Have Fun!

Design is fun. Really. We forget that simple notion sometimes. The joy on a clients face, people smiling as they experience your work, and making good things. So fun. And while we are pretty serious at times, and invest ourselves to an absurd degree in our work- we dance, sing and smile too.

Career Days

I had the opportunity to present to two career day events recently. ASID career day for Interior Design Junior and Senior college students, and Washington Henry Elementary School Career Day. Both were extremely enlightening and the student engagement was fantastic. 

What did I learn? 

The Generation Effect- the many discussions I hear about millenials and their focus are spot on. There were typical questions about resume and portfolio perfection, but many more about vision and alignment. Most were focused on character and culture as primary interest for a job. One person of over one hundred asked about money.

The amazing power of youth- kids are electric, enthusiastic, and given a small moment to create, just do not want to stop. As I turned on the faucet of interactivity, I could not turn it off. Relentless new ideas could have kept me there for a full day.


I realize our clients that our mid to large businesses struggle to effectively communicate to the emerging class of creative professionals.

I realize elementary school is a great place to start preserving creativity, but wish the middle and high schools would engage similarly.

College Design Students

Results of one of five sessions with elementary school kids
I realize this sort of activity gives me crazy energy and profound reward. I should do this more often.

What do you see?

Taking the opportunity to snap some images on the way to a meeting at VCU, I thought about what we see. As adults we filter much of what is presented in the visual spectrum- there is just too much competing for attention. I am amazed by how perceptive my children are, picking up the most minute shapes, objects and arrays. We should all look at bit more, I think. These are some of the things I saw on the way. What do you see?

Syracuse University Department of Design

I took a quick jaunt up to New York this week to visit some friends doing remarkable work shaping a vision for design education at Syracuse University. The facilities afford the tools, environment and culture of creativity and collaboration. The faculty and leadership are relentless creatives committed to the next generation of design leaders and the students are inquisitive, engaging and do some great work.

In my one hour talk- a combination of soapbox manifesto, call to action and invitation to greatness, the 70 or so students sat wide-eyed and engaged. One question to the group- do you consider yourselves leaders- yielded a nearly unanimous hands-up yes! I was beaming- my experience is that design students consider themselves followers rather than the emerging cultural leadership in the world. These guys are already there.

Keep your eyes on this school- with Lucinda, Jen, Ruth and Zeke building a vision, remarkable work will happen.

804um- the future of Richmond

 Last week I was among the presenter at the HYPE Richmond 804um half day conference. The take away for me, the next generation is inspired! The buzz after the event was electric and the conversation clearly centered around a greater vision, both on an individual basis and as a city. I look forward to connecting with this crowd again- as I call them GEN-I or Generation Innovation.

See Think Make

Our studio, The Marvin Lang Building is a wellspring of creatives and we have banded together to initiate an educational forum. The 1623 School will provide professional education in vision and brand development, design, photography and leadership. We are seeking to expand and diversify as well, the more the better. Your success is our success- and we want to raise the bar of creative professionals in this great city.

Look us up at www.1623school.com

The most significant architecture in Petersburg

Went for a trip for the afternoon to visit Battersea last week. We were invited to work in a charrette to help envision the future of this most significant villa. The place is quaint and unassuming- but quite an architectural masterpiece. Empty and in a bit of a deteriorated state, the proportion and elegance are impressive nonetheless.

Battersea has great opportunity- its legacy beginning in 1760, the proximity to Petersburg, the adjacent river and the expanse of land are a foundation for a great experience. I look forward to participating in its future.

A Study in Contrasts

Wow, what a weekend. Imagine you could experience the cultural spectrum around a single, unified passion. Imagine too, that you shared the passion-to some extent-at each intersection. That was my weekend.

Started with a visit to the Team Natures Path/3Sports criterium at the Richmond International Raceway. A hundred or so riders showed up for an early season race. We watched our friend Dave from Endorphin Fitness keep his break on the pack to win the race and watched the guys from Richmond Pro Cycling take off in the 1,2,3 race.

Moving on, we ventured to the National Handmade Bike Show, where we were seduced by the craft an artistry of the most beautiful and inventive bicycles in the country. Sure these bikes perform, but really we were well into the art of it at the show. Saw our friends from Tektonics, Alan, Engin and lots of builders I have never heard of.

The trifecta was the Cog Magazine/Kazani bikes aftershow party at my studio. With an energetic crowd and more fixies than I have ever seen in Richmond, the place was like a club, the beverage of choice was a few kegs of PBR. Almost everyone arrived on bikes- and you could tell they truly used these bikes in the most literal way- transportation, livelihood, lifestyle.

Richmond has a robust cycling community spanning diverse interests and demographic profile. Its a great part of our city.

A little byzantine inspiration

The opportunity to create design that is integral to faith is rare, and we have had the great pleasure to work with Father Nicodemos Gayle and the St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church. Taking its architectural roots from Eastern Byzantine influences, the design process was a rigorous learning experience. We were constrained by footprint and budget, but not from the lack of energy and tenacity of our client.  We stopped by to check progress, an found the scale and proportion of the spaces, even rendered in OSB really wonderful. We can't wait to see this project completed- with onion dome and some amazing iconography.   

Ex Libris, Volume Four- Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture

This book is a sleeper, unassuming and sits on the shelf almost invisibly. It is a really brilliant perspective on architecture, and speaks to an under publicized perspective of Modernism. Sybil was the wife and partner of Lazlo Moholy-Nagy who ran the New Bauhaus School in Chicago.

The sensitivity to indigenous architecture and classic forms runs counter to many perceptions of Modernism. The fact that the book elevates the work to 'genius' is a testament to the respect of history and the value as design inspiration that Sybil and Lazlo place on the work.

The nature of authenticity, a sense of place and a vernacular approach to design is promoted so well, I recommend this book for any design library.

Ex Libris- Book Three

The third in the series, this book comes from my personal history. I grew up in Doylestown, it is classic Americana at its best. I was fortunate to live right next to Fonthill, Henry Mercer's revolutionary residence and the Moravian Tile Works . This book was a gift to my parents from Betty Bendiner, the wife of noted Philadelphia artist Alfred Bendiner.

As for the book, I love the craft of construction- feels a bit home made but also charming. The local advertisements reflect a much simpler approach to typography and design- but not without care or regard for composition. The programme is a romantic, inviting outline, I can only imagine such an event today.

Ex Libris- Book Two

The second book in the series is a somewhat obscure title: Various Dwellings Described in a Comparative Manner. The Author is Richard Saul Wurman and it features drawings by fifteen second year architectural students of the School of Design, North Carolina State of the University of North Carolina in Raleigh.

This is not a book I consult regularly, but the quality of the drawings, simplicity of typography and elegant layout are notable. Like the Tufte books, I use this when considering the communication of ideas, but unlike Tufte, this book displays austerity and frankness and very few words.

Ex Libris Project- Book One

The first publication featured in my Ex Libris series- Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte. I have four of Tufte's books and they are all excellent. My primary role as a designer is to articulate and communicate vision. Tufte gives many examples from an impossible diversity of sources- if I find myself confounded searching for the best communication vehicle- this is where I go.

This is a must-have book for a creative library that architects, designers, photographers, artists- any creative- can draw inspiration from.

Sometimes Green has a Metallic Edge...

A visit to Stratton Metals (900 Brook Road, right near I-95 & Chamberlayne) to recycle some old steel leftover from our studio gave me a sharp perspective on sustainability. This business thrives on our refuse and leaves nothing behind. You bring it, they recycle it. Oh, and the 600 lbs of steel yielded $24 in my pocket, leaving me happy to boot.

The notion of relevant sustainability has been on my mind for some time. Businesses, construction, products that are more than green for green's sake. The key to successful environmentalism lies in making it meaningful and useful and fiscally sound.

Stratton doesn't even consider itself 'green' but sites studies showing recycling centers to me among the most green enterprises, and they are proud of the efficiency of their facility.

Outside of being impressed by the facility, I thought the stuff was cool to look at- here are a few photos from the visit.

Marvin Lang Studio Seeking Creatives!

The Marvin Lang Building, our studio, needs more creative types. We have several desk spaces available. The studio is excellent for professionals that need open, flexible space and seek opportunities for collaboration. Drop me an email- peter@fraserdesignassociates.com if you want to come by.

Introducing The Packmule and why I love bikes

This is the Packmule, and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you see I talk about it a good bit.
Cycling to work has become metaphoric for me in a few ways. There is a visceral connection to transportation and a unique awareness of our cultural disposition towards cars that happens when you share the road with automobile commuters. As a cyclist and triathlete, there is an abundant population of competitive and fitness cyclists, but as transportation vehicles- almost nobody out there .

As a designer that embraces paradigm shift and loves to work with change agents, I thought I ought to press this idea a bit. I am not alone in this initiative- certainly the market forces are at work- step into your local shop and see what bikes are competing for your attention in the window. It's rides like the Surly Long Haul Trucker, Specialized Langster or the Electra, not the latest sub 14lb. 12k unidirectional weave carbon masterpiece.

What has The Packmule taught me? (1) Bicycle commuting is pretty easy to arrange, but hard to do every day- I can't dump the car (2) It is physically challenging- 20 miles with 68 lbs makes for tired legs (3) Clients think it's pretty cool (4) Cars on the road, for the most part, do not think it's cool. My commute is on a fast moving route with no shoulder and crosses two interstate interchanges, so it's not an easy bike/car environment. I have been pleasantly surprised by the room given by FedEx trucks and most commuters, but I have also been run off the road and sworn at a few times. (5) I have concern for safety, but feel confident enough to keep it up- though the darkness of winter is intimidating.

Now, why I love bikes. This is easy, because I love design. Purpose, Craft, Engineering and Aesthetics in one elegant machine. The Packmule is oldschool steel-is-real construction, but I love the lugwork and details. My mountain bike is a marvel of suspension engineering and the craft of my tri bike and the design to efficiently convert force from my legs into momentum is remarkable. The great part is that it is very accessible and everyone benefits from the design exercise of building a better bike.

Look for me and The Packmule on the road, or the mountain bike on the trail, or the road bike with fellow enthusiasts and I hope you enjoy the opportunity to ride and much as I do.