Job description: Graphic designer
Current projects: A new semester at CalArts; WACK, a book about art made by women in the 1960s and ’70s; another on Emory Douglas, minister of culture of the Black Panthers; books on two L.A. photographers of the 1950s and ’60s, Charles Brittin and Wallace Berman; and a large project documenting Day Is Done, an installation by Mike Kelley
First step on a project: I always do my homework. If it’s a book, I actually read it.
Last step on a project: Reverting to analog. Because the work is going to finally be realized on paper, I always want to count that into the design process.
How do you break a creative block? I work in the house next door to where I live, so when I’m really stuck I just cross the driveway and do the domestic stuff that a mother has to do—cooking dinner being a good one.
Mentors: The McCoys at Cranbrook, Ed Fella, my fellow faculty at CalArts—and most of the authors, artists, editors, and curators I work with turn out to be mentors as well.
First act as ‘design czar’: A Manhattan Project to rebuild mass transit in Los Angeles and another to fund design history
Office chair: It’s a joke in my office that my employees sit on the nice Aeron chairs and I just sit on a crappy step stool.
Office sound track: We have a raucous sound track in the office: Funkadelic, Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, the White Stripes, Cee-Lo, the Velvet Underground, and Mystic Males, a weird compilation of bad psychedelic folk-rock from the 1960s.
Favorite tchotchke: A porcelain Kuan Yin sitting next to my phone. It’s sort of the Buddhist Virgin Mary; she’s peaceful-looking but sitting on this fierce-looking dragon.
Best place to think: I’ve always found driving conducive to daydreaming. When I was a student at Cranbrook I was infamous for the number of car accidents I had.
Bookmarks: Designobserver.com and Neopets—I share my computer with an eight-year-old.
Old standby: Folio. It really is typical of me because it’s a Modernist typeface, but it’s not a well-designed one like Helvetica or Univers. It’s an earlier sans serif, and it has all these wonky eccentricities, which you’ve got to be kind of a typehead to see.
Guilty pleasure: I’m a magazine slut. I always look at the surfing and skateboarding magazines and National Geographic. It’s a kind of fast production that I don’t really do.
Favorite spaces: Big Sur; the deserts of New Mexico; those tiny little streets in Kyoto
Underrated: I’ve been on this kick of reading really old Chinese poetry. My daughter is a Chinese adoptee, and it got me interested in the culture. It sounds like you’re talking to your neighbor. A lot of it’s really complaining about politics and not having enough time.
Overrated: E-mail. It’s a time-suck. I don’t want to come across as a Luddite—my work is completely dependant upon technology—but I have this skepticism about it.
Learned the hard way: It’s taken me a long time to learn not to regard myself as just a working-class girl from Detroit who stumbled into something.
Command-Z (Undo): American history since November 2000
Dream job: What I do now, but without having to stare at a screen quite as much.