The standout visual element in Histories of Newark : 1758 - 2008 is the citizen band which runs through almost every page of the book—surely more than 270 of its 288 pages.
We love to talk about the timeline that helps you work your way up to a piece you really believe is deserving. When you see something that seems truly unique, it is easy to believe you could have never done that work.
The problem may just be that you didn't have the experience that creative person had previous to the work and then the experience previous to that.
Surely the vast majority of exceptional work, if you could see the 5 projects before that, could lead most of us to have a similiar ability to produce an outstanding project.
I like to think of it as stepping stones to try to get across a river. You try a couple to hit a spot you can't jump, so you back track and try another. Eventually you find a path, while not obvious to start, will get you there. Also the more you jump onto the stepping stones the more brave you become and jumping wider and wider gaps.
And so it is for the citizen band.
As with almost all of our projects we were looking for ways to make the book more present day and that is hard when everything in the book is about the past. We wanted something to interfere and set up to include the photos of families, pets, groups, and objects from "townies." A family would climb onto the seamless background and tell the kids to stand still. We would say to the kids, "How fast can you run around your parents?" If they had a skateboard we wanted to see a trick. We liked doing it our way better.
Almost everyone asked, "What do you want us to do?"
We almost always replied, "Can you turn a cartwheel?"
This wonderful part of Histories of Newark, was part of a design idea, some fairly original, some fairly stolen. Here are the three major steps based on creative work.
A really breakout piece of design work for us. The program was starting to explode with lots of students wanting in and us only wanting a few going out the other end. The program got tougher and unforgiving of excuses. The copy was especially poignant. Next to the sophomores in the program (top group) the text listed the reasons why people wanted to be in the program.
Explain juniors and seniors (need to read the actual copy first.
We had brought Stephen Frykholm to speak to our program in 1983. In 1985 he did a wonderful annual report for the office furniture company, Herman Miller, in which he showed all 900 people who worked for the company. We loved the sense of family that Herman Miller was showing.
We did the annual report for Hagley Museum & Library for 10 years during our time Ray & Jill were running Cypher + Nichols + Design. This was one of the most fun projects we did. The person who oversaw it didn't think people read annual reports so he was pretty open to most anything we came up with. As with Herman Miller and Stephen Frykhom who never seemed to walk down the same path with their annual reports we didn't with Hagley either.
We were handed a stack of photos the museum photographer had shot with the only direction we received. "Make us look accessible."
Honestly, the process of thinking out the annual report took less than 10 minutes. The photos were awful for looking accessible as you can see in the large photo above—a period photo of a dining table from one of the room displays. Of course there were no people. 80% of the photos were devoid of people.
We took the photos and made them large. Isolated the outside 1/4" of each and turned it into the negative of the image, creating a picture frame.
We set up a photo studio at Hagley and photographed various visitors over one of the open days. These people gave the impression of an exhibition which is always accessible, creating one of our favorite projects done through Cypher + Nichols + Design and a piece that won a number of design awards including a "Best of Show" at a design competition related to museums.
This is a description relating to the opening image of the carousel at the top and the first citizen image in the book.
19711. That is Newark, Delaware's zip code. We loved the idea enough to put them first.
There is another great story for this spread that is in that photo to the far right. It was 4 waitresses from the "Post House," a rather strange diner in town that only served breakfast and lunch on a street that had about the most expensive rent in Delaware. Here is the last paragraph on page 11.
"One special story is worth noting. Jane (above and far right with three colleagues from the Post House on Main Street) received an anonymous letter in the mail with a newspaper clipping about our citizen photographs effort. If anyone ever wonders what small town America is about, it is in that letter. It is in Newark."
The letter reads,
"To the Dedicated Female Cook with the Attractive Gray Hair and Smiling Face a the Post-House in Newark.
I saw the attached article in today's News Journal and immediately though of you (apologies...I've been dining at the Post-House fr many years but don't know you name).
Your many years of loyal service and excellent cooking surely merit a photograph in this anniversary book.
When I purchase this book, I hope to see you in it!
From a well-satisfied, well-fed Post-House customer!"
It was indeed in the book. The Post-House also made Ray's favorite Creamed Chip Beef with Gravy. Sadly, as some things always change, the Post-House is no longer there.
Spread #2 : Maybe not use this one. Not sure why it is there.
Spread #3 : The left image was a former custodian in the building I used to teach in a few decades earlier. They had a quilt made in 1851 by her great-great-grandmother. She had written her name and date in ink on the back of the quilt. It looked like it had been written yesterday. I wish a couple hundred of other people had brought things from their family history. And if they were connected to Newark, all the better.
Spread #4 : We mentioned above that would often ask if people wanted to know what to do, "Can you do a cartwheel?"
Spread #5: Some groups came in and just gave out good vibes that made you want to do something special with them. The 4 to the left were talking about hanging their lady friend using her pigtails. Couldn't really do it, but with a bit of Photoshop effort you could surely make it look that way.
Took a couple of photos to get good images of the "hairpullers."
Then someone had to hold her up so we could get her feet hanging free. Pure digital fun.
Spread #6 : The large group on the right was from the Elk's Lodge. Everyone came dressed-to-the-nines. The Elk's lodge was torn down in 2017 to make room for some more student apartments.
Spread #7 : For a moment there was a showstopper as 20 military guys, mostly armed came in.
They were Delaware's Color Guard who are seen at military funerals and parades involving military. They were great to talk to.