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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Everything looks better by candlelight

I think that most people would agree with that statement.

Some people might say that the only real difference between decent cafeteria food and restaurant fare is the presentation and lighting. I know from personal experience that my clumsy efforts in the kitchen are dramatically improved when served by candlelight.

The same can be said about the written word. A paragraph embossed in a leather-bound volume has considerably more gravitas than the same words printed in a spiral-bound notebook. One is classic literature…the other, homework.

Well, I finally got tired of looking at the tired old, generic-looking, page banner on my site. Not only did it mark me as a rank amateur (which I am), but it also bathed the writing beneath it in a pale, unappealing fluorescent light. The way I saw it, the writing wasn’t gonna get much better, so it was time to turn out the lights and bring out some fancy candles.

The snazzy new page banner you see here at treppenwitz, was inspired by a couple of unrelated things:

First, the banner obviously had to suggest the concept of treppenwitz…you know, the perfect retort that occurs to you only as you are leaving on the stairs. I didn’t know how to visually suggest this concept, other than to have someone stand on the stairs. That was the sum total of my big idea. Aren’t you glad you weren’t the artist given this assignment?

Another, more subtle influence entered, exited, and then re-entered, my life quite by chance.

Years ago, long before I had even heard the word treppenwitz, I saw a picture in a social studies book, taken in1939 by Marion Post Wolcott entitled, "Negro Going in Colored Entrance of Movie House, Belzoni, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi."


Something about this picture captivated my attention. Maybe it was the stoop-shouldered posture of the silhouetted man…or perhaps the battered fedora he wore…or maybe the insulting, matter-of-factness of the signage indicating who went where. In any event, I folded over that textbook page and found myself repeatedly drawn to that picture. Long after the social studies book had gone to that place where social studies books go, that image remained burned into my brain.

When I ‘discovered’ the word treppenwitz, I immediately thought of this picture because of the common element of stairs.

Anyhoo…I wanted my talented, graphic designer, spouse to design me up a new page banner, so I downloaded a couple of ‘gigs’ worth of pictures of stairs, staircases, and people on stairs from the Internet. Lo and behold, don’t you know one of the first pictures I stumbled across was my old favorite!

Last night, after I handed over my hoard of stair-images to Zahava and gave her a sketch of what I had in mind, I left her to do her magic. I was a little disappointed since I figured there wasn’t much she could do with the picture I liked (the guy was walking up the stairs and not down), but I included it just the same.

Over the years Zahava and I have developed a finely tuned partnership when it comes to design projects: I give her a tremendous amount of detail, input and direction, (including colors, images, shading, etc)…and she promptly ignores all of it in favor of what I really needed in the first place. This project was no exception.

Not only did it come out better than I could have ever imagined, but she also (without my having even mentioned my long-standing attachment) included the central character from my beloved picture!

This, boys and girls, is why she is a sought-after graphic designer, and I’m…well, I’m not.

She whipped this little baby out in less than ten minutes while simultaneously cooking dinner, nursing the baby, checking her e-mail, helping the big kids with their homework and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle (sorry Beth…not in ink)!

I bow before her designerness.

And as an added bonus…perhaps my writing will look a little more appealing now that it is bathed in the film noir-like glow of this deep blue, candlelit banner.

Posted by David Bogner on April 25, 2004 | Permalink


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I like it. A lot.

Posted by: Chuck | Apr 25, 2004 11:50:01 PM

fab...absolutely fab.
-lisa ...former designer.

Posted by: lisa | Apr 26, 2004 2:19:15 PM

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