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Brian Singer talks about the 1000 journals project

Brian Singer sent 1000 blank journals out into the world, starting with 100 journals he placed around San Francisco.The rest he sent overseas and around the U.S. after people requested them by email. People have added drawings, collages, and writing to the journals, and they have passed the journals on to others who have added more photos, diary entries and thoughts.The San Francisco graphic designer, also known as Someguy, aims to encourage creativity with the 1000 Journals Project. People notify Brian Singer about where the journals have ended up, and send him scans of journal pages to post on his website.To see some of the pages of the journals, and to learn more, visit www.1000journals.com. I asked Brian Singer about some of his favorite books.

READERSVOICE.COM: Can you recommend five books that you’ve really enjoyed, whether fiction or non-fiction, and say a bit about why you liked them?
BRIAN SINGER: The Tipping Point. Malcom Gladwell; Blink. Malcom Gladwell – Both of these books provide insight into human behavior, which I find very compelling. Why the Pepsi taste test worked, and why New Coke failed. How crime was reduced on the New York Subway, and why Hush Puppies made a comeback. Very, very interesting, and highly recommended.

Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist – My hero. This was the first design book that I read cover to cover, and I’ll read it again soon. It’s not how Good you are, It’s how Good you want to be.

Paul Arden – Inspirational and enlightening. Paul makes very simple, and common sense points, but in a compelling way.

Anything by Chris Ware – This guy rocks, his story-telling, illustration and typographic skills are amazing.

Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss. – It’s funny how most lessons learned in children’s books are still relevant as adults.

RV: You recently moved in San Francisco; where did you move to and from, and why?

BS: I moved here about five years ago, before starting the project. It seemed silly to live so close to SF, and never actually experience living here (I was about 1 hour South, in Cupertino).
The graphic design profession is very strong here, so it also made sense from a career standpoint. I started in Cole Valley, which was great.

After 1.5 years, I moved to Potrero Hill (Dogpatch), into a loft (always wanted to live in a loft). Now, I live in an apartment in Western Addition.

RV: What’s your daily routine?

BS: Well, it used to be much more interesting, but I’ve been working on a project for Apple, so my routine consists of walking to my car (which is usually parked somewhere within a 4-block radius from my apartment), driving down 280, and sitting at a desk.

RV: Can you remember exactly when and how you came up with the idea for the 1000 Journals Project?

BS: The day was June 17th, 2000. I remember because I wrote it down when I got home. I was walking up 8th street, towards Market, when the light bulb went off. The idea evolved from my interest in bathroom wall writing.

RV: Could you give a bit of a summary of what the project is aimed at and how you started it?

BS: It’s funny, people always ask what the aim of the project was… what was I trying to discover, to prove… I wish I had a better answer than I do, which is, I just wanted to see what would happen. It’s a fascinating thing to watch evolve.
Granted, after starting the project, I developed a sense of what was happening, what it meant to people.. and found purpose in the way the project was inspiring people to pick up their paints… to begin writing again… to explore their creativity. That’s what it’s really about now, but at the beginning, I had no idea it would become a source of inspiration.
It started with buying 100 journals, designing covers, running tests to see how to attach the covers to the journals, writing instructions and copyright, consulting a lawyer, re-writing the instructions and copyright, building a web site, pasting instructions into the journals, and then finally, beginning to distribute them.

RV: How does it relate to your interest in surrealism and bathroom screeds? (Is it related to the “exquisite corpse” idea, where people wrote words or phrases, randomly selected them, put them together and saw what sentences resulted?)

BS: It’s a combination of the exquisite corpse, bathroom wall writing, and a message in a bottle. I’m intrigued by what people write when no one is looking. I’m intrigued by what happens when multiple people contribute to a project, without knowing what the next person will do. And there’s something romantic about a message in a bottle… Combine them all, and there you have it.

RV: What do you think has been the major appeal to people of the project, judging from the entries you’ve read?

BS: I think it’s a couple things. One is the inherent level of creativity inside all of us… and rediscovering it. Another is the desire to be a part of something larger than any individual could create on their own.
People also want their voice to be heard (look at the popularity of blogs).

RV: What are some of the locations the journals have ended up in?

BS: One ended up hidden in a giant turtle statue, in St. Louis.
Another was left in a cave that hikers frequent.
One was left in a hotel, to be discovered by an employee four months later in the lost and found.

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