New York Iconic Graphic Designers

In one of his tracks, NJ-style deep house legend Kerri Chandler disses about an unknown DJ: “You don’t know where you came from, and nobody has ever seen you coming.” In this assignment, I like you to copy the style of a well-known graphic designer, research it, copy it, sample some parts. And in that process re-make it to something new. Something that sends a nod of appreciation to the original, but also adds your voice into the remix.

Here is an example of a print ad I was asked to design for the real estate developer and owner SAGE. Their buildings were mostly built in the ’60s and ’70s, and they pride themselves on the sculpture art in the lobbies. I loved the Olivetti advertisement (designed by Walter Ballmer – 1964 for a typewriter company that believed that their new letters are so beautiful they should be as large as possible). I started with a shameless copy, which looked super pretty but was a little too hard to read, the second round was more comfortable to read, but the boss requested to see buildings. The next round became dull and heavy until I got the pictures and colors more pop and bright again.

Since this course is NY centric we will start the research with some iconic NY designers:

Robert Brownjohn
Started out at Pratt and then left to Chicago to study with Serge Chermayeff. He often frequented the city’s jazz clubs with Chermayeff and Buckminster Fuller and was friends with Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday and other musicians of the era. 1951 he moved back to NY, joined the nightclub scene, and hung around famous stars. He became a star designer himself, MAD(‘dison aves’)men’s advertising budgets were astronomical. He also started to be addicted to heroin, which played a significant, unpredictable role until it eventually caused his death back in London. Most famously, he designed the title sequences for several Bond movies like Goldfinger.

Paula Scher

Treat Type as a Visual Image.
Paula Scher’s work at the agency Pentagram includes huge brands like citibank, but she is mostly known for her typographic brand for the Public Theater, the MET, the Highline, and the new New School brand type is hers too. Her style is just so NY and in this interview, she mentions how much she is influenced by the city.
interview article


Milton Glaser
It took me a long to time to appreciate this powerhouse. This might be due to his mainly illustration-heavy work. Mostly posters. Nowadays I include his color palettes into almost all my moodboards and I very, very much admire his drawing style.


Herb Lubalin
As a twin son of a German mom and Russian father who immigrated to New York in their teens, Herb grew up in New York City, graduated from Cooper Union and started designing book covers. His studio designed many TV station logos and the typeface for the magazine Avantgarde and Eros. interview

• Lubalin was colorblind: His frequent ‘go-to’ color was Pantone 452, which defies accurate description.
• Lubalin was left-handed: But he really was ambidextrous, so when faced with a tight-deadline he was known to use both hands to sketch.
• Lubalin’s first studio was in a converted brownstone: The result was that it felt like home, something that  Fili has replicated with her own studio environment.
• Lubalin was not much of a talker. He was simply more comfortable in silence.

Louise Fili

Louise Fili is known for her typography that is inspired by her love for Italy, modernism, and Art Deco. She is considered a leader in the postmodern return to historical styles in book jacket design. At 25, she was hired as a senior designer for Herb Lubalin, where she remained from 1976–78. After working at Random house publishing she opened her own studio and is doing mostly restaurant identities, food logos and packaging.
Fili has authored and co-authored over twenty books, many of them with her husband, the design historian Steven Heller.

Stefan Sagmeister & Jessica Walsch
Sagmeister first started at Tibor Kalman’s office (colors). Sagmeister often blends humor, sexuality, the unorthodox, with a lot of work and process. His studio partner is Jessica Walsch. They strive on controversy and have a thing about breaking taboos like Stefan was cutting letters into himself, or they like being naked on the cover of magazines, an office webcam is their homepage, Jessica wrote a book about 40 dates. I appreciate that they think like artists, always try out new methods, do impossibly fussy tasks, like arranging all those pennies, or stacking 1000’s of bananas, even though that seems wasteful and smelly.

smashing magazine interview

Jessica Walsch “40 dates” book

Michael Bierut

Make Complex Content Accessible

After working at Vignelli, he became a partner of Pentagram. Did he design for the Hilary Clinton campaign logo, unfortunately, and the new slack logo, and a Pence/Trump logo? Must be a joke. Now I am trying to find work that I like: He wrote this nice article.

Massimo Vignelli

Convey Ideas
How Graphic Design Legend Massimo Vignelli Cracked the NYC Subway System
Massimo Vignelli called himself an “information architect,” a term that has come to mean something almost wholly data-driven in these tech-obsessed times. By contrast, Vignelli’s subway design is clean and beautiful, but not literal. It is usable, deeply imagined, and wildly interpretive. It is a piece of art that transforms time and a place—New York, in the 1970s—into an icon.

Cipe Pineles

Break Free From Limitations
How she turned fashion mags into art
Cipe Pineles (June 23, 1908 – January 3, 1991) was an Austrian-born graphic designer and art director who made her career in New York at such magazines as SeventeenCharm, Glamour, House & Garden, Vanity Fair and Vogue[1]. She was known for her trailblazing as the first female art director of many major magazines, as well as being credited as the first person to bring fine art into mainstream mass-produced media. She married two prominent designers, twice widowed, and had two children and two grandchildren.

Seymour Chwast

Combine Your Design Disciplines


Chip Kidd

Master Visual Language


Tibor Kalman

In the 1970s Kalman worked at a small New York City bookstore that eventually became Barnes & Noble. He later became the supervisor of their in-house design department. In 1979 Kalman, Carol Bokuniewicz, and Liz Trovato started the design firm M & Co., which did corporate work for such diverse clients as the Limited Corporation, the new wave group Talking Heads, and Restaurant Florent in New York City’s Meatpacking District.[6] Kalman also worked as creative director of Interview magazine in the early 1990s.

Kalman became founding editor-in-chief of the Benetton-sponsored Colors magazine in 1990. In 1993, Kalman closed M & Co. and moved to Rome, to work exclusively on the magazine.[3] Billed as ‘a magazine about the rest of the world’, Colors focused on multiculturalism and global awareness. This perspective was communicated through bold graphic design, typography, and juxtaposition of photographs and doctored images, including a series in which highly recognizable figures such as the Pope and Queen Elizabeth were depicted as racial minorities.
Kalman remained the main creative force behind Colors, until the onset of non-Hodgkins lymphoma forced him to leave in 1995, and return to New York. In 1997, Kalman re-opened M&Co and continued to work until his death in 1999 in Puerto Rico, shortly before a retrospective of his graphic design work entitled Tiborocity opened its U.S. Tour of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A book about Kalman and M&Co’s work, Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 1999.

From 1981 up until his death, Kalman was married to the illustrator and author Maira Kalman.


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