Jessica Helfand
Jessica Helfand
The Pipeline

A Personal History as Told Through a Straight Line

Steven Heller
The D Word: Pick a Card
Rick Poynor
Illustrations by Bohumil Štěpán for Crazy Fairy Tales

Another look at Bohumil Štěpán’s whimsical absurdism

The Editors
Erik Spiekermann: Left with no alternative

In today’s extract from the new biography of Erik Spiekermann: Berlin to London

Jessica Helfand
Howard Paine: 1929–2014

Remembering Howard Paine, National Geographic art director and stamp designer extraordinaire

Rick Poynor
Posters by Hans Hillmann for Jean-Luc Godard’s Films

The work of a master of cinematic graphic design

Steven Heller
A Memory of Mickey

Steven Heller remembers Mildred Friedman, who passed away late Wednesday.

Elizabeth Guffey
Deborah Sussman: Los Angeles Design Pioneer
The Editors
Everything We’ve Written About Paul Rand*
Steven Heller
User-Friendly Paul Rand
Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo
The Rand House: A House to Work and Live In

While not a large house, it felt just right, as if it had been made to measure for every interaction and every function.

Michael Bierut
Thoughts on “Thoughts on Design”

On Paul Rand’s 96-page masterpiece, “Thoughts on Design.”

The Editors
Paul Rand : Observer Emeritus

Celebrating the centennial of a one of our most beloved American design icons.

Jan Almquist
Perceiving Deeply

On Teaching to See, A film by Andrei Severny; produced by Edward Tufte.

Justin Zhuang
East and West: Graphic Design in Singapore Today

British advertising agencies brought modern graphic design into Singapore after WWII. Now there's a thriving community of independent studios.

Jennifer Kabat
Exhibition as Inquiry: An Interview with Kieran Long
Rob Walker
Danger, Nostalgia, and Playgrounds
Debbie Millman
Steven Heller
Celebrate Design

In case you haven't heard, AIGA celebrates its Centennial this year.

Alexandra Lange
Lucia Eames, 1930-2014

An appreciation of Lucia Eames (1930-2014).

Brigette Brown
Brigette Brown on Umbrellas

On this episode of Insights Per Minute Brigette Brown wonders why, despite its wonderful history, we only consider the umbrella utilitarian.

Shape: A Film About Design

Shape is a short film that is part of MakeShapeChange , a project aimed at young people to get them thinking about how the world is made around them and where design fits in.

Bryn Smith
De Vinne at the Grolier Club in New York
Inge Druckrey + Sister Corita Kent on Film
The Hilda Stories

In a new video series from Herman Miller, Hilda Longinotti, George Nelson’s longtime aide-de-camp, recounts some of the greatest anecdotes from her 21-year run at the legendary New York City design atelier.

John Foster
The World of Tomorrow in 1939

Seventy-five years ago this April, the 1939 New York World’s Fair, “Building the World of Tomorrow”, opened to the public in Flushing Meadows, NY.

Designed by: Lella Vignelli

To celebrate 50 years of their partnership, Massimo Vignelli published a book of the work of his partner and wife, Lella.

Susan S. Szenasy with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design

Thursday, March 20th Susan S. Szenasy will talk with Debbie Millman at The Museum of Arts and Design about her distinguished career as a design critic, journalist and educator.

Employee ID Badges

A deeper look into WWII era employee ID badges.

Alexandra Lange
Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
History of Visual Communication

If photography hasn't always been a communication medium, what is it? A timeline of the evolution of images as a medium of dialogue.

Design Issues Covers

MIT Press has posted a gallery of Design Issues covers from 1984-present on Pinterest.

Alexandra Lange
Premature Demolition

The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.

Craft, Art + Design Oral History Project

The Bard Graduate Center Craft, Art & Design Oral History Project is admirably ambitious.

John Foster
Nineteenth Century Menu Covers
Alexandra Lange
Criticism = Love

Why you have to love design to be a critic.

Tarpley Hitt
Speaking Typography: Letter as Image as Sound
Alexandra Lange
Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
Owen Edwards
For Better or Worse, This Design Endures

Owen Edwards on the enduring qualities of the AK-47.

Alexandra Lange
Year of the Women
Alexandra Lange
L.A. Loves Deborah Sussman

A Kickstarter for an upcming exhibition on the wotk of Deborah Sussman in Los Angeles.

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.

Alexandra Lange
MoMA’s Modern Women
Teddy Blanks, and Andrew Sloat
Design Observer: Ten Years
Design Is One

Opening Friday at the IFC center: Design is One — Lella and Massimo Vignelli.

Alexandra Lange
Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer, Freelancer

One of the incidental pleasures of Judith Major’s new book on pioneering architecture critic Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer is the glimpse it gives into the life of a cultural journalist at the turn of the past century.

Alexandra Lange
Learning New Tricks
Rick Poynor
Bohumil Stepan’s Gallery of Erotic Humor

Mapp Editions has released a digital version of Bohumil Stepan’s Galerie (1968), a surreal collection of collages and drawings about the relationship between the sexes.

Alexandra Lange
A World of Paste and Paper
Rick Poynor
Soft Machine’s Dysfunctional Mechanism
Alexandra Lange
Nevermind the Masterpiece
Jan van Toorn

A video profile of Jan van Toorn, from the series "Dutch Profiles: Design, Fashion, Architecture".

Alexandra Lange
How To Unforget

The straightforward logic of “A Handbook of California Design” makes it the first step in unforgetting two generations of makers.

Alexandra Lange
An ABC of the ABCs
John Foster
An Archive of Czech Film Posters
Michael Bierut
50 Books/50 Covers 2012 Winners Announced

Continuing a tradition that dates back to 1922, we are pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show.

Alexandra Lange
Every Little Thing
Alexandra Lange
Praise the Partner(s)
John Foster
A Philatelist’s Dream

Preliminary sketches, production notes and overlays that tell the backstory of more than a century of Dutch postage stamps.

Alexandra Lange
The Fork and the World: Design 101
John Foster
Chinese Propaganda Posters

Accidental Mysteries for May 26, 2013 focuses on vintage Chinese propaganda posters.

Alexandra Lange
Dream Weaver
Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America

Michigan was an epicenter of modern design in postwar America, this summer the story will be told through a symposium at the Cranbrook Educational Community and an exhibition at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Rick Poynor
The Conceptual Posters of Boris Bucan

Boris Bućan’s little known early posters, produced in Zagreb, were reductive, sharply defined, cerebral and enigmatic.

Alexandra Lange
Anxiety, Culture and Commerce

Is the museum store a distraction or an enticement?

Circus Poster Archive
05.14.13, is "the ultimate image bank" of circus posters, photos and prints — with nearly eight thousand circus posters from 1880 to the present, from the Netherlands to America.

John Foster
Enjoying TypeToy
Rick Poynor
On the Trail of The Eater of Darkness
Alexandra Lange
Beyond Gorgeous

Is prettiness a distraction? Yes, when it comes to taking Alexander Girard seriously.

John Foster
The Deep Roots of Modernism
Alexandra Lange
Portlandia + Timelessness
Rick Poynor
Utopian Image: Politics and Posters
Alexandra Lange
After the Museum: The Tumblr

To create, a multi-museum, multi-curator Tumblr @MADMuseum, I saw it as a kind of curatorial game: Show Me What You’ve Got.

Mark Lamster
Inventing the Modern Library

A new exhibition of Henri Labrouste, the French architect who invented the modern library.

London Transport Museum Poster Colletion

A wonderful way to spend an hour (or more). The poster collection from the London Transport Museum.

Rick Poynor
A Dictionary of Surrealism and the Graphic Image
Rick Poynor
Socialism and Modernity: A Hidden History

A new book documents the unfamiliar history of socialism and modernity in graphic design from former Yugoslavia.

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.

Alexandra Lange
George Nelson in Two Dimensions

Ignore the Coconuts and Marshmallows, admire George Nelson's modular graphics.

Alexandra Lange
Bad Taste True Confessions: Erté

True confessions about my own bad taste. I loved Erté. Did you?

Happy Holidays from Robert Frost

A brief history of the collaboration between Robert Frost and Joseph Blumenthal as well as many top woodcut and engraving artists of the day.

Alexandra Lange
Reintroducing the Tilletts

If you are interested in textile design, mid-century style, or creative partnerships, I would urge you to go visit “The World of D.D. and Leslie Tillett” at the Museum of the City of New York.

Mark Lamster
The Other Ezra Stoller

No achitect is unfamiliar with Ezra Stoller, the pioneering photographer whose clinical eye defined modernism and shaped our vision of the built world for much of the twentieth century.

Leonard Koren
Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing

An except from Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing by Leonard Koren.

Alexandra Lange
“I Have Seen the Future”: Designer as Showman
Alexandra Lange
Dot Supreme

On the enduring power of the simplest shape, from corporations to children’s books.

Louise Sandhaus
Merle Armitage: Daddy of a Sunbaked Modernism

Louise Sandhaus's profile of book designer Merle Armitage.

Alexandra Lange
Shopping With Sandro, and Other Tumblr Delights
Alexandra Lange
Having Fun at the Museum
Alexandra Lange
Let’s Talk About Women in Architecture
Alexandra Lange
Art Matters to Architecture

In Indianapolis, a restored Milton Glaser mural allows us to see its Brutalist home as its architect intended: with color!

Rick Poynor
Sending Signals about Political Graphics
Rick Poynor
Pierre Faucheux and Le Livre de Poche

A masterclass in book cover design: Pierre Faucheux’s work for the French paperback publisher Livre de poche.

The Editors
50 Books/50 Covers Competition: Enter Today

Since 1924, the 50 Books/50 Covers book design competition has been a yearly mainstay of the AIGA. We are pleased to announce that this important design competition is now being hosted by Design Observer. Enter today.

Rick Poynor
Updating the Maps of Graphic Design History

Graphic Design: History in the Writing is a heartening sign that graphic design history is attracting a new generation.

Alexandra Lange
The Charismatic Megafauna of Design
Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: A History of the Machine
Michael Bierut
I Love the 80s

Miami Vice: the quintessential postmodern design artifact, in all its glory and all its disgrace.

Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: The World in a Calendar
Alexandra Lange
The Mother of Us All

Reyner Banham on Esther McCoy: "She speaks as she finds, with sympathy and honesty, and relevantly to the matter at hand." Could there be a better definition of the role of the critic?

The Editors, and OBlog
Unusual Suspects: A New Series

Edited by Andrew Blauvelt and William Drenttel, Design Observer is beginning new design history series titled Unusual Suspects.

The Visual Language of Herbert Matter

Known as a quintessential designer's designer, Swiss born Herbert Matter is largely credited with expanding the use of photography as a design tool and bringing the semantics of fine art into the realm of applied arts.

Alexandra Lange
Carlo Scarpa, Quilter
Rick Poynor
The Enduring Influence of Richard Hollis
Alexandra Lange
Frank Lloyd Wright + Katniss Everdeen

On photographing architecture as sculpture and telling stories via architecture.

Jessica Helfand
Ezra Winter Project: Chapter Three

In his first post-Academy professional pursuit, Ezra Winter is hired to design camouflage for the United States Shipping Board, using a reductive visual vocabulary of bold stripes and patches of solid color that is far closer to the language of Klee and Kandinsky than of the Renaissance masters he loves.

Alexandra Lange
‘Deco Japan’ + Designing Women
Rick Poynor
Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible
Alexandra Lange
Round Thermostats and Crystal Lanterns, Revisited
Alexandra Lange
A Memorial to (Random Access) Memory

What does "RAMAC Park" mean to you?

James Biber
Vestige(s) of Empire

Comparing the repurposing of two monuments to lost Empire: London's Commonwealth Institute and Berlin's Palast der Republik.

Rick Poynor
On My Shelf: Jean-Luc Godard Anthologized

Lawrence Ratzkin’s cover design for an early anthology about Jean-Luc Godard is almost an anti-cover.

Alexandra Lange
Girard the Magnificent

Is it enough to be gorgeous? If so, Todd Oldham and Keira Coffee's 15-pound Alexander Girard wins Book of the Year.

Alexandra Lange
Reinventing the Thermostat

What the designer of the new Nest thermostat didn't learn from Henry Dreyfuss.

Eugenia Bell
Eliot Noyes

Eliot Noyes' under-recognized reputation deserves appreciation.

Alexandra Lange
When Modernists Get Crafty

The Museum of Arts and Design's Crafting Modernism makes a good case for bringing back macrame.

Alexandra Lange
Cooking with the Eameses
Alexandra Lange
Decorating Brutalism: The Interiors of Kevin Roche

How do you decorate a brutalist building? For architect Kevin Roche, the answer was brown, mirrors, and trees.

Owen Edwards
A Demanding Man: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was more like a great architect than a corporate CEO. Yet, there are those who ask, "Isn't the ultimate measure of a human being the way they treat other people?" In the case of Steve Jobs, this requires some reflection.

William Drenttel
National Design Award Trophy

In October 2011, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum unveiled a new trophy for the National Design Awards. Originally designed as an asterisk in silicon carbide by Winterhouse in 2000, the new glass trophy is by Corning GlassLab.

Alexandra Lange
TWA: Still Kicking
Rick Poynor
Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
Rick Poynor
Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny

Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design opens at the Kunstal in Rotterdam on September 24.

Alexandra Lange
Thinking in Tumblr
Alexandra Lange
Reading in Public
Rick Poynor
Andrzej Klimowski: Transmitting the Image
Alexandra Lange
Making Dieter Rams

Why is Braun still the best?

Rick Poynor
The House That Design Journalism Built
Alexandra Lange
Welcome to the Hall of Femmes
Rick Poynor
Speculative Fiction, Speculative Design

The cover of England Swings SF is one of those prescient imaginative leaps that vaulted so far it disappeared from the historical record.

Alexandra Lange
Let’s Go! World’s Fairs of the 1930s
Julie Lasky
Chandigarh to Create Inventory of Corbu/Jeanneret Furniture

A committee convened by the government of Chandigarh, India, is assessing the value of site-specific furniture pieces designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret a half-century ago.

Rick Poynor
Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

The Designers & Books website has published my list of 20 indispensable books about graphic design.

Rick Poynor
Paul Stiff, the Reader’s Champion
Steven Heller
Paul Rand, Painter

Paul Rand had more in common with Paul Klee than a four letter first and last name. He too, painted.

Alexandra Lange
In T: High Fiber
Ernest Beck
Hard Times for Hard Copy

Why AIGA almost scuttled its most venerable design competition: 50 Books/50 Cover.

Alexandra Lange
Making the Modern House Home

The Miller House, designed by Saarinen, Roche, Girard and Kiley, has been largely out of sight to the design world since its publication in House & Garden in 1959. Until now that is...

Rick Poynor
Starowieyski’s Graphic Universe of Excess
Phil Patton
On the Shoulders of Rebels

On the rocket-propelled grenade: one of the most successful designs on the planet.

Rick Poynor
Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
Julie Lasky
Chandigarh on the Block

Furnishings designed for Corbusier's urban masterpiece are being sold at auction. How outraged should we be?

Rick Poynor
An Unknown Master of Poster Design

Karel Teissig might just be the best poster designer you have never heard of.

Alexandra Lange
Something Old, Something Green
Steven Heller
Hitler’s Poster Handbook

Hitler’s Poster Handbook: a follow-up to “The Master Race’s Graphic Masterpiece.”

Alexandra Lange
Objects Fall From the Sky
Chappell Ellison
Ultraflo: Plumbing of the Future

Once upon a time, Ultraflo was the plumbing of the future.

Mark Lamster
Gerd Arntz: Design Icon

Gerd Arntz: A design icon who designed icons.

Alexandra Lange
How Do You Solve a Problem Like the Eameses?

Alexandra Lange reviews the book The Story of Eames Furniture, by Marilyn Neuhart with John Neuhart (Gestalten, 2010).

Rick Poynor
In Praise of the East European Film Poster
Debbie Millman
Alexandra Lange + Jane Thompson

Alexandra Lange and Jane Thompson discuss the power of imagination, Marimekko, Sir Lady Jane and Benjamin Thompson.

Steven Heller, and Elaine Lustig Cohen
Designer as Author

In 1954, Alvin Lustig gave a lecture titled “What Is a Designer?” at the Advertising Typographers Association of America. It was his first speech after he lost his eyesight.

Alexandra Lange
Little Boxes
Alexandra Lange
Networks Before the Internet

A new exhibit at the Noguchi Museum shows how small and intertwined were the worlds of mid-century art, design and architecture.

Rick Poynor
Design Writing from Down Under
Alexandra Lange
This is A Thrill...

Design Research reviewed in the New York Times.

Alexandra Lange

I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition
Appetite, curated by Alexander Tochilovsky at the Herb Lubalin Center at Cooper Union, not least because it was bite-sized.
Alexandra Lange
The Still-Expanding Airport

In 1958, after some failed attempts by the Saarinen office to make a stop-motion film of their model for Dulles Airport, Eero Saarinen called upon his old friend Charles Eames to help him out.

Joshua Glenn
The "X" Factor

A slideshow features fifteen of Joshua Glenn's favorite Cold War-era "X" paperbacks.

Steven Heller
Heller on Heller

Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller talks about the redemptive qualities of having the same name as Vignelli's Hellerware.

Jessica Helfand
The Kindness of Strangers

Vignelli Celebration: If charity begins at home, how can we proclaim new and progressive agendas of social change without examining ourselves, our students, our profession?

Michael Bierut
Dot Zero

A look inside little-known design publication Dot Zero, the house organ of pioneering design consultancy Unimark, featuring a slide show and an interview with its designer, Massimo Vignelli.

Steven Heller
Vignelli’s Herald (or Heralding Vignelli)

Vignelli Celebration: Steven Heller remembers the Herald.

Michael Bierut
Mr. Vignelli’s Map

Vignelli Celebration: Massimo Vignelli's 1972 New York City subway map is a beautiful example of information design that was ultimately rejected by its users.

Michael Bierut
Lella Vignelli

In my ten years at Vignelli Associates, I came to understand the relationship between the two brilliant designers who ran the office. Massimo would tend to play the role of idea generator. Lella served as the critic, editing the ideas and shaping the best ones to fit the solution.

Debbie Millman
Interview with Massimo Vignelli

Vignelli Celebration: Debbie Millman interviews Massimo Vignelli.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli: The 1982 AIGA Medal

Vignelli Celebration: In 1982 Massimo and Lella received the AIGA Medal for their many contributions to the design world, here is an article which originally appeared in the 1983 issue of AIGA Graphic Design USA 4.

The Editors
Lella and Massimo Vignelli: A Celebration

Vignelli Celebration: The opening and dedication of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies, set to open September 16, 2010 at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Alexandra Lange
Make It Bigger

Anthropologie, the latest tenant of the Design Research Headquarters, simply doesn't get it.

Jessica Helfand
In the Palm of Your Hand: Dexterity Puzzles

A selection of rare dexterity puzzles from the personal collection of Jessica Helfand.

Alexandra Lange
When Shopping Was Sociable

Design Research and Apple, a comparison of the two stores that have brought design to the masses.

Alexandra Lange
NYT Opinionator: Easier Living Through Design

The easier living the Wrights described — both in the book and their lines of domestic products — was revolutionary.

Constantin Boym
Teaching in a Time of Uncertainty

Meditation on the doubt creeping into today's design practice.

Alexandra Lange
Make Me A Mini Monograph

The thing I found most depressing was the sense I got that one could only write a book about designers that were already famous.

Alexandra Lange
Pomo Time Machine

I’m writing more about
Warren Platner, my favorite terribly wonderful or wonderfully terrible architect.
Azby Brown
Bent by the Sun

What a longtime American-born resident of Japan has learned about his adopted country's ancient practice of sustainability.

Alexandra Lange
Suburban Design

Lester Beall, was always my favorite of the cadre of mid-century corporate identity designers for the color, energy and sheer American-ness of his design.

Alexandra Lange
Hands-On: The Gropius Touch

I couldn’t believe no one else had noticed that Ati Gropius Johansen was coming to the MoMA, and it seemed like a piece of history.

Michael Bierut
Designing the Unthinkable

For more than fifty years, there have been arguments against nuclear proliferation. The Doomsday Clock translates all the arguments to a simple visual analogy.

Alexandra Lange
On DO: Skating on the Edge of Taste

The American Restaurant in Kansas City, designed by Warren Platner, is subject of a long essay on that architect and interior designer’s career.
Mark Lamster
Ralph Rapson: Forgotten Hero of Design Merch

If you're familiar with Cambridge, or just Harvard Square, you probably know Ben Thompson's wonderful Design Research building, now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Steven Heller
Harsh Words from T.M. Cleland

Design criticism may be comparatively new, but critical designers are not.

Alexandra Lange
DWR = D/R?

Like D/R in the late 1970s, DWR is suffering from over-expansion, loss of specialness, and the lack of a leader with personal design vision.

Alexandra Lange
This Is Just To Say

From the Florence Knoll Bassett papers: congratulations on their marriage from Ray and Charles.

Alexandra Lange
Love & Architecture

My somewhat racy, somewhat serious take on one of the first architecture power couples, Aline and Eero Saarinen

Alexandra Lange
Back to School

If you stand in a certain spot in the second room of the MoMA’s new exhibition Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity you can see Marcel Breuer becoming modern.

Alexandra Lange
Bauhaus + Betsy

New York Magazine covers two of my favorite topics: the Bauhaus and Betsy-Tacy books.

Alexandra Lange
D/R Love

There is much online excitement about the D/R exhibition, opening tomorrow.

Jessica Helfand
All Things Matter
Alexandra Lange
Love & Architecture
Mark Lamster
Peter Paul Rubens: Graphic Designer

In his day, Rubens was also revered as a diplomat, an architect, a classical scholar, and even a graphic designer.

Steven Heller
Ramparts: Agent of Change

Ramparts magazine has been dead for almost two decades, but to look back at it, it stands out as one to remember.

Alexandra Lange
D/R Rising

Jane Thompson, Ben Thompson’s widow and former partner, has organized an installation with a number of former D/R employees.

Alexandra Lange
Lost Research

My nostalgia for box numbers and call slips was provoked by the news in yesterday’s Times that years of files from industrial designer Gilbert Rohde’s office were found in an unpaid storage unit,

Alexandra Lange
Nothing Runs Like A...

A note about Deere & Company’s foray into the consumer market.

John Emerson
Pressed into Service

Interview with Lincoln Cushing, co-author of Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters.

Ars Libri Ltd
Hungarian Rhapsody

This collection is the record of the immensely productive life of György Kepes.

Steven Heller
A Good Trademark: A Historical Perspective

Textile Brand Names Dictionary, included were more than 4,000 names of fibers, yarns, fabrics, and garments registered with the United States Patent Office between 1934 and 1947.
Angela Riechers
Hot Ticket

To see a play or movie, or ride the Twentieth Century Limited, you needed a ticket, and the development of ticket-dispensing machines paralleled the growth of popular culture.

Steven Heller
How Much Is That Artifact in the Window?

Many of us have bought design objects for pleasure and / or scholarship. We’ve paid varying amounts — high and low. But what or who determines the value of a design artifact?

Lorraine Wild
Will Burtin: Design and Science

Will Burtin’s story is presented in Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin. Like all of the emigré “pioneers,” Burtin brought an amazing amount of talent and energy (along with plain old ambition) to his modernist approach.

Mark Lamster
Thomas Jefferson: (Henpecked) Jewish President

That Thomas Jefferson had an African-American lover is by now common knowledge. Few, however, realize he had a Jewish grandmother, a fact too often neglected by chauvinistic historians.

Gabrielle Esperdy
Less Is More Again — A Manifesto

We have amazing electronic tools at our disposal; culture has modernized at staggering, computer processed speeds. But the tools are abused and cultural change is stupefying. Things are over-designed because new tools must be exploited; here, design says “look what I can do!”

Alexandra Lange
Standard Operating Procedure

From the earliest days of the High Line hoopla, the park’s future was literally entwined with that of Andre Balazs’s first ground-up hotel, the Standard New York. The reason the Standard is so good is that it is a 21st Century mash-up of one of Marcel Breuer’s most destructive ideas and one of Morris Lapidus’s best tweaks of the U.N. model of modernism.

Virginia Smith
Two Dutch Logos

There are so many graphic designers in The Hague that it was a surprise when the city commissioned its logo from Anton Corbijn, a music video and film director.

Andrew Blauvelt
Towards Relational Design

Is there any overarching philosophy or connective thread that joins so many of today’s most interesting and increasingly diverse designs from the fields of architecture, graphic, and product design? I believe we are in the a third major phase in modern design history, moving towards an era dominated by relationally-based design activities.

Jessica Helfand
The Posters of Padua

In the sixteenth century the University of Padua initiated a custom that has prevailed to the present day — a custom which boasts, as it turns out, a very prominent design component.

Steven Heller
Charles Peignot: Man Behind the Faces

This is but one example of Charles Peignot’s influence on type and typography, which made his professional life so important to the history of design...

Thomas de Monchaux
Remembering Yves St. Laurent

So what can we learn from the presence of fashion within design, and of design within fashion? For example, and more precisely, what can we learn from the work of Yves St. Laurent, the iconic French fashion designer who passed away this Summer?

Alice Twemlow
A Look Back at Aspen, 1970

The 1970 International Design Conference at Aspen provided the setting for a collision between two very different conceptions of design. The IDCA board members who organized the conference and a number of art and environmental action groups, many of which where from Berkeley, California and had made the 1,000-odd mile journey to Colorado in chartered buses.

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
First In A Series: Cartophily

Mostly unified by their one-to-two format, cigarette cards revealed countless variation in topic and scope, style and personality, seriousness of purpose and goofball whimsy. If the ardent collector defines the amalgamation of disparate items by retaining a fundamental organizing principle, then what is it, exactly, that guides the maker? And enthralls the viewer?

Steven Heller
Vanity Fair Type: 1930 Style

Ettore Sottsass
When I Was a Very Small Boy

Ettore Sottsass: "Everything we did was entirely absorbed in the act of doing it, in wanting to do it, and everything we did stayed ultimately inside a single extraordinary sphere of life. The design was life itself, it was the day from dawn till dusk, it was the waiting during the night..."

Rick Poynor, and Adrian Shaughnessy
We Found It at the Movies: Part I

Rick Poynor: Looking back, it’s surprising how long we’d known each other before it emerged that we shared an obsession for film. 
Adrian Shaughnessy: Your obsession with film came as a surprise. Before lending you the Herzog box set I had you tagged as a visual arts man, not a cineaste.

Rick Poynor, and Adrian Shaughnessy
We Found It at the Movies: Part II

The second installment of Rick Poynor and Adrian Shaughnessy’s conversation about film. Can genre movies express a personal vision? Are films blurring into other media? And what’s the state of film culture today?

Steven Heller
Branding Youth in the Totalitarian State

Youth may be wasted on the young, but under the totalitarian state they were not forgotten. For the state to prosper, youth was turned into a sub-brand that both followed and perpetuated the dominant ideology. Graphics played a huge role in making this happen in Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union.

Denise Gonzales Crisp, and Rick Poynor
A Critical View of Graphic Design History

Now comes yet another historical survey, Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide by Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish. Denise Gonzales Crisp and Rick Poynor have been marking pages, making notes and exchanging views...

Steven Heller
O.H.W. Hadank

Paul Rand held Hadank in the highest esteem because he practiced modernist formal principles even though he did not follow its dogma or style. And most important, as Rand said “Hadank was then and always an original. A profile of O.H.W. Hadank by Steven Heller...

Michael Bierut

Charles Brannock only invented one thing in his life: that metal thing in shoe stores that the salesman uses to measure your feet. Is it the most perfect invention of the 20th century?

Jessica Helfand
National Scrapbooking Day

"Scrapbooks (like these) remind us that creating an album from saved matter does not necessarily provide an accurate self-portrait..." An essay by Jessica Helfand from her new book on the occasion of National Scrapbooking Day.

Adam Harrison Levy
The Passion of George Lois

How adman George Lois chronicled the sixties with his cover designs for Esquire magazine, with a peek behind the scenes at the legendary famous Muhammad-Ali-as-St. Sebastian photoshoot.

Steven Heller
Underground Mainstream

Today, designers for mainstream advertising companies, weaned on alternative approaches, have folded the underground into the mainstream and called it cool.

Jessica Helfand
Animal Magnetism

Magazines are the sole industry in which you cannot help but judge a book by its cover.

Steven Heller
Wilhelm Deffke: Modern Mark Maker

The modern corporate logo was born in Germany shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, the direct descendent of burgher crests, coats of arms, trade and factory marks. One of the most prolific of these mark makers is barely recognized in design histories today, except for the occasional footnote. His name is Wilhelm F. Deffke...

Jessica Helfand
Remembering Paul Rand

This essay, a rememberance of Paul Rand, is taken from Michael Kroeger's book, Paul Rand: Conversations with Students, which will be published on January 3 by Princeton Architectural Press.

Michael Bierut
How To Be Ugly

Whether reactionary spasm or irrevocable paradigm shift, the new trend is making design that looks ugly. The trick is to surround it with enough attitude so it will be properly perceived not as the product of everyday incompetence, but rather as evidence of one's attunement with the zeitgeist.

Jessica Helfand
Science and Design: The Next Wave

Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide; they split and fuse and spike and engineer; but most of all, they look. As a designer, to spend any time with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us.

Dmitri Siegel
Designers and Dilettantes

Dmitri Siegel discusses graphic design authorship and the impending release of Elliott Earls' new film, The Sarany Motel.

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."

Adrian Shaughnessy
Tony Wilson: The Postmodern Mythmaker

Tony Wilson, founder of Factory records, died August 10. Wilson had many claims to fame: he was a successful television presenter; a music industry impresario of flawed and maverick genius; and he was one of the shrewdest patrons of graphic design there has ever been.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Barnbrook Bible: A Graphic Autobiography

Jonathan Barnbrook's new book, Barnbrook Bible, ranks amongst the most ambitious personal projects undertaken by any graphic designer...

Michael Bierut
Donal McLaughlin’s Little Button

In 1945, architect-turned-graphic-designer Donal McLaughlin designed a lapel pin for a conference in 1945 that became one of the most widely seen symbols in the world: the emblem for the United Nations. Tomorrow is his 100th birthday.

Steven Heller
Leon Friend: One Teacher, Many Apostles

Leon Friend (born in Warsaw in 1902) was a career art teacher at the Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, with a special passion for what he called graphic design. This is his story and his influence.

William Drenttel
One Man's Literary Compass

It was in 1966 when I returned to San Francisco to re-establish The Greenwood Press. The first thing I did was to build these bookshelves with my young architect friends. These photographs by Dennis Letbetter, forty years later, have captured so beautifully the soul and spirit of Greenwood's library.

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
The Nazi Triangle

Somewhere in the bowels of the Third Reich's bureaucracy a designer who belonged to the graphics "culture chamber," the representative, official body that sanctioned Nazi designers, produced the basic templates for these camp materials and then turned them over to skilled inmates to produce.

Dmitri Siegel
The New New Typography

French design duo Vier5 make new typography. The author raises questions about modernism and typography.

Steven Heller
The Other Monocle

Let's look back to another, virtually forgotten but decidedly important, magazine with the very same name — one that published under the motto, "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king." Monocle.

Jessica Helfand
The Illusion of Certainty

Artist Allan McCollum aspires to an unprecedented scale with this "Shapes" project: his goal is to make enough shapes, assuming a population of approximately 9.1 billion by the year 2050, so that everyone on the planet can have one. Shapes aside, what's truly fascinating is the idea of the system: what is it about them that we hate to love and love to hate?

Debbie Millman
Elliott Earls

On this episode, Debbie interviews designer and performance artist Elliott Earls, designer-in residence at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Lorraine Wild
Sister Corita: The Juiciest Tomato

In Daniel Berrigan's words, Sister Corita is a "witch of invention." And there is no doubt that at least in those tumultuous years of the 1960s, her powers of invention seemed supernatural, if not divine... Corita's work stands for its sheer graphic invention, the riot of letterforms and color, and the immediacy of its connection to her time and place.

Jessica Helfand
The Not-So-Golden Age of Zero Tolerance

When I was a student, the assignments and their expected outcomes were intentionally conceived as chore-like, specific and frankly, narrow. This was the age of zero tolerance: deviation from a designated format was neither an approved approach nor an acceptable method. Today, the opposite is more likely to be true: a student who does not expand his or her approach to a project is strongly encouraged to do so.

Jessica Helfand
Into the Pink

Co-opting a color and making it your own.

Jessica Helfand
What Makes A Good Poster?

From Nineteenth Century broadsides to Paula Scher's posters for The Public Theatre, the history of the poster is the history of modern civilization. So why are academics so hell-bent on poster board and bad typography? Why don't they ask us for help?

William Drenttel
Silk Road Typography

"This is the Silk Road at its worst: a kind of PC 1990s where each and every interest has to be fairly represented — a letter for every voice. The result is Babel, seven discordant voices singing in the wind." Commentary on new European Union 50th anniversary logo, and a look back at the 100th anniversary logo for the New York Public Library.

William Drenttel
Winterhouse Awards for Design Writing

In partnership with AIGA, we launched the Winterhouse Writing Awards for Design and Criticism, an initiative to increase the appreciation of design — by recognizing new voices in design criticism and commentary. Here are the 2006 recipients.

Jessica Helfand
Annals of Small Town Life: The Logo Stops Here

Working with Florence Knol, Lucille McGinnis convinced her husband, Patrick B. McGinnis, that the New Haven Railroad needed a new logo. Enter Herbert Matter, Swiss-born designer, photographer and Yale professor whose own education was framed by apprenticeships with Cassandre, Leger and Le Corbusier.

Jessica Helfand
The Ovalization of The American Mind

Ovals — emancipated from circular restriction, freed of rectangular rigidity — are a perfect metaphor for the way we live now. They're out of shape and flabby, non-committal and generic — like sensible shoes, practical and monotonous and dull.

William Drenttel
Move It Down . . . A Little to the Right

That some years ago, some poor sign installer went to put the first letter of the name of the museum up on the wall, and someone screamed, "No, you idiot! Lower! Much Lower! Get it down close to the edge. And a quarter-inch to the right." That the building is the Guggenheim Museum, and that the architect was Frank Lloyd Wright, makes this photographic detail especially interesting.

Lorraine Wild
Wassup, Beatrice

I've heard endless definitions and descriptions of graphic design: I can recite them all, and on any given day I can identify with one essentialism over another: e.g., "Today, I'm a conceptualizer." I can even be swayed by the argument that, in fact, we work in a moment when graphic design is devolving as a practice identifiable by any common standards. It makes me think of a woman who I have always found completely annoying in her assuredness — Beatrice Warde.

William Drenttel
The Red Hand : A Graphic History

I keep thinking about the red hand. Where did this graphic metaphor come from? The many uses of the red-hand — it's metaphorically rich and graphic history — remind me that symbols do have meaning. Whatever I think of Congresswoman Nancy Johnson here in northwestern Connecticut, I don't think she got caught red-handed, whether in a cookie jar or pie or pool of blood. This is a bad use of an historical symbol, and trashy politics as well.

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.

Debbie Millman
Art Chantry

Art Chantry works and lives in Seattle where his ideas and personal style branded the look of popular culture, not only in the northwest and its bohemian underground, but also in the pop and alternative culture of the last few decades.  

Jessica Helfand
What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History

At the end of the day, being a design historian means being observant and fearless, stubborn and driven, principled, passionate and anything but lazy. It means going where you have to go to get what you need.

Michael Bierut
Design by Committee

"Design by committee" is usually thought to be a bad thing, but it has produced one great piece of architecture, the United Nations Headquarters Building.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea

Lorraine Wild
Good Font, Shame About The Reporting

Lorraine Wild
Think Regional, Act Annual

Flying from New York to Los Angeles last week, I spent the long hours at 35,000 feet doing something I had not done in years: I read the Print Magazine's "2005 Regional Design Annual" cover to cover. Here are some of the things I learned:

Michael Bierut
The Final Days of AT&T

The acquisition of AT&T by SBC will result in, among other things, the retirement of one of Saul Bass's most well-known logos. Does anyone care?

Rick Poynor
Where Are the Design Critics?

There is no reason why design criticism shouldn’t take an oppositional view of design's instrumental uses and its social role, but few design writers seem motivated to produce this kind of criticism.

Adrian Shaughnessy
Decoding Coldplay's X&Y

At a time when invisible data streams of binary information fed straight to our desktops are doing away with the need for album covers, it's odd to find a record sleeve as the subject of media comment and speculation. Odder still that the album cover in question — Coldplay's X&Y — should contain binary data as its central motif. Prophetic or what? The X&Y cover is agreeably eye-catching. You wouldn't call it a classic, but it has an unexpected severity that lifts it above the anodyne and cosmeticised design currently favoured by multi-platinum selling artists. It has dark echoes of Peter Saville's ephocal Factory covers.

Rick Poynor
Mevis and Van Deursen: Rueful Recollections, Recycled Design

In their self-edited monograph, Dutch graphic designers Mevis and Van Deursen turn their backs on their professed commitment to ideas and treat the book mainly as an opportunity for undemanding aesthetic play.

Lorraine Wild
A Design Annual Captures 1968

The title on the cover of the booklet is "Business as Usual" subtitled "Fourteenth Annual Type Directors Show—Typography Wherever It Exists"... On every spread of the book there are lovely pieces of typography, things most any of us would have been proud to have created, and then an image as brutal as a slap on the face. It was 1968.

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.

Michael Bierut
Designing Under the Influence

The similarity of a young designer's work to that of the artist Barbara Kruger provides the starting point for a discussion of the role of influence in design, and whether it is possible for someone to "own" a specific style.

Jessica Helfand
Our Bodies, Our Fonts

Body markings — piercings, tattoos and so forth — have recently evolved into a kind of marginalized form of graphic expression, yet one that sheds an unusual light on some of the more mainstream ways in which design often reveals itself.

Jessica Helfand
The New Paper Chase: Cyberspace on The Auction Block

On February 23,
Christies in New York will auction more than 1,000 items dating as far back as the early 17th century, all of it tracing the history of cyberspace.
Dmitri Siegel
Mysterious Disappearance of Carol Hersee

The story of Carol Hersee's portrait as Test Card F: since it first appeared in 1967 on BBC2, Carol's face has been on-air for over 70,000 hours.

Tom Vanderbilt
Pleasures and Pathos of Industrial Ruins

An account of a visit to the abandoned site of Bethlehem Steel, Pennsylvania.

Jessica Helfand
The Designibles

What's incredible about The Incredibles is the art of design capture. Because when it comes to nailing design, the "Is" have it.

Rick Poynor
Who's In and Who's Out of the Dictionary

A Dictionary of Modern Design gives exemplary treatment to industrial designers, furniture designers, and the organisations that served them. Once again, though, graphic design emerges as the also-ran of design.

Rick Poynor
Fear and Loathing at the Design Museum

James Dyson has accused the Design Museum in London of ruining its reputation with frivolous exhibitions. For many bemused onlookers, his complaints were out of touch with evolving public perceptions of design.

William Drenttel
On Making Things

William Drenttel
Does Aspen Have A Future?

William Drenttel
Penmanship: The Voice of A Future Designer

Rick Poynor
Modernising MoMA: Design on Display

MoMA is broadening its approach to graphic design. Recovering this material history will assist us in understanding our broader cultural history and help to educate a more aware generation of visual communicators.

William Drenttel
Learning from Las Vegas: The Book That (Still) Takes My Breath Away

William Drenttel
El Lissitzky for Pesach

Rick Poynor
Jan van Toorn: Arguing with Visual Means

Jan van Toorn’s designs embody an idea about citizenship. They address viewers as critical, thinking individuals who can be expected to take an informed and skeptical interest in the circumstances of their world.

William Drenttel
Defamiliarization: A Personal History

William Drenttel
Adolf Wölfli Invents Design Brut?

Mr. Gomez has taken your basic 19th-century-madman-artist and turned him into a model 20th century graphic designer.

William Drenttel
Shallow Water Dictionary

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a little out-of-print tract called the Shallow Water Dictionary: A Grounding in Estuary English by John R. Stilgoe, a professor of landscape architecture at Harvard.

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

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