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The Other Other Rand

There comes a time for many design students when classmates sit around the keg and reveal their true selves: i.e. the reason they decided to study design. This was The Tell.

My experience with The Tell painfully revealed how common I truly was; for I learned that several other classmates, male and female, had the exact same role model.

kingsley_dick_york.jpg

Yes. Darrin Stephens from the television show Bewitched.

Even though poor “Derwood’ was besot with a meddling mother-in-law, a mercenary boss and a nosy neighbor, there was something about his life… He was creative, he could work at home if he wanted, and his job seemed much cooler than any adult I knew.

And when it came time to pick a college, I suspect that having Darrin Stephens around helped my classmates’ and my parents understand our choices… kind of.

Our esteemed colleague Michael Bierut has postulated on the role Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark plays in our everyday client psychodramas and studio rantings. Sure, I’ll admit to a Roarkian delusion — but that’s the rationale after we have the job. Where’s the motivation? He would rather starve than compromise, he didn’t get along well with others and his lover Dominique Francon was well… complicated.

Nope. Darrin Stephens was my model: lovely wife, colorful relatives, well-stocked bar in the living room, and clients who bought the idea without too too much back-and-forth.

kingsley_listener.jpg

Another example how success comes from being a good listener.

A couple decades later, the show thirtysomething featured a couple other other other Rands: Michael Steadman (played by Ken Olin) and Elliot Weston (played by Timothy Busfield). Perhaps because I was already working in New York when the show premiered, I have my doubts that Michael and Elliot held the same effect on impressionable minds. While more ‘real’, they were also big babies. They stomped around the studio more, their creative blocks were so much more dramatic, and their personal lives seemed more difficult.

On the other hand, Darrin worked for McMann & Tate, an agency whose name carried more gravitas than the Michael and Elliot Company. Darrin’s clients were Captains of Industry — all in three-piece suits, demanding and decisive — while Michael and Elliot’s were just ordinary volk.

kingsley_thirtysumthing.jpg

Michael Steadman (left) and Elliot Weston (right) with the evil head of the DAA agency, Miles Drentell (hmm… I wonder where THAT name came from)

If you Google “bewitched”, “advertising” and any variant spelling of “stevens”, then click around for a while, you’ll see quite a few testimonials similar to mine. Darrin was a blend of archetype, myth and daddy. He was a cipher for the upcoming information economy where one’s merit is based on their ideas. He was our role model. Perhaps you can call us… The Bewitched Generation.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2168 FILED UNDER Show and Tell
PUBLISHED ON Dec.17.2004 BY m. kingsley
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Steven Heller’s comment is:

The Other Other Other Rand

I actually had the misguided and dubious distinction of attending Ayn Rand lectures at the Nathaniel Branden Institute (NBI) in Manhattan during the sixties (when I was a teen). Why? My best friend's mom was a follower and dragged us young'ins along with her to raise our hippy consciousnesses.

Having grown up with socialist values, however, Ayn's Objectivism blather and individual ego ´┐Żber alles clap trap was a bit hard to swallow (even though I know lots of my classmates were seduced by the artistic genius in The Fountainhead (the book) - and also Patricia Neal's sculpted physique (in the movie).

Like Mark, I was more influenced by Dick York's portrayal of the hapless advertising guy (although he was lucky enough to have not only Elizabeth Montgomery as a bride, but all the be-witchly endowments that came with her), than Ayn Rand (she had a torrid and nasty affair with Mr. Branden, btw).

BUT there was another other other Rand for me. His name was Erik Nitsche, a somewhat unsung modern pioneer, though rarely unemployed. I've written at length about him in the upcoming Baseline (http://www.baselinemagazine.com/), but its worth noting here that he had many of the same kinds of jobs as Paul Rand in advertising, magazine, and corporate design (he even confided that he was offered the IBM job), but took different career paths. He also did not teach, but rather became an "author," as the packager of scores of books that were beautifully designed on the "Nitsche grid" and splendidly written and researched (they included popular histories of communications, transportation, music, etc.).

I know for many book designers he was indeed their RAND. His opus history of General Dynamics (for which he was design director for 10 years) was a masterpiece of cinematic pacing.

He was not Howard Roark nor Dick York, but he was a complete designer and a total inspiration.

On Dec.17.2004 at 08:17 AM
Michael H.’s comment is:

I discovered The Fountainhead while I was in school, and it gave me an incredible boost in momentum on the days when I had none. I still try to crack it open and read a few chapters nowadays when I feel I "need" it, but that's not always easy to do (the way she writes requires a commitment to the book).

I remember seeing the Bewitched re-runs on Nickelodeon... well, not actually watching it, I think I preferred "I Dream of Jeanie". Anyway, my point is that I didn't even realize Darrin's character was in "the biz".

So my first fictional role-model was Howard Roark. His character reminded that I need be strong when all the cards seem to be stacked. One thing I really admired was how he never sold out, I think, because I feel in real life I can't do that. If the client wants something, and I can't convince them otherwise of better alternatives (and I need the dough), then I should do it because they'll just go to someone else and get it done there.

There, there's my dirty little secret.

It's still something I aspire to. As I grow older and better as a designer, I find myself less often in that compromising position... which makes me happy in retrospect. I feel a little more Roark-like.

On Dec.17.2004 at 08:44 AM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

I apologize, but this is somewhat off topic:

Steven,

I have been endlessly looking for more works from Erik Nitsche. After having read your tyotheque article about a hundred times, I tried searching for most of his works, and was sadly only able to find one of his History of Medicine books and the usual examples of his posters. but like you, I'm far more fascinated in his book and layout design. His General Dynamics works are long out of print and either impossible or expensive to find. Are you aware of anyone trying to compile any of his works into a book or something longer format than magazine articles? It's a shame that there are several books out for Rand, but none for Nitsche.

If you have any info, perhaps you could e-mail me or post them here. And I apologize for posting off-topic, but my search has become bone dry recently.

On Dec.17.2004 at 08:55 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> the evil head of the DAA agency, Miles Drentell (hmm… I wonder where THAT name came from)

For those who are unaware of the speculations:

When thirtysomething was on the air, the question, "Who is Miles Drentell based on?" became a topic of mild interest in the media and especially within the advertising profession. It was adman Jay Chiat, who designed the Energizer Bunny campaign and operated out of a Frank Gehry building in Venice, Calif., that was outfitted with Pop Art and cardboard furniture. No, it was Bob Kuperman, who worked for Chiat. No, it was superagent Mike Ovitz. No, it was William Drenttel, an old friend of Zwick's and partner in a design firm whose Web page begins with the Zenlike riddle, "We love design. We hate design." To Chatterbox, Miles bears an intriguing resemblance to Jerry Brown when he was governor of California. Of course, Miles is really none of these people. He is Miles Drentell.

On Dec.17.2004 at 08:57 AM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Great Editorial Mark:

I absolutely Love these strolls down memory lane.

Though, I'm not as Ancient as Gunnar, Mark, and the Grand Poo-Bah Steve Heller.

Really telling my age.

My Design Influences began with three men in television and/or film. In no

particular order,Desmond Llewelyn, "Q" of the James Bond Movies, Steven Douglas, an Aeronautical Engineer (Designer) of My Three Sons, Fame. Yes, Yes, Yes without question Darrin Stevens, Dick York of Betwitched. Which I alluded to my very first post on Speak Up.

Seems many of the Fathers in early television were Designers. The jury is still out if Ward Clever was actually a Designer or Insurance Saleman. I believe Mr. Clever was an architect or Engineer. Since his responsibility in the Seebees was a Designer and/or Engineer of bridges. Which the show revealed. Unfortunately, the story line never actually revealed his occupation. Allthough seen in his office or coming home with a Briefcase.

Steven Douglas was often seen in his office at his Drafting Table.

Who can forget those marvelous gadgets and inventions of "Q" for James Bond. Industrial Design at its Best.

It was Darrin Stevens that stole my heart. Drawing and painting at five years old. At fourteen I was enrolled in a Professional Advertising Art Program. My introduction to Airbrush. Thus my Love of Erik Nitsche Poster.

Steve your next book after Alvin Lustig. Should be Erik Nitshe.

Forgot to mention Alan Young, Wilbur Post of Mr. Ed fame was an Architecture. Although, not a Father. Nevertheless, he was a Designer of 1960s television Fame.

As well, Herber Anderson, Henry Mitchell Father of Dennis the Menace 1960s sitcom. Was a Advertising Designer or Cartoonist.

I suspect most children born in the middle to late 1980s were influenced by Max Wright, Willie Tanner, of ALF FAME sitting at his Drawing Table earning a living. There were others, however memory escape at this writing.

In reference to Ayn Rand and Fountain Head. It's good Ideologically to not compromise. In reality, Design is an accomodationist occupation.

In as much as, Frank Lloyd Wright criticized BAUHAUS Ideology and Practice. Publicly descrating and blasphame Steel and Glass Structures. Frank Lloyd Wright, after a very long period of not working soon compromised his Obstinate Ideals for BAUHAUS Ideology. Coupled with his own methodology.

No Greater Accomodationist (Schmoozer) than David White, Larry Tate. Owner of the Fictional Advertising Agency McMann & Tate. No Morals, No Scruples, No Family, No Friends, No Conscience, The Client came First and Foremost.

I'm constantly reminded by THE RAND. PAUL RAND, even at the fate of losing ones job. Stand up and fight for what you believe !!!!!!

On Dec.17.2004 at 08:31 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Hey Maven, who ya callin' old?

On Dec.17.2004 at 08:53 PM
Steve heller’s comment is:

Speaking of heroes of the cathode ray, what about:

Artist Kip Wilson and writer, Henry Desmond who worked together in the advertising agency Livingston, Gentry & Mishkin.

Yes, I'm talking about those well endowed Bosom Buddies (Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari). "Artist" was theTV euphemism for "graphic designer" or "layout guy."

Kip's talent was nowhere as impressive as Darren's but, that wasn't a drag. I was nonetheless inspired seeing an "artist" at a "drawing board" surrounded by "markers." It gave increased legitimacy to a field that beckoned the "underachiever."

Perhaps the AD Club in NYC will someday honor Darren, Tate, Kip, Roark, and the other fictional figures who have given our field its real gravitas.

On Dec.18.2004 at 08:23 AM
Armin’s comment is:

And speaking of anti-heroes in the silver screen…

Dennis Bagley in the anxiety-ladden How to Get Ahead in Advertising. Creative blocks can indeed make a person go mad.

On Dec.18.2004 at 09:02 AM
vibranium’s comment is:

Best "ad agency" stuff in any movie or t.v. show:

Nothing in Common

The pitch scene? BRILLIANT!!

Only 30something rivals it as far as making advertising seem fun to cool. Miles was easily one of the best tv characters ever.

On Dec.18.2004 at 09:32 AM
Michael B.’s comment is:

I was always struck by the fact that two actors played Darrin Stephens, Dick Sargent and Dick York. (One replaced the other at some point, I honestly forget which.) Although Samantha didn't appear to notice the difference, the title designers went to the trouble of redoing the caricatures in the opening credits.

On Dec.18.2004 at 03:09 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

I was just thinking... "Rand" wasn't the given name of either "Paul" (Peretz) or "Ayn" (Alissa). Apparently they both changed their names from Rosenbaum to Rand, and for similar reasons.

On Dec.19.2004 at 11:06 PM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

Nice article Mark. Your research and time would be put to even better use with of those other rarities of modernism: a graphic design book.

Gasp. Argh. Sigh.

(SFX: toilet flushing)

Not goin anywhere for a while?

try my secret Rand designer logo contest

On Dec.20.2004 at 05:44 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Even as a kid back in the 60's, I thought Darren Stevens was a geek. (No offense Mark!) Samantha was the hottie who always had the ideas, while Darren was best at just picking up on the clues.

But, "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" is a true classic, in the same way that "Office Space" is for anyone who's ever worked for a corporation.

On Dec.21.2004 at 03:43 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Discussion about the representation of one's profession in media is not specific to Design. Presented, a baker's dozen of examples, links, PDF files, and Word documents:

1: http://www.whoosh.org/issue45/chen1.html#top" target="_blank"> Gender roles on television

2: http://www.iidb.org/vbb/archive/index.php/t-83420.html" target="_blank"> Do TV shows represent real life careers?

3: http://www.trustingov.org/research/govtv/" target="_blank"> Images of government on television

4: http://anthonylarme.tripod.com/gc/psymovies.pdf" target="_blank"> The portrayal of psychiatry in film

5: http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~surette/reserve.html" target="_blank"> Criminals and law enforcement on television

6: http://www.nursingadvocacy.org/news/2004sep/21_no_angels.html" target="_blank"> Nurses on television

7: http://www.nursingworld.org/pressrel/2003/ltr0131.htm" target="_blank"> Male nurses on television

8: http://www.aasa.org/publications/sa/1998_10/Glanz.htm" target="_blank"> School principals on sitcoms

9: http://turbo.kean.edu/~jglanz/currentissue/principals.html" target="_blank"> More principals in media

10: http://www.dcbar.org/for_lawyers/washington_lawyer/june_2004/tvlawyer.cfm" target="_blank"> Lawyers on television

11: http://www.theinstitute.ieee.org/inst_art2.jsp?isno=04991§ion=20" target="_blank"> Engineers and scientitsts in media

12: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/fmp/medianomics/1997/199706stud.html" target="_blank"> Business on television

13: http://www2.hmc.edu/www_common/hmnj/latterell.doc" target="_blank"> Mathmatics in media

...and back to design, Jessica Helfand at Design Observer has written four essays on:

http://www.designobserver.com/archives/000227.html" target="_blank"> Designers in The Incredibles

http://www.designobserver.com/archives/000234.html" target="_blank"> Designers in The Apprentice

http://www.designobserver.com/archives/000162.html" target="_blank"> Designers in Catwoman and...

http://www.designobserver.com/archives/000176.html" target="_blank"> Design itself as a 'character'

I'm of the generation that had bad sitcom reruns on television when we got home from school. For me, Bewitched was on every single day; and it's not about how good Darrin's creative powers were, but that his profession was such a focus of the show.

Since then, there have been numerous designers, ad hacks, cartoonists, etc. portrayed in films and on television; but the job is usually part of the backstory. The character of Amanda on Melrose Place was more about leering at Heather Locklear than her role at D&D Advertising. Ted Knight's cartoonist on Too Close For Comfort was overshadowed by Jim J. Bullock. And Caroline in The City was just too, too awful to watch — she was a cartoonist... with an assistant! They have assistants?

All of these are incremental steps in the normalization of design as just another profession — nothing too special, just another job. Fifteen years ago, daytime television vocational school ads pitched air conditioning repair, now they promise to teach you how to get into record cover design.

Like I mentioned in the original post, if you spend some time with Google, you'll come across quite a few testimonials to the Darrin Stephens influence. It's easy to imagine how many on the cusp between the Baby Boom and Generation X went into design, advertising, or a related occupation because Darrin demystified it. I can also imagine television or script writers of the same generation going on to write what they know: Darrin.

> Your research and time would be put to even better use with of those other rarities of modernism: a graphic design book.

Thanks, but what I really want is a nice self-promo piece um... monograph.

;)

(sorry)

On Dec.22.2004 at 12:53 AM