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Guest Editorial by Jimm Lasser

There are days as a designer that I want to join the Army. I get frustrated with my creative director, a client, my work, and I start wandering New York asking myself “Why?” Namely, “why does any of this matter? Who cares about my color recommendations, my sub-branding logos, and my witty T-shirt designs? Why doesn’t anyone listen to me? I need some purpose. A cause. Adventure.” It is about this time that I find myself in Times Square, and I make way for the U.S. Military Recruiting Station. If there is anywhere that could inject some adventure in Graphic Design, it is the military.

The Recruiters are very nice people. They have thick necks and awesome handshakes. I feel right at home in Illinois again, with their straightforward sales techniques and crew cuts. It turns out the Army does have a place for me: as a Multimedia Illustrator! “Well,” I humbly ask, scratching my sideburns, “What sort of stuff do I do?”

Without a blink he tells me about my “duties.” (I like the sound of “duties,” rather than “tasks” or “responsibilities,” which are words that belong on a refrigerator job chart). I would be “primarily responsible for supervising, planning or operating multimedia imaging equipment in order to produce various kinds of visual displays and documents.”

Wow. I once worked at a firm called Planet Propaganda, but this is the real stuff. My country needs me to communicate to occupied countries, and the rest of the world about all the good we represent. No more brand identity guidelines for some bank, or some poster for some college art lecture series. This is stuff that makes real impact. Real history. I read through the brochure further.

Some of your duties as a Multimedia Illustrator may include:

› Creating illustrations, layouts, map overlays, posters, graphs and charts in support of Army combat and non-combat operations. (Is it bad here to be off register for about an eighth of an inch?)

› Drawing graphs and charts to represent budgets, numbers of troops, supply levels and office organization. (That’s just like an annual report!)

› Developing ideas and designing posters and signs. (I wonder if I can use my hand-drawn lettering?)

› Drawing cartoons for filmstrips and animation for films. (I’ve always wanted to do an STD warning films)

› Performing preventive maintenance checks and services on assigned vehicles and generators. (Huh? Maybe they hook up Adobe CS to Tanks)

I kind of like the sound of it. I glance at the good-natured, smiling designer they have depicted on the brochure. He looks alright. He’s got glasses (I mean, what blood-thirsty killer wears glasses? They may not be the vintage Paul Smith frames I see on most designers in the Williamsburg, but it’s a start). He’s wearing camouflage (they wear that also in the Williamsburg!).

jimm_army_photo.jpg Good-natured designer from brochure

But it’s been about twenty minutes now and I am starting to cool down from my frustrations. The Recruiter’s pitch is wearing on me. I imagine myself getting court marshaled for using the wrong typeface, or having to relinquish my �designer hours’ for 5am bugle calls. I am having second thoughts: I like New York. I like my blue jeans. I like my arms and legs.

I leave feeling pretty good. I have a better perspective on what I do. Graphic Design is not just for the “cool” industry—it’s an essential tool for all. If communicating is important, then graphic design is important. Whether it’s winning over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, or the 18 to 35 suburban male, we’re ready to serve every day.

Jimm Lasser, Esq. (1974-    )
On the stormy morning of Sunday, December 9, 1974, Nancy Lasser, wife of Alan, gave birth to a boy. He was born on a bed of poles covered with corn husks. The baby was named Jimm, after Comedian Red Foxx. The birth took place in the Lasser’s rough-hewn cabin in Winnetka near Chicago, Illinois. Alan Lasser was a dermatologist and a farmer. Nancy Lasser had little or no accounting schooling and could not write french poetry. Jimm spent a short amount of time in a log schoolhouse, before graduating from the University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University School of Law, and the Portfolio Center. Jimm attended school dressed in a raccoon cap, buckskin clothes, and pants so short that several inches of his calves were exposed. Jimm earned his first dollar ferrying passengers to a steamer on the Ohio River, and designing T-shirts for the 84-year old James Toast at sharpastoast.com. He was a member of the charter class of John Bielenberg’s Project M, spoke out against the Dred Scott Decision, and has won many decorations for valor in battle.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2352 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Jun.27.2005 BY Speak Up
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Miguel Klug’s comment is:

Just brilliant.

On Jun.27.2005 at 02:25 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Heh. I spent two years aimlessly at college only to then join the military to come back and then (re)discover graphic design. Where I happily stayed until graduation.

On Jun.27.2005 at 02:48 PM
StephD’s comment is:

I was wondering if anyone would ever address graphic design in the DoD. Thanks for the opening Jim.

I served in the Air Force as a graphic designer. AKA “Visual Information Specialist” (3V0x1). My initial assignment or "duty" was to be medical illustrator and graphic designer in support of the education mission at a USAF hospital in Northern California. But the best 6 years of my 20-year enlistment was my assisgnemnt as assistant art director of Airman Magazine (1990-96), the monthly flag publication of the Air Force.

It was a priveledge to work with the best photojournalists, writers, and editors the Department of Defense had to offer. I don’t recall however, having to work on vehicles or aircraft unless they were going to be in a shot for a spot or spread.

I experienced the usual field and mobility exercises, some actual deployments, and I did fly a lot. As a passenger, not pilot. The experience was very rewarding, especially when we covered humanitarian missions during the Clinton years.

I have since retired from the USAF and continue to work full-time as a successful graphic designer directing an in-house communications and design team in the Washington DC area. And I am still active with the Air Force as lifetime member of the Air Force Art program.

And... the job I had in the Air Force was cool.

On Jun.27.2005 at 02:49 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Hey, its all about what makes you happy in the long run. Fuck everything else pretty much. Great story--a side of the design world you wouldn't think about. It put a smile on my face.

I do like the "duty" aspect of it. Beats "job description."

On Jun.27.2005 at 05:23 PM
Stuart McCoy’s comment is:

There are times I wish I had stayed in the Air Force, especially now when I'm trying to make the transition from multimedia designer to print designer. I'm so frustrated trying to get my foot in the door at the few design firms in Boston that are hiring that I wish I had my old job at Cheyenne Mountain back or followed through with going to the Academy and started a career as a helo pilot.

On Jun.28.2005 at 04:26 PM
Kenneth FitzGerald’s comment is:

I have a number of ex- and current students working in design for the military (here in "Hampton Roads" I'm told is the greatest concentration of military on the planet--home of the Atlantic naval fleet, etc.). Plus one of our adjunct design teachers is similarly employed. None of them wear uniforms or perform non-design service. It's like any other design job. (Hmm, what typeface goes with a F/A 22 Raptor...?)

On Jun.28.2005 at 09:09 PM
Armin’s comment is:

There was an article a few (maybe many) months ago in I.D. (or maybe in another magazine, but I'm almost positive it was I.D.) where they had a small write up about pressmen and printers for the army. I remember they showed a nice lady in camouflage (and probably a handgun hanging from her belt) looking over proofs inside a rather large mobile vehicle that held a printing press. This press was in charge of producing — quickly — leaflets, maps, and other materials that someone like, perhaps, Jimm would have prepared.

Amazing to think how a profession like a press operator is pretty much the same even in extreme contexts: type must register, trap correctly, color must be accurate and evenly laid down and it must eventually come in time and on budget.

On Jun.28.2005 at 09:46 PM
Amanda Woodward’s comment is:

What an interesting read. Although, I am not a fan of jobs that require a dress-code.

On Jun.30.2005 at 03:44 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

It's not a dress code. It's a uniform. Subtle difference, perhaps.

I will say the BDUs are still infinitely more comfortable that a suit and tie. ;o)

On Jun.30.2005 at 04:42 PM
Penelope Frankfurter’s comment is:

That the fact people do design AND serve the country in the military is inspiring to me. It's so easy to be dubbed "the logo police" and start a downward spiral from, "why don't other offices appreciate what we're doing here?" to "what am I accomplishing in this world?" I greatly respect the military. If they're going to worry about registration and PMS colors and identity, so am I. It's a good thing.

This makes me wonder who does the uniform updates? Don't they hire top fashion designers to redo camo designs and find the most comfortable/wearable/durable/etc. forms?

On Jul.01.2005 at 11:17 AM
Penelope Frankfurter’s comment is:

That the fact people do design AND serve the country in the military is inspiring to me. It's so easy to be dubbed "the logo police" and start a downward spiral from, "why don't other offices appreciate what we're doing here?" to "what am I accomplishing in this world?" I greatly respect the military. If they're going to worry about registration and PMS colors and identity, so am I. It's a good thing.

This makes me wonder who does the uniform updates? Don't they hire top fashion designers to redo camo designs and find the most comfortable/wearable/durable/etc. forms?

On Jul.01.2005 at 11:18 AM
Penelope Frankfurter’s comment is:

And sorry about the double, well, triple post. I'm new here.

On Jul.01.2005 at 11:33 AM
Stuart McCoy’s comment is:

"This makes me wonder who does the uniform updates? Don't they hire top fashion designers to redo camo designs and find the most comfortable/wearable/durable/etc. forms?"

I'm not sure how much input they have in the actual camo design but a lot of research and development of uniform design is done in Natick, MA not too far from where I live. They're part of the Future Warrior project. What I always found interesting though is the design and advances of the actual camo patterns themselves.

On Jul.03.2005 at 12:02 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Also, Crye Associates (mentioned here) is very involved in developing camouflage (note that the same camouflage is used in all the pictures and terrains) and they have been developing a whole integrated uniform and system for soldiers but it won't be ready until 2010 apparently; there was a good article about this project in I.D. maybe a year ago.

On Jul.03.2005 at 10:29 AM