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Client Feedback

It always gets a bit dicey for me when, meeting someone for the first time, I’m asked what I do for a living. The answer isn’t as easy as it sounds, because I first have to qualify my response by describing the sort of work we do here at helveticka. Once that’s established, I try to explain where I fit in.

“So,” my interlocutor will say. “You’re in advertising.”

“No…not really,” I’ll reply. “It’s more…”

“Technical writer?”

“Not so much. I’m…”

“Have I ever read anything you’ve written?”

“Doubt it. The thing is…”

“But you write stuff.”

“Yeah. It’s just that…”

“And you get paid for that?”

“Well, yes. You see…”

But by then it’s too late. Look, I get it: It’s hard to imagine how, in a just society, a guy like me could make a living banging out words on a laptop. I don’t make the rules, though. I simply take advantage of them.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Even if I can’t adequately explain what it is I do for a living, I can now—courtesy of McSweeney’s—offer a glimpse into what it’s like.

The Road Less Traveled


Been spending a lot of time in Pomeroy, a little town on Highway 12 midway between Dayton and Clarkston. Like countless other farming communities scattered across southeastern Washington, Pomeroy is a microcosm of rural America; a place where hard work is its own reward, where just about everyone is related in some way, and where the commandment to love your neighbor is taken as seriously as it ought to be. It’s also where I went to high school.

In the summer of 1983, Wilbur Gingerich, who farmed in the Falling Springs area just outside of town, hired me to drive truck for that year’s harvest. This is the road we drivers—there were three of us—took on the way to Central Ferry, the Snake River grain elevators where we dumped tens of thousands of pounds of wheat and barley every day. Apart from the anomalous windmills off in the distance, this photo could very well have been taken that summer.

Driving New York Gulch Road again 31 years later, it’s easy to imagine that some things in this world will never change. But just as you’re about to believe in the possibility, you round a corner and you see those damn windmills. And you’re reminded that, in fact, it’s too late: everything has already changed.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. 

A Newly Minted Designer


Today, I have the honor of attending my daughter’s college graduation. Haley Anderson is receiving her Bachelor of Design from the University of Washington’s Visual Communication Design program.

Of course her mom and I are very proud of her. It’s not an easy path to a design degree at any four-year institution. And it’s great that she finished her education on time and all. But to be honest, not having to underwrite her college expenses anymore is cause for real celebration!

Now, if we can just get our youngest daughter to finish college in four years. Hannah, are you reading this? Hannah…?


Remember a while back when I linked to a story about the Dyatlov Pass incident? Mystery solved!

Confessions of a TV ghost-hunter.

Tokyo’s “oldest man” died—30 years ago. In related news, the New York City medical examiner’s office lost a body.

The Kraken has apparently been released. No? Maybe it was this, then.

…and on the other side of the shaman was a bag of 2,700-year-old Doritos.

Writing in the 21st Century

Interesting thoughts on writing from Steven Pinker, who, in lamenting the “robotic” adherence to style manuals, says, “…if you follow the guideline, ‘Change every passive sentence into an active sentence,’ you don’t improve the prose, because there’s no way the passive construction could have survived in the English language for millennia if it hadn’t served some purpose.”

Good point.

He goes on to say that “the first step to being a good writer is to be a good reader: to read a lot, and to savor and reverse-engineer good prose wherever you find it.” Amen, brother.

It’s a 37-minute video, but (mercifully) there’s a transcription.

Zu-Zu! Pow!

It’s Cole Porter’s birthday today, which I’m totally using as an excuse to dig into my Esquivel! collection.

From 1962’s More of Other Worlds, Other Sounds, here’s the King of Space-Age Pop performing his rendition of Porter’s “I Get a Kick out of You.”

A Tribute to a Unique Artist

I just learned that a friend of mine, Bernard Perlin, passed away in January. He was 95.

I met Bernard in 1995 when he came to Spokane to speak to the local ad club about his experiences producing WWII propaganda posters for the Office of War Information. Bernard was an exceptionally talented artist, and his war posters remain some of the most iconic from that era. One of my most prized possessions is an autographed copy of his famous “Americans Will Always Fight for Liberty.”


I visited Bernard in his Ridgefield, Connecticut home in the fall of 2012. My family and I enjoyed lunch and listening to his amazing stories. We walked away with a wonderful painting he first completed in 1966. (I say “first” because he reworked the canvas over time.) It now hangs in helveticka’s new studio.

Bernard Perlin was, and shall remain, one of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. RIP, BP.

The Sky Is Falling!

Big news in the world of typography: Apple has dropped Lucida Grande—its font of choice in every operating system since 1999—like a bad habit. What’s replacing it? Why, it’s Helvetica Neue.

Naturally, there’s been a great hue and cry from the design community. Erik Spiekermann calls Helvetica “the McDonalds of type.” Tobias Frere-Jones* worries that it won’t work in small sizes. Scott Anderson says that Helvetica Neue is as “predictable and disappointing” as Lucida Grande.

Shrug. It’s hard to argue with Apple’s success in the realm of design. I’m pretty sure they’ve thought this through.

*Alex Walker, who calls Apple’s decision “tin-eared,” refers to Frere-Jones as the “Paul McCartney of rockstar type designers.” So I guess that makes him another vastly overrated hack whose best work was done forty-five years ago.

Spokane Scene no. 12


Took the dog for a walk yesterday evening after the rain and hail. This is part of the newly improved Hart Field, looking south-southwest across the soccer fields.


Apple’s bloom has faded for me over the last couple of years, in part because it seems they can no longer handle the simple stuff. (Both the iPhone music app and iTunes Match are notoriously glitchy and almost counterintuitive.)

But I have to hand it to them: this is a great ad. It’s nice to see “classical” music taken seriously and portrayed without the usual stereotypes. And it’s particularly ballsy to feature a contemporary piece like Salonen’s remarkable violin concerto.

Well done.

Oh, hi.

Yes, I know, it’s been a while. No, I don’t have an excuse for our absence. What I have instead is a fascinating read over at the Chronicle of Higher Education: the identity—perhaps—of Little Albert, the baby terrified by psychologists nearly 100 years ago in a creepy filmed experiment.

Mark your calendar, you don’t want to miss this…


helveticka will be hosting an open house on Friday, June 27. An official invitation will be arriving soon. Over a year ago we began planning, remodeling, and building out our new office space. Come see what a 1930s building can look like with a little thoughtful design. That, plus food, spirits, and some talented musicians, will help us celebrate this milestone.

photo by Charles A. Libby, 1941

Tattoo You

Is tattooing art? We’ve asked that question before, but I’m not sure we ever landed on a satisfactory answer. This video at least demonstrates the inherent difficulty in trying to paint a living, breathing—and apparently quite jiggly—canvas. As for me, I’m even less inclined to get a tattoo now.

5 maj

Before you ask, no, I won’t be going out tonight to quaff a dozen tequila shots in honor of a minor Mexican holiday that, in the U.S. anyway, is little more than St. Patrick’s Day with a side of nachos. (And no, I’m not trying to be morally superior, either. I, um…don’t like tequila.)

So instead, I’ll be celebrating the 201st birthday of Søren Kierkegaard with a bottle of Heering and a dog-eared copy of Fear and Trembling. Who’s with me?

New Music!

How about some tunes for the weekend?

Elbow released The Take Off and Landing of Everything, their sixth studio album, back in March. I just got a copy of it last week, and it’s easily as good as their previous work. Check out “Charge” and see what you think.

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