History of Political Parties in U.S.

Illustration, infographic, Interests, New Piece, Posters, Print

Here’s a personal project that I’ve been collecting the data for since seeing and being inspired by the hot Broadway musical Hamilton a couple months ago. It made me interested in learning the history of political parties in the US, and in this heated political environment we’re in, it seemed crazy timely to get a better understanding of the roots and evolution of each party’s ideologies.

There were many ways to approach this graphic, but I settled on illustrating the dichotomy of centralized versus decentralized government to show how the parties have basically flipped on this issue. (A very brief and generic description of how I’m using those terms: believers in centralized government feel that the nation as a whole should work together to support its citizens while believers in decentralized government promote the belief that individuals and/or states should care for themselves, limiting the role of federal government.)

I’ve also worked up a brief summary for each System. It’s a guide to help explain behind the scenes what was happening, but as with most write-ups, probably contains lots of inferences and generalizations, so consider it a jumping off point, not a treatise (this can be found below the infographic in this post). Many thanks to Wikipedia for all the information I gathered, as well as this one really helpful infographic designed by someone at the University of North Carolina that successfully shows the many roots and off shoots of the parties over history, focusing on which persons from which parties ran in each election. Credit also to this amazing infographic that, while beautiful and also full of too much information, tells the story of which parties were in power over the course of history. Unfortunately, neither of these fine pieces showed a history of ideologies, which was the main thing I wanted to tackle in my own design.

A note about the Fifth Party System: there is no consensus that the Fifth Party System has actually ended, or if so, when it ended and the Sixth Party System started. For the purpose of this piece, and based on my own analysis about what seemed like changes in the politics, I made the call that the Fifth Party System ended at the beginning of the 1980’s. I just want to be super clear though: this is currently just my opinion and grains of salt should be taken.

A note about the language used to describe politics, I found in my research that the terms liberal and conservative start popping up in the Progressive Era (post Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency), and reference to right-wing and left-wing seem to come into use even more recently. I designed the infographic to reflect our modern interpretations of right and left so as to emphasize how each party aligns with those ideologies, though I think it’s important to note that the history before 1900 really doesn’t seem to identify with that terminology.

Additionally, it’s much harder to see through the weeds in contemporary politics, so I found there were a lot of new things and loose ends that have yet to be tied up so it gets more complicated and undetermined at the bottom of the infographic. Maybe I can go back in 10 years and clean it up once I have the benefit of hindsight. I also make a note in my write up about how it was relatively easy to size up the political parties based on the dichotomy of which side of the argument for or against centralized government they fell, but as we get into the 1990’s, a whole new axis seems to be forming, where third parties are aligning and fracturing based on their approach to fiscal and social issues. Meaning that some parties may identify with being fiscally conservative (i.e., believing in limiting government-based trade restrictions) but might be ok with a variety of government-based regulations on social issues (i.e., gun control or reproductive rights issues). Just an interesting note for what lies ahead.

Purely nerding out, and definitely information overload, but if you’re into that kind of thing, I hope you enjoy it! Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about my research or interpretation of this information. (click on the image to zoom in, so you can see the fine print).


An Overly-Simplified
History of Political Parties in the United States

Over the course of U.S. history, various issues have split people into different factions by political party, but the fight for and against centralized government has been constant since the very beginning.

First Party System
1792—1824

The Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan, but disputes arose and factions formed. The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, were ardent supporters of centralizing the government, consolidating debt on the federal level, and creating a central bank. Federalists were also keen to maintain good relations with Britain for trading purposes.

The Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, believed strongly in individual liberty, sovereignty of individuals and states, and limited government. They were concerned that a national bank would lead to corruption and monarchism. Democratic-Republicans also felt loyal to the French, who had come to the aid of the American Revolutionaries, but were now fighting with England and struggling through their own tumultuous revolution.

Era of Good Feelings
1816—1824

The issue of whether to side with France or England dissipated at the end of the War of 1812, leading to the Era of Good Feelings, where the two parties were more or less united on issues, especially after Madison agreed to establish a national bank in 1816.

Second Party System
1828—1854

The election of 1824 had four men running, all calling themselves Democratic-Republicans. Andrew Jackson won the most votes, but not the majority of electoral votes, so the final decision went to the house of Representatives, which chose John Quincy Adams.

Jackson in turn formed the Democratic Party, whose ideology embodied the strong Jeffersonian beliefs of small government, free trade, and hard money. Adams’ Party, the National Republican and then Whig Party, followed closer to the Federalists, arguing for stronger central government, infrastructure building, and high tariffs, all to promote commerce. Within the Whig Party, an anti-masonic group formed in opposition to Jackson who they were distrustful of because of his membership in the secret society, as well as a xenophobic party with an anti-Catholic agenda, in response to new immigrants coming from non-Protestant countries.

This period was dominated by the dispute over slavery, staunchly supported by the Southern-dominated Democrats. The Whig Party was not unified on the issue, which eventually led to its dissolution.

The Republican Party was formed from the remains of the Whig, Know-Nothing, and Free Soil Parties, which were all against the expansion of slavery, plus Democrats who were against secession. Abraham Lincoln, leader of the Republican Party, won the election of 1860, prompting the secession of seven southern states, and shortly thereafter the beginning of the Civil War.

Third Party System
1854—1896

In the election of 1864, Lincoln renamed the Republican Party the National Union Party. The temporary name was used to attract those who would not vote for a Republican. He ran with Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, hoping to prove his seriousness in working with southern states to reunify after the war. This proved to be a fateful decision as Lincoln was assassinated just over a month into his second term, and only 5 days after the South surrendered, leaving the Democratic Johnson as President during the critical early years of Reconstruction.

Johnson’s views did not align with those of the Republicans who held a majority in Congress. He opposed granting freedmen many civil liberties that Republicans had intended, including property rights and citizenship. He vetoed the Civil Rights Act, but the veto was then overturned by Congress, making this the first major bill to become law over presidential veto. Johnson was impeached, but was saved from removal by one vote. In 1868, General Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican, won the presidency. He built up the Republican Party in the South, but over the course of Reconstruction, corruption ran rampant as “carpetbaggers” (northerners who had come south) took advantage of their power. At the same time, groups like the Ku Klux Klan used intimidation and violence to run Republicans out of office and repress voting by blacks, leading to white Democrats regaining power of Congress.

The remainder of the period’s politics focused primarily on economic issues. Republicans continued to support high tariffs and protectionism to build the economy and to support federal programs like education, while Democrats argued for fewer restrictions, free trade, and fiscal conservatism. They also clashed on international policies, with Republicans supporting an active foreign policy while Democrats maintained an anti-imperialist stance.

One Republican principle that has been in place since the end of the Civil War is the strong support of military spending, stemming primarily from the desire to provide for the veterans of that war.

Fourth Party System
1896—1932

The Fourth Party System began after Grover Cleveland’s second term, coinciding with an economic depression due to the abundance of silver coinage then in circulation.

Labor unions began to gain influence and power and a Populist Party formed. Additionally, a small faction of the Democratic Party that was against silver ran candidates in the 1896 election, which helped turn the vote in favor of Republican McKinley. McKinley continued high tariff policies, was pro-business, and used “interventionism” to justify the Spanish-American War, gaining the colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba.

When McKinley was assassinated, his young Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the helm and chartered in a new “progressive” era, promising fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and regulation of food and drugs. He also prioritized conservation, establishing a myriad of national parks, forests, and monuments. His successor, Taft, tended towards a more conservative agenda, favoring big business. Roosevelt challenged Taft in the 1912 election by creating his own Progressive Party (nicknamed the “Bull-Moose” Party). This split in the Republican votes ensured the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson did continue a more progressive agenda by passing such legislation as the Federal Reserve Act (central banking), Federal Trade Commission Act (anti-trust and anti-monopoly) and other consumer protection policies, as well as reintroducing income tax, increasing regulation in the labor sector, and signing off on the 19th Amendment, opening up the vote to women, a decision that went against his party. The US entered WWI, and following armistice, Wilson issued his “Fourteen Points” that promoted an international approach to the progressive domestic policies that were being pushed at home. This was the beginning of “Wilsonian Idealism” – an infusion of morality into internationalism that promoted global democracy.

After the war, there was a desire to return to “normalcy” – how life was before war. A more conservative Republican leadership came into power. Calvin Coolidge was an adherent of the laissez-faire ideology, believing in the states’ power to manage themselves, which up until this point had been a primarily Democratic ideology. The economy boomed during the “roaring 20’s,” resulting in decreased union activity and declining federal regulation. The Market Crash of 1929 began the Great Depression, which brought with it a major political shift and end of the Fourth Party System.

Fifth Party System
1932—1960(—80’s)

At the beginning of the Fifth Party system, the country was deep in the middle of the Great Depression, which wreaked havoc on the economy and left 1 in 4 people unemployed. Under Hoover’s lead, the federal government increased tariffs in hopes of promoting the purchase of American goods, but this only exacerbated the depression world-wide. He promoted the notion that private business would volunteer not to lower wages or reduce their workforce, but that was not sustainable.

Hoover was voted out in favor of the young Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, in 1932. Roosevelt sought to restructure the economy and to use the federal funding to create demand. FDR’s first “New Deal” included the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FDIC, and the National Recovery Administration, which forced private industries to work with the federal government to set price minimums, reduce production in order to raise prices, and allow unions to establish labor standards and competitive conditions. The second “New Deal” created Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, and a stimulus to grow labor unions. In 1938, a bipartisan conservative coalition formed to stop further expansion of the New Deal, afraid that the country was turning into a socialist state. When unemployment dropped to 2% in the early 1940s, most of the New Deal programs were disbanded, except Social Security.

The New Deal splintered the Democratic Party, with Southern white conservatives (Dixiecrats) joining forces with the conservative Republicans to form the Conservative Coalition, which promoted an anti-socialist and anti-integration agenda. Once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, Southern Democrats abandoned the Democratic party entirely, becoming Republicans instead. At the same time, a liberal faction of the Republican Party continued to support Social Security and other social programs, but this faction slowly faded out. By the end of the Fifth Party system only the Conservative side of the Republican Party remained. From that, a far-right splinter group, the American Independent Party, formed in the 1960’s that began to heavily influence the Republican Party.

The Fifth Party System saw a transition in the demographics of each party. The traditionally Southern-held Democratic Party became the party of liberal-minded constituencies, such as Jews, African-Americans, labor unions, progressive intellectuals, and populist farm groups. Republicans lost the African-American vote and gained evangelical Southerners. Republicans began to promote stronger states’ rights over federal jurisdiction and sought economic deregulation.

Sixth Party System
1960—

While there is no official transition from the Fifth to Sixth Party System cited yet, some historians argue that the Sixth Party system began in the 1980’s. The Republicans held more conservative viewpoints while Democrats pursued more liberal agendas. Unlike the preceding systems, the two major parties’ positions are more polarized and extreme in this era, with a corresponding rise in partisanship and congressional gridlock.

The Republican Party of this era is pro-business, anti-regulation, and believes in the reduction of spending and tax cuts for the wealthiest in order to promote the economy. Republicans have also taken on more socially conservative agendas such as anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. Reagan won due in part to the support of “Reagan Democrats” who were attracted to his socially conservative policies. The “Christian Right,” not a specific party but a faction of the Republican Party, gained strength and drew the whole party farther to the right. Another group, called the Tea Party, emerged in response to a perception that mainstream Republicans were insufficiently conservative.

Democrats continued to support social programs such as healthcare reform and believed in increasing taxes in order to support and promote the economy. They also believed in reducing taxes on the poorest, and increasing for the richest to balance the budget. In light of the success of Reagan’s landslide victory, a part of the Democratic Party created the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and began to take an economic liberalism approach to fiscal issues that allowed for more power of the individual in business and promoted free trade, but allowed for certain amounts of government intervention such as regulating monopolies.

Parties focused on very specific issues gained traction in this System, highlighting issues such as the peace and the environment (Green Party), Reducing National Debt (Reform Party), and Reduction in Government Spending and general decrease in size of Federal Government (Libertarian Party). These third parties sometimes do not align directly along the dichotomy of centralized versus decentralized government, sometimes swinging in opposite directions on fiscal issues versus social issues; a whole new axis of dichotomies to start tracking.

Here’s an at-a-glance view of the infographic, to get a better feel for the spin offs, merges, and switches that happen:

International Women’s Day Portrait Series

Illustration, Interests, New Piece, Posters, Print

In honor of International Women’s Day (#IWD2016), I’m working on a series of portraits of some famous and awesome ladies of history. This is an ongoing project, so will be continuing to post them as I make them. Check back here for more!

03.08.16 – I’ll start with Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). A formidable character, worthy of recognition for her long and (mostly) peaceful reign of England. Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth ruled for 44 years, known as the Golden Age, where English drama flourished, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and seafaring English adventurers such as Francis Drake made their name. Nicknamed the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth never married or bore an heir.

Kowal_Women-of-History_Queen_Elizabeth_I

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03.10.16 – Second in the series, is  Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913), an African-American born into slavery. She escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved families and friends, making her a brave and critical member of the Underground Railroad. After the civil war, she continued to campion for rights of both freed blacks and women.

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03.21.16 – Third up, Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431), is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Hundred Years’ War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. She claimed to have received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination. After the uncrowned King sent her off as part of a relief mission on the siege of Orléans, victories ensued and the King was crowned. She was later captured by the English side and then burned at the stake at roughly 19 years of age. So, she might have been a little crazy, but a teenage woman going into battle in the 1400’s is still pretty bad ass, so makes my list for famous and awesome women of history.

Kowal_Women-of-History_Joan-of-Arc

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03.28.16 – Sacagawea, also Sakakawea or Sacajawea (1788-1812), was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition achieve each of its chartered mission objectives exploring the Louisiana Purchase. Reliable historic info about her isn’t limited. Most of the info we have is based on the journals written by the two explorers. She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean with the expedition in 1804 and 1806 as the wife of a Quebecois trapper (married to him at the age of 13). She was brought along primarily as a Shoshone interpreter. She established cultural contacts with Native American populations, including a reuniting moment with her brother whom she’d been separated from at the age of 12. She bore her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, while on the expedition.

We owe a lot of credit to the National American Woman Suffrage Association of the early twentieth century for bringing her history and importance into the forefront, by adopting her as a symbol of women’s worth and independence.

Kowal_Women-of-History_Sacagawea

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04.03.16 – I’m pleased that this post aligns with Dame Jane Morris Goodall’s birthday (b. 1934). She is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. Apparently as a child, she was given a lifelike chimpanzee stuffed animal named Jubilee by her father, which apparently kickstarted her early love of animals.

Kowal_Women-of-History_Jane_Goodall

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04.10.16 – Sally Ride (1951 – 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. She became the first American woman in space in 1983 (two Russian women preceded her). She remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She later worked at Stanford and then University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate on both. She was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded in 2001 that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. It was revealed after her death that she had been in a 27 year long relationship with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, making her the first known LGBT astronaut. She was a strong advocate of science and space exploration, and I’m honored to promote her accomplishments.

Kowal_Women-of-History_Sally_Ride

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04.17.16 – Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is a Mexican painter best known for her self-portraits that exposed her physical and emotional struggles and pulled imagery and colors from her Mexican cultural heritage. She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which were caused by a bus accident she survived as a teenager. She was pegged as an surrealist painter by André Breton, but she felt her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams. She was married to famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera for what turned out to be a very volatile relationship. Throughout her life, she was very politically active. Since her death, Kahlo’s fame as an artist has only grown. Her childhood home was opened as a museum in 1958. She is viewed by many as an icon of female creativity.

Kowal_Women-of-History_Frida_Kahlo

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04.24.16 – Susan Brownell Anthony (1820 – 1906) was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she started her politically active career at the age of 17, collecting anti-slave petitions. She met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851, with whom she became a lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities. The list of things she did is long, from founding the New York Women’s State Temperance Society, to founding a newspaper for women’s rights, to founding the National Women’s Suffrage Association, to literally co-writing the book on the history of women’s suffrage, to submitting an amendment to Congress (submitted in 1878) that was finally passed in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. She campaigned around the country and the world for women’s rights her entire life. When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, she was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Luckily, over her lifetime, public perception of her changed and by her 80th birthday, she was invited to celebrate at the the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She has continued to be celebrated, notably with her portrait appearing on the 1979 dollar coin (the first non-fictitious woman to appear on U.S. coinage). I for one am eternally grateful to her and all the women who worked so hard to pass that amendment and endeavor to never take for granted all the hard work that she and others put into the cause.

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05.08.16 – Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910), known as the “lady with the lamp,” was a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She was born into an affluent British family, but from a young age was drawn to philanthropy, mainly ministering to the sick and poor. Against her family’s wishes, she chose to pursue a career in nursing. She studied in Germany, and when she returned to England, quickly excelled in her field and was promoted to superintendent within the first year of being hired. When the British entered the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses were called upon to aid the British soldiers on the front. The conditions were appalling, and with the help of her staff, they were able to improve the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds. She wrote about her observations and proposed reforms to sanitation. Her writings sparked worldwide health care reform. In 1860 she established St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. She remained a prominent figure and authority on the subject and was regularly consulted by governments regarding the establishment of field hospitals. At the age of 88, she was conferred the merit of honor by King Edward. She had contracted “Crimean Fever” and lived bedridden from the age of 38 until her death at 90. Since 1965, International Nurses Day has been celebrated on her birthday each year, May 12.

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In the Wilderness for a Week

About Me, Illustration, Interests, Places

Backpacking 2015

Just a note that I’ll be off in the wilderness for a much anticipated week of backpacking the Rae Lakes Loop Trail from the 21st-29th. I’ll be back in action (in this case “action” is ironic since I will simply be back in front a computer instead of hiking all day) and filling your feed with more infographics and illustrations upon my return.

Measles Comeback

Design, Illustration, Interests, New Piece

In light of recent measles news, I decided to make a little PSA regarding the history of measles, including the reasons why it seems to have made a comeback in the U.S.

I happily used the article Matt Pearce of the LA Times wrote last week as my guide. In fact, I recommend reading it in full if you’re interested in some of the extra details he writes that I didn’t have room to include here.

Southwest Roadie

Interests, photography, Places

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to go on a wonderful road trip from San Francisco, down the coast and across to the Grand Canyon and back. I would not file myself under the label of photographer, but I know what I like and decided to take the chance on a fancy rental lens to see how well I could do while discovering the wild west.

I love painting landscapes, and I think I got a lot of great source material this trip. The colors were warm and vibrant. The sky was clear on most of the days, and even the days that were a bit hazy leant themselves to some wonderful atmospheric perspective.

Day 2 (uh, we got a late start on Day 1 – I have no photos): Carmel to Santa Barbara

Starting off from Pebble Beach and driving along 17 Mile Drive to Carmel admiring the rocky shores and wind blown Monterey Cypress, then driving down the coast to Big Sur. There’s a beautiful waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer beach that can’t be missed.

Day 3: Santa Barbara to Joshua Tree

Santa Barbara is a beautiful town full of lots of spanish mission style architecture and tons of sun. One of my favorite things to check out though, is the mural that’s painted on the walls of the courthouse. No photo I took will capture its entirety or magnificence, but I highly recommend checking it out. The other random highlight of Santa Barbara is the epic and ancient fig tree that resides just next to the 101 freeway. Planted in 1876, it is mighty. Per a 2010 measurement, the widest spread of the branches is 198 feet (60 m). The trunk diameter above the buttress roots is 12.5 feet. Huge.

After Santa Barbara we drove through LA (stopping for some amazing Korean BBQ in downtown first), we drove on to Palm Springs and then up to Joshua Tree just as the sun was setting. Our airbnb for the night was an amazing little “homesteader cabin” a good 6-7 miles off the main highway, off a dirt road. I got a couple night shots of the view from the porch, but it was nearly a full moon, so the stars were a little daunted by the bright light. Still, a really beautiful and serene evening.

Day 4: Joshua Tree to Sedona

Joshua Tree is a crazy place. It reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book. I also discovered that Joshua Trees are in the Yucca family. They came in so many shapes, appendage numbers, and sizes. We had seen a few of them as we traveled closer to the National Park and also throughout the rest of the Arizona/Nevada area, but there truly wasn’t the same concentration as in the Park itself. Quite stunning to see a forest of them line the road as we drove through. We caught them with a brilliant blue sky and wispy clouds that added another level of character to the landscapes.

And then there’s Sedona. We planned our entrance into the valley perfectly to catch sunset. The formations are beautiful enough in the middle of the day, but when the warm light of sunset hits the brilliant red rocks, they glow. We arrived at that night’s airbnb just as the light was prime for photos and we had a great view of the hills from the porch. After the sun set, I caught a nice shot of the moon rising in dusk light.

Day 5: Sedona to Grand Canyon and over to Kanab, UT

We woke up in Sedona and drove through town a bit to get some views of the wonderful formations. We also wandered over to the chapel that is built into the hillside. It was a pretty impressive construction. I was more amused by the view from the chapel looking down upon the gaudiest home I’ve ever seen. Yeah, check it out – you can’t miss it. I think they must have thought that by painting it red like the rocks it would blend in…

We moved on towards the Grand Canyon afterwards. It was cooling down at that point (it even snowed lightly a little bit), and we were greeted by a very overcast sky when we got there. While I was a little sad to not have the sun illuminate the striking colors and formations that the canyon makes, the diffused lighting did have a certain somber and powerful character of its own. I remarked that the whole thing just looked like a painting in some movie backlot. It’s really hard to believe it’s real even when you’re standing right in front of it.

We drove west a bit, then backtracked along the eastern side of the south rim to the “look out” which was a unique perspective – looking west you could still see the deep cavernous ridge line, but looking east, you could see the plateaus and flat land that extend beyond where the canyon gets shallower. We continued our drive going east towards Lake Powell, stopping at a reservation where they kindly let me take a few more pictures from their vantage point. We drove all the way around up into Utah and landed for the night in the adorable town called Kanab.

Day 6: Kanab to Las Vegas

Kanab is the most quaint little roadside town. Feels like it belongs on Route 66 and clearly gets frequented by people visiting the surrounding national parks. Lots of great neon and retro details throughout the town. It is considered the Little Hollywood of Utah. It definitely had a hay-day where lots of Westerns were filmed in the surrounding area – and movies of note, too. We just watched The Outlaw Josey Wales, a Clint Eastwood flick, that was filmed there to see if we recognized anything.

They have an amazing little movie museum with some sets that were used in films. It’s pretty much perfect.

We went from Kanab to Zion, only about an hour’s drive away. Zion is a beautiful canyon with more stunning rock formations. It has the longest tunnel I’ve ever driven through, carved straight through a mountain side, with only a few pockets of light streaming in as you drove through it. We hiked in the canyon at the end of the northern loop of the road which had a beautiful river running through it.

We left through the southwest entrance and headed on to Vegas for the night.

Day 7: Las Vegas to Death Valley

Being in Vegas was even more surreal than usual, having come from such natural wonders to the artificial wonder that is Vegas. We did the usual Vegas thing that night – dinner and a show, then headed out in the late morning towards Death Valley. We passed a little gas station/brothel on the way, too, on the outskirts of Area 51. Gotta love Nevada.

Death Valley was glorious. We have both decided that we’ll have to come back with more time to explore it. The colors, textures, and formations we saw were so surreal and like nothing I’d ever seen. It looked like something out of a Dalí painting. There was also a quaint little Inn tucked into the hillside that was quite literally an oasis in the middle of the desert.  And then the sun was setting as we drove out, making such gorgeous colors: purple hills, golden tumbleweed brush, auburn red dirt, all against a fading blue sky. Such a treat to see. We ended our night in Lone Pine, on the Eastern foothills of the Sierra.

Day 8: Lone Pine & Alabama Hills

Lone Pine is another one of those go-to Western Film shooting locations. Not to mention a few Star Trek movies/episodes. I’ve always loved it. My family used to come up and camp in Onion Valley and surrounding areas, and my Aunt once took my brother and me up Mt. Whitney which you get a nice view of from Lone Pine. While it’s the tallest peak in the continuous US, it doesn’t look like the tallest from the valley. Fond memories, and of course, a gorgeous view. Snow still specks the peaks, and the contrast of the bright blue sky, light blue and gray mountains, with the rambling auburn Alabama hills in the forefront made for a great shot.

This was basically the end of our journey though. We decided to just drive back home via the 5, which isn’t as spectacular as what we’d just seen (unless you count the usual cow concentration camps). Or else I’ve just gotten too familiar with the drive to really notice it’s beautiful spots.

Blast from the Past! But Still Presently in Use Somehow

Interests, Print

FAA pilot's manual

I came across an amazing gem of retro graphic design and illustration not too long ago. I don’t mean to startle anyone, but not only is it deliciously retro, but apparently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still thinks it’s perfectly good to keep on using as their current manual for Aviation Weather For Pilots and Flight Operations Personnel. No but really, it’s still on their site ready as ever to be downloaded for consumption.

I mean, I suppose there’s no reason to change it though; the information about weather and flying probably hasn’t changed much since 1975. In fact, they make a point about it’s history and editions in the preface, which will no doubt serve as a viable excuse for this antiquated manuscript to remain a main resource for many, many more years to come:

“The publication began in 1943 as CAA Bulletin No. 25, “Meteorology for Pilots,” which at the time contained weather knowledge considered essential for most pilots. But as aircraft flew farther, faster, and higher and as meteorological knowledge grew, the bulletin became obsolete. It was revised in 1954 as “Pilots’ Weather Handbook” and again in 1965 under its present title.

All these former editions suffered from one common problem. They dealt in part with weather services which change continually in keeping with current techniques and service demands. Therefore, each edition became somewhat outdated almost as soon as published; and its obsolescence grew throughout the period it remained in print.

To alleviate this problem, the new authors have completely rewritten this edition streamlining it into a clear, concise, and  readable book and omitting all reference to specific weather services. Thus, the text will remain valid and adequate for many years.”

Indeed. It’s very efficient.

I’m in love with the exaggerated expressions on the illustrated characters, the limited tri-color palette, and the design decisions made based on that restriction. Having a lot more flexibility in this day and age to create documents like this both quickly and easily, I do admire the painstaking effort that must have gone into creating this manuscript. I does make me count my blessings that I get to work on a computer instead of a typewriter, but am also sad because there is something about this document that is so full of character that I just don’t see in most of the design work that surrounds us these days.

I hope you enjoy this little find. I’m showcasing a few of my favorite samples from the book, but by all means, please download it yourself to see it in its full glory, or perhaps you can catch a copy of your own out there, still in hard copy.

Where’s the Beef?

Design, Interests, Invitations, Packaging

beef1

It’s been a couple years ago now since I made this invitation, well before I started blogging about  my favorite projects, but I was going through some old stuff and realized this one was probably one worth sharing (not to mention writing down at some point so I don’t forget what went into it either).

Back in 2010, I co-hosted a beef tasting party. The idea being that I really had no idea what the difference between some very basic cuts of meat were, and while the idea of sitting down to a 12 course meal of side-by-side beef tasting sounds entertaining, it was simply going to be just too much meat for one person. SO…. why not throw a party?!

beef3Designing the invitations was an amazingly fun process. I spent a lot of time researching beef and what the different cuts were, as well as where on the cow they came from. I wanted to share a little of that knowledge with my invitees, hoping to entice them to participate in the experiment.

I made the invite itself into the shape of a cow, and cut 3 overlapping sections out of it to give the information what, when and where. I then included a vellum overlay with the cross section of the cow (I have a weakness for science diagrams – couldn’t resist).

For the envelope, I wrapped the invite into a piece of butcher paper, a kin to how apiece of meat from the butcher would be wrapped. I then created an address label that mimicked the pricing sticker that you get at the store, indicating weight, price per pound, sell by date (in this case, RSVP by date) and the barcode (which sneakily included the numbers of the date of the actual party), which then sealed the envelope shut.

BeefInvite-annonymous

MeatLabel

I also made a custom USDA seal of approval on each envelope, indicating it would be a swell party, as well as a return address sticker that had the “brand” from the “ranch” the meat came from. The one failing point of the project was that there were no beef-themed stamps available at the time I sent these out, so wasn’t able to complete the them as entirely as I’d hoped.

The party was a hit, I was able to enlighten myself, and a handful of friends about the different options we have for ordering and enjoying beef. I will admit, and I’m not ashamed to, this is probably the first of many parties I will host where the idea of how to design the invite was a strong driving force to make it happen versus just think about how cool it would be to do.

So anyway, I learned a lot about beef. All the research leading up to the day was more educational than just doing the tastings. I am happy to share a little bit about what I still remember (with the quick caveat that I am definitely not an expert, and if I got anything wrong, I’m happy to be corrected):

First off, there are 3 categories to grade the beef sold in the US: PrimeSelect, and Choice. They rate, in descending order, the quality and marbling (the fat:muscle ratio) of the meat. We aimed to get as many prime cuts as possible for our tasting, which we found to be somewhat difficult. Even Whole Foods carried mostly Select cuts. We ended up going to Los Gatos Meats (a disaster of a website, but a gem of a brick & mortar) for most of the meats. Also, to keep the playing field constant across the different cuts, I tried cooking them all with as simple a preparation as possible, allowing the flavor of the meat to be the only thing we were judging the taste by.

Now, where on the cow do the cuts come from? For this, I made a little cheat-sheet that outlines where a variety of the cuts come from on a cow. (Mind you, in Britain, they have very different terminology for all of this, so this is all American beef knowledge I’m dishing out.)

WheresTheBeef

So, I didn’t want to have a party with 50 cuts of meat, but did want to have a sampling from “all parts” of the cow. We didn’t get too crazy either – no organs or “non-standard” cuts were investigated; remember, we were hoping to understand our options when looking at a typical menu of meat options at a steak house.

For the tasting, we grouped the cuts into rounds of tastings based on which part of the cow they came from. We started on what are considered the cheaper cuts, and worked our way up, to what are generally considered the more expensive, highly desired cuts.

Kowal_LogoKowal_LogoFlank & Skirt Steak. This meat comes from the end of the ribs, called the flank or plate. It has a strong grain and should be scored and marinated for a while to be tenderized. This is your standard fajita or steak salad meat, and should be cut against the grain, or else you’ll be chewing it for a while. I did marinate these in some soy sause and brown sugar before broiling. The flank is typically thicker than the skirt, so cooks a little bit longer.

Kowal_LogoTri-Tip: The little triangle at the bottom of the sirloin diagram is basically where the tri-tip steak comes from, which is the piece we elected to try from this portion of the cow. Back in the day it was typically made into ground beef, but at some point, someone figured out that you could cook it low and slow and slice it thin for a low-fat steak option. I remembered having it as a kid smothered in barbecue sauce and sandwiched between french bread. I think for our party, we just did a dry rub and I seared and then baked it until it was medium rare.

Kowal_LogoPorterhouse: We’re moving into the short loin now. This is where you start seeing real steak names come into play. What is the difference between a Porterhouse and a New York strip?  Well, I’ll tell you. The porterhouse is your “t-bone,” the ubiquitous caricature for what steak looks like. You have a large cut of tenderloin on one side , and the other side of the bone is strip steak. Technically, a porterhouse is classified by having more tenderloin than even a typical “t-bone” but they’re hailing from the same part of the cow, so same cut of meat.

Bone-in New York: This is what is on one side of the porterhouse – the strip. It’s a muscle that is infrequently used on the cow, so still tender. It can be cooked bone-in, or cut away from the bone. We went with the bone-in option because we were told that those typically cook better because they retain the juices. No argument here.

Tenderloin: The tenderloin is a long a narrow piece that follows inside the spine and is very tender because it is not a used muscle. We took the more famous cut from there, the filet mignon. A medallion, sometimes wrapped in bacon, that is so soft you could sometimes cut it with a butter knife. We actually got a little extra experimental here and got one regular corn-fed cut, and another grass-fed to see if we could notice a difference. (the answer is yes).


Kowal_LogoShort ribs: These are typically braised. The cut is from the rib and surrounding meat, and they are cut into ~2″ chunks. You could also get them cut Korean-style, which is a much smaller slice and then it’s just marinated and grilled. We opted to try them the “old fashioned” Western way for our taste-test. After being braised, the meat is very tender and literally falls off the bone. It also really soaks up the flavors of whatever you braise it in, so the flavor of the meat is not typically standing on its own.

Bone-in Ribeye: This is the meat inside the rib bones, and unlike tenderloin, gets a fair bit of exercise in the cow, so is supposedly more flavorful. We went for the bone-in option again, like with the New York strip, but can also be cooked without the bone.

Prime Rib: This is essentially the same part of the cow as the ribeye, but cooked as a roast, with anywhere from 2-7 ribs wide. The main difference between the two cuts is how they’re cooked, and also a lot more fat has been removed from the ribeye than the roast.

That’s what we tried. I had my opinions, of course, on what the best pieces were. I made a form people could fill out as they tried everything so we could keep track of the different aspects of each kind of cut.

WheresTheBeef-SteakRater

Hopefully this was mildly informative. I look forward to the next food-themed party and invitation design. Also, the first photo in the post is credited to Carol Le, a terrific friend and photographer.

New Orleans

Interests, Places

I spent the weekend in New Orleans, which was incredibly fabulous for many reasons. In addition to it being a fun town, it also has some of the most amazing architecture and atmosphere. When you see people trying to make “shabby-chic” look cool, NOLA is their muse, and frankly, is the only place that can get away with it and look authentic. The colors are vibrant, all the textures are perfectly weathered, and the wrought iron is delicate and intricate. It is genuine, rich, and chock full of its own history.

Around San Francisco

Interests

Last Friday I had the privilege of going on a fun bakery crawl sponsored by Scharffen Berger chocolates. I wrote all about it here on my baking blog, but while I was at it, I couldn’t help but enjoy the perfect October afternoon and evening San Fran was having, and took a few pictures of the places we went along the way.

Not sure I’m equipped for some of the night shots I took, but the colors were still pretty fabulous.

Companies I like

About Me, Interests

I enjoy living in Silicon Valley for many reasons. Variety of places to eat is pretty high on the list, weather a close second, but both are quickly followed by the social climate of the area. You don’t have to look far to find an entrepreneur or tech geek. Even the business people are interested in the new companies that pop up (even if only for their IPO values). I love being in the know about what people are working on, and what is coming next. I love what technology can do, and while I keep a fair amount of skepticism in my pocket about how far is too far (sci-fi offers a lovely insight into some opinions on this matter) , I really revel in the potential that some tech offers to make this world “a better place.”

There are specifically 3 companies I’d like to call out for their efforts to make things “better,” which in my opinion, includes making things more accessible, which I feel these 3 have in common.

Inkling

Inking creates rich, interactive textbooks for the iPad. Going above and beyond just digitizing standard printed books, these buckets of knowledge are filled with links, references, animations, videos, interactive diagrams, and so much more engaging material than any poor defenseless hardbound paper version could ever hope to offer. It’s so exciting that it makes me want to go back to school just to play around with their software (not that I can’t play around with it on my own, but there’s nothing quite so informative as having to use something in the context it is designed for). The benefits seem so outstanding to make so much material accessible, all in a neat 1.33 lb package (goodbye backpacks). Of course, one could argue that this kind of technology caters to and exacerbates information overload and encourages easily distracted minds (I heard a really cool interview about this topic on NPR last night that kind of dug into that topic). I am optimistic, though, that our brains can adapt to these new inputs and will be better off for having access and the opportunities to gather all the new info.

Square

Square is a company that allows any one with a smart phone to accept credit cards. In this ever increasingly cashless community, it is a welcome opportunity for individuals and small businesses to accept payments. It is a free app, with a free accessory, that charges 2.75% on all transactions, but no additional per transaction fee. For a small business, this makes it incredibly accessible to take credit cards where otherwise the fees of renting credit card terminals and paying monthly maintenance fees were deterring, if not completely cost-ineffective. On top of that, they have rolled out a new service called Card Case  that is designed to be a virtual tab. At certain locations, once your account has been set up, all you need do is order your items and tell the cashier your name and you will be charged and sent an electronic receipt. While security is probably the first thing to jump to any critic’s tongue (and minding

that I’ve never been the victim of identity theft, I can not empathize with that frustration), I know that the company went to great lengths to dot i’s and cross t’s to set this system up securely. Like so many new technologies, they will certainly have hiccups, but will only get better the more people use them and work through issues. I for one am excited for this new cashless future they are enterprising. Also, having a small business that uses this service makes me all the more biased towards how useful it is.

Airbnb

Airbnb is a service that allows you to rent out your own home/room/space to travelers, and also allows you to stay in affordable or impossibly awesome locations all over the world. Putting hotels and hostels to shame, Airbnb is opening a whole new world of options to travelers to either meet and stay with cool locals, or just bask in the wonderful residential neighborhoods of cities that would otherwise go unnoticed. Or maybe you’d prefer to stay in a treehouse? Or on a boat? Options that you would otherwise have to know someone to have that opportunity. On the flip side, you can meet cool travelers coming to your city as you host them in your own place. Or just make some extra cash while you’re out of town anyway. You can rent out anything from an air mattress in the living room to your whole house. It is a wonderful online community of people who are eager to see new things and meet new people, and like most online services, there are ways to rate both renters and stayers so people can get a feel for what kind of person they are before accepting a reservation. Airbnb did have a snafu in July that caused the company to snap into action to step up their security measures: they doubled their support staff and are now offering insurance. I’m sure as they grow, they will continue to figure out new services and new ways to protect the community they’ve been growing since 2008.

Besides providing a form of accessibility to their customers, the other thing about these companies that stands out to me is how the few people I know who work at them are genuinely interested in the products they produce, are enthusiastic when talking about them, and really believe in what they are doing. There is little in life I find more compelling than hearing someone talk about something they are passionate about. It becomes easy to tell who is a salesman just pitching their product versus a person who is actually standing behind what they are creating. Above all else, whether a company succeeds or fails, I think having more people in the world truly interested in what they are doing is what’s making it a better place, regardless of what they’re creating.