in the news (131)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
DIRTY LAUNDRY: USING THE SCANDALOUS
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february 2015 | by cory schott

I like to use anecdotes and personal vignettes to introduce interpretive themes. It makes unfamiliar or difficult subjects or concepts relatable on a personable level. If the topics are salacious in nature…all the better! The scandal serves to entice the reader and, if crafted carefully, gets them engaged in a topic that’s larger and more important.

It’s a fine line to walk when using these types of stories meant for public consumption. An interpretive panel on gang violence or prostitution from 10 years ago might hit a raw nerve, yet one on prohibition bootleggers (also violent) or occupations for women in mining camps in the 19th century (a census of a 1880s mining camp near the Comstock mine in Nevada, found 80 prostitutes) would be OK.

Ultimately, trying to figure out which scandalous topics are palatable is a bit of a guessing game. It’s usually a matter of how long ago some of these events took place and reminds me of the expression "comedy = tragedy + time." Generally speaking, that means two generations. It seems that World War II is often the arbitrary cutoff for writing about uncomfortable or unseemly topics, especially on interpretive panels, which are often erected to put a place in a positive light.

However, I’m always pushing our clients—and fellow historians—to push that date forward. It’s time to reclaim the recent past, warts and all. By doing so, then perhaps we can get at some real "meaty" topics that move people and make them think.

INNOVATIVE DIRECTIONAL SIGNS
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february 2015 | by peter reedijk | show project

The design parameters were simple: design a sign system that will withstand vandalism, last for at least 20 years, is cost effective, and can be used by pedestrians, bikers, and horse riders.

OK. We like a challenge.

The first consideration: vandalism. Designing around this matter ripples through the rest of the design parameters. You either design something that is relatively simple and typically cheap to produce and replace it as needed, or use a material that can withstand abuse and can last for a long time, although the durability usually adds expense. According to our clients, the main problem in the park is graffiti tagging and, in extreme circumstances, attempts to destroy anything in sight. We decided to create a sign system with a relatively small available surface area to discourage the tagging of signs. By combining the upright with the sign panel (message), we eliminated hardware and possible weak points in the assembly. The materials used have an extremely long life and can be cleaned in a straightforward manner. Even when thoroughly abused, they can be resurfaced and reinstalled.

The second problem: the signs need to target multiple user groups. Pedestrians—no problem. The speeds that they travel at means that sign messages can be easily seen. Cyclists and trail riders, on the other hand, need to have good target value and should be able to read the signs from further away. The eventual solution presented itself by solving the vandalism problem. The sign legends are cut out of the signpost using a specially modified font that looks better than the usual stencil font. The font is large enough to increase the visibility to 30 feet. The yellow sign stands out enough so bikers have time enough to notice it while traveling at high speeds, and horse riders can read the signs while sitting in the saddle.

WHATEVER YOU THINK LOOKS GOOD
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january 2015 | by michael warner

Not a phrase you hear very often as an illustrator. Especially coming from a client that you’ve met a grand total of 1 time and who has never seen your artwork. Most people might think it would be liberating. Not me. Usually this statement is followed up at a later date with one of many dreaded statements: "I didn’t think it would look like that," "Why did you choose that style?" or the always popular "Huh."

But obviously I did something right in a previous life, because when David, a teacher at Pleasant Valley School outside of Portland told me, "Do whatever you think looks good" he meant it. From rough sketches to final art, everything went smoother than I could have ever imagined. Which is great for many reasons. Not only because I wanted my illustrations to accomplish their goal, but because I personally like what the Pleasant Valley School is doing with the Wildside, and loved being a small part of it.

Let me explain. Pleasant Valley School took 8 acres of mainly blackberry bushes and scrub brush, and transformed them into a beautiful burgeoning forest. Schoolchildren tore the place up and started from scratch. Ground that was once covered with mostly invasive species is now the home to thousands of native trees planted by the students themselves. What was an area devoid of biodiversity now teems with varied wildlife. Garter snakes take shelter under tin and wood frames made for them by the students. Hawks and owls sit atop school-made perches looking for the unwary mouse, vole, or snake. Deer wander in to bed down or eat from one of the fruit trees. Even coyotes wander in to take advantage of this tiny island created in the midst of a neighborhood.

The children of the school worked very hard to make the Wildside into the forest it is today. Along the way, they learned why they were doing it, and what made it so special. I’m just hoping that if I come back in 10 years my panels will have helped everyone else understand also.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A PIN MAKES
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january 2015 | by gidget price | show project

We just recently finished up a project in the Spring Mountains of Nevada. Nearing the end of the fabrication process, our lead fabricator came to me with an urgent request to find some large bolts, equivalent to the size of a lag bolt. Normally, we order all vandal-proof hardware which requires special driver. The typical profile is a star or hex with a central pin.

I went to our normal supplier. Given the size of the bolts, these turned out to be a specialty item and it would take a few weeks to get them to us. We needed them… like yesterday. Onward to another supplier. This supplier had them in stock but for the price of 15 bolts, was pretty close to $550. We were like "ouch" that’s not reasonable.

As I went back to our fabricator and discussed the difficulties I was having finding these particular bolts. He informed me that the bolts would be placed at the very top of the structure, 20 feet off the ground! In that case, we wouldn’t need to have the tamper proof bolts! I am glad I asked! So off I went to find these massive bolts without the center pin. I went back to our original supplier—they were in stock and we could have them the next day. Oh wait, better yet, guess the price? Less than $100. Only difference was the pin.

LENDING A VOICE

january 2015 | by ben harrison

I am alone in our print shop. Not so uncommon really, I often work in here alone; I am the production manager after all, it comes with the territory. It is however uncommonly quiet. No machines running, nothing printing, the loud clunky heater has been turned down as well. No hustle and bustle of people coming in and out, to and fro, through the shop to place or remove items for production. Just me, and the quiet. It has to be quiet, you understand, so the recording comes out clean. Voice recording; a voiceover to be specific. I am recording the audio for a presentation.

You would think just standing in front of microphone and talking really wouldn’t take a lot of energy. You would be mistaken. When the only tool you have is your voice, every word has to carry all the energy and feeling of the script. Unlike traditional acting you don’t have your body language and facial expressions to help convey the message, just your voice. And it is strangely taxing. I don’t know how Jim Dale ever recorded the Harry Potter series. I’m recording a 15 min script and it took the better part of 4 hours.

But despite all the hard work, recording is also fun. Being able to lend your voice to a script, to be the main speaker of a narrative part is pretty fun. It’s rewarding to see the entire presentation put together and hear you own voice coming from the speakers, taking viewers on this interpretive journey.

DESIGN INTEND
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january 2015 | by melissa boettcher

Over the last few months, we have been taking design intent packages for various National Park Service sites and turning them into fabrication-ready documents. While that may sound rather straightforward, in reality the process can be quite complex. Designers often pick the wrong types of materials for the application, create overly complex designs, pick costly options, or even design components that defy physics! So, we have to try to interpret the design intent and then fit it into reality.

Particular designs can also present safety issues, so we regularly redesign to mitigate any potentially dangerous outcome. One design had a brochure box with a lid that could snap back into place a little too quickly, so we added some gas shocks to keep fingers safe.

Our submitted solutions and drawings are easy to read, but also help clients understand what our intentions are for changes and solutions. These are just a few tasks an industrial designer goes through to make an object that is friendly for the user and easy to fabricate. This process blends equal parts experience, research, and a close reading of the design intent so that an idea becomes reality.

A NEW YEAR
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january 2015 | by ben harrison

Its good to be back…

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, for all of us to take some time and reflect and relax at the end of each year. But as the calendar page turns, they must sadly come to an end. The inexorable march of time forces us to set aside our eggnog to venture bravely out into a new year.

As the manager of our print shop I made sure it was nice and clean before I left, only to find it less clean then I remembered upon my return. How do these things happen? Why hasn’t someone made an attempt to catalog such phenomena? Just like every year I carefully coil my strands of lights while putting them away and every time I pull them out a year later they are impossibly tangled.

Much like the dust and strange light tangling, I’ve come back to find that things are not quite how I left them--perhaps shop elves are about? There is a strange amount of work to be done, before I can begin working. At the same time there is something nice about this part of the cycle. It’s a "gear up phase" as I like to think of it. The cleaning, the fixing, and testing of all the equipment in my shop — all has a feeling of preparation; a certain excitement and promise of the great things to come in a new year.



A BAT MOBILE IN THE FOREST
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december 2014 | by linda repplinger | show project

How many different kinds of bats do you think fly over our heads at night? I was amazed to learn that at least seventeen bat species could be found in the Spring Mountains, and thirteen are regulars to the McWilliams Campground. While designing bat themed exhibits for the campground, I learned how unique each species really is.

A dark color palette and a background of starry skies set the exhibits’ atmosphere. One exhibit introduces all the species in the style of a team roster with portraits, size, weight, flight characteristics, calls, what they eat, where they roost, and their range. Each species also is shown at full-size flying throughout the exhibits with easy-to-read labels color-coded to the roster.

Other exhibits describe bats’ amazing capabilities for flight and communication, roosting habitats, how and why bats are researched, and why bats are important to the ecosystem and to people.

When visitors look up they see life-sized bats flying above their heads, silhouetted against the sky. This effect is achieved with a mobile, which has metal cutout bats on the ends of long arms that move in the wind. Campers can now call out "to the bat mobile!"

Visitors can also experience what it is like to be a bark roosting bat in the "bat squeeze." The bat squeeze is made up of two rounded exhibits of tree bark that taper at one end to accommodate for various ages and sizes of people.

One final note: When the exhibits were being loaded on the truck to ship to Nevada, a bat flew out from the truck and over our heads, across the blue sky—we’ll take this as a good omen

EXPERT ADVICE
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december 2014 | by kathy hocker

It's a chilly gray day in Juneau, Alaska, but my eight-year-old friend Bruno doesn't mind. Like any proper Alaska kid, he's bundled warmly, cap to boots-in fact, at the rate he's leaping and tumbling along Auke Lake Trail, he' probably too warm.

Sea Reach has been hired to create interpretive exhibits for this trail. Since the signs will be designed primarily for children, I have engaged an expert for advice: I've invited Bruno along so I can learn more about how a kid experiences the trail.

Within just a few yards of the trailhead, it's clear that Bruno's imagination, curiosity, and quicksilver energy make for a decidedly non-adult perspective. Bruno is all about engagement. He prefers to clamber along the sides rather than walk the trail's smooth surface. He takes photos, twirls sticks, and tosses spruce cones, all in rapid succession. When we come across a stilt-rooted tree, he dives in underneath like a porcupine. It takes us almost two hours to travel just about a mile-but it's a mile packed with small adventures.

By the time we get back to the trailhead, my mind is jumping among potential topics like a kid through the woods. I can't wait to start planning the new interpretive signs! First, though, I treat Bruno to a cup of cocoa and a waffle at a local café-a small reward for some truly expert advice.

MISSPELLED. IS THAT WITH A HYPHEN OR WITHOUT?
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december 2014 | by megan whitaker

I see them everywhere. They're in grocery stores and newspapers; they even pop up on the news. But I don't ever want to see them on the signage that leaves our shop and gets installed in parks and historic sites all over the country.

One of my jobs at Sea Reach is to proofread (one word, no hyphen) all the signage before it goes to a client - and especially before it goes to press. That means I am frequently asked about hyphens, word divisions, and the correct usages of words that sound the same but have completely different meanings. I ensure (yes, with an "e" and not an "i") that all the panels we produce - including those not of our own design - are grammatically correct and free of spelling errors.

Misspelled words, no matter who writes them, don't have a place on signage commemorating a site, a person or a historic event. And yes, "a historic" - rather than "an historic" - is the current correct usage, according to Oxford.


Common Errors and Sticking Points
Pallet/Palette
Ensure/Insure
Scientific names Genus not capitalized
British spellings
Non-Standard Spelling (Is it Douglas Fir or Douglas-fir? Forest Service or USDA Forest Service?)

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