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I recently visited a friend's house to discover a canister of Cafe Bustelo sitting on their countertop. With its bright yellow and red design, it stuck out like a sore thumb in a space I lovingly (and accurately) call the epitome of a hipster haven. A quick Google of Cafe Bustelo history makes me think their branding hasn't changed a whole lot since it was founded in 1931. And maybe that's a good thing. In a neutral, Pinterest-worthy space, that misfit canister was elevated to an unintentional statement piece -- a functional work of art.
Industrial designer, S. Balaram once said, “If there is shit all around me, how can I eat my ice cream?” What his delivery lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in truth. We can exist without form, but why would we want to? Could we fully appreciate function of an object if there were no element of beauty? (Would Christmas magic exist if we stripped away all the wrapping?)
I've always been a fan of old things. I like rehoming baubles and bits whose stories have been surrendered at an under-market fee. One man's castoff is this woman's treasure. Part of me wonders if this affinity is a silent rebellion against the style that defined my generation. By the time I was old enough for advertising to imprint on me, the homey kitsch of the late-70s/early-80s had given way to a certain kind of neon-laden, ADD-priming marketing hysteria. (When I think back to the heart of those advertising years, the images in my mind are set to a soundtrack of laser light FX and the Kool-Aid man bursting through a wall yelling, "OH YEAH!")
In a word, 90s branding felt very frantic. It wasn't trying to tell a story, it was just screaming at you, trying to be the loudest box in the room. I'm sure it worked to some extent, as I can recall more than one grocery-store meltdown over Dunkaroos and Lunchables.
Over time, 90s branding went the way of slap bracelets and "The Rachel Cut," quietly slipping into oblivion. In the decades since, it seems the children of the 80s/90s are now championing a new age of design. And while it's fun to joke "just put an ax on it," I really like the work that's being done these days. It's thoughtful, functional and beautiful. It reminds me that design is really a craft, not a profession or an industry or a skill. As for the people propelling the design engine forward? They just might be the closest thing we have to modern-day modern artists.
Good design doesn't have a shelf life. It says something about its era; the culture, the people, the priorities. It's one part nostalgia, one part dream. And decades down the road, it still has the power to make you stop and take notice.
If I asked you to describe a “typical creative,” what would you say? Quirky? Unstructured? Eccentric? Challenging? Artistic? Dramatic? Wacky? ADD? The responses are widely varied based on who you ask, but at the core creatives are just people. They’re not magical unicorns or prize possessions to be paraded around for show. They’re people who bring a highly visible, highly valuable set of talents to their team.
Realizing this, I often find myself wondering why we, as an industry, tend to hold creatives to a very different set of standards than the other members of a team. I am a creative and I'm guilty of it, too. The art of the creative has become so befuddling and esoteric, in fact, we now have websites devoted to advising others how to coexist with the mystical creative beast.
Somewhere along the way it seems a strange perception has become widely accepted about what defines the nature of a creative. If you work in the industry, you know what I’m talking about. The world, for reasons I’m not even sure it understands, bends to creative people, bowing to the perceived mystical genius. When creatives miss a deadline, excuses are made on their behalf. When they’re late to a meeting, everyone shakes their head and laughs it off as a side effect of that rascally creative DNA. The more people accept the stereotype of the creative as irresponsible, obstinate wild cards, the more the creative individual (and the true potential of their talent) becomes lost behind a human shield.
But is this really how creative genius evolves into great work? I say no. Much like laissez-faire parenting does little more than produce spoiled children, lack of clearly outlined expectations, lack of structure and lack of consequence is a system that fails everyone. The client. The agency. The team. The work. The creative themselves.
I read an awesome post by author Augusten Burroughs yesterday, and in true Augusten Burroughs-style, he put it oh-so-well:
Oh, how we hate limits. Limits hold you back. They confine you. They prevent you from doing what you want to do. Limits stop you from living a life without limits. Of course, this is only an illusion. What limits really do is give you an acceptable excuse to avoid doing something.
Limits are actually opportunities. The truth about not having everything you need, not being fully equipped, qualified, or allowed is that these limits are the nebula of creative genius. It requires a measure of innovation to accomplish something when there are limits blocking the way: a lack of skill, a lack of knowledge, a lack of funds, a limited set of tools. To circumvent the limits, you must create a novel solution or find an alternate route.
Limits force you to make the best of things. And “making the best” of something is a creative act.
Limits force improvisation. Improvisation creates new things.
When you have total freedom--no limits at all--you stop trying to make the best of things. This is the problem with “having it all": there is nothing left to want.
So to all of you out there reading this post as you desperately try to figure out How to Work With Creative People, take it from someone on the inside. We know how to meet deadlines. Hold us to them. If we're late for a meeting once, forgive us. If it happens again, pull us aside. Three times? Time for a little good ol' fashioned public shaming. If one of us tries to tell you "creativity can't be scheduled" (or if we try to feed you any other array of bullshit-y, excuse making lines), feel free to remind us that creativity may not work on a timeline, but our clients do.
The work will be better for it. And so will we.
We are about to begin work on a new project. This is one of my favorite things about working in a creative profession. The possibility phase. Possibilities are infinite. The world is your oyster. This is the point at which we have no real direction in mind, we just know that we're going on a proverbial creative road trip to somewhere. And just like planning a real trip, we begin gobbling down everything around us for inspiration. You never know where it will come from. Often (if not most of the time) it comes from the most unlikely places. A flash of genius is just as likely to strike while I'm reading an article on sea turtle rescue or perusing street interviews from middle America as it is while I'm sitting in a form brainstorming session. Creative inspiration has a mind of its own. It doesn't really play well sitting behind a desk, but it loves to strike out of nowhere while you're at the grocery store, in the shower or driving down the highway.
This is all to say, this morning I was lounging in bed letting serendipity work its magic when I stumbled upon a series of wedding photos set around a food truck. A food truck wedding? Be still my beating heart.
A recent visit from the Type Truck has renewed my love affair with all things truck. (A blog post about this adventure is coming soon.) What's better than a cool truck / office on wheels? Truck + typography + snacks. If you could figure out a way to integrate dogs and champagne into that equation, you would have pretty much defined my version of mecca. But I digress.
Anyway, I had fun perusing some of the loveliest trucks in the land. And now I'm sharing them with you. So with no further ado, cue the apropos tunes and get ready to experience ...
9 DELICIOUS EXAMPLES OF FOOD TRUCK TYPOGRAPHY
MIHO (San Diego, CA)
Click the image below for a closer peek...
DOGTOWN DOGS (Santa Monica, CA)
DENVER BISCUIT CO. (Denver, CO)
SWEETERY NYC(New York, New York)
Deluxe Street Food (Denver, CO)
JENI'S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS (Columbus, OH)
PHYDOUGH (Los Angeles, CA)
WYOMING (Portland, OR)
DC EMPANADAS (DC)