Calamityware Plate 5: Quadruped

Here’s a little more back story for those of you who care about the design details of Calamityware plates.

Mysterious creature lurks in forest.
Mysterious creature lurks in forest.

I first drew this creature in 1974. This quadruped has crept into many of my designs since then whenever I needed a refined and vicious animal to complete my composition. In this case, she’s a reminder that there’s more to fear in life than pirates.

The same animal makes an appearance in my latest Hawaiian shirt.

There’s a quadruped prowling in the gaudy pattern of my shirt.
There’s a quadruped prowling in the gaudy pattern of my shirt.

Part of the fun of a Calamityware plate is finding the creatures hiding within the patterns.


Deep back story for design nerds

When I drew this creature, I was working as the project manager of the Symbol Sign project (1974). This was the effort by the US Department of Transportation and the American Institute of Graphic Arts to develop a family of transportation-related pictograms for use in US airports and train stations. You’ve seen the resulting symbols countless times. They are everywhere. All the people have limbs that look like popsicle sticks. I didn’t design the pictograms. They were the creation of Roger Cook and Don Shanosky under the direction of an AIGA team led by Tom Geismar. Over a period of many months, Karen and I tried to bring order and good note-taking to the effort to capture the design rationale for posterity. For young designers, as we were then, this project was a thrilling experience. One unexpected side effect of the project was a tendency to draw everything with popsicle-stick-shaped limbs. It was under the insidious influence of that project that I first drew my quadruped. Seeing her always reminds me of the summer I spent working with design giants on the fringes of the Symbol Sign project.

More than you wanted to know, right?

1 Response

Sarah Bean

December 31, 2023

Where is the cat in plate number 5? D:>

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