Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
Self-employed graphic designer, age 34. I grew up in Boston, came here for college, and thanks to the accumulated constraints of college debt, the publishing wage scale, lethargy, the fact that almost all my friends are here, having no other place to go -- and of course, the museums and the opera -- I have no real reason to leave. Except that I did leave for 2 years of design school in Atlanta. I live in Brooklyn with a cat who bites only me.
Three from Chris Gage
1. Everyone knows the famous Stephin Merritt line "It's making me blue / Pantone 292." But there's more to design than picking swatch colors and sans serif fonts. Even a cursory browsing of your site displays your affinity for words. How necessary is language to a designer?
Like most liberal-arts-educated New Yorkers of a certain age, I'm a former editorial assistant with a well-known publishing company. My original college degree is in comparative literature, so language has always been a very familiar, natural medium. Plus I can't draw my way out a paper bag, so I guess that part of my brain is damaged, or at least dormant. Writing is often segmented off from designing in a strange way for a lot of designers, but I'd certainly say that language is crucial. There's just no escaping it, even with all the pretty colors and supercool fonts the kids are coming up with these days. One way to define graphic design (among too many) is that it's anything that involves type to any degree, and type is language given form, and that's about where my comp. lit. theory runs out.
2. I see that you've designed for some tight corners, particularly matchbooks and business cards. How do you design for a medium so singularly intended to convey information -- name, phone number, e-mail, my particularly haunting brand of sex appeal when drunk at 3 am?
I like the idea of a different business card for different degrees of drunkenness! The drunker you are, the bigger the type would be, with a card at the most-drunk that just says, "Cab driver, please take me to..." and your address. Somebody should get Pentagram on that one.
You can actually get a lot on a business card or matchbook with nice crisp 5pt. type, and I just love that I can say "5pt. type" and everyone with a computer knows that means really small type. I started out years ago designing "promotional" matchbooks for a zine I used to make. I'd print the design after-hours on a certain other well-known publishing company's color printer, then dissemble real matchbooks and reassamble them by hand, including re-gluing the striker strip and stapling with a mini-stapler. It was a strange and obsessive time. But it all comes full circle -- I recently did matchbooks for They Might Be Giants's new EP, "Indestructible Object." The smoking ban is hurting the restaurant matchbook trade, so it's good that the indie Brooklyn band trade is picking up some of the slack. Sadly, gone are the days when business printed on the matches themselves.
3. Going from alpha to omega: You designed a store-front awning in Brooklyn recently. Apart from providing the requisite shade from sun and cover from passing T-storms, and adhering to the Draconian laws of NYC store coverings, did you worry that the awning design trade might be a tight-knit cartel run by the Mafia or some similarly closed-loop insular organization? (Cuz the Mafia *owns* the hotdog-cart-umbrella biz, I hear.)
Ah yes! You are speaking of the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co., the new storefront for 826NYC. We did hear stories of awnings getting torn down in the middle of the night if they weren't installed by union labor. I guess that would be the United Coalition of Awning Hanger Men, and you don't want to mess with guys wielding drills and steel beams. Signmakers tend to align themselves by nationality, with varying degrees of expertise according to how well their home country fared in the Cold War. Neon sign guys tend to be great -- very old school and no bullshit, plus there's only about 12 colors to work with. Here's a tip, though: always ask how strictly the zoning laws really have to be observed.
I just can't say enough about the Superhero Store signs, so all I better say is please come see it and please buy something. We have both matter and antimatter, as well as a full selection of invisibility enhancers.
Time travel question: What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
Either the day the Brooklyn Bridge finally opened and the Brooklyn resurgence/backlash was born, or the day Peter Luger served their first triple.
9pm, Wednesday night - what are you doing?
Same thing as Friday night: command-z, command-z, command-z . . .
What's your New York motto?
Work hard, be strong, play nice, and don't lean on the fucking pole.
Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
Spending my 25th birthday at the unemployment office. In a roundabout way, though, that ended up with me hunched over my desk cutting up matchbooks and devising homemade scratch-off lottery cards, so really it all worked out pretty well.
Just after midnight on a Saturday - what are you doing?
Same thing as Monday night: command-z, command-z, command-z . . .
Where do you summer?
In my pajamas, mostly -- one of the benefits of being self-employed.
What was your best dining experience in NYC?
The first time I went to Peter Luger, my friends Brett and Dave wouldn't tell me what schlag was. Whenever a waiter carried some by while we were eating I had to close my eyes. Apparently some people put it on pie or whatnot, but straight-up schlag is as good as it gets.
Go dig Sam Potts' work on his word-filled web site, SamPottsInc.com. And think of him fondly the next time you're too drunk to tell the cabby how to get to your apartment, even though if you're that drunk it may be hard to think of him at all, let alone fondly. (Props to the redoubtable J. Hodgman for hipping us to this cat.)