What’s up for 2013.

January 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

While it is hard to predict what will happen this coming year, I think it is fair to say that it will be better than 2012. Better because we will have no presidential election this year and no over saturation of political ads. Better because our economy is starting to look better and people are tired of the wait and see attitude. Congress better get the hint.

For Boxing Cats it will be a year of growth and moving forward. We have plans to expand our offerings both in the creative and production areas. I have spent any downtime I have on training and upgrading my skill level in Adobe Creative Suite 6. I have also completed training in Adobe Muse and am in the process of designing and building a couple of websites.

I am most excited about completing my training in Adobe’s DPS (Digital Publishing Suite). Using the InDesign workflow I turned my portfolio into an interactive document and converted it into an iPad app. It is an area that I expect to grow in 2013. If you want any info on DPS, go to: Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

Pam and I are also working on a brand upgrade for Boxing Cats Creative and we can’t wait to launch the new look. Here’s to a great 2013. Work hard, have fun!

Mentor, Friend, Father…

October 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

How do you sum up a life of the person who influenced your life the most?

My father, John R. Finnegan, Sr., was an incredible man. He grew up in Walker, MN on Leech Lake. His grandparents, Bert and Louisa Chase, built and opened the Chase Hotel or “Chase on the Lake” in 1922. Dad was born in 1924 to Bert & Louisa’s daughter Isabel, who was married to William Finnegan. Dad spent his summers in Walker working as a bellhop and fishing guide at the hotel. In the fall he would be back in Minneapolis for school. After graduating high school in 1943 the army came calling and as all boys did at that time, he answered. Dad survived battles such as The Hurtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Remagen Bridge. His interest in writing and newspapers had been well established since high school and his commanding officer let him write and publish their battalion journal. Upon release from the army he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, eventually receiving his degree in journalism with a minor in political science. In 1948 he married my mother, Norma Tomte. They proceeded to Rochester, Minnesota where dad worked as a reporter, photographer and editor for the Rochester Post Bulletin.

In 1951 my father joined the Pioneer Press as a night assignment reporter and quickly moved up the chain to become associate editor of the editorial page, then made executive editor in 1967. He retired in 1989 as senior vice president and assistant publisher.

He is most known for his work for the public’s right to information, something I am extremely proud of. He helped get Minnesota’s first open-meetings law in 1957 and work tirelessly for the state’s first open records legislation in the mid seventies. He was recognized in 1989 by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information when they established the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award. It is given to those individuals “who demonstrate through expression and action commitment to the idea that a popular and democratic government can never realize the aspirations of the founding fathers without the participation of an informed electorate.”

My dad’s honors include membership in the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, the State Open Government Hall of Fame award for 2011 from the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists.

The most amazing thing about my father was how approachable he was. At his wake, I had more than one person come up to me, offer condolences and then relate a story about my dad on how he had first hired them or influenced their career and how they would seek him out for advice. I remember many times growing up, visits from local media types and long phone calls and discussions concerning journalism and editorial decisions.

My father was instrumental in getting me interested in typography. I would sometime accompany him on Saturdays down to the Pioneer Press office. I loved to hear the teletype machines in the newsroom and I would get to visit the press room where I would meet the linotype operators. They would show me how they set lead type and compose the newspaper and give me type slugs. I was hooked and my career path was set into the graphic arts.

Each one of my siblings has a special memory of our dad. I have so many because I shared many of my father’s favorite leisure activities, in particular golf and fishing. My favorite memory is when I was about 10 years old. Our family was lucky enough to stay in a cabin in Itasca State Park on a small lake in the northwest corner of the park called Squaw Lake. The cabin had no running water and only outdoor bathroom facilities. Rustic to say the least. We had a dock and a boat and we were the only cabin on the lake. Heaven for a family of 5 kids on vacation for a week or two in the north woods.
In the morning at 5:00 AM, my father would wake me and we would make our way down to the dock with fishing poles in hand being as quiet as we could be. We could hear the loons and the lake was usually smooth as glass. The boat was an old wooden rowboat provided to the cabin occupants by the MN DNR. It had no motor, just a set of wooden oars. The sun was still not up but was pushing on the horizon behind the forest. Mist was rolling out of the woods over the lake and we were surrounded by all the wonderful north woods smells. The air was cool and the only sound heard was the creaking of the oars and the smooth sound of water slightly rippling around the bow of the boat.

It was that memory that seared two indelible things into my being. The first was an undeniable belief in a power greater than our understanding would allow because of the awesome beauty surrounding us. The second was the just time spent with my father. It was wonderful and that memory was something he and I had together. Over the years we fished, golfed, discussed politics, business and family. Just like his colleagues, I always sought my father’s advice. He never told me directly to do something, he would present his advice and let me make the decision. Not that all my decisions have been good but he always told me how proud he was of me for chasing my passion and having the guts to start my business. Even during these recession years he was supportive and proud that we were surviving.

Since forming Boxing Cats Creative and working at home with my wife, Pam Randall, my parents were daily visitors to our home. We didn’t get the daily paper so my parents would stop by at 10 AM to visit, have coffee and get their cat fix from our two resident Boxing Cats, Kyoshi and Oolong. The cats got accustom to seeing them every day and would ready themselves each morning for my folk’s visits that would culminate in a vigorous brushing. I can tell they are missing that. It was a special thing to see my folks almost daily these last couple of years.

He was part of the rightly named  “Greatest Generation” . He was an extraordinary journalist and patriot, fighting for the right to open and transparent government for the people. He was about family and faith. He was an incredible role model for what a husband should be, married to my mother for 64 years. He was my mentor and friend. But the greatest privilege for me was calling him “dad”.

He will always be with me, in my heart and in my soul. I love you dad.

Jack Finnegan

Jack Finnegan in the newsroom at the Pioneer Press

What goes around, comes around…

August 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

I knew if I waited long enough photolettering would come back to life. I spent the first 20 some years of my graphics career as a typographer doing handlettering, line artwork and handsetting and photosetting headlines from 1977 to 1986 for Headliners of the Twin Cities and my company, Letterworx Inc. from 1986 until 1999.

House Industries, the well-known type foundry in Delaware, has developed an online phototypesetting service that allows the designer to pick his font, set it, customize it and buy it as vector art for a very reasonable price. This concept really brings me back to my former typesetting days. Their online service is great for designers who don’t need the entire font but just need the large impact headline. House industries has purchased and converted the entire Photolettering, Inc. library into an online font library. I wish I would have thought of that. I do know that it shows what quality and craftsmanship there was in those days of handsetting and phototypesetting type.

Designers are coveting old type specimen books looking for classic and rarely seen fonts from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. In the late seventies I was setting headlines by cutting each character out of a contact sheet made from an original negative of an exclusive font provided to us by Headliners International. The cutout characters were then place on a blue line board that was covered with rubber cement (please, no acetone comments, I’m already on a cancer watch…). Using a tweezers and my artist eye (no snickers), I would handset the headline, kerning each character until I had assembled an entire headline. That blue line board would be photographed into a paper negative photo stat which I would touch up with a brush using black opaque. The finished negative would then be photographed again into a paper positive that was the final galley which was sent to the client along with the galleys of the body copy that was set at our partner company Dahl & Curry. By the time I left Headliners we were using phototypsetters to create most of our headlines. Still, assembly was a tedious labor intensive process but the results spoke for themselves.

When Jim Fredericks and I joined up with P&H Photocomposition and started Letterworx we used phototypesetters and all our fonts were on plastic reels. We had over 3000 fonts. It was a great time to be in the type industry. We were setting headlines and creating artwork for some of the best agencies in the Twin Cities. If you ever need to see some good examples of our Letterworx typesetting skills, get a copy of the coffee table book “The Work: 25 Years of Fallon”. My partner Jim Fredericks and I set most of those headlines (with a big nod to Bob Blewett, Fallon’s type director) in the ads featured in the book. We were very fortunate to be a great partner and vendor for Fallon in their first 25 years doing award-winning advertising. I will always be proud of that.

Don’t misunderstand me when I swoon and gush about those days. The process was very labor intensive and the toxic chemical exposure as well as the second-hand cigarette smoke from my partner Jim (3 packs a day, 2 packs of Winston’s, 1 Pack of Kool’s). I won’t even go over the process for special effects like type on a curve or the diminishing “Star Wars” effect that became popular in 1977. I’ll save that one for a later blog. I focus on the quality and uniqueness of the fonts that were exclusive and licensed by specific companies back in the 50’s and 60’s. I would rather set type on computer today but I do embrace and still think there is a place for the hand drawn design, then interpreted and put into digital form. I sure don’t miss inhaling acetone all day.

Election Typography

November 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

My baby sister, Dr. Cara Finnegan, Ph.D., Professor of Visual Rhetoric at the University of Illinois is aware of my passion for typography. She recently sent me this link to a New York Times article written by Kate Murphy commenting on font usage in last weeks election and the interesting differences between the liberal and conservative taste in font choice. Interesting article. Enjoy.


MHTA Social Media: Marketing & Enterprise 2.0

October 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Minnesota High Tech Association held its Social Media Event today hosted by Best Buy Corporation, featuring two outstanding panels of Social Media thought leaders. This event covered Social Media strategies from both the Marketing/PR perspective AND the Enterprise/IT perspective. As a designer and having interest in all things branding I attended the Marketing panel session. The moderator for the Marketing Panel was Albert Marguggi (@AlbertMarguggi) who is a recognized leader in business communications and is host of the Marketing Edge podcast. The panel consisted of John Bernier (@BernierJohn), a Digital Product Manager and Social Media Steward from Best Buy, Bob Brin (@eBob) head of Padilla Speer Beardsley’s social team, Padilla Gorilla, Arik Hanson (@ArikHanson) of ACH Communications and a top line blogger, Kate-Madonna Hindes (@GirlMeetsGeek) who is a national speaker and preaches emotional intergrity and the power of authenticity in today’s markets and finally, Tyler Olson (@TyOlson), the youngest of the group, who is president of SMCpros and speaks on Social Media across the country. A great collection of Social media professionals that kept the conversation lively and very informative.

Everyone came to this event with different expectations but I believe it was best summed up by the panel whose basic message was “This is not a fad. The tools may change but Social Networking is a practical way to market, enhance and promote your brand.”

I was most interested in a comment that Arik Hanson made when asked about new opportunities and where social networking can have an impact. Arik seems to think there is a great opportunity with B2B companies. I agree with him. Retailers seemed to have jumped on board and tapped into Social Networking to promote and sell their product and are doing a good job of it. B2B companies are just starting to find ways to utilize Social Networking to do things such as recruit qualified employees, create social networks for their business customers, clients, and vendors. Estimates are that B2B companies have already accelerated their spending to an excess of 200 million dollars in advertising to the business audience on sites such as LinkedIn and even on Facebook.* There will be opportunities and I think you will be seeing more B2B Social Networking startegies developed and marketing companies that are strictly B2B Social Networking experts.

I believe we have only scratched the surface of Social Networking. Twitter may not be around in five years but you can bet Social Networking as a legitimate marketing platform will be.

* http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080828/FREE/808289991/1078#seenit

Hatch Design

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

The last two days have been very inspiring. I received an email from my friend and colleague, Doug Powell, informing me of a lecture and reception being given at the MN History Center about Hatch Design, a San Francisco based branding and design firm run by a former mid-western designer,  Joel Templin. Joel attended the University of Wisconsin Stout and started his design career in Minneapolis. He has enjoyed a successful design career spanning more than 17 years and is recognized as one of the most sought-after design professionals in the country. He and his company, Hatch Design, continue to innovate and create distinctive work for some of the world’s biggest brands.

After attending the lecture, reception and the subsequent gallery opening of Hatch Design’s work in the College of Visual Arts Gallery, I came away energized about our business. The style and direction of the work makes me realize why I got into this crazy business known as design. Most of the pieces have a heavy emphasis on typography (oh, yeah) and color. The use of colorful line art illustration is refreshing rather than the over use and dependence on 4-color imagery.  Hatch’s solutions were elegant and had wonderful color palettes. Every project was an outstanding visual solution to some particular challenging design projects. Joel and Hatch Design’s approach is based on the belief that the best design is honest, hands-on, and human.

If you are interested in excellent brand design, get over to the the College of Visual Arts Gallery and check it out.

The Hatch Design show runs until October 9th.

For more information on Hatch Design and Joel Templin go to:


Welcome to Boxing Cats Blog

September 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

So this is blogging. I have contemplated it for some time and have decided that it is better to dive in and learn as I go. The possibilities are exciting and the opportunities to explore the landscape of blogging and develop a sense of what I may have to offer in this now crowded blog world. Our theme is “Design, typography and other fare.” That is as accurate as I can get. My two primary interests as a designer are design and typography. Design covers not just graphic design but all things designed and how design works in relationship to society, improving and interacting with our environment.

“Design is not the narrow application of formal skills, it is a way of thinking.”

— Chris Pullman

“Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

— Steve Jobs

Typography holds a special place in my life as a graphics professional. My earliest memories about typography were from visiting the Pioneer Press newspaper office on the weekends when my father was working either the copy or city editors desk. He would take me down to the press room and I was immediately drawn to the Linotype operators. The noise and the heat were brutal but it was fascinating to a seven year old to watch the lead type slugs come out. The operators would give me individual lead character slugs and show me how they would job case and layout an article. I fell in love with type from that moment on. If you want to really fall in love with typography or really understand it’s importance in design and culture, I suggest you watch the documentary movie titled “Helvetica”. Here is the link:  http://www.helveticafilm.com/

“A man who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep.”

— Frederic Goudy

Oh yes, the “other fare” is about everything else that surrounds design from a business, cultural and just a human point of view.

Welcome and I hope to provide something of interest for you and stimulate some wonderful conversation.