Obituaries

Steven Heller
Peter Bradford, American Modern
Steven Heller remembers Peter Bradford, American Modern.


Jessica Helfand
Remembering Ralph Caplan
"If it were a religious denomination", Caplan once wrote, "design would be Unitarianism"


Lana Rigsby
Remembering Jack Summerford
Lana Rigsby shares fond memories of the legendary Texas designer Jack Summerford.


Steven Heller
Robert Massin
Steven Heller remembers Robert Massin.



Steven Heller
Dave King (RIP)
Last January I thought I had received an email from a ghost.


Michael Bierut
Remembering Gordon
Michael Bierut remembers the best teacher he ever had, Gordon Salchow.



Steven Heller
Thanks, Robert Grossman
Bob’s death was unexpected. I felt kicked in the stomach when, on Friday morning, I read an email from his companion, Elaine Louie, announcing the tragic news.


Brian LaRossa
The Shape of a Design Mentorship
Before the advent of writing, everything was taught through mentorship. How to chip a stone into an axe. How to build a shelter. How to love. How to lead. Mentorship is hardwired into our DNA.


Steven Heller
Memory of an Eclectic Modernist: Ivan Chermayeff
Remembering Ivan Chermayeff, who died this past Saturday, December 2. He was 85.


Steven Heller
Nuclear Fear
Remembering the late Robert Blakeley, designer of the fallout shelter symbol, and the nuclear fear of the 50’s.


Chris Pullman
Jack Stauffacher: Typographer, Scholar, Teacher, and Polymath
Chris Pullman remembers AIGA Medalist and revered typographer Jack Stauffacher, who passed away a few days before his 97th birthday.


Sean Adams
Remembering Clive Piercy
Without Clive the world will be a little less colorful.


Sean Adams
Margo Chase
The design profession and all of us lost a treasure last weekend when Margo Chase died.


Sean Adams
Harris Lewine
In the age of the art director Harris Lewine was without equal.


Steven Heller
Elaine Lustig Cohen, Pioneer
Steven Heller remembers Elaine Lustig Cohen, passionate historian, avid collector, and design practitioner.


DJ Stout
Remembering Mike Hicks
The embodiment of everything a great designer should be



DJ Stout
Jack Unruh
The House on Fairmont


Jessica Helfand
Remembering Ruth Sackner
An inveterate collector



Marvin Heiferman
Mary Ellen Mark, 1940–2015
Remembering the noted photojournalist



Jessica Helfand
Howard Paine: 1929–2014
Remembering Howard Paine, National Geographic art director and stamp designer extraordinaire



Steven Heller
A Memory of Mickey
Steven Heller remembers Mildred Friedman, who passed away late Wednesday.


Elizabeth Guffey
Deborah Sussman: Los Angeles Design Pioneer
Remebering her rise and influence as a woman working in the male-dominated world of postwar design.


Michael Bierut
Massimo Vignelli, 1931-2014
A personal memory of the late designer Massimo Vignelli.


Alexandra Lange
Lucia Eames, 1930-2014
An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).


Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.


Rick Poynor
The Writings of William Drenttel
Essays from the Design Observer archive show the wide scope of William Drenttel's interests and concerns.


The Editors
In Memory of William Drenttel



Rick Poynor
Martin Sharp: From Satire to Psychedelia
The late Martin Sharp was a visual innovator whose work erased artificial distinctions between applied image-making and fine art.



Chris Pullman
Remembering Alvin Eisenman
Alvin Eisenman received the AIGA Medal in October, 1991. Chris Pullman, a student in Eisenman's class of 1966 — and a member of the faculty ever since — gave these remarks at the event.


Phil Patton
Niels Diffrient: The Human Factor
Phil Patton remembers Niels Diffrient. Photographs by Dorothy Kresz.


Alexandra Lange
Kicked A Building Lately?
That question, the title of the 1976 collection of Ada Louise Huxtable’s work for the New York Times, embodies her approach to criticism.


Michael Bierut
Positively Michael Patrick Cronan
Michael Bierut remembers the late Michael Cronan.


Jessica Helfand
Bill Moggridge 1943-2012
Jessica Helfand remebers Bill Moggridge.



Observed
Hillman Curtis Celebration Benefit
A Hillman Curtis celebration benefit has been organized by his friends and colleagues.


Debbie Millman
Hillman Curtis, 1961-2012
“I met Hillman Curtis for the first time in February 2006 when I interviewed him for my radio show Design Matters.” Debbie Millman remembers her friend, Hillman Curtis.


Rick Poynor
Richard Hamilton, the Great Decipherer
The artist Richard Hamilton, who died this week, was an acute observer of design and the contemporary world.


Rick Poynor
Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion
For the late Paul Stiff, design educator, writer, editor and skeptic, typography must never neglect to serve the reader.



Gerry Shamray
Harvey and Me
A remembrance of comic artist and graphic novelist Harvey Pekar by an illustrator who worked with him throughout his career, fellow Clevelander Gerry Shamray.



Julie Lasky
Protect Me from What I Want
Photo in memory of Tobias Wong.



Owen Edwards
Irving Penn, 1917-2009
Irving Penn, who died on October 7th at the age of 92, marks the end of the great age of glamour in magazines, a remarkable period when brilliant photographers who happened to make their livings in fashion and advertising were finally recognized for the artistry of their eyes.



Michael Bierut
Spoiler Alert! Or, Happy Father's Day
Dad couldn't help it. He was a natural born spoiler.



Michael Bierut
The Four Lessons of Lou Dorfsman
For over 40 years, Lou Dorfsman designed everything at CBS from its advertising to the paper cups in its cafeteria. Getting great work done in giant institution is supposed to be hard. How did he make it look easy?



Adam Harrison Levy
The Inventor of the Cowboy Shirt
A few years ago, I found myself lost inside a shopping mall with Jack A. Weil, better known as Jack A, the man who, in 1946, invented the snap-buttoned cowboy shirt.



Gong Szeto
Lehman's Bankruptcy Statement
I'm just a designer, but it doesn't take a genius to read a bankruptcy statement. Take a look at the Lehman Brothers statement dated Sunday, September 14, 2008. Read the whole thing down to exhibit A and the list of creditors — this is an historical document.



Michael Bierut
David Foster Wallace, Branding Theorist, 1962-2008




Glen Cummings
Athos Bulcão, The Artist of Brasilia
Athos Bulcão was a public artist, interior designer, muralist, furniture and graphic designer who collaborated with Oscar Niemeyer and others to define Brasilia — one of the 20th century’s most radical and controversially received urban experiments. Bulcão died on July 31 at the age of 90, and left behind an astonishing body of work.



Jessica Helfand
Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.



Michael Bierut
Rest in Peace, Herbert Muschamp
Officially published for the first time as a posthumous tribute: a loving parody of the writing of the late, great architectural critic Herbert Muschamp.



Michael Bierut
Flat, Simple and Funny: The World of Charley Harper
A tribute to the late designer Charley Harper, "the only wildlife artist who has never been compared to Audubon and never will be."



Peter Good
Remembering Sol Lewitt (1928-2007)
I first met Sol Lewitt in 1986, when he and Carol and their young daughters moved to Chester, Connecticut, a small town on the Connecticut River where I have a graphic design studio. We met at an opening at the Chester Gallery...



Steven Heller
Silas H. Rhodes, Founder of SVA
Silas H. Rhodes, chairman of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, died last Thursday at 91. He was a progressive educator who established a uniquely collaborative learning environment that delicately balanced creative independence with academic rigor.



John Corbett
Sun Ra, Street Priest and Father of D.I.Y. Jazz
Before the 1950s, artist-owned record companies were unheard of, but Sun Ra pioneered the idea along with a couple of other musicians and composers. Sun Ra and Alton Abraham helped define the do-it-yourself ethic that came to be a central part of the American independent music industry, designing and in some cases manufacturing the covers themselves. In the process, they maintained a previously unimaginable degree of control over the look and content of their jazz releases.



Steven Heller
Martin Weber in the Third Dimension
You may not have heard of Martin J. Weber, but he was a graphic artist, typographer, art director, and most important, inventor of various photographic techniques that gave two-dimensional surfaces the illusion of being reproduced in three dimensions.



Alissa Walker
War Is Over! If You Want It
When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.



Willis Regier
In Remembrance of Richard Eckersley
Richard Eckersley died on April 16, having given the best years of his life to establishing the importance of high-quality book design for university presses. Here, a remembrance by Willis Regier, director of the University of Illinois Press.



Michael Bierut
Wilson Pickett, Design Theorist, 1942 - 2006
Wilson Pickett's advice on hitmaking, "Harmonize, then customize," would make good advice for any designer.



Paula Scher
Remembering Henryk Tomaszewski




Jessica Helfand
Greer Allen: In Memoriam
Designer, critic, pundit and historian, Greer Allen was Senior Critic in Graphic Design at Yale School of Art. He designed publications for The Houghton Library at Harvard, the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and a number of other distinguished cultural institutions around the country. Greer Allen died last week after a short illness. He was 83.



Rick Poynor
Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker
If a visual artist created more concentrated, exhilarating images of science, technology and the media realm during the mid-20th century than British artist Eduardo Paolozzi, then I would like to see them. Paolozzi, who died on 22 April aged 81, was first of all a sculptor, but the screenprints he produced in the 1960s rank as masterpieces of the medium.



Michael Bierut
The Best Artist in the World
Alton Tobey, a little-known commercial illustrator, created a body of work in the early sixties that continues to inspire.



William Drenttel
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag
In Remembrance of Susan Sontag: a designer's twenty-five years of interaction with the legandary writer.



Jessica Helfand
An Instrument of Sufficiently Lucid Cogitation
The legendary French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died on Tuesday at his home in the South of France, always carried a sketchbook with him. Today's obituary in The New York Times alleges that he described drawing as meditative, while photography was intuitive: though certainly both activities might have been informed by a relentless need to observe and in a sense, preserve the world around him.



Michael Bierut
Rob Roy Kelly’s Old, Weird America
The late educator and designer Rob Roy Kelly has had a lasting influence on the profession of graphic design, particularly through his landmark book "American Wood Type."



William Drenttel
Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography
This is bibliography as biography, and a posthumous testament to the considerable scope — and ongoing life — of one designer's mind. A Selected Bibliography of Books from the Collection of Paul Rand


The Design Observer Cooperative

Observed | January 19

“Our lives should be marked not by “comps” and metrics and filters and proofs of concept and virality but by tight circles and improvisation and adventure and lots and lots of creative waste. And not just to save ourselves, but to save each other.” [JH]


Observed | January 18

How architects write fictional architecture. [JH]

Beautiful weather rendering from Will MacNeil. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | January 14

A New European Bauhaus? [JH]


Observed | January 13

Though it was later determined to be troll-driven, design twitter went bananas this week over the new CIA rebrand. [JH]

Women either decide or strongly influence 70% of all automotive purchases yet are 73% more likely to suffer injury in a car crash, and 17% more likely to die than the average man. A design problem? [JH]


Observed | January 12

Joy, disillusion, success, failure, hiring, finances, office space—just some of the topics in All in a Day’s Work, a new animated series about being an entrepreneur from our friends at Mailchimp in collaboration with It’s Nice That. [BV]


Observed | January 11

When Pac-Man arrived in 1980, it revolutionized gaming. The original game is at the root of a rich design tradition, one that goes well beyond detailed graphics and fluid controls. [BV]

Can the story of a pandemic be told in a single headline every day? David Rainbird collected headlines about the pandemic as a way of making sense of the infodemic that was 2020. [BV]


Observed | January 05

Paul Klee’s notebooks—nearly 4,000 pages of them—are now online. [JH]


Observed | December 30

“On cream-laid paper there is no “forward” button.” New York Times book critic Dwight Garner on the lost art of paper correspondence. [JH]


Observed | December 29

Job of the week: Yale’s British Art Center is looking for a new Design Director. [JH]


Observed | December 21

Renowned Swiss Designer Armin Hoffman dies at 100. [JH]

Screw mediocrity: Scottish industrial designer Neil Ferrier weighs in on a typographic mistake that turned out to benefit his career. [JH]

“That the cover of a book — something produced with a finite shelf life — could grip us throughout such a bitter, caustic year is either a triumph of artistry or a sign that our collective alarm bells are still not ringing loudly enough.” Matt Dorfman, Art Director for the New York Times Book Review, selects his favorite covers of 2020. [JH]


Observed | December 17

How custom fonts became the ultimate corporate flex. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]

First world problem of the week, or, why graphic design matters on your wine list. Behold: vinography! [JH]

Italian architect Stefano Boeri introduces prefabricated timber and fabric pavilions as Covid-19 vaccination stations in public piazzas across Italy beginning in January. (H/T Adina Karp.) [JH]


Observed | December 14

Pantone names its colors of the year for 2021. [JH]

Apparently not all architects declare. [JH]


Observed | December 11

“Royalty Now” is an ongoing art project by graphic designer Becca Saladin that reimagines queens, kings, emperors, statesmen, nobles, (and a few famous musicians, scientists and artists) as contemporary people. Follow her on Instagram. [JH]

Forest Young, Vivianne Castillo, Kelly Walters, and Dori Tunstall—among others—on the new design rules and why they matter. [JH]


Observed | December 10

Currently streaming: What Next? A virtual symposium discussing luxury as a concept and the ethical and moral questions surrounding it. [BV]


Observed | December 07

One week left to help support St. Bride’s magnificent library—and contribute to their efforts to digitize it for the rest of us. [JH]

Typography. Esports. Discuss! [JH]

Everything you ever wanted to know about a rejected Paul Rand logo for Ford Motor Company—from 1966—but were afraid to ask. (With apologies for the term “fancy-schmancy design trends” which would make Mr. Rand spin in his grave.) [JH]


Observed | December 03

Help our friends at Class Action fund their next campaign, a series of billboards in the hotly-contested state of Georgia. [JH]

Kern in hell! Announcing: Hell Vetica (via Victoria Brown). [JH]


Observed | November 30

Help our friends at Unit Editions produce a long-overdue monograph on the work of artist and designer Ed Fella. [JH]


Observed | November 18

You may congratulate yourself for being a good listener, but often it’s the powerful who get to listen and decide what to hear. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]



Jobs | January 19