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    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 Make it Bigger 1
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101t Bigger Paula Scher 3
    • Published byPrinceton Architectural Press37 East Seventh StreetNew York, New York 10003For a free catalog of books, call 1.800.722.6657.Visit our Web site at www.papress.com.©2005 Princeton Architectural Press This book is dedicated to the profession of graphic design and to all theAll rights reserved talented wits, intellects, and humanists who are its best practitioners.Printed in China08 07 06 05 4 3 2 1 First paperback editionNo part of this book may be used or repro-duced in any manner without written permis-sion from the publisher, except in the contextof reviews.Every reasonable attempt has been made toidentify owners of copyright. Errors or omis-sions will be corrected in subsequent editions.Editor: Mark LamsterEditor Paperback Edition: Lauren NelsonCopyeditor: Lauren NeefeProofreader: Cathryn DrakeSpecial thanks to: Nettie Aljian, Ann Alter,Nicola Bednarek, Janet Behning, Megan Carey,Penny (Yuen Pik) Chu, Jan Cigliano, ClareJacobson, Nancy Eklund Later, Linda Lee, EvanSchoninger, Jane Sheinman, Lottchen Shivers,Katherine Smalley Myers, Scott Tennant,Jennifer Thompson, and Deb Wood of PrincetonArchitectural Press—Kevin C. Lippert, publisherLibrary of CongressCataloging-in-Publication DataScher, Paula.Make it bigger / Paula Scher.—1st paperbacked.p. cm.ISBN 1-56898-548-71. Graphic arts—United States—History—20thcentury. 2. Design—United States—History—20thcentury. 3. Scher, Paula. I. Title.NC998.5.A1 S34 2005741.602373—dc222005009938
    • “Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to build one.”OVER the past thirty years the design field has not changed all that much. The basic motivating factors that fire up designers and push them to produce their bestwork remain the same. Designers want to make things, or make things up, and have thosethings that they’ve made or made up seen, used, and appreciated by lots of people. The things designers make may help someone decide to read a book or a magazine, buysome recorded music or candy, see a play or a ballet. They may help someone navigate a buildingor a Web site, understand technology, or vote in an election. The things designers design may bepowerful, provocative, funny, obsessive, or elegant. But they are all created with the expresspurpose that other people will use them in some way. For designers to have the things they make, or make up, get made (and seen, used, andappreciated by lots of people), they must necessarily collaborate with editors, publishers,retailers, and businessmen—the people who have some stake, and therefore an importantsay, in the very things that are being made by designers. This book is about that collaboration. In rereading this text I realize that in only a few instances do I make reference to the massivetechnological changes that occurred in the graphic design profession during the last threedecades. While I acknowledge that technological changes have influenced design style andmethodologies, have created new disciplines, and have certainly affected design production,they have had little to do with the way I approach design. It’s not that I’m a Luddite—I don’t haveanything personal against the computer. I feel about computers the way I feel about cars: I needthem, I drive them, I’m fond of them, but I don’t want to hang around and talk about them. I’ve never been interested in technology. I’m interested in people. If technology has changedduring the past thirty years, people have not.
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101CorporatePolitics101 7
    • C O R P O R AT E P O L I T I C S 1 0 1 office to obtain the necessary approvals from various people within the corporation. The necessary signatures were as follows: the assistant art director of the advertising department, the art di- rector of the advertising department, the creative director of the advertising department, the product manager of the band, the di- rector of product management, the vice president of A&R (artist and repertoire), the vice president of the record label (Columbia or Epic), and in the case of important recording artists, the presi-MY FIRST dent of CBS Records, who at that time was Clive Davis. The average amount of time allowed for a given ad to be conceived, written, designed, approved, typeset, and mechani-staff design job out of art school was in the advertising and pro- calized (this was before the computer) was about three days.motion department of CBS Records. I held the lowest possible Trade ads (Cashbox, Billboard, et al.) were printed on Wednes-position: I reported to the assistant art director, who reported to days, which often meant that ads for those magazines had to bethe art director, who reported to the creative director, who reported completed and approved in less than a day to make the publica-to the vice president of merchandising, who reported to the vice tions’ closings.president of sales, who reported to the president of CBS Records. The first ad I laid out was a trade ad. It was routed to theI was teamed with a copywriter, and we created ads that promoted assistant art director and promptly came back to me for all kindsalbums in trade publications like Cashbox and Billboard. We of revisions. I responded to the comments, and the ad waswould be given a work order, which contained a job number and rerouted to the assistant art director. Again it returned. In bothstated the name of the album and the band to be promoted, the instances, I was instructed to make the headline and thepublication in which the ad would appear, the size of the ad, and name of the album bigger. On the third submission, the headlinesome other basic content requirements. This information came and album title were huge. The ad was returned with a memofrom the product manager of the band, who was typically the au- to make “on Columbia Records and Tapes” larger. The fourththor of the marketing plan for a given album. submission came back with the notation that there was not suf- The copywriter and I would collaborate on a concept and ficient room for the body copy.headline. Then the copywriter would craft the body copy while I I decided to talk to the assistant art director because I haddesigned the ad. The finished layout would be attached to a rout- only half a day left to produce the ad. I waited outside his officeing slip, and a “traffic manager” would carry the ad from office to for twenty minutes while he finished a phone call. He held one 9
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101finger in the air to signal me to wait. When he finished the phone human beings naturally behave in complicated hierarchicalcall, he rifled through a pile of papers on his desk. After a few social situations.more minutes, he waved to me to come in. I was standing in frontof his desk with the ad when he picked up another pile of papers. Records product managers wereHe flipped through them for another minute, then looked up atme and said, “What’s the problem?” I told him that I wasn’t get- AT CBS the closest thing we had to clients. The product manager’s acceptance and support of a conceptting anywhere with the ad layout and asked him for advice. He and design were crucial. A strong product manager participatedpicked up a tracing pad and said, “You need to do it like this,” and in the creative process by providing the information that was es-created a thumbnail that in scale and proportion was nearly iden- sential to the design and encouraged an innovative result. Whentical to my first layout. I thanked him and redesigned the ad. He a strong product manager was pleased with a design, he or shesigned off on it, and so did everyone else because it was late would walk it through the approval process personally and actWednesday night and there were no other options. as a guardian of the work. As far as I can remember, the assistant art director never Weaker product managers supplied the relevant information,approved an ad I designed on the first try. A month later I learned and responded positively to innovative design, but would not ulti-how to avoid obtaining his approval, and about six months after mately defend anything. A superior was then far more likely to criti-that he was fired in a corporate-wide layoff. I found out afterward cize and compromise the work, largely because he or she sensedthat he had never been consulted about hiring me. The art direc- the product manager’s weakness. It was an unbreakable cycle intor who hired me (his boss) hadn’t invited him to my interviews, which the weak product manager became even weaker, often be-never showed him my portfolio, and informed him that I was hired came paranoid, and was eventually transferred out of the depart-just one day before I started working there. ment or fired. The weakest product managers were frequently quite This experience has repeated itself in a variety of scenar- shrewd. They avoided the aforementioned trap by never respond-ios throughout my professional life. Someone who was enti- ing or committing to anything so that they couldn’t be criticized bytled to approve my designs but who hadn’t been properly con- a superior. They kept their jobs longer than even the strongestsulted about hiring me or hadn’t been consulted by me with product managers, and working with them was usually fruitless.respect to a design would resort to any means possible to These three types of product manager are the archetypesblock, alter, or destroy my work. I quickly learned that the that describe every corporate or institutional client I’ve ever had.judgments made about graphic design in corporations, insti- I’ve become adept at identifying them and try to limit client rela-tutions, and organizations composed of more than one deci- tionships to the strong managers. It might seem like an arrogantsion maker often have little to do with the effectiveness of a statement, but the fact is that a designer cannot accomplishgiven design in the marketplace and more to do with how anything of import by working for a weak client. The relationship 10
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101is pointless, even if it exists purely to obtain the design fee. The the ads I produced for myfee will probably be cut, or the amount of time expended on thejob will wipe out the fee. The relationship is pointless because the MOST OF first design job at CBS were formulaic. They consisted of a headline, some body copy, aweak client is eternally fearful. If a design succeeds through a weak picture of the recording artist that was an out-take of theclient, it is only because someone stronger and more powerful has album-cover photo session, and a picture of the cover. Theinterceded on behalf of the design. only way to produce an interesting ad was to break the for- At CBS Records in the seventies, the record-cover depart- mula completely, which was an impossible task. Even if ament was much more powerful and respected than the advertis- strong product manager supported it, it would generally be re-ing department. Covers weren’t routed through the company by jected by Clive Davis; and if the ad was for a smaller recordinga traffic manager. Product managers and label heads actually artist, the creative director would reject it.came to the designers’ offices to meet, discuss, and approve After two years in the advertising department at CBSart. It is true that the packaging of music has always been per- Records, I realized that it would be impossible to produce anyceived as more important to its sale than advertising, yet the two notable work for the following reasons:divisions’ different art-approval processes were created by theheads of the respective departments. The two creative directors • To produce notable work I would have to break record-had absolutely opposing philosophies about the goals of design advertising conventions.within the corporation. • The president of the company was conventional. The creative director of advertising saw himself as the • The creative director was conventional and afraid of theleader of an organization in service to corporate management. president.He wanted to build personal relationships with label heads,sought them out socially, and didn’t want to provoke, challenge, In the fall of 1973 I was offered a job at Atlantic Records, whichor offend them. He protected the status quo. had a smaller art department. The art director at Atlantic hired The creative director of the cover division saw himself as me to design ads and covers. The pay was the same as my nextan art director and designer. He wanted to be well respected in scheduled raise at CBS Records, so there was no question inthe design community, win design awards, and make his service my mind about taking the job. Atlantic offered an opportunity toto the company a by-product of the excellence of the depart- produce interesting work; the advertising department of CBSment. The cover department’s creative director gained more im- Records did not. Money was irrelevant. It was more important tomediate respect from the organization. In the late seventies and make uncompromised work.early eighties, however, when the record industry went into a fi- I have never made a pivotal career decision based on money.nancial slump, both creative directors were expendable. Money has always been a by-product of design. When I have 11
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101taken on projects that I am indifferent to but for which I have nego- ( 1 9 74 )tiated a high fee, I have found that the fee is never high enough. A P P R O V A L P R O C E S S : AT L A N T I C R E C O R D S C O V E R D E P A R T M E N T AT L A N T I C R E C O R D S P R E S I D E N T Records my clientsAT ATLANTIC were the director ofmarketing, recording artists or their management, or Nesuhi Ertegun, EXECUTIVE VP 2 1one of Atlantic Records’ founders. If Ertegun was interested in an LEGAL & FINANCE VP MARKETING A&Ralbum-cover design, then no other opinion mattered. Ertegun hadgood taste and was easy to talk to. I began to seek his approvalfirst. Once he said he liked something, then everyone else liked it. D I R E CTO R MAR K E TI N G I call this “selling down.” It is the simple process of obtain-ing approval from the most powerful people first. I was capable ARTIST MANAG E Rof selling down at Atlantic because at the time I worked there it C R E AT I V E D I R E C T O Rwas a relatively small organization and because Ertegun madehimself accessible to the design department. C O P Y D I R E C TO R A R T D I R E C TO R RECORDING ARTIST In most corporations or institutions, the designer faces the R OUT A R OUT Bultimately compromising task of selling up. Selling up only works Me 1when the designer has a strong client who is well respected within A S S T. A R T D I R E C T O R RECORDING ARTIST SIG N IFICANT OTH E Rthe organization, who can set the stage for a positive presentation, M E C H A N I C A L S D E P T.and who can provide the necessary backup before criticism. In the process of selling up, most objections to a design areexpressed as “marketing concerns.” Marketing concerns are usu-ally design-punishing reactions such as not liking a particularcolor or type choice, or thinking an image is “too” something (youfill in the blank). Designs that are “too” something are usuallystrong—maybe even edgy—and tend to be scary to people on firstviewing. What most scares people in a corporation is a designthat looks too far afield from other things like it in the marketplace(which is ironic, because the point of design in the marketplace isto identify and differentiate). 12
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 PEON OFFICE POWER OFFICE If, however, the most powerful person in the organization has blessed a design that seems different from other things like it in E XT R A C HA I R TA B LE the marketplace, then marketing concerns usually vanish. The most powerful person can also often prevail over the results of market research and focus groups. Such corporate leaders are A R T D I R E C TO R DESIGNER rare gems. They are visionaries and should ultimately be credited COUCH for all important design achieved by corporations and institutions. At Atlantic Records I had a galleylike office with a long coun- tertop that stretched the length of the space. My boss, the art di- V I S I TO R S rector, had a big square office with a large table way back in the VI S I TO R S space, behind which he sat. It was an imposing position; my of-C O U NTE RTO P fice was completely unimposing. There were books, color pencils, DOOR DOOR comps, and all sorts of arty things around. I found out that this worked to my advantage or disadvantage depending on the visi- tor. Recording artists who had cover approval, particularly the less powerful ones, enjoyed my office because it didn’t seem cor- porate. They thought of me as an artist and enjoyed meeting with me. If they had healthy egos, there was positive collaboration. Powerful managers of important recording artists didn’t like my office because they thought they were talking to the art de- partment’s peon. I never held a successful meeting with an im- portant artist’s manager in that office. After some very frustrating experiences, I started borrowing my boss’s office for power meet- ings. Even then, the meetings were not particularly fruitful if the manager thought that I wasn’t the most important person in the art department. I realized then that if I wanted to be able to per- suade people to a particular design, I would have to be perceived as first, an absolute authority and second, the most powerful per- son to approach about design. 13
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 This perception was nearly impossible to achieve at age that were typographic were com-twenty-five. The only way to have power at twenty-five, particu-larly in the music business, was to appear to be hip and COVERS paratively easy to sell to product managers, producers, and musicians. Most of the typographicgroovy; then it would be assumed that you were a young vi- covers that I designed in the seventies were for classical and jazzsionary leading the way to the future. I could not achieve that albums or for reissues for pop recording artists who were eitherpersona. Being neither powerful nor particularly hip, I relied on dead or dropped from the label. The corporation found these ty-my personal strengths. I was articulate, and I had a good pographic covers particularly appealing because they were cheapsense of humor. I therefore styled myself as what can best be to produce. The covers were often formalistic compositions of in-described as a young smart-ass. It served me reasonably well formation, the objections voiced were usually about color.for a number of years. My classical album covers generally employed historical typefaces that reflected the period in which the music was writ- worked for Atlantic Records for a year ten. Because I had the opportunity to design so many covers, II HAD when I was offered a position as an art di-rector in the CBS Records cover department. In that year at became familiar with virtually every period of typographic design. These early typographic covers at Atlantic and CBS RecordsAtlantic I produced twenty-five album covers. As an art director became the basis for the design vocabulary on which I wouldat CBS Records I would oversee or produce 150 albums a continue to build for another twenty years.year. I took the job because there was more to design. I always I noticed that in the eighties clients were far more sensi-look for more to design: the more you design the more you learn. tive to typographic styles than they were in the seventies. InYou learn the most from your mistakes. You don’t learn anything the seventies product managers, bands, editors, and otherfrom success. nondesigners were far more interested in imagery. They In the CBS Records cover department more people were viewed typography as lettering only. Only rarely would they dif-involved in everything because it was a much bigger company. ferentiate between the type that “had the little feet” (serifs)It took longer to make things than it had at Atlantic. I later came and the type that didn’t.to appreciate working for smaller companies, simply because In the seventies rock bands wanted logos, and a logo meantthe politics are easier to manage. A middle-size corporation, if it highly styled typography that integrated letterforms in a compli-has an active and intelligent president, turns out to be the best cated way, like the Chicago album covers designed by Johnclient. It is small enough to enable the designer to build a rela- Berg and Nick Fasciano. The Chicago design was based on thetionship with the appropriate power figure and big enough to Coca-Cola logo. When it proved successful, it became the ex-realize design on a relatively large scale. pectation of every band requesting a logo, and it took many years before this ceased to be the case. I have found—and still 14
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101find—that I am always battling yesterday’s success in the stylis- a finished piece of art was commissioned or some minor revi-tic expectations of my clients. sions were requested. Sometimes the whole sketch was re- My best work at CBS Records (and elsewhere) often jected, and the cover was rethought. I very rarely requested thatcame out of rush projects. The corporation would want to an illustrator produce more than one sketch. I usually found thathurry something into the marketplace so quickly that it didn’t if there were severe problems with the first sketch, there werecare what it looked like. I’ve always found the rush a tremen- likely to be more with a second or third one. When you revise andous opportunity to employ some energetic design experi- idea several times, you tend to lose the confidence of the group,mentation. The speed at which you are forced to work inspires which creates a spiral of negativity that leads to further criticism,a madcap kind of spontaneity, and that’s good for design. skepticism, and indecision.Even the mistakes work for you. The most successful illustrations I commissioned were for The best thing about rush projects is the absence of the jazz albums. Jazz musicians often responded positively to illustra-approval process and therefore the absence of fear and inde- tion because they were not particularly enthusiastic about havingcision, which are the impetus of most corporate design. In their pictures taken for the covers. As musicians, they felt at easefact, one tends to receive far more gratitude for merely ac- with wit, abstraction, fantasy, and surrealism, which are all work-complishing a project on time for clients who are on an accel- ing components of good illustration. It was more difficult to com-erated timeline than for satisfying the requirements in a sce- mission illustration for rock bands because there were usuallynario of careful group deliberation. too many people involved in the approval process to achieve agreement on a specific image. In addition, the bands were ob- have often been called the sessed with stardom and how to dress and look cool on theTHE 1970s “golden days of illustra-tion.” The work of Pushpin Studios (Milton Glaser, Seymour album cover. More jazz covers than rock covers had illustrations; so if you commissioned an illustration for a rock cover, the com-Chwast, James McMullan, Paul Davis, et al.) was prevalent and pany would complain that it looked like a jazz album.highly influential. At that time I was very much an illustrator’s art Rock (particularly heavy-metal bands) liked specific types ofdirector. Most of the illustrations I commissioned in the seven- pulp illustration, by artists like Frank Frazetta, and favored logoties were based on concepts that resulted from an initial meet- designs that looked like they came from violent superhero comicing I had with a recording artist, the manager, and the internal books. They read significant meanings into the illustrations andproduct manager. I would relay the concept to an illustrator, who were looking to create a special visual myth.would embellish the idea and provide a sketch for presentation I began to notice that nonvisual people tended to readpurposes. The presentation of the sketch to the recording artist illustrations literally. They would complain that a color in aand various other players might be a complete success, wherein painting wasn’t “accurate,” or would dislike a feature of a face or 16
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101the way an object was stylistically represented. It is always diffi- powerless to determine imagery and were instead relied upon tocult to explain to a layperson that elements in a painting are in- relate editors’ comments to illustrators, to design layouts, and toterrelated and that what may seem like a small color change can facilitate copy revisions. Illustrators were therefore forced todestroy an entire work, or at least make it banal. Usually any de- work with weak clients. It was no accident that illustration fell outfense of quality elicits one of two responses: “Well, I may not of fashion by the late eighties and that its marketplace value hasknow what’s good, but I know what I like,” or “We don’t want to remained flat for twenty years.win any art awards.” The fate of illustration will not change unless well-trained I was able to maintain the integrity of the illustrations I pur- art directors regain power or illustrators learn to function as adchased while at CBS Records by gaining an understanding of hoc art directors, to attend meetings, and to work directly with thethe personalities involved in the approval process. That way I most powerful people in organizations.could control the situation in which the illustration was commis-sioned. When I perceived the political situation to be unfavorableto illustration, I relied on typography and photography. In the early eighties I found it increasingly difficult to com-mission illustration. There was a recession in the music industry,so the company was releasing fewer jazz albums. And in badeconomic climates regressive caution usually enters the graphicmarketplace. It is not accidental that in the early eighties largelystylistic typographic designs were less risky than specific im-agery, which could invite controversy. The early nineties (an-other recession) was another anti-image period. I left CBS Records in 1982 and started my own design firm,with magazines and publishing companies as clients. I found itnearly impossible to commission memorable illustration. Magazineand book editors were among the most literal interpreters of il-lustration. Many of them showed absolute contempt for the pro-fession. They employed weak art directors who functioned asmessengers and would not defend work. The exalted profession of Art Director seemed to disappear.Editorial art directors, with a few notable exceptions, became 17
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 I LLU STRATION S My favorite album-cover illustrator in the seventies was David Wilcox, the best of the magical realists. His work would be nearly impossible to produce within a large corporate structure today. The approval process involves too many people, all of whom are too nervous to allow an illustration to be commissioned without seeing some- thing similar already in existence. Most committees can’t accurately interpret a sketch. Instead the art director has to find the similar thing that exists, scan it into the com- puter, show it to the committee, persuade the committee of its appropriateness, make recommended changes, re- present it to the committee, assign the project to an illus- trator, present the commissioned sketch to the commit- tee, respond to the fact that the sketch doesn’t look like the original presentation piece, have the illustrator rework the sketch perhaps three more times, and await the fin- ished painting, which at this point is devoid of any spon- taneity, emotion, surprise, or edge. Ginseng Woman is the best of the Wilcox covers. Eric Gale, a jazz guitarist, was married to an Asian woman, and the album was dedicated to her. Gale wanted an image that would symbolize their connection. I per- suaded Gale to accept a mysterious cover image: a Japanese room, tatami mats, a kimono, a sandal, and a woman’s outstretched legs entwined with an electric cord from Gale’s guitar. Wilcox’s color choices and partic- ular use of scale gave the room an eerie glow. He signed his name as a Japanese stamp, and I designed the album title in the spirit of Asian scrolls and stamps.1976 18
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 1977 The cover was nominated for a Grammy Award in the mind of the beholder. Because the image is an illus- plied the rows of bunnies. In the top row of bunnies, in the1978. Shortly thereafter, CBS Records received a letter tration, it is even further removed from reality. At the end background, there is actually a fornicating bunny couple. Ifrom the National Organization for Women protesting vi- of the treatise, I told NOW that I was earning signifi- can’t imagine any corporation allowing this to be pro-olence to women in album-cover art and citing Ginseng cantly less money than male art directors with the same duced today. At CBS Records at that time, though, EricWoman as an example. Corporate management (all male responsibilities and asked for their help. I received no Gale’s approval was all that mattered. I don’t think anyoneand very sexist) was absolutely delighted that a woman reply. Ginseng Woman was my first experience with po- else looked at it that closely. As a jazz musician, Gale did-had designed the album cover and gleefully dumped the litically correct interpretations of graphic design. In the n’t sell enough records to warrant the kind of scrutinyprotest letter on me for a response. eighties and nineties the fear of offending anyone be- given to best-selling recording artists. On the other hand, I wrote a relatively serious treatise about the differ- came so great that it was nearly impossible to commis- his albums were sold all over the world. Album covers,ence between illustration and photography, about how sion specific imagery at all. particularly jazz albums, were my first global work, and Ione interprets images, and about the difference be- Multiplication was the album that followed Ginseng still see them in music stores when I travel abroad.tween the real and the surreal. In the Ginseng Woman Woman. Gale said he wanted “bunnies” on the albumimage, violence could be construed, but it would be in cover. I supplied the title to the album, and Wilcox sup- 19
    • 1977 20
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 1011980 1979 The Yardbirds Favorites, Shine the Light of Love and wasn’t in any way involved in the process. Repackages Universal Rhythm are good examples of the spirit of my were generally nonpolitical album covers. Jim Charney, the collaboration with Wilcox. I supplied a ridiculous prem- project manager for Boston, Ted Nugent, and Cheap Trick, ise, and he supplied an obsessive response. used to reward me with repackages as an antidote to the The Yardbirds album was a repackage, which meant arduous political machinations that accompanied the pro- that the company had extra tapes lying around and the duction of cover designs for most best-selling albums. contractual right to release them, but the recording artist 21
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 1976 22
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101Sidewalks of New York and Too Hot to Handle, both illus-trated by Robert Grossman, couldn’t have been more dif-ferent albums. Sidewalks of New York was a release bythe classical division and featured popular tunes fromthe turn of the twentieth century played by the world’slargest calliope. It was released by the Masterworks divi-sion, and a small audience was anticipated. There wasno particular corporate interference in the art direction. Heat Wave was an R&B band that Epic Records (aCBS subsidiary) had picked up. The album had an acci-dental hit single called “Boogie Nights,” and the companywanted to rush the album into the marketplace to takeadvantage of the extra sales. Grossman produced the il-lustration in a week; I found the crazy wavy typography inthe old Morgan Foundry collection. Epic Records washappy just that the album came out on time. It sold twomillion records. If it had not been a rush, the illustration 1976would never have been accepted by management becauseit doesn’t “look like” the artwork for any other R&B album. 1977 23
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 1980Lake was a German rock band that had had some suc- idea, he said it sounded frigid, that there needed to be me I was being smug. He then showed the cover to acess in Hamburg and was exporting its sound to the some observer of the action. He sent me a painting in Columbia vice president, who said that blue wasn’t aUnited States. I met with the band’s manager, and we which a cat was witness to the flood. After Jim’s painting rock & roll color.decided that their first album cover should illustrate arrived, I found out that the manager of the band was The Lake painting languished on the floor of my officesome sort of flood. I thought the flood should be an being replaced, and that the album’s producer wanted a for a couple of weeks. James William Guercio, who alsoeveryday incident, like a sink overflowing, and the man- viewing of the painting. When he saw it, he was horrified. managed Chicago, was hired to be the new band man-ager agreed. We told the producer of the album, who He said we’d never discussed a cat, that the cat wasn’t ager. He had good taste and liked things in series. Ihappened to be the head of the Columbia Records A&R part of the original deal, that pussycats were not rock & showed him the McMullan painting, and he liked it. He said,department, and he liked the concept also. roll animals. I asked him what were rock & roll animals, “Make ’em all like this.” I hired James McMullan to illustrate the album be- and he told me that lions and tigers were rock & roll ani-cause he worked in watercolors. When I told him the mals. When I pointed out that they were all cats, he told 24
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 19781977 1979 25
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 BOSTON A friend at CBS Records in the seventies predicted that The band’s manager liked the spaceship but thought when I die, my epitaph will read, “Art director of the orig- it should be saving the crowd, not attacking it. That inal Boston album.” The thought has always horrified me. seemed ridiculous, so we made up another allegory: The Boston was the first album by the group of the same Earth had blown up, and all the cities of the world were es- name. It was released in 1976 and sold six million copies caping in guitar-shaped spaceships with glass bubble in less than a year. The album had one hit single, “More domes. The big spaceship in the foreground was Boston, Than a Feeling.” Epic Records had high hopes for the and the little spaceships in the background were Paris, album release, but no one predicted its massive success. London, and Rome. Roger Huyssen repainted the cover, The product manager, Jim Charney, was really re- and I remember lots of back and forth with the band’s sponsible for the graphic direction of the Boston cover. A manager about that illustration—the color wasn’t bright number of cover comps had already been created by var- enough, Boston wasn’t big enough, and so on. At the very ious designers in the CBS Records cover department end of the process, the band got cold feet about the alle- and rejected by the band’s management. The designs gory and made me tone down the lettering of London, were all puns on the album title: a photograph of a head Paris, and Rome. They thought the audience would read of lettuce or a cream pie with the word Boston attached the album title as Boston, London, Paris, Rome, so I kept to it. Charney told me that the band wanted a guitar on scaling back the lettering until it was finally invisible. the front cover. My sarcastic response was, “How novel.” I have never understood the strange chemistry and I remember being shown a sketch done by the band’s karma of hit music. Hits don’t really have anything to do manager that showed a beauty pageant of guitar-shaped with qualitative decision making or careful planning. women, all with banners across their chests, and the Genius and originality don’t guarantee hits; you cannot winner was Boston. even rely on predictable, salable mediocrity. Hits are Charney knew that the lead guitarist, Tom Scholz, happenings in a particular period of time that manage to was an engineer who worked at Polaroid, and thought capture the imagination of a large but specific audience the cover should be scientific or technological in spirit. in a specific and personal way that defies all logical ex- He suggested a guitar-shaped spaceship. I never liked planation. Corporations and institutions would love to be the idea. I thought it was idiotic. The album was simply able to come up with a mathematical formula to create called Boston. A guitar-shaped spaceship with the album hits, but they never will. Market research can provide fod- title made no sense and wasn’t mysterious enough to der for audience preferences but cannot quantify what overcome the stupidity, so we created some comic-book makes people respond to something with sudden, unex- action for the spaceship. The ship had a floating city atop pected passion and loyalty. it, and the word Boston was illuminated on the front of Musically Boston is not a great album. “More Than a the ship. The spaceship had run amok, and a mass of peo- Feeling” is decidedly mediocre, and so is everything about ple was running for their lives. Roger Huyssen, an airbrush the album package, but it struck a chord with sixteen- illustrator, was commissioned to create the sketch, and year-old boys and their girlfriends in 1976. It was that Gerard Huerta, a popular logo designer, was hired to de- music and that graphic at that time. There was some- sign Boston’s logo. thing technological about it: a harbinger of things to 26
    • 197627
    • 28
    • 1994 1987come. Timing is everything. Hits have their own life. I The scientific aspect of the cover struck a chord with technology companies. I had no experience whatsoeverdon’t think a corporation or an individual can plan or di- all those boys who grew up to be techies. I have noticed with technology brands, so I mentioned that I was the artrect hits, but I do think one can create the climate in that a lot of technology packaging—first video games, director of the first Boston cover. I felt a hush of rever-which they happen. That climate accepts luck and intu- then computer games, software, and hardware packag- ence permeate the room. I was given the assignment.ition as part of the operating procedure and supports the ing—utilizes stylistic elements and color palettes that Now the Boston spaceship is commemorated on an-exact moment that the hit seems possible. CBS Records look like the 1970s illustrations typified by the Boston niversary CDs. My Pentagram partner, J. Abbott Miller, re-in the seventies created the climate for hits better than cover. I’ve often thought that the entire point of computer cently came across a painter, Steve Keene, who wasany corporation I have witnessed since. programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, based on the recreating album covers of the seventies. He had painted The Boston album is an iconic image that has way they are advertised, is to enable anyone to create a row of Boston covers, one slightly different from theeclipsed the identities of those who invented it. Boston their own Boston cover. next. Two of the paintings are shown here in repetition. Inever had another album as successful as the first. The Recently I was being considered for the design of a like them better than the original.guitar-shaped spaceship was technically rendered bet- large packaging program for a major technology com-ter on the second and third album covers, but the first pany. When I was interviewed about my branding expert-album bears the “real” spaceship. ise, I was asked what previous experience I had with 29
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101BLU E SKY RECORDSBlue Sky Records was a custom label distributed by CBSand was the invention of Steve Paul, who managedJohnny and Edgar Winter, Muddy Waters, Rick Derringer,and David Johansen, who later became Buster Poindexter. Paul was more a patron than a client. He was lessconcerned about what things looked like or what thesubject matter was than about who did them and whetheror not they were considered quality. Paul liked to workwith the stars of the profession. He wanted to be con-vinced that every person handling any aspect of his proj-ect was simply the best in the business. He usually re-quested that Richard Avedon photograph his recordingartists. If not Avedon, then how about Bert Stern? I didn’tmind this at all: It’s actually a good way of ensuring thatthe end product will be of the highest quality. When Avedon photographed the Winter brothers, Ipersuaded Paul to run the image without any typography.The Winter brothers were popular at the time and the onlyalbinos in the record business. They would be instantlyrecognizable. The album title was Johnny and Edgar WinterTogether, and the cover certainly made that clear. Thecompany demanded that a sticker be placed on the shrink-wrap, but Paul defended the position of no typography onthe outside package. Once he was persuaded that it wasan elegant thing to do, there was no stopping him. 1976 30
    • 32
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 When Avedon shot Muddy Waters for Hard Again (1977), Waters had just walked in the door and hadn’t yet taken off his hat and coat. Avedon moved him to a white wall, took four pictures, and said it was a wrap. It was. Paul had the confidence to accept two pictures from the four for the cover images. It was harder to persuade Paul to purchase illustra- tion because he didn’t know enough about the genre to identify famous illustrators by name. When I wanted to hire Phil Hays to paint a portrait of Waters, Paul wanted to be assured that Hays was simply the best portraitist there was. He couldn’t make a judgment by looking at Hays’s work, but he was impressed by the fact that other illustrators thought Hays was the best illustrator. Paul wanted what was acknowledged as best and got it. 197833
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 1979TAPPAN Z E E RECORDS dependence and control. His was the only approval nec- Pete Turner had produced his first four albums. Heads (a essary in the creation of these album covers. nickel) was his fifth album, Touchdown (six points) hisBob James was my first ideal client. He had his own small The Tappan Zee covers were all composed of small- sixth. The objects and names were selected with respectlabel called Tappan Zee Records, which CBS distributed. ish objects—simple American icons blown up so they to the number or, in the case of the other jazz musicians,He planned to release records of his own music plus were out of scale. The approach was successful on the the title of the album. Most of the covers were pho-those of other jazz musicians. He wanted his album cov- 12-by-12-inch format, particularly because the albums tographed by John Paul Endress. The most successfulers to have a series look but not a specific format. James opened up and the whole 25-inch surface could be used. Tappan Zee cover was One on One (1979), for which thewas entrepreneurial. He knew how to construct interest- James’s covers were all numbered. He had had a matchbook became the entire package.ing deals with record labels that allowed him to have in- previous label deal with CTI Records, and photographer 34
    • 1979 19801978 19791978 1978
    • A L B U M C O V E R - 1 2 1/4" C D - 7 7/8" Most of the Tappan Zee albums have been reduced to CD scale and still exist in record stores. The images are uninteresting on the smaller scale, which is one reason I have never had a particular interest in designing CDs. I prefer to work bigger.1977
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 OBJ ECTS Barrabas’s Heart of the City was achieved by photo- graphing a manhole cover in New York and retouching it into the shape of a heart. When the cover first appeared in 1975, the heart shape seemed miraculous. The mayor’s office in Miami, Florida, sent a letter to Atlantic Records asking where they could purchase the man- hole covers for their city. No such naïveté would exist today. The computer has made us believe that every image is manipulated. The Leonard Bernstein cover Poulenc/Stravinsky was an actual piece of stained glass, 15-by-15 inches, built and painted by Nick Fasciano from a sketch I pro- vided. The stained glass was backlit and photographed.1975 38
    • 1976
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 1011976 1987TYPOGRAPHY50 Years of Jazz Guitar is a piece of inlaid wood, also As a young art director in the seventies, I was in awe of liked to integrate typography into the image, because Ibuilt by Fasciano. The crude lettering is mine. Fasciano illustrators and photographers. I felt that art direction felt it made the covers more posterlike, and type thatworked right off of my tracing-paper drawing. was a second-class profession and that the illustrators was paneled apart from the illustration made the album Urgent’s Thinking Out Loud was designed in the and photographers were the real artists. I was merely an cover look smaller. Two of the most successful integra-eighties for Manhattan Records but is similar in approach intermediary, a businessperson. tions of type and illustration are these two covers byto the other covers that involved built or retouched ob- I liked making typographic covers because I made John O’Leary. For Blast, he painted the typography asjects. The lead singer of Urgent laid the screen over his them myself. In the seventies—image was king, so a part of the image. In Dance, the typography was appliedface to create the impression, which was then pho- cover that was typographic was perceived as something to the painting.tographed by Endress. The album was originally titled cheap used on a budget package. Most typographicPush Comes to Shove, but after the image was produced album covers were made for one of three reasons: (1)the band changed the title to Thinking Out Loud. The vi- the album was a repackage, and the company didn’tsual makes no sense with the title, but it didn’t matter at want to spend any money; (2) the album was a classicalthe time, because the pin screen was such an au courant or jazz album with a low sales expectation, and the com-object that the image defied explanation. We had also en- pany didn’t want to spend any money; or (3) there wastered the age of ambiguity, so making sense was consid- no time to do anything else.ered an impediment to an interesting image. By the end of the seventies my typography started to overwhelm the illustrations I purchased. I had always 40
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 10119801980 1979
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 1011974 1974These two covers for Charles Mingus, designed in 1974for Atlantic Records, are now released as CDs, with thefull-size typographic cover folded into the smaller CD caseto maintain the integrity of the design. Atlantic waspleased that they were designed on my desk and that noextra money had to be expended. The albums themselveshave come to be considered jazz classics, and now these“budget” covers are part of the albums’ classic form. 42
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 John Prine’s Common Sense was typical of my art-direc- tion style in the early seventies, and, to some degree, still is today. The title was taken from the American Revolutionary tract written by Thomas Paine, which in- formed the design style and the choice of illustration. The farmer is about to step on a rake—a take on the album title. I hired illustrator Charles Slackman to do the draw- ing because he made line drawings similar to those done on early American almanacs, and the typeface, Caslon 540, is similar to those selected for pamphlet design in that period. But the layout, drop-cap initials, heavy bars, and other elements are decidedly seventies. I remember showing the Common Sense cover to Prine on the floor of my office at Atlantic. He had a paint- ing that he wanted to combine with the cover, so I neu- tralized the request by inserting the painting into the type design on the back cover. I would often protect the in- tegrity of a front cover by giving away something on the back. I became more and more adept at such negotia- tions as I came to understand power and human nature.1975 43
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101This Jean-Pierre Rampal cover from 1978 is composedof a variety of woodblock prints I purchased in Japan inthe early seventies. The type design started out as verti-cal Asian-influenced typographic scrolls or stamps onthe front cover, and it became more obsessive on theback. The back cover was radical for its time becausethe typography is detailed, without an underlying or ac-companying image. I have always liked the back coverbetter than the front. 1978
    • 1977This Yardbirds cover, designed in 1977, was the first of The Best of Phoebe Snow was designed in 1981. The ty-my editorial-design approaches. The front cover contains pography and layout were influenced by some 1930a list of important events of 1968, and the song titles are copies of Novum Gebrauchsgraphik that I’d purchased ininserted into the list. The back has text columns with the an antique store. The influence is definitely there, but ithistory of the Yardbirds running diagonally over a history really doesn’t look like anything designed in the thirties.of 1968. This cover was designed at the same time David It’s pure eighties.Wilcox illustrated Yardbirds Favorites. 46
    • 198147
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 10119771978 1981 48
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101Peter and the Wolf (1977) employed a comic-book for-mat to tell a story. I simply ran the narrative over thefront and back covers. Stan Mack provided the illustra-tions, and I did the hand lettering of the title. The Bartókcover, designed in 1978, is an early example of whatwas later referred to as my “retro” work. It was typical ofmany book covers designed in the eighties, but the lackof image made it an anomaly in the seventies. BuschSerkin Busch is similar to the Bartók cover, but featuresa different period style. The lettering on this jazz album of Al Di Meola, JohnMcLaughlin, and Paco de Lucía was inspired by a VictorianBuckingham pipe-tobacco can. The type and colorsevoke the spirit of San Francisco. I had completely forgot-ten that I designed it until I ran into it in the nineties in aEuropean music store that specialized in old jazz albums.I purchased this copy. It still exists on CD. There are manysimilar album covers that I designed in the late seventiesthat I never bothered to save. 1978 49
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 1979 50
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101TH E BE ST OF JAZ ZIn the early eighties it was clear to me that album covers (red, black, and yellow). The photographs of the recordingwere going to get smaller. Compact disc technology had artists appeared as grainy, high-contrast reproductions,been introduced, and the CBS Records art department and the American wood type was boldly displayed at anwas beginning to experiment with ways to package CDs. angle. The covers had a vaguely constructivist look (notThe plastic “jewel box” container quickly became the in- wholly accidental, because I was rediscovering El Lissitskydustry favorite because the technophiles who bought the and Aleksander Rodchenko at that time).first CDs perceived the sophisticated digital technology Minoli asked that I design two posters to accompanyas highly sensitive, demanding more serious protection the albums in store displays. She gave no design criteriathan the cardboard packaging used on LP records. In re- except that the names of the artists be large and thatality CDs are far more durable than LPs, but the percep- they be done quickly. I laid out a big sheet of Kraft papertion of the consumer was impossible to change. Folded- from an industrial roll and filled it with the names of theboard packaging later reemerged as a popular system recording artists, cut out from the album covers thatbut was more expensive because the major printers of were already produced. The collage of names resulted inCD packaging (there are only four in the United States) two posters with type at tangents in a decidedly con-had been tooled to produce jewel boxes. structivist style. At the time they looked radical. Record- At about this time I became interested in doing work store owners used them in interesting ways; they wrappedfor the CBS merchandising department, which had hired a the cash desks with them or pasted them around columns.savvy young director named Giselle Minoli. She was re- The posters would never have been made if Minoli hadn’tsponsible for producing the merchandising materials for been the director of merchandising. They simply didn’t fit 1979record stores. Minoli liked making posters, which has al- into any expected commercial-graphic category. The yearways been my favorite graphic form. (I considered album- the posters were designed, I entered them in several de-cover design to be the act of making small posters and sign competitions, and they were uniformly rejected.later felt the same way about book-jacket design. I did Then, in the early eighties, they began to receive ac-not enjoy designing the new smaller CD packages.) For a claim. They were first dubbed “new wave” design by crit-short period Minoli wielded tremendous power at CBS ics, then “postmodern.” The design had far more to doRecords, and changed the whole output and structure of with the necessity of fitting names into a given space (thethe merchandising department, which until she arrived economy was bad and the budget was thin) than with anyproduced blown-up ads and oversize album covers and desire to return to the principles of the Russian avant-shipped them to stores for display. Under Minoli the pro- garde. I had always used style pragmatically. I found thatmotional poster became an entity unto itself rather than the in the eighties, among both clients and practitioners, cir-stepchild of the record packaging. cumstance was forgotten and style was an end in itself. In 1979 I worked on a series of covers for CBSRecords called “The Best of Jazz.” A compilation of worksby about thirty jazz artists, it was designed in a deliber-ately inexpensive-looking format. The albums were allprinted on Kraft paper (paper-bag stock) in flat colors 51
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 52
    • COR P ORATE P OLITICS 101 TRU ST E LV I S A year later Minoli needed a promotional poster for the The poster had taken on a life of its own. A couple of new Elvis Costello album, Trust. Costello was on Stiff weeks after the poster was released, I met Costello’s Records, which was distributed by CBS. Minoli hadn’t re- manager, who was furious. He said that the red-and ceived any of the new album covers and only had a blue-glasses made Costello look like a clown, and he black-and-white photostat of Costello from the proposed didn’t like the word TRUST hovering over Costello’s back cover of the new album. She needed the poster to head. My worst offense was printing “Costello on ship to the stores, with the album, in two weeks. The Columbia,” when Costello was on Stiff Records, and his photostat was grim, except that Costello’s eyes, peeking manager was the Stiff president. over his glasses, made an interesting shadow across his In 1984, after I left CBS Records to found my own face. I hand-colored the photostat and for some reason firm, one of the designers who worked for me showed painted one eyeglass red and the other blue; then I put me Bret Easton Ellis’s popular novel, Less Than Zero. I the words TRUST across the top and ELVIS across the read this passage from the book: bottom so it read like a political-campaign poster. I posi- tioned the words Costello on Columbia so that they were I look up with caution at the poster encased in glass Bookjacket by George Casillo ©1985 Simon and Schuster coming out of Costello’s ear, and I hired a retoucher to that hangs on the wall above my bed....It’s the pro- airbrush the photostat carefully to match the handmade motional poster for an old Elvis Costello record. comp. The job was returned the next day reproduced at Elvis looks past me, with this wry, ironic smile on his four times the original size, which made the color richer lips, staring out the window. The word “Trust” hover- and better in the reproduction. ing over his head, and his sunglasses, one lens red, In the meantime I had been trying to persuade the other blue, pushed down past the ridge of his Minoli to make the posters in general, and the Costello nose so that you can see his eyes, which are slightly poster in particular, bigger. Most record stores requested off center. The eyes don’t look at me, though. They a 20-by-30-inch scale because they had limited space only look at whoever’s standing by the window. for hanging posters, but I believed that bigger posters were more dramatic. If a poster was dynamic, and partic- I don’t know what Ellis—or his hero, Clay—saw in the ularly if a popular recording artist was featured, I be- poster. For me, it was a rush job that the artist’s manager lieved that the record stores would find the space. The hated. The cover of the book, published by Simon & theory had worked previously for two oversize posters I Schuster, had a rendition of the red-and-blue glasses. I designed for Billy Joel. Minoli decided to produce the still have no idea why I put them there (my father, who posters in both large-scale and 20-by-30-inch sizes. was a mapmaker, told me they are cartography glasses). When the large posters came off press, they were in- Later, the “Trust Elvis” poster was used in the movie Fast stantly stolen. I saw them emerge around the CBS build- Times at Ridgemont High as a symbol of eighties youth. ing in the offices of people I’d never met; then they were Unlike the Boston cover, I am proud of “Trust Elvis.” stolen off the walls of record stores. They simply disap- It’s well designed. But the poster has now acquired a peared. I soon found that collectors were trading them meaning divorced from my authorship. It lives in its own1981 for $1,200 a piece. place and time in American culture. 53
    • Style Wars
    • In the late sixties, when I was in art school, I had not yet heard STYLE WARS of Venturi. I had rebelled against the Swiss international style be- cause the act of organizing the Helvetica typeface on a grid re- minded me of cleaning up my room. Also I viewed Helvetica, the visual language of corporations, as the establishment typeface and therefore somehow responsible for the Vietnam War. My major influences in the sixties were Zigzag rolling papers and album covers, particularly the Beatles’ covers. Revolver is artAFTER nouveau—influenced; the illustrative hair on the cover is drawn in the style of Aubrey Beardsley. I emulated the Revolver cover for all of my Tyler School of Art illustration assignments. Sgt. Pepper, my all-time favorite, inspired me because I kept finding more famousI left CBS Records, in 1982, Michael Vanderbyl invited me to people and hidden meanings in the imagery. Stylistically it fuseslecture with some other designers at the California Institute of Victoriana and pop, but what I liked most about it was the humor.Arts and Crafts. One of the speakers was Kathy McCoy, who The “White Album” is the ultimate in high concept—only thewas then running the graphic-design program at Cranbrook. Beatles could be that expressly arrogant. Everything anyone everMcCoy showed work she had designed at Unimark in the six- needed to learn about graphic design was in those three albumties. The work was in the classic Swiss international style that covers. My other inspirations were Pushpin Studios, Victorwas popular at that time (and is now popular again). She Moscoso, and California psychedelia. All of this influenced myrecounted how the greatest compliment one could pay any work in the seventies, when my passion for eclectic typographywork was to say that it was “really clean.” Then she discussed moved from Roman classicism through Victoriana, art nouveau,Robert Venturi and company’s 1972 treatise Learning from Las and art deco—and finally to early modernism, constructivism, andVegas. McCoy emphasized the breakthrough in this architect’s all concoctions thereof.thinking and how it had affected graphic design in the subse- I mostly employed historic typography to make some kindquent decade. “Clean” was no longer good enough; as a result, of point or to convey a mood based on the subject matter of thewe were all becoming postmodernists. Postmodern in this records or books I was designing. This was consistent withcontext meant employing some decorative graphic devices Pushpin’s approach to design. Pushpin Studios brilliantly mar-that may have come from classical architecture or geometry, ried conceptual imagery (both illustration and photography) withor the act of deconstructing typography to alter meaning and eclectic, often decorative typography. They did so to make acreate a more expressionistic layout. specific point or to tell a joke. It seemed to me to be the most 56
    • STYLE WARSgenerous form of design. It told you what you needed to know During this period a growing number of university designand entertained you at the same time. Seymour Chwast was my programs and an expanding academic design community—to-hero. I met him when I was twenty-two and married him twice gether with a plethora of graphic-design publications, annuals,(the second marriage worked). conferences, and historic compendiums—made design style, in The McCoy lecture stunned me because it seemed to deny and of itself, highly visible and important. Mainstream journalists,the existence of the Pushpin form of eclecticism pre-Venturi. It sophisticated laypeople, and corporate marketers began usingignored fifteen years of graphic-design culture. Graphic design- terms like postmodern, new wave, retro, and punk to describeers were the first postmodernists, not architects; but when a fa- design styles. Marketing departments made demographic asso-mous architect—in this case Venturi—was quoted, the design ciations based on these looks and styles, and through increasedapproach gained a credibility that could not be attained by the focus testing, began to determine what specific products shouldwork of graphic designers alone. look like in order to appeal to specific audiences. Clients had be- McCoy’s was the first of many lectures I attended in the come more style savvy—and the style wars had begun.eighties in which there was an apparent disconnect betweentheory and practice. Academic symposiums about design in the my job as senior art director of CBSeighties addressed such themes as semiotics, deconstruction,and the vernacular as if designers worked in an ivory tower with- I QUIT Records in 1982. I began freelancing and was retained to design two developmental publications forout the complex interaction between client and designer. It led Time Inc. One was a lifestyle magazine called Quality, the other ato the impression that design styles and methodologies were human-relations publication called Together.hatched in art schools and then exported to the marketplace, These new magazines were typical of publications pro-where they were purchased for mass production. Many aca- duced then and now. Most publications fall into two basic cate-demic symposiums were theoretically all about process but gories: coping and craving. Coping publications tell you how tonever actually about the imperfect people who are the clients. do something: make money, run your business, lower your cho- On the other hand, practitioner symposiums in the eighties lesterol, save your marriage, clean out your closet, lose weight,were related to “business.” They discussed proposal writing, pro- use a computer, or hire a nanny. Craving publications tell you whatmotion, appropriate business attire, office design, and other pe- you should want: what to buy, where to travel, what to wear, whatripheral matters that were oriented toward appearance while they to look like, and what sort of lifestyle to have.ignored the true designer—client relationship, which is all aboutpower, personality, and human nature. It is the human factor—com-bustible client—designer relationships coupled with marketplaceaccidents—that inevitably lead to the visual gestalt of an era. 57
    • STYLE WARS ST Y L I ST I C A FFE CTAT I O N S O F CO P I N G A N D C R AV I N G P U B L I C AT I O N SCoping magazines tend to have lots of instructional information.It is often completely useless, but it looks didactic all the same. CO P I N G ST Y L E, OT H E R W I S E K N OW N A S " T E N P O U N D S O F S H IT I N A F IV E - P O U N D B AG "Graphic devices used in coping publications are: CO PI N G ST Y L E 19 8 5 CO PI N G ST Y L E 2 00 1 • side bars • decorative headings (early 1980s: in boxes with or without drop shadows; late 1980s: no boxes, but perhaps underscores, overscores, sometimes with teeny halftone photos; 1990s: lozenges) • dingbats • icons THIS IS A TYPICAL • elaborately illustrated charts and graphs with inset sidebar. It contains extra photos that are silhouetted and have drop shadows information that is designed to look somewhat instructional in or spot illustration nature. Sometimes its the only thing that is actually read in aCraving magazines tend toward big, splashy, dramatic layouts of lengthy article.photographs filled with people, places, and stuff. At the time I LOTS OF PEOPLE SCANtook on Quality they needed: the page instead of reading the text. You might be doing this right now. • widely spaced type (later the opposite: big type in BELOW IS A capitals with little spacing) demonstration of a little • layering silhouetted photograph with a drop shadow. In the 1980s this • out-of-focus photos, photos of people or places device was especially popular that look wet in annual-report design. • big drop caps or big words (later no drop caps or big words) • textured backgrounds (later white space) • rough devices, like photographic contact sheets or grease-pencil marks
    • C R AV I N G ST Y L E, OT H E R W I S E K N OW N A S: " S H I N I N G S H I T"A C R AV I N G ST Y L E 19 8 5 B C R AV I N G ST Y L E 19 9 5 BE SEXY This is a demonstration of a layout for a lifestyle (craving) publication. Very often the copy in these kinds of articles was particularly inane. A form of expressive typography began to AND emerge throughout the 80s and into the 90s that facilitated layout of these types of articles. Typography became progressively illegible as the decade wore on. Illegible typography goes hand in hand with copy that is not worth reading. By the late 80s expressive typography was POPULAR replaced by a resurgence of Helvetica. Illegibility continued, by the designer insuring that the copy was too small to read. COPING C C R AV I N G ST Y L E 2 00 1 THIS IS a demonstration of layouts for a lifestyle (craving) publication. Very often the copy in these types of articles are particularly inane. A form of expressive typography began to emerge through-out the 1980s and into the 1990s that facilitated the layout of these types of magazines. Typography became progressively illegible as the decade wore on. Illegible typo- graphy goes hand in hand with copy that is not worth reading. By the late 1990s expressive typography was replaced by Helvetica. The illegibility continued, however, with designers making the copy too small to read.
    • STYLE WARSThe mannerisms of these types of publication informed all other tion in the editorial process, magazine editors determined thatforms of graphic design in the eighties and nineties, and are now the most important contributions to be obtained from the seniorthe visual language of annual reports, brochures, books, packag- art employee or consultant were simply oversight of the format,ing, and fashion advertising. Coping devices leaped right off packaging, and style of a publication. This consisted of little moremagazine pages and became the language of computer screens. than the choice of appropriate design devices and a methodol-Most Web sites today owe their styling and organization to the ogy for purchasing and displaying necessary artwork. Mostcoping magazines of the eighties and early nineties. editors were comfortable with formats that were similar to other publications that existed in the same genre. This remains true magazine has always been even today. If I receive a call from the editor of, say, a travel mag-MY IDEAL the Esquire of the sixties,when George Lois produced his powerful “big idea” covers, and azine, he or she will ask to see all the other travel magazines I have designed. So coping magazines look like coping maga-the seventies, when Jean-Paul Goude art-directed and con- zines, and craving magazines look like craving magazines. Andtributed brilliant illustrations. By the eighties no mainstream mag- coping magazines about money look like other coping maga-azine resembled the Esquire of the sixties and seventies. New zines about money, and craving magazines about home deco-York magazine, which successfully combined a highly packaged rating look like other craving magazines about home decorating.design format with conceptual or journalistic illustration and pho- Once every five years a brave editor and publisher break thetography, assumed the Esquire mantle and became a role model paradigm, and if they prove successful, shortly thereafter otherfirst for all city magazines and then for weekly news publications. publications follow suit.(The New York format was the mother of all coping publications.) Once an editor is comfortable with a designed format, When Milton Glaser created the format for New York with which is very often purchased from an outside consultant, theWalter Bernard, he took on the masthead title “design director” editor feels confident that he or she can hire an inexpensivebecause he had had a hand in shaping the editorial content of the art director (sometimes an assistant to the consultant) to exe-publication along with Clay Felker, the magazine’s editor in chief. cute the magazine. The art director purchases the necessaryPreviously the highest art title on the typical magazine masthead photography and illustration that fit into the spaces allottedwas art director, followed by assistant art director, designer, de- by the format and shows the layouts to the editor for com-sign assistant. In the twenties and thirties, art directors were ment and revision. He or she then obtains the necessarycalled art editors. The art editor was responsible for the look and changes from the illustrator, shows it to the editor again, andvisual content of a magazine and had true editorial status. fills in the format. This creates an insipid climate for magazine Glaser’s “design director” title was misconstrued in the design. Magazine editors (“word people”) assume that de-eighties. Rather than understanding it to mean a leading posi- signers (“art people”) don’t read and are only concerned with 60
    • STYLE WARSstupid things like drop caps and hairline rules—the very things Style is a matter of appearance—the way something looks orthe editors are so anxious to purchase. feels. In the eighties design and style were confused and In the eighties, the age of Ronald Reagan, style triumphed conflated by the people who purchased design, by the designover substance. I was often retained as a publication “cover con- press, and finally by designers and design educators. When I re-sultant” to help “design directors” who did not have enough call all the hot-button topics of the eighties, I see that they are allpower to persuade their editors that a given solution was appro- about style: the personal typographic approaches of Nevillepriate. The entwined priorities of telling an entire story on the Brody and later David Carson; the deconstructed typographycover yet not offending some faction of the magazine’s readership produced at Cranbrook; the postmodern catalog of substyles:made it almost impossible to commission intelligent illustration or new wave, high-tech, retro, and punk. They were commodities inconceptual photography. Editors read all kinds of mysterious competition with one another. They were purchased and dealtthings into imagery that were never intended. The big-image, big- out to demonstrate all things coping or craving. The planning as-idea album covers I designed and art-directed in the seventies pect, the conceptual aspect—the very thing Milton Glaser meantwere impossible to achieve in the eighties. The images that would when he introduced the term design director—was comman-be accepted with relative ease tended to be nonspecific, impres- deered by product managers, marketing departments, sales di-sionistic, blurry, or moody. Ambiguity, a postmodern approach, visions, and editorial departments—by vast committees ofworked stylistically because it is apolitical and noncommittal. It people who assumed that when they hired a designer they werebecame incredibly fashionable. purchasing style. I began to discover that it was easier and less compromisingto persuade editors to rely on type treatments for subject matter favorite clients in the eight-that was cerebral in nature. Editors were naturally more comfort-able with words than with images and liked to be involved in fairly MY LEAST ies were advertising agen- cies. Mediocre advertising agencies often wanted to be per-arbitrary decisions like color choice. Most strong type treatments suaded that they had the right “look” for an ad campaign that had(if they work in black-and-white) work in a plethora of color combi- been preconceived by an art director. Sometimes the agencynations, so when an editor would indicate that he or she didn’t like wanted me to contribute logo designs for a pitch to a prospectiveblue, green was possible. It allowed for a controlled area of harm- client. I found that working for agencies usually meant breakingless input. I employed this practice in all forms of design: poster every important rule I learned at CBS Records. The art directordesign, book design, packaging, and sometimes advertising. who hired me was rarely a strong patron, and there was never di-Illustrative typography became my trademark out of necessity. rect access to a key decision maker, because the agencies simply Design is an art of planning. A problem is presented, a con- would not allow it. My work had to pass through several layers ofceptual blueprint is formed in response, a solution is achieved. creative directors before it would finally be presented on the client 61
    • STYLE WARSside. It rarely made it there. The structure of advertising agencies Usually there is one strong opinion leader who rules and per-creates a system of continually selling up. suades the others. If two people have equally strong opinions, I also have a profound difficulty with how advertising agen- there will be a power play for the third. The following dynamic iscies make money. Profit is made by retaining a percentage illustrated by the diagram at right:(17.65 percent is the standard industry rate) of the money allot-ted by the client for purchasing advertising space. That means • At the beginning of the meeting, expectations are high.that if the client purchases, say, a full-page, full-color ad in the • The presentation is well received; it reaches the mo-New York Times, the client will advance the roughly $100,000, ment of highest appreciation.for the purchase and the agency will make $17,650 on the buy. • One person in the group raises a few concerns notIf the client is purchasing lots of print ads and television adver- addressed in the presentation; another adds a fewtising, the amount of money becomes enormous. Copy and de- qualms and so on until the level of appreciation dipssign are thrown in for free. And if they’re free, they’re worthless. below the initial starting point.There is nothing to defend or protect, no standard to bear, no • The designer reiterates the initial presentation, address-paradigm to change, nothing to elevate. There is no extra value ing points in the expressed concerns by proposingin something intelligent or well crafted. If the “creative” is thrown certain revisions. The sponsoring client reinforcesin for free, then all that has value is the media space itself. If you this, and the level of appreciation rises to a pointtake that thought to its logical conclusion, what fills the media lower than the initial high but respectably abovespace is essentially irrelevant, as long as the client feels satis- starting expectations.fied enough to continue purchasing it. That creates a completely • It is then time to end the meeting. If the meeting doesamoral design climate. not end, a counterrebuttal may ensue, which will bring the appreciation level down to a new low point, and clients, other the design will gradually become unsalvageable.MY FAVORITE than design-related businesses, have always been entrepreneurs. I like work- Here’s another design-committee axiom: If the design presenteding with entrepreneurs because they create products, take is simple and contains a limited amount of information and im-risks, and are prepared to make decisions. One or two entre- agery, there are likely to be far more amendments and revisionspreneurs are better than three. Three entrepreneurs are a com- than if the presentation has a great deal of copy and conveys lotsmittee, and all committees have power struggles. I have never of complicated information. This is because approval commit-made a design presentation to three or more people of equal tees don’t have the discipline, patience, or fastidiousness todecision-making power and had all three like the design equally. concentrate on the details of complicated information. They can 62
    • STYLE WARS DIAGRAM OF A MEETING 2 3 5 REBUTTALOPTIMISM 6 SECOND REBUTTAL 1 4 EXPLANATION READDRESS 7 READDRESS 1. Start of designer 2. Point of highest 3. Client rebuttal 5. Point at which the 6. Client Rebuttal Death presentation appreciation 4. Designer spin meeting must end 7. Weaker Spin TIME I am indebted to Lou Klein for this diagram. 63
    • STYLE WARSfocus on anything reasonably simple, and will amend it until all P E RS ON ALITIE S S TE RE OTYP E S IN C OM BIN ATIONSthe interest and joy are removed or until they are out of time. A correlative to this rule is that apparently simple jobs arerarely that. When a client once tried to persuade me to cut myfee on a “simple” job, I told him that I needed the money to pay SMART DUMBfor all the changes he was going to make. He insisted that theproject was uncomplicated and that there would be few revi-sions. I offered him a deal: the design would be free, but everyrevision made—no matter how minor—would cost a thousanddollars. He refused the deal. E N E R G ET I C LA Z Y George Lois had this to say about the personality typesof collaborators, and I have found it to be invariably true: There are smart people and dumb people. There are people who have energy and people who are lazy. my work and to develop as a designer unless I was working on a They exist in combinations. If you work with a smart pro bono basis or for a minimal fee for a design organization or person with energy, that’s your best collaborator. design-industry client. This was depressing, because I believed If you work with a smart person who’s lazy, well, that’s a that the whole point of graphic design was to bring intelligence, bit of a waste, but it does no harm. If you work with a wit, and a higher level of aesthetics to everyday products, the arti- dumb person who’s lazy, that’s sad but not problematic, cles of mass culture. I did not want to be an ivory tower designer; because they will simply be ineffectual. But if you work I had little interest in theoretical exploration. My goals were to de- with a dumb person with energy, therein lies the sign things that would get made, to elevate popular taste through seed of disaster. practice, and to make graphic breakthroughs on real projects. I realized that my position in relationship to corporate com- late eighties I had begun to under- mittees with approval power was essentially weak. I was not fa-BY THE stand that the fact that something waswell designed, or even just well styled, was irrelevant if it was mous or considered a guru. My entire reputation was within the design community, not in any specific business except possiblybeing presented to a group that did not understand what they in the entertainment industry—and my reputation there was get-were looking at or were embroiled in their own power struggles. I ting weaker as time went on.had begun to find it increasingly difficult to control the quality of 64
    • STYLE WARSI was hired on most projects for nominal fees. Very often I technologies, the cultural zeitgeist, and the scale on which onewould be hired by a low-level marketing person who had to works. Reinvention is personal growth.sell up. When my design failed to make it through the bureau- More history, criticism, and professional writing about designcratic gauntlet, I found that the project would be reassigned to occurred in the eighties than in any previous decade. Ironicallya large, powerful design firm for a large, powerful fee. I discov- that writing also breaks down into those two basic categories,ered that clients tended to respect an opinion in direct pro- coping and craving. Coping design writing was about profes-portion to what they paid for it. The quality of the design was sional style: dress, office design, and proposal crafting. Cravingoften irrelevant. writing was about design style: the myriad visual affectations that Most clients hired me based on previous work. That meant became popular through postmodernism. Neither addressed thethat if I tried to design something in a new way, they were un- complicated symbiotic relationship between designer and client.comfortable with it and generally forced me to retreat to a previ- The designer was portrayed as either businessman or artist, theous solution. This made personal growth almost impossible. The latter made personal work, with the client as patron; the formertype of work I had gotten would be the type of work I would get, solved the clients’ problems and made money. It seemed to mein subject matter as well as in style; and as more design publi- that there had to be another alternative.cations, books, and conferences made styles readily availablefor adaptation, there were more designers to compete with.Design and respect for design were devalued. growth of the design in-THE RAPID dustry and the introduc-tion of desktop publishing in the eighties precipitated an equallyrapid lifecycle for design styles. Designs appeared dated in as-tonishingly short order. It was easy for a designer to be consid-ered “good” by his peers for five years, harder for ten, nearlyimpossible for fifteen. To maintain any creative longevity a de-signer today must reinvent his or her work every five years. Thisdoes not mean simply changing style. It means reassessingone’s approach—again, design is an art of planning—and findinga way that is new yet still reflects on one’s core ethic and aes-thetic. This entails a reevaluation of one’s visual vocabulary, new 65
    • STYLE WARS G R E AT B E G I N N I N G S Terry Koppel and I had known each other in college (the Terry and I believed that our strong suit—the reason Tyler School of Art), and began working together at clients would hire us—would be our flexible, expressive Time Inc. While I was at CBS, Terry had worked as an art typographic style. We promoted ourselves by mailing out director at the Boston Globe and had redesigned Inside a small book called Great Beginnings, which featured Sports. We reasoned that we could start a design studio the first two paragraphs of famous novels designed in that would marry our editorial and entertainment back- the period style in which the novels had been written. We grounds, and it would broaden to include promotional printed and mailed six thousand copies of the book to and packaging projects. potential clients, and the promotion proved remarkably successful—we received calls for new business almost 66
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    • STYLE WARS immediately. Some of the business came because we The pages from Great Beginnings were later reproduced were the first new design studio (we didn’t use the term in design textbooks as examples of how to work with pe- firm yet) in New York in some time. Some of it came be- riod typography. The flaw of the booklet was that it inad- cause Great Beginnings looked fresh in early 1984. The vertently served as a catalog of style. Potential clients book was entirely typographic. Potential clients, art di- assumed that whatever we designed would either be rectors, and design critics had not yet labeled us as constructivist or art nouveau or some other period style, postmodernists or historicists, but they recognized that not realizing that Great Beginnings was a gag advertising we had developed some form of “look.” our new business and that its point, if anything, was that The book was small, 5 by 7 inches, and was inexpensively typographic treatments were not necessarily transferable printed in two colors with a glued (“perfect”) binding. In my to any given project. All through the eighties clients years as art director at CBS Records, I had received thou- seemed to believe they were buying style, not thinking. sands of promotion pieces. I remembered that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out a booklet that had perfect binding. 68
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    • M A N H AT TA N R E C O R D S Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie—Woogie, 1942-43 I designed the identity for Manhattan Records, Capitol But I was never good at designing logotypes in the man- Records’ new East Coast label, in 1984. The president of ner typical of the seventies, which relied on complicated the company was Bruce Lundvall, who was president of lettering with ligatures, in-lines, and drop shadows. I ap- CBS when I had worked there. I had sent him a copy of preciated clever marks that had strong, simple, positive- Great Beginnings when Terry and I opened our studio, and-negative shapes (my Pentagram partner Woody and the timing was fortunate. When Lundvall called me, he Pirtle is a genius at this), but never was capable of de- was just beginning to set up his new office. There were signing them. I was always much more comfortable with no employees yet, except for one trusted aide. selecting a typeface that had a strong character, that Lundvall had purchased a copy of the compendium somehow related to the situation at hand, and then mod- The Art of New York, and thought he would like a paint- ifying it to create a specific thought or spirit. ing or a photo of a skyscraper as the predominant image for his record label. I think he assumed that the building would exist as a trademark coupled with a logo design. 70
    • STYLE WARSMost large-scale corporate identity programs from thefifties, sixties, and seventies seemed depressing (evensome of those designed by the legendary Paul Rand).They looked as if all attention went into the form of the lo-gotype or the mark (probably the point where the in-house designer came on board to execute the identity).These were then jammed into an upper-left or upper-right corner of whatever they needed to be stuck on,often with two lines of badly positioned Helvetica, thatcontained the company name and address. It appearedas though the logotype and mark alone was there toidentify the corporation. The design of all the rest of thestuff that it was attached to—a carton, a package, an ad,a poster—be damned. The logo as identification didn’treally identify anything, because if the corner of the ob-ject was obscured in any way, so was the entire identity. Corporations looked like large corporations by virtueof the similarity of the mark or logotype position. I be-came interested in what communication material lookedlike in its totality, not the small corner that housed the lo-gotype. I leafed through The Art of New York trying to fig-ure out how a painting of a building could be manipulatedto conform to all the various needs demanded by anidentity for a record label, without becoming anothertrademark jammed into a corner. Then I came across theMondrian painting Broadway Boogie-Woogie, which is anabstracted map of Manhattan. The logic for using thispainting as an identity for Manhattan Records was obvi-ous: it ostensibly represented Manhattan and was in-spired by music. But its strongest attribute was that thepainting’s color blocks could easily be reconfigured for amultitude of uses. 1984 71
    • STYLE WARSI began considering the logotype as something that cameout of the red, blue, and yellow boxes of the painting. Alogo in a grid, like the city. The character count of theword Manhattan was perfect, allowing for three stacks ofthree-letter units: MAN, HAT, TAN. It was my first and onlyidea for the logo. The problem was how to present thisto Lundvall without another alternative. Presenting justthe one solution would make it look as if I hadn’t doneenough work. This frequently happens to me. My firstidea is often my best, and the rest are fillers. Most clientsare uncomfortable with this. They assume that a lot ofexploration ensures better design or that they’re not get-ting their money’s worth. Lundvall was expecting to see buildings. I went back toThe Art of New York and selected a few buildings to workwith, some photographic, some rendered. I blew them upas record labels and attached the gridded typography or avariation of it. After I designed the first alternative to theinitial scheme, I became worried because it actually wasquite handsome and potentially selectable. So I made afew more choices. They were also handsome. I realizedthat the best way to pursue the Mondrian option was tocreate about nine or ten versions of the building identitiesusing representational paintings, photos, and illustrations.That way the Mondrian solution would stand out simply bybeing the only abstraction. The endless renditions of dif-ferent buildings all neutralized themselves. 72
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    • STYLE WARSI had difficulty obtaining an approval from the Museum ofModern Art to use the painting. They would not allow meto use a section of it. They insisted I use the whole paint-ing in every application. I asked what would happen if I justused a section on a few applications; they said they’d sueme and advised me simply to reconstruct the painting butnot to duplicate it. That meant we had to have a lawyercheck every application of the identity to ensure that notwo color squares lined up in the exact same configura-tion as the original. Shortly after the Manhattan identity was launched,L’Oreal came out with a shampoo product line calledL’Oreal Studio that also used a Mondrian motif. I oftenwondered if they called the same lawyer to review thesquares. There were many Mondrian adaptations andknockoffs in the eighties, along with a renewed interestin the Dutch de Stijl movement in general. In the late eighties Manhattan Records merged withEMI, and the Mondrian colors were reduced to black andyellow (a taxicab reference). Then Manhattan Recordsdisappeared altogether—it was folded into EMI—and thegridlike blocks were shoved together. In the mid ninetiesCapitol Records relaunched Manhattan Records andCapitol’s art director brought back the design. In the eight-ies the design was characterized as postmodern. In thenineties it appeared to be more conceptual. 76
    • STYLE WARSBOOKS I began designing book jackets by moonlighting when I was still at CBS Records. It was the easiest type of work for me to get based on my previous experience. At Koppel & Scher it comprised about a quarter of my business. In the eighties I designed jackets for most major publishing companies, including Simon & Schuster and its divisions; Random House; and Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Most of the jackets I designed were typographic, largely a result of my emerging reputation. Publishing art directors had discovered that I was good at designing cov- ers for books that had to look somewhat important but cerebral in nature. Like album covers, book jackets in the eighties (and today) looked a specific way for different genres of book. Nonfiction had large type, usually elon- gated or condensed, with a photograph (for a biography) or a small icon or illustration (for an exposé). The bigger the book (in terms of sales expectations), the more likely its typography would be embossed or foil stamped. Self-help (coping) books were also largely typographic, and generally had long subtitles, often a listing of the con- tents. Sometimes they had spot illustrations, especially warm-and-fuzzy books about homeopathic medicines and exercise regimes. Novels tended to be more romantic, mysterious, or witty and were more likely to employ illus- tration and conceptual or blurry photography. Type on nov- els could be smaller and more eccentric unless the novels were mystery blockbusters like those by John Grisham or romantic bestsellers à la Jackie Collins. Every so often, these boundaries are deliberately crossed for special im- pact. Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County was designed to look like a literary novel, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved was designed to look like a block- buster. These conventions have changed little during the past twenty years. 1990 77
    • STYLE WARSThe procedure for designing book jackets outside of apublishing art department has also changed little overthe years. First, the designer would be contracted by anart director at the publishing company, and sent a manu-script or synopsis of the book, some marketing pointsabout its intended audience, and comparable books inthe marketplace. The designer would also be given somevague direction—that the jacket should look important—or be sent another jacket that an editor or the author liked.Sometimes, usually for a novel, they would be sent anactual manuscript. The designer would then proceed to design the coverand send a comprehensive sketch (or “comp”) to the artdirector, who would then show it to the editors, the mar-keters, the publisher, and the author for approval andcomment. These comments would be relayed back to thedesigner by the art directors, and the designer wouldmake the necessary revisions and copy changes to com-plete the project. As the decade wore on, an increasing number ofyounger art directors replaced older, more powerful artheads at publishing companies. Like some art directors atmagazines, they were forced to function as messengersbetween the companies’ various divisions. As a result,there might be five or six rounds of revisions before agiven design would receive approval from the editor—only then to be rejected by the publisher or author. Thenumber of changes, revisions, and redesigns were greateron book jackets than magazines or album covers. Thiswas because there was more time to make them. I alwayshad my greatest successes with covers for which some-one else had already designed three or four unsatisfac-tory comps, and when I was hired the company wassimply out of time. I asked a number of in-house art directors I workedwith if they had ever tabulated the cost of producing book- 1987 78
    • STYLE WARS1987 1988 1988 1990 1988 1989 1989 1989 79
    • STYLE WARSThis book of James Dean photographs (1990) documentedevery picture he made in his short movie career. 80
    • STYLE WARSjacket comps for a year against what it would cost if thepublishing company accepted the first design submittedby the designer with no revisions. I calculate the differenceat four to seven times the initial cost. I’ve always won-dered if these endlessly revised covers made up for thisdifferential in costs. I doubt it. In the nineties the computer made matters worse forbook-jacket designers. Comps produced by a computerare almost instantaneous. Now there was no controlling fi-nancial force or time impediment to the making of re-visions. An editor had an opportunity to view twenty point-less incremental changes per jacket design, which couldonly foster confusion and greater indecision in any personnot really qualified to make an untutored visual judgment.The matter became more complicated when editors weregiven comments from major bookstore chains like Barnes& Noble or Borders about what “sells.” The contents of abook and the graphic elements were not separated or an-alyzed in any responsible way. “What sells” was prescribedas a formula for design elements and resulted in strangepronouncements about color and typography. I’ve neverbeen able to learn anything of use from these pronounce-ments, because they always seem to describe the lastthing in a particular category that was a bestseller. Sincewe already know what the last thing was, we don’t learnanything at all about the next thing. Editorial anguish about color always reminded me ofmy mother agonizing over the incremental differences often soft-green rug swatches for her living room wall-to-wall carpet. Was it better with a little more yellow?Should she pick the grayish one? Would it be too dull?She was so relieved when I released her from the re-sponsibility by grabbing one and saying: “Here. Pick this,it’s the best one.” I don’t understand why editors don’t re-lieve themselves of this form of decision making and lettheir art directors pick the green. It’s their job. 81
    • STYLE WARSThose Lips, Those Eyes (1992) was a compilation of classic movie-starphotos that I edited. The title was taken literally.I found that in designing book jackets I had to relearn the inevitably alter or destroy it. The only approval that mat- The best book jackets in the publishing business comelessons I learned in the music business. If there is not a ters is the approval of the person in the organization who out of a powerful in-house art department of a companystrong client or patron (in the case of publishing compa- wields the most power. It may be the editor, it may be the whose editor-in-chief values design and allows a power-nies, this means art director) to defend the work, then author, or it may be the publisher, but generally one ap- ful department to be created. That is why the book jack-the work will be compromised. If there is no one to de- proval matters and the rest are irrelevant. Most things ets currently produced by Knopf are consistently betterfend the work, you have to do it yourself (which means that are rejected are rejected for “marketing reasons,” than those of most other publishing companies. Knopf’sattend all necessary meetings, an impossibility if you are which means the jacket looks “too something” or “not corporate management has a history of valuing designnot a full-time employee of the publishing company or at enough something else,” which translates into not look- and fosters a condition that has allowed talented peopleleast in their building daily). If someone is allowed to ap- ing significantly enough like other things in the market- to produce their best work.prove work and was not involved or consulted in the place that are like the thing in question and have hadearly developmental process of it, then that person will some modicum of success. 82
    • STYLE WARSOccasionally I managed to design jackets where the ini-tial idea was left intact, but they were more the exceptionthan the rule. I used the many redos as an opportunitysimply to design more. It was a useful exercise, a sort ofdesign calisthenics. How many times can you solve thesame problems? How many visual iterations are there inthe same basic idea, and in how many color combina-tions? The trick was never to become attached to anygiven design. I also enjoyed designing full books, particu-larly picture books. Book design was satisfying becauseonce a format was “approved,” you simply executed it andmade copy revisions—draft work not fraught with the po-litical implications attached to jackets.A Room of One’s Own (1993) was published as a limited-edition bookfrom Heritage Press, a printing company. The photographs were byDuane Michals. 84
    • STYLE WARS85
    • STYLE WARS Grimm (1997) was another limited edition published by Heritage Press. This book was illustrated by Seymour Chwast. 86
    • 87
    • STYLE WARS Suffragettes to She Devils (1997) documented women’s protest art. 88
    • STYLE WARS89
    • STYLE WARSÖOLAIn 1986 two young Swedish entrepreneurs came to meet rience. They wanted to package the candy in such a way I thought Sweetwave was a terrible name. It was too closewith me about designing an identity and some packaging that a consumer who wanted to buy a treat would enjoy to Sweet Factory. Also, there was nothing unusual in it. Itfor a chain of candy stores that they were planning to open the act of purchase as much as the candy. had no specific personality and would not attract anyin shopping malls on the East Coast. They already owned I went to visit the Galleria shopping mall in White special interest in an American shopping mall. It woulda chain of stores in Sweden and the UK. The name of the Plains, where the first store would open. I don’t particu- seem simply a knockoff of Sweet Factory. I persuaded thechain in Europe was Sweetwave, and their main attrac- larly like shopping-mall environments, but the Galleria owners to change the name of the store. We consideredtions were large glass cylinders that displayed brightly was especially depressing. The only candy store in the the words for candy, sweets, and cookies in Swedish, butcolored candy. The stores attracted young adults with little mall, Fanny Farmer, was a dreary, dingy place. The color the translations were unfortunate—candy is konfekt,children and teenagers. Candy was dispensed by pulling palette was brown and tan with gold accents. The gold cake is kaka. In retrospect, I don’t know if it mattered alla lever, which dropped the candy into a trough where it was selected to make the consumer believe that Fanny that much since we were competing with Fanny herself.could be raked into a bag. The Swedes called this system Farmer made elegant; expensive chocolate, but the feel- I decided to make up a word. I had heard that“pick and mix.” The weight of the bag determined the cost ing of the store was exactly the opposite: tacky, with low “Häagen-Dazs” was an invention. It also dawned on meof the candy. In Europe their major competitor was Sweet ceilings and faux fixtures. that the umlaut was distinctly European. Sometimes theyFactory, which also dispensed candy in cylinders and was I became intrigued by the idea of creating a terrific en- seemed Swedish, sometimes Danish, sometimes Dutchopening stores in shopping malls in the United States. vironment through packaging. Shopping malls are basi- or German, but definitely Northern European, perhaps The Swedes told me that the candy Sweetwave sold cally phony environments. They are temporary—built for Scandinavian. I began to make up words that soundedwas not substantially different from the candy sold by change. Stores come and go. It would be easy enough to like a woman’s name. Oona and Oola were the favorites,Sweet Factory, and that there was essentially one great create a spirited modern environment. The design of the with the umlaut stuck over the first o, Öola. A year after I’dbig candy wholesaler from which most retailers pur- store—its shelving—needed only to be neutral. The designed the graphics for Öola, a group of Swedish de-chased hard candy and another wholesale manufacturer Swedes didn’t have a lot of money. They had a very pre- signers came to visit Koppel & Scher. I showed them Öolathat produced chocolate. This was a disappointing reve- cise budget that was supposed to enable them to open and they roared with laughter, because they had spentlation to me. In 1986 I still assumed that if there was a fifteen stores over the course of two years. They ex- their entire typographic careers trying to get rid of umlauts.candy company that had a brand name, it was because pected all of the packages to be customized with thethey actually made the candy. At the time the biggest identity. The plan was to purchase generic boxes, cans,candy chain on the East Coast in shopping malls was or clear plastic packaging and cover them with the newFanny Farmer. I always assumed that Fanny and her dis- Sweetwave identity. The Swedes never used the wordciples were back in the kitchen somewhere stirring the branding. If they had I would not have known what theypots of chocolate. I had accepted the notion that a chain meant. I viewed the project as a form of visual environ-like Fanny Farmer could be bought by a company like, mentalism, a way of being kind to the consumer by mak-say, Beatrice, and that the candy kitchen might be a huge ing their experience more enjoyable, even theatrical. Ifactory somewhere in the Midwest, but the idea that the was designing entertainment.goodies were purchased through some anonymouswholesaler and repackaged to create a “brand” seemedparticularly cynical. I asked the Swedes what was thepoint of their business if they didn’t make the candy.They said they were selling an environment and an expe- 90
    • I presented two logo designs for Öola. One involved geo-metric letterforms with the round Os filled in with brightyellow. The color system was decidedly de Stijl. I as-sumed that the American shopping-mall consumer wouldrecognize it as vaguely Northern European, modern, andprogressive, especially against the dismal beiges of thecompetition. The second logo was a face made out of theletters. The Swedes liked both logos and couldn’t decidebetween them. We decided to use both. The geometricletterforms would be used on signage and some labeling.It was ultimately redrawn as a complete typeface. The let-tering that created a face was used for holiday promo-tions, bags, and other candy labeling. Both logos had thesame color system, so the designs worked well together. Packaging for Öola was produced inexpensively. TheSwedes found preexisting plastic boxes, cans, and tins,and I created labels for them. Sometimes we selectedspecific candies as part of the design. For example,chunky tubular licorice in red and black was selected be-cause it worked well with the package shape and logodesign. The package and the candy became one entity. My Swedish clients had purchased most of the fix-tures for the first store. They involved me in the choos-ing of the store’s color palette and asked me to createexterior and interior signage. I became somewhat moreinvolved in subsequent stores, where the identity wasused more liberally in the architecture. Some stores fea-tured round windows that displayed the candy and werelit up by the umlaut.The first store, which opened in White Plains in 1988, wasinstantaneously crowded with teenagers and youngmothers with little children. Within five months Öola hadpushed Fanny Farmer out of business in the White Plainsshopping mall. This was an absolute revelation for me. Ipreviously had no sense of the power of my work, be- 91
    • STYLE WARScause it had always been dependent on the quality of theproduct. Good covers couldn’t sell bad music or boringbooks. Mediocre graphics never seemed to hurt productsthat were in demand. But here the product was somewhatgeneric, ordered from a giant wholesaler. Every candy storehad access to the same product. Packaging spirit and storeenvironment increased sales. For fifteen years I had worked through approval pro-cesses in marketing departments, responding to com-ments about color, style, content. Marketing directors andtheir underlings were my clients. Here, with Öola, myclients owned the company. I was a design consultant whonamed, defined, and designed the spirit and personality ofthe product and store. I was the brand manager. I was themarketing director. I was all-powerful. I decided then andthere that from that time on marketing departments shouldwork for me, not the other way around. Öola opened five more stores between 1988 and 1990,hit a huge recession, and found itself undercapitalized. TheSwedes had a silent American partner who had bankrolleda large percentage of the company, and they were forcedout of the operation. The American partner closed downthe retail stores and began to turn the brand into a conces-sion product for movie theaters. Gradually the packagingwas modified in size, material, and color until it bore littleresemblance to its original design. The company ran out ofmoney, so I was never fully paid for my work (though mydesign fee was embarrassingly low). But I had begun to understand the power of graphicdesign in the retail marketplace. At that time, I was un-aware of how large design firms structured proposals anddesignated appropriate fees. The scope of work I hadproduced for Öola would be described on a typical brandidentity proposal today as follows:
    • STYLE WARS I. Research and Naming; II. Brand Attribute and Personality Development; III. Identity Development: a. Initial Concepts, Logo Color System, Materials, Typography; b. Corporate Materials, Stationery System, etc.; IV. Sub-brands, Naming Philosophy; V. Packaging System; VI. Signage; VII. Interior Store Design; VIII. Advertising, Point of Sale.I gave most of this to my clients for free. I didn’t yet under-stand how to deconstruct the design process. I deliveredeverything at once because I thought that way and natu-rally worked that way. Had Öola been a large corporation,they never would have produced any of my designs be-cause they would not have trusted the process. It wouldhave appeared too easy and inexpensive to warrant therisk of investment. A long, complicated process involvingfocus testing and other consumer research would havebeen employed to make the larger client feel comfortable.Also Öola would not have looked enough like other prod-ucts in the same category to satisfy a focus group. Thetest would probably have shown a polarized audience,some who felt strongly that the design was exciting, andothers who would state that it didn’t look enough like tra-ditional candy packaging or that they didn’t believe thecandy would taste good. Obviously this is all supposition,but my later experiences with focus testing on productsthat I designed with a similar methodology or aesthetichave always resulted in these types of reactions. The de-sign was always “too something,” because it didn’t lookenough like something that already existed in the market-place. The hypothetical large corporation would not beanxious to take any risk. There would have been revisions,more testing, and more revisions until the joy and spon-taneity would have been squeezed from the design:blanding as opposed to branding. 94
    • STYLE WARS It’s a shame that Öola faced a massive retail recession in 1989 and 1990, because its financial failure made the design appear unsuccessful. It should have become a se- rious case history for how the design process can work. Öola was the best purely commercial project, in quality of work and process, that I have ever had. It was an ideal situation. There were only two decision makers. They had a clear understanding of their business goals. They were willing to trust a designer as a valued consultant who would make all important visual recommendations based on the information they provided and with their committed involvement. Our conversations were completely func- tional, collaborative, and often theoretical—not political. We accomplished much with little time and few resources. The relationship was mutually beneficial. And most im- portantly, they were prepared to take risks and to value intuition as an important part of analysis and decision- making. They were model clients in every way except that they simply didn’t have enough operating capital.95
    • SWATC H WATC H USA In 1984 the new marketing director of Swatch Watch seen everyday on Nick-at-Nite and at Old Navy. In 1984 it USA called Koppel & Scher after seeing a copy of Great was slightly more surprising. Beginnings. He had heard that I had worked in the music I decided there should be a Swatch family with a mom, business and thought my background would be appro- a dad, a son, a daughter, and even a grandmother, and that priate for an ad campaign for a new youth-oriented prod- the mom should always make a claim about how the uct that was being introduced in the United States. Swatch Watch had changed the lives of the family for the The product was a series of brightly colored plastic better. For the first ad I wrote, “Since we got Swatch, my watches that had groovy postmodern graphics. The watches kids are never late for school, and their grades are better were waterproof, sold for $35, and were being marketed as too!” Then we added the tag line, “The family that ticks to- trendy fashion items so cheap that you would wear three at gether sticks together,” which came from the old religious once. The ad campaign to introduce them would run in slogan, “The family that prays together stays together.” Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, and other music-business I hired Gary Heery, who I had worked with at CBS, to rags and youth publications. The marketing director asked photograph the ads. We cast the family and wrote and if I would design “something fifties.” produced one ad per month. I remember that the first In the eighties revisiting the fifties was very popular. four or five ads went relatively smoothly. We had devel- Karrie Jacobs once wrote something to the effect that oped a nice formula for them. The headlines all had the each generation recreates the graphics of its childhood same rhythm: “Since we got Swatch, blah blah blah, so it can correct all the mistakes. In the eighties the and blah blah blah too!” I collaborated with the market- baby-boom generation had come of age and was ready ing director by first setting up the scenario for the to relive their youth. I hated the idea of designing photo session based on possible fifties activities—a something that was “fifties.” That direction usually im- slumber party, a Thanksgiving dinner, bowling—and plied that the designer would apply the product (a pho- then we would create the headlines. My personal fa- tograph of a watch) to a background pattern that was vorite was “Since we got Swatch, Debbie made honors, vaguely period—like linoleum or tacky Holiday Inn-type and the football team too.” wallpaper—and then couple it with some retro script or By the middle of the campaign, the ads began to at- jumpy typography. tract attention from both the design and advertising I began rifling through some old Life magazines from press. Swatch Watch had refused to hire an advertising the fifties that I had purchased and saved; at first I was agency and had purchased their own media space. Hiring simply studying graphic and photographic style. But the a design firm to write and art-direct the ads was uncon- ads were simply hilarious. They often seemed to be con- ventional. It was after the press acclaim that my relation- cerned with the notion that a product could change your ship with the client began to deteriorate. We began arguing life in some overt way. Pepsi could make you popular; over scenarios, headlines, the size of the watches on the Maxwell House could improve your marriage. It’s not that bottom of the page. Terry Koppel converted the ad cam- the messages of advertising are all that different today, paign into a calendar that was sold with the watches. The it’s just that there was absolutely no subtlety in the campaign had been a success, but my relationship with fifties. This goofy naiveté is completely familiar now, my client had become tense. 96
    • STYLE WARS When we began the second campaign for Swatch, the skier in the hat using Heery’s wife as a model. I selected big closet.” At that time the campaign was running inmarketing director and I were in agreement that it would and positioned the typography exactly as it was posi- Mademoiselle and a few other fashion publications. I wasbe another spoof. I was visiting him in his office, which tioned on the original poster. The marketing director said, amazed and flattered that anyone noticed it, as there waswas located in the Swiss International Business Building “Make it bigger.” I said “I can’t make it bigger, it’s a par- a very limited media buy. I showed a slide of the posteron Fifth Avenue. Swatch was still a fledgling company ody, it’s supposed to look exactly the same.” The market- during my fifteen-minute presentation at the conference.and shared office space with other Swiss businesses. On ing director insisted again that I make it bigger. So I It got a big laugh. Afterward the Swiss-American graphicthe walls of the offices hung the classic Herbert Matter made it somewhat bigger, and at his behest, somewhat designer Steph Geissbühler, a Matter devotee, told me heposters for Swiss travel. I had long admired them and de- bigger again. We finished the campaign, which was cred- didn’t know if he’d been kissed or kicked.cided they were all simply crying out for a Swatch Watch. ited “Design: Koppel & Scher with Herbert Matter.” The adBetter still, there were roughly the same number of let- with the lady skier in a hat became a poster; the others Most Americans don’t know who Matter is. The Swatch/ters in the word Schweiz as in Swatch. It was a natural existed only as ads. Schweiz joke was really for a very select audience:match. The second parody campaign (now infamous) for In 1985 I was invited to speak at the first conference media types, poster aficionados, graphic designers,Swatch was born. of the American Institute of Graphic Arts in Boston. The and people who worked at Swatch. I saw the poster I called the AIGA to find out about obtaining the right keynote speaker was Tom Wolfe. In his speech he dis- used in retail situations, where Swatch watches wereto use Matter’s work, and sent permission forms to Mr. cussed the state of contemporary graphic design and re- displayed. The graphics looked cool and young in 1985.Matter. I found in laying out the first ad that it was im- ferred to “the big closet,” the storehouse of the past By the end of 1985 the poster had disappeared frompossible to strip in an arm holding a watch without where designers go to recycle ideas. He cited the Herbert the marketplace but had its second life in design-com-changing the direction of the face. We reshot the lady Matter ad campaign as an example of design from “the petition award annuals, and book and magazine articles. 97
    • STYLE WARSShortly after the poster appeared in Graphis, the ZurichPoster Museum requested a copy. In 1990 graphic designer Tibor Kalman ridiculed theposter in a talk he gave at a symposium at the School ofVisual Arts. He started the talk by playing a sour versionof the Lennon-McCartney song “Yesterday” (the record-ing was probably more damning than anything actuallysaid). He referred to the Swatch poster and others aspieces of “jive modernism,” which implied that the use ofthe poster was nostalgic, deliberately violating its in-tended modern target by quoting it out of context. Butthe public ridicule of one well-known designer by an-other was a cause celeb. Shortly after the symposium and the publication ofKalman’s article “Good History, Bad History,” I began re-ceiving theses from graphic-design students and pro-fessors that dealt with the Swatch poster and whetheror not it was plagiarism, or if not plagiarism, some as a member to the Alliance Graphique Internationale (another nefarious act, and what was the appropriate role elitist international graphic-design organization) that thereof history in design. was a Swiss designer who rejected me because he was I had always viewed the Swatch poster as somewhat so offended by the Swatch poster. “Over my dead body,”unexceptional. It was a joke, a poster about a poster, a he said. (Then he died.)parody. The period style in which the poster was made For a period of time I stopped showing the poster inwas irrelevant. It could just as easily have been Victorian design lectures because I didn’t want to be forced to de-or early American or art nouveau or completely contem- fend it. But the audience would always ask about it any-porary. It was the fame of the poster that mattered, no way. They still do.pun intended. That’s how parodies function. One is sup-posed to remember the original and get the joke.Parodies are an acceptable expressive form; they exist inliterature, music, theater, and design. But the Swatchposter, a parody of a revered graphic icon, seemed torankle a certain percentage of the design communitythat believes in the sacredness of midcentury mod-ernism. There has probably been more discourse, morewriting about my Swatch poster, pro and con, than anyother piece of my work. I was told after being proposed 98
    • STYLE WARSB E AU T I F U L FAC E S / D I N G B AT SChampion Papers approached me in 1986 about the pos-sibility of promoting their Carnival Paper line. They saidthey spent a lot of money creating promotion pieces fordesigners (the Imagination Series they produced was leg-endary). But often, after the paper promotions were distrib-uted to designers, the paper representatives would makesales calls and discover that the designers had thrownout the promotion pieces. They asked if I had an idea for apromotion that a designer would not throw away. The logical answer seemed to be some sort of tool,something useful for the designer. It had to be some-thing where the design of the container was irrelevant.While a design audience provides opportunity for de-sign experimentation, most designers love to complainabout design for designers, and to an extent, their com-plaints are warranted. This type of design is usually ex-cessive, and if the content isn’t witty or interesting, itseems especially banal. I was often on the design-industry panels, and thequestion I was most asked was, “Where do you purchaseyour typography?” My typography came from lots ofsources. There was a type house in New York City calledHaber Typographers that had a wonderful collection ofAmerican wood types from the Morgan Foundry. I hadcollected prints of entire alphabets of the wood faces andphotostated them repeatedly. The Xerox machine was theruling graphic design-technology in the early eighties, andI often had designs reproduced from photocopies of woodtypography. I collected other alphabets from old typebooks and type specimen sheets purchased at flea mar-kets and in antique stores. The typefaces were Victorian,art nouveau, art deco, streamline—you name it. The dog’sdinner of eclectic style was my response to the regimen-tation of Helvetica and the international style, and later tothe tyranny of the type company ITC, which distributed aplethora of popular new and classic fonts. I have always 1987 100
    • STYLE WARS 1988101
    • STYLE WARS Agency Gothic Carin Condensed Binner Gothic Epitaph Open Hessbold Herold Condensed Triple Condensed Long Tall Good Wood Morgan Gothic Gothic Triple Condensed Wood Block Comstock Grocers Condensed Long Tall Good Wood Agency Gothic Long Tall Good Wood Epitaph Open Binner Gothic Gothic CondensedCarin Condensed Hessbold Triple Condensed Comstock Long Tall Good Wood Carin Condensed Morgan Gothic Grocers Condensed GothicHerold Condensed Comstock Carin Condensed Grocers Condensed Triple Condensed Agency Gothic Binner Gothic Carin Condensed Herold Condensed Hessbold Gothic
    • STYLE WARS Binner Gothic Comstock Agency Gothic Long Tall Good Wood Epitaph Open Grocers Condensed Triple Condensed Long Tall Good Wood Comstock Gothic Agency Gothic Binner Gothic Herold Condensed Morgan Gothic Binner Gothic Triple Condensed Binner Gothic Hessbold Epitaph Open GothicGrocers Condensed Wood Block Carin Condensed Herold Condensed Carin Condensed Hessbold Epitaph Open Herold Condensed CondensedComstock Carin Condensed Hessbold Agency Gothic Binner Gothic Triple Condensed Comstock Grocers Condensed Triple Condensed Agency Gothic 103 Gothic Gothic
    • STYLE WARSbeen wary of popular type companies that have a strongaesthetic (though I admire Emigre, for example, I don’toften use their more eccentric fonts), because the ensu-ing typography somehow looks like it comes from thetype house and is not a natural product of the designprocess. When a new typeface becomes a trend, I’m em-barrassed by it. Beautiful Faces was a simple idea. I selected twenty-odd fonts and laid their alphabets out on a grid thatcould fit comfortably on an 11-by-17 inch photocopier.The typefaces were then printed on Champion Carnivalpapers, inserted into a portfolio, and distributed to fortythousand graphic designers. I picked dark-colored pa-pers, which would not copy well, for typographic demon-strations. These were period designs and not dissimilarto those in Great Beginnings. I couldn’t find the names of some of the typefaces Ihad collected so I made them up. One of the fonts in theBeautiful Faces portfolio was used by my friend CarinGoldberg on a jacket for a book titled Trio, so I named thetypeface Trio after that. Years later I saw the face turn up ina collection of digital fonts with that name attached to it. Beautiful Faces became the most requested promo-tion piece in Champion’s history. It gave the design com-munity access to a reproducible type portfolio for free andhad the greatest individual impact I would make on thedesign gestalt of the times. There were three portfolios inall, two that contained typography and one that containedprinter flourishes and decorative marks, called Dingbats.The success of the project cemented my relationship withChampion, which has since allowed me to produce someof my more inventive work. 1989 104
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    • STYLE WARS Geegaws Hands Geegaws Leaves, Trees, and Birds Geegaws Geegaws Geegaws Miscellaneous Animals Hands Romance Swashes Romance Miscellaneous Geometry People Miscellaneous Geometry People Swashes People Geegaws People Leaves, Trees, and Birds People Flowers Romance Geegaws Geegaws Hands Miscellaneous Hands Animals Swashes Animals Geegaws Geegaws Leaves, Trees Animals Geometry Romance Hands Miscellaneous Swashes Miscellaneous Miscellaneous People Romance Geometry Flowers Hands Flowers Hands Geegaws Animals Animals Geegaws Leaves, Trees, and BirdsLeaves, Trees, and Birds Flowers Animals Geegaws Geometry 106
    • STYLE WARS Swashes Miscellaneous Geegaws People Miscellaneous GeegawsSwashes Hands People People Geegaws Romance Geometry Geegaws Miscellaneous Geegaws Geegaws Geegaws Geegaws Hands Geegaws Swashes Hands Romance Geegaws Animals Romance Leaves Hands Geegaws Geometry Flowers Flowers People Animals BirdsGeometry Flowers People Swashes Animals Swashes Flowers Leaves Flowers Animals People Geometry Flowers Romance Miscellaneous Geegaws Geometry Geegaws Geegaws Swashes Miscellaneous Miscellaneous Swashes Romance Hands 107
    • STYLE WARS P R I N T M AG A Z I N E In 1985 Marty Fox, the editor of Print, invited Steve Heller and me to co edit a special parody issue of the magazine. We decided on the topics to lampoon and wrote the arti- cles. We parodied design styles, design-industry ads, and design-industry writing. I invited Tibor Kalman to con- tribute, and he parodied famous designers (including me) in an article about a corporate identity program for Canada. I wrote an article about an anal-retentive Swiss designer who designed a famous campaign for a plumbing com- pany called “Borinkmeister,” and another article called “Lubevitch & Moscowitz: Forgotten Doyens of Deli Design,” in which generic coffee-shop graphics were used to send up overdesigned restaurants. The cover of the parody was a complicated genealog- ical chart in which famous people slept with typefaces and gave birth to other famous people and typefaces: “Julius Cesar slept with Helvetica and gave birth to Corvinus,” and so forth. The whole insane chart moved through history until it ultimately arrived at Milton Glaser. This act of concocting complicated systems of useless information became an important and personal part of my design vocabulary. 1985 108
    • STYLE WARSSVAI began teaching design at New York’s School of VisualArts in 1982, and have taught there ever since. SilasRhodes, SVA’s founder, has over the years invited me todesign three posters for its acclaimed subway advertis-ing campaign. The posters usually employ a thematic ad-vertising headline. The first poster I was asked to design,in 1987, had the tag “To Be Good Is Not Enough When YouDream Of Being Great.” Silas explicitly asked me to createa typographic poster. I produced a machinelike face deriv-ative of thirties painting. It was typical of my work in themid-eighties, which historian Phil Meggs dubbed “retro.” The second poster, in 1992, carried the headline“Great Ideas Never Happen Without Imagination.” I com-bined three unrelated images—a winding road, WinstonChurchill’s “V” for victory, and the bottom of an unfin-ished Eiffel Tower—that, combined, spelled out SVA.When the poster was displayed in the subway, the fore-finger of Winston Churchill’s hand was artfully blackedout with Magic Marker on every subway stop on theQueens-Astoria line. I was so thrilled by this spontaneous street activitythat when it came time to design my third SVA poster Idecided to make it deliberately interactive. The posterheadline was “Art Is...” I created the words out of wordsby writing the names of all my favorite artists, musicians,and writers in alphabetical order. I created two posters,one for bus shelters and one for subways. The subwayposter had a white background and came with instruc-tions for the passersby to add their names. No one fol-lowed my instructions. 110
    • STYLE WARS 1992111
    • 112 1996
    • STYLE WARSA M B A S S A D O R A RT SAmbassador Arts, a silkscreen printing company, was an-other design-industry company that afforded me an op-portunity to design relatively unrestricted work. In the lateeighties they asked me to design a poster they could dis-tribute to their clients and friends as an elegant Christmasgift. The poster was lavishly silkscreened on heavy Archespaper. Silent Night, which came out in 1988, was one ofthe last pieces I designed in my “retro” period. I have ahard time with the poster now. It is cloyingly sweet, and Ithink I knew that the moment I designed it. The Big A poster was my homage to fractured tech-nology and inexpensive production values. The posterwas silkscreened on newsprint. Though it was designedonly a year and a half after Silent Night, the two posterscould not have been more different in spirit and aesthet-ics. When I designed the Big A, I knew the eighties—andan era—were over. In the subsequent year and a half thestock market crashed, my business partner left, the UnitedStates bombed Iraq, the economy slid into a severe re-cession, the design industry went digital, and I was invitedto join Pentagram. My work became less ornate, morepointed, and perhaps, meaner. Ambassador Arts adopted the “Big A” as its identity(and reproduced it as a ridiculously small a) and sug-gested the creation of an entire alphabet. I arranged across-promotion with Champion Papers. Woody Pirtle andI selected twelve designers to produce the alphabet, andthey were given the size of the poster, a red-and-blackcolor palette, and assigned letters. Every designer askedif they had to use red and black. 1988 114
    • 1991
    • STYLE WARS Michael Bierut Peter Saville Seymour Chwast Paul Davis Heinz Edelmann Tom Geismar Paula Scher Yarom Vardimon
    • STYLE WARSPaula Scher Paul Davis Pierre Mendell Seymour ChwastRosmarie Tissi Michael Bierut Shigeo Fukuda Paula Scher
    • Heinz Edelman Rosmarie Tissi Shigeo Fukuda Woody PirtleYarom Vardim Peter Saville Pierre Mendell Woody Pirtle
    • STYLE WARS F R E E P O ST E R S In the eighties I learned that if I wanted to make any kind of graphic discovery or control content, the best clients would be within the design industry and the best audi- ence would be other designers or design students. Design-industry clients have always afforded me the greatest opportunity for personal expression and growth. By the mid-to late eighties, I was feeling trapped in my own reputation. Commercial clients had an expectation that my work would have a period-oriented postmodern bent. They hired or didn’t hire me because of it. Had I not been able to publicly change my design vocabulary, my ability to attract interesting projects would have been severely impaired. Work breeds work. I love making posters. I love the form and the scale,Woody Pirtle and I will make them for free if someone will pay for the printing. (Sometimes I’ll pay for it myself.) It’s considered a dying or irrelevant form of communication, but I believe the opposite to be true. There are so many diverse forms of media—hundreds of cable TV stations, the Internet, thousands of publications—but the only promotion an urban population will see collectively is outdoor media: bus-shelter posters, subway posters, posters pasted on barricades, even billboards. The form has been abducted by advertising agencies that produce big ads that domi- nate city spaces. The territory rightfully belongs to the public. Graphic designers need to reclaim it for them.Tom Geismar 119
    • At the time I designed this poster I smoked two and half packs of Parliments a day. I quit smoking in 1996.The Chrysler Building composed of a list of the entire membership of the For my show in Osaka, Japan, 1999AIGA New York Chapter, 1999 120
    • For the ICOGRADA Design Renaissance Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, 1993 Blah Blah Blah: Worth Magazine asked a variety of designers to make a visual comment on the future of the technology. This was my comment. I thought it would look better bigger so I made large-scale silkscreen posters, which were sold by Jean-Yves Noblet, the silkscreen company that printed the posters.
    • STYLE WARSA poster advocating literacy, designed for the Denver Chapter of the Poster honoring the centenary of Toulouse-Lautrec’s death, 2001AIGA, 1997
    • STYLE WARSTO M ATO D ’A M ATOI’m often asked to design posters promoting worthy polit-ical causes. Unfortunately the posters are usually fordesign organizations. They hang in a gallery and no oneever sees them. Posters belong outside, on the street. When Alphonse D’Amato was running against ChuckSchumer in the 1998 New York senatorial election, Idesigned the Tomato-D’Amato poster. My New YorkPentagram partners agreed to jointly pay for the printingand sniping (the act of plastering the poster on New YorkCity construction barricades). The poster credit reads,“Designed and paid for by Pentagram.” Shortly after theposter went up someone from Ed Koch’s office called (hewas supporting D’Amato), and asked the Pentagram re-ceptionist to describe the poster. The next day the posterdisappeared from the streets. It was covered over by otherposters or simply ripped off the barricades. We called thesniping service and they told us that a police car hadbeen following them around. Sniping in New York City istechnically illegal, though off-Broadway productions,movies, and clothing stores use it as a medium. I foundout that sniping is selectively illegal.You/Me: This poster was never produced. It was part of an Israeli invita-tional competition to create a message about peaceful coexistence with-in borders, for the Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem. I may print it myself.Following pages: Promotional posters for Metropolis magazine’s brandingconferences. 1999-2000 125
    • STYLE WARSAIGAIn 1990 Caroline Hightower, then director of the AmericanInstitute of Graphic Arts, asked me to design the coverfor the coming annual, Graphic Design USA II, which wasa compendium of all the exhibits and competitions theAIGA had held in 1989. She told me there was no designfee, but that the AIGA would contribute $1000 for “de-sign expenses.” I asked what design expenses were, andHightower replied that they could be the purchase ofphotography, retouching, necessary typography. I askedwhat would happen if I didnt have any expenses, and shetold me Id get to keep the money anyway. I vowed thenand there not to incur any expenses. The 1990 AIGA cover was a spoof on graphic designin America, not dissimilar to the Print parody cover. Ipainted the information instead of typesetting it. It waswriting as design. The cover simply took the wordsGraphic Design USA literally and then dished out somecompletely useless, nonsensical information. The frontcover featured an eye whose lashes listed all the emo-tions and desires that might be attributed to ambitiousdesigners: fame, power, money, ego, and ennui. The eye-ball carried an absurd dissertation about whether or notless is more. The background of the painting had a list-ing of every state in the United States, and the percent-age of people in each state who used Helvetica. I madeup the statistics, but I decided to base them loosely onthe 1986 Reagan-Mondale presidential election. I rea-soned that if Reagan carried a state the local designerswere probably inclined to use a lot of Helvetica. The backcover had a map of the United Stated that I had paintedfrom memory (I inadvertently left out Utah). I painted allthe flap-copy information simply to ensure that I couldkeep the entire thousand dollars. 128
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    • STYLE WARSBy 1990, when the annual appeared, most of the designindustry had converted to digital production. The coverwas anticomputer, making its primitive idiocy even morelaughable and poignant. The combination of personalizedwriting and painting was a creative breakthrough for me.Thereafter I became increasingly obsessed with paintinguseless information.The self-portrait for AIGA (opposite) was painted in 1992. This disserta-tion on antifeminist language was for a 1993 MTV Awards program, 1993 1992 130
    • This hand-drawn cover for a Japanese design publication dealt with left/right reading legibility, 1999.
    • I created this February calendar page for the Cooper-Hewitt, NationalDesign Museum. It is now in the collection of the Museum of Menstruation,1997.
    • STYLE WARS An opinionated map, 1993 I began painting small opinionated maps in the early nineties. Over time they grew larger and more obsessive. In the late nineties and now the map paintings serve as an antidote to laborious corporate design projects frus- trated by indecisive committees. The World 5’ X 8’, 1998
    • STYLE WARS135
    • STYLE WARS The United States painted in 1999 (detail) 136
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    • STYLE WARSManhattan 11’x 5’ 2002 138
    • STYLE WARS139
    • STYLE WARSU S E L E S S I N F O R M AT I O NIn the early 1990s Champion International paired WilliamDrenttell and me as editors of a series of pamphlets titled“Subjective Reasoning.” The pamphlets were producedon a variety of topics—some political, some personal—for the edification of the design community, to helpChampion promote Kromekote papers, and for the per-sonal amusement of Bill and me. I authored and designed my own pamphlet, entitledUseless Information. It was a diatribe on the informationage, decrying news formatting, political blather, the hype ofconsumer electronics, the tyranny of economics, doubletalk, and the terror imposed on our daily lives by conflict-ing information about the health and safety of food. Thelast page of the pamphlet is a listing of all the numbers(driver’s license, passport, credit cards, etc.) that aresomehow connected to me. There is an astounding num-ber of numbers. What do they mean? I recreated the por-trait in a more literal way for the New York Times Op-Edpage in 1998. 1992 140
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    • STYLE WARS sketches 142
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    • Op-Ed page, New York Times, 1998
    • STYLE WARSYO U R N A M E H E R EMohawk Papers created another opportunity for me toauthor an opinionated combination of writing and de-sign. Your Name Here may be my most cynical piece ofprofessional work. It is a manual of design styles at-tached to generic design problems. The designs arethen described in detail, enabling any designer to liftthem and apply them to an appropriate situation. Thebook contained identity designs for an elegant bank, anoverpriced restaurant, a start-up technology company, apretty housewares store, a format for a biotechnologycompanys annual report, and a catalog for an upper-middle-class childs toy. The last page of the manual de-scribed the typography used in it, which was describedin another typeface, which was described again in an-other typeface, and another, and then on into infinity.Your Name Here is my final comment on style wars. Bythe end of the nineties designers had become so adeptat manipulating style that the minute you described abusiness, you already knew what it looked like. 1998 146
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    • STYLE WARS I began contributing to the Op-Ed page of the New York Times in the midnineties. Most of my work was graphic illustration for specific pieces of writing. Every so often I would contribute something that was independent of someone else’s writing. This analysis of the Florida bal- lot was my best response to the disastrous 2000 presi- dential election. Although I have enjoyed satirizing design style, this piece was no joke. The Times later reported that this con- fusing ballot design caused more than 30,000 voter er- rors (double votes and mistaken votes), many times more than in any other county of Florida. The ballot was designed by a local Democratic official who thought she was helping older voters by creating two columns of type, so that it would be bigger and therefore easier to read. The official was not a graphic designer and did not know that she needed to hire one. I would contend that Al Gore won not only the popular vote in the rest of the United States but also in Florida. Incompetent graphic design threw a national election. I received a tremendous amount of mail, pro and con, from this Op-Ed piece. Someone marked up the ballot to make it functional and sent it to me anony- mously. It works. 150
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NIn theCompanyof Men
    • T h e E a r l y Ye a r s P E N TA G R A M 1 9 7 3 - 7 8 P E N TA G R A M 1 9 7 8 - 8 7 Fletcher Forbes Gill 1962-66 LON DON LON DON Al an F l e t ch e r B ob Gill John McConnell 1974 J ohn McConnell T h e o C r o s by C olin Forb es N E W YO R K The o Crosby Kenneth G r a ng e T he o Cr os by Kenneth G r a ng e C r o s b y F l e t c h e r F o r b e s 1 9 67- 7 1 1987 Colin F or b es 1982 Da v id Pelha m Howa r d Br own P e t e r H ar r i s o n E t an M an as s e Al an F l e t ch e r The o Crosby Alan Fletcher Mervyn Kurlansky Ala n F letcher Mer v y n Kur la ns k y 1978 1987 Mervyn Kurlansky C olin Forb es 1978 Da v id Hillma n C o l i n Fo r b e s Ron H er r on B ob Gill 1977 Da v id Pelha m 1986 1986 P E N TA G R A M F O U N D E D 1 9 7 2 Ron Her r on 1981 SAN FRANCISCO 1978 LON DON N E W YO R K Th e o C r o s by Kenneth Grange Neil Sha ker y L i n da H i n r i ch s Colin F or b es Al an F l e t ch e r Mervyn Kurlansky Kit H i n r i ch s Colin Forbes P E N TA G R A M 1 9 8 8 - 9 1 P E N TA G R A M 1 9 9 2 - 9 3 LON DON LON DON J o h n M c Connell J ohn McConnell T h e o C r o s by Kenneth Grange T he o Cr os by Kenneth G r a ng e C o l i n Fo r b e s 1993 Davi d H i l l m a n John Rushwor th 1989 N E W YO R K Da v id Hillma n J ohn Rus hwor th N E W YO R K 1991 D avi d P o ck n e l l Mer v yn Kurlansky Da niel Weil Colin F or b es 1993 M i ch ae l G e r i cke Peter Sa v illeA l an Fl e t ch e r Peter Harrison Wo o dy Pir tle Da v id Po ck nell Pe t e r H ar r i s o n Wo o d y P ir tle P e t e r S aville 1992 1991 1992 1988 1990H ow ar d Br own Mer v y n Kur la ns k y James Bib e r Micha el Bier ut 1993 J am e s B i b e r M i ch ae l B i e r u t 1988 SAN FRANCISCO 1991 1990 SAN FRANCISCO Paula Scher P au l a S ch e r 1991 Neil Sha ker y Lowell Willia ms Et a n Ma na s s e N e i l S h a ke r y Lowell Williams 1991 1990 Kit Hinr ichs Me Died K i t Hinrichs Linda Hinrichs Key t o D i agram : N ew Par tn e r Par t n e r l e av e s N ew O ffice o pens Frictio n B etwe e n P ar tners 1990
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NI N T H E C O M PA N Y O F M E N have a reasonable understanding of things based on their cultural environment—and are often directly influenced by some very spe- cific milieu in which they operate. I was the one who was not nor- mal. I had a graphic designer’s understanding of things. “Most people don’t understand what a graphic designer does, let alone what they see,” Bierut explained. I had to learn to explain design in lay terms, in human terms. “Little feet” demystifies serif type. It ex- plains a visual difference.I JOINEDPentagram in the spring of 1991, with the economy in the dol-drums and my design business faltering. Koppel & Scher had The ability to explain graphic design is fundamentally differ- ent from the ability to create graphic design, and it relies on dif- ferent faculties. In the explanation process, the designer must deconstruct his or her work and place it in a logical sequence so one can understand its components and see how they col-suffered in the recession of 1990, and Terry Koppel had taken a lectively create an entity that has a specific idea, spirit, and look.staff position at Esquire. I was running the business on my own. The act of designing is more ephemeral; it is an intuitive processIt was time for a change. informed by external forces that direct the intuition. Whereas a Shortly after I joined Pentagram I saw a presentation by my solution can be explained, the process that created it can neverpartner Michael Bierut that explained the typographic system for a adequately be understood. That’s why the process is so mis-corporate packaging project for a large technology firm. Bierut trusted, misunderstood, even resented. It is not scientific orhad pasted a black-and-white printout of the typeface Times democratic, cannot be learned by following an appropriateRoman to a piece of foamcore, and over the alphabet slugged the course of study, and cannot even be equally understood or ap-headline: “This is Times Roman. It is a serif typeface. It has little preciated by people of similar intellects and levels of education.feet.” I picked up the board and laughed. Then I realized it wasn’t Whereas the act of explaining design requires specificfunny. In that instant I understood what I had been doing wrong in order and logic, the act of creating design involves a form of dis-client situations for more than twenty years. I had assumed that order, with outer stimuli thrown together into the mixer of theclients had come to me having the background to make value human brain. The result is something that is various parts intel-judgments about what they were looking at. When they picked in- lect, inspiration, and obsession. Too much intellect smothers ob-ferior design, I assumed it was because they were philistines bent session, too much obsession smothers intellect, and too much ofon keeping down the American taste level. From Bierut I learned either smothers inspiration.that clients were “just normal people,” and that normal people 155
    • P E N TA G R A M 1 9 9 4 - 9 6 P E N TA G R A M 1 9 9 7 - 9 9 1994 LON DON HONG KONG LON DON HONG KONG 1997 J o h n M c Connell David Hillma n J ohn McConnell 1998 Ken n e t h G r a n g e David Hillman Colin F or b es Ke nneth G r a ng e Da v id Hillma n N E W YO R K1991 D avi d Po ck n e l l N E W YO R K 1998 Ang us Hy la nd Lor enz o Ap icella 1998 M i ch ae l G e r i cke John Rushwor th Daniel Weil Michael G er icke J ohn Rus hwor th Da niel Weil J am e s B i b e r Wo o dy P i r t l e J u s t u s Oehler Peter Harrison Wo o dy Pir tle J us tus O ehler Th e o Cr o s by 1995 1994 Died 1994 James Bib er Micha el Bier ut P au l a S ch e r M i ch ae l B i e r u t SAN FRANCISCO Paula Scher SAN FRANCISCO J . A bb o t t M i l l e r 1994 1999 Ne i l S h a ke r y K i t H i nrichs Kit Hinr ichs AUSTIN 1994 AUSTIN B o b B runner B ob Br unner Lowell Williams 1996 Low e l l W i l l i am s P E N TA G R A M 2 0 0 0 P E N TA G R A M 2 0 0 1 - 0 2 LON DON N E W YO R K LON DON N E W YO R K J o h n M c C o nnell Michael Ge r icke J ohn McConnell M i ch ae l G e r i cke Justus Oehler David Hillman J us tus O ehler Da v id Hillma n James Bib er Wo o dy Pir tle James Biber Wo o d y P i r t l e 2002 An g u s H y l a n d Lorenzo Apicella Lor enz o Ap icella Ang us Hy la nd L i s a S t r au s f e l d J oh n R u s h w o r t h Daniel Weil Paula Scher Micha el Bier ut J ohn Rus hwor t h Da niel Weil Pa u l a S ch e r M i ch ae l B i e r u t F e r n a n d o G utiérrez J. Abb ott M iller F er na nd o G utiér r ez J . A bb o t t M i l l e r 2000 AUSTIN AUSTIN SAN FRANCISCO 2001 SAN FRANCISCO Lowell Will i am s 2000 Lowell Williams Kit Hinr ichs Los Angeles K i t H i n r i ch s Los Angeles DJ Stou t DJ Stout B ob Br unner A pr i l G r e i m an Bob Brunner 2000 Ap r il G r eima n Key t o D i agram : N ew Par t n e r Par t n e r l e av e s N ew O ffice o pens Frictio n B etwe en P ar tners
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NDesign-management symposiums tend to spend an enormous fund that pays for partners meetings, promotion, and publishing.amount of time discussing process and rarely address intuition Annual profit is shared only in local offices, which have theiras part of that process. Certain professors are tremendously un- own personalities.comfortable with the notion of intuitive thinking because it The financial structure of Pentagram was designed by itsmakes design appear magical as opposed to rational. Also it founding partner, Colin Forbes. The system affords the partnersmeans that students will not perform equally if they follow an complete equality. One partner may elect to operate a very largeequivalent course of study and methodology. That’s bad busi- design team while another maintains a small one, but their prof-ness for design pedagogues. itability is what is measured, not their actual billing. A compli- I can’t design anything after a meeting in which I’ve ex- cated formula determines office hourly rates to ensure completeplained design, and I can’t explain a design immediately after I’ve fairness in the sharing of overhead. Best explained, Pentagram’sdesigned it. I need at least half a day to recover from either act. financial structure emulates an affable roommate situation whereThe two jobs require different energies. Pentagram partners are there is an appropriate mechanism to compensate one room-drawn together because we all, to varying degrees, have and mate for the extra milk consumed by the other.value both talents. We all recognize that graphic design is a so- Partner equality also exists on an international basis. Therecial activity. It necessarily involves other people, their opinions, are two international partners meetings per year, at which deci-comments, egos, conceits, jealousies, and fears. sions are made by consensus—one partner, one vote. The organ- As a design firm Pentagram’s structure is unique; it is es- ization is horizontal—one big committee—and is rife with the com-sentially a group of small businesses linked together financially plications, indecision, and slowness endemic of committees. Butthrough necessary services and through mutual interests. Each it is worth the hassle, because the collective power of the grouppartner maintains a design team, usually consisting of a senior is a compilation of intelligence, experience, and portfolio that candesigner, a couple of junior designers, and a project coordinator. not be matched by any individual. Pentagram gave me, instanta-The partners share accounting services, secretarial and recep- neously, a power base and by association, credibility.tion services, and maintain a shared archive. Pentagram partners Pentagram’s unique structure enabled me to operate as if Iare responsible for attracting and developing their own business, were a principal at a powerful corporate design firm while main-but they pool their billings, draw the same salary, and share profit taining the individuality of a small practitioner. With a large designin the form of an annual bonus. It’s a cooperative, and its most firm, a client will meet initially with a principal but find that actualvalued form of cooperation is the sharing of knowledge and in- design is done by a much more junior person working several lev-formation. There are presently four offices: London (the firm was els below. At Pentagram the partners are the designers, and thefounded there in 1972), New York, San Francisco, and Austin, teams are small. The partner is always involved in the process.Texas. Each office contributes a share of its profits to a central 157
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NClients often ask how the partners collaborate on a given proj- won’t trust the process or believe in the ensuing design. I beganect. I usually explain that they are getting one partner as a de- to learn that corporate clients tended to respect work in directsigner and five kibitzers. Because we sit so close together— proportion to the complexity of stages and the correspondingPentagram has an open-plan office—it is impossible not to be in- fees. They prefer buying process as opposed to design. In somevolved in or influenced by one another’s work. Most planned col- instances, I’ve noticed a certain psychology existing not dissimilarlaboration occurs cross-discipline. The graphic designers tend to the way I buy clothes. If I’m in a clothing boutique in Europe in ato collaborate with the product designers or architects. (My ar- good neighborhood, but I’ve never heard of the shop and thechitect partner, Jim Biber, would say that the graphic designers clothing prices are reasonable, I don’t trust the clothing. Manycome around when they need something that isn’t made of clients who have never bought design before don’t trust low pricespaper and actually has to stand up in weather.) in boutique design firms, even when they receive a terrific product. The most difficult aspect of the Pentagram partnership is theeternal struggle between the individual and the collective. The powerful corporations like large,partners agree that the benefits of the collective wisdom of thegroup far outweigh the distinct disadvantage of being by oneself; LARGE, powerful design firms. Michael Bierut has a theory that assumes that big American corporations arehowever, when Pentagram promotes itself collectively the involun- still headed by no-nonsense all-American men who believe thattary eccentricities of individual designs are somewhat neutralized design is sissy-boy stuff and not part of the serious world ofand subsumed into a form of visual collectivism. It takes a certain capitalism. These corporate leaders may have heard that “goodkind of design ego to feel comfortable with this. I had trouble ad- design is good business,” or they might be impressed with thejusting to it. Pentagram isn’t for everybody. global branding strategies of Coca-Cola, Nike, Starbucks, and One of the first things I learned at Pentagram was how to McDonald’s, but they are comfortable only with the researchconstruct a proposal. I hadn’t understood how to properly ex- parts of the design process. Therefore, in a design proposal theplain the design process and I had a tendency to give away serv- actual process of creating something—say, a logo—is describedices to my clients, as demonstrated by my arrangement with as design exploration. This sounds downright scientific, as if theÖola. At Pentagram I learned to deconstruct the process and designer has put on a lab coat, pulled out the appropriate vial ofcreate a description and a line-item expense for each service. design serum, and mixed it with varying proportions of brandCorporations feel very comfortable with a detailed description of essence until a piece of litmus paper bears a mark in the appro-an orderly process; the more methodical and scientific-sounding priate color and shape necessary to accurately represent ait is the better. They are also more comfortable paying fees ac- brand and make the corporation lots of money. In this scenariocording to this model. If the process of a large-scale corporate it is also assumed that the more time and exploration allotted,identity project looks too simple and too inexpensive, the client the more review and comment—the more “testing”—undertaken 158
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NP E N TA G R A M N E W Y O R K P A R T N E R S S E AT I N G by the designers, the more likely it is that the designer will come to the correct answer. To tal A rea 5 00 sq . f t. (71. 3 sq . f t. p er par tner) The term design exploration may seem like a harmless con- ceit, a description that allows for price comparison between Michael Bier ut firms or merely describes the process in which the designer en- gages. But it diminishes the real value a corporation gets from a designer. It neutralizes the idea that it takes a specific artistry to design a logo. It is the rare combination of the designer’s intelli- Lis a Stra us feld gence, intuition, inspiration, and aesthetic sense—dare I say tal- ent?—that makes for successful design. The idea of “design ex- ploration” is difficult for me, because my first ideas are generally my best. I don’t know why—it is the mystery of my creative J. Abb ott Miller process. More time, more experimentation, and more informa- PAS SAG E WAY tion seem to muddle my thinking, and my solutions are always wALL somehow less incisive. Often I get my ideas in the middle of the Paula Scher first client meeting, or in the taxi on the way back, or in a con- versation with a partner. It’s random, somewhat accidental, inci- dental, and certainly not scientific. testing of design—logos, Wo o dy P i r t l e THE FOCUS packaging, whatever—is another “scientific” charade. The people being tested are invari- ably selected because they are customers or potential cus- Michael G er icke tomers and fit into an appropriate consumer profile, or maybe they are “early adopters,” those likely to purchase something new. The problem with such groups is that their reactions are traditionally reactionary. Focus groups can’t be expected to re- spond positively to something new, because if it’s something James Bib er really new it’s going to look “too something,” which means not sufficiently like other things like it that already exist in the mar- 159
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E Nketplace. Focus testing tells you what the consumer already ac- FIVE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT BRANDINGcepts, not what they will accept in the future. Focus groups al-ways remind me of my childhood friends and their shoes. Myfriend Carolyn appreciated a shoe style just as it was about to 1 It is not a science.become passé. She hated it when it was new, always said theshoes in that style were ugly, and swore she’d never wear them. 2 A smart brand-positioning program and anThen after two years, just as the shoes were about to go out of environmentally friendly, ergonomically correctstyle, she’d decide they were terrific. My friend Joan always design cannot make a potential consumerbought shoes ahead of the curve. Joan was throwing out the purchase a product they dont need or want.shoes Carolyn was buying. Joan is the right person to bring intothe focus test, a true early adopter. But most focus groups are 3 The best brands of any sort are usuallyformed of a combination of Carolyns and Joans. If your Carolyn produced by corporations or institutionsis louder and more assertive than your Joan, your focus group where the president is both a strong leader and a visionary.will be a failure. One loud Carolyn can sway the whole group. 4 Corporations composed of more than five thing about focusTHE WORST testing is that it’s im-possible to simulate a real-life consumer situation. The people people have most of their difficulties creating brands because of fear and jealousy among individuals in various departments.composing the focus group know that they have been selectedto respond to something, like a new package design. They natu-rally assume that because their opinion is being asked they 5 Intuition is crucial. Luck helps.should have one. Some of them take on the role of a self-ap-pointed “marketing director” and infuse their comments with anair of expertise. This has nothing in common with a real consumeraccidentally coming upon something new in a store. When onecomes upon something new by accident, one is curious, notopinionated. One tends to ask questions, not give answers. When a packaging system I had designed for 3Com, atechnology company, was focus tested in an actual store, thegroup made countless critical observations. However, the actual 160
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E Nconsumers who were in the store were curious and naturally mental versions to the chosen face, displaying it in different colorsdrawn to the packaging, and commented without invitation that and different weights with subtle modulations. The result ap-they thought it worked and that it was ”cool.” Had they been for- pears scientific but leaves the client with nothing remarkable andmally interviewed to any extent, their comments would undoubt- nothing memorable—and nothing objectionable either.edly have been more critical. I’ve been hired to design identities for corporations after The large design firms that offer “branding” as a service try they’ve gone through the brand-positioning process and logoto persuade their clients that they are “scientific” by establishing exploration by another firm. When they’ve completed this exer-an ordered process that appears to quantify intangible things cise, they are often much better behaved clients. They have alike “brand positioning” or “brand personality attributes.” They basis for making visual judgments that has been depersonalizedprepare lists, charts, and graphs (usually set in large type, with a and has become more objective. It is far easier for a committeefifty-word paragraph on each page, bound into a wiro-bound to determine whether a logo, packaging program, or advertisingbook) that are designed to persuade a corporation that there is campaign is “on brand” than it is for the same group to agreea specific brand positioning naturally appropriate to that corpo- about whether or not they “like it.” And after having seen fifty orration, and that this can manifest itself in everything that corpo- so incrementally different and therefore confusing logo designs,ration does—a mantra for how the company should look, feel, the group is often happy to look at two or three diverse designsand be perceived. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. from another firm.Most large corporations have complicated structures, compli- Years ago, when I was a student-teacher in an unruly highcated politics, decentralized divisions, separate profit centers, school art class in Philadelphia, the master teacher I workedand infighting between—and within—their divisions. They lose with would write a seemingly pointless quote about art or cre-sight of how they represent themselves and how other people ativity on the blackboard every day. The students would noisilysee them. Branding mantras give disparate political units a com- enter the classroom, throw their books around, and the teachermon cause and help them speak with the same voice. would admonish them to sit down, open their notebooks, and Unfortunately the large branding firms that present these copy down the quote of the day. Suddenly the class would be-seemingly complicated scientific exercises often fall apart when come orderly. Once they performed this rote exercise, they werethey come to the “logo exploration” part of the design process. I ready to learn.always get the feeling that the firm’s effort, money, and talent The same process is at work when large corporate com-have gone into persuasive chart making, not logo aesthetics. Their mittees undergo the strategic phase of a brand-positioning pro-wiro-bound presentations show a corporate name set in a score gram. The exercise leaves them ready to pay attention.of possible typefaces. After picking what is ostensibly the mostappropriate from this set, they proceed to show scores of incre-
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N brand positions are aesthetics of the identity—until every visual avenue of the corpo-INVARIABLY most clear and suc-cinct when they directly reflect the ideals of a strong institutional ration or institution has been addressed. The role as designer/teacher/guru to corporations, althoughpresident. When brand positions and personality attributes are effective, has been somewhat detrimental to my creativeorganized by an outside management consultancy on behalf of growth. The process takes time and necessarily demands long,a large committee, the brand personality is watered down to in- boring, repetitive, and mostly thankless meetings, often with theclude all possible attributes, like being both exclusive and inclu- goal of persuading an internal corporate committee not to trashsive or modern yet traditional. It is almost impossible to design a pre-approved design. In larger branding firms, this sort ofanything memorable that would be “on brand” in this situation. thing may be handled by an account representative, not by aThe natural result is “blanding,” the act of removing any idiosyn- designer. But account executives generally are not capable ofcrasy from a given design to ensure that it is not “too something.” explaining why certain modifications ruin the aesthetics of a Most of Pentagram’s clients (my own included) are midsize given design and others do not. Only a designer can do that.corporations or sizable public institutions. They are small enough The presence of a partner in such meetings is crucial. A seniorthat we get to meet and to know their directors and become designer can’t do it, mostly because they have not attained theprivy to their points of view. The challenge is to develop a dia- credibility inherent to the position of partner.logue, based on the level of the client’s visual sophistication, that At Pentagram, I have attained the power, status, andexplains just what design can do for them and how it works. credibility necessary to more easily persuade clients to aHence the value of Bierut’s explanation of serif typography. If I given design. My greatest dilemma has now become how tocan persuade the president and his inner circle to adopt a given balance projects so they keep me interested and allow myapproach, the resulting design emerges with few compromises. design vocabulary to expand and how not to be bored sense-In this role I am not a scientist, a salesman, a magician, or a char- less by interminable corporate meetings. The answer is tolatan. I am a teacher, and my curriculum includes aesthetics, continually change the types of projects I take on, to movebranding, identity, and the inherently subjective—and not scien- from corporate or institutional identity to magazine design, totific—process of design. package design, to environmental design, to pro bono work, The larger the corporation, the more teaching one has to to books, to my own artistic ventures as a painter, and back todo, mostly division by division, from marketing and finance to corporate identity. One type of design informs the next. Whenlegal and manufacturing departments. It can be a mind-numbing I balance a mind-numbing corporate project with somethingexercise. When various subsidiaries are thrown into the mix, a particularly active, like my obsessive map painting, the oppo-design is refined, subbrands are created, positions are modified, sites neutralize each other.and rules are changed—hopefully without harming the essential 162
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NMy partners in the New York office of Pentagram make this variety dence and respect from clients and were perceived as importantpossible. We are perceived as a multidisciplinary firm that relies professionals of stature in comparison to graphic designers.on shared experience. I began to work on environmental projects Architecture is an understood and revered profession. Some ofby collaborating with partner Michael Gericke, who had a broad the respect comes from the quasi-scientific aspect of architec-background in that area. The learning curve has involved not only ture. If you don’t listen to your architect, it’s possible that yourthe specific regulatory and production rules of institutional and new building will fall down. People generally don’t die from badoffice-building signage but a whole new book of political problems graphic design. I found that both real-estate developers and in-inherent in working with architects and real-estate developers. stitutional presidents who commissioned architecture also gen- I find that when I work in an area in which I have no prior uinely enjoyed being patrons to society. The permanence of aexperience—when I am, in fact, “unqualified for the job”—I do building is an enduring monument to the individual that commis-my most innovative and interesting work. It is useful to be a sioned and developed it as well as the donors or organizationsneophyte. It is especially useful to be a neophyte in your that funded it. Graphic design is ephemeral—for instant reward.fifties, because people may actually listen to you and believe Architecture is for posterity.you even when you aren’t totally sure what you’re talking I enjoy working with architects because they quickly un-about. (I could never get away with that at twenty-four.) After derstand an aesthetic point of view based on an idea or spiritI’ve designed several projects in a new area, and start to un- of place. The dialogue is usually intelligent, sometimes inspir-derstand the inherent limitations in those projects, the cre- ing, there is potential for innovation, and there is direct accessative thinking diminishes. I know too much. The charm of ig- to the architect/client. However, even if the architect is an en-norance is that I can devise solutions innocently that, al- lightened client, the graphic designer is essentially functioningthough they may be impractical, may be altered in an innova- as a vendor to a consultant, more on the level of a typesetter.tive way and actually function. With too much knowledge, I In architectural magazines credits for graphic design, if theytend to edit the impractical thinking. appear at all, usually fall someplace between lighting, electric- ity, and plumbing. working with architects in the mid- Another frustrating aspect of working with architects has toI BEGAN nineties, beginning with the PublicTheater and the American Museum of Natural History and then in do with timing and budget. It’s important for a graphic designer to be involved with a building from its initial planning stages, soa series of public institutions, museums, theaters, and office that the signage and environmental design become integralbuildings. In each instance I was hired to inform a public space parts of the structure. This often means planning a graphic pro-with a spirit of identity. I found this process especially fascinat- gram years in advance of a building’s completion, which meansing. The architects I worked with generally received more confi- years of incremental changes as various budget restrictions 163
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E Nemerge. One often finds that the most innovative, exciting part of Koolhaas on the architect’s monograph S,M,L,XL.) Somehow,the graphic project is cut out at the very end due to economics. according to these critics, this is a far more noble pursuit for(If a building is running over budget, the materials in the signage designers than laying out a page or designing a package or logopackage are the first to go.) It’s depressing to invest four years of for a corporation. This argument misses the larger point. All de-your life in a project and find you have nothing of significance to sign is authored. The authorship is a collaboration between thecapture in a photo. One tends to miss the immediacy of print. I designer and other people (editors, publishers, marketing execu-like to balance long-term signage projects with print projects like tives, corporate presidents, architects, and entrepreneurs) whoillustrations for the New York Times Op-Ed page. There is noth- necessarily have a stake in the design. The authorship of the de-ing like completing a project in one day and seeing it in print the signer disappears when the designer has lost his power to influ-next. Ironically it is the very immediacy of graphic communica- ence others who have a stake in the design. Critics should not betion—the result of fast, intuitive thinking—that architects most making arguments for “designer authorship.” They should be ar-need to capture and incorporate in public spaces as part of their guing for designer power and influence.architecture—not just as signs stuck onto their buildings. The production of work without clients is admittedly more fun for the designer. The work is less compromised, more per- of the graphic- sonal, and receives more acclaim than “nonauthored” work. It isTHE TRAGEDY design profes-sion is that so many of its most talented practitioners are inarticu- reproduced and written about in design publications, wins awards, and builds and enhances a designer’s reputation. But the em-late, shy, or otherwise incapable of persuading large groups of phasis on self-published work does not help the design commu-people that there is inherent value in design. The best work from nity with its more serious charge, which is how do we as design-these designers is always for themselves, for design schools, or ers, through our joy of making things, improve visual culture—andfor pro bono clients within the design industry. Their work may be even standards of living—in the United States and elsewhere?influential within the design community, but it is generally invisi- How do we make food packaging more intelligent, practical, at-ble to the world at large. Or worse, it may be poorly imitated by tractive, and less wasteful? How do we make public documentslarge design firms for large clients and then produced on a like census forms and election ballots more functional? How dogrand scale in a watered-down manner that ultimately reduces we make magazines and books on important subjects appearthe original to a cliché. more interesting? How do we make public spaces comfortable The current buzz word from design writers and critics is and noble? How do we keep marketing and advertising material“authorship,” which advocates the production of work without from appearing banal and intellectually insulting? How do weclients, or at least in pure collaboration with them. (The hallmark make what is elite popular—and make what’s popular meaningful?of this seems to be Bruce Mau’s credited collaboration with Rem How do we make our daily experience more humane? 164
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N lies in working ef-THE ANSWER fectively with other,often exasperating, people in politically complex situations. Thismeans understanding human nature and learning to explain to or-dinary people how extraordinary design can be. Every design suc-cess story makes the process easier. Every piece of writing in amainstream magazine or newspaper that explains how designfunctions makes the process easier. Every talented designer whopersuades a corporation that an innovative solution works makesthe process easier. Every talented designer who designs a betterpackage, a better book jacket, or a better magazine makes theprocess easier. Every client who supports a designer makes theprocess easier. Every client who can accept a design becausethey have come to believe in the intelligence and instincts of thedesigner makes the process easier. Every client who can acceptthe subjectivity in a design decision makes the process easier.Every committee that looks at a new design and does not ask thedesigner to make it bigger makes the process easier. In fact theprocess gets a little bit easier all the time. 165
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N T H E P U B L I C T H E AT E R sioned a series of beautiful, highly regarded posters from the illustrator and designer Paul Davis. The posters The New York Shakespeare Festival, which provides free were paintings of the major stars of the productions, fea- Shakespeare performances in Central Park during the tured in appropriate dress and character. Davis created summer, is a beloved New York City institution. Founded about two posters a year for nineteen years, and they be- by Joseph Papp in 1954, it found its summer home at the came emblematic of the Shakespeare Festival. In the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in 1962. Five years late eighties, Davis also created posters for Masterpiece later Papp rescued the Astor Library on Lafayette Street Theater, which may have led to some of the confusion re- from destruction, and the Public Theater was born. flected in the market research. But the biggest problem Although it had a sterling reputation, attendance and was the mingled identity of the various entities within the membership began to decline in the late 1980s, and institution. The press called it equally “the Joseph Papp Papp became ill with cancer and died in 1991. Public Theater,” “the New York Shakespeare Festival,” In 1994 Wiley Hausam, a producer then working “Shakespeare in the Park,” and “the Papp.” with the new director George C. Wolfe, asked if I could My first meeting with Wolfe seemed to go well. I re- design some mailers and marketing materials for the member talking to him about the lobby of the building, New York Shakespeare Festival and Joseph Papp Public which had salmon-pink walls paneled with marbleized Theater. I would be hired as a “creative director” on a mirrors. He thought it looked like a bordello. Jim Biber, freelance basis. An interview with Wolfe was scheduled, my architect partner, and I went down and made some and we discussed the image of the theater. quick-fix recommendations, such as painting, covering or One of Paul Davis’s famous posters for In an effort to rejuvenate the organization, Wolfe removing the chandeliers, and pulling the mirrors off the the New York Shakespeare Festival, 1976. had initiated a market-research campaign to investigate walls. Wolfe and Hausam interviewed three other design- New Yorkers’ perceptions of the Public Theater and the ers for the creative director position. I didn’t hear from the Shakespeare Festival. Most young people confused it producers again for weeks. Then they called to arrange with Masterpiece Theater, shown on PBS; they assumed another meeting to discuss how I could help them create that Public Theater productions were educational but a new spirit for a younger multicultural audience. We boring. The most loyal audience came from the Upper talked for several hours, but the talks were inconclusive. West Side of Manhattan: white, liberal, relatively wealthy, They said they really didn’t know how to proceed. I said, and over fifty years old—not a good demographic for a “Well, why don’t you just give me the job?” They laughed theater whose charge is to be a breeding ground for in- and left. About three weeks later Hausam called and said novative new plays that can be exported to Broadway. they needed a design for the 1994 summer campaign The Public Theater had never created a formal insti- for Shakespeare in the Park. They were putting on new tutional identity. In the late seventies Papp had commis- updated versions of the musical Kiss Me, Kate and 166
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NShakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. They neededa mailer in a week and a half. Would I talk to George? I worked this way with the Public Theater for thenext eight years. In every way it was a great client. Therewas absolutely no time for careful and considered butpainfully boring design. The Public demanded fast, in-stinctual solutions—without extensive, mind-numbingrevisions. Best of all, I had total access to a brilliant, cre-ative, and powerful decision maker with a strong per-sonal aesthetic and opinion. The identity for the Public Theater grew out of thatfirst marketing campaign for the summer 1994 Shake-speare Festival. Kiss Me, Kate and The Merry Wives ofWindsor had nothing in common other than that theyboth originally came from Shakespeare and were goingto be performed free and live in Central Park that sum-mer. The marketing campaign was delayed because theShakespeare Festival had to wait for approval from theauthor’s estate to revise the Kiss Me, Kate book. The ap-proval still had not been received at the point that I wasasked to design the visual material. Wolfe had requestedthat the posters and billboards be “loud and in-your-face.” He had shown me one advertising agency’s at-tempt to create the marketing material. There were twoseparate poster images attached to each other, eachwith a cute “sell” line. Wolfe hated them. The work produced by the agency was typical of “Wives and Kate, Free, Live No Waiting.” The poster’s lan- The typographic structure of the posters made it easy tomost Broadway theatrical advertising at the time. The guage demanded large bold type, strong colors, a no- paste over the billboards and include the new replace-point was to change the paradigm. I thought that the nonsense layout. After the campaign was produced and ment play, Two Gentlemen of Verona. “Wives and Kate”best way to attract attention would be to abbreviate the massive billboards were hung all over New York City, became “Wives and Gents.”names of the plays so they read “Kate” and “Wives.” The Wolfe found out that he was not going to be given ap-language was not dissimilar to that of a porn poster: proval to produce the updated version of Kiss Me, Kate. 167
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N The 1994 season for the New York Shakespeare Festival. Left: The Two Gentleman of Verona (“Gents”) is pasted over Kiss Me Kate 168
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NThe rejected stationery designs from the first Public Theater identity presentation.After the summer festival hit the streets of New York, I places within the institution would be represented by a definitely “too something.” Nevertheless, it was chosen.began working on a new identity for the theater. Wolfe series of round stamps—Wolfe called them “tokens.” The scary design had won. And now, in retrospect, theand I agreed that the whole entity—the spirit of the insti- For the initial logo presentation, I made visual refer- other designs look ordinary and wimpy.tution—should be “the Public Theater,” because that best ence to the classical spirit of an American public facility I had always admired Victorian theater posters fromexpressed the inclusive aspect of the multicultural plays in all but one version—the boldest and most startling— the Old Haymarket in London, which were simply a list-that would be performed there, and that the theater which used lettering inspired by a demonstration of ty- ing of plays, who was in them, and when and where theywould be popularly referred to as “the Public.” Under pographic weights featured in Rob Roy Kelly’s book were being presented. This basic method of postingthe umbrella of the Public would be the New York American Wood Type. Wolfe was immediately drawn to notices seemed to fit perfectly with the brash spirit ofShakespeare Festival, an event held at the Delacorte it. At the time, though, the other designs seemed safer the reinvented Public. No fancy advertising lines, slo-Theater. The Lafayette Street building would be formally and more public spirited. We were worried that the bold gans, or complicated logos here. Just the facts: Henry Vknown as the Joseph Papp Public Theater. It seemed one was too edgy, had no roots in the history of design on March 6 at 8:00 PM. at the Public. The combination oflogical to me that the Public’s typography be organized for cultural institutions, and would quickly become language and weights of wood typography that made upto emphasize the word public. The other entities and dated. On first viewing, the bold Public Theater logo was the logo created a powerful, recognizable language for 170
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NFrom Rob Roy Kelly’s American Wood Type, 1968.the institution on tickets, T-shirts, caps, programs, flyers,mailers, flags, newspaper ads, its Web site, and every-thing else in print. Ultimately it was too much for myteam at Pentagram to produce, so I hired a designer to The chosen identity from the first presentationwork full-time at the Public Theater while I continued tocollaborate with Wolfe on individual theater posters. Wolfe wanted to make posters for each individual synopses. Sometimes I was sent the whole play to read.play at the Public (approximately six per season). This I found that reading the play or the synopsis of the playwas almost unheard of in the 1990s: a client who wanted was useless because I would then design somethingto make posters, a supposedly dying art form that had that was my interpretation of the play, and my interpreta-been rendered commercially futile by newspaper, radio, tion of the play didn’t matter. What mattered was Wolfe’sand direct-mail advertising. But the Public Theater interpretation of the play. I had to interpret his interpreta-posters completely changed the image and perception tion.of the theater. The posters themselves had no specificmethodology or ideology, except that initially theytended to be in bright, flat colors with stylized photogra-phy and illustrative wood typography. At the beginning ofthe season I’d be sent the list of plays with abbreviated 171
    • THE PUBLICN Y S H A K E S P E A R E F E S T I VA L J O S E P H PAP P P U B LI C TH E ATE R T H E AT E R S DE LACORTE LU ESTHER S H I VA A N S PA C H E R NEWMAN MARTINSON The tokens that fall under the Public Theater umbrella
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N The Public Theater lobbyThe first mailer Victorian woodtype poster for theater 173
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NWolfe is a brilliant director; he began his career as a setdesigner and collects folk art seriously. He has a sophis-ticated visual sensibility with a populist edge—a taste weshare—and expresses himself in theatrical terms. Amonghis greatest skills is his ability to manage the creativeprocess—to intuitively understand what nurtures it, whatkills it, and how to allow someone to do his or her bestwork. In our collaboration, Wolfe made the unilateral de-cision to exclude actors, actresses, directors, and writersfrom the approval of poster images. They often saw aposter for the first time when it was hanging in the PublicTheater lobby at the opening of their show. That Wolfehad the only approval meant that there was only oneviewpoint, never a compromise. Over the years, the writ-ers and directors not only accepted it, but they also an-ticipated it, looked forward to it. It was part of the cachetof having a play produced at the Public Theater, part ofthe tradition. I had the most difficulty designing for the summerShakespeare Festival, which was the most visible. Theposters hung in subway stations and phone kiosks allover New York City and appeared as full-page ads in the Ads for the Public Theater’s first sea-New York Times. They always contained two plays, and son with the new identity,1994the plays were always unrelated. The posters were nec-essarily typographic, to avoid the trap of combining twouncomplementary images. “Free Will,” for the 1995 sum-mer season, was the most startling on the street, both inlanguage and design. Eventually this format becamerepetitive, so I abandoned the wood type and changedthe typeface for each festival. I always believed that thesummer festival designs were best seen in the SundayTimes, as full-page four-color ads.
    • A stand up monologue performance by Danny Hoch. 1994
    • A Sam Shepard play and star studded cast 1994 I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N
    • Guess who 1994
    • Jenifer Lewis’s one-woman show 1994
    • A Latino dance duo in the 1950s 1996
    • A play about the Venus Hottentot who astonished Europe 1996with her fabulous derriere.
    • Two different plays about dysfunctional Asian families in America 1997 1996 182
    • A one-woman show by Andrea Martin 1996 A play about a Latino boxer in the 1950s 1994 183
    • Three one-act plays written by Steve Martin 1995 A “downtown” production of Henry VI 1996 184
    • A biography of Diane Arbus in the fifties 1994 F. Murray Abraham as the king 1995 185
    • The 1995 New York Shakespeare Festival poster
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    • Left: The 1996 NYSF posterRight: The 1998 NYSF poster
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N The Public Theater posters were designed to be sniped and seen in multiples on the streets of New York. Unfortunately there was never enough of a budget to ac- complish this, and most of the posters were seen only at the Public Theater, where they were displayed and sold. The exception to this was the poster for the 1995-96 sea- son and the tap-rap musical Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, which opened at the Public Theater to rave re- views and was later exported to Broadway. The typo- graphic language of the Public Theater was most effective when applied to the promotional material for Noise/Funk and particularly to the specially designed program, which utilized the lyrics from the show to retell the play.Paul Davis’s illustration of George C. Wolfe The show was promoted throughout New York Cityfor the New Yorker, 1996 in a series of billboards, subway posters, and street paintings. Even a water tower was wrapped with an ad. The design seemed to weave itself into the fabric of the city and became, for a time, emblematic of Broadway. I began to receive requests to have Noise/Funk posters appear on television shows. American Express used it in a commercial to promote Broadway. At the same time, the Public’s flags appeared on television in NYPD Blue, and the Shakespeare in the Park posters began to show up in commercials and films depicting Central Park. The Public Theater’s identity had become ubiquitous and synonymous with New York City. 1995 190
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NPeter Harrison’s photo of Savion Glover for the first Public Theater production of 1995Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk
    • Richard Avedon’s photo for the first Broadway campaign of Noise/Funk and 1996the teaser ad campaign that ran progressively in the New York Times
    • The Broadway program for Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk. 194
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    • The third and fourth Noise/Funk campaigns, after Savion Glover left the show, 1996. Next page: The lastNoise/Funk campaign before it closed (8th Ave. between 57th and 58th), 1997
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NSpread from US magazine, 1998 New York magazine, 1997Ad for Mind Games, 1998 Ad for Chicago in the New York Times, 1996
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N I soon began to notice the Public’s typographic styleeverywhere, from magazines like New York and the NewYork Times magazine Fashion of the Times to the adver-tising for other Broadway shows (Mind Games andChicago). In fact, the whole style of theater advertisingchanged. Previously theatrical advertising had been rifewith fey logos and cute sell lines, but then everythingbegan to get displayed in blocky wood type in all caps.One of my stated goals as a designer was to elevate thelevel of graphic design in a given area, but here I hadchanged a paradigm and it had completely backfired.New York City had eaten the Public Theater’s identity andspit back a cliché. What made matters worse was that theBroadway show Chicago, whose campaign had a similarlook to the Public’s, had a bigger budget than any of thePublic Theater’s productions. If one didn’t realize that thePublic Theater campaign was designed first, one mightassume that the Public’s ads were imitations of theChicago promotions. By summer 1998 I couldn’t continue to design theShakespeare Festival and season posters in the samePublic Theater style. I either had to resign the account orchange the posters. I made the appeal to Wolfe, who un-derstood the problem. There is simply a finite amount oftime one can do the same thing without both the designand the designer becoming stale. I was facing my fiftiethbirthday. I had been a professional graphic designer fortwenty-eight years and had been at Pentagram for seven.I needed to change something, even if it was only the wayI designed Public Theater posters. So I completely floppedthe design. The posters became photographic and anti-typographic. The images were dark, romantic, brooding.Wolfe’s reaction was succinct. He said, “Oh, my God. Paula’sturning fifty. Let’s have a year of depressing posters!” Idon’t know if I was right to recast the Public Theaterposters, but after 1998 I changed the typography every year. 1998 203
    • 19981998 1998 204
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N In the summer of 1997 Wolfe revised and directed the Comden and Green musical On the Town in Central Park and then took it to Broadway. It was probably the most “commercial” project produced by the Public Theater. It was the most difficult project I’d undertaken with Wolfe. Noise/Funk was successful because we had an absolute conviction about the spirit and direction under which everything would be done. On the Town was just the op- posite. The shows and their graphics were complete re- flections of each other. Two years later Wolfe opened a production of The Wild Party on Broadway. He had partners in its produc- tion, one of whom was the Hollywood producer Scott Rudin. Wolfe had to persuade Rudin to let me design the 1998 poster; Rudin thought that because I did the Public Theater posters, I was “not commercial enough” (mean- ing “too artsy”) for this project. The Wild Party was Michael John LaChiusa’s musical adaptation of the 1920s poem by Joseph Moncure March. The dark poem dealt with a drunken debauchery during which each character’s inner self is gradually revealed. We selected an image by Covarrubias, the Jazz Age charicaturist, to represent the dark musical and coupled it with an aggressive 1920s- inspired typeface. It was a bit “artsy” for Broadway, but appropriate for the show. My long-term collaboration with Wolfe remains my best and purest professional relationship. The total design experience—what we were able to produce with limited time and resources (a trifle of what a large corporation or institution would spend on similar materials)—serves as an example of seamless client-designer collabora- tion. It has been the perfect combination of my particular talents and sensibilities with another artist’s vision. The joy of working for the Public is the complete freedom from institutional committees and politics. The only real limits are my own. Why aren’t there more situations like this one? 208
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N 2000 Next page: 2000 210
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N CITI In 1998 Traveler’s Group and Citicorp merged, creating Citibank used the bar on bank fascias and on all of its be shortened to Citi. Bierut and I had simultaneously and the largest financial-services company known to man. corporate literature, a method Bierut has dubbed “type coincidentally come to the same conclusion. I noticed Actually, it was never really a merger. Traveler’s had bought and stripe.” The designer picks one typeface and a col- that the lowercase t in the word Citi functioned as the Citicorp; and two disparate, complicated corporate cul- ored bar and gives the corporation a consistent look by handle of an umbrella. The t also stood for Traveler’s. All tures had united. coordinating their positions and repeating them ad nau- one had to do was put an arc on top of it, and the two Michael Bierut received a call shortly after the merger seum. It’s a bore, but it works. companies had merged. The word Citi, shortened, with from Michael Wolff, a British identity strategist, who in- the arc, made a logical beginning for a language that formed him that the new global brand manager of what would identify all of the new company’s services: was to become Citigroup would be giving Pentagram a + = Citifinance, Citiadvisors and so on. call about designing a logo for the new company. Bierut invited me to join him in the meeting. Our assignment was to develop a logo that would be ready for release to the press in ten weeks. The corporate assumption was that the merger would be represented by two logos joined together in some obvious way that would ensure the equity of both I selected Interstate as the typeface for the logo identities. Bierut and I didn’t believe that Citigroup, the about a day after Citi accepted our financial proposal for world’s largest financial entity, would be capable of ac- phase-one design exploration. The logo I set up was black cepting any logo in ten weeks. The prevailing press and red with an umbrella arc. We thought it would be inap- about the merger alluded to the disharmony that is en- propriate, however, to present only one mark to Citi, be- Traveler’s had a red umbrella for a logo, which was demic to the union of disparate corporate cultures. There cause it would look like we hadn’t completed a “scientific” applied to their various businesses and products by cou- was, furthermore, the classic power struggle between logo exploration. We produced a large number of incre- pling it with a broad assortment of disconnected typog- the head of Traveler’s and the head of Citibank. mentally different logos, bound them into a book, and ar- raphy. Citigroup’s logo had italic type with a dingbat at gued for the logo with the arc. the end of it called “the compass rose” (designed by Dan Friedman in 1975). Another feature of the logo was a blue band—known as “the blue wave”—that used two shades of blue gradated together. This was inspired by the company’s “The City Never Sleeps” ad campaign— the gradation was supposed to represent day and night. The New York Times, 1998 The global brand manager thought the logo with the Wolff, who participated as a consultant and strate- arc, which had been reset in Franklin Gothic, was too gist in defining the new identity, thought the name should thick, so we switched back to Interstate. Bierut and Wolff 212
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E Nmade a series of presentations of this mark to the variousvice presidents of Citigroup, and along the way the blackwas changed to blue. It made sense: Traveler’s was red,and Citi was blue. I included a number of ways to demonstrate the new To further persuade the client, Wolff described created a structure that showed how all of Traveler’s and “blueness.” This phase of work demonstrated everythingCitibank as the bank of the future and identified the cus- Citicorp’s services would move to Citi by the year 2012. from credit-card design to signage, and I spent moretomer of the bank as an eleven-year-old girl who thinks of The head of Traveler’s didn’t think it looked enough than six months making incremental changes to the var-banking services in a whole new way, grows up doing her like an umbrella and didn’t want the proposed logo to ious Citibank identities. The designs were then passedbanking on-line, and expects everything to be simple. She represent the whole corporation as Citigroup. He adapted on to a design firm that had long worked for Citibank,certainly won’t understand anything about the brand eq- the Interstate typography, and someone at Citigroup and more incremental changes were made until the de-uity of umbrellas, blue waves, and compass roses. She stuck an umbrella at the end of it. Meanwhile, the head of signs had all the components of my original, but a lot oflives in a land that is filled with behemoth brands like Citicorp wanted to use the Citi logo for the bank. The logo the tension was lost.Nike, Coke, and McDonald’s. and strategy were well received by various vice presi- In the middle of the two-year period that I worked for dents but not immediately adopted. Citi, the head of Citibank resigned and the head of As I began to create the extended visual language Traveler’s assumed command and consolidated the bank for Citibank, the blue wave was suddenly brought back under his control. as part of the package. I thought we had rid ourselves of We had been reasoned and logical in our approach to the blue wave with the argument about the eleven-year- the Citi identity, but the process was never reasoned and old girl, but apparently it hadn’t taken hold. I created a logical. It took the judicious support of the bank’s adver- presentation called “The Next Wave,” that demonstrated tising and brand managers to implement the identity (first that the blue wave didn’t have to be a bar but could be widely seen by the public through a massive and witty ad- expanded to a gradation that runs from black to white vertising campaign produced by Citi’s newly hired adver- with blue as its center. tising agency, Fallon Worldwide). After the logo was introduced, I saw a presentation This is not a wave in which a branding firm that competes with Pentagram demonstrated to a Brazilian bank how a new logo shouldBierut put together a presentation that demonstrated how be simple. The designers showed marks by Nike, Coke,naturally the Citi logo fit into such a landscape; he also This is a bar Disney, McDonald’s, and Citi, and inserted a logo they 213
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N These are all blue waves. had designed for the Brazilian bank. Their logo had an arc on the bottom. The Citi logo will probably be the most reproduced mark I will ever design. I see it everywhere, every day, on the street and in my wallet. Nevertheless, it is remote, be- cause the process of creating it was long, exasperating, and often mind-numbing. On the other hand, when I con- sider the naming and graphic results of the JP Morgan Chase and the PriceWaterhouseCoopers mergers, I’m glad we stayed the course. 214
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N B A L L ET T E C H My work for the Public Theater brought me to the atten- In 1997 Feld decided to rename the whole organ- tion of Eliot Feld: dancer, choreographer, iconoclast, ization Ballet Tech. The new name would express the teacher, and director of two ballet troupes. Eliot, like modern, often groundbreaking, work performed by the George Wolfe, is independent and opinionated, and has adult troupe—even when he choreographs a classical a strong visual aesthetic. He is not only director and ballet, Feld does it with an edge—and at the same time choreographer for his ballet companies but is also set would be appropriate for the school. Feld held on to the designer, costume designer, lighting designer and in many name Kids Dance under the Ballet Tech umbrella, and ways, graphic designer. added a new Christmas production, NotCracker, to his His company, which was originally called the Feld stable of enterprises. Ballet, is unusual in that it is comprised of a number of Feld came to our first meeting with wonderful photo- different organizations. There is the adult ballet com- graphs taken by Lois Greenfield. He carefully explained pany that both tours the United States and has its home his thinking through words and gestures. He didn’t want base in New York’s Joyce Theater; there is a children’s Ballet Tech to look like a typical, painfully elegant classi- group composed of public school students, Kids Dance, cal ballet troupe, but an active and dynamic group. My which also performs at the Joyce Theater; and there is a first design proposal featured dancers in paired, three-di- New York City public school that admits elementary and mensional images. Feld hated it. He liked it as a poster high school students based on their talent and passion but not for his dance company because the design treat- for dance. The public school is the proving ground for ment broke the dancers’ motions, obstructed a leap, and Kids Dance. The best of the students can eventually be- thwarted a jeté. In my effort to make the image bizarre, I come a part of the ballet company. had lost sight of the dance. In my second design I createdBrochure and calendar for Kids DanceRight: Poster for the 1997 season of Ballet Tech 216
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N a gradation within the photograph and overlaid typogra- Two years after that Feld decided he was sick of the phy in a structure that appeared to be moving. The linear “jumping” logo and wanted to retain the double lettering framework, which contained the typography, could easily logo with an alternate, more legible, version that used only be expanded to contain complicated scheduling infor- one letter throughout. We complied again. They all worked. mation. The identity program in that first year consisted of I am not sure who designed Ballet Tech. Sometimes a stationery system, an announcement, a program mailer, I think I did. But last year I asked Feld if I could design one invitations, a subway poster, a bus poster, the Joyce of his stage sets. “Absolutely not,” he said. Theater posters, and small ads in the New York Times. In 1998, a full year later, Feld came back for the new season’s campaign. He told me he didnt like his identity and wanted me to redo it. I asked him why, and he told me that he thought the type treatment, with all those lines and bars, was too confining and that the dancers should be free. He described his ideas in such detail that I began to feel strangled by the design. I was against changing the design after only one year, because it meant that we would no longer be reinforcing an identity. On the other hand, we hadn’t actually run enough ads and posters to make an indelible mark. I agreed to re- move the bars and “free up the typography,” but decided to stay within the same typographic family (slab serifs). Feld was presented with two options. One version had different-size letterforms moving in space. The sec- ond was more bizarre: I combined two letters, one thick and one thin, strung together. My rationale was that this is how one reads a logo in motion. If you were on a mov- ing train, it would simply read Ballettech. (For some rea- son this actually works, though I can’t quite figure out why.) Eliot liked both treatments, so we used both of them. Each subsequent year, he has supplied me with exciting imagery for his campaigns. One year he came in with the lighting plans for the Joyce Theater and said, “Isnt this fabulous?” It was, and we used it as a back- ground for the poster image.Left and right: The 1998 season of Ballet Tech
    • Promotions for the 1998 and 1999 Ballet Tech season
    • The 1999 Ballet Tech poster
    • Above: The 2000 posterFollowing Pages: The 2001 and 2002 campaigns
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    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N3COMIn 2000 the company that launched the Palm Pilot, 3Com, hierarchy, power, or even fear—just an endless array of nice Ultimately we arrived at the hierarchy and structure ofhired me to redesign their retail packaging for their home young men who spoke using computer-product acronyms. language that is shown here. The process took aboutnetwork products, meaning modems, cables, and boxes I am an absolute ignoramus when it comes to com- eight months. It involved focus testing, first for languagethat link together computers or give them fast Internet puters, and probably wasn’t qualified for this job. They and then for design. The language tests were 90 percentconnections. They had recently purchased a new identity, had selected me as a designer for precisely that reason. useful; the design tests were pointless. Audiences werecomplete with typefaces, from another branding firm, but They understood they were insular and spoke in indus- polarized by the Day-Glo colors, or thought the packag-were left with no system with which to create packaging. try jargon. They knew that their customers tended to be ing looked “too generic” or that the icons should have I hated the new identity—the company name plus computer geeks. If they could make their products more more detail. If you followed the comments of focus-groupthree rings that represented who knows what? Worse understandable, they could broaden their market. participants, you would wind up with the same packagingyet, the prevailing typeface was Frutiger, which I simply 3Com’s packaging was confusing and depressing. 3Com had started with when they hired us.don’t like. My clients were a series of men anywhere It was “branded” by a bright red curved strip at the top of The company bravely decided to move ahead withfrom ten to twenty-five years younger than me who had the package, had a number of confusing “why-to-buy” the new design. We completed the project in March 2001.all purchased the Boston album in their youth. statements coupled with heavily rendered diagrams or The business package designs were launched, but the I could never quite figure out the hierarchical struc- pictures of happy families using the computers. Most consumer package designs never made it to market. Theture of 3Com. I was hired at first to design consumer of their products could be found at CompUSA or Staples, consumer division in Chicago was completely shutproduct packaging from an office located in Chicago. where their packaging was negligibly different from their down, following the industry implosion. Almost every-The project was expanded to include business product competitors’. There was not much sales help in any of the one I worked with on the project lost their job.packaging, which was based in Salt Lake City, and then stores I visited. If you didn’t know exactly what you For me it was an important project. It’s important forexpanded again to include business-to-business pack- needed in that environment, you were lost. I visited the designers to change paradigms. I think the consumeraging, which had its offices in London. The marketing de- first CompUSA with my partner John Rushworth, from packaging for 3Com products would have raised thepartment, which oversaw all product divisions, was lo- Pentagram’s London office, and we both immediately standard in that marketplace, would have improved thecated in Santa Clara, California. Throughout the process, came to the conclusion that the best service we could per- environment of the average consumer electronics store,product managers and marketers would appear and dis- form was to first make the product easy to find in a store and would have made the products more understand-appear. The turnover was constant. The minute I learned and then make the product immediately comprehensible. able to the consumer. The benefit would have been tosomeone’s last name, they had moved on to another We focused on creating loud but simple fluorescent the man on the street. Sometimes, the best design iscompany or had started their own. I often felt like I was packages for consumer products and shiny metallic pack- simply the kindest.working in a moving maze. Each time I thought I had aging for business products. I then began the long processcompleted a phase of work and had received all the nec- of creating an appropriate method for conveying productessary approvals, someone would say, “Well, gee, we information on the consumer package. How much expla-should run this by Bob,” or, “Fred isn’t in the loop, let’s get nation was too much explanation, what words were un-him on a conference call and pull in Phil in London.” Bob, derstandable, and so forth. The business packaging alsoFred, and Phil always had legitimate concerns that could contained simple language that existed in bullet points,easily be answered. They were all very pleasant and not sentences. Also technical terms on the business pack-friendly, and would say, “Thank you, Paula,” at the end of ages did not require further definitions, because the busi-every conference call. I never felt any sense of corporate ness customer had greater technical knowledge. 228
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NLanguage, Philosophy, andStructurePackages for 3Com homenetwork and broadbandproducts are designed tobe clear and understand-able, like three-dimension-al manuals.These products are allcalled by their industrynames (i.e. wireless gate-way, or ADSL modem).The product is differentiat-ed from other brands bythe strong appearance ofthe 3Com logo in conjunc-tion with the name. Whenat all possible, the lengthof the name should besimplified to the shortestunderstood form. Thoughsome of the names aremore technical, customerswill be familiar with thembecause they have heardor read about them beforethey see the package.
    • Design Template (Back Panel) All rules should be 1pt in weightAll elements should stayinside a .35 inch .35 .35(.88cm) boundary Home Network wireless gateway Logo and product name should line up How does it work? What does it do?All symbols should be in The 3Com® Home Wireless Gateway works with a75% process black and INTERNET Desktop PCthe same size. Put a computer broadband (cable or DSL) modem, to provide high DSL or anywhere in the Cable Modem house – you’re not speed Internet access to any desktop or notebook PC2, tied to a phone jack Broadband or Ethernet port. printer, scanner or Internet appliance in or around your Service Provider house. Youre not tied down to a desk, an Ethernet port or a phone jack. No holes to drill, no wires to install! Notebook PC Notebook PC FIREWALL Be connected anywhere – up Uses the same wireless standard Built in – protects your network from hackers to 300 feet from the gateway. as many businesses and schools. Its easy to connect – wirelessly!Diagram should be in75% process black referto page 8 for specifics on 1 Plug the power supply and your modem into the gateway; plug the power cord into an electric outlet. Photography for the back panel should be in Wireless/Wired Bridging four-color silhouetted.diagram symbols and 3Com® Home Wireless Gateway The gateway lets wireless Wireless Network (Use of photography islayouts. devices communicate with encouraged where wired Ethernet devices. applicable). 2 Using a PC with an Ethernet adapter installed, type the address of the installation wizard into your Web browser, then follow the instructions. Notebook PC Theres no software to install! Ethernet Network Internet 3 Appliance The gateway now recognizes any device equipped Add an with a wireless Ethernet adapter within a 300 foot Internet radio, Printer household radius – youve created a Share among all organizer or computers on your other new wireless home network! network. device to your Desktop PC network The gateway works whenever with Macintosh you’re ready. 2. See bottom panel for details. computers and PCs. .35 .35
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NM ET R O P O L I S Although I have always regretted that I have never art-di- rected an ongoing publication for a year or more, I have enjoyed most of my experiences redesigning publications. The best scenario is when the publisher and editor are committed to creating a magazine that has its own style, character, point of view, and visual approach and is not trying to imitate another successful publication. Magazine Departments November 1999 design demands the collaboration of the publisher, the start page 33 35 51 59 117 126 editor in chief, deputy editors, and the design staff. 80 54 121 33 What I find interesting about formatting a magazine has very little to do with the more flashy aspects of the feature well (the very thing that would be so much fun to art-direct) but with how to make a magazine’s structure function so that a reader can effectively navigate through the publication, access all the relevant bits of information This diagram tells the reader where the departments begin in quickly, and feel comfortable with the more leisurely reads. relationship to the advertising. In that process, the goal would then be to allow the frame- work to have the flexibility to grow (particularly in feature wells) and to allow for the splashy changing spreads that keep the magazine fresh. Metropolis, a magazine about design (graphics, prod- ucts, architecture, urbanism), presented some interesting problems. It was an oversize publication whose scale had kept it from being displayed on newsstands. The editors were anxious to reduce the size of the publication, and used that as an opportunity for the redesign. Metropolis is unusually rich in advertising. Unfortunately many of the ads (for contract furniture companies, lighting companies, and other interior and architectural suppliers) exist as par- tial space ads, meaning that there may be two or three on a given page. This leaves the front part of the magazine (the departments) chopped up with broken spaces—half editorial, half ad. Sometimes ads would interrupt a de- partment story for two or three spreads. The advertisers continually pressed the publication to sell them space on the more desirable right-hand page. 1999 232
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N Department pages and the opening of the feature wellContents
    • Feature stories from the first, second, and third issues after the redesign
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NThe feature well didn’t begin until more than halfway the previous design, because the editorial content— tion. The feature well, while allowing for little type differ-through the magazine. If one wanted to skip the depart- whether it is a full page, a spread, or a broken space al- ential, demands no particular grid. The art director isments and jump right into the feature well, the procedure ways begin on the same side. free to take over.was nearly impossible to accomplish quickly. The reader was aided again by a change of paper Since the redesign of Metropolis, five different art I decided to retain the Metropolis logo at its original stock in the feature well. Previously magazines had used directors have produced issues, but the magazine al-size, but cropped it where the magazine got smaller on this switch to signal a change from features to depart- ways looks like itself.the top and the sides. This didn’t work. The logo became ments, usually by using an uncoated stock for the text-illegible and I had to cheat so it simply looked cropped heavy departments and a glossy one for the glam pho-down. On the contents page, I created a small diagram of tography in the feature well. I did just the opposite. I neverthe magazine’s contents for both features and stories. liked gorgeous photography on glossy paper. (ShortlyOne can read the diagram and estimate at what point the after Metropolis flopped the paper stocks, other maga-feature well begins and where the departments are, zines followed suit.)which helps the reader avoid advertisements. I made it The magazine was designed using only two type-up to the advertisers by just giving them the preferred faces: Bodoni Book and News Gothic Condensed andright-hand page. Always. The Metropolis departments Italic. The department headings are small but are con-run exclusively on the left. At first the switch was a little nected to the Metropolis logo, which progressivelydisconcerting, but it is actually kinder to the reader than moves from left to right throughout the department sec- 235
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N 7 7 0 B R O A DWAY It dawned on me in the nineties that cities are a lot like would be far more interesting to set a condition whereby magazines. They exist as a combined product of adver- an advertiser would purchase the entire block of ad space tising and editorial material. The advertising space is for one image that would be broken up into a cinematic construction barricades, billboards, bus-shelter posters, series. I used the Coca-Cola and Nike logos as demon- subway posters, and street banners, and the editorial strations, because they were horizontal. The building’s space is the buildings. A well-designed city allows the address was designed as an enormous perpendicular user to navigate both terrains and encourages their attachment to the building. The “shadow” of the lettering peaceful coexistence. was then painted on the sidewalk. The realtor was amused In 1998 Vornado Realty purchased 770 Broadway— by the solution, but the City of New York wasn’t. I had vi- the former Wanamaker Building on Astor Place and olated just about every code imaginable. The project was Broadway, a block away from the Public Theater—and scaled back, and only the stainless-steel awning and floor began converting it into a chic downtown office building. were executed. However, the awning’s lopped-off typog- The architectural firm was Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer. The raphy is so large in comparison to that on other city ad- realtor was looking for a design for exterior signage and dresses that it landmarks the building. At 770 Broadway, the lobby floor, as well as a way to integrate advertising the building is the story, but the awning is the headline. signs on the front of the building. I presented some options that built display signs into the building structure to house various ads, but thought it 236
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    • N E W 4 2 N D ST R E ET ST U D I O SThe New 42nd Street Studios is located on the revived,remade Forty-second Street, between Broadway andEighth avenues in New York City. The new buildinghouses a small theater, The Duke, and nine floors of re-hearsal space rented to developing Broadway shows andnot-for-profit theaters. One side of the ground floor isleased to the American Airlines (formerly Roundabout)Theatre. The building, which opened in 2000, was designedby architect Charles Platt and is managed by the New42nd Street, an organization that serves as rental agentand oversees a number of new Forty-second Street the-aters. The project was the brainchild of Cora Cahan, direc-tor of the New 42nd Street, a former dancer with greatempathy for the actors and actresses who rehearse inthe new studio. Platt designed a building that is modern and light,has expansive studios, and is a handsome piece of archi-tecture (an anomaly on rapidly developing Forty-secondStreet). While most architects will insist to their signagedesigners that “the building is the sign,” this building ac-tually is one. The whole front facade is covered with pro-grammed lights that change color and put on a show 240
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E Nevery evening. The lighting system was designed by AnneMilitello, and its elegance puts it in contrast with every-thing else in the vicinity. Cahan asked me to design the identity for the Duke,and exterior and interior signage for the new building.She explained that the rehearsal rooms were large, mod-ern, light, and mostly white. She wanted the hallways andaccess ways to be kinetic and active. It occurred to methat Platts building was a progressive factory for actorsand actresses. Its structure and materials looked Dutch(latter-day de Stijl). In our first collaborative meeting, Iassembled a board of materials, fonts, and colors that Ithought might complement the architecture. This becamethe basis for the signage. It dawned on me that actorsand actresses are accustomed to taking stage positionson the floor, so I began to use the floor as a basis for di-rectional signage throughout the building. Sometimes asign began on the floor and, bending up, completed itsmessage on a door. The collaboration between director, architect, anddesigner was tremendously satisfying, largely because,with the exception of costs, there were no preconceivednotions of how the project was to be realized. I was amazedat how well floor signage functioned, particularly on thesecond floor of the Duke, where the four-letter word DUKEconsumed the whole hallway floor and ran up the side ofthe wall under stage furniture bumpers. The signage sys-tem is particularly attuned to New Yorkers, who typicallylook at their feet when they’re walking. 242
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    • The fabric of the theater seats in the Duke Theater spell “Duke” in Morse code.
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N N J PAC In 2000 I was invited to lunch in Newark at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) by Larry Goldman, the center’s president. He showed me a school building located behind the center, erected sometime in the 1940s. NJPAC had received funding from Lucent Technologies to convert this building into a high school for the per- forming arts. The building functioned as a rectory, and while a portion of the rectory would be maintained, it would become a tenant of NJPAC. A local architecture firm, Kaplan Gaunt DeSantis was hired to remodel the building. Goldman explained that there was virtually no budget for a fancy renovation, and given that limitation, asked if there was some way the exterior of the building could be recast to look like an inspiring place to study the per- forming arts. The building was depressing. There was something sadly institutional about it, particularly the brown and beige paint that permeated the hallways and bathrooms. I took some digital photographs of the front of the building and began experimenting with a variety of silly ideas. The building was changed instantaneously by simply painting it white (there really wasnt a budget for anything other than painting). In one iteration, the building was covered with the triangular plastic flags typical of used car lots (admittedly somewhat impractical). In another version, the building became a magic castle covered in stars. A third listed the activities to be found inside. Goldman felt most comfortable with the typo- graphic treatment (I was pushing hard for the used-car- lot version). The problem with the typographic approach was that the words were out of scale on the building and appeared unpleasantly urban. I rescaled the typography and began to use the nooks, crannies, and turrets of the castlelike structure to display the typography. Once the 246
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N words were scaled down to complement the structure, the typography actually accentuated the buildings form. My favorite use of type is on the air-conditioning ducts, which originally were an eyesore and now are the most exciting aspect of this crazy building. Goldman asked me to recast the interior of the building as well. We worked with typical institutional tile and commercial paints. A group of patterns was devel- oped for the floors of hallways: stripes, checkerboards, chevrons. A systematized series of designs were cre- ated for painted radiators and fireplaces. We picked complementary colors for rehearsal-room curtains, and the NJPAC staffers went to Ikea and bought furniture in the same color palette. The work on the interior of the building was com- pleted a few months after we submitted the plans. The exterior of the building was finished in record time. The system for the interior of the school is so simple and obvious it can easily be exported to other public school buildings. The NJPAC Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education is architecture as graphic design, and it was designed the way a graphic designer works: immedi- ately, instinctively, inexpensively. It is a marriage of spirit and form. It is my favorite example of maximum impact with minimum means, and it was achieved simply be- cause there was a client who was willing and courageous enough to attempt something outside of the norm for a dramatic effect.247
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E N249
    • I N TH E COM PANY OF M E NPosters for the Lucent Technologies Center for Arts Education, 2001 255
    • The following articles were authored over the past two decades. Although some ofthe details have become irrelevant, the thrust of the articles continues to be germane..
    • “BACK IN THE U.S.S.R.: (OR THAT Tired: what we have been doing for the past Unfortunately, publishing editors find type on I’ve never liked labels. Constructivism has cer-UKRAINE TYPE REALLY KNOCKS ME OUT)” five years an angle very difficult to read. This means that tainly had an enormous impact on the way I de-Originally published in the AIGA Journal of Too weird: what we will be doing in five years a good Constructivist design is usually killed in sign, but so has nearly every other movementGraphic Design, Volume 4, Number 1, 1984 Too ugly: what we will be doing in ten years favor of something “less complicated.” Another in art history at different times.It’s funny the way something suddenly looks editorial complaint is that it doesn’t look “seri- It’s 1983. I still think El Lissitzky is great,good. I was recently shocked to find that a cou- ous” enough. I confess that I don’t understand though sometimes I think he’s merely nice. I It is no coincidence that around the time thatple of terrific El Lissitzky and Rodchenko posters this complaint. They were dead serious in 1917. think I only have one year left in the U.S.S.R. I said “That’s great!” to El Lissitzky, two Rodch-grace the pages of moldy art history books from In four years and after umpteen attempts, enko books were published, followed by a bigmy college days. In fact, there are Russian con- I’ve had only three constructivist designs reach “BACK TO SHOW AND TELL” new Lissitzky book and The Art of the Octoberstructivist posters in all the poster collection the printing press. Two were posters for a CBS Originally published in the AIGA Journal of Revolution and Paris-Moscow and The Art ofbooks that I accumulated over thirteen years; Records promotion of The Best of Jazz. The Graphic Design, Volume 4, Number 1, 1986 the Russian Avant-Garde, plus the Georgebut for some reason, I never really studied them problem was to get twenty big names on a A year ago I relived an experience I had in my Costinokos exhibition at the Guggenheim withuntil 1979. poster, not spend any money, and have it look ninth grade Algebra II class. The occasion was the accompanying book, the Malevich book, etc. I flipped by them when I was looking for good enough to motivate record-store owners a seminar on graphic-design education at the It was also no coincidence that many of my de-Victorian inspiration. I ignored them when I was to hang it up. Maryland Institute of Art in which some practic- signer friends had gone Russian crazy at theripping off art nouveau and art deco designs. The wonderful thing about being a de- ing designers and design educators shared a same time. When 500 unrelated people say I discovered El Lissitzky when I was heavily signer in the music business is that nothing has common stage. The premise was sound: to gen- “That’s great!” at the same time and incorpo-into my Cassandre phase. I remember flipping to mean anything. That doesn’t mean that it’s erate debate between these factions. However, rate the influence into their work, it constitutesthrough The Poster in History and finding the easy being a music business designer. On the what resulted was disappointing. Instead of a movement.black-and-white poster of a boy and girl whose contrary. When I did the Best of Jazz posters in meaningful discussion and clear explanation, In analyzing our response to Russian con-heads were merging together. There was a giant early 1980, the CBS Records marketing depart- the design educators gave pompous presenta- structivism, I’m convinced that we’re respond-red “U.S.S.R.” running across their foreheads. ment didn’t understand that I was being influ- tions on the structures and curricula of their ing to our political and economic climate in both“That’s great!” I said. enced by El Lissitzky. They were mostly con- schools supported by pedantic visuals and emotional and practical terms. The work of the At the moment I said “That’s great!” I was cerned that the names be big and legible and charts. They spoke in jargon I’ve never used pro- Russian constructivists represented the opti-back in the U.S.S.R. I knew I would look for more that the posters be cheap. The marketing de- fessionally and didn’t understand. The lectures mism of the Revolution and the Marxist utopianEl Lissitzky posters and that I would incorporate partment thought the posters were a little weird were so abstruse that I hadn’t a clue as to what dream. But the late 1970s and the 1980s havethe style into my own work. stylistically, but that was OK because it made was going on in their schools. I wondered if the been politically depressing times, a period of I didn’t say “That’s great!” when I saw the them new wave. students did either. negativity, conservatism, and a general loweringposter in 1974. In 1974, I looked at the giant After the Best of Jazz posters came out, I The Algebra II syndrome (a compulsion to of our personal and economic expectations.U.S.S.R. foreheads and said, “Too weird.” If we began getting calls from the graphics commu- hum 1960s rock and roll and make spitballs) is Constructivist work could make us feel we werewant to predict future graphic trends, all we have nity asking me to submit work to various new- my reaction whenever theoretics (theoretics as creating a visual rebellion in inspired times. Weto do is pick up poster books and tape-record wave shows. I would respond that I was not a an end in itself) are applied to design. At could make a graphic statement that was visu-our responses to various genres and periods. new-wave designer, and then I would be asked Maryland, my feelings were compounded. The ally strong although there was no justificationHere’s what the responses mean: specifically for the Best of Jazz poster. first was one of shame. That’s what happens for it. Another triumph of style over substance. How can something blatantly ripped off from when I’m bombarded with incomprehensible The practical aspect of constructivism is thatThat’s great: what we are doing now or will be 1917 be considered new wave? language. Boredom follows shame: I tune out it is cheap to do. A vigorous and “important-doing tomorrow, even though every client will Gene Greif, a designer who often displays and squirm in my seat. Then I realize I’m really looking” graphic design can be had for the costreject it. constructivist influences in his work, told me angry. Boredom is anger. I’m angry in this case of typesetting and a few photostats. recently that when he showed his portfolio two because the speaker is supposed to be talkingNice: what we have been doing for the past The drawback to the constructivist design and three years ago, everyone said it was “too about graphic design, not quantum physics.three years, and what we will resort to when approach is that it is very difficult to sell. Firstly, new wave.” “Now,” he tells me, “everyone says Semiotics was one of the favorite words“That’s great!” is rejected the most logical use for it would be on jackets for it’s too postmodern.” bandied about the Maryland session. In fact, Russian political books of that period.
    • some of the educators took great pride in the classes to see whether they feel comfortable sign speak to give credence to the profession one box, one triangle, one circle in salmon,fact that their schools were breaking new with the approach being taught. because they’re embarrassed that it was once gray-green, or turquoise; cream, white, or lightground in this area. If so, why couldn’t any of When I first saw the work by the students called “commercial art.” Is it necessary to indoc- gray backgroundthem make the idea understandable? At the entering my class, I thought that they were trinate students with jargon just to compensate High-tech/Postmodern: same as postmodernrisk of losing anyone who has read this far, the unprepared to enter the job market unless for a sense of professional inferiority? except change background to matte black andfollowing is the Webster’s dictionary definition radical improvement occurred over the year. No change geometric shapes to primary colorsof semiotics: “a general philosophical theory of amount of theoretical instruction would help. “THE RIGHT FACE”signs and symbols that deals especially with Therefore I created a series of complex assign- Originally published in the AIGA Journal of New Wave Generic: sans serif type in differenttheir function in artificially constructed natural ments that were extensively critiqued. The chal- Graphic Design, Volume 5, Number 1, 1987 weights and heights, with italics intermittentlylanguage and comprises syntactics, semantics, lenge was to pinpoint what was wrong and show Let’s face it: We’re living in an era of style over dispersed; minimum of two ripped pieces ofand pragmatics.” how it could be made better. My method was to substance. Every day we are going to be asked paper, one triangle (right triangle, not isosceles; How does it really apply to graphic design? use simple language and strong visual examples to give something “a look.” long, skinny, right triangle preferred; use hotI thought it would be fun to call seven of my fa- to illustrate my points. In effect, I became the I’ve been asked to give things all different pink, lime green, and black; never use beigevorite “award winning” designers and ask them client. But I also became a graphic fascist, disal- kinds of looks, but very often I’ve had difficulty New Wave Yale: same as new wave genericto define semiotics. Four said they didn’t know lowing typefaces, reordering elements, dictating figuring out what kind of look the client is de- except change ripped paper to vertical parallel(one of them didn’t want to know); two said that style and content. The students were forced to scribing. The problem is language. In initial meet- lines (preferably at an angle) and use differentit may have something to do with symbols; and design and redesign, yet in the process of follow- ings, the client would talk about “concept devel- weights of Universone said she knew but didn’t want to answer. If ing these directives, they made their own discov- opment.” I naively went off and came up withone asks the same designers how a symbol eries, which had surprising results. concepts, until I found out that “concept devel- New Wave West Coast: same as new waveworks, they’ll give articulate answers and use The approach I instinctively used was the opment” meant “the look.” Another mistake I Yale except add photographic images in boxesgood examples to illustrate their points. old apprentice method. Do what I do, and watch made was the use of the word style. I would talk or silhouettes; suggested imagery: one to It’s not just the exclusionary language that it come out your way. This method requires total about employing a style, as in “the style of tin- three eyes, one television set, one telephonebothers me, but also the process of making commitment. The teacher must “give it all away” metal signs,” or discuss a specific period style, New Wave/Postmodern: same as postmodernmore complex the difficult act of explaining (style, conceits, tricks), or the premise won’t such as Jugendstil or constructivism. I found except change gray-green to bright lime,graphic-design principles to would-be design- work. It’s sometimes threatening. It can be in- that my clients didn’t know what I was talking change salmon to hot pink, add ripped paper,ers. Obviously, my reaction is based on a per- timidating to watch as a student easily accom- about. Firstly, they preferred the word look to the and enlarge triangle.sonal teaching style that might be termed “ex- plishes something it took me fifteen years to word style. Secondly, they had to see a picture of New Wave/Postmodern/High-Tech: same astended apprenticeship.” Call it what you will—a master. But in the end and in a relatively short the style so they could grasp it within their own new wave/postmodern except make back-style, method, or philosophy—it is a hands-on amount of time, some potentially good profes- vernacular (“Art deco looks sort of like that post- ground matte, take out ripped paper, addprocess that has produced tangible results. sionals emerged. modern stuff and is a little bit high-tech and graph-paper grid In 1982, I was asked to teach graphic de- At the Maryland Institute seminar, one edu- would be good for yuppie audiences”).sign to seniors at the School of Visual Arts, in cator presented a chart that showed the spiral- After seven years of trial and error, I have de- Classic: serif type (Bodonis, Caslons,New York. The media department has a ing growth of students as they absorbed the ciphered a style code. What follows is a guide to Garamonds), lots of white space, white orloosely prescribed curriculum, with an empha- design theories of successive courses culminat- “the look” and how you make it, plus a list of com- cream backgroundsis on doing. There are few, if any, theoretical ing in graduation—meaning the students were mon complaints and how to improve upon them. Funky: same as new wave generic but all ele-courses. The school hires working designers qualified to enter the profession. What hogwash! ments are biggerwho represent a broad range of experiences There was no mention of talent. All the theory in High-tech: matte-black background, white orand approaches. Hence the instructors are the world cannot replace talent. Talented stu- primary-colored sans serif type, slightly letter- Gritty: any of the above styles without any de-completely responsible for course content and dents can overcome any form of education spaced, small geometric shapes incorporated sign sensibility such as color, form, or scaleare encouraged to teach what they know best. unless they’ve been bored out of the profession. with graph-paper motif New York or Downtown New Wave: same asThe students have a certain choice in what I abhor the charade of the Maryland session. gritty but use new wave generic elements Postmodern: sans serif or serif type (small);they take. After the foundation year, they audit These academicians, I believe, have created de-
    • Understated: same as classic only use eight- no substance” is often coupled with “flash in the If only we could scamper to the top with the anteed mediocrity. I clearly remember beautifulpoint Garamond pan” as a way of describing hot young designers ease with which we loped to the middle. Instead cover illustrations biting the dust at CBS Re- who get more than one piece in a design show. we take baby steps and mutter, “Too much style cords, only to be replaced—always due to the in-L.A.: same as new wave West Coast but What a wonderful way to demean youth! and no substance,” because we learned that fluence of the marketing department—with triteuse turquoise and flamingo pink as predomi- “Too much style” helps us conceal that nagging line from higher-ups when we were hot young photos of overweight musicians who were un-nant colors inkling we have that our own work may be out flashes at the bottom. comfortable in front of the camera. So I beganComplaints and Remedies of style, and “no substance” convinces us that Very often, when we look at the work of our my research.Too new wave: remove one piece of our potentially dated work is somehow more great graphic-designer institutions, we find that The very first call I made was to the newlyripped paper. meaningful, rendering style irrelevant. Some- so much of their truly important, innovative appointed East Coast art director Chris Aust- times it is even true. work was produced over a relatively short pe- opchuk, who had worked as a designer at CBSToo funky: make everything smaller. But what all this muttering denies is the riod of time: five years, ten years, flashes in the Records when I held his job. I enthusiasticallyToo understated: make everything bigger. great excitement in finding and creating style, pan. Then there seems to be a leveling. Maybe recited the premise of my proposed speech while that thrill in putting the pieces together in a these institutions never made it to the top of he listened in silence. Then he icily replied thatToo L.A.: remove turquoise. way that looks new and fresh, if not to the de- the staircase but were merely inching along while that may be my view of CBS Records, itToo classic: add one circle and one square. sign community at large then at least to our- some other plateau in the dark. Maybe there is certainly wasn’t his and that my talk made it selves. These are the kind of discoveries we no top, just shorter risers and longer plateaus sound like design at CBS Records had goneToo clever: remove inadvertent idea. generally make early in our careers, when each that go on forever. downhill, while in his view it was better than ever.Too cute: remove inadvertent idea. design is a new experience for us, when prob- Plateaus are actually very comfortable, be- I couldn’t initially understand why ChrisToo smart: remove deliberate idea. lem solving seems more experimental and some cause it takes less energy to move. The problem would defend the marketing department. But of our solutions may be true breakthroughs. This is the dark. Perhaps the solution is to step aside of course he wasn’t. He was defending himself. is when we are building and expanding the and allow a flash to trot by. With a little light from I was then persona non grata with the CBS“THE DARK IN THE MIDDLE OF graphic vocabulary that will probably serve us that torch, we may find the next step. Records art department, and since I couldn’tTHE STAIRS” for the rest of our careers, when we are estab- expose the evils of marketing with the present,Originally published in Graphis, Issue 264, lishing our rules and parameters, and breaking I’d have to rely on the past. Over the course ofNovember/December 1989 “RASHOMON IN THE them, and reestablishing them. this year, I have conducted a series of conver-One morning, my snotty twenty-two-year-old RECORD BUSINESS” I’ve always felt that a design career is like a sations and interviews with the past heads ofassistant danced into the studio and informed Originally published in the AIGA Journal of long, surreal staircase. At the bottom, the risers the CBS Records art department and some ofme that he had gone to the opening of some Graphic Design, Volume 7, Number 4, 1990; are steep, and the landings are short. One makes the designers who served under them.graphic design competition and that I only had from a speech at the 1989 AIGA Dangerous long leaps of discovery at the bottom in a rela- A peculiar thing began to happen. None ofone piece in the show. Ideas design conference in San Antonio, Texas. tively short period of time—a step a year, or two, the stories really connected. There seemed to “Was it a good show?” I asked. “Yeah, it Last winter, Milton Glaser called me to ask if I and sometimes even one great leap to the mid- be no thread. It was as if each reigning art direc-was OK,” he said. “There was a lot of work from would prepare a talk for a conference about dle of the stairs. Then, suddenly, the risers be- tor had existed in a space and time that was to-a guy in Iowa who sort of looks like Duffy the history of the cover department of CBS come shallow and the landings lengthen. We tally his own. Rules changed; corporate person-Design.” I harrumphed and muttered, “Too much Records. He was specifically interested in the trudge along the same endless plateau, and the ality changed. It was Rashomon.style and no substance.” rise of power in the marketing department and scenery doesn’t change. The light becomes dim For those of you who have never seen it, I’ve been muttering “too much style and no how it affected the design of record covers. He around us, but there are sudden flashes back in Rashomon is a film by the Japanese directorsubstance” frequently for the past several years. suggested that I trace record-cover design back the distance from the bottom of the steps. We Akira Kurosawa, produced in 1951. The film isI love muttering it, and I hear all kinds of people I to its birth fifty years ago and create a case don’t dare turn around to look because we might set in eighth-century Japan and centers aroundrespect and admire mutter it. Our great designer study of a corporation, illustrating the increased lose our footing. Worse yet, the flashes seem an alleged rape and murder as told by wit-“institutions” mutter it a lot. I’ve noticed that it’s influence of marketing over the years. ominous, hostile, like a potential fire that could nesses. Each witness gives his or her version ofusually muttered in relation to designers who are Now, I hate marketing. Somehow it whee- burn up the whole staircase. the same story, but the stories are totally differ-younger than the mutterer. “Too much style and dles its way into everything I do, enforcing guar- ent, each affected by the person’s point of view.
    • Alex Steinweiss: 1939–53 He’d mail the comps up to CBS in Bridgeport, Records marketing department. He seemed puz- lated to that identifying image. Several months where his former assistants would do the fin- zled, then he said, “Oh, you mean sales!” later, he moved to New York and began to sortAlex Steinweiss graduated in 1934 from ished art for reproduction. After the war, he set “That’s it.” out all the record labels under CBS. Fujita de-Abraham Lincoln High School, where he had up a freelance design office in his apartment “Those sales guys came in, like Goddard veloped a new look for CBS packaging by call-been trained by Leon Friend. Steinweiss was and was retained by Ted Wallerstein, president Lieberson. Real Seventh Avenue types!” ing in new and young photographers, design-granted a scholarship to Parsons School of of CBS Records, as a design consultant. This is a picture of Goddard Lieberson. As ers, and illustrators, who offered a broad vari-Design and in 1937 began his career as an as- In 1948, he witnessed the birth of the vice president and then president of CBS ety of solutions.sistant to Joseph Binder. Shortly thereafter, he Columbia LP record and designed the record Records, he would have a powerful effect on the Neil Fujita says that he served as art direc-started freelancing. In 1939 he got a telephone jacket, which is still in use today for this prod- direction of the company and its graphics until tor from 1954 to 1957, then left for a year to es-call from Doc Leslie saying that CBS had just uct. He patented it, released the patent to CBS, his death in 1977. tablish his own business. Roy Kuhlman re-bought a record company and that they were and found the manufacturer, Imperial Paper placed him but was fired after one year. Thensetting up an advertising department and would Box Corporation, which was willing to invest Neil Fujita: 1954–57; 1958–60 Fujita returned to CBS and remained until 1960.need an art director. An appointment was set up about $250,000 in new equipment to produce He told me that he had been asked by Goddardwith the new advertising manager, Patrick it. Not long after, in 1953, Wallerstein had a se- Neil Fujita was working for N. W. Ayer in Lieberson to return until Lieberson could find aDolan. Steinweiss was hired. It was a thrilling rious disagreement with William Paley, the Philadelphia when he was hired to become the suitable replacement. Roy Kuhlman says hedevelopment in his life because he would be chairman of CBS. His contract was bought up, first in-house art director of CBS Records. He was hired at CBS in 1954 and fired in 1955. Alexdoing creative work, and the work would be and he was out. was recommended to Goddard Lieberson, who Steinweiss says that Fujita was hired in 1953.connected with music, which he loved. Steinweiss learned that Goddard Lieberson, was executive vice president at the time, by Bill Bob Cato says that he was hired in 1959 and Steinweiss was responsible for creating a who had come into the company the same year Golden, CBS’s famous corporate art director. that Fujita was fired in 1959.visual image for the new company and was that Steinweiss had and for the same salary— I asked Neil Fujita whom he had replaced After talking to Roy Kuhlman about hisgiven a free hand in the design of catalogs, $65 per week—had been named president. at CBS Records, and he said, “No one. There CBS tenure, I called back Neil Fujita to try tomailing pieces, posters, letterheads, and finally Lieberson and Steinweiss were old friends, hav- was only an advertising manager, and he stayed straighten out the discrepancies in their sto-the design of album covers. The 78 rpm records ing worked on a myriad of record releases over in place.” ries. Fujita said, “You know, Paula, someonewere packaged in plain gray or tan folders, with the years. When Steinweiss went to see him, Fujita said that he had to develop a depart- once told me the higher you get, the more peo-the name of the album simply positioned on Lieberson said, “Who’s going to protect you, ment from nothing. This began by upsetting the ple you have looking at your behind!”the cover in black or gold. Steinweiss thought now that your buddy Ted Wallerstein is out?” arrangements that freelance designers and Still later, Neil Fujita came to visit me in mythis was no way to present a beautiful thing to Steinweiss said, “The quality of my work is the studios had with the company because he had studio. He talked about the department he builtthe public, so he began designing bright, color- only protection I need!” been hired gradually to do all the design inter- and the designers he hired: Peter Adler, Bobful, posterlike covers. Originally management Steinweiss adds that the newly appointed nally. He started with a secretary. Within a pe- Sullivan, Ken Deardoff, George Gecomba, Martybalked because of the increased production art director, Neil Fujita, got rid of him within the riod of three years, the department grew to six Moskoff, and Clara Gentry. He told me that hecost, but when sales jumped 800 percent with next month. or seven designers and mechanical artists; by was the art director who initiated the policy ofthe first release, they got enthusiastic. By 1943, The package Alex Steinweiss invented was the end of six years, he had nearly fifteen on putting the type in the top third of the recordSteinweiss had a staff of four or five designers, later known in the trade as the “wrap-pack.” It staff. He started by doing all the record covers cover so it would be displayed properly. This ruleincluding James Flora and Bob Jones, plus ten was printed on pieces of paper that were pasted for Columbia Records and Epic Records plus has been record-business dogma ever since.writers and other specialists. on a board backing. In the late 1960s, the shore- the promotional work. Some advertising was I asked him about the marketing depart- During the war, in 1944, Steinweiss joined a pack was introduced, for which the image was done before an ad agency was retained. He ment, and he said, “Oh, you mean sales! Yes,unit of the navy that produced training ads for printed directly on a board and folded into the worked very closely with sales and A&R. they were involved, but I had no problem withsailors. It was located in New York, and he con- package. CBS Records still manufactures wrap- He started by working in Bridgeport, them. That stuff came later!”tinued to design album covers for CBS on a packs. The manufacturer is still Imperial Paper Connecticut, at the company’s plant and had to Fujita did remember two of the freelancefreelance basis. His hours for the navy were Box Corporation. learn how a record was made and how records studios that he replaced. “There was a studiofrom 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., and then he’d go home and I told Steinweiss that a lot of my talk here were packaged and mailed. He began design- called Monogram, and there was another guywork on album covers until 11 or 12 at night. would center on the rise in power of the CBS ing the company’s identity and everything re- named Art Schlosser.”
    • Roy Kuhlman: 1954–55 Kuhlman was often asked to design flyers I asked him what the allure of record cov- cial and charming. His demeanor was one of a for the sales department, usually 6,000 titles for ers was in those days. He said, “They were big- tall, elegant hipster, sophisticated and chic.Roy Kuhlman was the art director hired to re- the record club, in a one-page format. His de- ger than book jackets!” Goddard Lieberson had cast the perfect art di-place Neil Fujita for one fateful year. Fujita said signs were too simple for sales, and they quickly rector.that he had originally recommended Art Kane, went back to their agency. Some of the records Bob Cato: 1959–68 and John Berg: 1960–84 Cato’s initial graphic input was in advertis-but Kane didn’t want to do it and suggested needed special inserts for musical comment or ing. He hired Richard Avedon and Irving Penn tothat Fujita hire Roy Kuhlman, who was a young biographical notes, so he hired a hot young de- Bob Cato told me that he originally met Goddard shoot big, glossy celebrity ads. He believed theart director who did a lot of good work for signer named Ivan Chermayeff to handle the Lieberson in 1949. Lieberson wanted to pack- recording artists should become more involvedGrove Press. promotional things. age a special twelve-record set of contemporary in their album covers. Barbra Streisand was the Kuhlman remembers that Fujita called and It was almost a year to the day since he was authors reading the spoken word. Mitch Miller, first recording artist actually to come in andsaid he was going to recommend him for his hired, and he was still having a ball. The sales de- the powerful head of A&R in the 1950s and move around type. Cato loved it. Streisand lovedjob because he was planning to leave CBS partment was well trained, and the budget was 1960s, had recommended Cato to Lieberson. it. Lieberson loved it. A trend was set that wouldRecords. He asked Roy if he wanted it. balanced, when he got a call to see Lieberson. There was an instant rapport between Lieberson become expensive, annoying, and irreversible. Roy said, “Want it? Ye gods! Want it? I “Roy, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for and Cato, and Lieberson, a mere vice president CBS Records at that time made its moneythought I was going to have to bump someone you. I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go.” at that time, told Cato he would hire him when on big-selling musicals, like My Fair Lady, andoff to get a shot at something like this…to get This was quite a surprise, and Roy asked, “Has he became president of the company. popular mainstream artists, such as Johnnypaid for doing album jackets!” anyone had any complaints about my perform- I don’t understand why he had to wait to Mathis and Ray Conniff. Lieberson allowed the So he put on his best Phil’s Men’s Shop ance as art director?” become president in order to hire Cato, be- classical division to lose money as long as thesuit, and Fujita ushered him into the baroque of- “No, Roy. That’s not the reason,” Lieberson cause he seemed to be capable of hiring and pop division supported it. Lieberson was build-fice of Goddard Lieberson. Kuhlman was prop- said. “Neil Fujita wants his job back, and we firing art directors all through the fifties; but he ing an image of himself and CBS Records inerly awed by the salary offered but succeeded in feel obligated to give it to him.” did in fact hire Bob Cato right after he was the CBS corporate mold: a classy companyhiding the fact. He was not awed by the dinky, Kuhlman’s epilogue to this story was that named president. that produces a public-worthy product but isscrungy bull-pen they told him was his new of- Neil Fujita had left to start his own studio, and Cato also told me that he had to put to- not above putting out a lot of garbage for thefice. It looked very much like what he imagined Kuhlman had not given that studio very much gether an art department quickly because, in his quick buck. CBS was proud of their classicalthe owner of a sweatshop in the Garment District work because he didn’t like their portfolio. words, “There wasn’t much there.” division, called Masterworks, and their jazzmight call an office. One thing that’s troubled me throughout artists, like Miles Davis. John Hammond, a bril- Fujita let Kuhlman in on the budgets: total I was surprised to find out that Ivan Chermayeff my research is that every art director so far, in- liant A&R man, had recorded Billie Holiday and$300 per, all-inclusive. That meant all: artwork, had worked for CBS Records, and I called to get cluding Cato, had to run out and set up a com- Bessie Smith, and later discovered Bob Dylantype, stats, and mechanicals. But that didn’t his recollection of the time. He remembered a pletely new art department. There was never and Bruce Springsteen.bother Kuhlman; he’d been doing Grove Press bizarre thing that had happened. He was hired anything there. Where did it all go? Cato hired John Berg, a graduate of Coopercovers for a third of that. He felt like a tycoon. He by Roy Kuhlman to work on promotional things, The department Cato built was called Union who was working as the art director ofhired a secretary and got it out in the grapevine but when he turned up for his first day of work, Creative Services, which included packaging, Escapade magazine. Cato was the guru, thethat he wanted to see portfolios. he found out that Kuhlman had just been fired. promotion, publicity, and advertising design. This troubleshooter, and the political schmoozer, He was getting along just jim-dandy with Chermayeff said he ended up working for Neil department remains pretty much intact today and Berg ran the nuts and bolts of the opera-sales by using Kuhlman’s law: listening to what Fujita. He described working on promotional and is still called Creative Services. tion. Berg did not have Cato’s savoir faire, northey had to say, then doing it his way, later con- booklets that ran as long as sixteen pages with was he particularly comfortable with recordingvincing them it was the right way for the job. He no time for layout or design, and he specified Cato describes himself as a “music freak.” His artists; but Cato loved them and smoothed outdidn’t remember showing designs to recording type by intuition. He described many of the cov- two passions are art and music. He attended the rough edges. Berg liked winning awardsartists. Somebody may have, but Kuhlman was ers produced at the time as real garbage—an the Chicago Art Institute and was also a student and finding talent, and he excelled in bothblissfully unaware of it. The only artist he met in ugly portrait of Johnny Mathis and a line of of Alexei Brodovitch. Cato had done stints at areas. Over the next twenty years, he wouldthe flesh was a new one they’d just signed on type. Young Chermayeff lasted about six Junior Bazaar and Harper’s Bazaar before being hire a slew of young designers, among themby the name of Johnny Mathis. months at CBS Records before he quit. hired by Lieberson. He was phenomenally so- Henrietta Condak, Virginia Team, Ron Coro, Ed
    • Lee, Richard Mantel, Tony Lane, Nancy Donald, Cato hated Davis. To Cato, Davis was “pure Clive Davis never really bothered Berg, but nent fixture at CBS Records and an institution,Anne Garner, Lloyd Ziff, John Crocker, Karen sleaze” and unworthy of Lieberson’s position. some product managers did. Berg threw them and had direct access to the president regard-Lee Grant, Allen Weinberg, Teresa Alfieri, Gerry Apparently the feeling was mutual. Almost from out of his office. But most product managers less of the maze.Huerta, Andy Engle, Carin Goldberg, Gene Grief, the day he became president, Davis began med- were in awe of Berg because they had grown up Goddard Lieberson died of cancer in 1977.Chris Austopchuk, and me. He and his design- dling with Cato’s ads. Cato quit. with his record covers. He had been ill throughout the seventies. All ofers would also rack up a steady stream of John Berg inherited Cato’s job, but Berg In 1972, there was drug scandal in the the major vice presidents attended the funeral,awards for the cover department, which would didn’t want to be responsible for advertising. He Columbia label’s A&R department. Clive Davis but the majority of the people who then workedenhance its reputation and glamour. suggested that Creative Services be split into may or may not have been implicated, but he for CBS Records were unmoved. Most had been The Cato/Berg marriage set a perfect con- two separate divisions: promotion and packaging. was fired for using corporate funds to pay for hired after 1968 and had no idea who Goddarddition for exploratory design. Cato created har- Promotion was given to Arnold Levine, who had his son’s bar mitzvah. The whole public scandal Lieberson was.mony both within the corporation and with the designed ads under Cato. Berg kept packaging. tainted the relationship between CBS Records In 1979, CBS Records, which had experi-recording artists. The art department was ex- CBS Records first hired me in the promotion and CBS corporate, which would steadily worsen enced nothing but continual growth in sales andpected to be creative. This resulted in making department in 1971, three years after Creative over the years. size for twenty-five years, crashed. For the firstthe CBS Records packaging department one of Services split. I worked for Arnold Levine. I was For a year, someone from CBS corporate time, records were returned from the stores inthe real hot spots in New York, with a line there for two and a half years and never had any managed CBS Records, and then Bruce Lundvall huge amounts. There was a recession. Blankaround the block filled with young designers, il- idea that promotion and packaging had ever was appointed president. Lundvall had grown up cassettes were outselling records. Kids werelustrators, and photographers all clamoring to been one department. The two departments in the records division. He was a Lieberson man. taping from the radio and spending their pocketget a crack at the big graphic lollipop. The were on the same floor at Black Rock. Both He loved the cover department and John Berg. money on video games. CBS Records, once arecord cover was king. sides were filled with designers, but an icy wall The seventies were an incredible time for huge profit center for CBS corporate, for the This didn’t mean that there still wasn’t existed between the two. The packaging depart- the record industry. One year of profits was big- first time did not make its sales expectations.garbage. There was a lot of it; there was still ment was the glory department, and the promo- ger than the next. CBS Records seemed to sell There is nothing more horrific within athe Johnny Mathis and Ray Conniff cover. Later, tion department was the cootie department. anything it shipped to the stores. The company corporation than the climate of fear that existsheavy-metal rock would become the garbage Clive Davis rewrote almost every ad. I left and grew layered and fat. Departments got restruc- in a time of massive layoffs. At CBS, thecover. There was the garbage country and west- went to Atlantic Records, where I began design- tured and restructured again. Berg got older layoffs came in waves every six months, thenern cover and the garbage R&B cover. Anything ing record covers. John Berg hired me back to while the rest of the company got younger. more frequently. They were known as “Blackwas potentially garbage, but anything was also CBS exactly one year later, after my cooties had Product managers cut their hair and became Fridays.” CBS Records was scaling down. Theypotentially good. There was simply a lot of every- been sufficiently removed. vice presidents. Creative Services became part closed plants; they closed branches; they firedthing, with plenty of room for tremendous suc- Along with the major changes of 1968 of something called Central Core Marketing, secretaries and merged departments. Brucecess and terrible failure. came the invention of something called “prod- which was headed by a vice president of mer- Lundvall was demoted and quit. Another In 1968, four major events took place that uct management.” Product managers were de- chandising, who reported to the vice president president was hired and fired and replaced withwould begin to change the company forever. signed to be liaisons between the recording of sales. The vice president of merchandising one even scarier than the last. It was like aLieberson was promoted into the corporate artist and the company. They became the core changed three times in two and a half years. burning office building. One didn’t know whetherarena, and Clive Davis, a company lawyer, was of the marketing department. In the late 1960s Two of them were promoted to vice president to jump out the window or stay and get burned.named president. Lieberson had become con- and early 1970s, product managers were nice of something else. The packaging department John Berg got burned in 1984. The merchandis-vinced during the sixties that CBS Records had hippies who had majored in liberal arts in col- became larger also. Branches had opened in ing vice president decided to merge packagingto become a rock-and-roll company. lege and liked to hang around with rock bands. Nashville and Los Angeles. and promotion back together, with himself as In the early 1980s, product managers were Above all this was Bruce Lundvall, who still manager, and appointed Holland McDonald,Contrary to legend, it was Lieberson, not Clive nice yuppies who had majored in business in loved his art department, which was now re- who then ran the promotion department, to beDavis, who initiated CBS’s presence at the college and liked to hang around with rock ferred to as the “famous award-winning pack- the head art director on the East Coast.Monterey Pop Festival in 1968, which led to the bands. Some of them knew an enormous aging department.” I jumped out the window in 1982. In thesigning of Janis Joplin, Sly Stone, and the amount about music, and a few of them actually Berg was untouched by the new maze of midst of horrific corporate fear, I was having end-Byrds—but Clive Davis took the credit. had very good ideas for record covers. corporate hierarchy. He had become a perma- less battles with the marketing department.
    • If I had not spent the past six months re- the New York office and did not suffer the one to three years. Masterworks has already I.D. Magazine considered a number of de-searching and remembering CBS Records, I same political problems. begun discontinuing LPs. The whole Master- signers for its redesign and asked at least onewould have told you that marketing considera- CBS Records’ sales position had improved works operation is being moved to Germany. I of them to provide comps on spec but did nottions overpowered everything, killed creativity, dramatically with the help of MTV, the new tech- have been told that the new German manage- award him the job.and destroyed the Cato/Berg art department. I nology of compact discs, and the phenomenal ment was appalled to discover how much input The Industrial Designers Society of Americaam beginning to realize that marketing in the performance of superstars like Michael Jackson. American designers had in the creation of clas- (IDSA) contacted three or more design firms re-abstract has nothing to do with anything and In 1986, Al Teller moved the vice president sical record covers. questing a “proposal” for its new identity pack-never really did at CBS Records, either. of merchandising to the purchasing depart- The long rectangular CD package was de- age even though it was a pro bono job, because There were no market-research surveys. ment and then moved him out of the building veloped by Adam Summers, a creative director they didn’t want to show favoritism. They re-Testing was tried once and then abandoned. and into the Nashville office. Teller then hired at Warner Communications. It is roughly the ceived some critical responses from some ofThere were no demographic studies. There were Arnold Levine to head up Creative Services. same size as a book jacket. The rectangular CD the design groups they had approached, re-only people. People in something called the Levine had been the head of the promotion de- box became the industry standard in 1985, but scinded their policy, and awarded one firm the“marketing department.” People in something partment under Clive Davis and Bruce Lundvall CBS Records is presently planning to discon- unpaid job.called the “merchandising department.” People but was fired during one of the Black Friday tinue the package in favor of shrink-wrapping The American Institute of Graphic Artsin something called “sales.” Too many people purges in the early eighties and was replaced the plastic CD case. (AIGA), which assigned its annual jacket to a de-in a corporation that had ballooned too quickly. by Holland McDonald. Al Teller restructured In four to six years, compact discs that are signer on a pro bono basis (plus $1,000 to coverPeople afraid. People looking to impress other Creative Services by pulling it out of the mer- three inches in diameter will be introduced. expenses), decided that the jacket was toopeople. People grappling for power or survival, chandising department, which reported to the Their covers will be considerably smaller than important a marketing tool to rely on what thealways in the name of something else. sales department. Arnold Levine reported di- book jackets. designated designer submitted. The institute The cover department lost power because rectly to the president of the company. I feel a certain absurdity in the knowledge changed its policy and requested a minimum ofthe art director no longer had the firm and loyal Holland McDonald didn’t want to work for that I have spent half of my adult life designing three sketches from the chosen designer whilesupport of the president of the company. Arnold Levine again, so he quit. So did some something that is about to become an antique. the assignment remained pro bono, and the ex- other designers. Arnold Levine replaced them. By But how fortunate we all are to be graphic pense money remained $1,000.Holland McDonald and Arnold Levine all accounts, the political clout of the art depart- designers and make these tangible objects—a All of these events occurred in the last ment has grown stronger under Arnold Levine. piece of paper, a folded board—because long year and a half. In that same time period, MTV,Holland McDonald was given the job of uniting CBS Records was sold to Sony in 1988, after all the power regimes rise and fall, rise and a winner of the AIGA Design Leadershiptwo departments that hated each other. He set but the designers say that it hasn’t noticeably fall again, all that remains that is certain and true Award, asked twenty designers and illustratorsup a system in which each designer worked on changed anything. is our work. And the work speaks for itself. to create political art for the cause of theireverything from the record cover to the small- Shortly after CBS Records was sold to choice, to be aired at the MTV Video Musicest ad. The advertising designers liked this, Sony, Al Teller was fired and replaced. The new “THE DEVALUATION OF DESIGN Awards ceremony and to be printed in the pro-and the cover designers hated this. Some of president is still there at this moment. gram. The artists were requested to produce BY THE DESIGN COMMUNITY: Ithe cover designers quit, and McDonald re- None of the designers I spoke to knew who the art for a fee of $500, which would be do-placed them. McDonald reported to the mer- Alex Steinweiss was. No one knew that Neil HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY, AND HE nated to any charity they designated, with MTVchandising vice president, who didn’t particu- Fujita designed the logo they put on their record IS US” matching the donation. (MTV is owned bylarly support him, so the designers were run packages. No one thought that it was particu- Originally published in the AIGA Journal of Viacom, which is currently locked in theragged by increasingly aggressive product larly odd that they didn’t know. Like everyone Graphic Design, Volume 11, Number 4, 1993 Paramount take over battle.)managers who reported to a very aggressive else before them, including me, they exist in What’s wrong with this picture? Each organization operated with apparentlypresident named Al Teller. their own space and time at CBS Records, igno- The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum altruistic motives, inspired by the design com- The art directors of the West Coast and rant of the past and oblivious of the future. selected five designers in a paid competition munity itself. In three cases, the organizationsNashville offices reported to both the mer- Currently compact discs outsell records by (base price $1,000, though some reportedly got are not-for-profit and rely on funds given by thechandising vice president and a finance per- more than three to one. The expectation is that more) to create a new identity for the museum. communities they support. They are aware thatson. They were geographically distanced from LP records will be discontinued altogether in The winner was then awarded the job. many designers would love to work on their
    • projects for prestige or exposure or the oppor- to the American business and civic communities special magazine issues devoted to the busi- where a person could count on making a living.tunity to produce award-winning graphics, and and thereby improve the visual standards and ness of design. These were followed by a The publications of the eighties changed allthey emphasize this as the selling point of the expectations of our society. The notion of value plethora of design self-help books, which told that. If the goal of the AIGA was to change thefree work. In fact, with so many designers avail- here had very little to do with money. Money is you how to set up your own business, how to general perception of graphic design and toable and eager to work for so little, they proba- only one American symbol of value. The AIGA promote, how to speak correct business jargon, create awareness of the profession, then thisbly feel the need to be fair about it and spread was interested in the power of the design pro- how to dress, how to buy insurance, and so on. was our greatest area of success—an ambigu-the opportunity around. When one considers fession, the ability of good graphic designers There was nothing inherently wrong with ous success at best.this, it’s not surprising that MTV would follow in to become powerful enough individually and this except for the subsequent confusion it With all the young designers graduatingkind with the added kicker of political-cause af- collectively to persuade cumbersome bureau- caused. “Professional” work did look more pro- from various design programs and entering thefiliation. And suddenly Seagram’s has devel- cracies that good design is good business and fessional, and corporate communications in field, the design-publishing boom was on. Moreoped a similar attitude toward its annual report, good for society. How to do it? Organize a na- general were visually improved. The level of and more awards competitions were founded,which it touts as a “marvelous opportunity for tional community of designers. Publish. Involve design mediocrity rose. Also, practicing de- more magazines, more books on type, on trends,exposure with cachet for any good designer.” the educational community. Alert the press. signers as a rule had previously been rather on letterhead design, package design, shop-They asked three firms to compete and pro- Create a journal, develop dialogue and criti- sloppy about running their businesses. They ping bag design, trademark design, magazineduce several ideas on spec. cism. Record history. Stage a national confer- were easily taken advantage of, didn’t know design, the history of design, famous designers, These events can be blamed on the econ- ence. Create professional practice guidelines. how to construct proposals, and were gener- famous designers from California, famous de-omy or on the overpopulation of the design Encourage press coverage. Create awareness. ally more interested in designing than in mind- signers under forty, women designers, more al-community or, when one gets really far-fetched, The events and activities of the design ing the store, networking, or planning for the ternative design books featuring people left outon young designers using computers. If one is community in the 1980s and 1990s remind me future. The business seminars did no harm, but of other books, and more books one could buyemployed by an educational or other institution, of almost every boxing movie I’ve ever seen. the political and economic climate of the eight- into to use for self-promotion.a corporation, a publication, or an organization The young idealistic fighter who has trained ies in general, coupled with the pervasiveness The proliferation of graphic-design booksthat supports, promotes, or is allied with graphic hard, has good family values, and a nice girl of the “design is a business” hype, perverted in the eighties and nineties made all trendsdesign in some way but does not rely on a pay- back home hooks up with a ne’er-do-well pro- the design community’s overall goal. The goal readily apparent and ripe for immediate imita-ing clientele other than designers for survival, moter with mob ties, who quickly pushes the became money. tion. The graphics publications began reportingone can ignore these events altogether and as- young boxer to fame and fortune so heady and How and Step-by-Step Graphics maga- on design trends like fashion columnists watch-sume they speak only to the commercially com- corrupt that our hero forgets his early family zines were born in this climate. Both publica- ing hemlines. Trends were news. Even the gen-petitive concerns of design firms. Unfortunately, values one by one. He dumps the girl back tions explained how to be a professional graphic eral press could understand them. Recently anthey speak to all of us. They are the symptom of home, compromises his principles, breaks his designer. A young reader could learn how to set article in the New York Times’ Style section re-a design community contemptuous of itself, immigrant father’s heart, and finally breaks his up a design business, how to furnish it, how to ported that the typeface Bodoni has becomea community so splintered by social, political, fingers, so he can neither fight nor play the vio- buy equipment, how to make a design and sell popular in magazine design. I had never seenacademic, sexual, regional, and aesthetic fac- lin. Moral of the story: Don’t forget your values. it to a client, and how to do award-winning work the word Bodoni in the New York Times before,tionalism that it has lost sight of its original In the eighties, the design community wit- just as the rich and famous designers featured but I don’t think this is what we had in mindcollective goals. nessed the great rise of “professionalism” in the magazine did. when we wanted to create general graphic de- When I first became active in the AIGA in (now a euphemism for the production of non- It was not surprising that enrollments at sign awareness.the 1970s, its goals were very clear: to promote, innovative but stylishly acceptable work—usu- colleges with halfway decent design programs The increased number of annual awardprotect, and document the profession of graphic ally in corporate communications—coupled with shot up in the eighties. Graphic design had be- shows put a new financial and professional bur-design and to encourage, support, and recog- very good fees). Along with “professionalism” come a viable profession, with the promise of den on the design community, a heightenednize quality work. What made the AIGA espe- came the “business consultant to the design- glamour and success. In the 1950s and 1960s, sense of obligation to promote, be noticed, pub-cially appealing was its stated tenet: the AIGA ers,” who proclaimed, “Design is a business.” graphic design had been a relatively obscure lished, acclaimed, and have a national presencewas about design, not designers. The belief was This became the mantra of the eighties. The profession, largely undocumented and poorly in every annual, in all compendiums then ap-that by elevating the profession of graphic de- AIGA, along with other organizations and publi- reported. As a profession it seemed risky, pop- pearing, in total, almost monthly. The pressuresign, the AIGA would also elevate design value cations, produced seminars, conferences, and ulated by talented mavericks, and not a place was considerably less on older designers with
    • established reputations and recognizable work. Several years ago I thumbed through an It’s hard to write this with dispassion be- design appeared in the following order:For unknown young designers working on cor- Art Directors Club Annual from the mid 1950s. cause I hate mass mantras. I never trust or be- Sustainability (environmentally sensitive), ac-porate communications, promotional material, The print ads all seemed to have dumb line lieve them, because they always pervert them- cessibility (seen by people), technology (theobscure packaging, and obscure magazines, drawings of creatures with smiley faces that selves, even when the mantra is in sync with appropriate use of it), communication (suc-getting noticed was more and more impossible. closely resembled the drawings in Paul Rand’s my own views. Progressive political and social cessfully speaks to its audience), beauty (thatThe last design firm to gain national standing El Producto ads. The drawings were coupled beliefs are generally lifelong, deeply held con- extra aesthetic “something” that sets the de-through design annuals was the Duffy Design with quaint, poorly letter-spaced typography, victions, not transient group mores. Yes, con- sign apart).Group, in the mid 1980s. If there is no substan- some of it stenciled, some of it, apparently, in al- sciousness can be raised, and I always love ittial change in the number of annuals and fre- ternating colors (the annual was black-and- when someone who voted for Ronald Reagan Had we been constantly reinforcing our originalquency of publication, no designer or design white), and some of it with cute little curlicues wakes up and smells the coffee, but I’m nerv- goals, the first three parts of this definitiongroup will gain that kind of national prominence at the ends of the letterforms. The El Producto ous when we try to make converts through the would be irrelevant, merely expected aspectsagain. The mass of work displayed in the total ads may have been in there too; I honestly don’t AIGA or I.D. Magazine. If they’re that easily of any responsible design. But here, communi-annual publishing output cancels out new de- recall. I just remember that everything looked converted, they may respond just as positively cation and beauty are last, implying that the de-signers. Familiar names remain familiar, and the same—all style and no substance. to the mantra of the next decade, which could sign community is so irresponsible that it can-unfamiliar names stay unfamiliar. It was not surprising that by the end of the well turn out to be fascism. not even meet the minimum requirements. An Pick up a Communication Arts Design “design is a business”–ridden eighties, we got The “social relevance” mantra disturbs me environmentally sensitive design that doesn’tAnnual and thumb through it, then flip through good and disgusted with our own rhetoric. The mostly because it confuses and diminishes communicate is a real waste of paper—evenPrint’s Regional Design Annual. Follow it up “Dangerous Ideas” AIGA National Conference our primary goals. It becomes easy to decry unbleached, recycled paper with the properwith an AIGA Annual, then breeze through the in San Antonio in 1989, which attempted to graphic design as a trivial profession. If one amount of postconsumer waste. An environ-graphic design section of the New York Art highlight important social issues, was a re- factors in all the world wars, diseases, poverty, mentally sensitive design that actually commu-Directors’ Club Annual, Graphis Design, the freshing change from the 1987 conference in illiteracy, and natural disasters, a well-designed nicates its message but looks like such holyAmerican Center for Design 100 Show, the San Francisco, which highlighted an insurance hangtag is silly. But I don’t think the responsi- hell that you don’t want it in your home, on yourSociety of Publication Designers show, the I.D. salesman. I applaud two social themes explored bility for the visual environment of our society is desk, or in your hands for one minute is still aMagazine Annual Design Review, and wind it all at the conferences: that wasteful packaging is silly or trivial, and collectively, that is our charge. piece of garbage. Visual environmentalism mat-up with the Type Directors Club Annual. Do it all a pollutant, and we need to take responsibility “Social relevance” can also become a ters, now more than ever.in one sitting, and don’t read any of the copy. for it; and that our communications can be pow- strange criterion for judging design. I was on a Overall design goals also become confusedMake sure they are all from the same year, or at erful and damaging to people, so we need to jury last year with a judge who voted for work when they are coupled with “women’s issues.”most a year or two apart. The effect will be a take responsibility for them. on the basis of the organization that commis- Women represent the largest percentage of thenumbing sameness. There are some general Actually, the messages are the same. We sioned the work. This is OK if the point of the design community while holding the lowest-stylistic differences in the work selected by are responsible for our work and its conse- exhibition is to highlight politically correct or- paying jobs. They feel robbed of opportunity,various annuals, but only when one confronts quences. Responsibility is a crucial part of our ganizations; but if the point is design excel- prestige, and even history. They are constantlythe same piece three or four times in different professional ethic. We are also responsible (ac- lence, then a poorly designed brochure for an confronted with the previous and still powerfulbooks does that individual piece develop a cording to our original goals) for encouraging AIDS benefit is not better than a brilliantly de- generation of male design leaders, who, throughcharacter of its own, separate from the rest of and supporting quality design. Therefore racism, signed brochure for an investment banking their generation’s culture, remain inherently sex-the work in the publication. In fact, one could sexism, and other forms of personal prejudice company, no matter how much one’s sympa- ist and completely unaware of their bad behav-generalize about contemporary graphic design have no place in the design community. thies run toward the AIDS brochure. ior. There’s valid reason for anger.as viewed in annuals exactly the way Paul That said, I believe that the phrase “social The recently created Chrysler Awards for Also, women as a group face a real struggleRand did in the essay “From Cassandre to relevance” has replaced “design is a business” Innovation in Design offer a cash prize of in overcoming centuries of sociological bag-Chaos” in Design: Form and Chaos. Rand’s as a mantra for the nineties. Confusing social is- $10,000 to architects, product designers, and gage. They must confront their fears of self-as-analysis of stylistic approaches is separated sues with design issues is dangerous. They’re graphic designers for their individual contribu- sertion, management, and success. In this re-from the intent and content of the work. It over- not the same. tions to society. The items in the program’s spect, the Special Interest Groups provided bygeneralizes the way annuals do. definition of design excellence for graphic
    • AIGA on the chapter level are immensely help- Coast “establishment” designers, largely from think the last generation to be absorbed in- bent on destroying the design profession. Whenful and successful. an older generation, and younger designers cluded Woody Pirtle and Michael Vanderbyl.) this fear is coupled with strange social agendas But there is a tremendous danger of en- with differing cultural and aesthetic sensibili- When they stopped learning young designers’ by some design groups, with angry women, andforcing women’s issues at the expense of the ties. Some ageism can be defined as regional- names, the veterans of graphic design began with bizarre experimental work by designdesign community’s primary goals. Blatant ism because a lot of the aesthetic splits have to refer to the work in terms of stylistic ele- schools receiving an amazing amount of presstokenism implies that a standard is being to do with technologically experimental design ments, like “layering,” “letterspacing,” “leading,” attention, suddenly it looks like the whole worldbreached. Contemporary women’s shows and emanating from the West Coast. Some ageism “retro,” and, finally, “that computer stuff.” That is going to the dogs. It looks like the standardsbooks have the same implication. They inad- returns to women’s issues when it involves there was appropriate and inappropriate use of of quality are being destroyed.vertently set different criteria for judging the splits between the so-called East Coast estab- each element became lost on them, simply be- The question then becomes, What is qual-work of women and may serve to diminish real lishment and women who head aesthetic cause of the pervasiveness of it all (exactly my ity work? This is the eternal debate. We knowachievement, not promote it. movements (Kathy McCoy at Cranbrook or response when I looked at that Art Directors design must function properly, but design func- At the AIGA National Conference in Miami Lorraine Wilde at CalArts) or socially oriented Club Annual from the fifties). The work had be- tions differently for different problems and au-in 1993, some women were infuriated by the design movements (Sheila de Bretteville at come all style and no substance. diences. Ray Gun works perfectly for its audi-small number of women invited to speak (five Yale). Or ageism can be perceived as the split Knowing (and liking) an individual helps to ence but won’t be received well by someonewomen were asked, one canceled, and twenty between establishment/practicing designers and mute the competitive animosities caused by over forty-five who doesn’t care about rock andmen participated as speakers). The number is academic/experimental designers. aesthetic differences. In the New York design roll. Is it quality or garbage? Aesthetics is alow when we consider how many terrific women Aesthetic debate is crucial to our community community, Pushpin and Herb Lubalin lived tricky business.practitioners, educators, and writers with some- and has always existed. The modernism/eclecti- harmoniously with Vignelli and Rudy de Harak. One can admire the aesthetics of a spe-thing important to contribute there are. But what cism debate has raged for years while devout They all knew one another. Theoretically speak- cific school without loving it. I admire Emigrewas worse was that three of the women speak- practitioners on both sides have come together ing, Massimo Vignelli should be as repulsed by without loving it. It’s ten years old now. I ad-ers were giving talks that had the word women in mutual admiration and respect because their Ed Benguiat’s work as he is by that of Rudy mire the publication and some of the type-in the title. This implied that women speak only goal is always the same: quality in graphic de- Vanderlans. But Massimo knows Ed. Ed is a fine faces even though I’ll never use them. But theto women’s issues. In the planning of the con- sign for the betterment of business and society. fellow, and after all, they both agree that what Emigre designers were innovators. I felt theference, women had accidentally become seg- With ageism, fear, loathing, and disrespect matters most is the continual striving for qual- same way about Herb Lubalin. In fact, I feel theregated, as if operating under a separate bury our overall design goal. The goal of ity. Their goals are the same even if they ap- same way about Paul Rand. I never loved hisagenda. The anger of the women at the confer- ageism is power, but not the power and influ- proach them from different directions. work as I love Cassandre’s, El Lissitzky’s,ence was focused on the number of women ence of the design community as a whole. It But the young designers featured in annuals Pierre Mendell’s, and some of Fred Woodward’sthough, not the content of the speeches. becomes a power struggle within the various and articles have become faceless and therefore Rolling Stone spreads. But I admire it. I know I’m sure that the conference organizers political and aesthetic factions to win control of valueless to this Eastern Establishment. how important it is. One builds admiration frommeant well. Women’s issues were addressed in the debate to define quality. As I’ve stated pre- A progressive community turns reactionary a distance, in retrospect. It takes time.three presentations, more than for any other sin- viously, I’m wary of value being defined by so- when it believes it is about to lose something. With ageism there is no admiration for anygle issue. This kind of thinking, however, either cial and political agendas, but the aesthetic de- This couldn’t be more true of the Eastern work produced by a younger generation. None.by or for women, is ultimately more damaging to bate had become unnecessarily ugly, divisive, Establishment. New technology has totally rev- No shining example, no beacon among the hea-women and the design community than it is and destructive. olutionized the method, craft, and structure of thens. It’s all bad: Neville Brody: bad. Emigrehelpful. Women’s issues and overall design I’m not sure how ageism came to be. Its the design practices that have existed for forty garbage. Fabien Baron: a rip-off of Brodovitch.goals don’t necessarily reinforce one another, roots start in the early 1980s with the tremen- years. The technological shift has been coupled Chuck Anderson: too many advertising cuts.and they may create destructive factionalism. dous growth of the design industry and the with a devastated economy, particularly on the Cranbrook: feh. Rick Valicenti: P.U. Et cetera. But an even broader example of angry fac- perversion of its original goals. With the in- East Coast. In the midst of layoffs, price reduc- Pretty soon there’s nothing left to eat. Only de-tionalism that damages our community is crease of design publishing and the prolifera- tions, and a general sense of demoralization, signers from their own generation or the dis-something I have come to call “ageism,” simply tion of annuals, the older generation of design- healthy perspectives become elusive. The com- tant past merit praise. At the end, there is nofor want of a better word. Ageism reflects the ers became distanced from the younger gener- puter is seen as an evil enemy, a dangerous debate, no enlightenment—only a divide. Anddivide between what are perceived to be East ation. They stopped learning their names. (I tool in the hands of valueless incompetents we are all losers.
    • We are losers because the ensuing faction- At the end of all the boxing movies, the a role model? Has role modeling been thrust women designers (me in this case) serves toalism, hurt feelings, confusion, resentment, and fighter always learns that his original ideals were upon you? Please let me know. undermine and diminish achievement.anger are damaging to the most important goals valid and that things went wrong when the ideals The thing of it is I never set out to be theof the community. If we fear and loathe one an- were perverted, corrupted, and abandoned. The Sincerely, only woman blah blah. I set out to be a de-other, how can we persuade society of the collec- same lesson applies to us. Julie Lasky signer. I set out to be a designer who could de-tive value of good design? If we’re all chopped Managing Editor sign all kinds of things well with the hope thatinto different factions with different agendas, col- “THE BOAT” those things that I designed well would lead melectively we have no power at all. We destroy our Originally published in Print, March/April 1993 Dear Julie: to even more things to design. I set out as a de-credibility. When we are contemptuous of one Editor’s note: The following letters were ex- I’ve long resisted the notion of writing a signer not thinking that being a woman hadanother, we invite the contempt of business and changed between Julie Lasky, managing editor “woman’s issue” piece or what it’s like to be much to do with anything. What mattered wassociety. We devalue design. of Print, and Paula Scher. Lasky’s letter has the only woman blah blah. I’m genuinely un- the work. After all, designers produce tangible Everyday I find myself in supermarkets, dis- been edited for brevity; Scher’s is reproduced comfortable with the subject because I have products. You can see the results. There is phys-count drugstores, video shops, and other envi- in its entirety. conflicting feelings about it. I’d have to have ical evidence of success or failure. I believedronments that are obviously untouched by our been an ostrich not to have experienced the that good work brought more good work, andcommunity. No “bad Brody” or “Emigre garbage,” Dear Paula: painful exclusivity of corporate boys’ clubs, that money, while dictated by the marketplace,or for that matter, no “saintly” Vignelli, Rand, or Thumbing through the latest AIGA Annual, we glass ceilings, and financial exploitation. I can could mushroom, to a degree, in relationship toGlaser. Just plain, old-fashioned, uncontroversial ran across the picture of Pentagram’s partners sing along with any woman’s group about the good work and reputation. I’ve held these be-bad design, the kind of anonymous bad we’ve gathered together on a boat on the Thames, sexist–insensitive–noncommunicative–emo- liefs for twenty years. I’ve had to, or I would notcome to ignore because we’re too busy fighting and we couldn’t help noticing that you were the tionally inept nature of men and add a few two- have been able to continue to work. The abilityover the aesthetics of the latest AIGA poster. We only woman in the group. And then we recalled syllable adjectives of my own for good meas- to produce work continually, make professionaldon’t talk or write about it, it heads no one’s that the art department at CBS Records wasn’t ure. But my confusion comes not in the worthy changes, take advantage of business opportu-agenda, but it’s still most of America. exactly a bastion of feminism, either. politicizing of women’s issues but in their valid nities as they arise, and create the opportuni- So I come back to the petty list from the How would you feel about writing 1,000 or application to a life in graphic design. ties yourself when they don’t arise is absolutelybeginning of this article. What’s wrong with the so words for us on the subject of breaking into Every time I give a presentation to a design key to the growth and development of a de-picture is that four organizations that exist in and working for the boys’ clubs? (I know it’s not group, I’m asked what it’s like to be a woman signer, male or female.support of design demonstrated that they have an original topic, but you always provide an blah blah. When I’m invited to give the presen- I don’t believe that pursuing this courseabsolutely no idea how to hire or work with a original point of view.) Has your experience in tation, I’m told that women will really want to while happening to be a woman is particularlygraphic designer. Responding to the contemp- the male-dominated Pentagram of the early hear about being a woman blah blah. They go special, nor do I believe there should be spe-tuous, factionalized climate we have created, 1990s been different from working in the male- like this: “Hello, can you judge the annual cial standards for women. I haven’t “broken”they pitted designers against one another in dominated CBS Records of the early 1980s and Peoria Hang Tag competition? Please say yes into boys’ clubs. I am merely following the pathcompetition for free work, and they lost sight of before? Have you ever suffered tokenism? At because we need a female juror.” How I envy of a life in design at a time when doors arethe fact that pro bono is a donation. They as- the Chicago AIGA Conference last year, Cheryl my male partners, who are invited to speak opening for women, not only because they aresume that the designer’s benefit from the free Heller remarked that being the lone woman based on their achievements and prestige as women but also because they are successfullyjob is greater than theirs. (With all the angry crit- among male professionals brought an element opposed to their sex. I cannot separate my following that path.icism they receive from the various design of surprise that worked to her advantage: She achievements from being a woman blah blah. Which brings me to the photograph of thecamps regardless of what is produced, maybe could easily soar above the low expectations of On the other hand, the tokenism has had Pentagram partners on the boat. It is interestingthey have a point.) Yet for all our annuals, semi- her colleagues and clients. Has this been your its advantages. I’ve been able to attain a visibil- how one photographic image can perfectly en-nars, conferences, political- and sexual-con- experience? Does your status as a woman ex- ity that might have been harder to come by if I capsulate my feelings. You said you couldn’tsciousness-raising groups, environmental lec- ecutive bring more responsibility in terms of were male. The visibility may be helpful profes- help noticing that I was the only woman on thetures, aesthetic manifestos, and diatribes, re- mentoring other women, both within and be- sionally, but it’s always clouded by the veil of boat. I was less interested in the fact that I wasspect and understanding of the graphic design yond your workplace? Do you consider yourself “women’s issues.” How ironic that the grand at- the only woman; I already knew that. I wasprofession is worse than it was in the seventies. tempt in the graphic community to promote struck more by the pure visual physicality of the
    • Left to Right: Michael Bierut, Kenneth Grange, Alan Fletcher, John Rushworth, Peter Harrison, Theo Crosby, Mervyn Kurlansky, Peter Saville,David Hillman, me, Jim Biber, Kit Hinrichs, Woody Pirtle, Neil Shakery, Colin Forbes, John McConnell, Lowell Williams
    • situation—not the oddity of the sex, but the I joined Pentagram the way I set out to de- more women changing the scale of things and statistics, and demand change; and all the whilestrangeness in scale. There I am, halfway down sign. I had had a business with one male part- appearing out of scale in the process. change is occurring. Change doesn’t come inthe side of the boat, in between rugged David ner for seven years. We had been split for one There are also more underpaid women, one great thump. It comes one by one by one byHillman and James Biber, who is twice my size. year, and I had continued running the business more women juggling careers and motherhood, one, and it looks kind of funny.Kit Hinrichs, who is actually sitting behind myself. I was offered the opportunity to join more women who feel squeezed out in a bad And then it doesn’t.James Biber, has a head that is half again as Pentagram, and I took it because I wanted to economy, more women going to art school andlarge as mine. And Colin Forbes, who stands design things well and get more new things to going nowhere afterwards, and more women Sincerely,with John McConnell and Lowell Williams way in design. There’s no more to it than that. No cru- who are resentful of their lack of success “be- Paula Scherthe back, appears much larger than me. I look sade, no breaking down back-room doors. I cause they are women.” There are more women Partner, Pentagram Design, Inc.like a person who was originally standing far took some personal risk to take advantage of a in design groups, more women’s panels, morebeyond Lowell Williams and was then stripped new business opportunity, with the price being women mentoring women, more women whointo the middle of the photograph but not the daily discomfort of being out of scale. want women to mentor them, more womenblown up in proportion to the new position. I can’t equate Pentagram and CBS Records. looking for women role models, and more The photograph has made me look at my Pentagram is a group of very intelligent, tal- women who don’t like other women’s success.own professional situation and those of other ented, and relatively sensitive men who design I don’t know what my responsibility is in allwomen today as a matter of strange scale. I’m in well and want to get more new things to design. this. I’m not sure I have one as it relates tothe picture, but I’m not blown up in proportion to I may be out of scale at Pentagram, but I was out women in general. There are things I’ve donethe new position. (If the photograph had pictured of sync at CBS Records. That’s much worse than naturally through relationships that existed bythe same number of men and women, the scale being out of scale. One doesn’t have to be a chance. I felt supportive of the terrific womenwouldn’t be strange; I’d just be short.) woman to be out of sync. All that requires is for designers at CBS Records because they were I saw a similar thing in the New York Times one to have a completely different set of values my friends. I have encouraged talented stu-several weeks ago. There was Donna Shalala than the larger group. Being out of scale can be dents, male and female, equally. I’ve supportedstanding next to Bill Clinton and Al Gore and uncomfortable. Being out of sync is dangerous. those people I know and care about who wantsome male senators and newly appointed cab- Women need to learn the difference. to design well and get more things to design. Itinet members, and she was not blown up in It seems to me from your letter, particularly is not a planned activity or a duty; it is simplyproportion to her new position. The same in reference to Cheryl Heller’s talk, that you are part of a life in design.week, in the same New York Times, I read looking for some sort of modus operandi for I don’t want to be anyone’s “role model.” Iabout how women’s groups were upset with surviving in male-dominated working situations. dislike the term because it diminishes my lifeClinton for not appointing enough women to There isn’t one. Men are different. Situations are by implying that I’m playing some kind of rolecabinet posts and how Clinton railed against different. And women are different. The only for other people’s benefit. It places my entirethe quotas. All of this served to diminish the thing that is a constant for me is my relationship life out of scale.wonderful accomplishments of the excellent to my work. When I find myself in a professional This takes me back to the picture on thewomen who were appointed. One woman in situation that is purely about politics or person- boat, where I’m confronted with my own imagethe group. Two women in the group. Their alities and not about the effectiveness of design, within a group. The boat ride on the Thamesindividuality is lost, and all one sees is the I tend to fail. was really lovely. There was a good lunch, ter-strangeness of scale. Which brings me back to my ambiguous rific conversation, and all in all it was the most I’m physically odd at Pentagram, the way I’m feelings about women’s issues in relation to de- pleasant part of an exhausting partners meet-physically odd at a corporate meeting with sign. A profession that has long been dominated ing. I don’t remember feeling like an oddity onclients who happen to be men. I’m physically by men is changing. There are simply more that boat, but in the photo there is thatodd to women who work for men in groups and women. There are more women who are terrific strangeness of scale.view me as out of scale to the men in those designers, more women running their own busi- Women’s issues in design are focusedgroups. nesses, more women corporate executives, on scale. We count the numbers, look at the
    • CREDITS Champagne, 1979 Prokofiev, Lees, 1978 Art Direction: Tony Sellari, Jackie 2000 page, 2000 Metropolis magazine, “Threepenny Opera” Bob James, Heads, 1977 Best of Dexter Gordon, Michaela Sullivan Murphy, M&Co. Design: Paula Scher, Design/Illustration: 1999 poster by Paul Davis forPART 1: CORPORATE Mark Colby, Serpentine 1979 Design: Paula Scher Copy: Paula Scher, Avni Patel Paula Scher Editorial redesign: Paula The Public Theater, 1976POLITICS 101 Fire, 1978 The Best of Jazz poster, Illustration: Karen Barbour Steve Heller, Bob Sloan, Scher, Anke Stohlmann, Reprinted with the per- Design: Paula Scher 1979 James Dean: Behind Danny Abelson “Wonderbrands West” PART 3: IN THE Keith Daigle mission of Paul DavisAll work in this section for Photography: Trust Elvis poster, 1981 the Scene for Carol Illustration: Eric Dinyer poster for Metropolis COMPANY OF MEN Issues pictured:CBS Records unless John Paul Endress Design: Paula Scher Publishing / Birch Lane Deli photography: magazine, 1999 Creative Direction: American Wood Type:otherwise noted. Barrabas, Heart of the Press, 1990 Edward Spiro Design: Paula Scher, The Public Theater Paula Scher 1828-1900 by Rob Roy City, Atlantic Records, Art Direction: Steve Brower Keith Daigle identity, 1994 Art Direction: Kelly © 1968 VanEric Gale, Ginseng 1975 PART 2: STYLE WARS Design: Paula Scher, “To Be Good Is Not Design: Paula Scher, Esther Bridavsky Nostrand Reinhold Co.Woman, 1976 Design: Paula Scher Ron Louie Enough…” poster for “Net@work” poster for Ron Louie, Lisa Mazur Photography: François Reprinted with permissionDesign: Paula Scher Photography: Great Beginnings for Photos from Warner Bros. School of Visual Arts, Metropolis, 2000 Robert, Judith Turner,Lettering: Andy Engel Arnold Rosenberg Koppel & Scher, 1984 Archives 1987 Design: Paula Scher, New York Shakespeare Charlie Drevstam, Portrait of George C.Illustration: David Wilcox Retouching: Ralph Wernli Design: Paula Scher, “Art Is…” poster for SVA, Keith Daigle, Tina Chang Festival campaigns, John Ricisiak, Wolfe by Paul Davis for Terry Koppel, Rosemary Those Lips, Those Eyes 1996 1994-2001 Elizabeth Felicella The New Yorker, 1996Eric Gale, Leonard Bernstein, Intrieri, Anne Petter, for Carol Publishing / Design: Paula Scher Tategumi Yokogumi Design: Paula Scher, Ron Reprinted with the per-Multiplication, 1977 Poulenc, Stravinsky, Richard Mantel, Birch Lane Press, 1992 magazine cover, 1999 Louie, Lisa Mazur, Jane 770 Broadway for mission of Paul DavisYardbirds Favorites, 1977 1976 Jackie Murphy Art Direction: Steve Brower “Great Ideas Never Art Direction: Ikko Tanaka Mella, Anke Stohlmann, Vornado Realty Trust, 2000Ralph Macdonald Design: Paula Scher Design: Paula Scher, Happen…” poster for Design: Paula Scher Tina Chang, Sean Carmody Design: Paula Scher, Spread from Us, 1998Universal Rhythm, 1979 Fabrication: Nick Manhattan Records David Matt, Ron Louie SVA, 1992 Rion Byrd, Dok Chon, Photo: Davis Factor/Googie & Tom Coppola, Fasciano identity, 1984 Photos from the Lou Art Direction: Useless Information for The Public Theater Bob Stern Corbis OutlineShine the Light of Love, Design: Paula Scher, Valentino Collection Silas Rhodes Champion International, posters, 1994-2001 Architecture: Hardy Article by Tom ONeill, Us1980 50 Years of Jazz Guitar, Rosemary Intrieri, Jackie Design: Paula Scher 1992 Design: Paula Scher, Ron Holzman Pfeiffer Magazine, March 1998Design: Paula Scher 1976 Murphy, Anne Petter, A Room of One’s Own Copy: Dee Ito Design: Paula Scher, Louie, Lisa Mazur, Anke ©Us Weekly LLC, 1998.Illustration: David Wilcox Design: Paula Scher Drew Hodges for Heritage Press, 1993 Ron Louie Stohlmann, Keith Daigle, 3Com packaging guide- All rights reserved. Fabrication: Nick Illustration (label ideas): Design: Paula Scher, “Silent Night” poster for Copy: Tony Hendra, Christoph Niemann lines, 2001 Reprinted by permission.Sidewalks of New York, Fasciano Jon Matulka, Louis Ron Louie Ambassador Arts / Paula Scher Photography: Paula Design: Paula Scher,1976 Lozowick, Guy Billout, Photography: Duane Serigraphia, 1988 Research: Court, Teresa Lizotte, Tina Chang Page from New YorkHeatwave, Too Hot to Urgent, Thinking Out Hugh Kepets, Jim Michals “The Big A” poster for Melissa Hoffman Peter Harrison, Carol magazine, 1997Handle, 1977 Loud, EMI-Manhattan McMullan (not shown) Ambassador Arts, 1991 Series Art Direction: Rosegg, Lois Greenfield New 42nd Street Reprinted with permissionDesign: Paula Scher Records, 1987 Grimm for Heritage Design: Paula Scher Paula Scher, Bill Drenttel Studios/The DukeIllustration: Robert Design: Paula Scher The Films of Jack Press, 1997 Food photos by Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring Theater, 2000 Ad for Chicago from theGrossman Photography: Nicholson cover for Carol Design: Paula Scher, Alphabet poster series Buddy Endress in ‘Da Funk Broadway Design: Paula Scher, Dok New York Times, 1996 John Paul Endress Publishing / Citadel Press, Lisa Mazur for Ambassador Arts / Photos in “The Two-Party campaigns,1996-1998 Chon, Rion Byrd, Bob Reprinted with the per-Lake, Lake, 1977 1990 Illustration: Seymour Champion International, System” spread courtesy Design: Paula Scher, Lisa Stern, Tina Chang mission of Drew HodgesLake, Lake 2, 1978 Dance the Night Away, Art Direction: Steve Brower Chwast 1994-95 Wide World Photos Mazur, Anke Stohlmann, Fabrication: Lettera SignLake, Paradise Island, 1980 Design: Paula Scher Art Direction: Paula Keith Daigle & Electric Co., VGS, Dale Ad for Mind Games, 19981979 Blast, 1979 Suffragettes to Scher, Woody Pirtle Your Name Here for Photography: Richard Travis Associates Reprinted with the per-Lake, Ouch!, 1980 Design: Paula Scher The Album Cover Album She-Devils for Phaidon Design: Michael Bierut, Mohawk Paper Mills, Avedon, Eduardo Patino, Architecture: mission of Marc SalemDesign: Paula Scher Illustration: John O’Leary cover for Simon & Press, 1997 Seymour Chwast, Paul 1998 Lois Greenfield Platt Byard DovellIllustration: James Schuster / Prentice Hall, Design: Paula Scher, Lisa Davis, Shigeo Fukuda, Design: Paula Scher, PROJECTMcMullan John Prine, Common 1987 Mazur, Esther Bridavsky, Tom Geismar, Woody Anke Stohlmann, Noise/Funk NJPAC Lucent PHOTOGRAPHY Sense, Atlantic Records, Art Direction: J.C. Suarez Anke Stohlmann Pirtle, Peter Saville, Paula Keith Daigle souvenir program, 1996 Technologies Center forBoston, Boston, 1976 1975 Design: Paula Scher Scher, Rosmarie Tissi, Copy: Paula Scher Design: Paula Scher, Arts Education, 2001 Kurt Koepfle, pp. 175, 191Design: Paula Scher Design: Paula Scher Öola packaging and Yarom Vardimon Lisa Mazur Design: Paula Scher, Tracey Kroll/Esto, p. 91Illustration: Roger Illustrator: Zen to Go cover for New identity, 1986-88 “Design Renaissance” Photography: Richard Rion Byrd, Dok Chon, Peter Mauss/Esto, pp.Huyssen Charles B. Slackman American Library / Plume, Design: Paula Scher, AIGA/NY poster, 1999 poster for ICOGRADA, Avedon, Michal Daniel Keith Daigle 237-239, 241-245, 249,Logo: Gerard Huerta 1989 Deborah Bishop, Ron Louie Design: Paula Scher, 1993 Fabrication: Signcraft, 251-254 Eugene Ormandy and Uncommon Wisdom Tina Chang “Dare Dear, Read” On the Town campaign, Inc., ICS Builders, Inc. Peter Margonelli, p. 173Johnny & Edgar Winter, the Philadelphia cover for Simon & Swatch Watch “Family” poster for AIGA Denver, 1998 Architecture: Kaplan Alfredo Parraga, pp. 58,Together, 1976 Orchestra, Prokofiev: Schuster, 1988 ads, 1984 “Type Is Image” poster 1997 Design: Paula Scher, Gaunt DeSantis Architects 66-70, 74-75, 77-89, 92,Muddy Waters, Hard Peter and the Wolf, 1977 Real Estate cover for Design: Paula Scher, for DDD Gallery, 1999 “Tomato / D’Amato” Keith Daigle 101, 104-105, 108-109,Again, 1977 Design: Paula Scher Simon & Schuster / Drew Hodges Design: Paula Scher, poster for Pentagram, 1998 Photography: ADDITIONAL CREDITS 128-129, 140-144, 146-Design: Paula Scher Illustration: Stan Mack Poseidon Press, 1988 Photography: Gary Heery Keith Daigle Graphic Design USA: 11 Lois Greenfield 149, 171, 194-197Photography: Richard Thank God for the Atom cover for AIGA, 1990 Boston LP cover paint- Matt Petosa, pp. 198-199Avedon Al Dimeola, John Bomb cover for Simon & Swatch Swiss campaign, Cigarette poster for AIGA “Language Is a Deadly The Wild Party ings by Stephen Keene James Shanks, pp. 198, McLaughlin, Paco Schuster / Summit Books, 1984 Raleigh, 1994 Weapon” illustration for campaign, 2000 Reprinted with the per- 200-201, 211, 215Muddy Waters, I’m DeLucia, Friday Night in 1988 Design: Paula Scher, Design: Paula Scher, MTV Networks, 1993 Design: Paula Scher, mission of the artist Reven T.C. Wurman, pp.Ready, 1978 San Francisco, 1981 Beijing Jeep cover for Drew Hodges Ron Louie Self-portrait, 1992 Tina Chang 169, 172Design: Paula Scher Design: Paula Scher Simon & Schuster, 1989 Photographer: “February” illustration for Illustration: Less Than Zero by BrettIllustration: Philip Hays Hand Lettering: Seth Art Direction: Frank Metz Beautiful Faces, John Paul Endress Cooper-Hewitt, National Miguel Covarrubias Easton Ellis © 1985 Shaw Design: Paula Scher Beautiful Faces II, and Design Museum / Simon & SchusterBob James and Earl Dingbats for Champion “Blah Blah Blah” poster, Universe, 1997 Citi identity, 1998-2001 Reprinted with permissionKlugh, One on One, 1979 Charles Mingus, Changes 21 Collected Stories International, 1986-89 based on an illustration South America Design: Paula Scher,Design: Paula Scher One and Changes Two, cover for Houghton Design: Paula Scher, Ron for Worth magazine, 1997 word-map, 1993 Michael Bierut, Tina The Art of New York ©Photography: Arnold Atlantic Records, 1974 Mifflin, 1990 Louie, Cheri Dorr, Design: Paula Scher, World word-map, 1998 Chang, Keith Daigle, 1983 Harry N. Abrams, Inc.Rosenberg Jean-Pierre Rampal, Growing Up in Moscow Deborah Bishop, Keith Daigle USA word-map, 1999 Anke Stohlmann, Reprinted with the per- Japanese Melodies, 1978 cover for Houghton Mifflin Rosemary Intrieri, Jackie Manhattan word-map, Brett Traylor mission of Steven HellerMongo Santamaria, The Yardbirds, Great / Ticknor & Fields, 1989 Murphy, LuAnn Graffeo, Toulouse-Lautrec poster 2002Red Hot, 1979 Hits, 1977 Art Direction: Michaela Mary Bess Heim, for Le nouveau Salon des “Head” illustration for the Ballet Tech identity and Word and Image:Bob James, H, 1980 Best of Phoebe Snow, Sullivan David Matt Cent / Scheufelen, 2001 New York Times Op-Ed posters, 1997-2002 Posters from theBob James, Touchdown, 1981 Design: Paula Scher Design: Paula Scher, page, 1998 Design: Paula Scher, Lisa Collection of the1978 Busch Serkin Busch, Print, parody issue, 1985 Sean Carmody “Defective Equipment: Mazur, Anke Stohlmann, Museum of Modern ArtWilbert Longmire, Schubert: Trio No. 2 in Goodbye, Columbus Co-editors: Paula Scher The Palm Beach County Keith Daigle © 1968 The Museum ofSunny Side Up, 1978 E-Flat Major, 1978 cover for Houghton and Steven Heller “Coexistence” poster for Ballot” illustration for the Photography: Modern Art Reprinted withWilbert Longmire, Gary Graffman, Bartók, Mifflin, 1989 Design: Paula Scher, the Museum on the Seam, New York Times Op-Ed Lois Greenfield the permission of MOMA
    • My editor Mark John Rushworth Ron Louie Lynn Breslin John Fontana Stephen Hinton Phil Meggs Steven Reed Michael VanderbylLamster, who Peter Saville David Matt Esther Bridavsky Marty Fox Brad Holland Linda Mele-Flynn Susan Reinhold Yarom Vardimonencouraged me to Neil Shakery Lisa Mazur Steven Brower Bill Freston Jim Houghton Pierre Mendell David Rhodes Carol Wahlerwrite this book DJ Stout Jane Mella Bob Brown Judith Marilyn Hoyt Alicia Messina Silas Rhodes Katie Wattsand gave me Lisa Strausfeld Jennifer Muller David Brown Friedlaender Gerard Huerta Frank Metz Nancy Rice Alan Weinbergpivotal advice Daniel Weil Jackie Murphy Saul Brown Alan Friedman Roger Huyssen Jackie Meyer Margaret Tom Weirthat made it better. Lowell Williams Christoph Peter Buchanan- Benno Friedman Warren Infield Duane Michals Richardson Phillippe Niemann Smith Howard Fritzen Karrie Jacobs Melissa Milgram Rebecca Weissbecker Tim Nuhn Cora Cahan Janet Froelich Robertson Laura WenkeMy graphic design Partners (in work) Bob James Victoria Milne Dottie O’Conner Linda Cahill Shigeo Fukuda David Rockwell Ralph Wernliteam at Pentagram, Stewart Jones Giselle Minoli All of the work Avni Patel Tracey Cameron Ellen Futter Susan Rodriguez Peter Wertimerwho designed this Tibor Kalman Patrick Mitchell produced in this Ann Petter Deborah Carr Tom Geismar Arnold Rosenberg Bride Whelanbook a million Emil Kang Susan Mitchell book exists as Tracey Primavera Jim Charney Steff Geissbuhler Jack Rosenthal David Wilcoxtimes, principally Michael Kaplan Ivette Montes collaboration with Allen Richardson Rick Chertoff Milton Glaser de Oca Carl Ross Richard WildeTina Chang and Rich KaplanThanks For many talented Tony (Bodoni) Ed Chiquitueto Lester Glasner Kristine Moore Walter Rossi Tracy WilliamsSean Carmody on Karen Karp young designers, Sellari Maggie Christ Adam Glick Celia Moreira Richard Roth Dick Wingatethe cover and Wendy Katcher who began their Anke Stohlmann Gerald Clerc Nathan Gluck Vickie Morgan Steve Roth Richard Winklerspreads, Keith Karen Katz careers working Jany Tran Jeanne Collins David Glue Jennifer Morla Randal Rothenberg George C. WolfeDaigle on the Andrea Klein with me. Michele Willems Greg Colucci Carin Goldberg Adam Moss Ruth & Marvin Amy Wolfsoncharts, Steffi Jauss, Chip Kidd Sackner They are: Elsie Woolcock Henrietta Condak Larry Goldman Christopher Mount Wang Xuwho coordinated Tom Kluepfel Stefan Sagmeister Richard Baker Barbara Cooke Stan Goodman Dixon Muller Susan Yelovichand typed it, and Frank Lalli Paul Sahre Daphna Bavli Partners Joanne Cossa Morris Greenberg Terry Nemeth Artie YourainianKurt Koepfle and Tony Lane Scott Santoro Gina Bello (in collaboration Jean Coyne Nancy Greenberg Barbara Nessim Stanislas ZagorskiJim Brown, who Criswell Lappin Todd Schliemann Weston Bingham or commiseration Patrick Coyne Ric Grefé Marty Neumeier Lloyd Ziffprovided the Julie Lasky Jim Schmidt Deborah Bishop or competition) Richard Coyne Gene Greif Joseph Nevin Michael Zweck-archive research. Maud Lavin Donald Schmitt Rion Byrd John Alcorn Bart Crosby Bob Grossman Jared Nickerson Bronner Lou Lenzi Olga SchubartThe Good Work Sean Carmody Richard Alcott Michelle Cuomo Barbara Gunn Bobbie Oakley Daniel ZylberbergMy partners Martin Leventhal Marc Schulman Tina Chang Hugh Aldersey- Cristina Cursino Ellen Guskind Emily ObermanTerry Koppel Williams Herb Levitt Joe Scorsone Dok Chon Myrna Davis Bob Guisti John O’Leary Julian Allen Harris Lewine Sandra Seim Billy Cole Paul Davis Haber Dennis Ortiz Lopez(at Pentagram) Margarida Amaro Robert Lewis Jackie Seow Tim (Kiwi) Bob Defrin Typographers Alfredo ParragaLorenzo Apicella Convery Chuck Anderson Nina Link Evan Shapiro Tom DeKay Brian Hagawara Greg Parsons And my partnerJim Biber Darren Crawforth Jim Anderson Margo Lion Seth Shaw Josephine Peter Hall Elena Pavlov in lifeMichael Bierut Diane Cuddy Philippe Apeloig Bob Logan Laura Shore Didanato Gary Haney Chee Pearlman Seymour ChwastBob Brunner Keith Daigle Bobby Arbesfeld Gregory Long Eric Siegel Nancy Donald Hugh Hardy Dick PeccorellaTheo Crosby Cheri Dorr Dana Arnett Frank Lopez Bonnie Siegler Tyler Donaldson Vikki Hardy Marty PedersenAlan Fletcher Paula Eastwood Elizabeth Arnold Elaine Louie Tom Smith Bob Downs Sarah Haun Marty PekarColin Forbes April Garston Chris Austopchuk Bruce Lundvall Florie Sommers Stephen Doyle Wiley Hausam Janet PerrMichael Gericke Tanja Gaul Susan Avarde Ellen Lupton Lanny Sommese Bill Drenttel Horace Neal PetersKenneth Grange Kim Gernsbacher- Richard Avedon Havemeyer Liz Lyons Ed Sorel Heinz Edelmann Jim PetersenApril Greiman Swiler Irene Bareis Phil Hays Nicholas Susan Soros Sara Eisenman Maccarone Diane PilgramFernando LuAnn Graffeo Ola Bartholdson Duncan Hazard David StarrGutiérrez Stuart Elliott Anne Macdonald Steven Pipes Mary Bess Heim Stephen Bear Gary Heery Steven StarrPeter Harrison John Paul Endress Stan Mack Charles Platt Laurie Henzel Dan Beck Patricia Heiman David SterlingDavid Hillman Andy Engel Peter Mauss Nicholas Platt Laurie Hinzman Laurie Beckelman Cheryl Heller Bob SternKit Hinrichs John Evangelista Kathy McCoy Myron Polenberg Drew Hodges Bill Bennet Steve Heller Abbie SussmanAngus Hyland Nick Fasciano Tony McDowell James Polshek Barbara Ted Bernstein Seamus Henchy Fred SwansonMervyn Kurlansky Hofrenning Eliot Feld John McElwee Lisa Post Merrill C. Berman Anne Ferril Tony Hendra Susan SzenasyJohn McConnell Rosemary Intrieri Kevin McLaughlin Beth Povie James Bernard Louise Fili Dick Hess Ikko TanakaJ. Abbott Miller John Jay James McMullan Don Povie Rob Biro Susan Fine Mark Hess Virginia TeamJustus Oehler Abbey Kuster Allen McNeary Rick Poynor Ayse Birsel Victor Fiorello Caroline Rosmarie TissiWoody Pirtle Annika Larsen Hightower Gloria McPike Byron Preiss Nicholas Blechman Neil Flewellen Ed TyburskiDavid Pocknell Carmen Lazul John Hildenbiddle Liz McQuiston Dan Reardon Stephen Bradshaw Rick Valicenti
    • OVERA designer I respect warned me that the danger of doing a book on my own work,beyond the obvious egotism involved, is that after its publication I’d be “over.” I’vebeen “over” at least three times, rather prominently. Being over is a little embarrassingthe first time, but if one considers that the average period of being “not-over” isperhaps five years, possibly now shortening to three, being over is inevitable andsomething a designer should plan for. The great thing about being over—after onefinishes the self-flagellation part—is that one can start right up again. This book is over.