Wrongness in the Walls: M&Co. Remembered

Wrongness in the Walls: M&Co. Remembered
By Tiffany Meyers, May/June 2006

In 1988, Tibor Kalman, designer Emily Oberman, and intern Scott Stowell were frequently left at New York’s Ceasar Video without adult supervision in the middle of the night. They were working at the edit facility on M&Co.’s music video for the Talking Heads’ “(Nothing But) Flowers,” a typographically driven solution that would both break new ground and take an inordinate amount of time to produce.

Kalman had arranged a deal whereby M&Co. could use the facility 24 hours a day during the video’s production, giving them the run of the place after business hours—and often past 4 a.m. Hilarity of the kind that accompanies caffeine and overwork ensued. And Oberman recalls one night in particular, when Kalman removed every poster from every wall in the facility—Joseph Beuys prints, if her memory serves—and rehung each piece upside down.

When Ceasar Video staffers arrived for work the next day, there was intrigue and confusion—and finally, the decision to embrace the upended art. “And for as long as I continued to go to that facility, it stayed up that way,” says Oberman, now partner of Number 17 in New York, whose term at M&Co. from 1987 to 1993 was the longest run of any employee in the firm’s 14-year lifespan.

M&Co.’s sprawling mythology brims with antics along these lines, many with the same Marx Brothers’ quality. But the story of Ceasar Video and the art on its walls is a particularly tidy metaphor for Kalman’s preternatural ability to wrench audiences out of what they’d come to rely on as proper and right.

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Building a Biennial

Step Inside Design
The Inaugural Chicago International Poster Biennial
By Tiffany Meyers

In the exhibition space of Crown Hall, Mies van der Rohe’s masterpiece on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, a group of young women weave in and out of the crowd. It’s hard not to stare; they’re all wearing chic, vibrant mini-dresses whose similar A-line cuts can’t be coincidental. They look like a girl gang of fashionistas in coordinated party outfits.In fact, they’re part of the exhibition, which is kicking off the first-ever Chicago International Poster Biennial (CIPB), a free-to- enter, open-call poster competition and exhibition.

On the walls that evening: Award-winning posters designed by the biennial’s 11 jurors, some of the most celebrated designers in the world. On the models: Dresses made of fabric on which a different juror’s poster has been printed.

Here walks Michel Bouvet’s 2007 poster for the Arles photography festival. And there, in strappy heels, click-clacks John Massey’s famous 1978 Eames Soft Pad Group poster for Herman Miller. In all there are 12 dresses, the extra one representing a poster designed for the CIPB itself by Yann Legendre, who launched the biennial with designer and studio partner Lance Rutter. It’s hard to imagine how she pulled it off, but Rutter’s wife Miki Shim-Rutter made the dresses—a silent auction for them brought in just over $3600 that night—in two weeks.

But then, the CIPB itself begs the same question: How in the name of graphic design did these two practitioners, who have a fulltime staff of three (including themselves), manage to draw 1600 entries from 460 designers without a lick of marketing—and despite efforts from the angry gods of fundraising to thwart their goals? In no particular order: Tenacity, freshly forged connections and the kind of blind faith without which no one would ever undertake to do the impossible.

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When Designers Moonlight

Communication Arts
Advertising imitates art
By Tiffany Meyers | 2005

At some point in history, the advertising industry decided to turn an adjective into a noun and formally call its practitioners “creatives.” Aside from bewildering people on the outside, the title aptly describes a type of person inclined to explore diverse forms of expression in a lifetime, and not just those that move product.

More than a few creatives manage to produce a body of art even as they build successful careers in advertising. Invariably, one influences the other.

Creative director Tom Lichtenheld is also the author/illustrator of several acclaimed children’s books, including “Everything I Know About Pirates” (Simon & Schuster, 2000), “Everything I Know About Monsters” (Simon & Schuster, 2002) and “What Are YOU So Grumpy About?” (Little, Brown & Company, 2003). Two more titles, “Everything I Know About Cars” (Simon & Schuster) and “What’s With This Room?” (Little, Brown & Company) are slated for publication in 2005.

Lichtenheld—who began as a fine-art student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, then realized he might want to buy a car one day—served as a creative director for BMW and United Airlines at Fallon, Minneapolis, when he stumbled into book illustration by accident: His young nephew asked if he might draw him a pirate or two. Lichtenheld more than satisfied his requirements as an uncle, completing a pirate book—his first—with Fallon’s support.

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Gen Y + Boomers: 2 Sides of Same Coin?

How Magazine
Generationally Speaking

By Tiffany Meyers

In many ways, an assessment of Boomers and their babies/grandkids (or the millions of young Americans known as Generation Y) is an apples-to-oranges prospect. The two groups have come of age in vastly different eras of U.S. history, consuming and creating different cultural touch points.

To compare the two generations, you’d have to compare the space race to MySpace, Earth Day to Green Day, the Mod Squad to the iPod, and so on all the way up to Watergate vs. Monicagate. Perched on (almost) opposite ends of the demographic spectrum, each group brings a unique set of needs to the marketplace as consumers.

All of this makes the traits they do share particularly notable. For one, these groups both live with a rather unflattering reputation for suffering from self-entitlement issues. Also from the Department of Blanket Statements, they’re said to view the future of the world through rose-colored glasses-particularly in comparison to the purportedly nihilistic Generation X that sits between them.

And of course, they’re two highly sought-after consumer sectors.As the two largest generational segments in the U.S., Boomers and members of Generation Y exert tremendous influence over the nation’s social, cultural and political landscape. Wielding formidable power and influence in economic terms as well, they’ve emerged as two of the sweetest spots for marketers pitching all manner of products and services.

The first thing to know about Generation Y is that it possesses more monikers than a demographer’s spreadsheet. In its roughly 30 years of existence, this group has been called Millennials, Reagan Babies, Generation Next, Echo Boomers and iGeneration, to name a few.

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