Obituaries

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 | September 28

How Biden prepares for the debate of his life: intense preparation, rehearsals, and briefing books—and “he’s a sans-serif man! Mr. Biden has long preferred the Arial typeface,” notes the New York Times, “14 point”. [JH]

“He wanted accurate science, and he wanted great design.” Pioneering science fiction designer Ron Cobb dies at 83. [JH]

Dozens of examples of lettering for jazz musicians, collected by Reagan Ray from album covers and posters. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | September 22

City Monitor is part of New Statesman Media Group’s innovative new data journalism division, which will provide essential business intelligence across topics such as energy, cities, banking, media, and technology, among others. Follow them here. [JH]

Nicolas Heller is helping save New York City, one Instagram post at a time. [BV]


Observed | September 21

Help support this monumental public messaging campaign promoting the patriotism of science, religion and voting from Class Action Collective. [BV]


Observed | September 17

The strange, uninspired history of Spotify’s bland logo. [BV]


Observed | September 16

Behold: Calamityware! (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | September 01

Got a Very Serious Book to sell about the dangers of radical right-wing overreach? In book publishing, this is the summer of the Sith Lord design palette. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | August 20

Design criticism is everywhere. Why are we still looking for it? A must-read essay from Jarrett Fuller. [MB]

Goodbye mosh pits, hello “personal platforms.” A new music venue in the UK was designed for socially distant concerts. [BV]


Observed | August 18

Contactless filming: design for never leaving home. [JH]


Observed | August 17

No books were harmed in the testing of these animals. [JH]


Observed | August 14

How do activism slideshows go viral on Instagram? By co-opting popular design aesthetics from brands. (via Blake Eskin) [BV]


Observed | August 13

Can you identify the city in which each picture was taken? A visual quiz. [JH]


Observed | August 06

On the power (and ephemerality) of street art. [JH]

The UX of LEGO interface panels. (via James I. Bowie) [BV]


Observed | August 03

Antica is a new type family designed by Ale Paul & the Sudtipos team. [JH]


Observed | July 31

Branding a pandemic. (via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 28

Why do these Apple ads, from a company that takes such pride in design, feature four people who are clearly not trained designers, designing? [BV]


Observed | July 27

Communicative efficiency is not the same as communicative empathy, and one of the truly gut-punching limits of social media is how poorly it corresponds to the individual experience of human grief. A primer by Jason Fields. [JH]


Observed | July 22

Futurefeed is an online space where writers, artists, and thinkers are invited to experiment + explore ideas that are important to them over an extended period of time. [JH]


Observed | July 21

Open a new window somewhere in the world. [BV]

The X-Prize Mask Challenge is looking for a face mask that is attractive, innovative, and achieves the filtration efficacy on par with a surgical mask. PS: You also have to be under 25 years old to enter. (Via Kim Baer.) [JH]


Observed | July 16

How Mexico City crowdsourced a map of its riotous informal bus system. [BV]

The atlas of surveillance. (Yes, you read that right.) [JH]


Observed | July 15

Social Matter, Social Design challenges the way we look at, think of, and interact with the social world by emphasizing the role of materiality. [JH]

When governors are graphic designers: a continuing story. [JH]


Observed | July 14

Design For America, the World Design Organization, and IBM team up to launch the COVID Design Challenge. [JH]

A national reckoning: why It is falling to individuals to become their own interim museums and archives. [JH]



Jobs | September 28