design outlets

When I was a professor teaching science, math, and writing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1990s, I enrolled in graphic design classes as a creative outlet. This experience has given me confidence to make my own projects, although I do tend to rely on the perfection of geometric forms. While this conservative tendency goes way back, at least as far back as middle school when I enjoyed constructing mazes, I may have ossified more over the years. Let’s see:

About four years ago I created an emblem to be burned onto the surface of a music box, as a prototype for an artifact that would survive on the Moon for millions of years. I regularized and aligned medieval symbols for Earth, Moon, and Sun. Looking at it again now, I find this icon striking but static; it could belong on a headstone as much as on a time capsule.

Earth Moon Sun 2016 02

About fourteen years ago, before the children were born, I designed a family flag, which I later had made into a lapel pin. Focusing on this project must have been a comfort as I mourned Mookie; the four colors represent the surface tones of the four mammals who had been the members of the family. While I obviously lean on geometry here too, the colors help introduce some movement.

Family flag 2005

About eighteen years ago I completed a book project that combined my interests in design and in poetry (honed in the writing group I started in Chicago and in writing workshops I taught for Bard College). Below is a sample of page layouts.

Before the Rain Contents 2001 04

Invocation Violation 2001 04

My dog 2001 04

Your first time 2001 04

Given this limited sample, it does seem to me that I have become less daring in my designs. I wonder if this is due to a heavy reliance upon keyboard and trackpad, or perhaps just lack of practice to push myself in this way. The children continue to produce wonderfully sloppy, dynamic drawings, but this type of artistry is not limited to youth. After all, when we travel this winter I expect to admire how Gaudí and Picasso produced work that was increasingly more organic and free-flowing in their later years.

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