Photo dispatches from an American in Italia—a MXoN 2021 intro

Jarred Elrod in his garage with a 1988 Honda XL350 in Italy.

from my garage to yours

Hi everyone 👋 —I recently got the opportunity to snap some photos and do a little writing for VurbMoto as a spectator at this year’s MXoN in Mantua, Italy. I’ve been following VurbMoto for a while. When their team Puerto Rico effort sadly fell though I decided to reach out to see if they wanted to share my images from the event on their site—I explained that I’m in Italy already and am taking my cameras. I got a super nice response back from Brent at VurbMoto shortly after and we were off to the races! My goal for the photos I captured were to be less about race results and more about documenting fan experiences during this unique time—particularly with global events like MXoN.

In planning to do this, I also wanted to share a bit more about my family history with motorsports and talk a little about how my experiences around racebikes and racecars as a child got me interested in design and typography—kind of an intro companion to the event post, if you will. If you ever had me as a teacher you probably heard this story more than once—and I’m sorry about that 😀. This is something I’ve been meaning to get in writing for a few years now and it feels good to finally make it happen. Let’s get into it.

I grew up in rural West Texas on motorcycles and bikes—I got my first BMX at the age of two and my first motorcycle, a PW50 at four. It broke my heart to leave my 2016 XR 650L in storage for our journey to Italy, but as fate would have it I found this amazing 1988 XL350 (⬆️ top photo) at a great local shop called Albatros Moto . I love how short and light the 350 is compared to my 650, but I do miss that push button start!

Photography has always been a big part of what I do as a designer. When I found out MXoN was going to be in Italy this year I knew I wanted to go photograph the experience. I’m bummed the U.S. didn’t field a team, but I’m still really excited I got to go. Since being in Europe, I’ve learned a lot more about the MXGP scene and I really wanted to experience one in-person. Italy had a great team this year for their home race and I wanted to capture the environment with my camera—it was a really neat experience to see them win by one point. With Tony Cairoli retiring after an amazing career, this was a very special moment to see in-person.

Todd Elrod racing motocross in the late 70s and 80s

my history: a family of racers

The images above ⬆️ are my uncle Todd Elrod racing in West Texas in the late 70s and early 80s. He raced through the mid 80s and was always known as one of the fastest guys in the region (he’s still fast on the trail). Looking back at the few photos we have I thought it was interesting he was riding Maico and KTM in an era where Japanese bikes (like the YZ490 he’s riding in the upper right image) were super popular. I asked Todd about this and he told me it was because his dad / mechanic (AKA “papa”) got a kick out of beating people on equipment nobody else wanted to use. This attitude was something I experienced first-hand and adopted later when I was racing go-karts and midgets. I loved it and it always kept things spicy at the track when it came to “altercations” in the pits.

Jarred Elrod as a small child with vintage dirtbikes

all the graphics & colors

I was born in 1985 as my Uncle’s moto career was winding down. Some of my first memories were of his motorcycles and gear. He had a pair of Sinisalo pants with a patch that said “Elrod” stitched in a giant arch across the ass. I thought that was the most amazing thing in the world. I was pretty much obsessed with it all—hell, I still am—especially the stuff from the 80s. The Maico jersey above ⬆️ is a piece I’ve hung onto since I was a kid, but need to send back to my Uncle. It’s an amazing piece of family history. I wish they still made gear that looks like this. That said, it’s super-heavy cotton and maybe some polyester—I’m sure it must have felt like riding in a soaked sweatshirt after a few laps. My stuff now isn’t the best looking, but I imagine it breaths better, at least. That’s Papa ⤴️ with my sister and I on the CR and KX when I was a baby. I’m told I was Mr. Tough Stuff trying to twist the throttle until they fired up the motorcycles, then I was afraid to get close, lol.

Kawasaki riders Ron Lechien and Jeff Ward ↖️ were my favorite growing up because I loved the green Kawasakis and their amazing sense of style. I’m positive being around this stuff (logos, numbers, bright colors, etc…) from a young age sparked my interest in Graphic Design. My dreams were realized in the upper right image when my parents borrowed this amazing Kawi gear from somewhere for me to wear on Halloween. Sadly, it wasn’t permanent and I was back to just jeans and my Fox Pawtectors a few days later.

Elrods Racing Cars

four wheels & a steering wheel, please

While I always rode motorcycles growing up, I went the four-wheel route when it came to racing like my papa and dad did (above left and middle ). I was just naturally better with a steering wheel in my hands—I’ve never been a great rider, but I was always fast in car. That’s me driving the #37, 600CC micro-sprint around 2006 in Oklahoma City above right ↗️. I was just starting my design career at the time and cut my teeth painting and creating the vinyl for our cars—probably no surprise I chose to use Kawi colors here against the advice of my Papa, citing green as unlucky in racing. We were really fast, but blew up several Kawi motors that year, so I guess he was probably right. I went orange, cream, and black for the next year.

the experience of riding in Italy

Riding on the streets around here is an interesting experience for sure. Your head definitely has to be on an extra-oiled swivel at all times, but the curvy roads and general lack of traffic police make cruising the mountain backroads an amazing experience. I also like how it’s easier to see from the motorcycle and squeeze through tight spaces than it is in our car. There are no shortage of trails and rocky river beds for enduro riding, although I will say it’s tough to tell which trails are moto-OK and NOT OK (definitely been screamed at in Italian a few times). I’m meeting locals that are teaching me where the good spots are, but I still have so much to learn. Because of this, I spend a most of my two-wheel fun time on my mountain bike. It might be tough moving back to anywhere flat after this! That’s probably enough for now, but I’m building a version of the post that went to VurbMoto here that has more photos. Say tuned!

📸 + ✍️ + 🌃

Three days in Amsterdam

Jarred and Amanda Bike through Amsterdam

two wheels, yeah.

Getting a feel for biking the city—we stuck out like a pair of sore thumbs on the yellow tourists rentals, but they got the job done 🤓


We moved around the city with ease on foot and by bike and were told we were very lucky to have a weekend of sunny, warm weather. There was an exhibition with a collection of Banksy pieces at the Moco Museum, but I will note on what I think is Banksy’s website it lists the show as un-authorized. Who knows, but I suspect it’s true looking at how cohesive the “Inside” work is on the Artist site. This show did not feel like that at all (curation was odd/piecemeal), but it was neat to see, none-the-less.

in celebration of creative tools…

Aside from books, I bought one item that makes me happy—a new camera strap for my “journal cam” (the LUMIX). I have an old guitar strap on my twin lens and I wanted to give it a companion. I found this loud-ass strap in a sweater store. I’m sure it’s meant for a purse or something, but I dig it for this camera. Just looking at the camera now makes me want to take more photographs—I think there’s really something to this strap thing as it relates to creative production 🤷‍♂️.

Books from Amsterdam

💵 💵 💵 📚:

A-hem, speaking of books—we bought a few, but could have literally spent thousands of dollars buying more. We both only had carry-on luggage, thankfully.

bike pollution you say?

We heard the term “bike pollution” more than once while we walked the city. I’d say yeah, it’s a real thing. While it’s great not to have to deal with car traffic (and all that goes along with that), we did notice many of the bikes seemed neglected. The straight up “Granny Bike” riding style was also new for us—they make it work, though. Just make sure to get the hell out of the way. I didn’t expect the real need to have my head on a swivel so much as a walking pedestrian, but it was a must. I actually found riding the bike easier and safer than walking overall. You’ll notice some great metal typography on the bridge in the photo above. I photographed a ton of type with my phone and have been posting in over on @relentless_transient.

built & natural environment vibes—people in all the spaces:

The public park and architecture / museum culture was easy to fall into without any worry about fitting in as tourists. We avoided the red light district so I can’t speak much on that, but I can say we certainly noticed remnants of night activities I’m thankful we were not a part of. Bring on the book stores, please.

Mendo Books

like trying to sip from a firehose of knowledge for three days:

As I said before, we spent most of our time walking, eating, biking, and visiting book stores. There were honestly just too many options. I only photographed my favorite two we actually spent time in, but there were more small shops we just didn’t have time to see. Mendo and Athenaeum (photographed above) were lovely and run by people that were equally as lovely.

lasting impressions / ruminations

I’m working (and struggling) with an academic writing project right now. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish it on deadline, but I’ve become ok with that. A really neat thing happened that helped, though. While in MENDO, I picked up a handbook called “The Impossibility of Silence: Writing for Designers, Artists, & Photographers” by Ian Lynam. I finished the book in just two sittings and found it very helpful for a guy (me) that really just sucks at doing academia. Another part of the book that resonated with me is that the author moved to Japan and went through the uncomfortable, but amazing experience of moving to another country to live, hustle to find work, and learn the language in real-time. He’s still there, he makes stuff, he teaches at institutions in multiple countries , he writes, he’s just doing his thing and I really admire that. I love to make, write, and teach, but there is a block when it comes to academic writing I have never been able to fully overcome. I’m aware it’s rooted in some really old imposter syndrome…stuff that goes deep about where I’m from (physically and metaphorically). Anyway, I read the book and am banging away on this project one little piece at a time (all the while using tools and techniques from the book). I looked up Ian online and saw that he has an Instagram account—so I followed him and sent a quick thank you message for putting out the book. He messaged me back a few hours later with a very kind note—I have to say it felt great to make that human connection after reading the text. The neat thing about it was the tone of the massage matched the tone of the book. I find that very comforting and something I strive to do in my writing. I suspect he is a very good teacher.

Honestly, having access to so many hubs of creativity was hard for me to digest at first. I’ve been spending most of my days pretty isolated (happily) in a small town in Italy. We have one small book store, which only sells books in Italian—hey, I’m learning, but not ready for novels yet! I have been reading/collecting Motorcross Magazine, though. It’s an excellent publication that is designed really well. It smells like offset litho ink, too, which makes me happy. The magazine, along with a cocktail of more lessons, duolingo, and making a fool of myself in public have yielded sizeable gains in comprehension and reading / writing, and mediocre (at best) gains in conversational Italian—I digress… Back to Amsterdam…honestly I felt threatened creatively when we started going into the bookstores and museums. I’ve been out of the in-person game for a while now (haven’t we all, though). Being plucked from the countryside and thrown into an environment dripping with creativity (for lack of a better term) made me feel more anxiety than inspiration / curiosity at first. Then I started using my camera and photographing type in the environment with my phone—making. I think the photo-documentation was my own form of acceptance of my place in that large, new space. It sounds stupid, but when I bought that strap for my camera (photographed above) I think it was a real turning point from feeling like a phony to just accepting and thus, being able to enjoy the city. I can’t speak for any of the gratuitous weed smoking or red light stuff. In fact, we made it a point to avoid those specific areas at all costs in the evening. I will say the smell of weed permeates the city—most of it smells really good.

I was put off by the amount of garbage we saw on the ground and in the canals (despite dedicated + methodical efforts by city employees we observed every day). I’d think the locals would hate seeing garbage in their canals like that 🤔. We read some about the city’s approach to legalizing prostitution and weed. This is not the space for that convo, but like many other things, it’s not all good and it’s certainly not all bad, either. Somewhere in the middle—seems like a novel concept these days in terms of politics. I hope we get to go back soon for another visit. Hope you enjoy the photos ✌️.

recent travels—Ortisei + Barga

⬆️ Taking in the spectacular views near Seceda after taking a cable car up from Ortisei

⬆️ Exploring Tuscany in and around the city of Barga

⬆️ Playing around with an app called ImgPlay that makes gifs or videos super easily on the phone. Normally I prefer to have more control by making my own in Photoshop, but this app works really well.

good problems—too much to post…

I haven’t been posting a ton on the journal as of late because we have been busy traveling—and—I’ve been wasting too much time on instagram. I’ve been playing with the idea of two accounts now, lol. One for more personal and designy / making stuff (@jarrederraj) and one just for type and textures I capture with my phone (@relentless_transient ). As I mentioned in a previous post, I had gone in and cleared over 7 years worth of stuff from my IG account. I was considering just getting rid of it all together—I still hate that facebook owns the platform. That said, I have moved into a mode of acceptance that there is a time and content price we all pay to share on these platforms if you want to connect with people—and nobody cares because they aren’t thinking about you the way you might think they are. I like to share stuff I make, it’s just who I am. So, for now I share.

In going back to my phone archive and reviewing the library of stuff I had collected from so many places I… 1) wanted to get it all in one place so I could make sure it didn’t get lost and… 2) wanted to share it with anyone who might be interested. It felt stupid to just have all of these images saved in a few different places on my phone for no one else to see. I decided to use the handle @relentless_transient as a nod to my first website from way back in the day. I feel the name is still fitting for my ridiculous all in or nothing attitude when it comes to sharing on social media. I suppose it doesn’t really matter who’s looking at it, but it feels good to know the images are there. The photos above were shot with my Panasonic LUMIX—I really enjoy shooting full manual raw with this camera. It’s easy to carry and I’m happy with the output. It’s hard to take a bad photo in places like this, but I did my best to capture the feeling of massive space and time you get when experiencing with your eyes. There’s definitely something special about the Tuscany region here in Italy. The light in the hills is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s also observed in the Prosecco Hills closer to us here in Polcenigo. The images of the Dolomiti further North speak for themselves—absolutely spectacular bordering on unbelievable to experience in person. Feeling very thankful for the opportunity to see and photograph these places. These photos are best viewed on a large screen (prob sacrificing a few seconds of load time, but oh well). Ciao everyone.

🚶‍♂️ + 📸 + ⛰ + 🇮🇹

08.04.21—35mm film

Minolta SRT 201

negative scanning discipline and frame edges…

Sigh…scanning / editing negatives takes serious time! I’m working to view the process as a discipline that is practiced as a form of reflection on the experiences had while shooting. It’s hard to even compare the process of acquiring film, loading, shooting, processing (by yourself or by a shop), and scanning/processing film negatives to any form of digital photo processing. Film costs way more, it takes waaaay more time, there’s no instant review or second chances in that moment, and yet…

I’d like to think everything that goes into the film process makes viewing the image a more rich experience for the viewer—I’m not so sure about this. For me as the maker—it does. And that’s enough for me to keep coming back to film. I choose to leave the borders on my film when I scan as evidence of the physical and temporal process of making the image. I suspect photo purists might say this takes away from the image (and I’d say they were right)—much as a proficient letterpress printer of their time would see the pressure imprint we all love so much as a printing mistake. I think we all crave evidence of physicality these days for obvious reasons. Things like film borders and letterpress imprints…or the velvety touch of a screenprint don’t necessarily alter the meaning of the content captured, but they do speak to a process that has real edges—this creates a sort of additional meaning that gets layered in. I guess the concept is similar, but not exactly the same as what Craig Mod said about “edges” with physical and digital publications several years back—reading that had a big impact on me. Not only in the way I consume content, but in the making and teaching process as well.

With a film strip I know there are generally 12, 24, or 36 frames to process depending on what I’m shooting with. When I’m scanning working in this smaller domain is a comforting thought. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the overwhelm of having shot 2-300 digital photos at a time (or more)—all good until it comes time to process. That said, shooting digital and film at the same time is a big problem for me—and it’s something I do to myself often. I’ve actually found something first with my point and shoot digital, photographed it, and actually come back with my film camera to capture it again (see blue and yellow boat from above shot again in digital form here) . This is probably not efficient, but I like the intentionality of it—and I like both images. It’s too much to process and great images fall through the cracks. I’ve often noticed this after going back into a folder after a period of time. I almost always notice something I wrote off then, but now seems to stand out as successful. I suppose we all have our methods of finding those edges in the digital processing space. For me it’s a process I repeat religiously: Shoot manual / raw, first round of deletions in camera, second round deletions on large screen, list the keepers on paper, star the absolute best, process / optimize all the keepers per platform context, make the final call on what to share/send out. It’s probably old school and inefficient, but it works for me! I suppose it’s about time for me to turn that process on its head to see what happens. Forms of printmaking like letterpress and screenprinting are similar when working with rudimentary equipment as a team of one. Everything has clear edges defined by the steps of the process, the available equipment/resources, and what is physically do-able. With the edges of process so clearly defined there’s room to focus on the joy of producing and reflecting on the content. Enough rambling for now—ciao!

📸 +🏋️‍♀️

07.28.21—Rovigno, Croatia

Croatia, Rovigno, Jarred Elrod, Photography
Croatia, Rovigno, Jarred Elrod, Photography

all the colors & textures…

A few snaps from our weekend visit to Rovigno, Croatia. It’s an amazing city! We were able to drive there from Polcenigo, Italy in 2.5 hours—partially through Slovenia. The drive was as beautiful as it was full of hills / curves. The colors and textures of the city are an amazing match with the incredible coastline, public parks, and the super nice people. I posted a few more things from the phone on the IG ⬇️.

🚶‍♂️ + 🌞 + 🎨

first try: IGTV

on physical & digital tactility…

Last year (2020) when I still had my studio in Gainesville, FL I video documented my lo-fi screenprinting process. I guess it’s not really that lo-fi, but I like the idea of doing a lot without a ton of specialized equipment. When I really learned to screenprint at the University of Tennessee, I was spoiled by an incredibly nice printing space. That said, they also taught us on-the-fly DIY techniques (coating screens with credit cards, baby oiling white paper for transparent separations, crop-mark registration techniques, etc…) that I still lean on heavily today when I print and prep digital files. I really enjoy teaching this process to designers, as it opens up a whole new world for them in terms of coupling their hand and digital skills—plus it’s just damn fun to get your hands dirty trying stuff. No matter how much control you have in the digital space, manually printing the separations always puts the mind in a mode of “I wonder what will happen if…” with test prints, unexpected overlays, etc…

I had posted original snippets in stories on instagram, but realized the time limits were too restrictive. I finally got un-lazy and put the full length videos on my laptop, using Premier Pro to cut them all together into one piece. As I say in the caption, I was shocked to see it was over 40 minutes long! That said, it was fun to make and was also interesting to reflect back on—it also feels like something I own now because I’ve taken the time to document and archive it properly (even write a little about it here). I have my setup here in Italy almost complete (now a garage studio)—this gives me motivation to finish the thing and print again. I also had the idea to do a “the hard way” series for IGTV for other stuff like loading cameras with film, maybe some black and white processing (need to order the kit tho 🙄), changing oil in motorcycle, fixing bikes, etc…who knows! I’m a shy guy when it comes to sharing on social media—even though I feel it’s important to share process, but I’m working to just get over myself and use the social tools as intended if that’s what I’ve decided to do. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to use platforms like Instagram differently, but nothing ever felt right or authentic. I really dislike that facebook owns IG, and I’m honestly still trying to come to terms with that. I really wish they would have remained independent. I’ve actively been having conversations with other creative professionals about this. The prevailing opinion seems to lean towards not overthinking it.

Getting off instagram was part of the reason I started this blog back up, but now I find myself using them in tandem—and I’m feeling surprisingly pretty good about it. I worry less about rolling tons of time into the design/ image quality on my IG posts (because nobody gives a crap—really—they’re probably only seeing it for literally one second most of the time) —and— I’m doing that over here already. In fact, when I make a post here I have everything I need for IG already prepped if I want to use it. The difference is… I’m actually learning from my process here and building something that’s both cohesive and creative for myself (sounds selfish—and it is). That said, when I roll significant time into something there’s a sense of satisfaction that I can actually hang onto + build on. With IG, you post and it’s literally consumed by the feed immediately. I’m lucky to be in a space where I have time to leverage my creativity to build these posts…one might argue IG is faster for doing things on the fly. This may be true, but I wonder what the trade off would be in terms of time if you look at post time compared to mindless scrolling time with IG 🤔. I suspect they would be comparable—for me at least when I allow myself to get sucked into the IG content void. I’ve rambled on more here than I expected on these loose ideas. I’ll need to think and re-visit this for more focus, but this is here for now—ciao.

✎ + 🎨 + 🤲

design exercise: “object diagrams”

⬆️ Recent work above—Object Diagrams”

origins: “graphic diagrams”… & a little rambling perspective

⬆️ Past work above—Graphic Diagrams”

I created the collection of six color images above late in undergrad and early in graduate school (2007-2009-ish) as an experimental project + exhibition I called “graphic diagrams.” I was clearly influenced by Constructivism + Suprematism—in particular, El Lissitzky. The influence was mostly aesthetic at the time. It wasn’t until a few years later I started understanding the incredibly complex contexts in which the work was made. In addition to the socio-political aspect(s), it didn’t initially click with me what kind of impact this work (among other movements like Futurism, Dadaism, Bauhaus, etc..) had on shaping how we experience space and use typography as Graphic Designers today. It all started making sense when I started teaching—it’s funny how having to actually explain something for others to understand does that 😅.

My first experience teaching was assisting in a large intro to design course—I was fresh out of undergrad accompanied by four years of working at an advertising agency. The students were given exercises more or less rooted in Bauhaus design principles without any real context or sufficient design history supplement. Not surprisingly, many of them (18 or 19 at the time) had absolutely no idea what they were doing or why—there was discontent. Even I didn’t fully understand what was going on at first because my undergraduate experience pretty much 100% practical. I immediately hit the books (actually reading the text instead of just looking at all the sweet pics this time 🙃). Then magically the practical stuff I had experienced years prior started to click with what we were doing—ultimately allowing me to teach the stuff with a straight face and even a little confidence.

It’s obvious work from this era heavily influenced the eventual development of “Modernism” in Europe—which is, love it or hate it, still prominent today. Even though this movement played a large part in shaping what some might call the traditional “Canon” of Graphic Design we know there were many non-European voices / stories / narratives that were not included when it comes to how design / design history has been taught for the past several decades (in the U.S at least—can’t speak for other countries). Thankfully, that is changing in many circles because of educators / researchers like Dr. Dori Griffin and María Rogal —current colleagues of mine at University of Florida. It goes without saying I’m lucky to be surrounded by people pushing boundaries in these domains, as I have benefited greatly as a practitioner and educator from their hard work and contributions to the field. The ultra-intensive, long-term work of expanding the “Canon” through re-thinking how we teach design history and working to Decolonize the Design world is incredibly difficult, complex, and time consuming. While I feel there is experimental value in the work I posted above ⬆️ for me, it’s important to acknowledge it does nothing to intentionally move this needle. This topic requires so much more, but it’s better to link to a community of researchers that do it (among other things) better than I.

Hmm…I guess I’m getting a little into the weeds here—oh well. Even though the initial diagrams I created weren’t heavily typographic, this conversation is really interesting to me in particular from a typographic perspective. There are people like Wael Morcos (among others) that are transforming the typographic world into a more inclusive space by essentially building new multi-script alphabets or taking popular western typefaces and creating additional companion scripts. This accessibility across different script systems coupled with the rise of variable and parametric type is super exciting! Grilli Type’s GT Eesti comes to mind as a great example of new multi script typefaces—particularly within the context of this post because the alphabet was designed in Latin and Cyrillic character sets—all based off a found typeface in Soviet Russia from 1940.

It’s interesting looking back at the work from Russia I was so inspired by from the early 20th century (you can see some in Tipoteca if you want) and acknowledge most of it is in Cyrillic Script—a non Western alphabet I certainly can’t read. Once again, even as a Westerner who used/uses typography extensively the full implication of this from cultural / technical-typographic perspectives never hit home with me, nor did anyone ever discuss the issue of design and type in different scripts with me during school. It’s also interesting to me to think about the impact these pieces in Cyrillic certainly had on design + layout with Latin-based alphabets. Russia seems to be situated in a unique space between common perceptions of “East” and “West.” I’m not going to attempt to tease any of that out here, although I think this work and its global communication impact (among other things) might be at the heart of that conversation. I wonder how different my experience would have been with this work if I had experienced it in a different context or had I been able to read all the text? I suspect it would have still been inspiring because of how transformative it was—even from purely technical and aesthetic perspective. This is surely what I noticed when I first saw it as a 19 year old literally sitting on the aisle floor in our university library. A lot of the work was temporal, political, and propagandized (probably most famously “Beat the Whites with a Red Wedge”). This was a reflection of divisiveness during the upheaval of a literal revolution. Upon further reflection of this, I can’t help but think of the visual vocabulary of divisiveness we’ve seen rise in America over the past several years 🤔. Would I still be inspired if the work said something I deeply disagreed politically or culturally with in the present? That’s very tough to say without the benefit of cultural distance and time. I will say it is hard for me to appreciate the array of communication tactics that have recently been used to transform our digital media landscape, even though one could make certainly make an argument of “innovation.” Ugh.


OK—let’s re-focus. Experiencing this work from Russia as a young person played a major role in shaping my visual vocabulary as a designer—it is evident in my early work and it’s evident now. I find it exciting to sit down with a blank canvas or artboard to just start drawing shapes. Who knows what will come out? Most of the text you see in my original diagrams (click or tap for a larger version) was literally on the page of my sketchbook that happened to be open at the time—a weak-ish play from the Dadaists. The images at the top of the post take my original “diagram” concept and introduce a photograph of a special object in each composition to build around. I chose to bring in the brand of each here for additional design/typographic elements to work with. Yeah, it’s commercial—and I’m cool with that. If you’re looking for a project or design exercise to do for fun I’d recommend trying this out for yourself. For me the process of selecting these particular objects to “diagram” was an intentional effort to create intersections between my design and cycling / motorcycling identities. The process was both enjoyable and reflective. Should you choose to try this exercise, consider the meaning and context of your selection and reflect on what these intersections of interest really mean to you as you make 🤔 You are bringing in something from the outside and not just designing in a vacuum for design’s sake. There’s real value there. Your favorite loud music and maybe a coffee or a glass of wine depending on timing might help too. Ciao!

✍️ +✌️

Tipoteca Printing Museum

Tipoteca Printing Museum Near Treviso, Italy

Tipoteca Italian Foundation is a printing museum located near Treviso in the small town of Cornuda, Italy. Amanda and stumbled upon it during a visit to the Prosecco Hills—this was completely unexpected since Letterpress has been a huge part of my career development and interest in Graphic Design since I started college.

That said, after we found the museum I went to follow them on Instagram. Upon doing this I realized I had been following them since before we moved to Italy—it’s a small community! The first time we found the museum it was Sunday and everything was closed, but I was able to make the hour drive back from Polcenigo the other day to explore the museum and printing studio (which I didn’t know they had on-site)—the resources and history here are incredible!

I was lucky enough to meet the director, Sandro, who is super nice. I also met two visiting designers, Veronica and Dario—they are planning a five-day workshop called “TypeHype” for late August in the incredible studio space. I spoke to Sandro, Veronica, and Dario at length about our letterpress stories—we realized we actually had some mutual friends and acquaintances (again, small world). The crew graciously invited me to lunch with them at Ristorante Le Corderie di Mauro Dragowhich, which was fantastic—for the food and conversation!

Tipoteca Printing Museum Near Treviso, Italy
Tipoteca Printing Museum Near Treviso, Italy
Tipoteca Printing Museum Near Treviso, Italy

A few looks at the workshop, museum (shout out to Bari), and upstairs gallery. The current exhibition is a “25 years of Tipoteca” anniversary poster. P98a, Hatch Showprint, Hamilton Wood Type Museum and many others were featured—all of the prints are fabulous. I took a ton more photos—these literally barely scratch the surface as to what is available to see and experience in the museum.

reflecting on my own letterpress story…

Jarred Elrod, University of Tennessee Letterpress

The strange coincidence of moving to a new, far away place and literally stumbling upon a place like Tiptoteca prompted me to reflect on the importance of letterpress for me—and how, to a large degree it has shaped my career as a teacher and practitioner. My fascination with letterpress started my Sophomore year of college when Dirk Fowler of F2-Design visited one of my classes and showed us what he had been printing—this was a mind-blowing experience for me. It was also an amazing experience to eventually work with him as a colleague for three years as Graphic Design faculty at Texas Tech University. Nobody has taught me more about teaching than Dirk. As I had mentioned in previous posts, an assistantship in letterpress was the reason I chose to go attend the University of Tennessee. At the time, Yeehaw Industries was in Knoxville, now Voodoo Rocket (Kevin Bradley) was there. Also the University of Tennessee had a top three printmaking program in the United States. In 2007, I was accepted into the Graphic Design program, but collaborated with the printmaking program to start a functioning letterpress shop that would be open to students—I’m proud to see it’s still going today!

I taught one studio course in foundations and letterpress through weekly open hours and workshops. This paid my out-of-state tuition at the university fully and provided enough of a monthly stipend for me to live on—it was such a wonderful time in my life. I had full, 24/7 access to the studio and I quickly became addicted to letterpress. It was literally like a drug for me—that and screenprinting 🤓.

Directly above and below ⬆️ ↘️ are some early shots of the UTK Letterpress shop and one of the first posters I printed. We didn’t have much in the way of large wood type, so I took to carving my own letters in wood or linoleum. (got some nice scars on the hands from learning 😅 ).

Jarred Elrod, University of Tennessee Letterpress

Since I left UTK, I’ve always stayed connected to letterpress and take every opportunity I can to share it with my students, but I do miss printing and having that 24/7shop access! The photos above ⬆️, taken between 2017-2020 are from Texas Tech University’s satellite printmaking studio, CASP with Victoria Marie Bee and The University of Florida’s letterpress shop and special collections library with Ellen Knudson of Crooked Letter Press.

letterpress follows me, I follow letterpress

Visiting Tipoteca was such an amazing experience and I hope to go back and visit soon—heck, maybe I can even print something there ( I already have a few ideas—maybe I’ll post about them here later). I joke that letterpress follows me, but I suppose it isn’t really a joke. Seeing the printing studio here made me feel the same excitement as a maker I felt when I was just a. kid applying to graduate school. The museum and gallery sections of Tipoteca are incredible, but for me the shop is always where it’s at—it’s where I feel most comfortable and capable.

✎ + 🤔

Greece—Athens + Hydra

Acropolis with Greek Flag

the Acropolis

We came from Northern Italy to Greece to visit our best friends, who were visiting from the United States. We only had a few days overlap in Athens with them—staying in a hotel just a few blocks from the Acropolis. Visiting the Acropolis was something we were all looking forward to experiencing together, and it was indeed an incredible experience to explore with such great company. I tried to uniquely capture that shared experience through my photos—not an easy challenge in probably one of the most photographed places in the world! Having conversations with one another about the structures and context(s) in which we were viewing as we walked made the experience both rich and memorable.

Acropolis ruins, Greece

⬆️ Jon and Amanda working to make sense of it all. One thing about the Acropolis site that was really striking to me (aside from the incredible ruins) was the 360 degree view of surrounding Athens—the metro area was strikingly large + dense ⤵️.

Acropolis ruins, Greece, Parthenon

The Parthenon was under pretty heavy construction, but it didn’t take away any of the grandeur to see it in person—such an incredible experience!

Evil Eye, Athens

One thing I kept noticing in Greece (mainly in the city of Athens) were references to what they call the “Evil Eye” (image to the left ⬅️ ) I’m sure there is an element of touristy go-to stuff here, but none-the-less I’m very attracted to the meaning and thinking around the evil eye—it was something that kept coming up for me over and over again—even after we left Greece. Then I realized that without knowing it I had already created a version of my own Evil Eye. I made the above full-width graphic into stickers (image below ⤵️ ) a few years back. I am also reminded of Aesthetic Apparatus’s “Doom Drips” series, which was influential on me when I was in school.

Evil Eye Designs, Jarred Elrod, Greece Travel, stickers

Panathenaic Stadium—Athens

Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Jarred Elrod, Greece, Photography

The Panathenaic Stadium is built on the site of the ancient Olympics dating back into the BCE —and—the site of the first officially sanctioned “modern” Olympics in 1896. Long story short, this was a very cool visit (and just look at that engraved type—muah) and an easy walk from the center of Athens. Everything is made of marble and the track (track surface not marble 🙂 is shaped like a paperclip—I suspect any athletes that competed on this track had amazing ankle mobility because of those sharp turns 😅. If you want to read more about the history of this site, I’d recommend visiting the official museum website.

Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, Jarred Elrod, Greece, Photography

The ancient version of box seats. These are from the re-build in the late 1800’s, but were modeled from the original ancient stadium—we saw ancient seats like this in the public theatre spaces at the Acropolis as well.

Island time—Hydra

Hydra, Greece, Jarred Elrod, Photography, Travel

Headed to Hyrda after a few great days in Athens—cruising through the other islands on an Alpha Lines ferry.

Hydra, Greece, Jarred Elrod, Photography, Travel

We stayed in a great spot on the water that was an easy 10 minute walk from the city center—paths down to the water like ⬆️ were common and great for sunset time.

Amanda in her element—gelato in-hand and ocean near. The ferry through Alpha Lines was easy to navigate and affordable. The roof deck on the boat allowed us to ditch our cabin seats and ride on the roof for the whole 1.5-2 hour journey both ways—this was both refreshing and beautiful (bring your sunscreen, people).

the value of new contexts…

When I attended college in West Texas we studied Ancient Greece during my Art History courses. I honestly never thought I’d have a chance to see any of what we looked at in person—my mindset at the time wasn’t capable of allowing it. I suspect it was because my perception of what it meant to “travel” at that time had been very limited (this was the case with the majority of my peers as well). It wasn’t until my undergraduate Graphic Design professor (hi Bob!) suggested I look into the University of Tennessee for graduate school because of their opportunities to work in a letterpress studio. I didn’t know anyone in the state of Tennessee—I did know I really wanted to learn Letterpress. I had no idea what I was doing when I applied, was accepted, and agreed to move. The real weight of my decision (leaving family, friends, etc.) didn’t hit me until about one week before my move because I was so naive. It wasn’t so much the roughly 1,200 miles of distance between cities in Texas and Tennessee that changed my mindset on travel—it was the complete and total destruction and re-construction of my physical and emotional comfort zones that did it. It took a solid 1/2 year of feeling sorry for myself in Tennessee until I started realizing the deep value in the leap I had made. A lot of folks would say moving from Texas to Tennessee isn’t that big of a deal, but at my young age coupled with extreme lack of experience and general ignorance it was a major deal! People in other places do things differently—and there is so much that can be learned from that. I came to understand this through my own process of re-learning how to live and work in a new context—initially in Tennessee, but since in other locations—each move its own unique growth experience—these experiences are generally both difficult and exciting at the same time.

After that move for graduate school, the notion of continuing to build my experience library through travel or taking advantage of great relocation opportunities became essential. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to have had in-person experiences like this trip to Greece. I was inspired by how enthusiastic Athenians we spoke to were about their city and surrounding islands—the cuisine, culture, texture, history, etc…I was also embarrassed to not have the appropriate language skills as an outsider to communicate in Greek, but once again almost everyone we met was bi-lingual (or more). None-the-less, we were made to feel incredibly welcome everywhere we went and encouraged when we did try to speak. This has been the case time and time again as we travel more and now live outside of the United States.

Over the past decade I’ve had conversations with many students contemplating big moves or major life-changing experiences as a design educator. It’s hard for me not to time warp back to that time I left Texas long-term for the first time with zero experience. I usually begin the convo by asking if they can clearly identify the combo of emotions about the upcoming change they feel most often: discomfort coupled with excitement or discomfort coupled with dread? It’s no solution, but generally if the compass is clearly pointed more towards excitement it’s something worth really un-packing.

🇬🇷 + 🛥 + ✈️ + 🚶‍♂️