Obituaries

The Editors
Remembering Hugh
It is with great sorrow that we share the news that Hugh Weber—network theorist, design advocate, and one of our industry’s most evangelical believers in the power of design and community—has died.


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



Observed


“You know, you’ve got to try to sneak in a little bit of humanity,” observes Steve Matteson, the designer behind Aptos—Microsoft's new “default” font. “I did that by adding a little swing to the R and the double stacked g." Adds Jon Friedman, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for design: “It’s both quirky and creates a more natural feel that brings in some of the serif font ‘je ne sais quoi’ to it”. Resistant to change (or simply longing for Calibri), font geeks are not having it. Fun fact? Aptos was originally called Bierstadt. You may well imagine, as we did, that this was a nod to the 19th century German-American landscape painter, Albert Bierstadt—but the actual translation is “Beer City”. 

In Dallas, the Better Block Foundation is sponsoring a design contest called Creating Connections, aimed at addressing the growing epidemic of loneliness by exploring the impact of design on how people connect with others.

Good design is invisible, but bad design is unignorable. Elliot Vredenburg, Associate Creative Director at Mother Design, bares it all.

Arab design is a story of globalism, evidenced through collaborations with the Arab diaspora living, working, and creating abroad, and with the expatriate community in the Middle East and North Africa. More on the highlights (and insights) from Doha Design 2024 here.

Organizations that embrace diversity tend to foster innovation, challenge ingrained thought patterns, and enhance financial performance. Its true benefits emerge when leaders and employees cultivate a sense of inclusion. How architecture is reckoning with the cultural and economic challenges of—and demands for—a more inclusive workforce.

Mapping climate change, and climate-vulnerable populations.

Recently, a number of new initiatives seeking to digitize enormous troves of once difficult-to-access records are giving African American families opportunities to recover more of their own histories. In the past, the difficulty stemmed from one critical oversight: enslaved African Americans were not recorded by their first and last names until after the 1870 census. Today, there are a number of institutions with digitized archives and searchable finding aids and more, among them, the International African American Museum’s Center for Family History in Charleston, South Carolina, and the United States Colored Troops Pension File Project. One scholar shares her discovery—and delight—in the process.

With a mission is to champion humanity-centered design, emphasizing the rights and well-being of all people and the shared ecosystem we call “the earth,  the Don Norman Design Award and Summit (DNDA) is now open for applications.

This Friday, March 1—to kickoff Women's History Month—Mellissa Huber, co-curator of the exhibition Women Dressing Women, will moderate a conversation at the Metropolitan Museum in New York on fashion, accessibility, sustainability, and design. Panelists include designer and educator Grace Jun, and the event will be livestreamed on the museum's YouTube channel.

Some seventy contemporary artists from the Middle East and North Africa are presenting the heritage of Arab design at the inaugural Design Doha Biennial, which began on February 24. “Recognizing that there are far too few platforms in our region for designers to present their work." observes Qatar Museums Chair Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, “the inauguration of Design Doha is a testament to the excellence and innovation of our region's design community”.

“Now and then, Mica Levi’s nearly absent score of serrated synthesizers rears up and snags your ear like a loop of razor wire, with long trails of reverb left hanging in the air like plumes of black smoke.” How sound design reaches in and grabs the senses, without letting go.

The creative minds at Swift Creatives are designing security systems that look like art. They call this sculptural surveillance.

Sara Little Turnbull was tiny but fierce (she stood a not-very-towering 4'11). The designer once described as “corporate America's secret weapon” was a leading practitioner for more than six decades, and remains an inspiration to countless women in design, technology, and (notably) in science. On her podcast, Lost Women of Science, American journalist Katie Hafner discusses the woman, the legend—and the N-95 mask.

Following President Biden's  2021 executive order to transform the customer experience, agencies have been rethinking how they can create organizational change and best practices—even at NASA—where design is leveraged in an effort to both build and sustain trust.  

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. During a biopsy, a sample of her cancerous cells were collected without her knowledge. Education around Lacks has increased recently, and a statue and historical marker were dedicated to her last year in her birthplace of Roanoke. Now, a statue design contest is underway: they'll be accepting submissions until March 15. 

Goodbye war rooms, corner offices and—yikes—physical libraries, which have allegedly “gone the way of the landline and the Dictaphone” in law offices. Post-pandemic, with remote and hybrid work on the rise, a more collaborative, equitable spatial allocation means a more flexible, and some say more productive workplace. 

Can design be a catalyst for societal progress? Asmita Kerkar thinks it can. Her design philosophy is hinged on nurturing spaces that foster empathy and facilitate community engagement, grounded in a commitment to sustainability and inclusivity. She channels her passion into creating equitable environments, bridging the gap between design and social change

I love it. What is it?

Following the light. Letting the actors move. Envisioning—and sculpting—a mood. Jack Fisk, the production designer behind There Will Be Blood, The Revenant, and Killers of the Flower Moon, among many other award-winning films, explains it all

Tyler Perry puts the planned $800 million expansion of his studio in Atlanta on hold after seeing OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora, which debuted Feb. 15. “Being told that it can do all of these things is one thing, but actually seeing the capabilities, it was mind-blowing,” he said. With AI, there’s no need to travel to locations or build specialized sets. The future impacts are concerning, he says. “[A]s I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I’m thinking this will touch every corner of our industry.”

The racism in the yield curve: Groundbreaking research from Destin Jenkins, an assistant history professor at Stanford University, reveals how the $4 trillion municipal bond market has historically excluded Black taxpayers and disproportionately benefited infrastructure projects in white communities. (Jenkins’s research focuses on the American state, racial capitalism, and the built environment; you can watch him explain his research in a recent fireside chat with bond professionals here.)

Tesla is recalling 2.19 million vehicles because of a problem with a font. If you don’t think design matters at this point, you can’t be helped.

There’s a lot of plastic hidden in our clothes. Like, a lot.

Singapore is set to require all flights departing the country to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2026.

What’s in a label? Well, the truth, mostly. Lawsuits filed against  Gorton’sALDIConagraBumble Bee Foods, Mowi, and Red Lobster are challenging Big Fish to back up the sustainability and eco-friendly labels they put on their seafood products and brands. “From what I see, there’s a good chance at least some of the companies defending themselves are engaging in false advertising, although they may not realize what they’re doing,” says Arlin Wasserman, the founder of sustainability consultancy Changing Tastes.

Nex Benedict, a transgender teen from Oklahoma, died the day after their peers assaulted them in a school bathroom. They had been bullied for ages, but the assaults began in earnest a few months after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill in 2022 that required public school students to use bathrooms that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates. This piece from the Independent provides essential context for the assault and details of Benedict’s life.

Chatbot versions of Adolph Hitler, Donald Trump, and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski are among 100 chatbot “characters” on the busy far-right social network Gab. Most of the characters are playing to type, spewing conspiracies about COVID-19, vaccines, U.S. elections, climate change, Holocaust denial, and more. It goes downhill from there.

“People came here or already lived here, young people with lots of energy and ideas and ideals who wanted to start things,” observes Syd Staiti, Executive Director of Small Press Traffic, a Bay Area poetry organization and archive. They're turning 50 this year—and they're not alone! Bravo to all the hard-working artists and arts organizations on this list—and here's to the next 50.

Self-disruption allows companies to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating and responding to changing market dynamics rather than reacting defensively; it fosters a culture of innovation, encouraging employees to think creatively and take calculated risks; and it can even open new revenue streams and markets, ensuring long-term sustainability. Sam Aquillano, the former Executive Director of the Design Museum in Boston, explains it all.

In New Jersey, the ballot is structured in a way that favors endorsed candidates. Three candidates are making a persuasive case on why this might be a critical design problem.



Jobs | March 03