Ever thought of a rubber duckie as high design? That distinction may be an over rating since most of them annoyingly can’t even float in water upright. I know this because I sort of have a collection and I float them from time to time. Most of them would drown if I didn’t rescue them. My favorites are with sailor caps.

The history of the rubber duck is linked to the emergence of rubber manufacturing in the late 19th century. Sculptor Peter Ganine created a sculpture of a duck in the 1940s, then patented it and reproduced it as a floating toy, of which over 50,000,000 were sold.



We’ve designed a new website… FOR OURSELVES! It’s a new mind-set about keeping our friends and clients in the loop of design crusades.

Partners in Design is all about making GOOD graphic design for over 30 years, including branding programs, logos, print, books, posters, electronic media, interpretives, signage and exhibit design.

The biggest change you’ll notice on our new site is at last we’re admitting that we do more than traditional graphic design. A fact of life. Over time, you just become more expert, seasoned and proficient. Now with our graphic design, we also offer writing and editing. Our team does illustrations and photography, too. We’re also doing color consulting, book design and publishing. And we create original art, selling cards, posters and a few other tchotchke.


We wait patiently here in the Pacific Northwest for the clouds to break. Our gray winter skies can be monotone at best. We don’t get any more rain than my hometown of New York City, but we have long stretches of cloud cover and we say bye-bye to the sun for many a day. Yes, we get SAD (seasonal affective disorder); we are in essence starved for light. Waiting for the sun to break through is a great Seattle winter pastime, supplemented with drinking warm beverages, reading books and watching movies.


There are some other very useful things that help the ‘winter blahs’…

•Take short walks

•See friends

•Get out of bed and stay active

•Don’t over eat

•Change the colors of your living and work environments (we can help with that)

•Communicate with bright designs (we can help with that too)

•Looking at photos of sunnier times (we took lots of photos this summer)

So look up, and if you’re lucky enough to catch a patch of blue… smile.


How do designers have fun? Make new worlds, design our own t-shirts, promote favorite causes… or perhaps go back to our typographic roots and create word pictures. We were instructed to do such things in design school. We learned about the type masters, from Giambattista Bodoni to Matthew Carter. We would get assignments to dissect and create typographic illusions. Our goal was to embody the fonts and be possessed by them. We were awed by each type font’s unique superhero powers.

Being empowered by typography, communication is enhanced and unique messages are possible. A logo and brand can become a beacon and almost nothing has to be said to fully understand its meaning.

And look, we’re still up to it today… going to the type-gym for our workouts. With these four illuminated screen-shots we’re using one font and turning it every which way. In this case we’re indebted to the font Bebas Neue created by Ryoichi Tsunekawa.

Design is reliant on new ideas. New talent is as valuable a resource as experience and mature talent. Students of design have tremendous insight… which in the real world sometimes is diminished and diluted. Not many of us find artistic inspiration from leg hair. But Mayuko Kanazawa, a 20-year-old student at Japan’s Tama Art University, decided black, coarse strands would make for a great type font.


As she was thinking of ideas, she happened to glance at her friend’s hairy limbs when he was complaining of leg pain. That’s when her light bulb went on. She then went on to manipulate the strands to create the letters of the alphabet, which I’m sure was a painful experience for the cooperative guy. Not only did Mayuko develop a full uppercase font, but also did a delightful lowercase. Can we conclude that this is an original fetish font?


It’s important not to oversimplify the act of ‘wayfinding.’

But wait, letís back up for a moment… what is ‘wayfinding?’

The strict definition of the term historically means to orient someone for the purpose of determining their location in relation to a desired destination or objects that may be nearby. But in a broader sense, wayfinding encompasses all of the ways we utilize to orient ourselves in any physical space as we navigate from place to place. Wayfinding functions to inform people of their surroundings in the (unfamiliar) built or natural environment, offering information at strategic points to guide people in the right direction.

But perhaps weíre going too fast here. Is this a design process of pure form follows function? Or, is wayfinding experiential? Does it contain a story too? Imagine a point ‘A’ and assume that wayfinding will aid you in getting to point ‘B.’ A good designer will include in this journey the emotional and motivational aspects of the distance being traveled. Inspiration and memory should be a part of the plan. In fiction and comparative mythology, the ëheroís journeyí is the common template of a broad category of tales involving a hero beginning a great adventure, facing a decisive crisis and winning a victory, then coming home transformed. In this scenario, our hero (visitor, student, patient, citizen) needs wayfinding (map, markers and guides). Getting from A to B is just the diagrammatic template for a wayfinding solution. When it succeeds, good wayfinding design incorporates many human needs along the way.


So in this broader context, what can wayfinding bring to a project?

Complex structures and environments are interpreted and stored by the human memory. Distances, locations and time may be remembered differently than as they appear to be in reality. An effective wayfinding system is based on human behavior and consists of:

—reducing the fear factor (where is the next rest-stop?)

—creating a comprehensive, clear and consistent visual communication system with concise messaging

—taking special care (wayfinding and signage has a dynamic physical presence within the landscape and should be environmentally respectful)

Wayfinding is the tool that binds: roads, paths, buildings, thought processes, experiences, and more into a matrix. It can assist in getting us between two points in the simplest manner, or it can create a lasting ‘memory-scape.’ Designed effectively, wayfinding is a cornerstone to promotion and a catalyst to expanded interaction; a designed set of elements that help us navigate and provide greater access to discovery.


“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

—Joseph Campbell


Our main character “B” is questioning the things people are labeling him. Sometimes what people say make him feel proud. Then they seem confused by him and they say hurtful things. They don’t seem to fit B’s true self. B has both his best friends, and bigger than life bullies to contend with. In B’s classroom his 2nd grade teacher has posted the equal rights of every student… perhaps all classrooms should have their own Classroom Civil Rights. Here’s the poster B depends on. Our book “B in the World” is published and available online,


We’re thrilled to announce a book that our studio has just released! Written by Sharon Mentyka and illustrated by Stephen Schlott, B IN THE WORLD is an illustrated chapter book for children ages 4-7 about a gender nonconforming child. It takes an open-hearted, kids-eyed view of what it means to be different and celebrates children for who they are meant to be, not how others want to label them. Written in a fun, engaging voice, B IN THE WORLD is a story about being yourself and being proud of it. It is a story for kids who are different, with the ultimate message that it’s okay to be different.

Many thanks to family, friends and organizations who contributed funding and moral support for the project. Please consider gifting, sharing, and reading aloud B IN THE WORLD. The book is available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon or you can order a signed copy here. An e-book version is also available at the Apple iTunes Store.

Here’s what some early reviewers have to say:
“B in the World is a great book for the middle primary reader. It explores themes of inclusion and difference in a fun and readable way about a gender fluid child exploring his female side and struggling with what it means.” ~Tracy Flynn, Welcoming Schools, Human Rights Campaign Foundation

“As the parent of a gender non-conforming son, I am delighted to welcome B into our library and our family. B is a sweet, happy boy with a brave heart and the determination to live his truth. I give B an A!”~ Pamela Privett, Parent

Stay tuned for info on a book launch in the Seattle area. In the meantime, check out B’s website for more information on the book’s genesis and resources.



I’d like to share a little bit about a personal project I’m creating, it’s called “I’m Different Press”. I’m designing cards and posters with unique and necessary messages of wit and inclusion. I believe in diversity… look around, it’s one of the greatest assets of America. I use messages of pride, inclusion, anti-bullying and acceptance in my graphics.

Our motto is be different and make a difference. These simple prints may begin a good conversation… what you say matters. Some of the proceeds also support non-profit groups who are making headway in equality rights and protecting youth.

If you have a moment visit my online shop. Be yourself with pride. Dare to be you. I would like to hear your suggestions for future cards and posters.


Cover designs by Peter Mendelsund


Book cover design by Partners in Design

It seems the only reason I signed up to the online sharing site Pinterest was to follow my passion for book cover designs. Though I would love to hold these volumes of literature in my hand and turn the pages, the online collection is rich. I can see the design interpretions of thousands of great publications from all around world within moments. The process and the visual storytelling is what I dream of just as I fall asleep at night.

Though my studio has only afforded me only a handful of book cover design assignments I’m still an enthusiast for covers. Sometimes I’d say my designs for some publications end up being cover designs of a sort, but strung together to make brochures or enlarged to make posters. I’m drawn to the classic cover designers like Paul Rand, Romek Marber and Jennifer Heuer, and one of my favorites Peter Mendelsund who was recently interviewed on NPR. You may be as enthralled as I was, but in any case when you work with Partners in Design it’s one of our inspirations. I’ll be designing a cover shortly for a book we’re having published, “B in the World”. You may want to look into this project with an important message.

B in the World005

We’re thrilled to share an exhibition opening on October 14 in Mexico City that showcases the work of graphics, branding and signage designer Lance Wyman at MUAC (Museo Universitadio Arte Contemporaneo).

Lance was one of our early mentors in New York City when we first began our journey as designers. He remains a friend and a inspiration to the entire graphic design community. Abrazos, Lance. We wish we could be there with you to celebrate.

flat white f-NAT

We have a new director here at the Seattle Opera. After 3o years, Speight Jenkins is retiring and will be replaced this new season by Aidan Lang, who’s originally from New Zealand. Opera is big here in Seattle and so is coffee. So we weren’t surprised to hear a radio interview on KPLU, our local NPR station, in which Lang was asked to name his favorite coffee beverage.

His answer—a flat white—apparently sent the city into a coffee tizzy. For a day or two, baristas reported an unprecedented call for flat whites. Unfortunately, not many knew how to make it. In the radio interview, Lang describes a flat white as “something in between a latte and a cappuccino.” My local barista reports that he gets an occasional request for the drink, mostly from visiting Europeans. “It’s a small drink,” Jamison at Fresh Flours told me. “If you’re used to grande lattes with a lot of sugar, you won’t like it.”

Apparently, we were ahead of the curve here at Partners in Design. We’ve had a flat white coffee poster available on Etsy for some time already. Along with lots of other delicious options.



Finally, we come to the most subjective mapping criteria I employed for my Civita series—imagining. It’s been said that you can “read” a person’s temperament, speculate how easy or difficult their life has been, by looking closely at their face. I wondered…what if this were true for a place? What if the essence of a city resided not in its statistics and facts but in the development of its character expressed, perhaps, in the configuration of its hills and valleys, tunnels and caves, changes in public and private space? Could we then “read” a city by examining its own particular psycho-geography? Not the outer surface layer that it presents to the world but its true depth?

The concept is fanciful but intriguing. I knew I wanted to make one last map that would attempt to capture something of Civita’s ephemeral essence. As luck would have it, one day, I was browsing in Tony’s library and came upon a small volume that included a profile of Luigi Ferrarese, an Italian physician and a leading proponent of the19th-century pseudo-science of phrenology—the study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities. Here in America, the theory was expounded by Lorenzo Fowler, who created this iconic head.

27 distinct “faculties” and “sub-faculties” controlled certain character traits or intellectual attributes such as Cautiousness, Benevolence, Destructiveness, Love of Animals, Tune, Continuity and Change. Phrenologists worked by touch; they would “read” a person’s character by running the palms of their hands over the surface of the skull, the relative size of each area corresponding to its power.

Getting to know Civita phrenologically required a slightly different approach. It required eyes and feet, time spent walking its streets and hills, the polar opposite of reading about it in a guidebook, visiting for a few hours on a summer day, or checking it out on Google maps. Yet after 8 weeks, I found Fowler’s list of faculties surprisingly easy to apply. And by shifting the city’s north south axis, Civita’s footprint easily resembles a head.

Here’s a little tour: Civita’s rich yet destructive past has left its mark but it remains an industrious city that loves children, families, and animals and delights in showing its wonders to the world. The city reconstructs more than it builds anew, and it is an optimistic place that venerates its past, full of order, wonder and form. Civita’s more colorful stories led me to some fascinating applications, Time resides in the house where Maria has lived for over 80 years. Human Nature extends up the west perimeter, encompassing her garden where taking in the view requires a payment of 1 Euro, which is understandable since human nature must find a way to make a living. Love of Sex dwells in what remains of the opulent home of the legendary Milanese Marquessa above the Porta S. Maria and Continuity and Individuality is of course, housed in the Civita Institute buildings. This is, of course, an idiosyncratic, fanciful exercise by an amateur phrenologist so perhaps the best approach is to visit and draw your own conclusions.

So which Civita is the real one?  The likely answer is one that doesn’t yet exist in what you’ve seen here. Creating a sense of place goes well beyond mapping the physical environment. Way-finding that is envisioned to allow visitors (actual or virtual) to enter new worlds on their own terms—to examine, question, visualize and add to environments on multiple levels can serve not only as tickets to actual territory but as open-ended invitations to go beyond what is visible on the surface, examining instead the many interconnected layers of meaning, culture, and history that invariably exist in one locale. This process was implicit in Civita but it can happen anywhere.
In Latin civitas simply means “city.” My hope is that this project inspires you to create your own Civitas immaginata and to look at those places closer to home that are special to you and imagine the many, varied ways they connect and refer beyond themselves.


In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.

In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

Today, April 1, 2014, Partners in Design of Seattle proposes that everything is better with graphics. After an exhausting endeavor of experimentation our world survey has found that an idea is clearer, a day is sweeter, a message is stronger and everything is more direct with a graphic under your belt. Case samples include: a book without its cover, directions with no map, illuminated manuscripts with no initial caps, an email without an emoticon, a biker with no tattoos or the sky with no skywriting. Oh, okay on the last one. April Fools!


From public to private. During my stay in Civita, I was looking for a way to convey the rich mix of both “hearing” many languages and a way to quantify how people experience this place. When I first arrived it was quite hot, in the high nineties, and during the Italian pausa between 1:00 and 4:00 pm, it was a welcome relief to take shelter inside the cool tufo building. But the heat did not keep the tourists inside.

From the studio where I was working, I could hear the mingling of languages as visitors passed by my window—mostly Italian, but always with a smattering of English, German, French and what I think was Japanese. The words drifted into my room like a cloud…a word cloud.

Word clouds became all the rage in the late 90s as a feature of early personal websites and blogs. The visual form was used widely to visualize the frequency distribution of keywords that describe w content, and as a navigation aid. Before long, word clouds were being used to editorialize and visualize everything from Biblical passages to presidential debate analysis.

But the basic idea behind word clouds is not new. It could be argued that traditional maps were the very first rudimentary “word clouds” since the type size of the name of a city, region, or feature is represented relative to its population or importance.

To capture the data I needed, I tracked the words I could hear outside my studio window for one hour every day from August 25 to October 25, when most sensible Italians were indoors cooking the midday meal and resting. The results are designed as a calligram, the typography arranged to create a visual image of Civita’s geographic silhouette.

English jumped out at me without my having any say in the matter and the rest was dependent on my limited Italian, college-level French and zero understanding of any Asian language. A bit biased in that respect, perhaps, but with many more Italian tourists visiting Civita than any other group, it seems to appropriately reflect a hometown advantage.


Jules Verne said, “Look with all your eyes. Look.” Part of the beauty of spending an extended period of time anywhere, and particularly for me during my fellowship in Civita, was having the luxury of time to observe, and witnessing the ebb and flow of the life of a town.

Writers and artists love details, but there is always a push and pull between the obsession with detail and the semi-conscious acknowledgement that everything will eventually vanish. Relief, essentially, mixed with dread. The Surrealists painters recognized this, calling it “the potency of the everyday.”

Much of Civita has been documented—its history, culture, architecture, and traditions. These things have been studied, talked about, described, inventoried, photographed, and analyzed. Documentation was part of why I was here on a NIAUSI Fellowship. But what about the rest?

The passing of a day in Civita, like anywhere else, includes actions and events that are not usually noticed, things that have no real consequence in the grand scheme of the recorded history of this place. Does that mean then, that what happens when nothing “important” happens worthy of remembering? My suspicion is that noticing the unremarkable might yield a different kind of map of this place. And the process of noticing could, in itself, lead to a particular kind of subjective storytelling since the mind tends to want to question the why and wherefore of what it sees. Observing the world in action, it wants to make connections.

The Italians have a wonderful expression: il dolce far niente which translates as “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Too often in today’s jam-packed, work-driven, internet-powered world, it is easy to forget how to “do nothing.” Even worse, we wrongly believe that doing nothing equals uselessness. The Italians are wiser. They live il dolce far niente even when they are busy serving pranzo, mixing mortar, or ferrying wine bottles and plastic to the recycling bins. Perhaps it is the wisdom that comes from living in a culture with a 3,000-year heritage or simply an understanding that the sum of life is larger than what we can pack into an 8-hour workday. Regardless, life here is not something that can be spent, wasted, or passed.  It simply is. Every moment holds possibility.

So how could I try to capture this? For two 6-hour periods on two separate days, I sat in the Piazza S. Donato and watched what was happening around me. I recorded everything I could see or hear and at first the simple act of needing to look and write was enough to occupy me. But slowly, after a few hours, my mind shifted in a way that’s difficult for me to describe precisely to you right now. I suspect it was akin to moving into a meditative state. I noticed more detail, found myself wondering about the stories behind the people I saw. I made connections or made them up anyway and questioned much more than I thought I would.

Here’s a short portion of what’s described on this map, which is designed like a broadside. Here’s a sample passage. This is from 6:00 pm on October 14, 2012 from a bench in front of the Palazzo Alemanni. The weather was sunny with some clouds.

The man’s drawing is good. Pencil only, but his subject is Antonio’s bruschetteria, not the church as I first thought. A little boy is being scolded by his mother for digging in the gravel dirt of the piazza. She cleans his hands roughly and he cries when she picks him up and plops him in his stroller. Another little boy is curious. He circles the nearest Etruscan column, running up now and then to take a peek at the artist. “Mama, viene qui! Guarda!” he calls and his mother comes to look. A toddler runs up and down the church steps, amazingly steady. Is this how Italian women learn to walk on cobblestones in heels?

Five dogs are suddenly in the piazza. The cats stare but don’t budge. They know they live here. The little girl walks past me, interested in what I am doing. She says something in Italian and I smile, unable to communicate with a 4-year old. Craig comes by to tell me he just realized his camera can pan left to right, not just right to left. He needs another month! The artist’s companion (because now I’ve decided they are a couple) walks by to see if the drawing is done. It is not. A dog pees at the base of one of the Etruscan columns. I wonder how many millions of times that has happened. The kids are back. Not once has the artist ever looked up at them, not one glance. Is this good or bad? The little boy jumps around and accidently kicks the conté crayon box. “Matteo!” his father yells and swats him. The sound of Matteo crying. “No, Matteo, va bene,” the artist says, smiling but still not looking.

A young woman in black spandex and a bright green top is sitting on the church steps, taking a selfie. Two older women pass by. They could be sisters. Same glasses, hair, scarves. One is using a cane. They seem confused. The man in the red sweater is back in his spot in front of the church, this time near the far right door, which is closed. Four people are suddenly right in front of my table, cameras raised. Where did they come from? R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is playing inside Da Peppone’s. The sun has gone back behind the clouds. A pack of cyclists, all men, all wearing branded Italian jerseys ride past me on the cobbled street that rings the piazza. Only one bumps his bike down to ride in the graveled area. Six women, all with Orvieto water bottles, leave La Tonna souvenir shop and cross the piazza toward me. Three of them stop to examine the bottom of their shoes. “Madonna, Madonna,” they repeat to each other.

Anna comes out of Da Peppone’s, checking to see if there is anyone to serve. There is not and she goes back in. A pigeon flies into the open window at La Tonna. Another is on the roof of Antico Forno. I hear “Where should we eat?” in English for the first time this morning. The bell tower chimes twice. Father Stefano arrives at the church, dressed in black and carrying two black bags. The calico cat crosses the piazza diagonally, followed by the Japanese man and his photographer girlfriend. They’re laughing. Father Stefano is putting the new October mass schedule in the display board. The man in the red sweater is suddenly at his side, talking, and I realize now that he is the sacristan that I met a week ago when I was visiting inside the church last week with Liza and Craig.

A man dressed all in black heads towards the bridge, carrying a dented silver hard suitcase. A 6-foot tall Japanese woman appears, calling to her group. A man crossing the piazza stops to hug his wife. She carries a set of keys and is smoking. They smile and laugh together. A tabby skitters past me, followed by a calico. Two smokers walk past my table. I smell their cigarettes. Sounds of clinking dishes come from Da Peppone’s. Anna must have customers but I didn’t see anyone go in. Maybe she’s cleaning? One of the Americans rests his black backpack on the Etruscan column near the bell tower just as it chimes seven times. A second later, the bells begin their longer ringing, signaling the Angelus. It’s 7:00 pm.

civita_saints and saviors

During my NIAUSI fellowship, I knew I wanted to pay tribute to some of Civita’s most famous figures in some way, including the contributions made by the late Astra Zarina, who established the University of Washington’s Italian Hilltown program in Civita and handled restoration projects for in some of its first buildings in the late 60s, leading the wave of reclaiming these beautiful structures.

Yet it was impossible and possibly inauspicious, to evade ecclesiastical associations while in Italy. Eccola. Civita’s most famous son, Bonaventura. Chapels and statues to him seem to be on every corner in these two towns. Bonaventura was born Giovanni Fidanza around 1221 AD in a house no more than 20 meters from the Palazzo Alemanni where Zarina taught her “Continuity and Change” programs to architecture students for 30 years.

Bonaventura and Zarina both traveled widely, but both reliably returned to Civita. When she died in 2008, Zarina was buried in Bagnoregio, not very far from a church where in 1490 Bonaventura’s right arm was placed in a reliquary made from gold and silver donated by the people of the town. That event is celebrated every year on March 14—today.

What better way, then, to pay tribute to both Bonaventura and Astra Zarina then to map the trajectories of the lives of two of Civita’s saints and saviors? The map is not meant to be definitive by any means, but instead highlights the overlaps and intersections of two lives and one place.


Andy and Lana Wachowski are best known for writing and directing the “Matrix” trilogy and by all accounts are natural filmmakers. According to a New Yorker article, both siblings count “2001: A Space Odyssey” as one of their earliest influences. The family was apparently huge movie fans, of all genres. Twelve-year old Lana recalls initially hating “2001” because she was perplexed by the mysterious presence of the black monolith. Her father explained simply, “That’s a symbol” and the article recounts Lana’s reaction: “That one sentence went into my brain and rearranged things in such an unbelievable way that I don’t think I’ve been the same since…it’s one of the reasons I’m a filmmaker.”

Now, granted, perhaps not every 12-year old child will respond to symbols this way, but I believe a contributing factor is that we don’t cultivate that type of visual seeing and learning early enough in our educational systems. But the anecdote resonated with me because in Civita I was struck by the complex overlays of symbol and iconography there. Admittedly, this is probably the case in many countries whose historical timeline extends back beyond the 1700s but it felt particularly close to the surface in Civita and very much a part of daily life.

As designers know, the advantage of symbols is that they speak a universal language. I do not need to be conversant in Arabic to understand that the Kaaba represents a significant concept to Muslims. I might not be able to fully articulate the subtleties of its meaning, but I can understand the power and centricity of it as a symbol in one of the world’s great religions.

Once these symbol sets pass into the realm of becoming archetypes — ideas or ways of thinking inherited from all these sources and present in your subconscious — they begin to function as a complete set, as iconography—the collective use of symbols and visual images by a certain culture or group.

Symbols and iconography can be like road maps, leading or guiding you toward a desired goal, encouraging certain behaviors or effects. Each passing generation, utilizing the same symbol, builds up a stronger energy from that symbol with the most effective ones lasting through the ages. Obvious examples include the Christian cross, the yin/yang symbol, the pyramid, and the ankh. It is no coincidence that certain of these symbols from ancient civilizations continue to be an integral part our society, even to the point that corporations use them in commercials, movies, and logos.

Iconography is expert at unlocking a stream of memories, data, emotions and beliefs, sometimes whether we want them or not. That’s why people often choose to pray in a church setting when they could just as easily do so at home, or feel they can mediate more successfully in a space carefully designed to induce a contemplative state.

That I would create an iconographic map of Civita was almost a foregone conclusion and the result is probably one of the more traditional maps in the series. Yet even here, I conflated content since Civita’s three very distinct layers of iconography—historic, religious and vernacular symbols—often mix.

The Etruscans, the city’s first inhabitants and the Romans who followed, were both cultures that understood well the power of symbols and used iconography extensively for protection, fertility, wealth, birth and death rituals. In fact, one of the first things the Romans did on their relentless march to conquer the ancient Etruscan cities was to smash their black clay wear which was heavily decorated with symbols.

For a palpable look into this iconography “mix” you need look no further than Civita’s main piazza and its beautiful Medieval church, the Chiesa S. Donato. Iconography was an integral part of Christian life, and in Italy, it survived, despite the seventh and eighth centuries Iconoclasts demanding their destruction. [bishops keys] In tangible ways, you can see not only the layering of symbols, but also symbol “borrowing” as well as active incorporation of artifacts from one culture to another. [rosette] Rosettes—which many scholars believe derived from the Etruscan paterna or mundus, the symbol of the ever-present life-force—abound as decorative elements. Roman sarcophagi, frieze fragments, and corbels [sarcophagi and corbels] are set into the lower outer walls of the church and the nearby bell tower. Going even further back, the physical divisions of the four contrade correspond to the Etruscan layout of the ideal city, a circle divided into favorable and unfavorable areas.

This amalgam of past incarnations of history, religion and everyday life, along with the addition of some beautiful palimpsests, is mapped on the iconographic map and unified by a tufo background, which in Civita is a welcome constant.


In 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson published a fictional tale of adventure about an expedition to an unnamed Caribbean island to recover a treasure that had been buried there. Treasure Island is action-packed, has a huge cast of characters, and begins with a map.

Ever since its publication, Stevenson’s map has had readers asking, “Where is Treasure Island?” even when they are told it is an imaginary island that doesn’t exist. How could they not? Maps are guides. We trust them. We look to them to help us find what is desirable, navigate the unknown and avoid the dangerous. They can make unreal place seem real, and real places more manageable.

In Civita di Bagnoregio, for many reasons it’s very easy to believe you are in an imaginary place. The backstory that is history here is sometimes so deep, so hard to comprehend in real time, that it begins to feel unreal. Once, the twin cities of Civita and Bagnoregio were a single city, along with a lively merchant neighborhood between which has since totally disappeared, swallowed up by landslides. Now they are separated by a deep chasm, and joined only by a narrow footbridge. Very few maps unite the two again, but when you’ve spent some time navigating back and forth between the two, it quickly becomes clear that one could not exist without the other. Civita is why the tourists come, and Bagnoregio thrives, in part, to serve those visitors.

But Civita also has a day-to-day life as well, which can be easy to overlook. During my two months there, I often watched tourists come into town, snap a few pictures, and be on their way back out in an hour. They pay little attention to the richness of history here, and zero attention to the fact that there are “real” people here—merchants, masons and carpenters, cooks, priests, and seismic workers— living out their daily lives.

I wanted people to notice. So I decided to create a treasure map of the city. I knew that I wanted to unite Civita and Bagnoregio once again and to include everyday treasures as well as historic ones because taken together, all seemed necessary to feed a traveler’s body and soul.

Can strangers use this map to navigate Civita’s numerous treasures? Absolutely. All the information about historic, architectural, and natural wonders is there. Everything mentioned is open to the public. But interspersed are also some personal treasures, which befits a casual, fun map like this one— my favorite spot for affogato, which ATM wouldn’t reject my card, and the gatto who decided he was mine for two months. Because in the end, what we each decide to include on the treasure maps of our lives will always be as personal as the places we visit and the experiences we have there.


For visitors in any context, doors hold a special significance. As I worked my way through some of the archived materials from the University of Washington Italian Hilltowns Program housed in the Civita Institute’s Sala Grande, it was clear that I wasn’t the only one interested in doors and gates and windows. But a noticeable difference was the focus of the interest. Student projects documented architectural styles, details, age, and construction materials. My interests lay more along the lines of the enormous variety of doors in Civita. Every door seemed to have its own particular beauty that it carried along with its long, imagined history.

The ancient Romans had advanced architectural elements and were known to have used single, double, sliding, and folding doors. In fact, the Roman god Janus is the god of doors and doorways, which makes him of course, the god of beginnings and endings. So I began my discovery process with doors.

Doors also symbolize transitions. At the simplest level, a doorway represents movement from one place to another, but in religion, mythology and literature, it can also depict the passage from one world to another. A deeper personal meaning arises when doors, gates, and passageways serve as symbolic transitions for individuals experiencing change. Nearly everyone has a memory of stopping to take a deep breath before crossing some kind of threshold—an interview, a meeting with a teacher or mentor, or a dining room filled with laughing, happy people, none of whom we know.

Taking that step across a doorway means you’ve crossed a boundary. It might be a place where two places (or cultures or experiences) meet, or taking chances and leaving the past behind. These were all appropriate musings for a visitor in Civita and rich mapping material. In composition and layout, this map reflects these concepts of intimate and outsider; public or private as well as mapping locations and offering architectural styles and details.

Timelines are a staple of exhibit design, providing a way for viewers to grasp a condensed glimpse of what usually is a huge body of information. Mounting an exhibition without a timeline is akin to leaving out the donor wall. To provide context for the series of maps of Civita di Bagnoregio,  I offer this visual time-map. Click on this link (or the image below) to view an interactive Prezi of Civita’s 3000 year history.

civita_time map

Here in Civita, time stretches far into the distant past. Pre-history begins 2 million years ago when the tufo that is this region’s primary building material was formed during the Pleistocene age.  The site itself has been continuously inhabited for over 2,500 years, first by the Etruscans, then the Romans.

“Civita” simply means “town” and in central Italy, you will often see it appended to the name of various places, such as Civita Castellana and Civitavecchia outside Rome. But in early usage, the word, derived from the Latin civitas, designated the oldest and most built up area in order to distinguish it from neighboring villages. If a location was called “civita,” the designation meant that it was a place of some importance.

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Civita looked much the same as it does today. A saddle of land connected present-day Civita to Bagnoregio (known then as Rota) with the Convento di S Francisco occupying the middle ground before it was lost to an earthquake. Together, the population numbered close to 1,800 citizens. Starting in 1695 and continuing for over 100 years, the city endured a series of devastating earthquakes, landslides, locust infestations, and malaria. By 1800, more than 40% of Civita’s land mass had been lost. Although the rate at which the city continues to crumble is glacial, the process continues through to today. “The clay soil here falls away like fresh ricotta,” says Erino Pompei, the mayor of Bagnoregio until 2009, whose name bears an eerie resemblance to another lost Italian town.

In 2012, I received the Astra Zarina Fellowship from NIAUSI, The Northwest Institute of Architecture and Urban Design in Italy which allowed me to spend two months living and working in Civita di Bagnoregio, a World Heritage hill-town in Lazio, Italy whose roots date back nearly 3,000 years to the Etruscans.

civita_getting here

On Friday, March 14th, I’ll be presenting my project, Civita immaginata: Mapping a Historic Landscape at NIAUSI’s Fellows Festival along with Liza Mickle, Don Fels, Isabel Sitcov and Alan Maskin at an afternoon seminar at SRG Partnership in Seattle, followed by an evening reception and auction at NBBJ Seattle.

As a designer, first and foremost, I organize information and try to make sense of sometimes very dissimilar things. But I’m also a storyteller, and this dual persona was a primary component of what I wanted to bring to Civita when I set out to create a series of maps that would attempt to make my own personal sense of a very special place. And this is probably as good a time as any to put out a disclaimer that I am not an architect or an historian so there are likely errors in some of these maps for which I take full responsibility.

So, why maps? Why not a series of posters or brochures? For designers as well as the general public, maps provide one of the primary ways of making sense of a place. But maps can also help us grasp deeper concepts, detect patterns, prognosticate. Civita immaginata invites viewers to go beyond what is depicted on the surface, to examine the many layers of meaning, culture and history that exist in one place.

Traditional maps are essentially arbitrary selections of information yet as users, we assign great ambitions to them. Implicitly, we trust them to help us navigate and make sense of the world. Quite often they succeed but sometimes in a controlled, coded language, and for many people who don’t how to analyze the data, they’re often complex and hard to understand. I wanted to see if a broader view of mapping, one that included an emotional component, might increase their accessibility for viewers, not just to their content but to their understanding of place.

In traditional societies, there was no need for maps. Words and memories built history, and what was “known” was transmitted from memory to memory. Yet this need we have to define the areas we explore and inhabit, to mark our territory, to organize it and often, change it seems fundamental. Map designers always need to make choices: what to leave in and take out. Everything goes through a kind of cartographic surgery, through layering of texture, color, image, text, symbol. Fortunately, we’re generally so familiar with the language of maps that we trust them, and mapmakers can take some liberties. But to map is to lie, since there is always a bias, always a point of view both literally and figuratively. Oscar Wilde said, “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not his sitter.” Maps are like portraits—mysterious, sometimes abstract and sometimes deliberate exaggerations. Not only is this to be expected but in my opinion, it adds to the character of maps, creating an open-ended invitation for viewers to enter.

I’ll be sharing my project results in a series of posts over the next week, as well as some thinking on my map-making process and would love to hear your thoughts.


The Miro display has opened at the Seattle Art Music, and there’s more than meets the eye. This partner in design went to see the follies of Miro.

I can’t help but post a few of these, they’re delicious and preposterous! Concoctions whipped up by Andy Warhol, his mom, and Suzie Frankfurt. I couldn’t resist and just located a used copy, it should be here in a few days… in time for the holidays. The book condition described a stain on the back cover… I wonder from which recipe.

I’ll will post a few drawings of my Thanksgiving feast. If you do a food drawing we’ll post it here and make our own collective visual feast.



The Bellevue Botanical Garden is an 53-acre refuge, filled with cultivated gardens, restored woodlands and wildlife, designed to reflect a unique urban Northwest landscape known as Cascadia, with Puget Sound to the west and the Cascade mountains to the east. Our identity, signage and print work with the Garden recently expanded to include a full redesign of the Garden’s web site, the primary portal for visitors to learn about this Northwest treasure. The site offers special sections on the history of the Garden, seasonal “What’s in Bloom?” resources, information on sustainable gardening techniques as well as a Capital Campaign fundraising page dedicated to funding the Garden’s new Visitor Center set to open in late 2014. The new site also includes a separate section where visitors can access and the vast array of gardening resources at the Garden through a custom-designed plant database.



World Vision is a Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to help children reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Partners n Design has worked with World Vision USA, headquartered in Federal Way, WA for many years, producing print materials for their Sponsorship and Donor Engagement. Recently, we were thrilled to work on a very different kind of project: Journey of a Special Gift, a short video designed to help explain to donors where and how special gifts made to their sponsored child are processed. Our approach employed an engaging mix of still photography, typography and animated graphics designed to simplify and enliven a complex process. Watch the two-minute video here.


The Ostara Group is a perfect client for Partners in Design. Ostara works with small to midsize nonprofits, our own client base for many years, providing hands-on organizational and fundraising support and helping these vital organizations realize their full potential. When Ostara approached us to design a new web site for them, we were thrilled. The site is designed for client-access CMS and includes a separate blog area where Ostara’s partner specialists can contribute their expertise and advice.


The story of the San Juan County Land Bank is one of history, regional pride, resourcefulness and independence in the San juan Islands, a rich archipelago just north of the city of Seattle. For centuries, islanders have feasted on clams, hunted for deer, picked berries, dug bulbs, and fished waters teeming with salmon. On gentle slopes they planted large orchards with pears, plums, apples, and cherries. In 1990,  in order to ensure that the distinct character of life in their islands would endure, island residents created the San Juan County Land Bank, with a mandate to preserve areas in the county that have environmental, agricultural, aesthetic, cultural, or low-intensity recreational value. Partners in Design has worked with the Land Bank since their founding, designing their identity, print publications, annual reports, maps, land management identification and interpretive signage, and their first online presence. At the Land Bank web site visitors can learn more about conservation management and stewardship of the islands as well as access extensive maps for walking and enjoying Land Bank public access properties.



This is what Barry Moser, the great book illustrator, said to a young artist. He is one of my visual heroes and I’d like to share this quote along with a Moser illustration appropriate for the upcoming holiday “spirit”. When you look at some of Barry’s work it can make you shiver with only the fight between light and dark.

“When I was young, perhaps around your age, I was bored in school, so I stared out the window daydreaming about being home with my dog or building a model. I had a problem with my eyes and didn’t read very well. It was embarrassing when I was called on to read aloud. Reciting my times tables was even more mortifying. I was the last to be picked to play ball at recess, but the first to be chosen to work on the Thanksgiving mural—drawing was the only thing I did well, and I did it at home hour after hour.

I did not go to kindergarten. I started school in the first grade and went six years to public school. Then I went to military academy in the seventh. My family was not rich, so it was a privilege to attend such an elite school. However, the academics were very demanding, sports were required, and military drill as mandatory—and there were no art courses. Not one. In fact, I was often disciplined for drawing, for “wasting my time.” My family wanted me to become a military officer or a medical doctor. Anything but an artist. My daddy told me that I could never make a living at art. But I persisted in spite of his discouragement and today I live a marvelously happy and comfortable life. So, my young friend never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. You can. All it takes—and this is a lot—is the desire to do it, the persistence to learn how to do it well, the courage to stand strong when people around you are discouraging your dreams. And perhaps most important of all is being willing to fail while you are trying your hardest—but then to pick it up and start over again.”

—Barry Moser


Seattle has blown it. A Pacific Northwestern cityscape that in the past was of uncluttered venues, a fringe of evergreens and recycled debris bins on many street corners.

In the brief span of the past couple of years we have lapsed into a parking-pay-system mania. Complicating itself every step of the way… how could it be when the idea was to streamline, make it green, user friendly, and efficient?

The result has been 6-foot hulking towers, 1 to 3 of them per downtown block, enough instructional signage to bewilder, and enough add-ons to create an eyesore. We now have an obstacle course of signposts and equipment. Each site has hundreds of instructional words incorporated into it… it’s informationally numbing.

We may just fall into apathy about our streets, or it may inspire us to ask for better… design for a solution that will make our streets a desirable intersection of urban culture.

I hope you don’t mind if I show admiration for a collection of other designers’ work in the field of art-science visual storytelling. We also call this design realm “infographics” and this story is told and illustrated in the new book “The Best American Infographics 2013,” by Gareth Cook, with an introduction by David Byrne.

The very best [infographics] engender and facilitate an insight by visual means — allow us to grasp some relationship quickly and easily that otherwise would take many pages and illustrations and tables to convey. Insight seems to happen most often when data sets are crossed in the design of the piece — when we can quickly see the effects on something over time, for example, or view how factors like income, race, geography, or diet might affect other data. When that happens, there’s an instant “Aha!”…

I picked just one example from the volume to live by today… eating. There’s a renewed interest in seasonality of our foods to make them healthier and sustainable, and these charts marvelously distinguishes each morsel in a circular calendar. Another good article I read recently gets back to the heart of the matter… seeds.



Have you ever heard of the CTBUH?

Do you know what Vanity Height is?

To answer the first question, it is the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. A fascinating group which tracks the skyscrapers of the world. I can get lost in this subject, and be awed by these big towers made by little people, piece by piece. I imagine standing next to each slender edifice, staring up and then turning to see the world that bustles in the tower’s shadow.

If you have any curiosity about such things you may what to visit the CTBUH website which chronicles the top 100 skyscrapers. Wonderfully illustrated and organized, this makes for great armchair traveling. Travel the world, these days you will send much of your time in the United Arab Emirates to see the tallest.

This is a great database and fun, choose by many categories: country, status (complete, in-construction, visionary or demolished), function, steel, glass, precast, just to name a few.

Have you guessed what Vanity Height is… it’s that use-less space in today’s tallest. With the increasing trend towards extreme spires and other extensions of tall buildings that do not enclose usable space, the term Vanity Height describes it (the distance between a skyscraper’s highest occupiable floor and its architectural top).

What are Supertall and Megatall Buildings? The CTBUH defines “supertall” as a building over 984 feet in height, and a “megatall” as a building over 1,968 feet in height. Although great heights are now being achieved—in excess of 2,600 feet—as of July 2013 there are only 73 supertall and 2 megatall building completed and occupied globally. Thus the completion of a supertall building is still a significant milestone.


A branding program strives to tell one core story and Island Grown in the San Juan Islands grows out of an island community’s resolve to recognize and preserve its agricultural heritage and future. This luscious pear sailing off in a seafaring dingy inspires, creates interest, and visually explains the program’s primary mission. Plus, it puts a smile on your face. Communications is key element to Island Grown’s success and its logo provides an important synergy, quickly bringing together farmers, restaurateurs, businesses, island residents and visitors.



Graphics guidelines, multi-tier promotions, signage and collateral communications bloom for Sunrise Village, an outdoor retail shopping village nestled in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, just south of Seattle. The pages shown above are from the Sunrise Village Branding Guidelines and Standards, and explains the origins of the visual logo and how it relates to the demographics of the surrounding communities as well as illustrating a sense of how the program will inhabit the environment. Partners in Design collaborated with Tarragon Inc on the Sunrise Village project.



For any emergency management agency, communication is an invaluable tool. But in the mix of ubiquitous public and commercial clattering, its messaging needs to be clear, quick, appealing and instructive to be effective or the cost will be lives lost. Who is responsible for making this happen? In more and more communities an autonomous department provides this vital link and Partners in Design was excited to be part of this important effort by the San Juan County Department of Emergency Management. These particular graphics speak broadly to an isolated island-vulnerable community in Northwest Washington and our challenge was to fuse words and graphics together into a meaningful and high-performance dialogue.



Integration and unity are key factors when developing a strong visual identity program. The primary branding logo for the Bellevue Botanical Garden determined the visual style for all subsequent Garden interpretives and related signage: from entrance kiosk, garden trail markers, print, and even the Garden’s web site graphics. The logo features the Trillium, a species native to Northwest gardens and a symbol for sustainable gardening practices. The shape of the logo were further developed into a series of icons for each garden (shown below).




Greensboro Historical Museum serves up rich history daily. Local people making extraordinary connections at the Greensboro Historical Museum are introduced to Greensboro’s native sons and daughters and shown how their ancestors contributed great things in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. Partners in Design’s approach brought historical artifacts and history into contemporary relevance by bridging the span with bold typography, and using icons and color that would reflect and complement the historical symbols of this well-loved museum. Building banners and dynamic grid graphics targeted students, researchers and families to study and learn about events in colonial Guilford County including the Civil War, the roots of the Civil Rights Movement, and the rise of textile manufacturing in the South.



NatureMed Essential is a natural health store that promotes naturopathic and herbal remedies. The program’s branding and packaging finds its inspiration in the forms and forces of nature, and Partners in Design has supported these health key concepts with visual links. A primary objective was to visually place NatureMed Essentials uniquely in a field poised for explosive growth. The NatureMed program includes a store design and outlook highlighted by a custom-designed computer information system, a Health Elixir bar, and 8 departments of private label supplements and herbal preparations, including Spa Therapy, Weight Management, Immunity, Anti-Aging, Baseline Screening and a Kids Health Club.




The West Hylebos Wetlands is equal parts wildlife refuge, ecological and hydrological conservatory, nature trail, and just plain natural wonder. One of the last remaining bogs in South King County, Hylebos’ wetland wilderness lies just one mile west of I-5 in southern Federal Way, Washington, a rare urban nature park. Partners in Design provided design, writing and  fabrication coordination for a series of interpretive signs and visitor kiosks which needed particular care in construction methods given the nature of the wetland landscape where they would be installed. Interpretive topics included glimpses into the park’s history and the staggering diversity of life on its 120 acres.


The Bellevue Botanical Garden is an 53-acre refuge, filled with cultivated gardens, restored woodlands and wildlife, designed to reflect a unique urban Northwest landscape known as Cascadia, with Puget Sound to the west and the Cascade mountains to the east. Our program work includes the Garden’s graphic identity created by Partners in Design has been integrated into all forms of signage, print, online media, and marketing collateral. Overarching program goals include directional signage and extensive exterior interpretives that never impose too strongly on the nuances of the natural environment, and consistently meeting the varied objectives for optimal audience impact of the Garden’s multiple stakeholders—the City of Bellevue, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society and various fundraising and capital campaign committees.


These whimsical sculptures mark the perimeter of Cherry Crest Reservoir, City of Bellevue Utilities, an important community reservoir and new recreation area created when a deteriorating reservoir was covered over with tennis courts and playground. The project was a unique collaboration between the City’s Utilities and Parks departments and provided a unique opportunity to offer the key public message of water conservation. Partners in Design developed the concept of telling the water story through the voices of the creatures who live in the watershed in a series of ten 4-foot cut and bent aluminum sculptures mounted to poles extending above the sport court’s fence line. Each sculpture offers a particular water message on a small interpretive panel mounted to the poles at court level.


The mission of  SoundBridge, the Seattle Symphony’s Music Discovery Center at Benaroya Hall, is to inspire and nurture a love of symphonic music through active participation and exploration. Partners in Design worked with exhibit designers Lehrman Cameron Studio to direct the graphics and interpretive designs of the 2,000 sq. ft exhibit which enables people of all ages and skill levels to explore music. Visitors can Meet the Musicians, explore the instruments of the orchestra through interactive exhibits, sample excerpts of the classical repertoire at Listening Posts and get a feel for the podium at the Virtual Conducting station.


The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve  exhibit creates an environment that focuses on the richness and diversity of the New Jersey estuarine natural environment as a context for presenting scientific research, important historical and cultural milestones and community stewardship. The Visitor Center exhibits, developed by Partners in Design in collaboration with Lehrman Cameron Studio, convey and animate the history of the Mullica River-Great bay estuary region, the New Jersey Pinelands and the rich marine environment created where the land meets the open ocean.


The San Juan County Land Bank is a long-standing client of ours and one that is dear to our hearts. In 1990, as part of a county-wide initiative aimed at preserving the distinct character of life in this island archipelago north of Seattle, island residents created the San Juan County Land Bank. Partners in Design has been collaborating with the Land bank from the start, providing branding, on-trail interpretives and property boundary signage, an extensive website, and annual reports. The interpretive panel shown above is fabricated in photo-etched anodized aluminum for longevity, cost and the best UV protection.


The San Juan County Land Bank manages and provides stewardship for extensive trails and properties, many with public access. Partners in Design is often called upon to create maps for public meetings or visitor use.


Partners in Design provided master planning and design for the Central Park Visitor Center, an interactive visitor center housed in the Dairy, in New York City. The center’s permanent exhibit “Central Park: Oasis in the City” was designed to educate children and adults to the landscape design and planning of Central Park and includes a 7-minute video, a 12-ft detailed scale model of the Park depicting its topographical variety and numerous interactive displays. Our design program also included exterior signage for nearby Park landmarks in the “Children’s District” which includes The Dairy, The Chess & Checkers House, The Carousel, and the Belvedere Castle Environmental Learning Center. This exhibit was selected for inclusion in Print Casebooks 8: The Best in Exhibit Design.



We are designers and communicators by trade… working with people as diverse as people who dig for dinosaur bones, to tech geeks running the world from Seattle. Our clients have missions and we craft words and images to express the best of each client. And our designers have opinions too… for example we’re scared of guns on the loose. We design for companies, communities, people and causes. Good graphic design prompts you to think for yourself… not feed you answers.


Last week the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that after 42 years it would no longer be issuing its candy-colored metal buttons as proof of paid admission, replacing them instead with paper tickets. As with many things in life, with that decision came the sudden realization of how much something would be missed once it has been taken away.

While living in New York City for over 15 years, I have many memories of finding those little metal buttons everywhere. The little icons were such a ubiquitous part of NYC life. Yet who knew the colors actually had names? It was always a pleasant surprise when visiting the Met to see what the day’s button color would be, and a fun decision determining its placement. Depending on what you were wearing, it might look best on the collar, the strap of a handbag, a pocket edge, or even affixed to the cover of the book you were carrying. A default location was always calling on a buttonhole to do double duty. And a day’s visit would inevitably include the distinctive pinging sound of someone’s button falling to the marble floor.

In theory, you were asked to deposit your buttons in a clear plastic receptacle when exiting the museum but I didn’t know anyone who did. Either you simply forgot or you were prescient enough to think about amassing a full collection, either for the nefarious reason of a future paid admission or simply because they were beautiful little objects. Days later, while doing laundry you would inevitably find one of the little guys still affixed to a collar or pocket. And I’m certain I’m not the only person who, more than once, while waiting for a street light or a subway, noticed a glint of recognizable color near my feet, miles and boroughs away from Fifth Avenue & East 89th Street.

After finding a full set going for a starting bid of $200 on eBay, I spent an hour today searching through old storage boxes in my closets hoping to find just even one. I found two! One inside a jumbled box of little-used jewelry and trinkets and another tucked inside the empty matchbox from Lisanne one of my favorite Brooklyn restaurants which closed in 1989.

My buttons’ colors are Joker and Positano.


Various campaigns serving multiple departments of Lakeside School, a well-regarded private middle and high school in Seattle, including: capital campaign, global service learning, alumni receptions, events, summer school branding and collateral.


Annual report for the San Juan County Land Bank


A large suite of publications developed for the Sumner School District, south of Seattle, that reflects this District’s long-range plan for student success. Capability collateral, print and electronic media communicate the partnership of parents and educators helping students become better learners. We also produce annual calendars that become strategic work-horses for the community and are utilized year-round. 


Long-term communications program covering multiple aspects of the Sumner School District’s needs, including: capability reports, annual calendars, events promotion, new school openings, superintendent reports, and special programs (teacher recruitment folder shown above).



A single garden—the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Waterwise Garden—inspired the City of Bellevue Utilities to promote “waterwise” practices and natural yard care to its residents. Partners in Design created branding, logos, icons, garden interpretives, posters, collateral and education publications for the program’s launch and continued implementation. Quick and flexible graphic standards meet the City’s schedule of impromptu workshops (both print and online).



Retail mall meets downtown community. Working with Tarragon, Inc, Partners in Design stepped in to provide event promotion and marketing for Kent Station retail village, south of Seattle and update and visually expand its existing branding standards. New campaigns of signage, banners, posters, mailings and window graphics supplemented the existing design standards. Designing holiday fanfare was an especially fun project for this long-term client.


A community outreach and education campaign for San Juan Island Integrated Medical Center had the additional objective of targeting primary donors for the center’s construction. Print communications initiated a dialogue for better island health care for a changing community demographic.


This agricultural strategic action plan developed for San Juan County, WA was a collaborative project with the Agricultural Resources Committee of San Juan County, San Juan Preservation Trust and San Juan County Land Bank. Partners in Design’s teams/clients often include many stakeholders, making our process of communication essential for effectiveness and productivity.


We all know that school relationships are important. They can either be a source of support or the cause of harassment. Yeah, I’m Different addresses this duality. Partners in Design worked with Safe Schools Coalition, a partnership that seeks to promote tolerance by providing resources for students, parents, and administrators, to conceptualize and design a series of posters on these issues. Distributed state-wide in K-12 schools, the posters address bias-based harassment facing youth in our schools today and feature the creations of Portland artist Marc Willwerth and his “perfect children” who are different but OK just the way they are. Photography by Malcolm Smith.


Serving the island-wide community of the San Juan Islands, the San Juan Department of Emergency Management’s critical publication program can be the difference between life and death. Identity, web site, posters, t-shirts and iconography coordinate to educate and engage the community to be prepared for all emergencies. The seriousness and life-saving nature of this program is infused with a tongue-in-cheek point of view to inspire citizen participation. Poster and postcard design shown above.


Partners in Design is committed to helping schools, like those in the Bethel School District, bridge the gap between cost-effective and visually powerful communications. We have been creating award-winning print graphics to the education community for over two decades. Bethel School District Annual Report shown above.


Book cover designs for Guilford Press, New York.



Another “quotester” by our designers. Thank you Josef Albers.


Thanks to our client Ann Cook who led us to this great title, “Drunk Tank Pink,” and which we’re running to our local bookshop to buy and start reading. We’ve been working with Ann for years on her school district calendar. A publication that has a long life in many Sumner, Washington homes, often being referenced year-long, many of them on refrigerator doors. The project has a large print run and a limited budget… so the solution has been to print good photos with two colors, black and an annual feature color. Ann and Partners in Design has the best of times selecting the “wow” color that will best reflect the school district programs for each year. Ann brings great color discovers to the table and she allows us to dissuade her from color disasters and select color winners.


So back to the book… does pink make strong men weak? Can pink jail cells calm violent prisoners? Is it true that football locker rooms (the ones for the visiting/opposing teams) are painted a certain shade of pink to weaken the players?

One of the most interesting examples of color effects, and a local story, is Baker-Miller Pink – R:255, G:145, B:175. Also known as “Drunk tank pink,” this color has been used to calm violent prisoners in jails. Dr. Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma Washington, was the first to report the suppression of angry, antagonistic, and anxiety ridden behavior among prisoners: “Even if a person tries to be angry or aggressive in the presence of pink, he can’t. The heart muscles can’t race fast enough. It’s a tranquilizing color that saps your energy. There’s evidence that these reactions are short term. Once the body returns to a state of equilibrium, a prisoner may regress to an even more agitated state.

Is it true that football locker rooms (the ones for the visiting/opposing teams) are painted a certain shade of pink to weaken the players? University of Hawaii associate head coach George Lumkin was a member of the 1991 staff that saw visitor locker rooms at Iowa and Colorado State painted pink in the belief that the color made players passive. Now the WAC has a rule that a visiting team’s locker room can not be painted a different color than the home team’s. In other words, it can be pink, black or any color of the rainbow, as long as both locker rooms are the same color.


Considering our waste-stream, there’s the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Within the category of reuse may we suggest a closer look at the strategy of turning things inside out? The practice has great philosophical meaning and it’s considerate of the environment. Simply respectful to the original resource… to honor it again and preserve some of it’s history.

As a designer I was inspired over a cup of tea this morning. Peering inside the tea packaging there was the glimpse of another visual world. I saw an unexpected other life to this packaging. It was intriguing and I wondered about other ways we could get this to happen in more of our design projects at Partners in Design.  Please add your ideas below.


The outside of this Korean tea packaging looks like this… sedate and simple. The zip-lock top keeps the contents fresh and I can store another green tea in it when I have finished this batch.


On the inside there’s another package design. Life number two. A little more colorful… rice, wheat?

  • Open up envelopes and turn them inside out, tape or glue, and use them again.
  • Unfold shipping boxes and decorate the craft paper interiors with designs, refold inside out to make favorite gift boxes.
  • We always turn our grocery produce bags inside out to use them repeatedly. Don’t worry the inks used on these bags are food-grade.
  • Using press-sheets as wrapping paper.
  • Remember turning your craft paper grocery bags for textbook covers?
  • We like this one a lot, sort of turning something inside out… re-purpose an unwanted t-shirt and easily turn the shirt into a re-usable tote bag.

Tote 11 sm

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