Pier Party was a blast!


My wonderful wife Patricia and me, in between chowing down on the delicious brunch provided by some of the top restaurants in Santa Monica — and that’s saying a lot! (Thanks, Ted, for the photo!)

Sunday was the first ever Pier Party!, a fundraising event on the Santa Monica Pier at Pacific Park, supporting the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, which is responsible for most of the academic, athletic and arts enhancements that make SMMUSD so incredible. FreeAssociates donated the design of all the promotional graphics…. sponsor proposals, ads, posters, t-shirts, signs, etc.

Linda Greenberg Gross is the visionary powerhouse who runs SMMEF. She’s positive, effective, and a joy to work with.

Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica chaired the steering committee composed almost entirely of powerful, connected, highly committed women (I was one of only two guys that I know of).

The overall project was spearheaded by Rachel Faulkner, who pulled off complex miracles on a daily basis — with a lot of help from dozens and dozens of  energetic volunteers far too numerous to name here, but so impressive.

It was a gorgeous day and a wonderful group of people! I am grateful to be a part of this project, and of this amazing community.

Here are some snaps from the event, plus a few of our graphics just to give you the flavor of things. There are more photos on our Facebook page.


Pippin at Samohi

PIppin graphic

I’m working on a campaign for the musical “Pippin” which Santa Monica High School is putting on starting March 7. The theater department there is something I’ve supported for 5 years now. I love creating posters for them that are evocative and professional. I hope they inspire the young actors, musicians and production geeks to put forth their best efforts, and that they let audiences expect a high-quality experience, which in turn supports the program.

The productions do live up to the campaigns. (And sometimes surpass them!) If you get a chance to attend, it’ll be an entertaining experience, and you’ll be supporting a wonderful cause.

South Pacific: a new face for an old friend

South Pacific poster image

Designing a poster for a musical that everyone already knows is both fun and a little intimidating. The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic has been interpreted by designers for over half a century. Is there room for another one?

Apparently so.

Here’s my image for the Santa Monica High School production. For those who don’t know, South Pacific is based on James Michener’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, and won 10 Tony Awards on Broadway. Songs like “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” “Bali Ha’i” and “Younger Than Springtime” are all from this play. The big splashy type, the palm trees and the chorus line of 1940’s pin-up girls are intended to remind the viewer of its history and scope. In a way, the show doesn’t require a lot of explanation; the image just needs to trigger your memory.

But the more profound aspect of the musical is the way in which it deals with racism — hence the little orange/tan pin-up girl. That’s what keeps the show relevant and powerful.

South Pacific opens March 1 at big, beautiful Barnum Hall. For tickets and more information, visit samohitheatre.org.

PS. My son Gabriel landed the role of expatriate Emile DeBecque. We’ll see if he can pull off a heroic middle-aged Frenchman while channeling a little Ezio Pinza!

Bands really should play in unison

The music program at Santa Monica High School (known affectionately as Samohi) is legendary. Last year, their Jazz Band swept the national high school competition at Berklee School of Music in Boston, blowing away some 300 other schools. Listening to them play is astonishing. All the various bands — jazz, marching and concert — are near-professional quality, and performances are always a treat.

Robb Brown, who tirelessly volunteers in support of the program, and whose son Eli is a stellar trumpet player, asked me to create a system of logos that would unify all three bands under the aegis of their parent program, yet still give each its own unique identity. The new visuals had to work on t-shirts and signs, as well as print materials and websites.

Here are the four new logos, each with its own sensibility, yet with elements — shapes and, especially, the school’s own blue and gold color scheme — that pull them together under one umbrella.

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A night of dramatic madness

A Night of Madness Poster

Who gets to decide if a person is crazy? Do some people just happen to see the world in a different way than we do? What if they’re only a little crazy? Why is it always so important to us to “cure” them, to bring them back to the standard worldview?

These are the issues that director Kate Soller seeks to explore in A Night of Madness, which opens November 4 at Santa Monica High School’s Humanities Center Theatre. For her first production as Samohi’s new drama instructor, Soller is excerpting scenes from Ken Kesey‘s brilliant One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Mary Chase‘s wry comedy Harvey with its six-foot tall invisible rabbit.

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been creating posters for Samohi’s plays and musicals for the past three years. (My son’s been in most of them, which, of course, is how I got hooked.) These are the kinds of projects we designers love: tight constraints, sure, but also lots of freedom to find interesting solutions, and an end result that has a positive impact — in this case, on the program, on the school and on the community it serves.

I really like this one. Hope you do, too.

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