April 9, 2014

Profiles in Vigilante Living: Jeff Atkinson of Shaggo Skateboards

Jeff Atkinson_PVLPlace in a blender: a skateboard, 1970s shag carpet, color-saturated Pantone color, and the grit of a former Olympian. Blend until the you’ve created the most Vigilante sports company in recent memory, Shaggo Skateboards, the world’s first shag carpet-embedded deck mini-cruiser. Today in Profiles in Vigilante Living, we feature Jeff Atkinson, whose company Shaggo offers a funky, unconventional take on a traditional skateboard. I personally have not ridden one yet, but I’m tempted to buy one to just hang in my living room — Shaggo boards look like the love child of Eva Hesse and Stacy Peralta. Jeff himself is a Stanford-educated former Olympic runner (Seoul 1988) who grew up surfing and skating as a byproduct of his Manhattan Beach sunny-weather sport upbringing. “Lots of people made a shag board when I was a kid,” he explains. But when Jeff started making carpeted skateboards for his own kids and their friends, people started asking him to make them one. Soon it became evident that the seed of a business lay in this hobby. He tinkered with the design, enlisting several fabricator until the Shaggo could be made with the carpet embedded into the wood deck itself. In fall of 2013 Shaggo launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, and now –boom— the company is alive, kicking, and showing up all over the skate scene.

Skateboarding itself is rebel sport. Remember the iconic bumper sticker “Skateboarding is Not a Crime”? Skateboarding’s eau de parfum is Rebellion. Ever since little kids began shredding in empty pools in backyard suburban houses, it has been a sport of risk takers. But what is supremely Vigilante to me about about Jeff’s invention of Shaggo Skateboards is the whimsical, “go barefoot”, be wacky and happy vibe of Shaggo. This seems to fly in the face of skateboarding’s hardcore persona. Meanwhile, the Shaggo is constructed as a serious piece of sporting equipment with all the elements a skater would look for. Atkinson explains the sensation of riding a Shaggo as very smooth. Shaggo’s “cushy shag treated decks actually reduce vibration and road noise, are plush under foot, and provide an ultra-fluid glide.” I mean, who needs a safety-pinned earlobe? I’d prefer my unconventional rebellion to provide some comfort. And in a loud color. And beckon me to stay barefoot all day.

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Jeff Atkinson Shaggo founder



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Photos via Shaggo.com and Bo Bridges Photography

March 19, 2014

The Quiet Rebellion of Red Socks


The only color of socks I own.

If you want a quiet rebellion in your life, dump out your sock drawer and start over with red socks. I have always admired the unbridled color popping out from the pant cuff of a man’s dark suit. But I never considered that I, a girl, could do the same. For one, in California where I grew up, I led a mostly sockless existence: flip flops, sneakers sans socks, sandals. But now that I’m located in the tundra known as the American Midwest, socks are what go under the boots you wear 6 months out of the year. My red sock life, which began in winter 2012 has probably kept me from heavy drinking. Or at least Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I flagrantly stole the idea of red socks directly from a piece I read about Roo Rogers. Roo is a son of Lord Richard Rogers the lauded English architect of Paris’ Pompidou Center (with Renzo Piano) among many famous buildings (the Llyods of London Building, etc) and grew up in a world of high design, and also minimalism; Roo himself has had an interesting career as an environmental entrepreneur and author, having founded OZOcar, New York’s eco-friendly car service, and is now a member of Yves Behar’s rock star design company fuseproject.

“I only own red socks, which I’ve worn since I was 11 years old. I went to school in England and we had to wear grey socks with my uniform. So I started wearing red socks to rebel (you couldn’t see them underneath my trousers). Now it’s become part of my identity when I meet people.” – Roo Rogers interviewed here  in the Financial Times.

If you’re looking for more red than just on your feet,  another wonderful piece on Roo and his wife Bernie’s New York apartment (New York Times ” When Privacy is Not Quite the Point, Dec 2006″ is a testament to open-space planning and bright color. The apartment’s main architectural feature is it’s long wall of cherry red cabinetry housing the kitchen, the appliances, and hidden shelving. While I admire this space aesthetically for its clarity, I could never live in it. I like tchotchkes too much. But Roo certainly does know how to harness the vitality of color and use it in his life. Very vigilante indeed.


Red sock drawer in effect.


Cashmere, cotton, hosiery. All red.

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The leader in the red sock rebellion, Roo Rogers, picture with his wife Bernie in their Nolita apartment. Photo by Angel Franco.

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The red wall of custom cabinets. Photo by Angel Franco.

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At the bottom of the photograph, red socks. (Courtesy Financial Times)



January 15, 2014

Preppy Edge: A Manifesto – Part 1


It’s January 2014 I’m suffering from hipster fashion fatigue. I am tired of you, hipster. Raise your hand if you’d much prefer a hot date with the late, conservative poster-child William F. Buckley than spend an evening with a skinny-jeans clone on a fixed gear. It would be more original to be with Buckley! More fresh! He’d probably suggest doing more shocking and fun things, and order you one too many a cocktail. Sure, I might have more in common with the hipster, in terms of music and cuisine, but there is something to be said for a little SHOCK VALUE. This brings me to an existential design question: does what’s on the inside have to match what’s on the outside? What if someone who held the interests of a hipster dressed like William F. Buckley? I admire people who don’t wear their political alliances as a costume. Give me contradiction or give me death.

preppy_quoteSo here at Vigilante Living, we’re deeming 2014 The Year of Preppy Edge. How on earth is preppy dressing revolutionary, you might ask? Well, khaki trousers and a button down are a classic way to pass under the radar and spend your core energy doing something original with your life. In essence, you are not screaming “I AM DIFFERENT” as you sashay down the street. You are whispering to others to come closer, listen to your stories, make some mischief, and offer just a sliver of a window into your interior life, which makes everyone realize that you are much more rich and complex than your preppy uniform suggests. It’s about subtlety and the slow reveal.

I find it immensely appealing in both men and women when conservative clothes on the outside sheath avant-garde leanings (whether Left or Right) on the inside. It’s only once you talk to this person that you realize they are a true original, or a weirdo. These are the people who are so comfortable with their originality that they don’t have to wear it on their sleeve. Preppy Edge is irresistible because it defies visual expectation. (Preppy Edge, by the way, is not to be confused with the disastrous, over-used phrase “classic with a twist,”  used of late by influential interior designers and celebrities.) Lord, bring me a severe preppy in plaid pants. But give him a rebellious interior life filled with knowledge of obscure 1960s reggae groups and a penchant for reciting naughty bits from important literature. Or deep knowledge of astrophysics. Edge preppy is preppy on the outside, 100% original on the inside. This is what style in America needs right now. A little more substance, a little more humor, and a little more reserve.


October 22, 2013

Put a Chevron On It & Other Cliches in Illustration

One of the challenges in practicing illustration is steering clear of the cliches that saturate the design world. The ubiquitous trend of the moment appears to be the chevron pattern. First lauded in the pages of the now-defunct Domino Magazine which was laid to rest in 2009, the chevron pattern was used first in chic area rugs and bed linens. Five years later, it’s on everything from blouses to Christmas cards. I am bored to tears by this pattern, as much as I genuinely liked it at first. When you see something everywhere it loses it’s potency. Another such cliche is the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, which also took flight as a trend via Domino Magazine. Now part of the public domain, this World War II era poster is now re-purposed by Paper Source and other trendy stationers on cocktail platters that say “Stay Calm and Eat Latkes.” Jesus! Could this be any more a grotesque distortion of the purpose of these posters — to assuage the fear of Londoners  during the extended arial bombing of their city? WTF Paper Source? Not to point fingers, but I now look to Paper Source if I want to know what to avoid drawing for my clients. Right now, they’re showing a lot of octopus-strewn paper products, owls (a now nauseating trend since 2010 or so), prisms, mason jars, and still (!) the ever-present deer with antlers.

If I am 100% honest, I am guilty of following trends in my own work too. My logo for Vigilante Paper is surrounded by antlers.  (I’ll be changing my logo in 2014.). Similarly, I offer a really fun wedding invitation on my shop that features a prism-esque pattern. Perhaps the most difficult for me, as an illustrator and hand-letterer is the proliferation of “naive lettering” which everyone & their step-brother is attempting — in particular in the manner of the talented Anna Bond of Rifle Paper. I feel bad for Mrs. Bond: she was so original and cool that the establishment has stolen her great ideas. Her calligraphic approach to lettering has snowballed into a naive movement of sorts — especially now at the holidays when you’ll see Happy Holidays printed in gold foil cursive. It’s not easy to stay ahead of the curve. And it’s not easy to drop one of your signature moves (in my case, naive lettering) once it becomes an official trend on the shelves of Paper Source. One must keep inventing new drawings and themes and stylistic forms to stay relevant and not get sucked off the cliff, an illustrator lemming.

One of my goals as an artist is to seek inspiration from within and bring it to paper. And also to crush convention. Why can’t a wedding invitation feature a VW Bus? Why can’t a birthday party invitation just feature a bunch of trees and a hammock? Can a holiday card reference Soviet style from the 1970s? The longer I am in the marketplace as a stationer, the longer I realize that it’s pointless to look at what others are doing. It will flavor your work subconsciously and taint your original ideas. At least this is what is working for me right now. And that is why you will not be finding a chevron pattern on my holiday card this year. But you might indeed find a weird portrait of Yul Brenner. Or a bowl of acorns. Or anything else amusing and out of the depths of my perverse noggin.

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August 7, 2013

40 Days of Dating

40daysofdating01At Vigilante Living we applaud unconventional living, and to that end we have become aware of an exceptionally unconventional online project from two New York City designers called 40 Days of Dating. The project is the concept of Jessica Walsh (the brilliant new parter of Stefan Sagmeister at Sagmeister & Walsh) and Timothy Goodman, an illustrator, art director and designer with his own firm too. Their project is one part sociology experiment, one part performance art, and one part sincere quest for love. The rules of their game are this, excerpted from their own words:

“What do you do when you’re tired of the prospect of dating? Two good friends with opposite relationship problems found themselves single at the same time. As an experiment, they dated for 40 days.”

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On a daily basis, they answer a questionnaire that summarizes there they are in the relationship’s development. From a design standpoint, its an elegant website, where two illustrators hand letter phrases that capture that moment in time — one for Jessica, one for Timothy, each day. Critics might call it a little like a reality TV show, but actually much more substantive. These two hard-working young people have different issues they’re trying to conquer (fear of commitment, and  a constant longing for companionship) and it seems like they might be getting somewhere with this art installation.

Watch the relationship unfold at: http://fortydaysofdating.com/

I just cant help but wonder if this is all a well designed publicity effort for two accomplished young designers… Regardless, I admire their sense of risk-taking. Bravo, young people! Go for broke.


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Portraits by Osvaldo Ponton  & illustrators for lettering credited here.


June 12, 2013

On Philip Johnson, LifeEdited and The Virtue of Tchotchkes


Some of my favorite tchotchkes.

Raise your hand if you love mid-century style, but are suspicious of bare, minimalist interiors. Especially those that are so minimal as to be devoid of tchotchkes. Tchotchke is a Yiddish word for “a decorative knick knack — with an emphasis on its worthlessness.” The fancy sister of a tchotchke is the pompous term objet d’art, or “an article of some artistic value” (i.e. antiques, or a small significant Picasso sculpture or whatever.) Neither of these words, however, capture the importance of the smaller objects in a home that provide it with vitality. Sacred and profane objects, collected over one’s lifetime, provide a visual feast for the eye: a tin box found in Ecuador, a small Finnish vase given to you by your well-traveled Aunt Madeline, little bottles of vodka from the flight to St.Petersburg. These are talismans of a life well-lived and remind you of your experiences and past. They are the detritus from your career moves, momentos from trips with old boyfriends, a stolen ashtray from IHOP, or even a framed rejection letter.


tchotchke_3The Phillip Johnsonesque minimalist house is far too devoid of tchotchkes to be a real person’s house. Surely in the plans for his 1949 Glass House he considered a storage bunker underneath the pristine box? Where else would its inhabitants store all the little bits of life: your child’s trophys, National Geographic subscription, and grandaddy’s matchbox collection? Johnson left no place for tchotchkes in his crystalline architecture. The problem is, Mr. Johnson, that’s just not how an interesting person lives. Graham Hill, the urbanist and serial entrepreneur behind TreeHugger.com and now LifeEdited, approaches modernist living from a similar less-is-more perspective, but adds a layer of “less space is more” ethos to the argument by suggesting that 420 sf is plenty of space to lead a fulfilling life (see Fast Company’s piece about this new eco-architecture movement.) And naturally, his LifeEdited prototype home is entirely devoid of tchotchkes, or the suggestion of comfort, for that matter. I have nothing against living in 420 sf in New York City — one of the most fabulous places to live in terms of public amenities. But can’t I bring in grandma’s little Victorian sofa? And what about my vintage Paris Review collection? Are there even enough shelves? I do indeed have an axe to grind in terms of the LifeEdited’s suggestion that stuff is meaningless. Are you supposed to photograph all your favorite objects, toss them, and show a streaming slideshow of what your formerly tactile life was like? This depresses me the way that ebooks depress me. You can’t smell an ebook like a musty old hardback. And you can’t live in a perfect clean box and expect to be reminded of your past. The visceral is too important to be left behind for the sake of ecology. I hereby challenge LifeEdited to continue to think in small square-footage numbers, but consider a more open-ended prototype that allows the user to be themselves, rather than a minimalist robot. Just because LifeEdited is ecological does not mean the result is humanist. Mr. Graham, if you’d like to collaborate with Vigilante Living, we’d be more than happy to address this architectural conundrum! But maybe we could meet somewhere more comfortable than the LifeEdited apartment.

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Philip Johnson’s 1949 Glass House in Connecticut



Graham Hill’s prototype 420sf New York apartment for his company, Life Edited.

Tchotchke montage photos by Olivia Joffrey/ Life Edited prototype apartment via Lifeedited.com / Philip Johnson’s Glass House photo by Thomas Loof/ Trunk Archive via ArchitecturalDigest.com

May 28, 2013

Literary Jukebox

Literary JukeboxWe are trained from a young age to put things into boxes. There is art and there is science. You are either a modernist or a traditionalist. Vigilante Living believes these arbitrary boxes to be inaccurate ways of organizing ideas, people and art. The brilliant blogger Maria Popova of Brain Pickings understands this and uses her blog to dissemble these boxes in a most refreshing way. Her newest side project, Literary Jukebox, unboxes the worlds of literature and music and groups songs and books in associative pairs. Every day, a quote from a book Popova has appreciated is paired with a song that she feels aligns with it. The song and the quote are often sisterly in nature rather than identical, which makes them all the more interesting. It is a genius concept and I love her for creating this side project. To read more about Maria Popova, see the New York Times feature on her from November 2012. She is a true Vigilante in her thinking: “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why, bringing you things you didn’t know you were interested in — until you are.” This woman’s brain is on fire — for highbrow intellectual pursuits (i.e. Italo Calvino quoted below!) to pop culture references and trashy Americana. Amen, Popova.  Please keep up the wonderful work in box deconstruction.

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May 24, 2013

Tiny Atlas Quarterly in a Big World


Tiny Atlas Quarterly is an online lifestyle travel magazine unlike any other you have seen. The brainchild of photographer Emily Nathan, Tiny Atlas began as the team effort of all the creatives Nathan had worked with during on-location photo shoots and projects over the years — the art directors, stylists, models, tech people — everyone who comes together at a shoot destination. As Nathan describes on Tiny Atlas, “As friends we work for clients and as friends we dine and travel the world together. It is rare that we come together professionally for projects of our own devising.” There are two things that I find unique about Tiny Atlas: the truly exquisite large-format photography (“stunning” is a fitting adjective) and the amount of heavy editing they do in their recommendations for each destination’s best lodging, restaurants and attractions. It’s like your best friend’s curated travel advice on the most original places to see when traveling. Not the Fodor’s version that will take you to places with other tourists watching a band of Peruvian pan flute players — when you’re nowhere near Peru.  If you are not currently suffering from wanderlust right now — Tiny Atlas will surely land you with a major case of the travel bug.












All photographs via Tiny Atlas (Photography by Emily Nathan. Collin Erie and Fiona Conrad.)

May 21, 2013

How to Not Be a Sissy

A Vigilante's Purse

Small rebellions can begin in the most common of places, like your bag. Of course most of us need a wallet to get by in society, and increasingly, a phone. However, the rest of the contents in your purse are entirely up to you. Vigilante Living encourages you to think outside your bag. Put something in there that you find amusing, or reminds you of your childhood, or is just plain old whimsical. Everyone is so busy these days that there is no room left over for a little poetic license or random nonsensical fun. Throw a surprise for yourself in your bag, so that months later you can rediscover it. Only sissys have practical purses. Life is too short. If there is not something ugly, perverse or a little inappropriate in your bag, you are not having enough fun.






May 20, 2013

An Ode to Vintage Packaging


Fine, call me a fuddy-duddy, but I prefer this vintage packaging to almost any contemporary food labeling out there. Listen here, General Mills, Dole and Canned Sloppy Joe producer, if your labels were as attractive as these (circa 1920) I’d buy your unhealthy packaged cuisine just because it would look good in my pantry. I discovered these vintage labels at a local historic Wagner Farm, in their refurbished general store from the turn of the 20th Century. In typical Olivia form, I was more intrigued with the packaging of these old cans than checking out the farm animals and crop displays that my daughter was so enthusiastic about. When you are a typeface junkie, this type of good hit (no pun intended) leaves me wondering why more contemporary brands are not tapping into better packaging and logo design. I love the gold outlines, and the use of saturated color.

Here are some brands that “get it”. They reference history, use good type, and still stay relevant somehow. Cafe Bustelo and Mrs. Meyers soap — these label make me feel like I’m buying something of quality that might actually be good for me, and the label was intended as a little work of art, bespeaking a certain pride in the product. Contemporary mainstream packaging is largely so unsexy in comparison.