WORK: Part One

Mon 3/21/2005

Okay, so as promised, here is the first of three installments about my current job working for the American Institute of Graphic Artists. Every year they have a huge design competition that is open to ANYONE. The catagories are 1) Branding and ID systems (logos, stationary) 2) Corporate communications (annual reports, inner-company memos) 3) Editorial Design (magazines, etc.) 4) Environmental Graphic Design (way-finding systems or signage in architectual spaces, exhibitions) 5) Experience Design (websites, CD ROMs) 6) Illustration (from articles mostly, some advertising, etc.) 7) Information design (maps, reference systems, all kinds of other crazy things) 8) Packaging Design (Album covers, food and drink packages, toys, etc. etc.) 9) Promotional and Advertising (ADS, wedding invitations, holiday cards, catalogues, etc. ) and 10) Typography design (posters, new fonts). There is also the "50 books / 50 covers" competition that sets out to find the best 50 books and covers from 2004.

SO. They got about 6,000 entries this year. And it is my job (and the job of my fellow temp worker, Emily) to open ALL of the packages, figure out if the paperwork and entry fees are correct, fix them if they are not and then sort the contents into one of the 10 catagories or into the book contest (which also has 6 catagories).

All of this is done on the 4th floor of the AIGA building which we have all to ourselves. I feel like these days it is easy to forget how much a thousand is. You know, with money not stretching as far as it should (ESPECIALLY IN NEW YORK) and processors getting faster and all that, "1,000" doesn't seem like that much any more. But seriously. Count to 10. And with each number imagine a BOX, or flat mailer, or cardboard TUBE. Now think of how much space that would take up. Now multiply that by A HUNDRED. Got it? Okay, now TIMES SIX. basically there are so many goddamn packages that you can't even believe it. Fed Ex boxes LITERALLY stacked in 6'-0" piles lining a huge area of wall.

Anyways, so it's a bit tedious constantly opening boxes and evelopes and packages, but luckily I get to look at SO MANY COOL THINGS that it is still a pretty cool job. Especially since one of the book catagories is "Limited Edition and Fine Press." Some of the books I've seen cost more than $1,000 each and are only made in editions of like 100. The materials and paper and design are just breathtaking. It's the kind of stuff us "small people" would never get to see, except maybe in a museum or something. On the other hand, there is a lot of BAD design too, but usually it's SO bad that it makes you laugh while you are cringing.

The weirdest thing I've discovered while working this job though, is that there is a certain size Fed Ex bubble-wrapped envelope that I HAVE to put on my head every time I open one and empty it. I don't know if it's just because it's the perfect size of my head, or if I my parents tried to Fed-Ex me somewhere when I was a kid, but I look inside the empty envelope and then without thinking slide it onto my head like a hat. Once I even tried to put one on when I ALREADY had one on my head!!!

It was getting a little out of hand so last week I built a hat out of a 9" x 12" first class paper envelope. I then folded it into the rough shape of a shark fin and then decorated it with the remains of the colored dots that we use to classify the various entries. (see scan above) I now wear this all day every day when I am processing packages. Today I added a bit of pink ribbon to the back. I also made a scarf out of bubble wrap because the boiler was broken and we had no heat all day (brrrr!). Bubble wrap is suprisingly warm...

Other people who work in the building occasionally come up to look at the entries and I always get some pretty weird looks (Also consider the glasses with no lenses, the beard, etc). It feels about right though... I'd rather weird people out than have them be perfectly at ease with me. I mean, I'm taking the WORK seriously, just not MYSELF. Nothing could be more unnatural and awkward than working in an office building all day. Any job where you can't listen to music all day and sing if you need to while you are working seems a little suspect to me...

Anyways, that's probably more than anyone wanted to know and there's still TWO MORE POSTS on the way!!! Next: reduce, recycle and REUSE!!!

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