S is for string bean. E is for eggplant. Z is for... what vegetable name starts with Z?
My Intro to Design teacher, a forty-years-young art historian and graphic design aficionado, distributes to the class the following assignment: create a typeface out of found materials, document it in whatever medium you so desire, and present it to the class on a single sheet of paper.
One a.m. before the assignment was due, wire basket full of rare and unusual produce at the 24-hour supermarket, I was beginning to realize just how much I'd underestimated the difficulty of the task at hand. The very idea of creating a typeface, which seemed like such a simple activity when I'd read the handout, had become a gut-wrenching effort. And I only had nine more hours until I had to turn it in.
Fast-forward through one of the longer nights of my life:
4 AM: Photo-reducing bananas on the Kinkos color copier.
9 AM: Frantically cutting and pasting the copies onto a 20" x 24" sheet.
10 AM: Running to the art building, barely making it into the lecture hall before the class began, I dropped my fruit and vegetable typeface into the stack for grading and wearily went to my seat, both surprised that I'd survived the assignment intact, and excited to see what new work I'd be forced to create in the coming week.
A foil-wrapped tube with a die-cut in the middle that shows the wine label. A 4-color printed bag with handles made from grosgrain. Or perhaps a simple cardboard container that has been letter-pressed with the restaurant logo?
2006. Another busy day at the design studio. A kind of controlled chaos.
Our client, director of operations at a firm that develops restaurant concepts, needed to see two packaging ideas for their new wine bar by tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're trying to polish off the home page and secondary page comps for a technology consulting Web site. And we've got two big mailers for a cruise line that are still in process and need a ton of photo research.
I need to get a vendor on the phone, since I can't show these ideas to the client without knowing if they're even feasible in their budget. The photo researchers at the stock agency are calling me back soon to let me know what kind of glacier shots they were able to scare up. Meanwhile, I've still got to design the navigation for the Web site and other designers want to have a quick group critique to make sure we're going in the right direction on those trade show booths that are due on Friday. How could I have forgotten the booth designs? Our account manager extracts a deadline out of me, knowing that another project will have to give as a result.
I sit back in my chair for a moment, just letting it all sink in. Somehow this gigantic pile of work will all get done -- and to an exacting artistic standard. Our clients will love the work, and we will get paid for it.