In the shared creative office space where I work, there is an old freight elevator in the middle of the room. It is surrounded by 30-foot peaked ceilings, raw ceiling beams, a view into an inner-courtyard typical of Copenhagen buildings, and all the stark and minimalistic Danish interior decorating trappings such as black and white lights, decor and social areas.

Nothing remarkable here...
Nothing remarkable here…

The elevator isn’t used more than once in a blue moon to haul something heavy up to the top floor – I don’t think anybody really notices it. But when I enter the light-filled room and near the elevator door on the the way to my desk each day I’m presented with this small sign, which for a second causes me pause.

You see the small sign for a secret shortcut...
I believe I’ve found a very special shortcut…

In Danish, it’s nothing special – a “goods elevator”. But in Danglish, a special blend of Danish and English which I use to navigate my multi-culti existence, this is GOD’S ELEVATOR. The full Danglish translation might read:

God’s Elevator
500 kg Gods
Only 1 person may accompany

Gather round all you sinners, all you thieves – I’m starting a new side business selling tickets to heaven. More details to follow once I figure out the logistics. But if I institute a price point that one might expect on such a service, I should be able to retire early.

Update from the Bureau Abroad Part 2

Scandinavian Airlines: the most prompt airline in all of Europe. Yep, that's their tagline.

It’s been 9 months since I moved the Bureau abroad to Copenhagen, Denmark – and therefore high time for a gestational update on this fledgling experiment. If you’re curious what the first 3 months were like, read here.

The last several months since my last update have brought many projects from the USA (Substance, Design by Rook, Jelly Helm Studio, Xplane, Umpqua Bank, Favery, Alaska Seafood, Pop Art and Glider), and experience working on Danish brands while contracting as a freelancer at Bessermachen (Body Nordic, Anne Black, Join Beauty, Chocolates with Attitude, FOG and Grønne Gaarden).

In terms of breaking into professional circles, the Danish business demeanor might be stone cold resistance akin to a marble sculpture of Thor, but I have resolved to BREAK IT OR DIE TRYING. It might just take a bit longer than expected.

On a personal note, I have only met some of the requirements of “looking and acting like a Dane”. Otherwise, here is a top 5 list of professional to-dos I have crossed off my list:

1. Leased a desk at a shared office space with a group of 10 Danish illustrators and authors at “tegnestuen”: CHECK.
2. Attended Likemind, Pecha Kucha, Tegne Aften @ Monster Times, and Twedagsbar for the unveiling of Yelp in Denmark: CHECK.
3. Went to even more art museums in Copenhagen, Paris and Barcelona: CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK annnnnd CHECK.
4. Started a series of get togethers for creatives I know to make things and collaborate: CHECK.

And then…
5. Landed my first direct Danish freelance project for the coffee company Café Noir: CHECK!

In my efforts to understand how the design scene works in Denmark I have also met with countless designers, expats and creatives, all of which have been very helpful in adding depth to my point of view. One of the main conclusions from these discussions is that Denmark is a very, very small market. Aside from the cultural aspect of learning how Danes work, it makes more sense to focus on new business internationally rather than on a country the size of the state of Maine. However, I’d still love to collaborate in-person with some Nordic folks, so am slowly but surely sticking to my plan of infiltration.

Nine months in and I feel like I have my feet on the ground. Now it’s time to start a-hiking. I’m curious and excited what 2013 may bring – stay tuned and I will keep you updated on my adventures, big and small.

Unicorn of the Unknown

An unknown artist created this tableau, printed on the front of a tiny 3″x4.5″ envelope found in a thrift store in Central Denmark.

It reminds me of one of my favorite card games, Dixit, where players are required to verbally interpret fantastical illustrations. Interpret too literally, and you lose; interpret too abstractly, and you lose. Interpret just right and the result is perhaps a whole new meaning to a unicorn prancing in a field of flowers towards a vine-wrapped tree and fair maiden while a castle and moon look on and jester fairies fly about.

One fun part of Dixit is that it plays off of the players knowledge of each other, and how they interpret things. Sitting in a group of good friends, I might describe this card as “I wish this were my ride to work.”

I wish this were my ride to work.

Four Things

Here are four things I found while thrifting on Fyn, one of Denmark’s many many islands. The shop I stopped by was sadly closing by the month’s end since some new construction in town had decreased foot traffic. Ah well, captured here for internet eternity…

Techno Zoo, where cats always look surprised.
Everything looks more charming with strange characters and foreign spellings.
Looks like Pippi needs some Ritalin.

Three Things

Going to thrift, antique, second-hand and used-stuff-for sale stores has long been a fascination of mine. Not only are all of wares ridiculously inexpensive (if you know which locales to visit), they all have hidden histories and a varnish that beckons a fantasy-filled story to be told about them. These are my three latest finds, bought for just a few coins.

My super cool and overly-awarded tough long lost grand uncle. Hand me the spinach and mustache styling wax, I wish to follow in Onkel Oluf's footsteps!
Perhaps this is what made Onkel Oluf the type of man that could win 6 medals: Dixie Navy Cut - MILD yet STRONG. Just like Oluf.
A little envelope that urges "In the future, I will watch less television." I agree. They probably didn't have television in Onkel Oluf's day anyways.

Update from the Bureau Abroad

Scandinavian Airlines: the most prompt airline in all of Europe. Yep, that's their tagline.

It’s been 3 months since I took a leap and moved the Bureau abroad to Copenhagen, Denmark. Since then, I’ve worked on projects with US clients in Portland and New York, launched a Kickstarter campaign, and spent countless hours getting the Bureau up to speed in a new country, which includes but is not limited to:

1. Accountant to explain the Danish Tax Burden to me: check.
2. Danish Design Association networking events up the wazoo: check.
3. Sharing office space with the kind folks at Wemind: check.
4. Going to lots of museums: check, check, check.

And then…
5. My first Danish design gig: check!!!

This is the first big payoff after quite a bit of nose-to-the-grindstone time. I will be working with a small local design studio called Bessermachen to help design a series of chocolate packaging. Plus, I get a meal ticket for their lunch plan where steaming hot lunch is served promptly at noon every day. If this isn’t a dream gig, I don’t know what is. Last year Brandhouse & Bessermachen’s “Chocolates with Attitude” make a big splash on the packaging design circuit, so this year will be a good challenge to help Creative Director Kristin Brandt make the 3rd edition just as great.

Bessermachen focuses solely on packaging design, which is one of my true design loves (in addition to designing for books, food and travel). Plus, Bessermachen pretty much means “make it better” in German – I think this is what you call kismet?

Bessermachen's "Chocolate with Attitude" series from last year - pin up girl tins each with their own flavor of custom made chocolate. Sign me up for taste testing!

Rent My Spot in a Shared Studio Space

Want to fill in my seat while I’m away on European adventures? My desk is for rent as part of a 4-person shared studio space in downtown Portland, Oregon. Located in Chinatown, enjoy 3rd floor views of the city, giant windows, a building full of talent and a vintage globe for planning your own adventures. Interested? Contact Darin at for more details.

Shared studio space!
This could be your new "thinking chair".
The view is better in the summertime, I promise.

Eli, No! Lucy, Yeearrrchhh!

Earlier in the year I had the pleasure of meeting some new designer acquaintances who were on a travel adventure across the USA. When Nathan Strandberg and Katie Kirk of Eight Hour Day made a stop in Portland, we bonded over our chocolate labs on a rainy day spent walking the dogs at Thousand Acres on the Sandy River Delta.

Eli: no mischief here, no sir, not at all.

While the Northwest weather may have driven Nathan and Katie on to their next destination with haste, their pup Eli and my pup Lucy didn’t seem to mind the rain, mud and driving wind that makes Portland fall something special. Those labs seem to have an unwavering love for life that shines thru so clear that it makes it easy to put up with some of their eccentricities.

Lucy the chocolate lab with her squeaky newspaper toy.
Lucy: the face that could trick you into just about anything.

So when Katie wrote and illustrated the book Eli, No! about her faithful companion’s shenanigans, it all felt very familiar. If I had to write a book about my dog pal, it would be titled LUCY, YEEARRRCHHHH! because that is the pterodactyl noise that I make when she is doing something inappropriate. It’s not the most endearing sound to come from a human, which is why you probably won’t be seeing a sequel from my neck of the woods anytime soon. Instead, I’ll just use Katie’s book to relive Lucy’s less glorious moments.

Katie loves her dog, so she wrote a book about him.
Continue reading “Eli, No! Lucy, Yeearrrchhh!”