The Blog


I spent most of last winter gutting and remodeling the main bathroom in my 1890 Victorian home. It appeared to have been modestly redone in the early 1990s with linoleum flooring, a pressed-steel tub insert and small vanity. I wanted to take it back to the early days of indoor plumbing: hex tile floor, cast iron tub, subway tile walls, etc.

Getting it there involved removing half the drywall, and the entire floor, which revealed two surprises: a layer of asbestos tiles and a 10-square-foot area that was completely unsupported. The only thing holding up the previous bathtub was a 1/8-inch sheet of plywood.

After adding some joists and hiring a crew to remove the tainted tile, I was able to get the whole thing done in a little under four months.

The tub (with all its hardware) was a Craigslist find from a Bemis Park foursquare. Kay Dee custom milled the door and window casings to precisely match the rest of the house’s trim. Friends from Des Moines graciously gave me the console sink from their 1950s ranch after they updated their own bathroom.

I built the medicine cabinet around a mirror I found at an antique shop, and built the toiletries shelf out of brass fittings in a style matching the living room bookshelves I built last year. I rebuilt the transom based on one of the originals in the house.

The sconce came from Conner’s in Lincoln, and the 1913 stool is original to the house.

The light fixture with built-in exhaust fan is new, and before setting the floor tile, I installed radiant floor heating.

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specht building
Photo by @eastof72nd

Last night was a victory party for saving the Christian Specht building. A few months ago, I posted the logos I designed for the campaign, but since then the project has grown a little.

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Around the time the threat against the Specht was emerging, the amazing Yates School in the Gifford Park neighborhood was also being threatened, by Creighton University, one of the more aggressive predators of historic properties in Omaha. The effort to save the school didn’t have as much immediate momentum as the Specht, though. Looking back at the past five or six years, each time a historic building has been unduly threatened, there’s been a backlash against the threat. Most have been led by members of the neighborhood with an assist by Restoration Exchange Omaha. Since the efforts have often been more localized than the Specht campaign, they’ve ended up having desperate marketing campaigns, each with varying levels of success. Each of the responses to these demolitions — The Clarinda-Page, the Johnston Funeral Home, etc. — looked like their own local effort. One way to, I hope, increase the success rate of these preservation efforts is to make their visual identities part of a larger campaign. So, when I heard Yates was threaten shortly after I did the work on the Specht building, I broke out my pixel grid, my contrasting san-serif type and drew up a logo for the Save Yates group. They’ve taken the image and run with it and now hundreds of people around Gifford Park and the city have signs in their front yard showing their support, and it sounds like promising news may be coming out of that battle as well.

With a little luck, tying the visual identity of all of the threatened buildings in Omaha together will help us save more of them. The fact that the inaugural campaign to use this look was successful can’t hurt the cause, either.

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I designed a series of logos in support of the four century-plus-year-old buildings on the corner of 11th and Douglas Streets that Omaha Performing Arts is increasingly poised to raze in order to build what everyone recognizes as a parking garage, but they’re calling a “mixed use” building. Here’s a link to download a .zip file of the logos in various formats: ReSpecht logos

If you’re of the mindset that city leaders need to adjust their myopic, greedy, ego-driven, land-grab view of city planning, feel free to use these images in any way to voice your support. Avatars, Instagrams, Tweets, projections on the side of the Specht building, do with them what you want.

But even more important than posting pictures to social media and liking Facebook posts, call the Mayor’s hotline and tell Jean Stothert she’ll lose your vote if the city loses these buildings. Omaha Mayor’s Hotline.

Call all of the city council members and tell them they’ll lose your support if they remove the Christian Specht Building from Omaha’s list of protected structures. Omaha City Council contact information.

Call the city planning department and tell them this doesn’t fit the needs and desires of the city or its residents. Omaha Planning Board contact form

Write letters to the Omaha World-Herald voicing your love of the buildings and disgust of OPA and the city’s power play.

Call Omaha Performing Arts at 402.345.0202 and let them know how you feel.

Don’t stay silent. Don’t preach to the choir. Preach to the devils destroying the few remaining buildings of historical value in our town.

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Kaley House Logo

The owners of the Kaley House Bed and Breakfast at Red Cloud spent nearly two decades meticulously restoring the 1885 Victorian home before opening it as a bed and breakfast two years ago. We designed a logo for the historic home, which was originally owned by a family with a notable business law practice in south central Nebraska. If you find yourself needing a place to stay in the Republican River Valley (perhaps for one of Red Cloud’s Willa Cather conferences), be sure to look them up. The home is beautiful.

We wanted to show a little bit of the process behind the mark. After a bunch of sketching, we reduced the logo to a simplified version of the home based on historic and contemporary photographs, carefully drawn on a tight grid.

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Kaley_House

Hail Varsity Firmly Rooted cover

On short notice a few weeks ago, we were tasked with coming up with a plan B cover option for in issue of Hail Varsity whose deadline was rapidly approaching. Such is the nature of magazine publishing. While stressful, it’s at the same time one of the most fun situations to be in. Time ticking down, you have to come up with and execute a killer idea. Out came the glue, construction paper and Xacto blades, and we went to work. The story was about the families of brothers who have passed through the Huskers’ football locker room, so we went with a family tree approach. It took all of the twelve hours available, but was fun to work on for every one of those hours. Big thanks to the guys at Admiral District for photographing the image on 20 minutes notice nearing midnight on a Sunday.

Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration

Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration

Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration Hail Varsity cover cut paper illustration

The Blackstone Farnam Festival asked us to be one of this year’s sponsors and to design a poster and a logo for them. They screen printed up nice on some French Speckletone Madero Beach paper.

It was a riot drawing up simplified, gridded versions of every the building on Farnam St. between 35th and 41st Sts.

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

Blackstone Farnam Festival poster

A video posted by @hanscomparkstudio on

Blackstone Farnam Festival logo

The logo mark is based on Omaha Street signs used in the 1940s, when The Blackstone District, then called West Farnam, was still accessible by streetcar.

Blackstone Farnam Festival logo

Nebraksa Cornhusker football poster

We’re down to three Husker-football-free Saturdays left in the summer. Which means our Hail Varsity schedule posters will be delivered from the printer shortly. At 18″x24″, they’re big enough to cover one entire miserably taupe wall of a cubicle. They should be easy to pick up around Lincoln, or stop by the Hail Varsity World Headquarters in the basement of the old Rock ‘n’ Roll Runza later this week to grab a copy.

Our lady of Lourdes blueprints

Omaha’s Landmark Heritage Preservation Commission has been updating its expansive site this summer. In addition to hundreds of fairly recent (but still historical) photos of homes and buildings, they’ve added more than 500 building plans filed with the city between 1907 and 1926. It’s easy to get lost in the archive, but it’s worth it.

Among the highlights are a dozen or so churches (including Our Lady of Lourdes, above), dozens of schools (including Omaha Central), tons of old theaters (only a few of which remain standing today) and even a handful of residences.

The site is a magical combination of all the things I love: good design, local history and hopelessly giant archival databases. Go dive in here.

Dundee theater Omaha blueprints
The Dundee Theatre.

Washington Elementary blueprints
Washington Elementary

Union Pacific Headquarters facade
Former Union Pacific Headquarters facade. This amazing building was torn down in 2008 and has remained an empty lot since.

Union Pacific Headquarters lights
Former Union Pacific Headquarters lighting.

Union Pacific Headquarters door blueprints
Former Union Pacific Headquarters door details.

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Today marks 125 years since the building permit for my house was issued. Both the Omaha World-Herald and Omaha Bee reported on June 4, 1890 that Michael Lee, City Council president and owner of what was likely a brothel near the Union Stockyards, pulled a permit for this house the previous day. The address on permit is a little wonky, combining both Woolworth Street address and the address of the South 30th Ave. house whose lot my home was built on. Lee had purchased the house at 1242 S. 30th Ave a month before and tore down the carriage house to make room for a new home.

I suspect Lee built the house as an investment, and his investment went south quickly. By December of 1890, builders Francis Bailey and Ole Olson claimed a $659.80 lien on the house for failure to pay for construction and in July of 1891 Lee sold the home. A year later the new owners finally paid off Bailey and Olson.

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NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

The Hail Varsity yearbook is on newsstands now and in the mail to subscribers. Annually, it’s one of Hanscom Park Studio’s most challenging, rewarding and fun projects. It’s a nearly 200-page magazine full of amazing portraits, fantastic writing and a few of my original illustrations. What’s not to love?

One of this year’s longread feature stories (in addition to profiles of De’Mornay Pierson-El and Maliek Collins) is on the need for reform of the NCAA. It’s a difficult concept to illustrate and make visually engaging, but I landed on the idea of a whole mess of pipes channeling money all over the place. And I think it works.

Getting the stippling just right on all of the elements took some real commitment to the look, but I think it was fitting texture given the simple pipes and basic three-color palette of the images.

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design

NCAA reform Omaha graphic design



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