is that if I have to be crazy, at least there is a community for people like me. This is probably how people feel about Alcoholics Anonymous. Hi, my name is Allie and I’m a nut for typography. I fully admit that I have no control over my addiction. When speaking to other graphic designers, I bask in the warm glow of mutual understanding. Past issues of Emigre Magazine, Look, and Colors are my pornographic reading. I have a tattoo on my arm of Sherlock Holmes’ profile done entirely using the letters of his name in different fonts. I’m seriously considering naming my first child Mrs. Eaves.

Emigre Poster

Poster design by Emigre

 

It always amazes me how little the average layperson considers or even notices typography. When a consumer looks at an ad or magazine layout, they might be struck by the imagery, the color scheme, the copy, and they may be able to tell whether or not it is well designed, if they have some artistic sense.

But a majority of the general population completely ignores the font design. Ad agencies don’t often use font as the focal point of a piece, but when they do, the letterforms tend to be used almost architecturally–more like shapes to be used as compositional elements than as actual words. As illustrated in the print pieces below. Both are wonderful designs, and both are good examples of what I’m referring to.

The Economist

Saul Bass-inspired Economist cover

 

Interesting Typographic Ad

This ad uses type very effectively--as an illustration

 

This is not a bad thing by any means. It can be used to spectacular effect. And there are exceptions to this rule, as in all things. Examples of effective typography are everywhere in the world of print advertising, sometimes even overshadowing the other design elements. The problem is that unless most people have great typography shoved in their faces, they wouldn’t notice if the whole ad were set in comic sans. We need more of this:

Ps2 Ad

Playstation clearly speaks my language

 

collage typography

Type and collage! Be still my heart!

 

Peace Ad

Good sentiment, great design.

 

Truly great font foundries are far from dead, either. The Emigre powerhouse (can you tell I’m obsessed) is still setting the standard for quality, iconic typefaces. Their pictographic font ‘Hypnopaedia,’ is so sublimely good in both concept and execution that it’s worthy of a museum exhibit. Another favorite font hangout of mine is Smeltery, a French font factory (say that 3 times fast) that has the added appeal of offering their designs for free. The fonts are sophisticated, modern, and have what I can only describe as ‘European’ sensibilities. Did I mention the free part? Other noteables are Typotheque, Process Type Foundry (great sans serifs), and Positype (which satisfies my love of ligatures).

There are plenty of resources for finding free fonts online, too. Especially useful for those of us who have over 7,000 fonts on their computers and no money in their pockets. There’s no excuse for comic sans, papyrus, curlz, or any of the other ugly and ubiquitous display fonts that pop up everywhere. Otherwise sane people are somehow blind to the poor taste they show by using these aforementioned bastions of mediocrity. I’ve even seen Papyrus used in the opening credits of a movie. A movie! Listen–if you can afford to make a movie, you can afford to buy a well-designed font with your desired aesthetic. You can even hire a typographer to design a font specifically for you! Think of that! In terms of movie-budget-scale spending, the cost of that would be negligible, and I wouldn’t have to cry and rend my garments in despair.

I’m done with my rant, now. Just remember to notice the little things, when you next pick up a magazine, or see an ad on a bus-stop or subway station wall. Give a little internal shout-out to Bodoni, Caslon, Garamond, and Gill. Designers, keep on spending hours in Illustrator, finding new ways to use type. Design your own typeface if you have the patience. (I don’t.)

And i’ll close with this:

type

Wear this shirt. Embrace the geek.

Boston Valentine’s Day Gift Guide — For Her

Guys, do you like being in a relationship?

Ok, let’s say I believe you. Let’s say your girlfriend cooks for you, or knows how to deep throat like a champ, or enjoys playing video games as much as you do. You want to keep her around.

Valentine’s Day is a scam. Everyone knows this, especially if they’re single. But It’s also a test. Buying a unique, thoughtful V-Day gift for your girlfriend is a sure-fire way to let her know that you’re a sensitive, loving boyfriend who is always thinking for her. If the gift is good enough, it is also an optimum way to let her know that you deserve a marathon boning session. There’s even a possibility she’ll be so grateful that she’ll tell that one hot bisexual friend of hers (every girl has one), who will be so impressed that she’ll want kiss your girlfriend and touch her boobs–while you watch!

So this is for you, men. A hallmark card and a box of Godivas won’t cut it this year. I’m here to help.

Food Gifts
First of all, if you can’t afford a gift, you can always bake something. Guaranteed panty-peeler. I suggest a batch of red-velvet cupcakes, which are relatively easy to make and have a cheery, apropos color scheme. You can find a good recipe at Pinch My Salt. If you want to make her squeal, try rummaging around for a mini-muffin baking pan. Girls love weensy little things, and making them small means you can eat more without feeling guilty.

Home-made not your style? Lack baking equipment and knowhow? Don’t worry, you lazy bum. Just check out the red-velvet cupcakes at Sweet, which has locations in Back Bay and Harvard Square. Their cupcakes are moist and satisfyingly messy, with toothily sweet frosting (my favorite). There’s a pleasant bit of nostalgia at play here, too, which counteracts any slight twinge you may feel at playing into the hype of the recent cupcake craze. But hurry up! If you don’t buy now chances are this fad too will pass, fading away alongside steampunk and that pale kid from Twilight.

then again, cupcakes may never go out of style

this photo was taken from the lovely cakespy blog

Runners up for good food gift: Hot Chocolate Mix or a box of Chocolate Mice from L.A. Burdick (voted best hot chocolate by the Boston Globe Magazine and beloved by my personal hero, Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten).

Jewelry Gifts
Terra Firma, in Belmont Center, is a genuine find. A local gem, Terra Firma, which irritatingly doesn’t have a website, sells unique jewelry of spectacular quality. This isn’t your Zales or Jared wholesaler of blah. They carry artisanal work which ranges from tasteful and simple (but never boring) to wildly quirky.

Runners up for good jewelry gift: Alex and Chloe is an online store that sells modern, geometric pieces that are surprisingly affordable. Also Etsy.com has an overwhelming selection of handmade, high-quality jewelry (if you can find it), from romantic braille necklaces to crocheted nature-Inspired pieces made in wool. Everything that can be made, has been made. Plus they sell inexpensive vintage and antique jewelry.

antique-inspired ring

from mylavaliere's etsy shop

Bath and Beauty Gifts
Giving your girlfriend a pile of makeup on V-Day probably doesn’t send the best message. Even if she doesn’t automatically assume a hidden subtext to everything you do (the odds of this are slim), you probably don’t know anything about cosmetics. My advice would be a little gift basket full of pampering goodies.

Sephora (which has multiple locations in Boston) sells Bare Escentuals Flawless Definition Mascara. This is basically the perfect makeup product. No other mascara holds a candle to it. Your girlfriend will worship you. Meanwhile Lush, which has locations on Newbury St and in Harvard Square, carries ultra-relaxing fizzy bath bombs. Why not get the Sex Bomb scent to get her in a frisky mood? Or help her get into a frisky mood with their Honey White-Chocolate Massage Bar which moisturizes while you use it. If this doesn’t get you laid, you’re better off single. Bonus points: Lush also has vegan products.

fizzy stress-relievers at Lush

Lush Bath Bombs taken from HelloMokona's photostream

Runners up for good bath and beauty gifts: Anthropologie (which also has many Boston locations) sells delicate, hard-to-find perfumes and home fragrances in stunning packaging. I recommend RoyalApothic brand home scents in ‘Distillation of an Edwardian Fireplace.’ It will make her room of choice smell like a moonlit fête thrown by Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward. (Trust me, it’s a good smell, especially for winter)

Miscellaneous Gifts
Black Ink, in Harvard Square and Beacon Hill, has…well…everything. And everything they have is adorable, unique, and either startlingly useful or bizarrely, wonderfully purposeless. From art supplies like fluorescent pencils and colorful moleskines, to home decor (posters of Tintin and screenprinted wrapping paper are standouts), to droolworthy books.

from Black Ink

who needs highlighters?

Speaking of books, if you get it right they make great gifts that can be just as romantic as roses. Here’s a brief list of books that will make your girl brag about you the day after.

Poetry is a classic choice for your valentine. Luckily, 2009 saw the publication of Selected Poems: Wallace Stevens. Read them aloud to her–she’ll think you’re a genius for discovering him. (It’ll be our secret.) Or if you want to go a more thematic route, The Love Poems of Pablo Neruda is collection of the poet’s most romantic works. It doesn’t get much more Valentine’s Day appropriate–plus it will make you seem thoughtful, sensitive, and intellectual. That’s sexy. For bike aficionados: The Bicycle Manifesto is well-designed and chockablock with information about bike repair, mechanics, history, and general bike culture, complete with pictures. For girls who cook: Thomas Keller, owner of French Laundry, has a bistro cookbook Bouchon which is a little less intimidating than his other cookbooks, but is still Michelin-quality fare. (Mario Batali also has a tremendous cookbook Mario Italiano, available on Amazon.) For foodies: Heat by Bill Buford is an often-hilarious account of his giving up a writing career to slave away as a kitchen bitch in a famous manhattan restaurant. Toast by Nigel Slater is a bittersweet tale of childhood memories flavored by food–sometimes awful, always illuminating. For art and design geeks: Domino’s Book of Decorating and The Private World Of Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Berge are two beautiful books of interior design at its best. For fashionistas, the venerable blog The Sartorialist is full of beautiful street fashion photography and style inspiration. In the art for art’s sake category, Painting Today is a definitive anthology of contemporary artists of note. Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life is a tremendously entertaining and colorful retrospective of the work of one of the best-known, most prolific illustrators. Lastly, Maira Kalman has updated Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style,’ a timelessly relevant manual of the english language, by filling the generally dry style guide with her whimsical, richly colored gouaches. As a childhood fan of Kalman’s picture books, I can’t think of anyone better to bring some life and humor into this text.

book of ilustrations

Charley Harper's lush illustrations

So that’s my way of giving some advice to the men of Boston. Take it from someone who is going to be painfully gift-free on the holiday in question–it always pays to show someone you love them.

creative genius and bipolar disorder

I always find it interesting the connections that are made between that bipolar disorder (among other mental illnesses) and creative brilliance. It certainly seems like quite a few of the great creative minds of the past can be sort of post-diagnosed with manic depression, and some of the great living artists have been diagnosed with it, but is there a causal connection? Multiple studies say yes, and its not hard to see why (even for an dilettante psychologist like me): living life constantly in extreme states, fluctuating between despair and mania, creativity can often be used as a coping mechanism. During manic states, creativity is almost an impulse (and isn’t that what mania is all about?), energy is boundless, limits seem nonexistent, and the potential for out-of-the-box thinking and creative leaps is heightened. During depressive states, creativity can be used to express feelings that are powerfully destructive and maintain a sense of self and a connection to the world. The ability to feel things deeply is a crucial part of being able to create work that affects people on a complex level. It makes sense.

Here is a partial list of writers and artists who have (or were thought to have had) bipolar disorder. I’m not a big fan of diagnosing someone after their death (because its easy to manipulate the evidence to suit multiple theories), so I’ll include only those who have compelling evidence:

Jeremy Brett
Brian Wilson
Stephen Fry
Graham Greene
Edvard Munch
Edgar Allen Poe
Kurt Vonnegut
Beethoven (This one is iffy–some people now think that ingesting high levels of lead caused his lifelong illnesses and may have affected his mood.)
Tom Waits
Robert Lowell
Hart Crane
Sylvia Plath
Johann Goethe
Graham Greene
Virginia Woolf
Honore de Balzac
John Keats
Leo Tolstoy

(On a related note, it has been argued that Van Gogh was not bipolar, as it was thought up until recently. Two researchers, Dr. Loretta S. Loftus and Dr. Wilfred N. Arnold, have suggested that he suffered from acute intermittent porphyria–the same thing that caused ‘the madness of king george’ and a disease I only know about from watching House, MD. It seems to fit the symptoms well, although it is an inherited disease and there is no evidence of the illness in either of his parents. This is why I’m skeptical of post-mortem psychological diagnoses.)