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’Til We Meet Again

Earlier this summer, Tan Le invited (badgered, actually) several of the Speak Up authors to join him at AIGA Seattle’s Design Camp. Debbie Millman and Marian Bantjes were able to take him up on the invitation. We packed our flashlights and pocket knives, and for the first time since we were kids, set off for camp.

These are our letters home to Speak Up.

Dear Armin,
Well, we arrived at camp and pretty much the first thing we did is eat. The food is so good!!! Full-course meals, with options for salads and soups and too many really great desserts. Debbie’s not here yet, so Tan and I signed her up for Salsa Dancing and Twister. Ha ha.

Then off to a letterpress workshop. Even though I’ve never printed like this before, I learned almost nothing! But it was fun! They had some great type. Why does Cooper Black look so excellent as wood type?

There’s a scavenger hunt and one of the items to find is a Canadian $1. I have two … I’m gonna see if I can sell them for $5 US!

Wish you were here,

p.s. I met Sheepstealer!

Dear Armin—
Well, I have been traveling for eleven hours and traversed nearly 3,000 miles for one reason, and one reason only: to see Tan and Marian. You probably know that Tan sent out an email many months ago inviting us to Design Camp—a biennial design extravaganza situated in the woods, two and a half hours outside of Seattle in a tiny Bavarian town called Leavenworth (not the prison!). The gig is put on every two years by the Seattle Chapter of the AIGA.

Six months ago it seemed like an adventurous undertaking—the kind of thing I am precisely known for not doing. So as this year’s path seems to be about doing things I have not done before, and Marian signed on nearly immediately, I shrugged my shoulders and cavalierly sent Tan a response: why of course I’ll come! What fun!

Tan sent out the itinerary and it seemed intriguing enough—I was most excited about seeing Ellen Lupton and the Clayton Brothers. Chinese calligraphy, salsa dancing and yoga were just a few of the workshops also being offered, but now that I am here, I realize that I have little or no interest in any of the workshops. Me salsa dancing? Ha! I think not. So now I am nearly there, so I gotta run. Will catch up with you soon. Ta Ta for now.


Dear Armin,

Wazzup from design camp bro. Just got here. It should’ve taken 2-1/2 hours to get here from Seattle, but Marian drove like a banshee all the way. I forgot how beautiful this place was.

Lunch was awesome. The room is tiny, but the girls gave me the loft cause they didn’t want to climb the ladder of death. As usual, saw lots of friends.

First up, a letterpress workshop with Jeronimo Squires and Kay Reinhardt from the Living Letterpress Museum. Lots of hands-on fun. I resisted printing anything profane. This is going to be a great weekend.

After dinner, Ellen Lupton was the first speaker. You know, she’s more soft-spoken than I’d expected. She pushed her book and her website. She even had a brief slide about Speak-Up. She didn’t know there were three SU authors in the crowd. Overall, nice talk. Marian pointed out a typographic flaw in one of her slides, and felt guilty about it for an entire day. After the talk, some drinking and a lame pajama party. Lots of giggling back at the cabin. I’m hungry again.


Well, for the first time in decades, I am sharing a room. Not with one person, not two, but three! Not only do I have to sleep with Tan, Marian and my colleague (and friend) Kim, I actually have to SLEEP with Marian. As in the same bed. There are only three beds for the four of us, so Marian and I sheepishly agreed to share. Should be interesting! There is no cell service here, and only a land line for emails, so I will likely be sparce with the words this weekend. But so far, the food has been outstanding, the weather is cooperating and I have four drink tickets. Heh heh.

Dear Armin,
Debbie’s here! She brought one of her designers, Kim Berlin, with her. Sweet! So it’s 3 girls and Tan in the cabin!!!! I smuggled an apple pie across the border with me, so first thing we did was eat it. Pretty much the next thing we did was eat supper.

Finally, the first speaker: Ellen Lupton! I was really excited to see her; I even brought her new book Thinking with Type for autographing. That’s OK, huh? Not too geeky? She gave a good talk; really approachable. I just kinda liked her. I loved the part where she was training her child to recognize and destroy “dumb quotes” through an online game. But get this: she said Design Observer is “like Speak Up for grown-ups”!!! We’ll show her!

I was hoping to take home the award for best PJs with my Emigre Hypnopaedia Pyjamas, but they tried to make us watch “Something About Mary,” first. I’m willing to make a fool of myself, but I’m not up for torture so we grabbed candy bags and left!


Caio Arminito—
Well. The first speaker of this little shindig was writer, designer, teacher and Cooper Hewitt curator, Ellen Lupton. Ellen is a bit of a hero of mine—bright, beautiful, accomplished … and doing what I consider really important work. Other than seeing her on the bathroom line at the Cooper Hewitt Design Awards last week, I had never actually met her, or seen her speak. She didn’t disappoint. She showed work from last year’s Cooper Hewitt triennial, Inside Design Now, at the onset of her presentation, which I had seen many times in person at the museum, but it was a nice warm-up for the rest of her talk, which showcased her new book, Thinking with Type, and the accompanying website. What I find most remarkable about Ellen was how authentic she seems to be. There is no pretense, no posing—she just seems to imbue a genuine love of design, of communicating, of ideas. Her home page is wonderful: dotted with paper doll cut-outs and charm. She also referenced the loss of one our great philosophers, Jacques Derrida. Derrida, the father of deconstruction, has profoundly influenced me, and it was thrilling to hear someone talk about the influence he has had on design, in general. I was inspired.

But sadly, I am still on NY time, and Marian and Tan want to party. I placated them with my copy of “Super Size Me,” am going to put on my eye shades and try to stay awake until I hit the pillow.

Til the morrow.

Hey you—
So I made it to day two without having to salsa dance and I am thinking I might make it all the way through without having to reveal my utter lack of physical grace. On deck today are Jakob Trollb�ck, Yves Behar and the Clayton Brothers.
Gotta run, the scintillation awaits.

Dear Armin,

First thing we did this morning was eat!! No, Kim went to yoga, I went out to climb around on rocks and saw a deer, Debbie and Tan slept in. Then we ate!! A huge breakfast.

The first speaker today was Jakob Trollb�ck. You know you’ve got a good speaker when you wish you could be their friend. Does that ever happen to you? You see someone speak and you’re just so, like “Yeah! Yeah!” that you wish you could drag them out for dinner and drinks and talk all night long and become lifelong friends, share music and ideas, call them up at 4am and say “HEY, whaddaya think of this?!” … ? … No? Well … he was like that: Smart, interesting and eclectic.

We are so lame! We skipped all our workshops and went to the weird faux-Bavarian village in Leavenworth. The kitsch capital of the world!

We had a nap. The we got up and ate! Mmmm. Beef tenderloin. Ellen Lupton and Jakob Trollb�ck joined us for a rousing conversation about teaching design and typography (See? See?). Then we went off to see the Clayton Brothers, clutching cookies (us, that is; we had the cookies, not them).



Dear Armin,

Awoken by the girls still giggling downstairs. Why do girls giggle so much when they’re together?

After breakfast, the first speaker was Jakob Trollb�ck. He starts his talk by just playing music — various tracks, from Bach to a symphony comprised of dot matrix printers printing. I’d kill for his iTunes library. The rest is all eye-candy, but thoroughly enjoyable. After him was Yves Behar of Fuseproject. More cool eye-candy. No complaints.

The afternoon was wasted away in Leavenworth, the nearest town. Marian asked why Americans bought so much crap? I was going to tell her that buying crap was our constitutional right to Freedom, protected by our fearless president and troops abroad. And if she didn’t like our fake-Bavarian crap, then she can just go back where she came from. But I didn’t. She wouldn’t have understood my humor anyway.

The evening’s speaker was the Clayton Brothers. Their illustration work is like folk art meets Ren and Stimpy. Fascinating work, but utterly boring presentation. But they seemed like nice guys.

There was a costume/cocktail party afterwards — and Marian kicked butt. She came in a home-made costume — as Cooper Black lowercase-i — and won for best costume. I was dressed as Jesus, but in hindsight, should’ve been Moses. In either case, it was hard to drink beer through a fake beard.

The rest of the night was a blur. There was dancing, drinking, and general debauchery till God-knows-when. Jesus hit the bed around 330am.


You know the thing about inspiration? It gives you hope. It gives you a reason to live. It elevates you and challenges you and changes your mind. That is what Jakob, Yves and Rob and Chris Clayton did for me. There is something really terrifying about realizing you want to be more—way more—than you are, but something liberating as well. These five people: Ellen, Jakob, Yves, Rob and Chris—they do their work everyday, they live like the rest of us and they also have the ability to transform small moments, moments way into the woods of our hearts and minds.

The Clayton Brothers work is extraordinary. Their work is a strange and wonderful mix of classical portraiture and organic landscape-type decoration. It is a blazing narrative of messages, innuendo, provocation and humility. Jakob Trollback was so good that I immediately wanted to hire his firm to create something for Sterling—and his music laden introduction incited me to buy 7 new CD’s on BN.com.

We somehow made it through the day without any dancing. By nightfall I was all twinkly-eyed with dreams and possibilities and was actually glad I made the 3,000 mile trek to see Tan and Marian. Seeing them in the way that I did and sharing what we did together allowed me to participate in the world—if only for a second—in a totally new way. It is a rare and wonderful thing to have that type of unexpected experience and it has really moved me.

Dear Armin,
Last night we got dressed up in our costumes and went to the dance party. Debbie was a cat! Kim was a slutty girlscout! Tan was Jesus Christ!! I was a Cooper Black “i”! I won the prize for best costume!!! Yay!!!! Then we danced and danced. It’s hard to dance dressed up as a Cooper Black i! We danced off all the food we ate over the past 2 days.

See you soon,



Dear Armin,

We’re all leaving early so Deb and Kim can fly back to NYC. We skipped the last speaker — Sarah Nelson from Werner Design in Minneapolis. Bummer. I took a few last photos and off we went.

We talked about the conference all the way back in the car. We reminisced about the food, the people, and the work. The girls kept giggling while I drove.

We got to the airport and said our farewells, and vowed to keep in touch until next year’s camp.

I think I’m going to rent an RV for the next one. Can’t wait.


Oh! One more thing: Tan snores like a bear. Everytime we thought about it all weekend, all we could do was giggle.

Til we meet again…

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Oct.29.2004 BY Marian, Tan & Debbie
Design Camp Counselor’s comment is:

Dear Kids:

I am a little disappointed by your behavior. Skipping workshops, sneaking out of camp for an unsupervised field trip, co-ed sleeping quarters and just a few of the things that have been brought to my attention over the last few days.

Now, if you are learning nothing in a workshop, you should ask questions, raise your hands and ask the teacher to better explain the process. Also, you need to learn to share your cookies.


Marian, congratulations on your home-made costume, and I want to assume your parents or boyfriend did not help you with making it…

On Oct.29.2004 at 08:19 AM
Dear Armin’s comment is:

Dearest Marian, Tan and Debbie,

Getting your letters filled me with joy and pride upon hearing your adventures in the wild forests of Washington. Nature, from the comforts of my heated apartment, sounds lovely.

I hope that, besides cookies, you ate your vegetables and washed your teeth three times a day. I am glad to hear, too, that you learned a lot.

Marian, congratulations on your winning costume! Hard work pays off.

Tan, your Jesus/Moses costume… yeah… at least it's very considerate of religious differences and appeals to a wide range of beliefs.

Debbie, did (all) your roommates play nice?

Thanks again for your letters, and good luck as you are back home.

Warmest wishes,


On Oct.29.2004 at 11:40 AM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

Tan Le invited (badgered, actually) several of the Speak Up authors to join him at AIGA Seattle’s Design Camp.

You know, I'm pretty sure I don't remember that email.

On Oct.29.2004 at 12:23 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>You know, I'm pretty sure I don't remember that email.

I think you were pretty busy preparing to be a new daddy at the time David...

I actually posted a general invite for the event back in February. But don't worry, there'll be others. We seriously talked about all going to camp again next year, but this time in Aspen. I already have a source for the RV too...

On Oct.29.2004 at 12:49 PM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

I think you were pretty busy preparing to be a new daddy at the time David...

Yes, and of course I was just kidding. Here is a pic of James Joshua

On Oct.29.2004 at 01:19 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

You Guys are Worst than Bierut:

I ain't suppose to be writing !!!!!

Until Best and Worst 2004

I'm on a ...Damn Retreat !!!!!!!

I only logged into Speak Up to to get a copy of New York Subway Map so I can post the link on Design Observer.

If a picture is worth a THOUSAND WORDS !!!!!!

TAN LE, having a PAJAMA PARTY, with two beatiful women.

GOD only knows what is being done to who. Dare I say threesome.

Three Cigarettes, and three smiles.

Inquiring Dirty Minds want to know.

Design Camp, eeehh.

Great Photo Guys. Take plenty of Vitamins and Protein.


Beatiful picture of my Nephew JOSHUA.

On Oct.29.2004 at 01:51 PM
ps’s comment is:

We seriously talked about all going to camp again next year, but this time in Aspen.

Aspen is a great idea. And it doesn't really matter what the theme of the conference is. its a great place to go to camp.

Oh! One more thing: Tan snores like a bear

as soon as i saw the post, i was looking for a comment about the "bear" appearing at night...

well, at least no comments about wetting the bed. must be a privacy thing.

On Oct.29.2004 at 02:05 PM
sheepstealer’s comment is:

Yes, it’s true, the sheepstealer was at camp. I had an opportunity to explore my inner self in the letterpress workshop. Take a look:

I have to say that there is not much that is better than an event like this to fuel creativity and refresh one’s approach to the creative field. I always come away from any design conference with expanded vision. But of all the conferences I’ve attended, I have to say that Design Camp is one of the best. Because the size is limited it feels a lot more intimate. At larger conferences the speakers are “up there,” and the attendees are all “down here.” At an event like design camp, you could wind up sitting right next to Seymour Chwast at the dinner table (that actually happened to me at the first Seattle Design camp. I was too scared to say a word.)

But the most valuable part to me is the exposure to GREAT work. Sometimes when I’m designing “innovative solutions” for corporate America it’s easy to forget how high the bar can be raised when you put yourself under a little pressure.

Thank you AIGA, and Thank you Seattle Design Camp for keeping me on top of my game.

Cheers Until,


On Oct.29.2004 at 02:24 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>GOD only knows what is being done to who. Dare I say threesome.

I did the snoring, while they did the giggling. Anything else I'll deny...

I'll be a gentleman and not spill any other sorid stories.


I have to give credit to the Minnesota Chapter for starting the first regional AIGA Design Camp, which was inspired by the IDCA in Aspen. The Seattle AIGA chapter adopted the event in 94 and spun our own version in the Pacific NW. Now, there are variations of design camps all over the country. Austin has a Design Ranch, Nebraska has an Art Farm, Baltimore has their own camp, etc.

They are all wonderful, creative retreats — and if you get a chance to go to one locally, you should.


>wetting the bed

you're just jealous about my little cozy bear den, scherrer.

On Oct.29.2004 at 05:51 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Debbie and Marian:

Does TAN really have an 18 inch SCHAEDLER ???!!! (big laughs)

Not that I want to know !!!!!!!

Back to my Retreat.


Should I say Dude Rambler.

On Oct.29.2004 at 06:28 PM
Armin’s comment is:


Ladies, please, you don't have to answer that.

Maven, you have heard about Bill O'Reilly and the whole, you know, um, yeah…

On Oct.29.2004 at 07:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I'm sorry ladies. I really didn't mean to egg him on.

Maven, I know you're just having fun, but dude...let's keep this rated-PG.

Please, back to camp and design inspiration and stuff.

On Oct.29.2004 at 07:33 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

Marian and Debbie:

If you didn't see the Humor in my Double Entendre and/or Innuendo.

Apologies are in order.


Bill O'Reilly, really got what he deserved.

Just for going after Ludacrist.

And the whole PEPSI Thing.

Quite frankly, glad his manager nailed his ass.

On a more Somber note.

Unlike Bill O'Reilly, I'm a PAUPER.

More or less don't have two plug nickels to rub together.

I'm not Poor. Much worse off.

I'm PO !!!!!!

Really gone this time. Please try to keep Speak Up boring until the end of the year.

Don't try to lure me in with Identity Revitalizations. Or other topics that might interest me. Won't work !!!!!

Give me a Heads Up when you write the Editorial for Who Made the Marks, Best and Worst 2004.

Compiling my list as I write.


I'm actually, Finger Painting.

Vegetable Dyes and Soy Based Paints.

Only Designers of a Bass Pedigree can enjoy such a Luxury.

On Oct.30.2004 at 02:20 AM
Rob’s comment is:

Just to get the talk away from MAVEN'S somewhat SORDIDwanderings, your personal letters were just the thing to inspire me to find the next design camp and sign-up.

And to hear you speak so highly of my friend Ellen, that was nice too. We are just very fortunate to have her ingenuinity and inspiration right here in Baltimore, at MICA, leading the design program with Abbott. (And on a note, we will be hosting a exciting night on typography with Ellen, House Industries, some guy named Armin and a possible other guest on March 24. It's gonna be special, so feel free to join us.)

As you have inspired me here on Speak-Up, as well as helping to make me a better designer, it's exciting to learn about the things that inspire you as well.

Tan-sounds like you had the best end of the deal, as long as you don't mind the giggling. : ^ )

Thanks for sharing.

On Oct.31.2004 at 09:53 AM
Ravenone’s comment is:

Maven- Kudos for the funny comments...

Marian- Kudos for the costume. Very cute.

Tan- Double Bonus Points for going as Jesus. hehehe.

The whole camp sounded very inspiring... okay, so running off to camps and ignoring salsa dancing lessons and such reminds me of when I was little and went to camp (Got disgusted with the art director's projects, went outside and drew for several hours before anyone realized I'd left the building...)


Happy hallows all.

-sleepy raven.

On Nov.01.2004 at 01:00 AM
nick shinn’s comment is:

Um, sorry, I didn't actually read this thread.

But could the powers that be please fix the apostrophe in the title.

On Nov.01.2004 at 01:41 PM
marian’s comment is:

Oh my God. I can't believe I didn't notice that. It is fixed. Will you read it now, Nick?

On Nov.01.2004 at 02:13 PM