Give to the Max 2014!

So, you know that in-studio School that we were going to offer, called Schoolhaus? Well, it’s really grown up since you last saw it. When was that, Thanksgiving last year? Goodness. It seems like yesterday. We’re getting old. Well, Schoolhaus is going stronger than ever, and getting bigger. Zak Sally of  La Mano has now joined us! He and Dan just finished up their A4 session which they co-directed together, and it was kind of beyond belief how much they and every attendee loved it. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they all got to attend for FREE! Oh, didn’t you hear? We ran a successful Kickstarter campaign over the summer to fund A4, and all our applicants got a free-ride. That changed everything. Which is why you need to know about Give to the Max.

We were so inspired by the success of A4, and the fundraising that went along with it, that we have formed Schoolhaus as a non-profit in order to receive further donations, grants, and any spare pocket change from benefactors interested in helping us expand our goals for keeping the program free-of-charge. You can see our donation page over here. And today is especially important as, across Minnesota, it is Give to the Max Day. Hundreds (thousands, maybe?) of non-profit, artists and schools are barking on every electronic street corner today, getting the word out to all philanthropists state-wide and beyond.

And we’re not alone. We’re right in the mix. Right here. Now, there’s a lot of folks out there vying for attention, so we can’t be unrealistic and think we’re going to raise another $10,000 in a day. But we did truly love our A4 experience, and would love to be able to offer it again to a whole new mess of creative autodidacts and hyphenates. We would love your help!



Schoolhaus open soon!


Well, we theorized about it for years, threw ideas around with friends, fumbled with it a bit more, then had a spark of inspiration, and are now pleased to announce, Schoolhaus will become a reality and we are now accepting applications for a 2-month exploratory test.

So, what exactly is this Schoolhaus going to be? Here’s our thinking and background about the whole thing, via the front page of the Schoolhaus website:

Schoolhaus is a design studio classroom inspired by our desire to remedy the growing divide between learning and education. While learning is a universal way of life, education is the institutionalization of that way of life— at times to the detriment of learning, and at excessive cost to the student. But there are aspects of both education and learning that are valuable, and not necessarily mutually exclusive. Schoolhaus is Aesthetic Apparatus’ attempt to combine what we consider the best of education (a social community, invested and informed guidance) with the best of learning (self-motivation, one-on-one mentorship) and embed them into a studio discipline (working-world applications with opportunities for invention and entrepreneurship.)Schoolhaus works like a group-mentorship, held on-site during operating hours at Aesthetic Apparatus. Similar to a studio, each student submits an application or letter of intent for consideration. Enrollment is limited to 12 students at any one time — the size of a comfortable classroom. Schoolhaus can be used as a stand-alone design education or to supplement a previous design education. Anyone of any ability is welcome to apply; beginners, amateurs, even seasoned veterans. Once accepted, students may stay with the Schoolhaus as long as they and the studio feel is necessary. The curriculum begins with the student’s own self-initiated goals for learning. As the studio gains better understanding of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, learning is augmented with suggested and mentored study. Client-based or studio-based projects may be introduced, as well as inter-student mentorships or new creative ventures. The curriculum is amenable, the goal is to create a shared place for human-scale learning.This program offers neither an earned degree or certification. We question the requirement of either in the working profession of graphic design. That said, higher education is essential for those who wish to pursue a deeply academic or pedagogical pursuit of graphic design. If this is the case, we suggest attending an undergraduate and graduate degree path at an accredited institution, as is required for future consideration of professorship. What Schoolhaus does offer is intimate, responsive, one-on-one creative guidance within the context of a close-knit group studio in preparation for a creative position in graphic design.

We are now accepting initial applications for an initial 2-month preliminary Schoolhaus starting August 1. The current tuition subscription for Schoolhaus is $500/month. Interested applicants should visit our apply page.



Design and the non-conceptual mind

Recently Sheraton Green told me I needed to check out George Saunders. I’ve never really been a fiction reader, most of the books I choose to read fall into that “lifting the curtain on historic or cultural paradigms” genre of publication. I’m reading his recent collection of short stories, “The Tenth of December, but beyond his own actual writing he has quickly become just as much of a creative inspiration for his views on writing and process. Here’s an older quote from him via the Missouri Review:

“In terms of fiction writing, I think that if you set out to write a political story, then that is what you will get: merely a political story. Your story will be confined by your ability to conceptualize it. Our conceptual mind is much less subtle and perceptive and joyful than our non-conceptual mind.”

More recently, here’s another Saunders quote from his appearance on Charlie Rose:

“There’s this intentional fallacy that says a writer, an artist, has a set of ideas, and the story’s just a vehicle for delivering those preconceived ideas. And in fact, on the production end of it, my experience has been totally the opposite. You go in trying not to have any ideas of what you’re going to accomplish, praying that you’ll accomplish something, and then respecting the energy of the piece, and following it very, very closely. So, that’s kind of exhilarating but also kind of a very scary place. Because you think, ‘Well, I’m 54 years old, I teach writing, I should know what I’m doing.’ But, so much of the job is to kind of show up every day and say, ‘I really don’t know.”

From a graphic design point of view, I love this. Although he is discussing the role of conceptual and non-conceptual thinking in the art of writing, I think Saunders’ ideas can be applied to design as well. Designers are so wrapped up in the reasoned and the rationalized, we often forget how essential it can be to allow our non-conceptual mind to play a role in the design process.

Graphic design always associates itself with what we categorize as “design thinking”; problem solving, analyzing, predicting, objectively balancing form and function, etc. As graphic designers, it seems like we must absolutely never, EVER allow ourselves to admit that an idea just came to us or, even worse, that we just made something up. That would be a telltale sign of an amateur designer who possesses none of the characteristic analytical abilities that make design so essential. But I think design, like painting, photography, and writing (as exemplified by Saunders’ quotes above) needs to embrace and identify with the chaos, the unconscious, and the non-conceptual much more often than it currently does.

Designers have powerful organizational skills, but we are generally piss-poor when it comes to admitting that something indescribable sometimes happens in the design process. For example, consider the time-honored act of sketching. Sketching, to me, seems like nothing more than an attempt at resigning the conceptual mind momentarily to let the non-conceptual mind have a piece of the action for a bit.

Admittedly, once we find ourselves in the presence of a brilliant idea we must tame it, corral it, organize it, and see if it can still live in a conceptual design context. Editing is an essential part of the process for writers as well, and Saunders consistently speaks of his ‘rinse, lather, repeat’ process of editing a story over and over again. For example, one story included in The Tenth of December took him 12 years to get write. That said, the initial inspiration for that story also came to him in a dream. Can we start trusting in not-thinking for some stages in the design process? Maybe we can relax our anal-retentive, analytical designer brains for a bit and let our pencils drift across the sketch pad like it’s some kind of creative Ouija board, channeling the ghost of Alvin Lustig. Destroy something, stop thinking, create obstructions, make irrational decisions. We designers just need to try to be open and present and let our unconscious mind surprise us, because it will.

In truth, the real artistic process as I’ve understood it is 95 percent intuitive, seat-of-the-pants, at-the-moment decisions that you can’t even explain. – George Saunders




We have always loved the pedestrian, commercial history of screenprinting. Before it was the respectable artistic media we know it as today, it was a down and dirty, quick and easy way to produce temporary color promotional signage. A mainstay of the local commercial market, screenprinting was familiar for its contribution to thousands of local storefront window signs throughout the United States.

As opposed to the emulsion-based photo stencils that many screenprinters employ now, these historic ‘grocery signs’ were typically produced with hand-cut paper or film stencils, and exhibited evidence of that human hand. Some contemporary printmakers still employ a similar method of hand-cut rubylith to produce color blocks for photo stencils. This rubylith is the ancestor of the ordinary paper stencil.

We’ve long been obsessed with the paper stencil method for screenprinting, and may actually employ this method in near-future client projects. But recently, we were commissioned through our UK-based rep Dutch Uncle to produce an installation at Fallon London’s front lobby. We jumped at the chance to install an experimental series inspired by these archaic grocery posters. Along with a collection of other Aesthetic Apparatus poster test prints, the entire installation is below. The content of the prints plays off the implied commerce of this poster vernacular, toying with ideas of consumption, fallibility, and our general commodification of living.








We here at Aesthetic Apparatus are always proponents of printmaking’s little surprises, but rarely does trimming paper yield any “happy” accidents. But look here! A perfect trim right down the center of a bunch of drifting registration rules revealed this amazing blended pattern of colors. It’s a printmakers rainbow!






Starting at noon on Saturday, April 21st, we’ll be having our annual $5 Scratch & Dent Sale where we make our just a little less than perfect (usually people have trouble finding what’s wrong with them) concert posters and art prints that usually cost $20 or more available for only $5. FIVE DOLLARS! Later on that evening, starting around 7pm the AESTHETIC APPARATUS SUPER PARTY will kick off with food, refreshments and live music by THE EVENING RIG. This is a free event but please fill your pockets with cash before stopping by.







Our friend Kate Nordstrom is organizing another season of Minneapolis’ favorite chamber music ensemble at the architecturally significant Christ Church Lutheran in the Longfellow neighborhood, and we did a poster to help promote it. This little number will be available for purchase at the show. CULTURE! More info here!


Posted in POSTERS

Kings Wine Bar Identity

Identity for Kings Wine Bar in Minneapolis.

Posted in IDENTITY

Cake Box Set

Here’s a nice little video that displays the box set we did for Cake awhile back.



What does this say about us when we think this is beautiful?
Maybe we should get outside more.

Posted in NOT US