Design Drama

documenting the delicate dance of design

Designing a Garden – If I Can Do This, So Can You! May 25, 2009

Filed under: Around the Garden,artistic angst,I'm jazzed,inspiration,method — Beth D @ 6:18 am

I’m not sure if I’ve discussed my whole other life as a frustrated gardener here before, and I don’t have the patience to sit and dig around for past discussions. The long and short of it, history wise, is a bit of that whole “I’m turning into my grandparents/parents” thing. When I was a kid, my grandparents had a huge backyard, and every spring they planted a garden. A gigantic garden, actually. I have very early memories of this spring ritual where the tiller was brought out, and I would be given a handful of seeds to place in the holes along the furrows. I clearly remember being fascinated by the sharks teeth that my brother and I would find in the freshly dug soil – being 5 hours from the MS coast, this was odd, but if one looks at the history of the planet, it stand to reason they’d be there, as this area of the United States was once covered in water, millions of years ago.

Anyway, being a person who sits at a computer all day, I had to find an outlet for the other part of my brain. I guess the most lo-fi way of solving this issues is to dig in the dirt. I was talking gardening with someone the other day – someone who doesn’t share this love – and I had to explain what the draw was for me. To the best of my ability on the analyzation of the hobby – because this IS a hobby until I get paid for it – I figure it’s this: Every single time I plant something, I expect it to be a colossal failure. But most of the time, 99.9% of the time, I am pleasantly surprised and it’s like a series of miracles when something sprouts or blooms. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to giving birth, I suppose, as I am taking part in creating a life.

I started my own personal digging in the dirt thing about 7 years ago, while living in an apartment. I started with cherry tomatoes, dill, and basil in containers. That went well, so when I moved to a house with a yard, I decided to branch out. The house I currently live in had a modest flower bed. It contained what was limited to a modest amount of plants, the only two of which I can identify being phlox and lambs ear.

I decided to give things a go 3 years back and added some seedum I had in a pot that I acquired from my great-aunt’s garden. That went well – of course, you can’t kill the stuff. Two years ago, a house was built next door, and one of the workers generously gave me another variety of seedum to plant after we had talked about the flower bed – I placed it near my existing seedum. As I have a love of freshly cut herbs from the garden for my cooking, I added basil, oregano and chives – the chives were transplanted from a pot – I had started those from seed about 7 years back in my early endeavors with container gardening. Amazingly enough, they come back each year in early February, and survive thru the strange early spring snows we seem to get here in Nashville.

Last year, I got serious about the gardening project – as serious as one can get with a modest flower bed – then I put my mind to expanding things. I annexed the flower bed to run the length of the walkway to my patio – and planted hollyhock, bee balm and rose campion that I received from a friend. While planting these, a neighbor stopped by and said he had some purple canna, and asked if I wanted them. You can probably guess what my answer was. I also received four moulin rouge sunflowers from the same friend that gave me the hollyhock. I planted those and was very pleased with the result. They’re not mammoth sunflowers like most people imagine, but they got to around 4 feet in height and were beautiful. A deep maroon on the front side, with striated leaves of maroon and bright yellow on the back side. Watching them sway in the wind made me intensely happy.

The hollyhocks actually bloomed last year – they usually rock on 2nd – and the cannas and bee balm were lovely as well – the added bonus of the bee balm was the attraction of many bumblebees that pollenated the flowers and plants.

Spring forward to this year. I saved all of my seeds last year – hollyhock, rose campion, moulin rouge sunflower, etc. I filed them away in the paper bags that I take away from the local farmers market in my neighborhood. I started the seeds early, for example, with the moulin rouge sunflowers and transplanted the seedlings into the ground about a month back. I had 25 total early on, but am down to 10 at the moment as something seems to be breaking them off. Oh, I had to dig another flower bed out to accommodate the plants I wanted to set out. In that flower bed, I put 2 angel trumpet, the 25 moulin rouge sunflower, 15 gladiolas and a few tomato plants I started from seed – those are a bit of a buzzkill now, as they are 2″ tall and seem to be stalled at that size. I’m hoping they continue a growing trend.

I also have a love of the dollar store. My local one happened to have gladiolas bulbs – 15 to a package – for $3.50. I figured “why not” and purchased the bulbs, set them out & they are now bursting forth from the newly dug flower bed.

As I share an ongoing conversation over at Aunt B’s regarding gardening, she has gone on and on about Bate’s Nursery here in town. And recently, another friend, Bradley, told me about the wonders of Bates and this past Saturday sent me an invite to travel that way to look around at plants. I accepted the offer and was not disappointed. At Bates, I purchased 2 heirloom tomato plants – one being the black variety, a basil plant, as mine grown from seed seems to be stuck on pause, and 4 acorn squash plants – I meant to buy crook neck squash, but I figured I’d try this variety and make the most of my mistaken purchase. Regarding the black tomato plants – my neighbor had been given some of these last year from one of the workers on the house & I tried them and fell into instant love. I’d never seen or heard of them prior. After the trip to Bates, I promptly placed it into the soil and trusted the rain trend would take care of the rest. So far so good, as there are three blooms on that tomato plant.

In the new flower bed, which is mostly an amalgam of flowers and veggies, I popped in some pole beans as well — nothing quite like fresh pole beans from a garden — I planted those around a week and a half ago and they’re currently about 2 inches in height. Tomorrow I plan on running string around the two trellis posts in order to give them something to run up. Hopefully their growth won’t affect the dahlia that is planted nearby to infuse some color into the surroundings. I also have a hot pepper plant, given to me by my brother, and it’s already yielded a single pepper that I picked to put into a salad in the future.

The friend that gave me the bean seed told me that his have not come up yet and I’m not sure about the whole “why” answer to the question. The only thing I can figure is this — I have a TON of worms in the new flower bed, thereby – as far as I can tell – enriching the soil with nitrogen and all the other stuff worm poo provides. I have 4 bean plants that are loving life right now and that makes me very happy.

So, that’s the gardening update as of late. I need to get out and weed, but figure I can do a little at a time, as the rain is still hanging around Nashville and the surrounding area. Stay tuned, I might even put some photos of the progress here.


A How To Guide: Credit Card Confetti April 14, 2009



One Pair of Scissors
Twenty Seven x Infinity parts rage
Three credit cards
One champagne flute


Allow scissors to meet plastic credit cards, apply liberally

– Put champagne flute on desk where bills are paid.
– Stare at it daily as you pay down your credit card bills with money earned
by taking every extra job you can find and putting every penny into a savings
account specifically opened to build the money to pay off these soul sucking
– when all debt is paid off, in full, empty champagne glass of all credit card confetti, pour a liberal amount of champagne* into glass and drink until champagne magnum is empty.

Prep time: varies
Card cut up process: 3 cards, 30 minutes

Suggested music:
“You Make Me Sick” – Pink
“Money” – Pink Floyd
“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton
“Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)” – Pet Shop Boys
“She Works Hard For The Money” – Donna Summer
“Money Changes Everything” – Cyndi Lauper
“Taxman” – The Beatles

*champagne should be paid for with COLD HARD CASH<


MacGuyvering Seedlings – Designing a Cheap Solution April 7, 2009

If you know me, you’re aware of what a tree-hugger I can be. I can’t stand the thought of throwing anything in the trash. I’m also frugal.

I’m also a frustrated gardener. Oh, and I like to MacGuyver things.

This year, I decided to try growing tomatoes from seed. I’ve never done it before and just thought I’d give it a shot. The little guys are doing well.


I’ve seen those little terrarium things that are sold and have never bought one, but had a stroke of genius last night as to how I could finagle my own. I save my plastics (#1 & #2 are picked up by Nashville Metro) — all other labeled numbers of plastics and glass have to be taken to a recycling pick up center. I’d eaten a few take out salads and had saved the containers and they were in the pile. I was gathering my recycling and it struck me that these could be used in the same fashion – to grow seedlings. So, I popped my basil in one as a test and it’s working like a charm.


The only issue here is they aren’t very deep, but I’ll solve that issue by transplanting them into styrofoam cups and empty half & half cartons I’ve saved.

Nothing goes to waste around here.


Archiving your work – the Old Skool Way January 12, 2009

Most of my friends know that I can be a bit of a pack-rat. It’s a trait I got from my family – so I got it honest. But as of late, I’ve been purging around here – cleaning out closets, going through boxes and just simplifying in general around here. I filled 3 laundry baskets of with clothes, separated computer cords to take to the Goodwill – hopefully someone can use those, and about 87 cosmetic bags from the freebies from Clinique. I even found a Syquest drive from 1997 – the discs are only good for use as coasters at this point – Remember when 280 MB was a huge amount of storage?

Anyway, in a box in the back of my closet, I found a box with stuff from college. Inside, I found slides and photo negatives of stuff I’d done in Drawing I & II and Design I & II. Somehow, back then I had a wise professor that had the foresight to have us take our artwork to have it photographed for posterity. I gasped when I found this stuff. Immediately I began scanning the photos to put them in my archives of work.

I don’t know how stuff is done now – that is, if having work photographed is still the norm as I’ve been out of school for a little over ten years. But, to all design students out there, take your stuff and have photos taken. Or do it yourself. Don’t just rely on a hard drive or a disc to store your stuff. Have hard copies – slides or negatives – of your stuff. You never know when a hard drive will die on you – or fires or natural disasters – I have a friend who lost all her photos in Katrina, for example.

I am so thankful someone told me “Take it & have it photographed” – who knew?


“Objectified” + my theory of how the PT Cruiser design was born January 10, 2009

Filed under: artists,fonts,HA!,I'm jazzed,time waster — Beth D @ 7:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

There’s a new movie coming out by Gary Hustwit – he’s the guy that did “Helvetica” – the new film is titled “Objectified” and the trailer was sent to me this week. Looks great, can’t wait to see it. Click here for the trailer.

I was en route somewhere the other day, with my friend the Film Producer* in the car, and we found ourselves beside a PT Cruiser in traffic. The Producer started this complete diatribe about what a piece of crap car the thing is. I’ve never driven one – never even been in one for that matter – but a few months back, The Producer & her significant other, The Austrian*, had car issues – days dragged on and they found themselves in the possession of a rental PT Cruiser. But not just any PT Cruiser – this was a turquoise blue PT Cruiser. And not only was the outside turquoise blue, the interior was as well. It burned my eyes. I was ashamed to have it parked in my driveway. The color is not found in nature, UNLESS there is some undiscovered bird somewhere in the Amazon that has this particular shade of metallic speckled clear-coat somewhere on it’s body.

At that moment, sitting in traffic, en route to I forget where, the theory of the design of the PT Cruiser was born:

Whoever designed the thing is a ZZ Top fan — Like the #1 fan of ZZ Top – the President of the Fan Club. I imagine “Legs” was blaring as the sketches and clay forms were made, his crazy ZZ Top-esque beard flying in all directions.

Remember the ZZ Top videos from the ’80s? They all involve what I dubbed the “ZZ Top Mobile” – some lady in a miniskirt (leopard print was involved as well as pleather) was in distress at her job selling shoes and viola! The men of ZZ Top appeared in their ZZ Top Mobile – it rolls up, cue the close ups of the side, front and rims of the thing – the details of the car were always highlighted in the videos. Then, they tossed some schmo the keys as they got out, and the keychain – in the shape of the “ZZ” blinged in another close up. And by the end of the video, all was right in the world. They were like rock n’ roll Texas superheros – perhaps their beards and keyring were their superpowers? And, of course, they got the girl, a blonde in the leopard print and miniskirt in the end – after a makeover, of course.

Long story short, the PT Cruiser is the poor man’s ZZ Top mobile.

That is precisely what the guy that designed the PT Cruiser was going for. Except, he didn’t realize two things:

1) men won’t drive it – too girly (even gay men won’t even drive it!)
2) women would drive it – and what this designer failed to realize is this: the women of the ’80s had grown up and they were now middle aged moms driving his version of the ZZ Top Mobile – taking their kids to soccer practice. Not very rock n’ roll at all.

Since MTV won’t let you truly imbed a video, I’m not linking to their website. Seek out their videos on other sites if you haven’t seen them and need a refresher course.

* the neighbors


FGF – Let’s Make Lots of Money January 9, 2009

Filed under: FREE,HA!,I'm jazzed,inspiration,time waster — Beth D @ 3:52 pm

out with ’08 – in with ’09 December 29, 2008

Filed under: artists,I'm jazzed,inspiration — Beth D @ 5:35 pm

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one always brings out the reflective side of me. I guess it does for a lot of people.

Perhaps more-so, this year, for me.

For Christmas, I asked for and received this book.

Besides being beautifully designed and amazing, it’s chocked full of wisdom by someone in my field of work – maxims that began in the author’s personal diary that he turned into graphic work over the years. Personal truths like “Complaining is silly. Either act or forget” and “Over time I get used to everything and start taking it for granted.”

While these actualizations about life are useful to designers in daily work life, they’re useful for everyone else as well. They’re good mantras to live by.

I’ve been thinking a lot since receiving this book about what have I learned in my life so far?

Here’s three*:
– A $2 purchase gives me as much of a thrill as a $200 purchase
– It costs nothing to be kind
– A valuable lesson can be learned from every person I encounter

My 2009 New Years Resolution is a very simple one – to figure out what I’ve learned so far, and put those lessons into practice. Well, actually, maybe that’s not so simple, but I’m a work in progress.

Happy 2009!


*feel free to post the truths you’ve learned in life below in the comments