Paper Machines

Anyone from Hallmark that might be reading this, raise your hand if you remember “T-Ink” from 2004 and the products Hallmark produced for less than a year with the technology? T-Ink had so much potential and it simply withered and died on the vine. The T-Ink project was one of the first things I worked on when I returned to Hallmark. It was such a cool product, and could have been huge if they could have figured out how to market it better. Fast forward to 2017 and check out Papier Machine from French Designers Marion Pinaffo and Raphaël Pluvinage.

Papier Machine is a set of 13 paper-made electronic toys. Each piece of paper can be cut and folded and assembled into the final toy. Another intriguing component of Papier Machine is that while there are instructions that come with the kit, the steps are not clear cut. According to Pinaffo and Pluvinage they still want users to interpret the instructions themselves, opening up the pathway to more possibilities, especially for kids.


Like T-Ink, the printed paper is equipped with reactive, conductive, and thermosensitive inks, which actually complete the electronic circuits and allow the toys to function. The toys are designed for kids of all ages and don’t require any special tools, skills or training. The designers want Papier MAchine to be all about fun, and exploration.  The 13 toys can create multiple projects that include Switches, a Gyroscope, Playing Track, Writing Track, Tilt Switch, Humidity Sensor, Wind Sensor, Mass Sensor, Power Reverser, Photoresistor, and Color Sensor. Pretty cool if you ask me.

What a Difference a Year Makes

954 Rusty CrownOne year ago today, I received an email invite at work telling me to report to employee relations the following day at 2:00 in the afternoon. The time had come for me to go. Hallmark didn’t love me anymore. This didn’t come as surprise. I had actually been given a heads up by my Art Director 8 months earlier that I was probably on my way out. I met all the criteria. I was over 50, made too much money, and didn’t check off any of diversity boxes. Plus the downsizing had been going on since December of 2012. I’d dodged the bullet for the last couple of years, but there was no way I was going to dodge it this time.

The reality is that being let go from Hallmark was the best thing that had happened to my career in over a decade. Since returning to Hallmark in 2005 I had struggled to advance my career there. I had hit the internal glass ceiling in a sense and over time was given less and less challenging work. There are only so many senior level positions and with a creative pool the size of Hallmark’s moving up the food chain can be difficult.

I’m not angry, I’m not disgruntled, I’m not even irritated. I’ll admit that I was a little pissed off at first. When you are told you aren’t needed anymore, it kind of stings, no matter how shitty the situation is. By the beginning of last June I was creating crappy banner ads for products I didn’t believe in, for a brand I personally feel is dying. The timing was right, it was time to go.

On June 2 2015 I met with employee relations and was told I qualified to “Retire”. My  position was being eliminated as a cost cutting measure, and I was one of 165 creatives that were no longer needed. I was told by ER that I was allowed to work until June 10, and then I would have to leave the building. I hung around for a couple of days, but coming into work just made those that didn’t lose their jobs feel uncomfortable for the most part. By Thursday it was time to go. I backed up my Mac to a server, powered down and walked out. My “Give A Rip”, factor was zero at this point, and all of my assignments had been given to the remaining studio creatives. Sticking around just seemed like delaying the inevitable. I said adios to a few people and walked out the door for the last time. Thankfully I didn’t have any personal items to carry out. At 11:30 that morning I became a free man. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and driving home I remember thinking how great it felt to know I wouldn’t be going back there. I knew things were going to work out for the best.

So, how’d it all turn out? Pretty damn good. I had a new job before the end of the week. I had additional freelance work lined up. I got a solid severance package, and I never missed a paycheck. At the new job my opinion matters, I’m challenged creatively, and from the business side of things. My colleagues listen to me and engage me for feedback and insight. I’m helping to develop a new brand voice for a company that is actually growing and is looking to the future. I feel valued, something I hadn’t felt at Hallmark for years. At Hallmark I felt the complete opposite. I had no motivation or desire to be there. The work I was given could have been done by someone fresh out of design school. My opinion was hardly ever asked for or wanted. I simply wasn’t being challenged on any level.

That isn’t a personal dig at anyone, it’s simply how I felt, and how I know others feel as well. Not just the 165 that walked out the door a year ago, people who still work there as well. In my opinion, It’s a reflection of Hallmark’s corporate culture, and something that probably won’t change any time soon. It’s too bad, because when I first started working there in 1994, I loved the place. When I left in 2000 I missed it, and when I returned in 2005 I thought I had made the right choice to come back. At the time I felt that my career had a future, that I’d be given opportunities to grow as a designer. By 2009 I knew that probably wasn’t the case, but I had settled in for the long haul. It’s easy to

In the end I know I worked with some extremely talented individuals. (I also worked with people who had little to no talent, but played the system and bullshitted their way into positions of authority; but that is story for another time) At Hallmark I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have, and I miss seeing them on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I’m not better off though. Like I said earlier, leaving Hallmark was the best thing that happened to my career in over a decade, and I can’t thank them enough telling my I was to old and made too much money.  I’m doing better design work than I have in years, I’m more creative than I have been in ages, and I’m happier. And that is what is most important.

The Origin of Mother’s Day.

SasseenThis Sunday is Mother’s Day. Most of us probably think that this is an international holiday that has been around since the dawn of time. It is in fact a fairly modern holiday, and no it wasn’t invented by Hallmark to sell more greeting cards.

The holiday is believed to have originated in Henderson Kentucky around 1887. It was the idea of a young school teacher named Mary Towles Sasseen, who is honored with a state marker he site of the old Center Street School in Henderson. There has been some debate over the last hundred years or so about the actual origin of the holiday, with some people claiming Philadelphia’s Anna Jarvis was the actual founder of the holiday. The facts however point to Sasseen.

In the spring of 1887 Sasseen enlisted her students to create hand made cards to be given out in a special Mother’s Day observation to honor their mothers. Sasseen went on to publish a booklet of Mother’s Day ideas based on what the students had created.

Sasseen’s booklet was distributed 14 years before Anna Jarvis announced plans for a Mother’s Day Holiday, and 21 years before Jarvis persuaded a U.S. senator to introduce the bill that would create the national observance we all participate in today. By 1894 Sasseen had begun presenting the idea at speaking engagements outside of Kentucky, and following a visit to Springfield Ohio, that city began formally observing Mother’s Day in all the public schools.

In 1914, through the instrumentality of Jarvis, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a legal holiday.  Congress passed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as the date for the observance. Because of this, many people equate the origination of Mother’s Day to Jarvis instead of Sasseen.

Now go give your mom a hug and tell her you love her.

The Department of Advertising and Graphic Design.

As a designer I work for a pretty great company. I know a lot of people bag on Hallmark, but as a design house we do really amazing work (yes I think of us as a design house, not a card company. We make much more than cards). It’s not a perfect job, but it is fun, and I get to be extremely creative working on some pretty fun projects.

Now if I got to choose another place to work, I have to admit I think working for “The Department of Advertising and Graphic Design” at MoMA would be pretty awesome.

You would be living in New York, working for one of the greatest art institutions in the world, and designing some really amazing stuff (everything from posters to way finding systems, to interactive applications and websites). Seriously, check out the work this small team of 11 have been producing. It might make you say you want to work here too. You just need to get in line behind me though.



Two years ago when I bought my MINI convertible, I went about three months before someone in the parking garage at work put a two inch long crease in the drivers door. The new 128i lasted just two weeks before someone at work managed to put a half inch long gouge in the paint on the passenger door. I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. It has happened to every new car I have owned and parked in a lot at work for the last 10 plus years.

The thing that always gets me is, they have to know they did it. You hit someone’s door hard enough to dent it, or take the paint off to the primer, you probably look to see what happened your car, see the damage to the other and say something like “Oh Shit!”

What blows me away is, you work with these people, and even in a company the size of mine you’d think there would be some level of mutual respect for others property. I know, wishful thinking. None the less, since a car on average is 25 grand, you would hope that the person parking next to you would be careful getting in and out of their car. I guess I should be realistic, and take into account the number people that treat their vehicle like a rolling trashcan/filing cabinet. If you don’t respect your own car, you sure as hell won’t respect mine.

Well, here goes $125.00 to KC Colors, to buff out and touch up the paint on my less than one month old car.


End of an Era.

A little over a month ago, Crown Center Redevelopment, the company that manages the Crown Center shops, and Halls department store announced that an Aquarium would be Coming to Kansas City. The 15 million dollar aquarium which is managed by Merlin Entertainments Group will be taking over the first, second, and part of the third floor of Halls Crown Center. While this is financially great news for the struggling Crown Center shops, for me it marks the end of an era.

The Halls department store is one of the last great department stores of the Midwest. There are two locations, and for decades Halls Plaza has overshadowed the Crown Center location. The reality is, Halls Crown Center has always been as good as the Plaza store. The staff is always outstanding, and while I know this might rub a few people the wrong way, in many cases the staff at Crown Center has been friendlier and more accommodating to me. Sorry Plaza staff, it’s just the way it’s been. Both stores offer an amazing line of merchandise, with pricing structures that are on par with any upscale department store. I shop not only the Men’s department, but the kitchen department as well; and while I shop at both stores, I almost exclusively buy from the kitchen department at the Crown Center location. And this is why I titled this post “End of an Era”.

Today I found out that the kitchen department is being closed for good at Crown Center, and that most if not all of the staff would be leaving. I know that Merlin Entertainment wants the extra space in the Halls location. I know that taking over almost all of Halls will be a huge financial boost to not only Crown Center, but to the entire Mid-Town/Cross Roads section of Kansas City, but I hate to see Halls be broken up, and whole sections go.

There is something about Halls as it is that makes Crown Center. It is, or was an anchor. A holistic entity that offered a complete shopping experience to Crown Center customers. With the loss of the Kitchen and home furnishings sections of the store, that will be gone for good, and it’s a shame. Halls as it is, is a world-class store that is known on a national level. There are patrons that travel in from both the East and West coasts to shop there, and with good reason. The quality of the merchandise, the selection, the price points, and the staff simply can’t be matched in many other retail outlets, including those in larger cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Fransisco.

Halls isn’t going away at Crown Center, it is simply being broken up. The Women’s department will be smaller, but still in its current location. Men’s will move to a smaller store front in the mall itself, the Children’s Kitchen, and Housewares departments will be gone for good. What was a cohesive unit, will now be two smaller stores separated by a  50,000-square-foot aquarium. I’ll continue to shop in the Men’s department, and I’ll continue to shop at Halls on the Plaza, but Halls Crown Center will never be the same and it makes me a little sad to see it coming to an end after almost 40 years.

Frankly I wish Crown Center Redevelopment would have relocated all of  the Halls departments into new locations at Crown Center. They would have added a level of class and sophistication that is desperately needed within the mall itself.  I understand though, we are in tough economic times, and the Aquarium is expected to bring around 300,000 visitors to Crown Center annually. That kind of money and traffic is hard to pass up. In the long run, the Aquarium is a very positive thing, I just wish it hadn’t come at the cost of two great departments full of wonderful staff losing their jobs, and the break up of what can be considered a great Kansas City icon.

This Ain’t No Hallmark Sentiment.

Sometimes it takes a bit of in your face, tongue and cheek humor to make a point with your advertising. This clever little print ad comes to us from Johannesburg South Africa. With a fairly direct headline, it cleverly plays off of A: the correct term for a female dog, and B: completely gets your attention thanks to the pink color pallet and timing the release directly to Mother’s Day. I love it.