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Paul Sahre

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I don’t make any secret of the fact that Paul Sahre is one of my biggest design inspirations, needless to say, I was keenly really been looking forward to the release of  his book, Two-Dimensional Man.

Paul Sahre is renowned for his book design for a number of well-known authors, so it is probably inevitable that he has finally gotten around to releasing a book of his own, and it doesn’t disappoint.

The designer monograph has become a sort of right-of-passage for ‘famous’ designers that have reached a certain level of acclaim, where once it was reserved as an end of career compilation, anyone who is anyone in the design field these days needs to have their name on the spine of their own book to broadcast that they have ‘made it’.

I don’t mean that as a criticism, what designer wouldn’t want their own book about themselves. Humility generally isn’t a large part of a designers character! There’s certainly plenty of those sorts of monographs out there. We’re all familiar with the glossy, beautifully photographed pictures of envy inducing work, the advice on how you too can reach such levels of brilliance, and of course, the endorsements of equally acclaimed design contemporaries. Trust Paul to turn all of that on its head.

Two Dimensional Man stretches the design monograph into something all together more personal. It can perhaps be described as a warts and all examination of how he has pushed the craft of design to where he wants it to be. Everyday we look at great design work, we admire the finished product, without realising the frustration and effort that goes into getting that result. There’s plenty of Paul’s great design pieces included in the pages, but this book is just as much about the journey it takes to get there as it is about the destination.

Case in point. I had the pleasure of visiting and talking to Paul a few years ago in his studio. The biggest revelation for me was when he was discussing some work he was doing for a small theatre company (it was pro-bono or for not much money) and he was agonising over the troubles he was having producing something that the client was happy with. Two things immediately struck me. First, this is Paul Sahre, one of the world’s most recognised and celebrated graphic designers, and he’ was worried about what some small theatre company thinks about his work, work that he was doing fore none or very little money. Second, with all the big name clients he has worked for, he is still as passionate about a little job as any other project he may have worked on.

This example is at the heart of what you will get out of this book – the passion and frustrations of working as a graphic designer. Sometimes you will immediately come up with something amazing that you love and the client loves, but often times, its a struggle to get to the solution. Your mileage may vary depending on persistence.

Take for example the chapter on dealing with the band Steely Dan for an album cover project is title ‘Getting Fucked by Steely Dan’. Pretty much every designer designer will be familiar with the scenario as he relates it. Sometimes what seems the greatest opportunities can lead to the greatest disappointments. As much as we like to think of the importance of graphic design – to some – the greatest graphic designer in the world only means as much as the greatest plumber in the world.

It’s not all dealing with clueless clients though. The book goes a long way in helping to explain why graphic designers do what they do, why we continue at it even though 99% of the population has very little grasp of what in fact it is that we do. I don’t think many of us ever pictured ourselves, say at the age of six, imagining a future in the productive, financially rewarding world of graphic design. It’s something we mostly fell into because we liked to draw, and continued doing it because of the praise we received, or we were obsessive enough that we kept on doing it when our peers had given it up for other pre-adolescent pursuits. We leave school and have to become adults, so we look for some way to channel that six year old kid drawing x-wing fighters while lying on their bedroom floor, and suddenly, you’re an adult, dressed in black, drinking lattes and calling yourself a graphic designer.

Part user’s guide, part compilation, part vivid memoir, Two-Dimensional Man is a testament to being your life. If you’re starting out in design, just cruising along, or really in need of a inspirational kick up the backside, I highly recommend you grab a copy.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Paul Sahre is one of my very favourite graphic designers, so when I saw that he was looking for sponsors for a new project through Kickstarter, it was a no-brainer that I was going to contribute.

Saturn V Relaunch” is a photography project and book that will see Paul rebuilding and launching a Saturn V model rocket, some 40 years after his father tried to do the same thing. Paul’s design and 70s era rocketry = awesome in my books.

Paul describes the project as “a shot at dad redemption… in order to introduce two boys (his sons) to the grandfather they will never know”.

Going back to the end of the Apollo space missions on the early 1970s Paul remembers his father – an aerospace engineer – building a Saturn V model rocket. After months of cutting, gluing, sanding and painting, Paul’s father launched the rocket in an open field, only to have the chutes fail, and the model rocket plummet back to earth. Paul remembers this as the first time he ever saw his dad fail – at anything. So when he recently discovered the launch pad in his now late father’s attic he decided to take the experience full circle by trying to launch the rocket again.

In Paul’s words,  “Saturn V Relaunch is a tribute to the days before NASA cutbacks when every kid wanted to be an astronaut in order to explore the unknown, if only in our own backyards And to all of the model rockets that caught fire on the launch pad, exploded mid-air, were lost in a tree or disappeared from sight, never to be seen again.”Saturn V Relaunch sees Paul building another Saturn V model from the same vintage Centuri model kit his father used (he found one on eBay). Upon completion, the rocket will be launched publicly from Sahre’s father’s 40-year-old launchpad. The entire process and the launch, which is planned for the second quarter of 2013, will be documented and self-published as an art/photo book, which Sahre will write and design himself. There is also a plan to produce a short documentary on the Saturn V Relaunch.

The cool part is, every Kickstarter backer gets their name affixed to the exterior of the rocket, which Paul is “envisioning as” a Nascar type situation, with the rocket covered with names”.

For Paul  the project is about more than a model rocket. It is “about a time machine posing as a model rocket”! But it is also about exploring “some basic ideas that we can all relate to: memory, family (specifically fathers), loss, trying again, and what (and how) we pass on to our children”.

So for five bucks you can be a part of this project, and if you’re feeling even more generous, there are various rewards offered at various money donation levels. I’ve found donating to Kickstarter projects to be a very rewarding endeavour in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of this one later in 2013.