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Reflections from CA: Gaffes to Laughs

One night at CA, the judges’ conversations disintegrated into telling tales about our worst-nightmare faux paus. They’re funny now that time has passed, but at the time, they rocked our worlds.

One of our judges works with the music industry and had us rolling in the aisles with this story. Her client, Madonna, was launching her new album Like a Prayer and had visions of the packaging smelling like a Catholic church infused with the scent of swinging incense. Well our industrious, aim-to-please designer found an ingenious solution. Imbue the paper with patchouli oil. (They dumped in it the glue.) What she didn’t realize is how many people, don’t like the fragrance, in fact DESPISE it so much that they barraged her with hate mail. Many are severely allergic to the essential oil.

Spelling errors took the prize for the most common and expensive mistakes. Here are some that made us laugh hardest.

  • Printing an ad with the name of a Virginia-based hospital spelled: Vagina Hospital.
  • Running an ad proclaiming a free pitcher of beef during a bar’s happy hour.
  • Announcing a new restaurant’s gayla opening – in 100-point type on a full-page ad. (The next day the restaurant owners received calls from patrons wondering if this was some sort of secret code announcing a gay-friendly restaurant and others, not wanting to be a part of that kind of place, cancelling their reservations.)
  • Printing the business-card title for a new healthcare client as director of pubic health. (It wasn’t noticed until the client was handing out her cards at her industry’s largest trade-show convention.)

And we’ve all had clients who want you to push the envelope. That is until you do. Then they aren’t sure, did they really give you that direction? One musician wanted to break out and do an edgy, groundbreaking video. The designer rose to the occasion and delivered a right-on-the-mark, million-dollar video production. The musician freaked out and rejected it. Flat out said NO, we need to reshoot. OMG. The designer (who probably lost her lunch) thought she’d lost her job and maybe even her career. Several days later the musician saw the light, liked the piece, in fact loved it. It went on to catapult the musician’s rise to fame and became a groundbreaking video.

Reflections from CA: Fave Fonts

Although the days were grueling and, at times, it felt as though my eyes were going to completely shut down due to information overload, I was happy to be around like-minded souls. At the end of each day, my fellow judges and I would assemble at the hotel bar and talk, talk, talk. The topic of discussion was always design. Good or bad, new and different, boring and overused. We were never left wanting for material.

It felt good to talk shop morning, noon and night. I loved diving into minutiae with other designers who honestly care about the weight of a font or the pedigree of a face. I was completely in my element and loving every minute of it.

Do you have a favorite font? I pulled out my pen just in time to catch the list of judges’ favorites and jot them down. Oh, and a special thanks goes to Jeri, who was so kind as to spell-check for me.

In no particular order, here’s the list of favorites we compiled:

  • Gill 262
  • Helvetica
  • Akzidenz Grotesk
  • Bodoni
  • Torino
  • Didot
  • Baskerville ITC
  • Futura
  • HTF Gotham
  • Trade Gothic
  • Optima
  • Fedra


Reflections from CA: Energized, Inspired

The whole experience judging Communication Arts was pretty darn cool. I saw a lot of work and was inspired by a good chunk of it. There truly are some amazing shops out there creating stimulating, knock your socks off work.

But what I really enjoyed were the other judges. What an interesting, smart, funny (Insert Graham Clifford here), insightful and opinionated group. Engaged and current, focused and detail-oriented… and each oh-so-good at what they do.

If you ever wonder why CA is the show of all shows, the answer is Jean and Patrick Coyne. I have to hand it to them; they really do their homework when selecting judges. In only nine people, they manage to find just the right mix – people from different parts of the country, of different ages, genders and styles. It’s this mix that produces such a stunning retrospective and celebration of the best-of-the-best in communication materials from the previous year.

The days started at 8:30 sharp. Jean herself would crack the whip and call roll each morning. A couple of judges, who shall remain nameless, got 8:31 knocks on their doors as Jean, that little spitfire, practically goose-stepped down the hall to round us up. We worked a solid eight hours each day, looking, disseminating, rewarding and dismissing entries. At the end of one particularly frantically paced day, Jeri Heiden summed it up… “my eyes hurt.” I think we all felt her pain, but we quickly washed our fatigue away with evening drinks and laughter. Let’s just say we moved into the hotel bar.

The days were long and tiring, but I feel energized – like I have a new lease on design. There were some fantastic designs, and I think this experience has given me a sense of perspective. Entries were submitted from across the globe, so I was able to get a feel for trends; not only in design, but in the types of projects being created as well. Was I inspired? You betcha!

On July 15, I celebrated my 50th birthday while judging CA. I have to say, this experience was just the shot in the arm I needed as I wrapped up my 50th trip around the Sun.

Reflections from CA: Alive and Well

Sonia Greteman, president and creative director, went to California two weeks ago to judge Communication Arts’ 49th Design Annual, the design industry’s most respected competition. During her days, she spent hours pouring over hundreds of entries with eight other industry experts. At night, she and the judges gathered around a table to eat, drink and ruminate on the industry. In the following posts, we’ll get a glimpse into CA and the fascinating conversations.

When you receive a copy of a Communication Art’s design annual every November, its glossy pages are packed with vibrant images of stellar design. But for all of its perfection, you simply don’t realize the process, pain and dedication it takes to weed out, hone, cull and edit down the sheer magnitude of entries to a small, focused, yet inspiring show.

Entries were down this year, I’m told, though I’m sure it has something to do with the economy. Regardless, there are still a lot of design and communication materials being cranked out. The first shock in judging CA is the fact that there is a bunch of bad stuff entered – borderline atrocious, “Joe’s Pawn Shop” kind of stuff. I mean, I’m always so critical of our own work, only entering one or two pieces, but we really shoulda entered a few more this year… We woulda been a contendah.

The second realization is the pure quantity, the mountains of materials and money spent on this stuff. You can’t help but be amazed by the amount of time, energy, resources and manpower spent on design and printed materials. I saw more four-color, glossy, matte, uncoated, translucent, multi-process, die-cut, tipped-on, folded-up, foil-stamped, letter-pressed, metallic-inked, oversized, illustrated, photographed pieces than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

But here’s the good news: Our business is alive and well… And, if not for the occasional pawn shop ad, flourishing.

No Place Like Home

I am a Kansan, born and raised. I grew up in Augusta, a community of 9,000 located about 25 minutes east of Wichita. I proudly attended the University of Kansas – Go Jayhawks! – and came home each summer while I interned at Bombardier Learjet. I loved coming home during breaks, but I was dead-set against moving back to Wichita after graduation.

So I moved to Dallas. I went to work for Bombardier Flexjet where I had an amazing experience as a marketing coordinator, planning unique events for high-networth individuals. I loved living in the big city with food, shopping and all the entertainment one could ask for. But it also took me 30 minutes to drive about 8 miles, my husband and I couldn’t come close to affording a house and it certainly wasn’t as friendly as I was accustomed to – it was a crapshoot whether or not people would even respond when you said, “hello!”

When my husband received a job offer that would move us back to Wichita, I honestly thought he was crazy. We were living an urban lifestyle. I had a great job. And it definitely felt much cooler saying we lived in Dallas rather than Wichita.

I was wrong. Moving back to Wichita is the best step we could have made both professionally and personally. We’ve each had tremendous career opportunities, established community connections and fostered some incredible friendships. It may not be the “big” city, but Wichita offers us the kind of life we could never have had living in Dallas.

I found out this morning that I was selected as a Wichita Business Journal 2008 40 Under 40 honoree. Recognition such as this provides encouragement and added motivation to get involved. To make a difference. To stay in Wichita.

We all know that workforce development and retention of talent are key issues facing our community. I wouldn’t trade my experiences in Dallas, but I know what that starry-eyed 22-year-old had yet to learn. There’s no place like home.