KCAI Graphic Design group visits Minneapolis

Over spring break, I joined a group of KCAI graphic design and AIGA enthusiasts; we visited the chilly and lovely city of Minneapolis. Everyone piled into four cars at the violent hour of 5:45am on a Monday.

On the first day, just a few hours after our arrival, we visited Larsen. I especially enjoyed the moment when a woman and a friendly cocker-spaniel walked in the door. We have an open dog policy, our guide, Heather Olson, let us know. Apart from the fur, the atmosphere was professional. People were quietly working in cubicles. Larsen specializes in print, web-based media and some industrial design; among their clients are, Buffalo Wild Wings, Wausau Paper and Best Buy.
Day two: A cold walk to the Minneapolis School of Art and Design (MCAD).
At MCAD the studios for all fine art disciplines were contained within one building. We walked in the door to experience a multi-disciplinary exhibit.
Occasionally, I enjoy photographing myself, reacting to art. Deer in the headlights is my specialty. (above)
We brought work to show and experienced a critique with a Junior level Typography class.
Above, is the paper airplane graveyard, located on the ceiling of the design studio space. The dust collection was not unlike our occasionally neglected filters in the spray booth.
Robb dressed in neutral colors that day in order to coordinate with this environment and assure my success when the above moment arose.

(Day 2 ended with a glorious trip to the Walker Art Center. I was sans camera and felt naked. Members of the in-house design staff gave us an informal presentation on some of their projects. A tiny design team of five is responsible for all printed materials for the Museum, including exhibition catalogues and promotional campaigns. They do not sleep. Severely competitive one-year internships are offered for recent graduates.)

Day 3: After eating blueberry pancakes (two days in a row) at a local diner where everyone on staff is required to have tattoo sleeves, we regroup.
We began the day with a walk to Guthrie Theater. Although the sky was clear, the hallway-like environment of surrounding buildings prevented the sun from softening the chill.
An enamoring view of the Mississippi river can be experienced on the balcony of the Guthrie.
Our next journey occurred a few blocks away at the design firm, Duffy & Partners. Suspense was intensified during an awkward and silent elevator ride to the sixth floor. (above)
Duffy's atmosphere included a spacious, modern interior with tall ceilings, exposed stone, and giant windows overlooking the Mississippi. Soothing, yet energizing music played over the speakers. Also, everyone was good-looking.
Duffy specializes in developing identities; we also viewed some industrial design pieces. Among their clients are Fresca, American Eagle, Aveda Men and Thymes.
The lecturer at Duffy talked about the evolution of a brand. According to their process, identities are inspired by the initial research contained by mood boards. The colors, style, connotations of mood board images should all represent the potential identity in some manner. During this presentation we all glanced at Jamie and wondered about a possible conspiracy. (Following the lecture, some of us ate at a superb Thai restaurant in the city. The spice was fierce and people were sniffling. On the way out, I grabbed a fortune cookie, such suspense contained in a tiny treat, you will met someone special at a social event.)

And now for a visit to the coolest place in the nation: (objectivity is not necessary in an editorial) Aesthetic Apparatus. These guys are on my list of the most talented and clever people on earth. The atmosphere was so comfortable and unpretentious; this is the type of environment where you could walk in with bed head and no one would like you any less.
The mantra of Aesthetic Apparatus creators Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski, is simple: Do what you love. Don't do it for the money. Part of their marketing scheme is to stay up late, listening to music and drinking beer, while printing limited-addition screen prints for bands. This company of three has such a high national and international following, the posters usually sell. A moose costume is memorialized in the printing room. At a print convention, one of their friend's danced infront of the Aesthetic Apparatus booth while wearing this costume.

Our last adventure occurred at the letterpress shop, Studio on Fire.
Founder, Ben Levitz demonstrated the original process with hand set type (above), as well as the slightly more recent process of creating plates from exposing film separations (below).
Levitz also talked about the tactile quality that embodies letterpress design and how quality should be a consideration when chosing a printer, rather than cost alone.
I happened upon this label taped to one of the presses. (Cookie fortunes are always powerful indicators of success.)

Feel free to comment on your experience of the Minneapolis trip:
What were your favorite tours? How did the crit go? Do you want to end up in this city? Did you also agree that the boys at Aesthetic Apparatus were gods?