20 seeds

Originally presented by Janine Vangool on Friday, September 28, 2012
PechaKucha night, Calgary

What began in Japan in 2003 as "chit chat" presentations, PechaKucha Nights now take place in over 500 cities around the world. These entertaining and informative events have the format of each speakers presenting 20 slides with each slide appearing for only 20 seconds. The format is lively and keeps the speakers on their toes!

For my presentation on the theme of "seed" I'd like to share with you the kernels of ideas that popped into something bigger.

1) UPPERCASE began in 2005 when I started renting a space in Art Central. At the time, I was doing freelance graphic design but wanted to start doing some self-directed projects. These are my initial sketches for UPPERCASE—it started as a retail gallery space but I dreamed of publishing my own titles some day. I designed a logo that would look good on a book spine.

1) UPPERCASE began in 2005 when I started renting a space in Art Central. At the time, I was doing freelance graphic design but wanted to start doing some self-directed projects. These are my initial sketches for UPPERCASE—it started as a retail gallery space but I dreamed of publishing my own titles some day. I designed a logo that would look good on a book spine.

2) A few years later, and this logo has taken over my life! I’ve “retired” from client work and focus exclusively on my own publishing projects, mainly UPPERCASE, a quarterly magazine for the creative and curious. The magazine is in its 4th year and has a worldwide audience. I’ve also published nine books and counting, some of which I will talk about tonight.

2) A few years later, and this logo has taken over my life! I’ve “retired” from client work and focus exclusively on my own publishing projects, mainly UPPERCASE, a quarterly magazine for the creative and curious. The magazine is in its 4th year and has a worldwide audience. I’ve also published nine books and counting, some of which I will talk about tonight.

3) But first, we go back to when the seed was planted. As a child, I loved the notion of publishing and I used to make books and magazines and force my family to sign them out of my portable library. Even then, I liked to make series of books and different issues of my magazines. I had a magazine called “Crafts n’ Things” where I would document my various sewing projects.

3) But first, we go back to when the seed was planted. As a child, I loved the notion of publishing and I used to make books and magazines and force my family to sign them out of my portable library. Even then, I liked to make series of books and different issues of my magazines. I had a magazine called “Crafts n’ Things” where I would document my various sewing projects.

4) Today, my magazine still has the essence of what appealed to me as a child—the making of something creative and curious, a long-term project with multiple issues to allow me to explore different ideas. Surprisingly, my favourite colour palette hasn’t changed that much since I was ten! I think that nurturing the playful child-like side is good for creativity and discovery.

4) Today, my magazine still has the essence of what appealed to me as a child—the making of something creative and curious, a long-term project with multiple issues to allow me to explore different ideas. Surprisingly, my favourite colour palette hasn’t changed that much since I was ten! I think that nurturing the playful child-like side is good for creativity and discovery.

5) The first thing I ever self-published—meaning that I footed the print bill!—was a leaflet promoting my graphic design services in 2003. The idea came by chance… I found a typewriter in my back alley. I was fooling around with it and started typing on a leaf. I started thinking about leaves and letters, equating the multitude of typefaces with the variety of leaf forms.

5) The first thing I ever self-published—meaning that I footed the print bill!—was a leaflet promoting my graphic design services in 2003. The idea came by chance… I found a typewriter in my back alley. I was fooling around with it and started typing on a leaf. I started thinking about leaves and letters, equating the multitude of typefaces with the variety of leaf forms.

6) This lead to a study between leaves and letters, comparing the styles, weights and terminology of typography with those of the natural world. Here you can see the words sans and serif demonstrated on their leafy equivalents. I really enjoy the process of conceptualizing, writing, photographing and designing a complete project.

6) This lead to a study between leaves and letters, comparing the styles, weights and terminology of typography with those of the natural world. Here you can see the words sans and serif demonstrated on their leafy equivalents. I really enjoy the process of conceptualizing, writing, photographing and designing a complete project.

7) I’m a paper lover—and hoarder! Collected papers were piling up in my studio and in my home. I couldn’t simply discard them, so I started cutting them up and making little notebooks. Soon I ran out of papers and needed to collect even more paper as fodder for the notebooks.

7) I’m a paper lover—and hoarder! Collected papers were piling up in my studio and in my home. I couldn’t simply discard them, so I started cutting them up and making little notebooks. Soon I ran out of papers and needed to collect even more paper as fodder for the notebooks.

8) These developed into a product line I called “eclectonotes” in which each book featured a random assortment of vintage papers, cut up discarded books and bits of ephemera. They were labour-intensive to make, but they generated quite a bit of income over the years that I made them. My son was born in 2010 and since then I don’t have much hands-free time!

8) These developed into a product line I called “eclectonotes” in which each book featured a random assortment of vintage papers, cut up discarded books and bits of ephemera. They were labour-intensive to make, but they generated quite a bit of income over the years that I made them. My son was born in 2010 and since then I don’t have much hands-free time!

9) William Shatner. Perhaps an unexpected fellow to show up here! One summer, my husband Glen and I were driving across Canada to get to a wedding in Nova Scotia. We had the Ben Folds and William Shatner spoken word cd on repeat during the trip. Shatner got into my subconscious and I thought it would be fun to do a gallery show about him. A Canadian icon, he was going to turn 76 years old that year. 76 Shatners! I figured if I was going to have that many illustrations, the project should be made into a book!

9) William Shatner. Perhaps an unexpected fellow to show up here! One summer, my husband Glen and I were driving across Canada to get to a wedding in Nova Scotia. We had the Ben Folds and William Shatner spoken word cd on repeat during the trip. Shatner got into my subconscious and I thought it would be fun to do a gallery show about him. A Canadian icon, he was going to turn 76 years old that year. 76 Shatners! I figured if I was going to have that many illustrations, the project should be made into a book!

10) And so The Shatner Show is a hardcover book in which 76 illustrators interpret his life and career. It was endorsed by the man himself, though I wasn’t able to convince him to see the show in person, some of the prints hang in his office. It was fun to see that he included The Shatner Show in his recent biography and we’re even noted in the index!

10) And so The Shatner Show is a hardcover book in which 76 illustrators interpret his life and career. It was endorsed by the man himself, though I wasn’t able to convince him to see the show in person, some of the prints hang in his office. It was fun to see that he included The Shatner Show in his recent biography and we’re even noted in the index!

11) If my childhood bookmaking and show about Shatner didn’t clue you in, yes, I am a nerd. I loved school, too. I liked learning, science and math, but it was the school supplies, paper and pencils and little notebooks that appealed to me most… The ephemera of school inspired a book project.

11) If my childhood bookmaking and show about Shatner didn’t clue you in, yes, I am a nerd. I loved school, too. I liked learning, science and math, but it was the school supplies, paper and pencils and little notebooks that appealed to me most… The ephemera of school inspired a book project.

12) Old School is a publication of art inspired by the aesthetics of 20th century education. I sent dozens of artists and illustrators packs of old flash cards and papers to use as inspiration in their work along with their own personal mementos. The book was packaged with a pencil and old school eraser. Artists created sculpture, prints, paintings and collages based on their own elementary school experiences. 

12) Old School is a publication of art inspired by the aesthetics of 20th century education. I sent dozens of artists and illustrators packs of old flash cards and papers to use as inspiration in their work along with their own personal mementos. The book was packaged with a pencil and old school eraser. Artists created sculpture, prints, paintings and collages based on their own elementary school experiences. 

13) Travel is a great way to become inspired, both by seeing new places and experiencing new things, but also when you return home you have greater appreciation for the familiar. I wanted to incorporate more travel in my life, so I came up with The Suitcase Series:

13) Travel is a great way to become inspired, both by seeing new places and experiencing new things, but also when you return home you have greater appreciation for the familiar. I wanted to incorporate more travel in my life, so I came up with The Suitcase Series:

14) A series of books in which I would travel to meet and collaborate with an artist and together we would create a monograph about their work and culture. The first book was about Camilla Engman, a Swedish illustrator—so a trip to Scandinavia was in order! The second book was a bit closer to home, since I had my baby in tow, so it was about a British woman living in Seattle, known as her crafty alter ego, Dottie Angel. We’re still working out where the next Suitcase Series will bring us… perhaps a trip to Japan or Australia!

14) A series of books in which I would travel to meet and collaborate with an artist and together we would create a monograph about their work and culture. The first book was about Camilla Engman, a Swedish illustrator—so a trip to Scandinavia was in order! The second book was a bit closer to home, since I had my baby in tow, so it was about a British woman living in Seattle, known as her crafty alter ego, Dottie Angel. We’re still working out where the next Suitcase Series will bring us… perhaps a trip to Japan or Australia!

15) It seems that with everything I do, there is a relationship to my childhood. The little seedling Janine still influences what I do on a daily basis. This is my old box of crayons which now belongs to my son. These crayons not only inspired Old School…

15) It seems that with everything I do, there is a relationship to my childhood. The little seedling Janine still influences what I do on a daily basis. This is my old box of crayons which now belongs to my son. These crayons not only inspired Old School…

16) They also ended up influencing the cover direction of issue 11 of UPPERCASE magazine. These amazing crayons are carved by artist Diem Chau. The issue dealt with laborious art-making techniques as well as sharp objects, so her carvings illustrated both. Themes for the magazine emerge organically… I collect ideas, images and inspiration and new ideas grow from there.

16) They also ended up influencing the cover direction of issue 11 of UPPERCASE magazine. These amazing crayons are carved by artist Diem Chau. The issue dealt with laborious art-making techniques as well as sharp objects, so her carvings illustrated both. Themes for the magazine emerge organically… I collect ideas, images and inspiration and new ideas grow from there.

17) The act of collecting is a common element to a lot of my books. This image is by Lisa Congdon, an illustrator in San Francisco who, in 2010, began posting online a photo or illustration of one of her eclectic collections for every day of the year. Things like erasers, postcards, bread tags, haberdashery, old photos...

17) The act of collecting is a common element to a lot of my books. This image is by Lisa Congdon, an illustrator in San Francisco who, in 2010, began posting online a photo or illustration of one of her eclectic collections for every day of the year. Things like erasers, postcards, bread tags, haberdashery, old photos...

18) We turned that project into a book; but I also indulged in designing a collectible tin to house the book. I collect vintage tins, typewriter ribbon tins in particular, and my own collection planted the seed for packaging the book inside a tin. I had to do a lot of research and learn new design skills to get it made.

18) We turned that project into a book; but I also indulged in designing a collectible tin to house the book. I collect vintage tins, typewriter ribbon tins in particular, and my own collection planted the seed for packaging the book inside a tin. I had to do a lot of research and learn new design skills to get it made.

19) And speaking of typewriter ribbon tins, I have a bit of a typewriter obsession. And the seed of this obsession also started in childhood when I’d play with my mom’s typewriter at work. Now I collect typewriters (I have nine) and typewriter memorabilia. The history of the typewriter corresponds with women entering the workplace and the development of graphic design as a profession.

19) And speaking of typewriter ribbon tins, I have a bit of a typewriter obsession. And the seed of this obsession also started in childhood when I’d play with my mom’s typewriter at work. Now I collect typewriters (I have nine) and typewriter memorabilia. The history of the typewriter corresponds with women entering the workplace and the development of graphic design as a profession.

20) And so I am working on a book called The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine which will be released next year.

20) And so I am working on a book called The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine which will be released next year.

I hope that by sharing my seeds of inspiration with you that new ideas have been planted in your minds! 

Thank you.