Urban Goats & Comic Sans

IMG_7255Although I have never personally been a user of the much maligned typeface Comic Sans, I recently found there are actually appropriate uses for the font.

Many Portlanders fondly remember the goats grazing over on Southeast Belmont Avenue. They were fun and quirky, yet thoroughly practical in keeping the grasses down—a great example of Portland doing things right.

Well the goats did their job, but now they are out of a job. Well, sort of. They are still all over the area—at least as marketing mascots for the various parties building this monster development.

There’s a lot of development going on these days in Portland. There is also much concern about the changing landscape—in particular the long-term affordability for the people that have lived and worked here for many years.

Back when Plazm started in 1991 the idea that people would want to come here in droves—let alone view Portland as a place of cultural influence and significance—was beyond the realm of possibility.

The developers, lawyers, and contractors have not been shy in using the goats to promote their project. There are goats on practically every sign in the construction site.

It turns out the goats have something to say about it all. And they typeset their comments in Comic Sans. 
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Free Tickets to Experimental Jetset in Portland 

Join us for a dialogue on design with Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers, and Danny van den Dungen of Experimental Jetset. The conversation will be audio-recorded for the Beyond This Point podcast.

FREE tickets available Wednesday, 2/10/16 at Noon PST at rsvp.beyondthispoint.design

Saturday, February 20, 2016 | 5:30-7:30PMDoors at 5 PM | Event begins promptly at 5:30 PM

52 Limited, 330 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd #1B Portland, OR 97214 BROUGHT TO YOU BY CIVILIZATION & DESIGNSPEAKS

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Announcing the First Annual Typewriter Jam

Typewriter_Jam_sqPart historical exhibit, part typewriter clinic, part art show–the inaugural Portland Typewriter Jam has everything a typewriter aficionado could wish for! Over 50 unique and exotic typewriters on display, and dozens of different typewriters to use. A typewriter clinic for cleaning and maintenance tips, ribbons and supplies–PLUS–you can and pull your own typewriter-themed art print–FREE!

The IPRC is proud to host Uppercase Magazine Publisher and author Janine Vangool selling her new book “The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine”.

IPRC Event details

Typewriter Jam
Saturday October 10th, 2015
1001 SE Division Street

• “The Museum” An exhibit of 50 rare typewriters,  (only for looking).

• “Dr. Typewriter ” Matt from ACE Typewriter will be doing demonstrations, taking a typewriter apart, repairing it, cleaning it, etc.  He will also do some clinic/ walk-in diagnostics, and have ribbons, supplies (and maybe a few typewriter?) on hand/for sale.

• Try your hands at typing on dozens of different styles of typewriters.

• Think you’re fast? Enter the speed-typing trials and test your WPM.

• An exhibit of historical typewriter ephemera; vintage manuals, typing instruction books and poster, typewriter ribbon tins, advertising, and other miscellany.

• Hands on fancy print pulls of typewriter themed poster.

• Special Typewriter Jam swag

• Beer by Fort George Brewery

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If that’s not enough—Janine Vangool will be giving a public lecture at PSU!

Join the editor of Uppercase Magazine for a journey through the 150+ year history of the the typewriter through the graphic design and advertising that tells its story over the decades.

Janine Vangool: Typewriter, a History
Sunday, Oct 11 at 7pm
Shattuck Hall

Eventbrite tickets


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Art Chantry’s Heretical Design History

Art Chantry has a new book out and he speaks at Powell’s Tuesday at 7:30 pm



Art has shaped much of contemporary design with his hands-on, low-fidelity techniques and his unapologetic, poignant ideas. He is a design icon.

We’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with Art over the years in the pages of Plazm magazine and in two books we have authored. Below is the first fax he sent me when working on the cover for issue #15 (1997).



There are a few silkscreen posters of that cover still available.  Purchase at BuyOlympia if your interested.


The last time Art was here in Portland for an event was in 2007. Plazm put it together with PNCA. We designed the poster and companion matchbooks below. I remember a conversation over dinner before his presentation and Art talking in detail about design history. Not the kind you might have read about in history books, but a kind that exists in both ubiquity and obscurity. Since then I have followed along as he began posting on Facebook, sharing a similar conversation with the world—a personal view of history, shaped by being present and participating.

Anyone interested in the design history you couldn’t read about in books—until now—should check this out. Powell’s Tuesday at 7:30 pm


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The Sorrento Sessions: “Next wave graphic design & branding”

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 11.44.23 PM What is the role of graphic design in shaping culture and community of the Pacific Northwest? And how can designers make an positive social and ecological impact?

I am looking forward to participating in this visually-driven panel in Seattle next week. Not really sure what the title “next wave graphic design & branding” means. I guess I will learn from the other panelists. I like the description that they wrote though. Shaping culture. Doing things that benefit other living beings. I like those things.

The panel was put together by Gray magazine in partnership with Interior Design Show West and IDSA. EVENT DETAILS: At the Sorrento Cocktails in the penthouse-level Top of the Town at 6 pm. Panel discussion starts at 7 pm. Most of these events sell out. Tickets at Eventbrite. Join us! Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 11.46.05 PM PANELISTS (from top left): Michael Ellsworth, Civilization (Seattle) Jane Cox, Cause + Affect (Vancouver) Joshua Berger, Plazm (Portland) Gage Mitchell, Modern Species (Seattle)

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60 days to stop a war


In 2008 Thomas Bradley & I made this John McCain campaign poster. You might recall McCain gleefully sang “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys Barbara Ann. You can find that on YouTube.

It’s a shame to have to bring it out again, but at least we have the art ready to go.


Find an event with your member of Congress this month here.
Contact your Congressperson here.

We have 60 days to stop a war with Iran.

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Bud or Bud Light: Designing a Brand

plazm_bud_bud_light.030I will be doing a presentation at the Cannabis Creative Conference this Wednesday. It is an interesting time for this industry in Oregon with the maturation of medical and the birth of recreational categories. There are many challenges and opportunities ahead. I will discuss design, brand building, marketing, and communications best practices; what’s working and what isn’t in the Oregon cannabis category.

Wednesday, July 29
2:15 – 3:00
Portland Expo Center


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I did a PechaKucha presentation in Portland recently. The seven minute piece is now online, so I am sharing it here. 

The theme for the night was Survival.

I talk about surviving a bike accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury and about how a magazine that has never made any money can survive for more than 20 years. 

If you are not familiar with the format—it’s 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide.


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Why Rand matters: A conversation

RandDWRset_Page_1On April 8th I will be participating in a public discussion with Michael Carabetta, creative director at Chronicle Books and Kate Bingaman-Burt (illustrator, PSU design professor, cultural force) about design legend Paul Rand.

Chronicle recently reproduced Rand’s seminal book—Thoughts on Design—for the first time since 1970. The book is a manifesto to exceptional design. Chronicle is putting together a series of conversations with design professionals around the country on Paul Rand and why he matters today. I was happy to get a call from Michael inviting me to participate in the one here in Portland. Details are below.


Event details
April 8th
6–8 pm
DWR Portland Studio
1200 NW Everett
Portland, OR 97209
RSVP: sday@dwr.com


The event has given me an excuse to immerse myself in Rand’s life story and immense body of work. He had a monumental impact on many things we take for granted today. To advertising, books, magazines, corporate identity, design, and education Rand brought a modernist approach. He married the verbal and the visual. And he had a monumental impact on the quality level of design—not to mention the humanizing of communication in an era of commodification.

So, where does that leave us today?

That’s what I am thinking about. Join us on the 8th to discuss.

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A beer story

FG_last plazm canning
This past week saw Fort George Brewery canning the last batch of Plazm Farmhouse Ale. It’s been awesome to collaborate with one of our favorite clients and with The Commons on this project. Thanks to our friends at Fort George for suggesting we make a Plazm beer. Get it while you can! It’s available where fine beer is sold in the Pacific Northwest.

Apparently that includes Trader Joe’s. Niko saw a stack there recently and took a photo of some sweet handmade type on this sale sign.


When we were first brainstorming ideas for this project a, we suggested to Fort George that we put a copy of each issue of Plazm magazine into the brew. We figured it’s printed with soy-based inks and what better way to get “a little bit of Plazm in every can.”

To their credit, the brewers at Fort George would have none of it. Anything that does not make the beer taste better, does not go into the beer. Fair enough. We stuck to what we do best—in this case, designing the outside of the can—and they stuck to what they do best—filling the inside of the can with delicious beer.

Another of our brilliant ideas was to pour a bottle of the original Plazm ale into the brew (also, thankfully, shot down by the quality control mavens at Fort George as a gimmick).

plazm_og_beer.020I’d saved a couple of bottles of the original beer since 1994, and figured they were probably aged to perfection by now. The first Plazm ale (above) was a home brew by Niko Courtelis. He designed the label also and bottled a few cases of the beer for the issue 4 release party at Galleri 8.

A unique thing about this beer was that each bottle contained a plastic doll arm in response to the art by Panacea Theriac that we featured on the cover of the issue (below). Niko assures me that “the doll parts were all properly sterilized” before going into the beer. I don’t doubt that, but I do remember them as being a very real choking hazard.

plazm4I dug up a few other ephemeral items related to the issue since I was taking this trip down memory lane. I collaborated on the cover design with my friend Jerome Schiller. He came up with the “Enjoy Plazm” concept and his wife Juliet Ching hand lettered the typography.  Her original drawings are below as are his early conceptual sketches. 

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It’s always nice to walk down memory lane. It’s even fun to see some of the lines of copy we didn’t select for the cover. For example, “regular or decap” is pretty funny. On the other hand, “piss in a cup” is pretty bad.


But let’s not live in the past. Experience the here-and-now by going out and getting yourself some of the delicious Fort George Plazm Farmhouse Ale. I can assure you, there is nothing but beer in the beer. And it is delicious. While supplies last.


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