Design Thinkers

  • Color Theory: Celebrated color theorist Vasa Mihich pulled me from the muck of econ majors at UCLA. I took Vasa’s class on a whim and he took me under his wing. Vasa told me I had to be a designer. He asserted that I had talent. I knew he was right. I baulked at first as my Dad wanted me to avoid design. Vasa said he’d talk to my Dad. He didn’t need to… he had me from the first color swatch.
  • Glass Blowing: once in the design program at UCLA, folk art glass blower Dick Marquis recruited me. He was one of the coolest cats on campus. His critiques featured beer. To a 20 year old, there’s nothing cooler. He taught us that anything we’d do in art had been done before. As a corollary, he taught that if you gotta knock off someone else, be damned sure you’re copying something good. Despite all his unfiltered teachings, he’s truly a wizard of putting a new twist on an old theme. He taught how to make something your own yet honor those who came before.
  • Computer Animation: one of the guys behind the first feature-length CG film Tron the Movie was Art Durinski. Art took me under his wing and taught me CG basics (when the entire industry was really basic) then hooked me up with Larry Lichten, a professor at UCLA’s Engineering School. Larry scammed me night time access on the school’s mainframe computer… a computer the size of a bus. At the time, it was powerful and I drove it with a lead foot. Larry instructed me that if I crashed it, I needed to immediately shut off the lights for an hour, be quite and don’t answer any messages on the console. I sat in the dark a lot but created things no one had ever done before.
  • Theme Parks: I lived in Burbank for about a year and a half designing theme parks for Landmark Entertainment. While many creative gurus walked the halls there, my hero was Greg Damron. Greg taught me the business of theme parks and the art of master planning. He taught to always look at how design changes affect revenues. He taught to design in the “Kodak Moment” where visitors could get that great branded picture (now called “selfies”). He taught me to always ensure that the “Cow Catcher” retail store was positioned to push plush toy sales. I worked with him on a park called The Wonderful World of Oz ~ despite being a huge entertainment property and being funded by Ted Turner and Michael Jackson, it didn’t happen… welcome to concept design.
  • Concept Design: One day I saw this guy drawing massive pictures of mega-resorts… I had to do it. So I asked Bill Bardsley if he would teach me how to draw. Bill graciously invited me to hang out with him at his studio in Walnut Creek, CA. He not only taught me to draw, but also the art of the big idea. No one was bigger than Bill. And it turned out that Bill was THE top guy for Vegas casino concepts. He was The Shit. After a year or so, Bill started taking me to Vegas on design charrettes (brainstorm sessions). We designed by day and clubbed by night. We imagined and built massive stuff. In the early days, the architectural world looked down upon gaming projects. But as Vegas grew, it became the epicenter of hospitality and entertainment design. Bill warned me that when the industry heated up, it would be like a bucking broncho. With youthful vigor, I bucked up and jumped on. What a ride. After a couple years in the Vegas saddle with Bill, he retired leaving me with the reigns of power ~ then I learned true power for our client and friend Paul Steelman… but he’s more of a Business God to me, so see that section above…. Back on being a top drawer conceptualist, Bill taught me to never go on salary: idea guys are like golden gooses ~ try to shackle them and their gold globes turn to simple brown poop. Bill, you’re a God and I miss adventuring with you.