The Design Observer Twenty

Eric Baker | Today Column

Today, 05.22.10

The names are familiar, but the faces... well, not so much.

Who knew Marinetti cut such a dashing figure, that Brodovitch looked like a character out of a Woody Allen film, or that Tschichold would seem so jovial. Here is Kurt Schwitter with his Dadaist smile and van Doesberg with his steely gaze.

The early days of design certainly was a boys club, with only a few women able to gain recognition. Cipe Pineles, the utterly brilliant art director/designer, for years was denied membership into the Art Directors Club (she finally was the first woman to become a member in 1948) and Muriel Cooper, the legendary co-founder of the MIT Media Lab and The Visual Language Workshop, both helped paved the way for generations of future women designers.

Think of this as a "family album" where you can see what your eccentric and talented great aunts and uncles actually looked like. Let's see who you recognize.

Here are Today’s images.

TODAY is a weekly jewel box of seemingly random, yet thoughtfully selected, images. At times tender, wicked, nostalgic, amusing, and dazzling, each edition is presented without narration, editing or explanation by its author, designer Eric Baker. "It all began as a goof. One day I sent a good friend about 50 random pictures of cheese. I don't know why, but to me cheese is funny, perhaps it is the word itself and its various connotations. Eventually I began looking closer, or should I say broader at 'things'. Things lost on the fringes ... ordinary, odd, beautiful things. Esoteric images, old diagrams, typography, cartography — visions of a once promising but now extinct future."

Editor's Note: All images link to their original source and are copyright their original owners.

Comments [10]

These days it’s hard to believe that there was a time when graphic designers got paid enough to wear great suits.
James Puckett

Looks like people of color have not yet been permitted their token role model.
jana brubaker

Am I suppose to be inspired or mortified? An album of lesser known (i.e. more diverse) faces may have been more difficult to compile, but surely it would have been more interesting, as well as provide an introduction to new and overlooked names in design history.

you could add a few more women designers.
Alicia Lee Wade

At least this week's selection hasn't taken as long as last week's to watch! ;-)
Mark Cotter

Never mind… blah, blah, blah… didn't pick my skin color… blah, blah, blah, … didn't pick the country of my birth…, blah, blah, blah… didn't pick design as my profession… oh, wait?
Joe Moran

Just because this is a compilation of pretty much solely white men, doesn't mean it isn't diverse. These men (and woman) come from a variety of backgrounds (including country....truly people, theres over 30 countries in Europe alone that make up what we all feel is "Caucasia")

Anyway, sorry to call anyone out, I just feel this is a cool collection of amazing designers! Its great to see their expressions from candid to composed.
Ayn Roberts

Much has been written about women and design. Much more should be written. Instead of commenting on the past history, why not research, learn about, and write something about other design history perspectives?

I went to post some links here but there are so many articles and books on design and women, it's pointless to put them all up. But you can start here:

by Aaris Sherin

Historically, working in art and design have been white middle class and upper class professions. But I see more and more second and third generation design students (whose parents are doctors, lawyers, etc.) of African American, Asian, and Latino background. Now that the families are solidly middle class or higher, the subsequent generations are given leeway to study creative professions.

Victor Margolin has been looking into African American design history in Chicago:


Yes, there are great and inspiring black graphic designers in history too.
Colin Barr

The coolest place to go is
If you haven't gone there you don't know what you're missing.
Bruce Lee

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