Tonight at the Art Directors Club in New York they had a ceremony honoring a group of people they call GrandMasters: “four distinguished educators who have inspired generations of creatives and whose legacies are a far-reaching network of industry leaders and professionals…” One of those people was Hank Richardson, president of a little school called the Portfolio Center that I attended for two steamy years in Atlanta.
This amazing photo of Hank and I was taken by my very good friend Liz Danzico but until I just did a search for Hank on Flickr, I had never seen it before. It’s of Christopher Simmons, Mick Hodgson, Hank and me walking over the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh on the way to the Andy Warhol Museum during an AIGA retreat (in…2005? OMG). Anyway, it could not be more fitting: Those are just two of the dozens of people who I have now become close friends and collaborators with thanks to Hank’s many, many generous (and always on-point!) introductions over the years.
For the ADC show, a few PC grads were asked to send along something that we’d worked on in our professional careers. Of course I sent “Real World Studio,” a story I wrote for GOOD about John Bielenberg’s Project M (yet another Hank connection) but also to honor the way that Hank always taught us to infuse our work with purpose and meaning (way before social responsibility was cool). But I also wanted to send something that honored, well, Hank. So, I sent the ADC a poem I wrote. And here it is:
He wears the designers’ uniform, lest you forget
A black t-shirt, black turtleneck, beneath a black jacket
Accented by his mustache, a clipped strip of snow white,
Offset by Pantone 1767 cheeks, eternally bright
Holding court at our school in Atlanta
(Which according to him was called “Port-foll-ya Cen-ta”)
Hank was the president but also head cheerleader
We pushed X-Actos and pixels, he pushed us further
Cowboys or Hotrods, we each knew our places
There were chairs to be made, or posters of typefaces
Ethos and rigor were drilled into our brains
We were simply too busy to find time to complain
James Victore! Sally Hogshead! Stefan Sagmeister!
These were the names we were expected to master
But these stars, they all seemed to drop by each week
Hank had a Rolodex one-million names deep
Does the man sleep? It is difficult to tell
His 5am class is subtitled “Introduction to Hell”
If you live in LA, you might also experience
4am phone calls when he forgets the time difference
Hank Richardson is a teacher, a Grandmaster of flash
An AIGA Fellow, a designer with panache
A trusted friend, a conspirator sweet,
Our Sturdy Magnolia of Bennett Street
But to me, he will always be just plain old Hank
And for my career, it’s he I can thank.