Gathering Advisors

Gathering Advisors I know a lot about software, design and community-building, and I try hard to acknowledge and be mindful of what I don’t know. Therefore, I have been recruiting other experts to help me navigate academia, arts/humanities administration, and business planning. Here is Dr. Kate Elswit, who joined the team yesterday, primarily as my academic liaison.

I’m still faffing about getting the website up and running, but will be sure to create a full list of advisors soon.

By the way, I’m on the left, with the extra chin that stretches from one dimple to the other. (!)

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gfs:visit=1 De Young Museum

Part of my work and exploration in the new company is to survey museums (and libraries and archives, wherever possible) in the shadow of the great Jessamyn West in Vermont, and the magical Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul. If you know of other similar surveys, please do get in touch!

Orhan Pamuk

Today’s museum visit — the first! — was to the De Young Museum in San Francisco. I’ve certainly gone before, but today I had a slightly different mission. I’m curious to poke at which staff knows what about the collection. I do not mean this exercise as critical — in any way. It’s more, for me, about a) getting to the actual number of objects, and b) seeing who knows it, because I bet that’s a small number of staff, particularly in big institutions, where big equals number of staff and/or annual budget.

As I was buying my ticket, I asked the woman behind the counter.

“How many objects are there in the SF MoMA collection?”
“I have no idea,” she said. “They’re closed for renovation.”
I realised my flub, and corrected. “How about the De Young?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you know how I could find out?”
“Try asking at the information desk.”

So, I asked at the information desk.

“Hi. I have a question, please. How many objects are there in the De Young collection?”
“Do you mean on display, or in the collection? There are things on display some of the time, and not always.”
“I mean in the collection.”
“Ohh… I don’t know.”
“Do you know how I could find out?”
“Try asking at Administration, to your right, and up the stairs.”
“Thank you!”

Instead of continuing the task, my companions and I started our visit.

"Archive" Rothko

I enjoyed the Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection, and then the Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay, and perhaps most of all, “A book like hundred flower garden”: Walasse Ting’s 1 ¢ Life, a 50-year-old, brilliant project in which Ting asked 28 artists to respond to his poetry, creating a book of 62 lithographs they created. I LOVE this idea, and want to copy it.

Where can I find a book exciting as Times Square, color bright as neon light, hot as espresso. I face the big red pizza and green earthworms, and decide to make a book like hundred flower garden.



After we’d stopped for a tasty lunch, we headed for the viewing tower. I popped into the Administration office to see if I could get that number. I asked the two women at reception.

“Hello. I have a question, please. How many objects are there in the De Young collection?”
“45. Oh, do you mean on the floor, or in the collection?”
“In the collection.”
“Umm…” Both looked around. Another staff member joined the conversation, and another head popped up above the cubicle.
“250,000,” said the third person.
“Exactly?” I must admit to looking slightly incredulous, which I now regret.
“That’s the number we use with the public.”*
“OK, thank you.”

* I can’t remember the exact phrase used, but it was something along those lines. I should have written it down.

Given that it’s just my first shot at trying to find that number by asking staff unannounced, I’m happy with where I got to. I guess you could say I got that answer from the fifth person. I plan to do this again, and suspect that each institution’s actual figure will be somewhat rubbery in the majority of cases. Fun!

Incidentals: I paid $21 for an access-to-everything ticket, and another $25 for lunch (salmon salad, pear and almond tart, and a latte), and $13.50 for parking. All in all, $59.50, a pretty expensive art-y day. (I could certainly have had a less expensive meal, but… have you met me?)

Addendum: Enjoyed this adaptation when I tried to pay for my parking. I wonder who wrote it all. It seems like the same hand.



As the great Seb Chan always says, you need to measure the effect of what you’re up to in order to a) understand what people are looking at, and b) try to improve things.

So, even before I’ve really got my DNS/web act together, and certainly before anyone particularly hears about my WWW site and this blog, I’ll try, right now, to set up analytics for both sites.

I’m going with Google. Once I have access to someone who can install something locally… wait! This is a WordPress blog. WordPress covers, what, fifty percent of the web? Surely they must provide some kind of webstats thing… performs web searchBlog Stats by W3Counter doesn’t look too bad. 39,000 downloads seems a good sign. Darn. It’s an install thing if I had WordPress installed. OK, that’s fine. I’ll work it out later.

Ha. Turns out that there’s a Stats tab on the WordPress dashboard. 0 views anywhere of course — I’d have been very surprised if anyone had found this blog yet — so, that’s good!

For my web presence, there’s a chance that WordPress might be able to handle everything for me later (so I can just host the whole thing on my own install of WP somewhere), but for right now, I’m not feeling that technically industrious. 

Excited that I just selected “People and Society” for the Industry for this project in Google Analytics (where it’s been Software or Internet for the longest time).

OK. I’ve got the Google Analytics code for WWW, and I’ve popped it into Github for later.

Now all I need are some readers! 

Early Days

I was looking over Ian Linkletter’s photo essay about XOXO 2013 where he summarized Maciej Cegłowski’s talk. Maciej suggested people should keep work diaries, so, here’s me starting mine.

After two and a half years as Art Director at Stamen Design, I’m branching out on my own. I’m in the very early stages of starting a new company called Good, Form & Spectacle. The central idea is to do the work I love, design, in service of cultural heritage around the world.

Before I can get my hands too dirty, I need to do the basics of setting the business up. At this stage, it’ll probably just be a sole proprietorship in San Francisco. Even so, I have to register the company name at City Hall, which is exciting. Then, I should be opening up a separate business bank account to keep everything good and separate. I’m planning to catch a ferry to Sausalito to visit with my accountant too. She knows what I’m up to, and is interested to help me get set up well from the outset, which is excellent.

I’ve set up a Twitter account too, @goodformand, and bought, but am so rusty on DNS palava, I’m putting that off for a bit. I have a design for the site ready to go. Simple, one-pager style.

I’m trying to take a little time away from the computer, but appear to be failing. My last day at Stamen was June 19, then I went to the fabulous FOO Camp in Sebastopol, I had naps on Monday and Tuesday, and slept for 12 hours last night. Now, it’s 11:08pm, and I’m starting a company blog.

Oh, and I got a V1 round of Moo cards in time for FOO, which is fun. Tom remarked that I’d managed to make an Economist logo, so I should probably be tweaking the color a little on the next batch. No harm intended, to be sure. Perhaps there should be a “is my logo going to be a problem” service.

Need an Oxford Comma vote...

I really am very excited about this new endeavour. Rather than worry too much about how everything looks, I’d rather just get this seed in the ground. With a couple of clients already on the table, it feels like I’m already up and running, which is sort of amazing. Kapow!