Morse Code

Growing up in Colorado had many perks. One of which was greeting the New Year. 

As a youngster, I was always fascinated by a group of mountaineers that would spend their holiday climbing the Peak as we called it; Pikes Peak with an elevation of 14,114 feet above Sea Level. They were climbers named "The AdAmAn Club", my introduction to them was in the somewhat later than the historical founding members of 1922. A unique group of mountaineers, who each year on December 30th and 31st, climb the icy slopes of Barr Trail on the east face of world famous Mountain.


On a cold December morning, these original five fun-seekers began their journey up the steep slopes of the Cog Railway tracks and they picked up flares along the way, left there by railroad workers. Historically, at Windy Point, 12000 feet high, conditions were almost impossible, as the wind had pushed huge snow drifts over the right of way. One slip might have meant a slide of several hundred feet down into huge boulders.

cog railway removing snow, operating in April to late June depending on the weather

cog railway removing snow, operating in April to late June depending on the weather

Hours later, the “frozen five” as they would later be named, sighted the huge tower of the old summit house as it moaned and groaned in the bitter cold wind. Snow had drifted so deep near the huge steel doors of the summit house, that they entered through a second floor entrance. Once inside they managed to start a fire in the old potbellied stove and soon frozen eyelashes, noses, fingers and toes began to thaw and their faces began to glow with the thought of their accomplishment. They ate, sang songs, and waited for the midnight hour. Then at the stroke of midnight, they lit their flares and the other fireworks they had hauled up the mountain, and built a huge bonfire of old railroad ties. They celebrated New Year’s 1923 from the summit of America’s mountain as they do today.


That night was the beginning of a Colorado tradition, which is now more than 90 years strong. That following spring of 1923, this little group of five adventurers organized their new club. Fred and Ed Morath suggested the name “AdAmAn” and the five ruled that only one new member could be added each year. 

Today, the public is invited to watch the progression from afar and as a child I was enamored. Every few hours they would signal by reflecting the sun's rays or strike a flair and communicate to the lookers on below. My mother and I would use a mirror outdoors to signal back and track their progression. I swear our "homemade" Morse Code made all the sense in the world at the time as I knew they were signaling me in return. We measured and guessed how far they could climb before the next check in. What a thrill.  


Usually, when they hit the tree line, where only rock, snow and ice can be found they could be seen a bit easier from the townspeople below. I always imagined how brave talented and a little crazy the AdAmAn group was.  

On the afternoon of the 31st, the signaling stopped. I would wonder if they made it. That is until the fireworks at midnight would begin. My parents were correct, "just wait, a little magic is sure to happen"  

Peak Fireworks.jpg

Cheers to our pioneers and new beginnings.



The New Office, The New You

I have been lucky enough to see the new workplace transformation here in Chicago through the eyes of design teams as well as employees. First, let’s imagine it’s Friday morning. My daughter is off to work in an advertising office that is quite modern. To make things more comfortable, she is treated to a breakfast meeting complete with a variety of pastry, egg dishes, and a catering staff to tend to the employees needs. This brings about collaboration, and catching up with team members.

The office is an open space, the kind that we’ve been reading about. There is no assigned seating… everyone can work where they feel comfortable. Whether it be at a standing desk, a sofa, or in a Pod to gather ones thoughts. Laptops powered up they are ready to achieve measurable goals, many of which are based on customer interaction, website clicks, timing, and floating banners.

This brings me to my recent trip to this year’s Neocon Conference. Upon entering the Merchandise Mart, the first thing I noticed was how many people were attending. The most attended design show to date here in the city. It was crowded. A line formed in front of every elevator. Making small talk while waiting, I couldn’t help but to take note, people from around the globe were attending to learn what was new and most importantly how to take advantage of these new office space trends in office design in their own businesses.

neocon 2.jpg

Across most vendors common themes became apparent within minutes. Employee wellbeing. New styles of desk are adjustable, computer stations could be configured for standing or to use seated. The entire area can be moved and configured to meet office needs. Making the employee feel more “at home”. But that’s not all, they are encouraged to take breaks, to walk around, grab a healthy bite from an open cafeteria. Gone are the days of vending machines.  Why not play a game of Ping Pong with a coworker. A happy employee, a healthier bottom line, pretty simple.

Being a part of something bigger… today’s employees want to take ownership within the company they work for. Personalizing an office is a huge draw for the new workforce, something to be proud of. Surface design is one of the easiest ways to incorporate brand identity. When walking into a space we now take note of the logo, company colors, as well as the emotional feel of the office. One trend that stood out was bringing the outdoors in. Wood flooring with customizable colors and patterns, rustic surface influences of camping, semiprivate acrylic walls infused with items found in nature. All of which make spending time in the office more enjoyable.

However, with the open concepts a problem arises: privacy. No longer is the boss in a closed office but out on the floor with his coworkers. Yet at times one needs to get away, for a one on one, or a small group. There were many movable wall systems that encapsulated a small meeting. One item that stood out was a phone booth looking pod. I stopped for a moment and thought, what in the world… Once inside, The Shape of Silence was a treasure. It was a recharging station, a place to focus without distraction. It was brilliant. Odd shaped but brilliant never the less. Speaking of silence Sound barriers were very popular and colorful. They were designed to be wall or ceiling systems that can be customized on site in a variety of colors and textures.

These bright bold color accents have always been noted to draw ones attention. As a child I had the privilege of attending school in one of the new concept buildings. There were no windows in the classroom, few distractions only a bold color usually placed behind the teachers desk. It may not work today, but the influence of pops of power color could be seen through out the show. In upholstery, flooring, and semi private walls. These are usually apparent in the entryway making one feel excited to be in the space.

Finally Lighting. It’s small. It’s beautifully designed. It’s portable. Hardware in a variety of metals, plastics and finishes to accent any decor. Chandeliers can be moved along with the “nest” of workers as the office staff grows or relocates. Task lighting can be spectrum coded per employees preferences not to strain the eyes.

It was extremely fascinating to attend this year’s show. To witness what people were taking away from each vendor. The making of a happy employee through his environment is always a good thing for both the business and the bottom line. Buying well once couldn’t be more important. Quality, ingenuity and design will evoke success.