Tag Archives: Design

Magnolia Pearl was a jewel more like diamond in the rough


When something you see on the side of the road causes you to turn around and double back, you know it must be something special.

magnolia-pearl-frontMagnolia Pearl was one of those surprising delights on the road taken recently. This magnificent building is new, believe it or not, built entirely from reclaimed wood. It’s the flagship store for Magnolia Pearl, a women’s clothing line I would described as distressed, wrinkled and ruffly (it’s not cheap either; T-shirts start at $95). While the clothing was not my cup of tea, the building was amazing and aptly mirrored the designer’s aesthetic.

Described on its website, the “old German grain barn-style building” reflects the architecture of nearby Fredericksburg, a quaint German nestled in the rolling hills of Texas wine country.


Even the office looked inviting. The interior was decorated with a fantastic mix of sleek industrial and beat-up antique pieces.

When you walk inside, you’re surprised by the openness and light. It’s built exactly like a house might be (if you ever built a barn to live in). There’s a kitchen, and the bathrooms all have bathtubs.”Among our store’s grand architecture is a hand-crank platform elevator that was used in the late 1800s in an old cotton mill,” the website says. Looked like work to raise, but that elevator was a beautiful addition to the environment, not an eyesore. I saw a recently engaged couple getting their picture taken on the stairway, it was that picturesque.

The old oaks surrounding the building encouraged the illusion that it had been there forever. Magic had been worked there.


Airy porches filled three sides of the building; this is the back.

Magnolia Pearl is absolutely worth a stop if ever you find yourself on Highway 290, east of Fredericksburg, Texas, and you’re looking for a new frock or some architectural inspiration.


Hear, hear for editors

My goodness, people just don’t appreciate a good editor.

Or, at least, they don’t know they appreciate one.

Take Google for instance. Of the 287 million results that show up when I type in “Yahoo logo changing,” the first one — a sponsored post by none other than Yahoo — explains the company is revealing a different logo every day until the Sept. 5 unveiling of the actual new logo.

Google prioritized the answer for me and delivered it in 0.37 seconds. That’s the work of a good editor, even an algorithmic one.

I heard a story on National Public Radio today about a controversy surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. It seems a quote of King’s was chiseled into the Stone of Hope:

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”

But King never said that nice 10-word sentence. He said:

“Yes, if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice, say I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

His 44-word quote is more eloquent, especially when delivered by King, one of the world’s greatest orators.

But it didn’t fit. The trunacated quote has been chiseled away from the memorial.

As a former journalist, I kind of agree with the sticklers. It’s not right to attribute a quote to someone if they didn’t say it. But as a former copy editor who wrote dozens of headlines on any newspaper shift, I completely disagree with the guy who obviously doesn’t appreciate editors — he told NPR, “I think they should put it back in there but do it right.”

There’s not room! You can’t put a 44-word quote in the space formerly occupied by a 10-word quote. Not on a hunk of granite. It’s like trying to get “loophole’ and “Obamacare” in a three-deck, one-column headline — very tricky business in 44-point type! Granite is like newsprint which, for you 20somethings, is like a 140-character Tweet — space is limited! If you tried to get the real quote into the truncated space, you’d have room for:

“Yes, if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum.”

It’s technically accurate, but still wrong. It says nothing. (Here’s another approach and a picture of the part of the memorial in question.)

That’s where a good editor comes in and sandblasts the inaccurate quote in favor of no quote at all. Now a good designer, she would have designed the memorial in such a way as to accommodate the whole quote. But that’s another blog post.

To dangerously paraphrase Blaise Pascal, this blog post is longer than usual because I did not have time to make it shorter.

Fashion fix via scissors

Raw edges don’t scare me! Take that, Strangely Proportioned Shirt — chop, chop, chop!

Inspired by Zhenya over at “Being Zhenya: Style, Fashion, DIY, Thrifting,” I got wild with a household instrument today. Zhenya never hesitates to take a scissors to a piece of clothing that needs an update, remodel or complete overhaul.

Not too long ago, Zhenya solved the problem of T-shirt armpit stains by cutting out the stains! I clicked on her post looking for a magic laundry formula, and instead I found her wielding her scissors like a woman on a Mission: Impossible.

How novel, I thought. I never would have thought of that. (That’s one of the reasons I subscribe to something on the lines of two dozen blogs now — I am exposed to a plethora of novel ideas every week.)

As I got dressed this morning, I searched through my closet looking for something different and came upon this bright number. I wear it rarely because is too short to be worn alone (at least by a woman my age), too long to wear with shorts, too sheer to wear without something underneath, and it has weird, useless pockets that show through.

Though I’ve owned it six or seven years, I’ve worn it twice (no, I don’t know why I’ve kept it so long either — but it’s such a happy shade of yellow and it has such a nice neckline). I put it on, apparently hoping it had changed since the last time I donned it, and discovered …

It was still too short, too long, too sheer and had weird pockets.

Empowered by Zhenya (and the prospect of a blog post), I whipped out a pair of scissors and cut off the bottom and the pockets, thinking the worst thing I would have would be a shirt with raw edges that falls apart in the washer, which would finally be the excuse I could use to throw it away.

I’m pleased to have found today’s fashion statement. I’m wearing it now, the raw edges conveniently tucked away (what happens later, be darned), and I’m reminded of how the happy color brightens my day (instead of my closet).

Here’s to making bold moves today!


New packaging sticks in my craw

My favorite flavored drink has a new package (top). The former packaging is on the bottom.

In the words of Paul Simon, I ask Maxwell House, “Now who do … who do you think you’re fooling?”

The marketers at the “good to the last drop” company are wringing every last bit of spin out of the latest packaging change to the International Café line.

I love the Café Francais flavor more than I ought to, and I’ve been buying it for years. A hot cup of that concoction mixed into milk is my decadent little mid-afternoon or evening treat.

International Cafe beverages — formerly General Foods International Coffee until chai tea and vanilla creme were added to the line — have always been packaged in distinct steel tins.

Until recently.

The last, um, container I purchased came with a “New Look, Same Great Taste!” message. The steel had been replaced with, oh, for the love of all that is good and holy …


Over at the Maxwell House website, consumers are handed this manufactured A under the FAQs tab:

Maxwell House International changed from a steel container to a new and innovative Lock-In-Fresh package that gives you increased convenience while helping reduce the impact on the environment. This new package helps seal in freshness, makes our product easier to scoop out, and is more environmentally friendly as it uses 50% less packaging material than the previous package.

Then those clever marketers addressed the design change:

Maxwell House International changed from our traditional white and red look to our new bold, blue look in order to match the look of the Maxwell House family of coffees and remind consumers of the rich coffee heritage behind the product.

Tell the truth, you robber barons!

No one buys International Cafe beverages for the coffee! Despite the pretty coffee beans in the corner and the bigger, more prominent logo, consumers buy these addictive drinks for the sugar and the nondairy creamer and a whole bunch of other unpronounceable ingredients! If we wanted coffee, we’d buy, well, Maxwell House!

But here’s the real rip-off: That plastic “Lock-In-Fresh” packaging with 50% less material is cheaper to produce! But the price has not changed a whit!

Maxwell House dumped the steel packaging and tells consumers it’s greener while pocketing the profits!

I’m no dummy. I’ve been a marketer with that 8-ball pointed at me. I know the language, the skullduggery, the double-talk when I see it. I’ve used it!

Woe be to me. Now I must have my coffee and eat my words, too.

Marilyn Monroe sculpture is the talk of the town

A sculpture of Marilyn Monroe stands in Pioneer Court (400 block) of North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

She’s a glamazon if ever there was one. Talk about legs that go on forever!

As I emerged on Michigan Avenue after a water taxi ride down the Chicago River earlier this week, I was thrilled to be confronted with the much-talked-about sculpture of Marilyn Monroe by Seward Johnson.

She was erected in July amid some hullaballoo. I guess some people thought it was sexy that the real Marilyn Monroe let a puff of air billow her skirt and reveal her legs as she stood over a subway grate in the movie “The Seven Year Itch” but it was perverse when people peered up at her panties from beneath a 26-foot replica of her shenanigans.

I think recreating her in giant form is true art: It’s making people talk.

When I first read about the sculpture, I thought the artist wasn’t being very creative by copying a popular image in 3D form. Kitsch, I thought. But upon reflection, I think this rendition allows people to interact with it. Some people are struck, all over again, by Marilyn’s beauty. Some are impressed with the sculpture’s size (she’s smaller than she appears on camera, I think). Some people walk all the way around, taking her in from all angles. And a lot of people — and by that I mean just about anyone what lingers long enough to take a picture — stand beneath her and look up. Isn’t that the point of what made the picture so evocative? She was brash enough to stand over a subway grate but coy enough to try to hold the dress down. She was hiding what she did not want to hide. With the sculpture, we can see exactly what she didn’t — or did — want us to see in the film.

Having seen it in person earlier this week, I think the sculpture itself — irrelevant of what it represents — is amazing. It’s a sturdy work of steel and aluminum depicting a pleated lightweight fabric billowing in the wind. While Marilyn’s hair doesn’t look like hair, exactly, that dress really looks as if it could move silkily in an updraft.

And frankly, I don’t find Marilyn’s aluminum underpants pornographic. She is among a select few cover girls who make granny panties look provocative.

Here's the less-often-published but often seen "underpants" view of the sculpture.

Steve Jobs changed my life … and he did it for $1 a year

The newsroom of the my college newspaper was dominated by little Apple Macintosh computers, all in a row. That's me, large and in charge with the flowing mane in the bottom right corner of the picture.

At the time, newspapers editors loved and loathed the power the cutting-edge little Mac computer held.

Instead of leaving the petty job of gluing together headlines and stories on a newspaper page like a puzzle to a union typesetter, an editor could do the job on a computer screen. It was tedious work but powerful: One could play endlessly with headline content or size and cut copy with reason and logic instead of just loping off the end of a story at the nearest period.

This power came packaged in an Apple Macintosh computer with Quark Xpress software, and “pagination” was transforming the newspaper industry when I was editor in chief of my college newspaper. For all the complaints I heap on my alma mater, St. Cloud State’s mass communications department did the right thing by investing in Macintosh computers in 1988, just four years after their introduction by little Apple Computer company created by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Apple IIc Plus = $1,100

Those little machines with the 9-inch monitors gave tremendous desktop publishing power to copy editors and made the role of the human typesetter obsolete. I might have gotten my first post-college job as a reporter without that Mac experience, but I never would have landed the job as newspaper copy editor four years later without it. Oh, how I loved those enormous G3 monitors!

Even today, I am obsessed with the total design control afforded by Quark Xpress, now loaded on my PC. My headlines are exactly 1 pica above the story, I can save a whole paragraph of copy by deleting a single word in six other paragraphs, and I can create a drop letter in two clicks.

Apple iBook = $1,599

I left newspapers in 1997 to become a marketing executive. When other non-creatives were using PCs in the late ’90s, I stubbornly hung onto my Macintosh computer. For a while, I had two computers — a PC desktop and one of those pretty blue iBook laptops — until finally I was lured in about 2002 to the cheaper, more universally compatible world built by Bill Gates.

iPod Shuffle = $79

Still, Apple was changing the world with a little novelty called the iPod. I resisted that innovation until 2007 when my parents decided their runner daughter needed an iPod shuffle as a Christmas present. Now, I rarely hit the streets without my trusty iPod and its iTunes library of Natasha Bedingfield, Queen and the soundtrack from “Mama Mia” (yeah, I probably oughta replace that Abba stuff with something else).

My Beloved just got an iPhone, and I can see one replacing my Droid any day. And we’ve already been shopping for an iPad, impressed with all it brags of doing.

Apple CEO’s value = Priceless

Apple products have been inextricably influencing my life in one way or another for 25 years. The announcement yesterday of Steve Jobs’ departure from the CEO role with Apple reminds me how his vision has affected my career, my hobbies and my relationships.

How much value can one assign to a man like Steve Jobs whose work has affected the lives of so many people?

I read the other day that federal regulators were drawing up new rules regarding CEO pay in an effort to thwart financial abuses uncovered in the 2008 economic crash. One of those rules requires the disclosure of the ratio between the average pay of all employees and that of the CEO. Some CEOs are paid 300 times as much as their average employee, and some people think that’s unfair.

To be sure, not all egomanaical CEOs deserve that kind of ridiculous salary. In fact, some greedy racketeers who climbed to a position of power because they were lucky enough to rub elbows with the right people don’t deserve to be paid twice the salary of the average employee let alone 300 times.

How much money have I earned because of Steve Jobs? How many hours of enjoyment has the work of his company brought me?

Having worked for one CEO who cashed in her company stock and sent the company into a spiral that ended in bankruptcy and for another CEO who lamented his pay cut to $80,000 a year as “not worth coming into work for” while he was paying his employees weeks late, I idolize a CEO like Steve Jobs.

You know what Steve Jobs’ CEO salary was? He probably got a salary when he was leading Apple in the ’80s, but since 1998, Steve Jobs has been paid $1 a year.

Of course, he owns billions in Apple and Disney stock (according to the Associated Press, he got the Disney stock when he sold Pixar Animation Studios to Disney in 2006), but Steve Jobs deserves every cent.