Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Unfinished business

A work in regress …
Monday marked John Steinbeck's 110th birthday, churning up bittersweet memories.

The unfinished illustration at left, which would have been for self-promotion, represents a wave of wistfulness that crested over the weekend when I read a backhanded celebration of Steinbeck's life and work.

Posting the unfinished work breaks an internal cardinal rule of my blog, but feeds another purpose, which is from time to time to open a vein and bleed a bit.

John Steinbeck remains my favorite writer, since a high school English teacher first made me read him. I'd love to say I've traveled the world of literature page by page, from the hooves of Chaucer's horse to Cormac McCarthy's road laid waste (just two disparate examples), and returned to Steinbeck even after such a considered journey.

The uneasy truth is I don't read much. Aside from Kurt Vonnegut or William Saroyan or J.R.R. Tolkien or Garrison Keillor, I have not pursued writers through their collections.

I read anymore for need, not want, corralling and consuming the small and weak snippets of information that have eluded me all these years. Even so, reading is a chore, a fight against a Pavlovian predilection to fall asleep. 

Still, what a time reading Steinbeck! Good readers often say words transport them, and so Steinbeck did for me. He took me to the nearby Salinas Valley north of my hometown, to a place that no longer exists if it ever did, a romantic and worn-smooth place. He took me to the steep and hot and unforgiving canyons above Big Sur, (a Steinbeck style affectation I stole, replacing commas with "and" between items in a series) to the quiet gurgling bends of the Salinas River, perfumed with sycamores, to a miserable sodden rail car, full of miserable people going nowhere.

He made me want to try a beer milkshake, as Doc did in Cannery Row, in Santa Maria, a half hour from my hometown; or taste the regular irregular concoction Eddie made when he poured unfinished drinks from La Ida Cafe into a jug and took it back to share with Mack and the boys at the boiler-strewn lot known as the Palace Flophouse.

Steinbeck informed my thinking, to which these editorial cartoons attest. It set up awkward moments when I twice met Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers union, and he regarded me as a member of the hostile press.

I felt like I was living — and truly living — in Steinbeck's books, which is probably any writer's desire. I'd fall short describing that tingle, that sense of the earth falling suddenly away, when a college friend and I drove up to Cannery Row early one morning and I saw for the first time many of the places Steinbeck described. Until that moment, I thought them purely made up.

On rare occasion a piece by Aaron Copland will pop up on the radio, and suddenly I'll be flying noiselessly over the golden foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a source for many Steinbeck stories. It'd be small surprise that Copland is my favorite composer, so tied was he to Steinbeck's work and era. Though Copland wrote scores for movie versions of The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men, even his signature pieces — especially Appalachian Spring — take me straightaway to the settings of Steinbeck's stories.

I remember how reading Steinbeck describe the chapparal vibrating with insects on a hot afternoon, or hearing Copland's The Red Pony quickly sweep into the joyful gallop of a boy and horse, and I'd catch my breath, lost in reverie. It was magic that doesn't happen very often anymore, and I wonder why; my guess is age has rubbed off many of the edges.

At one time I was on fire to complete the portrait of Steinbeck above, itself inspired by a photographic portrait. I was building Steinbeck with symbols of him; his shoulders the furrows of the farmland that figured into so many of his stories; assorted splotches and lines suggested a map of his characters' journeys; the curve of nose and plane of shadow on his right check somehow to comprise the Route 66, the path of his Joad family from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to the poisoned bounty in California. Probably in the struggle of getting the sign to become the nose, I stopped, and never returned.

I post it now as a Post-It® note to self: Get moving on all the good stuff left unfinished. Succumb to the magic more often.

Whenever I read about Steinbeck anymore, someone is trying to punch him in his dead nose. He was a lightweight West Coaster, shoulda never won the Nobel, let alone a Pulitzer. That kinda stuff. Even a fan such as Joe Livernois, former executive editor of the Monterey Herald, used his Sunday essay of celebration to call two of my favorite Steinbeck books "stinkers" — singling out In Dubious Battle as maybe "the greatest disappointment to ever smudge a printed page."

Let critics talk, and jump on Steinbeck's bones. He will always remind me the good stuff is not entirely lost. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wierdest assignment ever

Kids! This is how hearing loss worked in the 20th Century. Yank those earbuds and pay attention!
How best to describe different levels of long-term hearing loss? Why, with the Grim Reaper and his patented three-bladed scythe (precursor to the multiblade disposable shaving razor), of course.
This was for a magazine called Dance Teacher Now (as opposed to Dance Teacher Next Week), which either died or became Dance Teacher Magazine, I'm not sure which.

I'm not sure whether to futz with my fuzzy memory and claim ownership of this concept (it was looong ago), or whether I was drawing someone else's fuzzy-headed idea.


I'll take credit for choice of medium, anyway. Though I had finished it out in Rapidograph technical pen, I must have decided that to really sell this ludicrous idea, it needed the German expressionism scratchboard treatment.
The notation at bottom right doesn't really help …

There, finished! And yet …
Mr. Reaper? Can I call you Grim? Grimster? Yeah, just hold that pose …

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Merciful Minerva! New work

Max Manic,  the on-the-spot innovator,
at your service.
Ain't nothing bad about superheroes.

I love their mythos and meta, from their Greek and Roman and Norse and native primogenitors, to the creation stories of Superman as an avenging angel against totalitarian genocide, an idea Michael Chabon extended as elegy in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Through cobble and creation, I used superheroes as a way to teach writing and reading and art at the end of my short career as an elementary school teacher, after all the official No Child Left Behind assessments had been administered.

It was the first time I felt I was truly doing my job as a teacher, and engaging students for long hours in the invention of their superhero alter egos and the bad guy avatars who mess with their real lives.

Early amorphous superhero—
his archnemesis, of course,
is whoever flattened and
stretched his left foot.
So when Paul Vega, graphic designer, business strategist, fit dude and friend, offered me the opportunity to flesh out some superheroes for a client, faster than a speeding deadline I said, "When do we start?"

Paul and partner Doralynn Co of Greenhouse Marketing & Design, Inc. were helping a Sacramento company called Pacific Field Service brand its expertise in the commercial and residential inspection business. Field service is a discipline in the mortgage, real estate and insurance industries, which gives those businesses current information about the condition of their holdings and prospects.

Pacific Field Service seeks a market edge by being nimble and leveraging the latest technology, delivering up-to-the-minute data to its clients.

Paul and Doralynn's job has been to expand Pacific Field Service's profile in those industries, in time for a big trade show. Whole-picture-think-different kinds of folks, they decided to deploy a novel way to create the space of the company's trade booth, play up the high tech quickness as heroic — even superheroic!

Like this or that? Definitely that. (What's with the ears?
and what is the guy on the right doing with his right arm?)
Early idea: Huh?

Greenhouse and Pacific Field Service literally embodied the company's market strengths and vision into four entities: Max Manic, the innovator; Q and her dog A (quality assurance), the ensurers of professionalism; Virtue, who needs no further introduction; and Inspector, representing the corps of Pacific Field Service's core, the gatherers of data from far and wide.

Early alter ego idea …
Inspector looked
like this guy for
a brief moment.
Greenhouse and their client quickly decided the superheroes should come out of the DC/Marvel mold, not a whimsical facsimile (like one I did for another client).

Next came the most fun of the fun part, building the superheroes. Except for Virtue (aka Integra), these are gadget junkies. Objects hang off Max and Q's belts. Max wears what appears to be a solar-powered helmet, with fighter-pilot goggles, and Inspector rocks a kind of motorcycle helmet with an airfoil (or vent?) and modified street biker's jacket, not to mention arm and leg rockets. Q and the Inspector have cameras attached to their heads, which correspond to Pacific Field Service's use of documentation tools. All but Virtue have microphones. Virtue wields a torch of integrity (she also goes by Integra).
What's in the containers Max wears on his contoured belt? Why does Q wield a lariat and matching boomerang? Who knows? That's one of the two great things about superheroes: Readers and fans give them their powers, invest them with their ability to fight crime, right wrongs and save the day.

Sketches for the Fabulous Four in action for promotional cards.
Scott McCloud, a comics artist and meta-comics analyst, said in "Understanding Comics" that the appeal of comics (and the reason the best comics creators are so good at it) is that readers are allowed to provide their own drama and sequence in the gutters between the drawn panels.

In our imaginations, via the printed page, the superhero world works. We project our hopes and wishes on them, and we impel them to solve thorny problems.

In real life, different story: The Inspector's retro rockets, with their fuel lines snaking around his body, would pose a few problems, not the least of which would be steering through space.

That's the other great thing about superhero comics: They only truly work in printed form. Despite the success of Batman and Spider-Man's move to movies (and why is the Spider-Man franchise starting all over again?), and despite the power of computer graphics, cinema takes away our power to empower the superheroes. We get one vision for Spidey riding through the skyscraper canyons, and it's not necessarily my vision or yours, exciting as it is to see  the first time. (Insert your vehement protest here; besides, I make an exception with V for Vendetta.)

Q and Virtue went through
several iterations, often involving
breast reduction …
We readers buy into a comics world with superheroes. We accept that Batman's cape swirls and flows like a Christo piece gone amok, never minding that such accoutrements in real life would be full of stupid.

Heck, we allow that superheroes in bright, tight-fitting suits and animalistic cowls and capes wander about in that world, the one between the pages. They're not silly at all. Maligned and despised sometimes by the inhabitants of their printed world, but not silly. In context, they face real problems and evil bad guys.

Inspector also delivers
the rocket fuel as barista …
The bright, tight costumes are integral to printed superheroes, designed more to attract our eyes and show off four-color printing capabilities than any sense of logic or exposition.

But in the real world (think of the fans at Comic-Con or the supposed rise in real-life superheroes in Seattle, New York and elsewhere — a sociologist's dream: Why? Economic woes? Social malaise?), those costumes are just … costumes. Gaudy, out of place, seeming to rob these ersatz superheroes of their power and esteem. Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore explore that sub-theme in Watchmen (again, distorted in movie form because it delivers one level of hyper-violence, one look, and must disregard the story within the story).

Happily, Pacific Field Service's fab four steer clear of that dilemma. Writ large and bold in two dimensions, they tap into our imaginations and sense of play, their ideals intact.
Pacific Field Service superheroes bust out before shipping off to the trade show.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pink dog! Go, quick! Shawnie has fallen down the well!

One of the official ways Pink Dog and The Rest Stop's type logo is supposed
to fit together — though I hardly ever did.
That didn't take long: The pink dog finds its master!

News comes from Bob Dahlquist, a graphic designer's graphic designer, insightful conversationalist, friend and free thinker, that The Rest Stop's mascot is the creation of an artist named Rod Atha.

One of Bob Dahlquist's takes on a promotion
for The Rest Stop. The typography, as is Bob's
wont, is carefully considered.
Atha, whom Bob says signs his fine art "Zenichi," must have created the dog for the original owners of The Rest Stop, Larry and Yvonne Robinson.

Sometime shortly after Greg Archer bought the store, Bob put me in touch with Greg about helping with promotion.

For many years since, I have had the fun of promoting not only The Rest Stop before it closed, but also Greg's bicycle repair business and ancillary martial arts endeavors (and here) he's involved in.

Bob had worked on some of The Rest Stop materials too, and this trip backward has made me realize that screwing around with the pooch isn't anything new.

This sample (left) shows Bob's trademark care with typefaces, but also some canine haberdashery with the flowing striped tie.

I hadn't seen the old art files for The Rest Stop in years, if I saw them at all. Back then, my computer and computer skills were much more rudimentary than now, so I might have had trouble even looking at them. When I restored the separations on Bob's card, the pink shape in the dog was smaller and off register. Bob said "the off-reg wasn't meant to be, but it works out anyway."

Bob said he'll send along some early iterations of the dog, which hard sharper features originally, more akin to Antonio Prohías' "Spy Vs. Spy" cartoons.

In the meantime, Bob sent me pieces of Rod Atha/Zenichi's work in his collection; both are to be displayed thusly. The top image was created in 1984, around the time Bob says the pink dog got its start. Got any more information about Rod Atha? Please let me know.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Medici, Part II: And a little pink dog shall lead them

Jay Ward and Rocky & Bullwinkle might have inspired this bit of nonsense.
Microscopically speaking, Greg Archer has been to me what the Medici family was to Michelangelo, a great patron making his art possible.

Microscopic in scale, not in passion. Michelangelo had tour bus-sized blocks of Carrara marble; I had 4 1/2- by 6-inch glossy cardstock.

{Maybe a better analogy — though still grossly out of scale — would be Walter Paepcke and the Container Corporation of America, and the Westvaco paper company (now Mead Westvaco), and the role those companies played in advancing American graphic design in the middle of the 20th Century.} 

Greg Archer,
wearing the
cyclists' cap I
got to design.
Greg's role as patron was the same as those giants: "Here is your design playground. Have fun!"

One difference: "Oh, and take the dog with you."

Greg needed a regular flow of printed marketing materials to alert bicycle enthusiasts to his shop, The Rest Stop, on a shady street near downtown Sacramento. And he wanted to amass a collection of useful textiles tying The Rest Stop to customers' daily lives. Sacramento is a bicyclists' city with its own amazing playground, a paved trail that snakes more than 30 miles from the Sacramento River up along the banks of the American River toward Folsom Lake and beyond.

The penny-farthing and the controversial image of an early bicycle design, attributed
to Leonardo da Vinci student Gian Giacomo Caprotti (or a complete hoax), make
appearances as secondary characters.
From the beginning, Greg gave me wide flexibility in designing his promotions. The one constant: each had to include a pink dog, the mascot Greg inherited when he bought the shop from Larry and Yvonne Robinson.

I don't know if the dog has a name or who created it (if you have information, you'd feature prominently in a future blog post!) It's bright pink, and its bug eyes remind me of the logo for the Mooneyes speed-performance car parts company I knew from childhood (as the world's worst builder of Revell model hot rods, even of the SnapTite® kind).

Though likely created in the early 1980s, the dog has an earlier feel, as if a stray from underground comics or psychedelic rock posters. I love that it has nothing to do with bicycles or bicycle parts, and would love to know its genesis.

Tiny and unassuming, the dog was nonetheless the 800-pound gorilla of every design, innocently but relentlessly imposing itself. Rather than grouse about it, I had to decide early how to incorporate it creatively. So I rebuilt it digitally in order to dismember and manipulate it.

A cardinal tenet of graphic design is that a business logotype is — usually — sacrosanct, with strict rules about its use, size, placement, color, typeface, and association with other logos should they appear together in the same promotional material. All for good reason: Brand identity is the most powerful and succinct public face of an entity, and deviations can send off or conflicting messages.

One of my favorites, inspired by owning a real dog
(not pink) and bearing witness to her desires
and capabilities.
My son, with many design opportunities already, notes that the design dictates BMW automobiles imposes on its logo use and placement offers no flexibility for alternative designs for a dealership campaign he worked on. Choose any BMW website and you'll see the same gray banner and precise placement of the circular checkered blue-and-white car medallion. 

Greg liked breaking that tenet. Though the dog's presence was paramount, no fences were built around where it was and what it did. Even the carefully drafted typographic treatment for The Rest Stop could be manipulated.

As a result, the dog became hero and jester in promotions, a silent Teller (and customers were Penn Jillette), for no reason more important than sending the message: This is a business for and about fun; come on in, visit.

Sacramento opens the city to an arts celebration
the second Saturday of the month. Though off
the usual circuit, The Rest Stop did its part
with bicycle-related artwork — and this
Lichtensteiny thing.
Market forces, including Internet sales, compelled Greg to close The Rest Stop. He re-emerged with Archer Bicycle Repair, for which I was fortunate to design logos.

Though our business relationship grew to include design for a jujitsu program Greg helped teach, and by extension his business partner's jujitsu camp, The Rest Stop's closure spelled the end of design laboratory, to experiment for public scrutiny. And Greg had more ideas than market forces allowed; but that's another blog post to come.

Here are some of the many promotions I got to help with:
Another favorite: When I felt confident that
The Rest Stop's customers would need only to see
the dog to know for whom the bicycle bell tolls.

Dog, just hanging out, atop the bicycle that da Vinci's student may have invented
but probably didn't. Don't let facts get in the way of a picture opportunity.
To know art is to mock it gently …
All good things having to come to an end, it seemed fitting that the last things customers would see were the searing, earnest eyes of the faithful, put-upon pink dog.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For good men to do nothing

A funk permeates the week, for reasons concrete and ineffable.

One canary in my coalmine is this blog, for which ideas normally abound. This week it feels like blogging for blogging's sake, fulfilling nothing more than a small disciplined rite.

What I would write feels even more trivial. I'm temporarily tired of talking about open-water swimming (as tired as you may be of reading about it) this week, and even tired of swimming open water (or tired from it). Though I hold a trove of drawings, and await a time soon in which I can show-and-tell new work, I don't see the value this week in posting them.

I've been thinking, and that's dangerous.

Thinking that this week, among many, the government of Syria is bombarding its city of Homs,  News sources whom I judge credible cite sources who say government agents are detaining and torturing children as part of its campaign to suppress opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. That's in addition to relentlessly shelling the city against any and all. Just sheer, plain, open (as close as the news media can get) bloody repression.

You could rightly ask, "Where ya been?" Atrocities go on all the time, in the Congo, in Iran, in Egypt, Pakistan. Where was I during the ethnic cleansing by Bosnian Serb forces against Bosnian Muslims, you could ask? Probably where I am now, at my desk, letting the news trickle in and out my ears.

This week, for some reason, it jolted me to stupefaction.

This week, an investigator for the United Nations reported that Sacramento violates the human rights of its homeless, restricting access to water and public restrooms. Of course, open urination and defecation is a crime; so the city forces homeless to add to the complex nefarious factors that render them homeless, the daily undignified crime of evacuating their bowels. And I in stupefaction and indifference, let it go on.

One TV news station interviewed a homeless woman who said she goes to the bathroom in plastic grocery shopping bags, and tosses the filled bags into trash bins. She looks matter-of-factly at the reporter as she says this, with just a hint of hesitation, gathering up what dignity is still hers to tell an unseen public what she must do to get through her day.

Up to that moment, I had not even thought of her indignity. It's so easy for me to choose not to. I know children live on the banks of the American River, without a place to call home; I know that each morning a van for the Mustard Seed School drives on the levee roads, calling out to the hidden encampments that school will soon start and would you be able to come today? I've known it for years. I choose to forget.

This week, a reason to celebrate a freedom still hangs under threat. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California's Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," wrote a judge in the majority opinion. Clear as day.

Gay marriage is still banned, the court decided, citing the inevitable court appeal to come, and the expected hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court.

My congressional representative, Republican Dan Lungren, advanced Prop. 8's basic argument, that the people have spoken and marriage should remain only between a man and a woman. The elusory beauty of our system of government is that it's designed to save us from ourselves: True, the majority of people could also vote that Islam should be outlawed or that redheads should be interned or that some children for this or that reason should receive an education, but that wouldn't make it right.

We have legally oppressed our citizens by the color of their skin, country of origin, gender, and sexual orientation. We are beginning anew the oppression of citizens by their religion. Yet our rule of law has painfully, slowly turned on itself to erode those oppressions.

Dan Lungren does not represent all whom he is duly sworn to represent, and by extension, does not represent me.

And what, for god's sake, is so much better about marriage being between a man and a woman? The evidence for its hypocrisy is piled high, and a society made richer and more complex by a myriad of family dynamics, good and bad, turns the argument for tradition into cheese cloth.

I still can't fathom the harm gay marriage does to anything or anyone, except by the creation of vitriol in those who have decided all of us should live in their mold and fashion. It does not interfere with traditional marriage. It instead accords rights already inherent, that law up to now has denied.

I offer no solution for any of this. It vexes and perplexes, and I am impotent in my apoplexy. What little I was doing to help anyone else's unease has given way to a weird worklife lately. Excuses, excuses. But somehow I have the energy for semi-public self-flagellation? Hmm.

One of my favorite cartoonists, Art Spiegelman, who laid bare his own barely bearable guilt when he created the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, a Survivor's Tale, said "Perhaps guilt is a useful civilizing agent that keeps people from behaving worse than they otherwise might. Guilt can be an explosive thing to live with, but it may be the price we humans must pay for civilization while trying to learn true Empathy."

The hell of it is, for reasons plain and impenetrable, my funk will lift and I'll examine the totems of my life with new vigor. And children will still scream in torment in Syria and elsewhere at the hands of those who see them as weapons. A woman mere miles from my warm home will find no other choice but to shit in a bag and throw it in a Dumpster™©. Gay and lesbian couples will still truly wonder if their day of acceptance will come.

Where ya been?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

If you're just joining us, we may or may not exist

If you don't know who this is, it's Terry Gross. If you do know
who this is, it's Bishop Fulton Sheen.
When working from home, I surrender to National Public Radio, letting the talk shows palaver over me all day. Mostly it's white noise, but I learn about my world through osmosis, judging by the surprising tidbits of news that fall from my mouth at dinner time.

One of my favorite shows is Fresh Air, with Terry Gross, a Philadelphia talk show host who often devotes her daily hour broadcast to in-depth interviews with interesting people about fascinating topics.

On occasion it's ear candy — interviews with some of my favorite creatives, such as Tom Waits or Art Spiegelman — and sometimes it's dense and hard to digest. Most of the time the interviews are revelations on new ideas —string theory! email etiquette! misguided forces bent on controlling our government for their own dark agendas! — and my brain cells, when listening, dance.

The show is perfect.

Except …

Terry Gross, bless her, does this really annoying thing, over and over and over, show after show: In the middle of interviews, or when she comes out of a station break, she says, "If you're just joining us, my guest is _______ …"


"If you're just joining us?!?" For me, it's the aural equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

I want to shout at the radio, "And if I've been with you since the start of the show, who is your guest?!"

I want it to be a different guest each time, just to make her absurd grammar true. We English nerds call the proper use the conditional real verb tense; for example, "If I get off work early, I'm going to swim."

Terry Gross commits the improper use, what could only be called the conditional surreal tense.

Her guest hosts do the same thing, as if trained so. Maybe it's printed on a sign on the studio wall.

But why? Why, why why? In a show so edifying, why muck it up?

Why not simply, "My guest is ________ …?" That covers it all. I'd even allow, "Welcome to Fresh Air, my guest is ________," each time. I'm no foe of marketing, just bad grammar.

I wrote Fresh Air once to complain; after, it seemed like the Gross and the other hosts did it more to spite me.

This reached its absurd apex when Gross' guest was comedian Demetri Martin, who makes fun of just this sort of thing.

He had finished his bit about a waitress telling him, "'If you need anything, my name is Jill.' Oh, my god, I've never met a woman with a conditional identity before," he said.  "What if we don't need anything, who are you? 'If you don't need anything, my name is Mike.'"

Two-second pause. Then on cue, Terry Gross said, "If you're just joining us, my guest is Demetri Martin." I could almost hear Martin's eyes roll.

It's a cross I bear, putting up with this linguistic slaughter. Others around me must bear it too, because I hardly ever let pass an utterance of the conditional surreal.

"If you're hungry, there's lunch meat in the fridge," my wife will say, to which I will answer, "And if I'm not hungry, what's in there?"

"Oh for God's sake," or something worse, she says, "It's just conversation. It's just the way people talk. Why can't you leave it alone?"

Really, why can't I?

If you've read this far, I'm hungry. Can you get me a sandwich?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

For all to see

The sea is so big, and my contribution is so small …

On the bright side, it's a darned nice looking sea in which to bob about. (Look, ma, I'm in a museum!)

Designer Lisa Park-Steskal just sent me photos of an exhibit she helped create for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, Calif. Lisa commissioned me to create spot illustrations for it. You can see two of them in the picture above, if you know where to look.

This is one of several opportunities to work with Lisa, including signage in Old Sacramento (and here and here) and an Arts & Crafts-influenced promotion.

The museum exhibit describes raptors, or birds of prey such as falcons, hawks and eagles. My job was to illuminate key design components of the raptors' talons and the birds' lightweight bones. The white illustrations on blue backgrounds are supposed to evoke a diagrammatic, blueprinty feel.

Here's an example:

A Swiss cheese of air and strutts and bubbles make raptors' bones so light.
They were the size of coffee saucers all the time I was working on them, through several iterations.

Even though my head told me they were meant to support larger ideas about raptors, my heart started convincing me these were gonna be marquee features.

In the end, they're just right in a sweeping, clean, engaging design.

Lisa had the illustrations affixed  to disks so they float off the display, like medallions. The understated circle gets vigorous and intelligent use throughout the museum displays here, cuing and drawing visitors to isolated bits of information.

Maybe someone will take a good look at my spots and come away with the rather cool concept that raptors have a way of locking their talons closed, so they don't have to waste any muscles holding dinner tight while they fly away.

Forced to answer, without a moment's hesitation, what I'd really like to do with my work life, I'd say designing museum exhibits.

Museums fascinate me for meta-exhibition — not only for what they contain, but how they present what they contain. It's science and dark art, finding the right ways to convey information to all visitors in as many possible ways, and to move them through the arenas. In my limited museum world-view, I'd say it's an extremely difficult job to do well.

As a teacher, my unreachable goal was to engage students as much as possible, so that learning became enjoyable and overcame boredom. It's small wonder that kids clamor for field trips to museums; sure, it's a day off from the tyranny of routine, but it's knowledge in which, done well, they can immerse themselves and touch and twist and discover.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium does this well. I once convinced my wife to stay from opening to closing, half to talk in the vast volume of data, half for the countless means and media to impart the data.  

It's design and illustration and communication writ large and re-writ constantly to meet consumer needs. I'd love to do more of this.