Monthly Archives: May 2008

A Real Ax to Grind

A few weeks ago, I received an automated e-mail from the feedback form on my beta site home page. It wasn’t from someone I know, nor was it a feedback on my beta site, either. It was from a Mr. Stephen Eskilson. Based on the content of his comment and a little Googling research, I found out that this Mr. Stephen Eskilson was the author of Graphic Design: A New History. It turns out that he had read my Christmas wish list on Flush, where I had crossed off his book from my list because I read in a guest review on Design Observer that the book wasn’t that good.

Mr. Eskilson suggested that I check it out from a library and give it a real look myself. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and trying to be fair with everyone’s work, I immediately looked up his book on my local library’s website. There was one available at the library near my work, so I decided to go to work early and check out the book before starting my shift. But after about twenty minutes of looking around the library, including with the help of a library staff, it turns out that the book was missing. Frustrated at my search and at Mr. Eskilson’s comment, I gave up and went to work.

That was seven weeks ago. I haven’t done anything about it since, but I don’t see a real urgency to do so. A little more research revealed that Mr. Eskilson is an associate professor in the Art Department at Eastern Illinois University, specializing in Art History, according to the school’s website. And with a reread of the review, I’ve come to a temporary conclusion that Mr. Eskilson sees graphic design from an art history perspective and may not fully understand the mind and the essence of graphic design.

Now, I may not be as educated in art history and in life as Mr. Eskilson, nor do I know how much graphic design experience Mr. Eskilson has had, but I am more inclined to take the word of a graphic designer than that of an art historian when it comes to the subject of graphic design. Still, Mr. Eskilson deserves a fair review from me before I make my final decision on whether I should have this book in my design library. After all, Mr. Eskilson approached me in a relatively polite manner and closed his letter with “best, Stephen.” And I just discovered yesterday that his book is available again at the library, so I will most likely check it out in the next few weeks or so.

I won’t post what was said in Mr. Eskilson’s comments, although he mentioned that I might find one of the reviewers “had a real ax to grind.” I might risk looking stupid, but I honestly don’t know what that really means. I know it’s not something good, but other than that I’m stumped (semi-pun semi-intended).


Be Ready for Anything

“Not everything is design. But design is about everything. So do yourself a favor: be ready for anything.”

While I was trying to fall asleep on my slightly shifted sleep schedule, I tried to read before bed again for the first time since starting my job at Peet’s. So I chose Michael Bierut’s Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design since I haven’t read anything from it ever since I got it for Christmas last year. The above quote was the last paragraph of the first short essay, “Warning: May Contain Non-Design Content”: “Not everything is design. But design is about everything. So do yourself a favor: be ready for anything.”

It just spoke to me. Well, the first part spoke to me; the second part dared me to get off my butt and to keep grinding my way (no sick pun intended) through this portfolio and website of mine. If I’m still passionate about design (which I am), I must not let it out of my sight.

And before I end this post, I’m going to cite the quote to the original source (posted 18 March 2006) as well, to the design blog Design Observer, just in case Michael Bierut comes at me demanding money for quoting him or whatever.


Typexperiments Title Block Test 1

Screenshot of the typexperiments page Test 1

Here’s the first test of my Typexperiments page title block. The original concept came from the old school type cases that people use for the printing press. This is the digital version/take for the new way most fonts are created. I’m still looking into whether I should go all the way with that concept and layout my content in those type cases or just do a different layout all together.

The image above is pretty much a demo of how the type floats and stacks as you shrink your window. Yay CSS.

Notes on the current state of the page:

  • The background color will change.
  • The legibility of the “type pieces” is not of main concern.
  • The color of the “type pieces” will change, but the legibility will not be the reason for that change.


Alumni Day 2009

Hi, my name is Ivan Lam, class of 2007. I live in the Bay Area right now and I am working part-time at Peet’s Coffee and Tea while doing freelance design work for clients that are recommended from friends.

Hi, my name is Ivan Lam, class of 2007. I’m a production artist at Peet’s Coffee and Tea’s headquarters in Emeryville, and I am part of a team that is responsible for all of Peet’s branding, including the packaging, signage, printed materials, interior plans, etc.

Hi, my name is Ivan Lam, class of 2007. I’m currently the junior designer at a small design firm in San Francisco. I’ve been working there for about six months now, after leaving my barista job at Peet’s, which is another story. But we mostly do print work, and occasionally, when necessary, we do some web, and I get to do the basic programming and I work with freelance programmers who do more of the complicated backend portion. I really like this job because everyone is really nice and the work environment is really welcoming and relaxed yet productive. There are a lot of smart people there whom I can learn a lot from and I really like going to work every day because I get to challenge myself and do really good work.

Hi, my name is Ivan Lam, class of 2007. I’m a full-time freelance designer, running my one-man freelance design business from my apartment in San Francisco. For the past year or so, I had become more into web programming and had gotten really familiar with a lot of different programming languages that make the web work, so I pretty much do full-time freelance work for clients who not only need special high-security logins or complex server database visitor access, but also are into social issues as opposed to always trying to sell stuff. There are environmentalist groups as well as social awareness organizations that come to me asking to design and produce creative interactive websites that go with their campaigns. I usually have at least two large projects and one or two small ones at any one time, so that pretty much keeps me busy. At first, I wasn’t finding any clients, but eventually things started picking up, and I’m doing a little better and I don’t have to do that whole “starving artist” thing anymore.

Hi, my name is Ivan Lam, class of 2007. I’m sort of in a special situation right now because I just started this little design business with two other people I met last year and we specialize in helping environmental groups with their visual branding and that sort of thing. I am the main designer of the “trio,” and one of the other two partners is the business/finances person who takes care of the money and all that, and the other partner is the environmentalist “guru” who helps us be more familiar with the issues and stuff like that. A few people here know I really like saving the planet and driving a Prius and doing all that green stuff, so this is my little experiment to change the world for the better and what not. We’re sort of still setting up shop in the East Bay right now and getting our website ready to promote our business. So it’s all very exciting and I’ll probably get a better update at next year’s Alumni Day.

Hi, my name is Ivan Lam, class of 2007. Right now, I’m working for a non-profit organization that pushes for social change in countries like Sudan and Myanmar. I’m still a designer at heart, but I do about 50% design stuff and 50% everything else. I get to travel around the world and get a first-hand look at the conditions that the people are in and do research for my organization. I use design as a tool to get the message out, so instead of using design to sell stuff that we don’t really need, I’m trying to make a change in the world and make other people’s lives just a little bit better. I think I got this job because in my first year after graduation, I had a difficult time with finding a design job, and I took that time to really evaluate and figure out what I really want to do with my life. I still love design, but I also want a job that can make the world a better place, and I want to do that through design. So I looked around and found this job, and I’m really happy with where I am right now.

Hello future. (Inspired by a commercial I saw last night. Check out the “Nursery” one. It’s a slightly different edit than the one I saw on TV, but the concept’s still the same.)


(The “Hello future.®” slogan is trademarked by Lincoln Financial Group and is by no means owned by me.)