The Driftless Area is geological region at the intersection of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It’s distinctive and beautiful—an area untouched by the glaciers that leveled much up the upper-midwest.
If you’ve spent much time in the driftless region of Iowa, you’ll know how different it feels from the rest of the state. It’s Iowa, but it doesn’t feel fair to just call it Iowa, because it’s not…uhh…flat enough. Over the last few decades it seems like Driftless has started to emerge as a regional identity. It’s a beautifully evocative name and I think it’s wonderful. The only shortcoming is it’s lack of descriptiveness, which has probably slowed up it’s adoption.
I’m really interested in the way regional identity works, and this case is especially interesting because it is an interstate region. There are both political and cultural obstacles to making an interstate region feel like a ‘real thing’ so I’ll be interested to see how the Driftless identity continues to change.
This is a little logo illustration that I think captures the misty draws and rolling hills of the region.
The Saturn V rocket: the flaming chariot that carried humanity to the moon. I like space things. It’s a cliche at this point.
An interesting side note on this one: it’s not lost on me that this design mirrors the style of the Soviet Futuristists (it’s very easy to imagine the ‘USA’ swapped out for a ‘CCCP’). I don’t admire much about the Soviet Union, but Soviet artists and architects created a lot of interesting, beautiful work. Soviet illustrators pioneered the bold, chunky look that is a staple of modern design.
Also, I happen to love red. I won’t let a fallen authoritarian regime dissuade me from reveling in it.
An illustration of my favorite stapler. It staples…it tacks…it pins!
The tagline is swiped from an old Swingline ad. Imagine a world today where a company advertised staplers.
The good ole days weren’t as good as some people think, but when it comes to office gadgets, stuff made in the 50’s and 60’s can’t be beat. The focal point for innovation and quality in that era was on mechanical devices. Today that focus is entirely on digital tech (which is a amazing and world changing), but a byproduct of that emphasis is a lot of goods that used to be differentiated have become commoditized. People used to care a bit more about what type of stapler they used. Now we just want something that staples cheaply, which is very sane.
Stapler quality has suffered as a result of the race to the bottom, which isn’t really that big of a loss, but it is interesting to think about the ways markets force change. There’s no reason for a company to invest in making a top-of-the-line stapler anymore, which means the best staplers in human history have probably already been built, and you can by them for 75 cents in a thrift store.
Elkader has a surprising relationship with the country of Algeria. The town is named after an Algerian named Emir Abdelkader who was born in 1808 who led the Algerian resistance to the French colonial forces and famously saved the lives of hundreds of minority Christians. He is something of an icon of interfaith cooperation and brotherhood.
Because of that connection, Elkader is a sister city to Mascara, Algeria, the hometown of Abdelkader. This festival was put on by ‘On the footsteps of the Emir’ (Sur les Traces de L’emir) and ‘Elkader International Connections’. This year’s attendees included most prominently Abdelmalek Sahraouri, an Algerian businessman and politician. I don’t have a good grasp of Algerian politics, but as far as I can tell, he was recently elected as the pro-buisness candidate to be the deputy for Mascara in the Algerian parliament. He seems to be one of the wealthier, more influential people in the country, and I find it interesting how dedicated he has been to building a relationship with Elkader.
Originally there were going to be more high profile attendees, but the date of the event had to be changed last minute, due to visa issues. The Algerian ambassador, for instance, had to attend the UN General Assembly, which seems like a reasonable excuse.
I helped with some graphic design for the project, and even helped shoot video, because the Algerians couldn’t get a visa for their cameraman. The video is online here.