Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, co-founder of lifestyle magazine Lagom, founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, and an electronic musician.

Somerset to San Francisco in pictures

Posted on 03 February 2013 Comments

Last week I was in San Francisco, doing some work with my friends at Typekit. Being in SF has given me the chance to reconnect with old friends, make a whole load of new friends, and indulge in some great food and drink along the way.

Sunny California has been quite a contrast from snowy Somerset, so I thought it’d be fun to record the last week or so in (iPhone) photos, along with a few notes about where I’ve been for posterity.

Friday 18th January

Snow! For some reason snow always seems to bypass our part of the country, so it was nice to finally get some of the stuff. I don’t think I’ve seen snow like this for years, so Sam and I were like kids! Ozzy enjoyed his first proper taste (literally) of snow, too, eating every snowball we threw his way.

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Saturday 19th January

Braving the snow, Sam dropped me off at Bath and I caught the train to London, deciding it’d be easier to stay over to get the plane in the morning. It was also a great opportunity to see some London-based friends, and I even got to sneak in a quick beer at Lowlander Café. Andy, Jess, Francis, and I tried out Mildreds — a fantastic veggie place just off Beak Street — and ended up at The Crown & Two Charimen, where they serve one of my all-time favourite beers, Tripel Karmeliet.

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Dinner at Mildreds.

I got a Go Native apartment just down the road from Paddington. I’ve stayed with Go Native before and can thoroughly recommend them: serviced apartments are way cheaper than hotels and often located just off the beaten track. The Hyde Park complex is particularly nice.

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This is the reception, not the room!

Sunday 20th January

I walked a couple of minutes over to Paddington and jumped on the Heathrow Express. Yes, you pay a premium, but you can’t argue with fifteen minutes from London to the airport. Adobe very generously paid for Business Class flights, which meant I had access to the Virgin Clubhouse. Honestly, it’s like a James Bond villain’s lair. Upon Sarah’s recommendation, I had two or three Virgin Redheads and found myself pleasantly floaty prior to boarding.

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The flight itself might’ve been the best I’ve ever had. Our route took us very far north, crossing Iceland and Greenland before descending across icy northern Canada. The views from the window were stunning.

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We landed just after lunch — local time — and although my body clock said it was bedtime, I was determined to stay up in an attempt to beat jet-lag. (It didn’t work: I work up at 5am virtually every day during my visit.) I arrived at The Fairmont in the Nob Hill neighbourhood…

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Look at that lobby!

… and found myself with some impressive views from my room to the north of the bay, with Alcatraz peeping around from the corner of the adjacent building.

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What to do for dinner? I hadn’t made any plans to meet anyone, knowing that I’d be in an antisocial post-flying mood, so I looked through some dining recommendations on Foursquare (a service that becomes so, so, so much more useful when you’re in The States) and took myself off to E & O for some of the best Asian fusion food I’ve ever eaten. I made the mistake of ordering far too much, but it was all so good I quickly accepted that this week I was going to get put on a belly and not worry too much about it.

Monday 21st January

When you walk out of The Fairmont and turn left, you’re presented with the steep hill down to Market and this is steep even by San Franciscan standards.

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It was a beautiful morning and a great start to the week. As I descended the hill, crossed Market, and headed down 7th to the Adobe offices on Townsend, I realised that it’d been years since I’d commuted to work, and even more years since I’d worked in a corporate environment. Surprisingly, both made for a very pleasant change.

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On my walk ‘home’ that evening, my perception of San Francisco geography slipped into place and I realised that I was walking past Sightglass, where I’d met a client for coffee just over a year ago. I vowed to make a visit the next morning.

Tuesday 22nd January

And so, waking up far earlier than I needed to, I set off on my commute with plenty of time to hang out in Sightglass. Initially, I was dismayed to find they had no WiFi, but actually it was a blessing. Freed of the distractions of the internet, I was able to get all of my emails done, ready to be sent when I got into the office.

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The view from Sightglass’ mezzanine level.

Being quite fond of routine, I decided that’s what I’d do every morning: head down to 7th and spend an hour or so catching up on yesterday’s email over coffee and breakfast.

Tip: get to Sightglass early! Artisanal coffee takes time and a queue can build up very quickly. 8am seemed to be the perfect time; by 8.30 it was nearly always packed.

On Tuesday night I got to see some very good, very old friends: Kyle Meyer, Tim Van Damme, and Maykel Loomans — all new(ish) residents of San Francisco due to Facebook and / or Instagram. I was also happy to see that Irish GBOL Lee Munroe is now firmly established in SF and up for beer, as well as Pusle designer Tuhin Kumar.

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X100 photo by Tuhin Kumar.

At Monk’s Kettle, I think I had one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, as well as some great beers there and in The Sycamore. Interesting to see some of the grittier(ish?) side of The Mission on the way, too.

Wednesday 23rd January

Just around the corner from Adobe, a brand new place called Gung Ho has just opened up, serving some really good Korean food and local beer. It seemed like a good excuse to have lunch with Meghan from FontShop (who are just a few blocks away).

On Wednesday evening I was meant to meet up with Erik Marinovich, who designed the cover to 8 Faces #5 and shares a studio with my mate Jessica Hische (sadly absent in England, ironically), but with Erik encumbered by the flu that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment, I had a quiet night in to myself. I opted for dinner at the recommended-by-everyone-I-spoke-to Tonga Room, in the basement of my hotel. The indoor swimming pool and half-hour ‘rain’ was… interesting. I also ate the biggest — and most flavourless — scallops known to man.

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Thursday 24th January

On Thursday evening I strolled over to King Street train station and met Craig Mod (a friend and collaborator I’d known for a while, but never met ‘in real life’) and we headed to North Beach for some pizza at Tony’s. With a short wait for a table, we wandered around the neighbourhood and took in the views from some of the hillier streets…

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… before being called to the restaurant for some utterly incredible pizza.

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Craig vs. pizza.

After dinner we visited the beat-tastic bookshop City Lights, where an author was doing a reading, before getting a nightcap at Comstock Saloon. The bar feels like you’re stepping back into the 1920s, but without any tackiness. Somewhere upstairs a lady played piano and sung jazz interpretations of Neil Young songs.

I’ve got so much respect for Craig. I don’t know anyone else right now who’s thinking and speaking and writing so eloquently about the publishing revolution we’re currently experiencing.

Friday 25th January

My last day at Typekit! Actually, that’s not true, since I’m still working with them back home, but it was my last day working on-site. Having made a big presentation the day before, Friday felt like an easy day — a wind-down from the week that had been.

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My last morning visit to Sightglass.

Every Friday, the team get together and discuss the week that’s passed, focussing mainly on stuff that’s shipped or decisions that have been made, which I think is a great idea. On that note, I’ve learned a lot from Typekit’s approach to meetings in general: talk about one specific thing, and reach a conclusion (or decide on a course of action) by the end of it. I feel like this was a real eye-opener, as someone’s who’s prone to ramble on about anything and everything at any given opportunity.

At the end of the day, we all popped round the corner for beers at Grand Pu Bah, and I felt genuinely sad to be leaving behind this new set of friends — an extremely talented group of people. Hopefully I’ll see you guys soon. Jeff, Ryan, Bryan, Greg, Paul, Sean, Libby, Mike, Dillon, Ivan, George, Nelson, and Christopher, thank you so much for an incredible week.

At 8pm I caught a cab over to Central Kitchen and enjoyed the seven-course taster menu with Veen, his lovely wife Julie, the insanely talented Naz, and his wife Jen. My goodness. That food was incredible.

Saturday 26th January

Packing up my bags and waving goodbye to the distant speck of Alcatraz from my window, I headed back down to The Mission, just a block away from the previous night’s dinner, and met Erik Spiekermann and his wife Susanna for breakfast at Universal Café. Oh my! Have the poached eggs with smoked trout and all those other lovely ingredients.

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After breakfast, Erik and I sat out in the sunshine and talked about type, design education, the superiority of Europe’s public transport systems (sorry, Americans), and how there are far too many cool things happening to keep track of. I think I spent most of the morning laughing — somehow I always forget how laugh-out-loud funny Erik is.

Then I got a cab to SFO. Unfortunately, I arrived ridiculously early. San Francisco is the only city I’ve ever visited where the airport is actually close to the city itself (about twenty minutes’ ride from downtown), so, tip: don’t worry too much about leaving too much time; stay a little longer in the city with friends and enjoy that coffee and sunshine.

Sunday 27th January

I’m now back home in Somerset, where the snow has now melted. I’ve missed my wife and my dog like crazy, so being back with them couldn’t have come sooner, but I had a fantastic week in San Francisco, and I hope to be back very soon!

View my ‘Been there done that in SF’ list on Foursquare.

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