Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday Top 5

Designer–Client relationships
From the awesome website Clients From Hell. Sadly, I’ve actually heard some of these things myself. This one, for example, is very similar to a situation I was experiencing quite recently.

Good: Jailbirds
A little data on the prison-industrial complex (link is a fascinating Atlantic article from 1998 by Eric Schlosser).

Sucker Love: Celebrating the naughty tentacle
Amanda Gannon answers the question, “Would you still do Antonio Banderas if he was an octopus from the waist down?” Needless to say, NSFW.

The Known Universe
This is really cool. Travel from Earth to the end of the known universe, in a scale-accurate animation.

Black Metal Cookies
How to bake the most grim and doom-laden of chocolate chip cookies. [via Jason]

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most notable, interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thursday Top 5

Park Street Renovation
Slideshow of a Bernal Hill house that was renovated to modernize and double (!) its square footage. Here are some other Dwell slideshows.

Enor Moose
A story with pictures.

Surprised Kitten!
RFLMAO! [via Jason]

How a Web Design Goes Straight To Hell
This is so true. [via Jessica N.]

Charlie Brown Christmas Performed by the Cast of Scrubs

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most notable, interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Small picture in Alaska Airlines magazine

One of my pictures is featured in this month’s Alaska Airlines Magazine alongside a blurb about Save the Redwood League’s Plant a Redwood Seedling program. It was part of the magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide, in the section about cause-related gifts.

It’s just a tiny picture, but it’s one of my favorites, so I’m glad they chose it. And that they credited me ; )

I often take photos of events for SRL, where my wife works. Most of them are on Flickr, and a 2007 set from Mill Creek, Humboldt County, is where the seedling photo comes from.

Thanks to the SRL folks for letting me know about the magazine, and letting me borrow their copy.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recent project: Poster for Tuolumne River Trust

Peter Drekmeier, Bay Area Program Director of Tuolumne River Trust, sent me the beautiful photo above and asked me a few months ago to design a poster. Peter, who is also Mayor of Palo Alto, is a longtime friend, and I’ve done many design projects for him over the past 15 years.

I did two designs and they liked this one best. I then tweaked photo a bit to bring out some detail in the shadows of the rocks. I had to crop it a bit so I had someplace to put the logo, with enough of the water emphasized in the frame. I wish that one barren treetop wasn’t spearing the typography, but I tried cropping it several other ways and it only worked like this.

The photo is by Ken Mendoza, who has a few gems over at

[View a larger version]

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I’ve been up to (non-list edition)

I mentioned in April that I’d taken on some new contract work, and that was slowing the progress of redesigning In May and June I started applying for full-time gigs again, despite the fact that the new portfolio was only about 80% done.

I had a couple interviews but none that were a spectacular fit, and then the job listings out there in my area seemed to dry up again (they seem to be going in spurts, every three or four months). Fortunately, at that exact same time a bunch of people started asking me to do contract jobs; so many requests that I had to turn several down, in fact.

I am presently working on two small projects and a larger one, all website designs for various companies. Progress is going well, I’m wrapping up the research and strategy phase for all three of them now and getting anxious to start putting pixels down. I’ve been sketching things on paper and assembling lots of moodboards and assets, and I have all kinds of ideas swirling around in my head. So I’m looking forward to hours and hours of Photoshop work in the coming weeks.

I’ll be engaged on these three client projects for the next couple months so unless you’re an existing client who simply needs a quick change to an existing design I’ve done for you in the past, please consider me too booked for new work right now.

I’m hoping to get back to working on my own site again in a couple months but I suspect it won’t be until after we return from Black Rock City in September.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Project: New Ozark Handspun site design

Here’s a peek at one of the design directions I’m considering for the new version of Click the image for a larger version.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Progress report on the portfolio and site redesign

Thought I’d give another sneak-peek at some of what I’ve been spending so much time on for the past couple months.

As my precious regular readers will know, I’m redesigning this site and also updating my portfolio for the first time in about three years. What I may not have mentioned before is how in-depth the update to the portfolio is going to be. I’m doing a more comprehensive update than I’ve ever done (by far), going back 20+ years to my very first professional projects. I’m not posting them all, of course, just going through my entire archive and picking out some things from back then that I’ve never had online before.

It’s quite a task, which is why it’s taking longer than I’d anticipated. Anyway, I thought I’d tease everyone with a few snaps of some of the stuff that’s done. You’ve probably not seen a couple of these before. One of the logos I just did last month.

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Friday, November 14, 2008


I spent much of this week coding and testing a new site for my friend (and client) Diane Choplin.

Diane is a longtime friend whom I met through BAA, where she was the coordinator of the Schools Group for a year or so. These days she directs the documentary photography program at SF’s Academy of Art.

I bought Diane her first domain years ago as a gift, and put up a rather rudimentary gallery featuring some of her photos from her time in the Peace Corps in Niger. We’d both neglected the site ever since, but a few months ago we decided to do something about it.

While I’d been working on the designs here and there for a few months, we had a mad rush to finish this week as Diane was applying for a fellowship and had a deadline. So the site was built entirely in the last week and a half, using Photoshop, Lightroom, SlideShowPro, Soundslides, Dreamweaver, and W3C-compliant XHTML Strict and CSS.

It’s not completely finished. There are always some loose nails to be nailed down (although I’m just happy it validates and works in all the major browsers), Diane didn’t have time to finish some of the galleries yet, we need to tweak some little things in SlideShowPro, there’s a Discussion section to be added later, and the whole thing needs to be converted to Wordpress.

But it was done (enough) for her deadline, and all the pages but one validate. The one that doesn’t contains some poorly generated code from Soundslides, the Flash app she used to make her multimedia slideshow (their fault, not Diane’s), so I’ll have to fix that later.

Let me know what you think of Leave a comment.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Logos designed by Mark Bult, 1986–2008

I think this logo for the Palo Alto Golf Course might have been the first logo I ever designed. At least, it’s the first one that I actually still like enough that I keep it in my portfolio. I still consider it one of my best.

I made it around 1986 or so. I was a teenager still, and had a job working at the City of Palo Alto’s Parks & Recreation Department, making fliers and signs and newsletters.

I’ve created a lot more logos since then. Here’s a sampling of my favorites from the past 20 years or so. Click on “Next” to scroll through them all.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


I am pleased to announce the launch of, the professional website of Olya Milenkaya, graduate student at Virginia Tech.

I've been working on this simple, one-page site for Olya off and on over the past few months while she's been traveling around Eastern Europe. I worked out the last few kinks this week and put it up.

I registered the domain for Olya years ago, at the same time I registered, but we'd never done anything with until now.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I'm proud to announce that my latest client project has gone live.

42West is one of the biggest PR firms in the entertainment industry, with clients including Woody Allen, Uma Thurman, Kate Winslet, Eminem, Sydney Pollack, and Steven Spielberg, not to mention numerous film studios, TV networks, and other companies.

I was contacted a couple months ago by 42West partner Allan Mayer, a founding editor of Buzz magazine, former senior editor of Newsweek, and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. He liked my work and needed a site for 42West, which had been operating for over a year with their new name but still didn't have a presence on the web.

The site features a relatively simple but striking design, playing their logo big and using soft-focus photos of nightlife lighting in the background.

The entire site conforms to web standards. It validates for xHTML 1.0 Strict, and the CSS validates too.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Know your potential client

Doing freelance design for 20 years has enabled me to hone my client selection skills over time.

What does that mean? It means knowing how to spot whether a potential new client will be easy to work with or hard to work with.

When you're starting out as a freelancer you're often living month to month and it seems like you can't possibly turn any paying client away. But trust me, one of the best things I've done in my career is to hone my skills at determining what kind of client each new referral will be. It has saved me a lot of headaches over the years.

Of course, you don't always know if that person is going to be a micromanaging meddler, or a waffling mind-changer, or any of the other 379 types of clients, but with attention and experience you can learn how to get it mostly right most of the time, and pick clients who will both help you pay your bills and not drive you completely insane.

Perusing the stories at made me think of this one time recently, though, that I slipped up and didn't let the signals and flags alert me to the fact that I had an asshat for a client.

About two and a half years ago, I had decided to take the plunge and look for a "real" job with a "real" company and to stop freelancing. I was sending out my résumé to lots of places and going on interviews and all that stuff. I applied for a Senior Designer or Art Director or something position at this interactive design firm in San Francisco that I'd never heard of, but they called me for an interview, and I drove up to meet them.

I'd looked at this company's site and the work was alright, but I wasn't all that impressed. However, it was a potential job. I was living off a couple small contracts and tiny side projects but was spending most of my time looking for full-time employment and working on my woefully outdated portfolio, so money was going to run out in a few months and I figured I'd better go to any interview that came along.

I probably should have been more selective and maybe put more weight into the fact that their site was not that impressive. Their client list was, however, so I decided what the hell.

I met with the CEO and we had a good interview and I thought it was going well. We talked about my online portfolio a bit and then he asked me for the URL again and I spelled it out for him as he typed it on his keyboard. He was using a Mac, I don't remember what model or anything, but I recall he had a rather old Apple large-screen CRT. I didn't think much about this at the time, until he said my site wasn't displaying right and I came around the side of his desk to see what the trouble was.

For starters, he was using System 9. By this time, System 9 was pretty much an antique OS, so I was a little surprised to say the least. The following flashed through my mind: "WTF is this CEO of an international design company doing using System 9?" but I was in the middle of an interview and didn't want to get distracted by what my mind was saying to me. Mistake #1.

Oh, did I mention that he was also using Internet Explorer on System 9? Okay, 'nuff said.

So the interview continues, I show him some of my print stuff and he likes it, but he says he's not quite ready to hire someone, he's got a few candidates he's considering, including me, and he kind of apologetically asks me if I'd do a contract job for him to sort of test the waters. Five hundred bucks or something, to do one design with three page mockups for one of his clients that needs a website redesign.

I thought this was actually a great idea, because I would get to test the waters too. And while I ordinarily would charge somewhere between $3,000 and $30,000 for such a project, he wasn't actually expecting all the research and associated work I'd normally do, just some quick mockups and only a single design. Plus it was a bit of cash, and I wasn't in a position to say no to any cash, no matter how little. Mistake #2.

He was probably having a couple of his other interviewees do the same thing; then he'd have three or four design directions to present to his client, and he'd only have to pay $1,500 or $2,000 to do them. Ordinarily, I'd frown on this sort of thing, but I made a compromise in this case, thinking, hey it might lead to a job. Mistake #3.

It turned out the client was one of the world's biggest manufacturers of Flash memory, but they had a totally non-impressive website considering this status. So I headed home, reviewed their site, and with basically no direction and no assets, I created three really good page designs. I delivered them via email to the design firm, and they really liked them, and told me they'd get back to me in a few days, after their meeting with the client.

I uploaded a tiny screenshot of the homepage mockup to my blog and wrote a brief post about it. I sent my bill to the design firm and went back to sending out résumés and working on my online portfolio.

A week or two later I get this angry email from the design firm's CEO, saying that "somehow" the client had come across my post on my blog, and they were angry and it was unprofessional of me to post it and implying that the client was threatening to sue him and demanding that I take it down right away. And oh, by the way, we haven't gotten your bill yet, can you send that right away? Thanks.

First off, I'm thinking, "They 'somehow' came across it? Have you ever heard of a keyword alert, dumbass? Like Google Alerts?"

Then I'm thinking, what exactly is this company worried about? I put a homepage design on the web. A homepage design. Not a product schematic. Not the plans for a nuclear device. Not their patents for the past ten years.

The homepage mockup contains absolutely no sensitive information. In fact it only contains text that's on their currently live homepage! Plus some improved copy that I wrote. And their logo. And a photo. A photo that I had to get from my collection, you asshats who didn't give me anything to work with.

I reread the email and I realized that he'd mentioned that my post was "insulting as hell," which must've been because I slandered them oh so mightily by describing the client as "the market leader in Flash memory, although you wouldn't believe it from their current website".

Which was, um, true. Their site was really bad. This was a multi-billion dollar international company. And their site barely functioned. Not just ugly. Barely worked.

I imagined the scenario that set this guy off. He's sitting in his office, in front of Internet Explorer running on System 9, and the client calls him up and says, "Who the hell is this designer writing about our company and our website all over the Internet and putting up the mockup you just showed us last Tuesday?!"

And the design firm CEO guy can only say, "Huh? I have no idea what you're talking about! What? Where? On a blog? What blog? How do I get to a blog? Can I see it on my Internet Explorer?"

And he goes and (with some difficulty, I'm guessing — probably by following a link in an email sent by the client, and certainly not by doing a search to find it, or, y'know, actually knowing I had a blog in the first place) finds my post, and reads it, and sees the tiny little mockup there, and fires off this angry email at me because he felt like a complete dope for being embarrassed in front of his client.

Which I can understand. I'd be embarrassed too.

But I mean, c'mon. Let's not overreact here.

A) I put up a tiny mockup. That I designed. For starters, that entire design, with the exception of the client's logo in the corner, is owned by me under U.S. copyright law until I get paid for it, buster. Which you haven't done yet. You are a professional in the graphic design industry, are you not? You do understand copyright law, do you not? Asshat?

B) My post was insulting? As hell? What, by implying that a huge company such as your client should by all accounts have a very professional website and it's surprising that they don't? Well excuse the hell out of me for being honest. I can see how they'd be rightfully ashamed, but insulted? Methinks you need to examine your emotions a little bit more closely, friends.

C) What exactly were you angriest about? That you looked like a fool in front of your client because you'd hired some contractor to do your work for you? Or that you looked like a fool in front of the client when you didn't know that it's pretty common for designers these days to actually have a blog, and *gasp* even discuss their work on their blogs! Or was it that you were embarrassed that you hadn't asked me to sign any sort of nondisclosure agreement or even implied in any way that this homepage mockup design was some ultra-secret project that had to be kept from the world at all costs?

Look pal, I could understand them and you being upset if I'd posted something important, but it's a damn homepage with a couple paragraphs of marketingese on it. Get a grip.

(Mistake #4: Not realizing that a guy who uses Internet Explorer on System 9 is probably a few years out of touch with the way the design community — and in fact, the world — operates these days. It's about transparency, pal. It's about sharing, and community, and writing about what you do.)

Okay, so I took the screenshot down, and I deleted the client's name from the post, but I'd be damned if I was going to censor my own (truthful) post. At that point, job be damned, it was pretty evident that I didn't want to work for this asshat if this was the way he did business.

Luckily, I never had to work with him again. Although it was many months before I finally got my measly $500 out of him.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mark Bult Design master client list

I’ve been in business for 21 years (or more, depending on how you look at it), and I’ve had a lot of clients over those years. I think this list is pretty accurate, but every once in a while I come across some really old file on an archive disk that reminds me of yet another small company I worked with 15 years ago or something.

I’ve been trying to categorize the list, but I’m not sure these categories make the most sense. I may have to revise them soon.

Arts & Entertainment (Art, Design, Film, Photo, Music, & Dance)

African Odyssey
Alice in Chains
AML Rehearsal Studios
Atlantic Records
Big House
Cactus Club
California Concerts
Caroline Records
Columbia Records
Diane Choplin, photographer
The Dandy Warhols
Elektra Records
EMI Records
Enigma Records
Friday Night Films
Funky Junction
Gargoyle Records
Gilbert Zapp’s
Golden Poppy Productions
Graphic Artists Guild
Green Blues
J.D. Wolfe Productions
Island Records
Chris Kinney, photographer
Dave Lepori, photographer
Magellan & Co.
Main Event
Mark Ritch / Mark’s Art
Metal Blade Records
Olya Milenkaya, artist
Monét Music Management
Moneytalk Productions
Multiplex Studios
Niles Hard Rock Station
Noise International/BMG
Dave Oneto, photographer
One Step Beyond
Ossum Possum Records
Brad Owen, photographer
Pop Life Studios
Rebeka Jaqua
Shur-Sound & Sight
Sony Pictures
Studio 47
The Stone
The Omni
Thumper Studios
Tony Alves Photography
Vicious Rumors
Warner Bros. Records
World Peace Music Awards
ZZ Top



Communications & Media


Construction & Manufacturing

GI Concrete Construction
Kilgore Electric
Polyethylene Industries
Recycled Lumber Co.

Consulting & Misc.

Carolyn’s Cooking
Castle Consulting
Cavalli & Cribbs
Fenton Communications
Grass Roots Productions
Laura Stec Innovative Cuisine
Learning by Design
Magellan & Co.
Next Generation
Storefront Political Media

Consumer Goods, Furnishings, & Clothes

Ozark Handspun
Procter & Gamble


Crimson Finch Project
De Anza College
Northwestern University
Palo Alto Adult School
Stanford Centennial
Stickney Flight School


African Odyssey
Anne Frank Center
Bay Area Earth Day
Bay to Breakfast
Black & White Ball
Business Environmental Awards
Deep Green Global Training
Earth Circus Productions
Eastern Front Day on the Dirt
Friday Night Films
Funky Junction
Grass Roots Productions
The Great Halloween Pumpkin Carving Massacre
Green Blues
Howling Halloween
Northern California Masters Games
Palo Alto Centennial
Palo Alto Chili Cook-Off
Peninsula Environmental Forum
Rockin’ Relief for Costa Rica
Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards
Stanford Centennial
The Rodney Open
TGIF Fun Run
Western Front Benefit Showcase
Western Front News Party!
Western Front News Springtime Jam
Wine 101
Wine, Women & Shoes
World Peace Music Awards

Food, Health, Medical, Sports, & Fitness

50-Plus Fitness Association
Align Technology, Inc.
Amstel Light
Bay to Breakfast
Blue Heron Health Center
Carolyn's Cooking
Crest Whitestrips
Decathlon Sports Club
Dr. Claire Dupré
Laura Stec Innovative Cuisine
Lotus Healing Arts Center
Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital
Northern California Masters Games
Peninsula Healing Arts Center
Rodney Open
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
Stanford University (Center for Research in Disease Prevention)
Willam T. Watkins DDS
Women’s Outdoor Network

Government & Political

California Secretary of State
Citizens for Alternative Planning, Yes on Measure R
City of Palo Alto
City of Palo Alto Arts & Culture
City of Palo Alto City Manager’s Office
City of Palo Alto Community Services
City of Palo Alto Golf Course
City of Palo Alto Human Resources
City of Palo Alto Junior Museum
City of Palo Alto Parks & Golf
City of Palo Alto Police Department
City of Palo Alto Public Works & Recycling
City of Palo Alto Recreation, Open Space & Sciences
City of Palo Alto Recycling Program
City of Palo Alto Utilities
City of Palo Alto Utilities, Resource Conservation
City of Palo Alto Volunteer Graffiti Management Program
Measure M: Santa Clara County Open Space Initiative
Micki Schneider for Palo Alto City Council
MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District
Palo Alto Centennial
Peter Drekmeier for Palo Alto City Council
Regional Water Quality Control Plant
Santa Clara County Open Space Initiative
Sara Amir for CA State Assembly
Storefront Political Media

Law & Finance

Bank of America
Hanson Bridgett Marcus Vlahos Rudy LLP
Greater Bay Bank
RSF Social Finance
Seiler & Company, LLP


Animal Welfare Institute
Arastradero Preserve Stewardship Project
Bay Area Action
Bay Area Earth Day
Business Environmental Network & Awards
Committee for Green Foothills
Deep Green Global Training
Earth Circus Productions
Eco Kids
El Bosque Pumalin Foundation
Friends of Huddart & Wunderlich Parks
Green Foothills Foundation
GreenTeam Project
Headwaters Forest Coalition
Headwaters Sanctuary Project
MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District
Peninsula Conservation Center
Peninsula Environmental Forum
People for Land and Nature
Rainforest Action Network
ReThink Paper
San Francisquito Watershed Council
Save the Redwoods League
Sierra Club
Silicon Valley EcoCampus
Sustainable Mountain View
Trees Foundation
YEA! (Youth Environmental Action)

Nonprofit, Misc.

50-Plus Fitness Association
African Odyssey
Amnesty International
Animal Welfare Institute
Anne Frank Center
Bay to Breakfast
Congregation Sherith Israel
Direct Action Network
Ginetta Sagan Fund
Graphic Artists Guild
Housing America
Indians for Collective Action
International Committee for the Eritrean Blind
Marin Center for Peace and Justice
Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing
Neighbors Abroad of Palo Alto
Palo Alto Downtown Marketing Committee
Palo Alto Historical Association
Palo Alto Jaycees
Rudolf Steiner Foundation
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
Stevenson House
UAW Local 2865
Vernal Project
The Virginia Thurston Healing Garden
Women’s Outdoor Network
World Peace Music Awards
YMCA of San Francisco

Publishing & Printing

Broken Eagle Press
The Citizen
Columbia Printing
Fellowship of the Blizzard
Metro Newspapers
In Palo Alto
Prodigy Press
Spring Forward Press
USA Today
Western Front News


Bananas At Large
Best Buy
Blue Angel Compact Discs
Buffalo Trading Co.
CD Warehouse
China Girl
Dal Jeets
Hollywood’s Rock, Inc.
Leather Odyssey
Niles Music Corner
South Bay Music Works
Winterland’s Rock Express

American Greetings Interactive
Gazelle Software
Global Automation
Headmaster Repair Inc.
Medical Communication Systems
PC Tools
Sehda Inc.
Sony Ericsson
Software Xcellence
Spider Technologies
Spybot Search & Destroy
Tamarack Associates
Windows Marketplace
YieldUp International

Travel & Hospitality
Garden Court Hotel
Inn at Union Square

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

2006 clients

Here's a brief list of clients I need to add to my portfolio page soon. I also want to write up case studies for a couple of these, but that's going to take some time.

Mark & Velma
Mark & Velma's Hitchin' Party
website, invitations, assorted collateral
website redesign
website redesign (in progress)
website redesign (in progress)

People for Land and Nature (PLAN)
Santa Clara County Land Conservation Initiative (Measure A)
campaign materials, logo, stationery

Palo Alto Historical Association
map for "Parks of Palo Alto" booklet

Animal Welfare Institute (with Fenton Communications)
brochure (in progress)

Wine, Women & Shoes (with Virginia Thurston Healing Garden)
event invitation, stationery, and assorted collateral

RSF Social Finance
website redsesign
subscription center page design
10th anniversary T-shirt design, web designs

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005


All the news coverage of the G8 meeting (on NPR and the BBC at least, since you won't hear anything about it on the US media) has meant that I've heard an unusual amount lately about African nations that one doesn't normally hear covered that much even on NPR and the Beeb. Within two hours today I heard two pieces on two different shows about Eritrea.

You've probably never heard of Eritrea. Neither had I in 1993 when I met a tall, lanky Eritrean named Teclu Tesfazghi. At that time, almost no one had heard of Eritrea, because it was the world's newest nation, after having just won independence after 30 years of war with Ethiopia.

Tec asked me to donate my design services to help fundraise for the International Committee for the Eritrean Blind (ICEB). Three decades of war had devastated the small North African country's population. Nearly everyone had been touched by the war; tens of thousands had lost limbs, eyes, and so on.

The ICEB was establishing itself in the U.S. through expatriots living and working here. Tec was doing some contract work with the City of Palo Alto, where I had worked until very recently, and he was volunteering to raise money for the ICEB.

I designed and wrote content for a calendar that was to be sold by local volunteers to raise funds to send back to Eritrea, in order to create skills-building programs that would allow the blind to go back to work.

We had almost no photos or other graphical assets for the project, and it's not as if you could go to a stock agency for photos of Eritrea, so I had to be very creative. I also had to do a lot of research on this country, in order to create some interesting text for the calendar. This was a bit of a challenge, since the country was brand new and encyclopedias still had it listed as a province of Ethiopia, if it was mentioned at all. This was, I might add, before the time that the Web made such research a lot easier.

In the years since the project I've followed the small nation's progress with interest, whenever I came across and information on it. While Eritrea's future was very bright in the mid-1990s, war with Ethiopia flared up again and the democratically elected head of Eritrea shifted towards dramatically totalitarian policies.

In one of the NPR pieces I heard today, I learned some new things about Eritrea I had never known, but which shouldn't surprise me. For example, I didn't know that the U.S. had poured money and weapons into the country for years and had maintained a strategic listening post there for use during Cold War spying on the U.S.S.R. and other nations. Terry Gross interviewed author Michela Wrong, whose new book, I Didn't Do It For You, is a history of Eritrea. I should very much like to read this book. I have strategically and un-subtly added it to my Amazon Wish List in case you would like to purchase for me as a belated birthday gift ;)

There are precious few books about Eritrea, but another one I enjoyed quite a bit was To Asmara by Thomas Keneally, who is most well known for having written Schindler's List (the book which the movie was based on). To Asmara is a novelized version Keneally's own travels in the land during the last years of the revolution that set Eritrea free from Ethiopia, and it was a very good book indeed.

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