Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Let the road trips begin!

Hello friends! What a time to try blogging -- a time when I will be travelling for pretty much all of the next three weeks! I will try to send you updates from my travels, but no guarantees, especially after August 3rd (you'll see why in a minute). Here's the run-down of the weeks to come:

I leave tomorrow (Thursday, July 26th) for Aberdeen, SD. Not much to do in Aberdeen that I know of, but a friend of my boyfriend is getting married, and we're visiting some extended family too. I will be there until next Tuesday, July 31st.

July 31st-August 2nd I will be in the office working on a recruiting trip to Syracuse University as well as an upcoming program for Hallmark called the Visiting Educators Program... Professors from some of your schools might be coming to visit Hallmark in Kansas City!

Now, for more exotic locale: my boyfriend and I embark on a journey on Friday, August 3rd-Tuesday, August 14th to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We'll be camping, hiking, and relaxing in the woods and mountains for the duration of that trip. No blogging from the woods -- we're leaving laptops and cell phones at home (or at least in the glove compartment of my car). I can't wait to add some pictures to my blog from the trip -- I'm pumped to get going!

Until next time....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hermann Zapf - Part 2

Yesterday afternoon was crazy-busy, but now I have a few minutes to tell an unbelieveable story that I learned yesterday. Here we go!

You know how sometimes a day can be SO busy, and you'd rather just skip your class or meeting instead of taking time away from your "important work" to go? This happened to me yesterday. I was working on a few things that were due before I left work for the weekend -- I had two hours to get them done and it was not going well. I became even more frustrated when my calendar pinged me to tell me I had a meeting in 15 minutes. At 3PM on a Friday?! I begrudgingly grabbed my notebook and headed to the meeting, which was held in one of Hallmark's many gallery spaces.

My office is near this gallery, so I had already walked through the exhibit several times, but my manager had scheduled a tour of this exhibit for our team with one of the people in charge of this month's theme - typography. Now, as a designer myself, I was thinking, typography... yes, I am a designer, I know about typography...I sighed as I started to write a list of "to dos" for the rest of my day. A few minutes later, myself and one of my coworkers greeted our tour guide as he came in: Rick, a member of the Font Development Group at Hallmark.

Ok, focus... Get to Hermann Zapf, Erin!

Rick started by giving a brief history of typography at Hallmark: The Font Development Group started in the early 60s and at that time was called the Alphabet Design Group. Of course, back then, there were no G5 Macs and no Adobe CS3, so the group was working the old-school way. Rick went on to say that in the mid-sixties, Hermann Zapf became a consultant to the Alphabet Design Group at Hallmark ---- ERRRRRTTT! [insert record scratch here] ---- Hold up Rick, HERMANN ZAPF, the Hermann Zapf (the one I learned about in my History of Graphic Design class? the same Hermann Zapf that I wrote a paper about and designed a typographic book and poster series after?), was a consultant at Hallmark? You mean, he was here , in this building, hanging out and talking about type??

I was stunned. Rick went on to talk about how Mr. Zapf wrote a book specifically for Hallmark that has never been published (it is currently housed in Hallmark's Archive Collection), and also filmed a short instructional video for Hallmark that includes some of his personal tips & tricks and design philosophies. Rick himself is also a close friend to the Zapfs, Hermann and his wife Gudrun Zapf von Hesse. He has even been to their house in Germany and has been to Hermann's personal studio in his home (a small room just off of his personal typography library , hidden behind a door in the living room). Note: I'm sure my mouth was hanging open at this point.

I began to browse the gallery exhibit with new found energy and perspective. Browsing the beautiful hand-lettered prints and various handwriting style sheets that the font group was gradually turning into fonts for our proprietary collection (adding to our already 500+ fonts in the proprietary collection), I became humbled. First, I was humbled by the skill and creativity of our font group - knowing that I myself lacked the technique and the drive to do what they do. And second, I was humbled by my own attitude toward the meeting itself and how I had almost skipped it. I had learned so much in that 30-minute meeting: I learned about the innovative ideas and the huge strides happening in the typography group at Hallmark; I met and learned about Rick, a long-time Hallmarker who is humble, always learning, and incredibly talented; learned a little-known fact about Hermann Zapf and Hallmark...

And, probably the biggest thing I learned, is that you never know who you are going to meet and when and what you might learn from them. There is no way to tell how that person will inspire you, and what effect that will have on who you are now and who you will become. I returned to the pile of work in my office with new eyes and a fresh mind -- And I finished it all in time to head home for the weekend.

[Right: typographic designs/fonts created by Hermann Zapf. I took the photos shown in this post during my visit to the Bodoni Museum in Parma, Italy in 2003. The trip to the museum was part of the Iowa State University College of Design semester abroad program to Rome, Italy]

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hermann Zapf - Part 1

AWESOME story about this incredible typographer coming SOON -- stay tuned!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blogging Nerves

I have to admit that I was quite (ok, super-very-mucho) nervous today when I invited over 300 designers, illustrators, photographers, professors, and writers (and more!) to become part of CRE·A·TIV·I·TY. I'm not sure how to measure success or failure regarding blogging, but I'm having fun so far -- and so far, around 50 people have already signed up to join us!

Kudos to all of you who have already come to check out CRE·A·TIV·I·TY, and welcome! I hope that our community continues to grow.

Feel free to leave comments and questions and participate in the poll (coming soon!) to tell me what you are interested in learning and discussing.

I'll sign off for the day with something I heard in a recent meeting here at Hallmark: [paraphrased] "We must listen for insight, not just information. It isn't information that leads to change."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Growing up Creative?

I was home in Iowa this past weekend for a family reunion -- 75 people from my extended family converging on my parent's farm for a three-day-weekend of food, fun, and fellowship. While in the midst of four generations of my family, I came to a wonderful realization that I'd like to share. I'll get to it in a bit, but first, a little backgound...

When I came to Hallmark three years ago, I was immediately in awe of the amazing talent around me. A naturally curious person, I began to ask my co-workers about their creative backgrounds. Many people had gone to specialized art schools or private art colleges. Several people spoke about amazing internships or past career opportunities at top design firms in New York or LA. Almost all of my colleagues mentioned "growing up creative," which was a new and interesting concept to me: some designers here have famous artists in their families, some were influenced by their parents who were fine artists themselves, some even had one-on-one training by famous artists or designers. I started to become intimidated: Why had I decided to study design? How did I even get a job at Hallmark with the amazing talent already housed here?

My co-workers all spoke of something that, at the time, I didn't think I had: a creative upbringing. As a farm girl from Iowa who attended a state school (Iowa State University - Go Cyclones), I quickly began to feel that I was in the shadow of these life-long, specially-trained designers and artists.

It wasn't until my family reunion last weekend that I came to a conclusion: Could it be that I actually had grown up creative? As part of our family reunion activities, my dad had created a 5 ft x 16 ft wooden puzzle, cut into 80 pieces. Each family member was to take a piece of the puzzle and, starting with their name, design a piece that represented them. As I watched four generations of my family creating their pieces, I started to realize that even though none of my family members are classically trained artists, and none of them have gone to a specialized art school (and certainly none of them had a design internship in NYC) each of them in their own way is indeed creative. My dad drew an illustration of his favorite place on earth - the White Cliffs of Montanta, complete with him in his canoe! My 3rd cousin wrote and illustrated her story about being adopted and about her love for her grandparents. My 88 year old great-uncle drew a picture of the state of Iowa, and labeled all of the places he had lived during his life and memories from those places. My brother-in-law, who is probably the least "artistic" person I know, drew a history of his teaching career using the school colors of each school where he has taught.

It wasn't just the puzzle pieces designed that weekend that showed our creativity. It was the dinners that my mom cooked for 75 people each night, it was the hymn sing on our deck with my 2nd cousins making up harmonies to classic hymns, it was the storytelling around the campfire and looking at the rock formations on the river during the early morning canoe floats. And it was evident during Sunday morning church in the hayloft of my family's barn where we all gathered, 8 months old to 88 years old, to celebrate all of the joy we had been given because of each other and our individual personalities, woven together, to make our unique, and yes, our creative family.

I discovered last weekend that creativity is actually in all of us, in many ways, shapes, and forms. It is with us when we are young, and grows and changes as we do. We just have to know how to recognize it and draw it out of ourselves - and each other.