Can Do Part Two
If you think you can, you can." This was the slogan on a fortune cookie from a recent take-out Chinese dinner. Oddly, the fortune cookie presents the same adage as Virgil's Latin phrase "Possunt, quia posse videntur"—"They can, because they think they can."
I learned the Virgil quote five years ago when Arielle Jennings, the student I mentored throughout high school, gave me a silver jewel box—inscribed with the above Latin phrase—containing a silver heart-shaped pendant embellished by both of our birthstones. My peridot went missing a while back, and Arielle's emerald-like stone disappeared only recently, but I still wear the pendant daily. (Are the lost baubles a metaphor for "bling goes; heart abides"?).
In 2014, when Arielle graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Illustration, I used the Virgil quote on a congratulations card. A year after graduation and living in Providence, Arielle is moving to New York City to pursue work, ideally in art and publishing.
Both Virgil and the philosopher of Wonton Food Inc. will be helpful guides as Arielle navigates the shoals of job listings, HR screeners and tips from contacts.
Of course, even with the power of positive thinking, perseverance, and a stong foundation from RISD, Arielle will confront reality. She can because she thinks she can. But luck, timing and additional connections will also aid her quest for fulfilling and remunerative work. Got leads?
Font and Essay by Cassandra Garruzzo, 2014
The font Cadence is an ongoing project very dear to my heart. First, a little bit of background: I have been figure skating ever since I was nine years old. It is my favorite sport and I still skate for exercise and leisure. Naturally, when I was assigned the task to create my own font, my first instinct was to try and think of a way to marry two of my loves: typography and figure skating. I know that there are display fonts that were created using body positions in dance and in skating. One example of this technique is Alphabet Photography by Jennifer Blakeley, 2011. I did not want to repeat this style, as beautiful as the results are. I wanted to find a different way to combine the movement and flow of skating with the rhythm of a beautiful and coherent font.
I decided to try to choreograph a footwork for the ice that creates one attached, sequenced alphabet. I wanted the letters to connect at the bottom from beginning to end and be skated in one pass across the ice. This proved to be far more difficult than I originally figured. Through weeks of trial and error, between drawing letter forms and attempting to skate them, I finally was able to come up with a footwork. The letter forms are not quite perfect, and the skating is slightly more difficult than originally intended, but that is the part that excites me most: its not over. I still have the opportunity to make it better and continue resolving my skating techniques, as well as, my typography skills. Now, I feel that my feet understand my hands a little bit better, and I continue to try to perfect that relationship.
F edrigoni a paper company based in Verona, Italy, enlisted eight design firms from across the globe (including BTDnyc) to design a 16-page section for its promotional book, 16/2.
The medium? Fabulous Fedrigoni papers. Printing specs? Full-color printing with up to two special effects. Challenge? Tell a story and instill a sense of local identity. Such a great project with so few limits? Daunting (but exciting)!
"Materiality" springs to mind and hand. Participants worked with paper textures, reflections of inks, varnishes, and three-dimensional embossings in this deluxe tactile artifact (watch this space for images—or check out Fedrigoni!
As with all group projects, different firms solved the same design brief with an amazing range of approaches. Linear stories, specific sculptures, abstracted symbols, conceptual book-within-a-book all show the versatility of Fedrigoni papers (not to mention enduring Italian craft). 16/2 also demonstrates that an increasingly small and uniform world still contains strikingly-local details.
BTDnyc's section pays homage to the vernacular iconography and typography of road signs along U.S. highways.
Although 16/2's contributors work digitally, spending a few hours of face-to-face time at Frankfurt with some of the luminaries rendered the work and its makers even more real and inspiring. (At a remarkable presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Threaded's Kyra Clark began her remarks in the Modi language, using customary Maori introductions and greetings.)
Printed BTDnyc photo essay © Fedrigoni.
A Station's Tale
In his book celebrating Grand Central's centennial, Sam Roberts notes that the terminal has a role in Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale, in which the protagonist, Peter Lake, secretes himself in a small compartment above the cerulean ceiling."
A month before its hundredth birthday in February 2013, film crews shot Winter's Tale in the station—also the site of the Apple Store. IMDb describes Winter's Tale as "A fantasy story set in 19th Century and present-day Manhattan." Movie extras straddled the dual timeframes; costumed for historical scenes in the film, they checked their present-day devices while awaiting their moment in the lights.
IMDb's synopsis skews time; construction on Grand Central Terminal began in 1903—i.e. in the 20th Century.
In a shameless plug for a BTDnyc book interior project, we note that Roberts's anniversary tribute is available as an Open EBook—which means actors in Winter's Tale can bone up on history using a number of different E-Readers.
Note to typographers: stories in this section currently sport hash marks instead of typographer's quotes. This indignity will be corrected.
The Biz Goes South
BTD is now in Suite 424. After 25 years—and happy collaboration with at least 35 employees, interns, freelancers, constant colleagues as well as many clients—in Room 511, I declined to renew its lease and took a space one floor down, on the south side of the building. While the old office afforded wall space for works-in-progress, inspiration, and outmoded tools, Suite 424 afforded the opportunity to start clean.
A change in location—especially given the evolution in technology throughout recent decades—involved ruthless editing to eliminate almost 400 square feet of stuff. Archival? Worthless junk? Tricky decisions.
For some items, I solved the dilemma by taking a quick iPhoto of stages of design mockups from back in the day, when letterforms were photocopied, pieced together, sliced apart, and then photocopied again. It's easy to see why Apple revolutionized the industry.
Streamlining won out. Many items went to the Housing Works Thrift Store a few blocks from the office; for a while, the store bore an odd resemblance to the ever-emptying Room 511. I wish I'd realized that Martha Rosler's Meta Monumental Garage Sale at MoMA had accepted donations. Too late. 2015 update: an artist is now the proud owner of BTD's old-but-in-working-order a Daige waxer!
If you're in NYC, come check out the new office. Same great building, spanking new space—on the Houston Street side, with a view of a noir-ish Parking Garage sign and the Freedom Tower under construction.
Tools of the trade evolve or become obsolete, but parting is such sweet sorrow. One way to avoid absolute goodbye is to create cards created using paper and binding samples.
Some of the recycled samples are made from Crane's paper with Reich Translucent Vellum (immediate right), and Crane's paper with Old English Letraset (far right).
Can Do Spirit
Possunt, quia posse videntur. When she graduated from New York City's High School of Art & Design, Arielle Jennings summed up our three years in the AIGA/NY Mentoring Program by giving me a silver jewel box inscribed with that phrase—and containing a heart pendant with both of our birthstones. The translation of the Latin poet Virgil's quote is "they can, because they think they can." The pendant means the world to me.
After being paired during Arielle's sophomore year, we met every two weeks without fail. Our meetings were cordial and full of mutual respect, but a bit cautious at first. By summer of her sophomore year, reserve gave way to warmth, trust and love.
We were clear about Arielle's goals: college, college, and college. In Junior year, Arielle's academic record was stronger than her drawing skills, but her heart was set on art school. So, we drew. And drew. And drew. Although we enjoyed all of the activities organized by the Mentoring Program, most of our meetings during Junior year involved drawing together at various locations outdoors and in—always with a frappuccino or cocoa as a treat. Thanks to Arielle's perseverance, she won an AIGA-sponsored spot in an SVA summer program and drew some more. With all of her practice and guidance
from SVA, Arielle loosened up. In her senior year, we spent hours working on portfolios as well as scholarship and college applications, supplemented by AIGA projects, trips to MoMA to see Tim Burton's amazing work. Occasionally, we just hung out. Again, hard work paid off. Arielle got into 8 of her 10 schools, was wait-listed at one (Brown), and is now a sleep-deprived RISD student.
Arielle has great discipline. She and I have great chemistry, even after I was outed as being a "very old person." In addition, Arielle's mother, Deborah, was very supportive of everything we did. Although mentoring is one-on-one with the adult and student, I found that out of the four students I've mentored, the two greatest successes involved parents who trusted the program. Out of the three students I mentored prior to Arielle, two of the pairings didn't sing. Luck helps—but more importantly, so does keeping at it.
The complete version of the quote Arielle chose is: "Hos successus altit: possunt, quia posse videntur." "These successes encourage: they can, because they think they can."
Arielle says that my help and encouragement led to her success. Her successes led to self-confidence and a great start in life at one of the best art schools in the country. I've learned a lot from Arielle. We can because we think we can. I wear the pendant daily to remind myself.