Presenting Shakespeare

I just got my copy of Mirko Ilic and Steven Heller’s new book, Presenting Shakespeare. It contains 1,100 posters from around the world — India, Poland, New Zealand, Turkey, Switzerland — over 50 in all. They start as early as 1779 and run through work from the present day.

Of the 1,100 selected, just 75 posters are for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with designs for London’s Savoy Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the Royal Shakespeare Company, among many other notable productions in dozens of countries. And of these, only 18 are from the United States. These include works by such graphic design luminaries as Milton Glaser and Art Chantry.

MidsummerPostcard-72dpiOh yeah.

And in this overwhelming overview, there’s a poster for a production at Santa Monica High School that happened to feature a young man named Gabriel Freeman as Demetrius. A poster designed by… me!

I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to be included in this collection. I’m honored, excited, nonplussed, and out of adjectives.

I have to say that the design reflects the vision of our talented director Darryl Hovis and wonderfully creative set/costume designer Shannon Kennedy, both of whom inspired the weirdness of using a Papua New Guinea mud man as the main eerie image. But the rouge on the cheeks was all mine.

The book is pretty wonderful if you love either design or Shakespeare. You can buy it on Amazon. I’m on page 163. (But you can see the poster right here.)

Sources of creativity

My cousin Paul asked me to send him the names of some books I like that deal with Creativity. Titles that have been particularly helpful to my own creative process. I looked through my bookshelf, and found that, while I have bought a few of these kinds of books, I don’t have very many of them. And I haven’t been terribly inspired by most of those I’ve acquired.

So I started thinking about what books have truly inspired me. And, then, what other activities have stoked my own creativity over the years. This list is anything but definitive. But here’s what comes to mind.

Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Dr. Edward de Bono

I heard de Bono speak at a Westweek conference at the Pacific Design Center several decades ago. It was one of the most interesting, simple, inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. I loved his way of talking about the subject of creativity. Totally low-tech — just him doodling on an overhead projector. I bought a couple of his books, including this one, and ended up teaching from them at Art Center. We’d start every class with one of his exercises. It was a fascinating experiment. And I still use his techniques from time to time to jumpstart the creative process.

A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech

This book is somewhat related to Lateral Thinking. It explores all sorts of ways to think creatively in a little less theoretical and perhaps more practical way. To be honest, I’ve read chunks of it, but not the whole book. Good chunks. (But I devoured de Bono.)

Seth Godin: Pretty much anything he writes or talks about

I find Godin incredibly smart yet accessible. Fun to read. Fun to listen to. Full of ideas and new ways of looking at the world around him. He inspires me to see things differently and take nothing for granted.

And creative process development, other than books?

Improv classes

When you’re interacting with other people and making up dialog and situations in real time, you learn something critical: you learn to trust yourself. People are inherently creative. They just censor themselves too quickly. Staying open to the what’s going on in the moment is the trick. Being here. Now. If you’re open, you can see connections quickly. If you’re trusting, you’ll write them down or speak them out before they disappear. And a trusting and trusted partner only adds to the process…and to the fun.

Music

I play blues harmonica. Guitar, too, but the harp is the only thing I play well enough to get into a state of flow. If making music is creative, then improvising is even more so. You have no time to think; you just do it. You listen to the other musicians and to yourself, let the ideas come, and balance it all out so it sounds as good as you can get it right then. When you get too involved in “doing it right” you choke, or you sound rigid and over-controlled. Letting it flow is far more fun and usually sounds better. And if you hit a clinker, well, big deal. In the next moment, it’s gone and you’re making more music. Vocal harmonies are like that, too. You get that buzz, and you create something larger than the sum of its parts.

Museums

Art, natural history, science. All good. All expose different parts of your brain to different stimuli. All of which triggers new ways of looking and new ways of thinking. Travel works the same way.

Forget what you think you know

I think the creative process is this: fill your head with information, then forget it. Your unconscious mind will sift what you learned and help you stay pointed in the right direction. But when you’re creating you’ve got to let go of your knowledge and come at the problem like someone who knows nothing. Play more than you analyze. Trust. Step off the cliff. It’s only a metaphor. You can step right back on if it doesn’t work out.

Beyond Cradle to Cradle: The Upcycle and the Future of Sustainable Design

When I get busy, sometimes the blog suffers. Luckily, our client Be Green Packaging has put up a great, informative post about William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s new book “The Upcycle”.

They contend that companies can and should go beyond Zero Emissions and actually develop processes that improve the environment. And they present examples of some who are doing just that!

Read more here:

Going Beyond Cradle to Cradle: The Upcycle and the Future of Sustainable Design.

Eat me

Book made of pasta in pan with first layer of lasagna ingredientsAs graphic designers, much of what we do is ephemeral. Once in a while, we create a book or an environmental graphic that sticks around. But more often it’s a brochure, poster, package, ad or piece of stationery that gets tossed pretty quickly.

Here’s a project that’s actually designed to be destroyed. Or, better yet, to be eaten.

The Real Cookbook is an edible publication that contains — and gets physically incorporated into — a classic lasagna recipe. The pages are made of stamped pasta, and are layered sheet by sheet with the rest of the ingredients, then baked. Mmmm.

Created by Korefe, the German design studio, it’s a delicious comment on the impermanent nature of the objects we humans craft with such care.

Typographic excavations

Michelangelo spoke about releasing his sculptures from the marble. In the case of Brian Dettmer, he’s releasing them from old books.

Like a surgeon working carefully with small instruments, he explores the anatomical peculiarities of dictionaries and other vintage texts. Like an archeologist, as he digs deeper and deeper, he unearths meaning and finds small gems that interact with the elements he’s already uncovered. Like a magician, he forces the viewer to see familiar objects in a surprising new way, and to wonder what else is hiding in them.

I marvel at his craftsmanship and his patience. It’s well worth clicking through to the site to see his other pieces — this is just the tip of the iceberg.

brian dettmer: textonomy.