So I totally lucked out in the whole "sibling is also your best friend" department of life. That being said, I also openly admit that Blake is the better Williams, mainly because of his ability to balance imagination, logic, and personality so well. However, he does have one crutch: clipart. As an extremely talented computer programer I am always trying to persuade him that I can help with his side projects, usually to no avail. That is until Flash Talk. Without giving too much away, a classmate and Blake are developing an app that combines language, education (and with my help some good looking design). With the aid of a massive Game of Thrones marathon I was able to whip out some flats for him to start playing with. Here are some snippets.
Last month marked the end of my 2+ year hosting career at a local steakhouse. If you have ever worked at a restaurant you understand how much of a family bond can occur. And as with any family, you also learn how to insult each other is the most loving way possible. Even though my time working in the restaurant industry has been put on pause, I somehow feel I will find my way back someday.
This leads me to the double entendre of "Si, Cabron." Having a little time on my hands, I decided I would create a little poster honoring the double meaning of carbon, which can innocently mean "male goat" or "you little effer." Que the kitchen speak.
I also did a little hand lettering that I didn't end up using. But it was still a nice exercise!
I have had the pleasure of knowing Liz Fisher of The Cordial Sins for a while now, and I have to say the band she is involved in is perched for grand things. From Columbus, Ohio, The Cordial Sins has a blues/Indie-Folk/Alternative sound that is simply addictive. I had the honor of handlettering their current logo for their newest album they are in the works of recording. Keep an eye out because these guys have some major talent on their hands.
Corey Dickerson - Guitar, Vocals
Levi Brown - Bass, Vocals
Elizabeth Fisher - Violin, Keyboard, Hand Percussion, Backing Vocals
Jeremy Miller- Percussion
Scott Fisher - Keyboard
The big night arrived. And I am proud to say that my Airborne Pride exhibit went off without a hitch. Big thanks to Riley, Eric and Blake for helping me transport the frames and posters to the Crane Center and being such great people. The layout for my part of the show was pretty straight forward and I was very happy to see people move through the space and pick up tidbits of information about airmail. It was exactly what I was hoping for: seeing people actually read information.
All in all I think the best thing about Offset was the fact that we are now officially finished with college! What a concept! Of course you all have one more day to come and see the work in person tomorrow (3-7pm), but in the mean time I will be switching into graduation mode.
So what is the next step? Well, I plan on putting my posters up on here for everyone who wants to take another look and learn some interesting details about the first regularly scheduled airmail service in the world (yep that was us). But as a little send off, here is a music video to enjoy. Although the CCAD Senior Ad/Graph class is an eclectic group of designers I have a pretty good feeling that this song basically sums up what we are feeling.
The title of my thesis has been pretty cemented for a while now. Whenever I think about this topic it makes me think about how cool it was that people of our country could pull together to make something that although meant for functional purposes of transporting mail, also served as a moral boost after a rough start to WWI. Thus came the title: Airborne Pride.
Here is the subtext for the thesis as well: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” is the United States Postal Service’s unofficial motto. These proud words originally belonged to Herodotus as he talked about the system of mounted postal workers who served valiantly during The Persian Wars. The motto was translated and chiseled over the granite entrance to the New York City Post Office in 1914, just four years before the USPS embarked on an adventure to beat the railroads and deliver mail via a regularly scheduled airmail service. Upon retrospective consideration, perhaps the USPS motto could have been expanded to include neither treacherous thunderstorms nor open cockpits nor faulty compass directions. The first six years of airmail were filled with excitement, danger, death, ingenuity and a pure passion for progress. And through these trials emerged a system so trusted that few remember how it even started.
Now that my posters have been made the only thing I have left is to make some postcards and print these puppies out! I plan on using the roll printer for the posters since each one is basically 2ft by 3ft, but for the complimentary postcards I will be printing those myself. With Jury on Thursday I am feeling pretty on point. Let's hope the homestretch is smooth!
The countdown is official. A mocked up presentation of my Thesis space is due in 9 days and the actual installation of the space is in 16. Luckily, I have made amazing progress over the past week and last night officially finished my exhibition posters. That simply leave making post cards, a title poster, proof-reading, and printing left to do.
Over the weekend I went home and wired the wall structures to hang my posters and stained to the wood to be a beautiful mocha brown. It was so exciting to see these 6 foot structures really come into being before my eyes. I would show a picture, but I want to save a little surprise for the show. Between now and the show I have some pretty exciting things happening. CCAD will be hosting their annual Senior Directions, and I will be attending a Columbus Crew game as well as the Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Championship Hockey game!! This means that I will be really focusing on finishing up my Thesis by the end of this week.
Big updates my friends. First off let's just take a moment to celebrate that central Ohio weather has been in a semi beautiful state of being. That in itself has inspired amazing progress on my thesis, which is kinda ironic. During the beginning of Airmail there was a strict flying policy which basically boiled down to pilots being expected to fly regardless of rain, snow, fog or wind. I am pretty sure this past week's weather wouldn't have given very many pilots complaint.
Now to more important matters. My posters have been coming together with a nice dull copper color scheme and some vintage Airmail photos. I have adapted a system of hierarchy with the main topic of the poster having a paragraph or two of general information in slightly larger type underneath the title, and the supplemental images feature smaller footnote text with more detail on the specific overreaching subject. Additionally, I have added a little hand touch by making notations on the images in my own handwriting (when pilots flew they were constantly filling out reports on the flights in their own handwriting and this is my throw back to before Adobe Reader would let you fill in any form you wanted.)
As far as the structures that will be holding my exhibition posters, well they are 99% complete. After some consideration we (aka my Dad) decided to go with wood instead of PVC pipe for building, which works better anyway because the Jenny wings were made with wood anyway and that is my original inspiration. The only thing left to do will be adding the wire to the forms and hauling all three of these six foot walls back to Columbus. At least my Mom is excited about it right?
Since the visual portion of my thesis is pretty well underway, I have started to think of the atmosphere of my space. After talking with Riley this weekend she had the great suggestion of playing music that was popular during the 1920's during the exhibit. I really like this idea because the music of the 20's has such an excitement and movement to it, just like the Airmail Service I am showing. This song was performed in 1929 by Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. One of the amazing things about music is how it has the power to travel faster than people can, which embodies the idea of flight and mail. Enjoy the tune!
This past week my place for the Thesis Show was confirmed and I will officially be located in the north west corner of the Crane Center. Like I said in my last post, this spot is a wonderful compliment to my airborne thesis subject with the open area awesome window views. As far as the construction of my exhibit walls go, I have decided to use a combination of PVC Pipe and wire to mirror the structures of the Airmail Jenny Wings. I plan on finishing the structure within the next 2 weeks and have it able to be transportable (mainly because it will be made in my parent's garage an hour away and driven to Columbus.) One change that will already have to be implemented will be the use of a hanging thesis title poster. It has been brought to my attention that hanging anything from the ceiling is considered a fire hazard and therefore frowned upon. But that is a minor detail that can be re evaluated.
I have also started making the poster walls for my exhibition structure and am pretty excited about it. One of my main design considerations has been whether to pick one specific artistic movement of the early 1920's and run with it. Or create a special combo. Using a limited color pallet of copper, white, grey, and tan I have chosen to use aspects of Modernism, Dada and Art Deco in order to create posters that mirror the excitement of the airmail service. Using a more polished technique to collage, I will be able to relate multiple subjects in a single space with strength and movement.
The next week will encompass working on my posters more and coming up with a more final design for displaying my exhibition postcards and pamphlets. I will be using handlettering for certain aspects of the posters to bring a more human touch to this machine aesthetic as well. It should be a great juxtaposition.
The time has come to reveal some of my exhibit sketches. As you can see I will be combining both freestanding walls with a hanging banner title poster and potential postcard pedestal.
Ideally, my exhibit would be displayed where there is full natural light and shadow available. One of the really unique things about the Crane Center are the large windows at different heights. The windows produce views of Cleveland Ave and being on the 3rd floor really gives the viewer a chance to feel like they are in the sky. Channeling this feeling, my exhibit walls will incorporate a degree of transparency with it as well.
Using the wings of airmail airplanes as inspiration, I will build the exhibit out of wood and metal rope. The structure will be reminiscent of the spaces between wing supports. The information will be printed on large roll print paper in order to act as both a poster and a wall. Finally, the pedestal that will hold either postcards or an exhibit booklet will be made out of stacks of paper and packaging, just like the mail being carried.
The next steps of my thesis will be to start making the poster/walls of the exhibit and choose the exact dimensions of the structure. This will include researching creative styles of the 1920's as well as figuring out the best way to created a structure with as little material as possible. I am pretty excited!
No one likes to lose control of their projects. This is a human truth that can sometimes cause for unconventional (and sometimes dangerous) solutions to problems. From the beginning there was a power struggle between the military and post office over control of airmail. But the USPS was holding strong, making their way with as little help as they could manage. This started with choosing airfields. An important task, one of the first three airfields set up for the budding airmail service was Belmont Field. This location was actually a horse racing track, which meant it had a large, clear area of grass that enabled pilots to land and deliver mail from Washington to New York relatively consistently.
But in 1920 flying operations were moved to Heller Field due to Belmont being so close to Long Island that the fog and mist made pilots uneasy to fly (plus there was word that staff had become annoyed by planes disrupting the racing. Heller Field's location was closer to Manhattan, thus it was thought that mail ground handling times would be quickened. However, there was a major problem with the airfield: it was sandwiched between a fireworks factory and a Tiffany's Silver factory. Not to mention at the end of an extremely short airstrip was a canal full of water. The landing was so dangerous that Tiffany factory workers would make bets on if planes would make their take-offs and landings without crashing or hitting one of the many 80 feet height factory chimneys.
So as you can see location, placement and timing were extremely important for pilots to deliver mail in a timely and safe fashion. Similarly, I am dealing with the same issues for thesis (minus the flight and potential for crashing parts.) This coming week I will be making a loose draft of the layout of my exhibition (where things will go) along with what part of Crane's 3rd floor I would like to show it at. There are a few considerations that will aid in making the Crane decision, like finding a place where I can hang banners from the ceiling, have free standing podiums/structures as well as space to hang displays on the wall. Updates will ensue.
Through the process of researching I think some of the most interesting stories come from mistakes. Why? Because that shows evidence of human interaction, and it's not the error part I am focusing on as much as the human part. One of these such examples come from the classic inverted Jenny stamp.
The year is 1918. The USPS is trying to build hype (and revenue) for their fledgling airmail service and of course the philatelists (that's the formal name for stamp enthusiasts) are all over creating a stamp in commemoration to this glorious airborne event. Sounds great right? Well there was a minor glitch or rather misprint in the plan. These special stamps use a two color printing technique where after the red is printed, the printer had to manually reinsert the page in order to apply the blue ink. This is where the snafu occurred. A sheet of 100 stamps were released into the public before realizing that the Curtiss JN-4H Jenny biplane was printed upside down.
I like this story because it is a direct example of how graphic design was used to help promote the airmail system. Which is always a cool connection to find since, well, I am a graphic designer. But it is also pretty interesting that one of the reasons this mistake occurred was because the Washington, DC, Post Office clerk who sold the stamps did so partially because he had never seen an airplane before. I think that is a beautiful moment to dwell on for a second. People make mistakes (yes it happens daily, and sometimes it goes down as one of the greatest philatelic treasures in U.S history was released into the world.) But as designers we are asked to make work that alleviates mistakes by providing information (knowledge) in the most strategically appropriate and understandable way. This leads me back to why I am spending time on the topic of airmail at all for my thesis. Through this exploration of a subject that isn't obviously related to graphic design, I am finding ways to tie it back together, rearrange it, and send it back out to people in a way that makes them think about a subject differently. At least that is my goal.
In the mean time I am just hoping that I don't make a printing mistake like that for my thesis exhibition.
This fact still blows my mind. Of course you expect some sort of casualty when testing a giant piece of metal propelling you through the air, but to have deaths that steady had to have made the people in charge of this whole excursion stop and wonder if it was worth it. The first airmail pilot to pass away was Carl B. Smith. When he was test flying his De Havilland airplane on December 16, 1918 the plane stalled mid-flight and raced toward the ground in a tail spin. The accident happened at Standard Aviation field in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The cause for Smith's death is attributed to his position in the plane. Known as the "flaming coffin," the pilot would sit in the front of the plane near the propellers with the gas tank behind them. Upon impact, the tank and nose crushed Smith. This led to more modifications to the DH-4 airplane, mainly moving the pilot's seat to the rear of the mail cockpit. This change improved the safety of passengers and also made the DH-4B become nicknamed the "workhorse of the airmail service."
**The images above are of the DH-4 airplane. The more recent photo is actually from the National Museum of the United States Air Force Early Years Gallery in Dayton, OH. As a kid living roughly 1-1.5 hours from Dayton (the largest city in Ohio we were close to) I actually visited the Air Museum quite a few times and would love to look into the rafters of this gallery and see the old planes. I even remember skipping school once so that we could take our cousins from Wisconsin to the Museum. Modeled from a combat tested British De Havilland design, the DH-4 was the only U.S. built aircraft that saw combat during WWI. And afterward it was shifted over to the USPS for additional use. That being said, I definitely want to visit soon and really look at the cross over between WWI and the Airmail services.
This past week I sat down and really hammered out my intent for my thesis exhibit. Through the process I have learned that I get very excited about sharing information. This basically translates to the fact that I like to know a little about a lot of things, and although I don't drink Snapple (more of a warm Earl Grey girl personally), I love how you can enjoy a product while learning something interesting. But there is a science to the facts, or as this parody suggests: a very important process. As I gather stories for the exhibit, this video has very comically reminded me to make sure that I don't settle for tales that are boring, too long, overly subjective or of common knowledge. Being appropriate yet interesting with my copywriting will be of the upmost importance with the success of my thesis.
This brings me around to my deliverables. Metaphorically, the "products" for my exhibit will be a brief leaflet, custom postcard and a potential screenprinted t-shirt (all obviously inspired by airmail). My "Snapple Facts" will be the actual exhibit information and the display of it. I will be thinking about how I can shock and delight with the setup of the information in order to persuade people to actually read it. Because as we all know, you can't force someone to read, you entice them. And a really cool example of understanding this technique comes from none other than our favorite design agency: Pentagram. For an exhibit about The Power of Maps, Pentagram used the "significance of maps as instruments of communication, persuasion and control for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Design." But they did it in a way that used the natural fold on maps to be used as a display design element, which is awesome.
This coming week I will continue to search for inspiration on how exhibition design can be more than simply straight walls as well as start compiling the information I want to include in the exhibit. This will include pilot names, places, plane routes, what went wrong, right, and left. This is going to be an ongoing adventure but in the mean time, the best idea is to start committing stories to paper and going from there. With a history as rich as airmail's, I know I will have a lot of good material to choose from!
After some consideration I have decided to narrow my displays down to the years 1918 to 1924. Obviously this topic is quite broad, so I will be treating it as almost a chocolate sampler by picking a combination of groundbreaking, quirky, and dramatic stories that show the overall mystic of the time. Obviously in 1918 the first scheduled airmail flight occurred, which explains this starting year. But as the Post Office pushed westward the first transcontinental flights happened in 1920, the first night flight in 1921, and the first combination combo day and night flight pattern over the entire route was opened on July 1, 1924. This move reduced the time it took to deliver the mail from one side of the country to the other from more than 70 hours by train to a scheduled 34 hours 46 minutes Westbound, and 32 hours 3 minutes Eastbound. This finally showed the country (but more importantly, Congress) that Airmail was not a black hole of money, but a productive and useful excursion.
Source: The Cooper Collection of Aero Postal History
I have recently confirmed my two mentors for this project. The first will be Justin Marteney. Not only does he teach packaging design, exhibition design and other classes for Interior, Industrial and Advertising students at CCAD; he also worked at COSI for almost three years. With his experience working in a museum that strongly encourages interactive experiences, I feel like my exhibit build and design will be much more dynamic. My second mentor will be Alessandro Ciaffoncini, the VP, Accounts Director of Origo Branding Company here in Columbus. I am hoping to not only make a super awesome short form publication for this exhibit, but also involve some sweet motion graphics and multimedia dimensions into the displays. Origo definitely have some experience in this arena, which will be really helpful.
So as the research continues so does the beginning steps of nailing down some sort of aesthetic direction. Because the events I will be focusing on occur right around 1920 there will be a strong tie to graphics from that era. I have been watching short films put out by the Air Force and United States Postal Service about flight and Airmail at the time, and I am totally digging what I see. Not only is the story chronicled through typography, the pilot as a hero is very inspiring.
This video harps on the different methods of flight that dawned in the early 1910's and how the first Air Mail flights were by ex Army pilots. It is pretty entertaining to see the different contraptions that people created at the time. Enjoy!
The cool thing about the fledgling years of airmail is how intertwined it really was with the military and WWI. This was a time when flight had just started to be considered for actual combat reasons, and a major problem was that pilots in Europe were getting lost in the sky, which resulted in running out of fuel and crashing. The initial idea was that new pilots would hone their orienteering skills through delivering mail from Washington, D.C. to New York daily. But after helping kickstart the airmail operation, the military seemed to sink into the woodwork except for when planes or equipment were needed. And not to mention a good handful of adventurous pilots.
As time passes I am becoming more and more excited about making a popup exhibition for Uncle Sam's Suicide Club. Although I've been to my fair share of museums and exhibits (from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam to the Louvre- which has a beautifully euphoric branding system) my ultimate design aspirations would be to combine the infographic wonder of the Design Museum in London with the interactive nature of The Columbus Museum of Art.
Both of these museums take an extra step to bring the content they host to life, be it through materials, layout and interaction. When people visit my exhibit I want their to forgot what they've become conditioned to think about mail (aka it is simply expected) and instead delight in it's rich history. I plan on tapping into this period when mail delivery aroused a sense of national pride in our country. Not because we got our letters, but because we did so with the daring dedication of our airmen.
My next steps are to start conceptualizing how interaction can occur between the exhibit and the viewers and nail down who my mentors will be. I already have two great options and am looking forward to getting their feedback on my thesis topic.
**Fun Fact: The images above are from by trip to London in 2012 when I saw the Designed to Win exhibit. The exhibit "analyzed key moments where design played a significant role in progressing sport, the exhibition looked at themes of safety, performance, fashion, new materials and technology." And it totally rocked!
Now we have all heard of working on a time crunch, but imagine setting up an entire US Postal Airrmail service (including finding pilots, mechanics, planes, extra parts, fuel and landing sites) in only 15 days. Now imagine that your deadline has been broadcasted to the entire United States and that the President will be at the inaugural flight ceremony of the first ever scheduled airmail service. That my friends, is what I call pressure.
It was the responsibility of Major Reuben H. Fleet to do all this work as assigned by Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson. And he had no chance of getting out of this one. But if that wasn't enough it seemed like with every turn there was someone there to try and halt Fleet's progress. Like when he cut down a tree smack dab in the center of Potomac Park, the designated Washington, D.C. airfield. It needed to be done to fly in and out of the already tree encompassed death trap, but the Parks Department was slower then molasses and caused Major Fleet to take matters into his own hands. Which ended up landing him in the office of Secretary of War Baker for cutting down that single tree. Talk about getting called into the preverbal principal's office. Luckily Baker was on Fleet's side from the start and told him he would "Back him from Hell to breakfast." That had to be a confidence boost.
It is stories like this that have inspired me to focus on the trials and adventures of these fledgling airmail years. I will admit that when it comes to the mail I simply expect it, like air or water it has to work and has to be on time. But this is only because of all the people that have worked so hard in the past and now to make the post seem invincible. Therefore, I have decided to actually switch my thesis direction just a tad. Instead of focussing on a strictly retail perspective I will be looking into traveling exhibitions like the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) which includes the actual exhibit as well as an accompanying publication, poster and/or brochure. I love the idea of being able to focus the topic of aviation and postal services into a more concise exploration of the first few years of airmail through a display and collateral pieces. At the end of this project I hope to inspire those who visit my popup space with pride for these aviators and mailmen once more.
**Warning** This video is pretty darn dry. But if you were ever interested in knowing how traveling exhibitions are set up well then buckle up for 16 minutes of banjo. My apologies.
Some of the type was used from the previous video we made for Richard's demo reel: Looking Back. Moving Forward. But the new work involved more of the iconography of being at Wandawega.
In addition, I also got the awesome opportunity to catch the quick (but inspiring) webinar from Design Army's Jake Lefebure geared for young creatives! It was so exciting to see their base sketches as well as hear Jake's personal insight. One of my favorites were "If it looks like shit, it is probably shit." Not to mention that Design Army retweeted me during the lecture. It really is the little things.
Last year was the first time CCAD's Advertising & Graphic Design seniors were asked to have a Thesis which held no restrictions, letting students choose to pursue their own topics of interest and develop bodies of work around them. For my thesis this semester I have narrowed it down to three potential topics all relating to the beginnings of US Airmail. I have been fascinated by aviation since I flew by myself for the first time as a junior in high school and have a soft spot for mail in general. (Speaking of which, you should keep an eye out for a new documentary made by some close friends called Making Mail that will be on the film festival circuit soon.) And it was the brave pilots of WWI and the 1920's who pioneered the way for commercial aviation.
Here are my choices, but spoiler: the last one is my favorite.
1. Reinvigorating a Dying Aerospace Industry
The fledgling years of the US Post’s Airmail service is relatively similar to the Amazon delivery drones’ struggles. Both modes of mail transportation had troubles with mastering new technology in reference to weather conditions, theft, weight and distance limitations, and of course being capable of delivering in time regardless of rain or shine.
2. Uncle Sam’s Suicide Club
The airmen of the US Postal Service were fearless in the face of travel and aviation. With an average rate of one death per month for the first two years of the system, these pilots were national celebrities and heroes. Their personalities and antics go down in history right beside the forming delivery system, making them more than mere mortals but legends.
3. Flying on Schedule
Airmen had specific rules to follow when it came to preflight routines. Pilots and military officers were instructed to have two instruments in working order, their compass and a wristwatch. Due to the rudimentary maps and flight equipment of the time, most pilots used their watches to perform “dead-reckoning” flying, which consists of estimating the position of an aircraft or a ship without astronomical observations, as by applying to a previously determined position the course and distance traveled since.
On the inaugural flights between New York City and Washington, D.C. on May 15, 1918, Postmaster Burleson presented Major Fleet with engraved watches for himself and the six other pilots of the US Airmail. These Hamilton watches were known as the watches with “Railroad Accuracy” and an aviator’s necessity.
Fossil, Inc. is a company that prides themselves on their commitment to American vintage inspiration. Although they have touched upon the topic of commercial aviation, a more focused pilot line would be a perfect conception for the soon to be US Post Office’s 100th anniversary for the introduction of airmail. This aeronautical inspired line of watches, cases and bags would be a celebration to this American milestone of the early 1900’s.
Footnote: I am currently scouting out people to act as a mentor, aviator lover, watch appreciator or projection mapper. Please feel free to reach out and share your stories of airmail (and if say your grandma/pa was involved that could be super neat too)
Last week my business cards finally arrived! I opted for the foil logo (if you didn't know I have a love of -most- things gold and silver) and loved it. But there was a hint of something that wasn't 100% on point: that blindingly white edge of the card. You know what I'm talking about. So I grabbed my handy handy gold spray paint and remedied the situation.
So the lesson learned is that printing is never perfect but a little gold never hurts.