The 400 florins that Florence paid Michelangelo to carve the David could have provided a whole year’s subsistence living for about 100 Florentine residents. Was the commission an immoral use of funds? Should the money instead have gone to the poor, some of whom surely starved without it? If justified for reasons of civic cohesion, would the sculpture have been unjustified as a private purchase like much other Renaissance art? And what about its value to the future? If Florentine authorities in 1501 had known Michelangelo’s masterpiece would become a major tourist attraction centuries later, bringing untold wealth and admiration to their city, should that future have entered their calculations?
Such were the thoughts that crossed my mind last month, when I read Shruti Rajagopalan’s excellent essay “Altruism and Development – It’s complicated…..” In it, she examines how to assess the value of philanthropy if we want to “do the most good” in the world—the challenge posed by the movement known as Effective Altruism. Effective Altruism takes various forms, from the extreme utilitarianism of philosopher Peter Singer to practical cost-benefit assessments of charitable ventures. (Here’s a useful blog post delving into the philosophical distinctions.)
Shruti starts with a personal dilemma. Should she give to ameliorate the problem of Delhi’s terrible air pollution or support the anti-malaria causes dear to GiveWell and other EA advocates? Shruti, who works at the Mercatus Center at George Mason Unniversity, is from Delhi. She is under doctor’s orders not to return to visit her family because the pollution will aggravate her long Covid problems. Given her personal stake in the city’s air pollution, she worries that her charitable giving impulses are too emotional.
With air pollution dominating my thoughts and nudges for charitable giving in my inbox, my first instinct is to give to causes that help mitigate pollution in Delhi. But I am also aware of the literature on emotional giving or ineffective altruism. In their 2021 paper, Caviola, Schubert and Greene explain why both effective and ineffective causes may attract dollars. People often give emotionally to a cause that has personally impacted them in some way.
A US$100 donation can save a person in the developing world from trachoma, a disease that causes blindness. By contrast, it costs US$50,000 to train a guide dog to help a blind person in the developed world. This large difference in impact per dollar is not unusual. According to expert estimates, the most effective charities are often 100 times more effective than typical charities.
This paper resonated with me because I am exactly the sort of irrational dog lover likely to support the best training programs for guide dogs.
Working through the numbers, she finds that air pollution in Delhi is, in fact, just the sort of massive public health problem that EA types elevate as worthy of philanthropy. (It generates what my husband, in high school debate jargon, would call “bodies on the flow.”) But air pollution lacks an essential characteristic of EA-favored causes: an easy way of measuring interventions and their effectiveness. Shruti writes:
There are many reasons air pollution mitigation doesn’t make it to the top of these lists despite a ten times higher death toll. It cannot be avoided by distributing a $5 net. The costs and the benefits from air pollution in Delhi cannot be easily quantified. Nor can the benefits from the interventions to mitigate pollution be easily measured. Simply put, air pollution in Delhi is complex, while malaria death and malaria nets in Africa are legible. We can only evaluate impact of interventions and projects that are legible. And only studying complex phenomena narrowly can make them legible.
But that’s not the end of it. The more she digs, the tougher the problem becomes. I recommend reading (or at least skimming) the entire analysis. Eventually she starts to think about why malaria declined in India, what malaria and Delhi air pollution have in common, and why we don’t see similar problems in places like DC or London. (“Outside of camping equipment stores, I don’t think I have seen any mosquito nets bought or sold in the U.S.”) Ultimately the problem isn’t tightwad westerners, but dysfunctional institutions and insufficient economic growth. Her conclusion:
If you want to make the greatest impact in the long term, nothing can beat contributing to institutions working toward increasing economic growth and prosperity in poor regions like Africa and India. Increasing economic growth will help solve both malaria and air pollution. It will be your least attributable contribution, but the one with the highest impact.
Effective Altruism suffers from the blind spots that are characteristic of highly intelligent, self-described rationalists: hubris and a fixation on counting things. It assumes that it’s easy to tell what will do good and that the only way of “doing good” is directly extending life expectancy. (You can count those “bodies on the flow.”) But, as Shruti points out, economic growth is the most effective avenue to saving lives.
And you don’t get economic growth from a philosophy that tells people they are morally culpable for countless deaths if they consume anything more than absolutely necessary. The bourgeois fellow in the painting above may be doing his Christian duty by giving to beggars, but it’s his business enterprise and spending on frivolous things like paintings that raised living standards in the Low Countries. Bernard Mandeville was on to something in The Fable of the Bees, when he scandalously suggested that the selfish pursuit of luxuries could make everyone better off.
Historians may argue about the exact connections between the consumer revolution of the 17th and 18th century, the industrial revolution, and the long-term great enrichment. But these three phenomena were definitely intertwined. As an organizing principle, self-sacrifice is a prescription for not just for personal misery but for global impoverishment.
I’m all for generosity. I’m glad people give to cure river blindness or prevent malaria. I’ve been known to take GiveWell’s advice and to send money to GiveDirectly, whose philosophy of giving cash to poor individuals in poor countries makes a lot of sense to me. On the margin, Effective Altruism does more good than harm. It’s the philosophy of a small elite who might not be especially generous without it.
But the “ineffectiveness” of sponsoring guide dogs to help blind Americans or donating to keep research libraries stocked with obscure titles isn’t a bug. It’s a feature. The diverse enthusiasms of generous people make for a richer cultural environment.
Walmart heiress Alice Walton thought the Ozarks should have a first-class art museum. “My mama always said, ‘Give the thing you love the most.’ And other than family, I decided that had to be art,” she says. Some people love ballet, some animals, some free speech, some amateur astronomy. Love of all sorts motivates a wide range of giving.
Andrew Carnegie funded hundreds of public libraries because he himself had used a generous man’s library to educate himself as a poor working boy. Like many benefactors, he used his money to create a better environment for people like his younger self.
Whatever its motivations, diversified giving helps correct for the limitations of our knowledge. We don’t know today what will matter tomorrow, how, or to whom. The human enterprise depends on many different, often incommensurable values, not all of which can be plugged into a spreadsheet. Life is fundamental but also more than mere existence. The David was worth the money— yesterday, tomorrow, and forever.
This essay was originally published on Virginia’s Substack.
Header image by Brian Dooley.
PRINTCast: The PRINT Podcast Studio is a curated collection of cutting-edge podcasts we love about design, creativity, branding, books, and further subjects afield. Here’s the latest episode of Evolve CPG, a podcast about innovative leaders who are evolving the Consumer Packaged Goods industry by building better products and better brands to imagine a better world.
Breaking free from the shackles that we give ourselves can be one of the biggest challenges each of us faces, especially when these are shielded from our view.
Today we sit down with Matt D’Amour and Linwood Paul from personal growth and development company, Subtle Distinctions, to talk about how they approach helping their clients transcend limiting beliefs, get over the fear of success, and step out of safety into an authentic and courageous version of themselves!
The conversation covers the power of the stories we tell ourselves, how to go about ‘installing new software’, and applying the laws of minimum viable effort for progress. So if you would like to get some great tips for starting out on the most important journey each of us can undertake, join us to hear everything that Matt and Linwood have to say!
Key Points From This Episode:
Author’s Note: AI was not used in the making of this fictional trove of altered photos, letters, collages and drawings.
Frail Sister by Karen Green is a fictional history of a missing woman’s life told through unreal artifacts so convincingly created that the reader is consumed by empathy.
It was published in 2018 by Siglio Press, which specializes in art-driven literary fiction and poetry. Publisher Lisa Pearson has an uncanny eye and attuned ear for off-center work, and Siglio has built a bridge between traditional and experimental books that are timely and timeless. (I’m featuring a title from 2018 because books should not be forgotten just because the launch date has passed and publishers are onto their next list.)
Green’s story is as disturbing as it is compelling: A child, Constance Gale, is put to work with her sister, performing as musical prodigies during the Great Depression. As a teenager, she escapes from her impoverished life by joining the USO and touring a ravaged Italy during World War II. Men— “some kind, some nefarious, some an ineluctable cocktail” —write to Constance, smitten by her stage persona. Letters to and from Constance expose not only the mundane reality of war but also the relentless brutality. “After the war,” the book details, “she returns to an unsparing life in New York City in which the violence persists and her ghosts multiply.”
This is the artist/writer’s second book (the first, Bough Down, is a memoir about grief). Frail Sister originated in her search for a long-vanished Aunt Constance, who Green knew only from a few family photos and keepsakes. Finding almost no trace of her, Green instead invented, appropriated and altered artifacts. Then she constructed an elliptical, arresting narrative: “What becomes of a woman whose talent, ambition and appetite defy what the world expects of her? How does she disappear?”
Green imagines for her aunt a childhood in which she is “bold, reckless, perspicacious, mischievous; an adolescence ripe with desire and scarred by violation and loss; and an adulthood in which she strives to sing above the din.”
In this well-crafted marriage of epistolary and visual fiction, the book design is essential to the story. I asked Green to talk about how she devised the format and orchestrated the materials that make it real.
Why did you decide to tell this fictionalized story of two sisters in this scrap box manner?
I’m not sure I know what a “scrap box” is or like the messy sound of it, but I think I understand what you are asking, and it’s probably the perfect descriptor. I did want the reader to feel like they had stumbled upon an old suitcase in granny’s attic and had to piece together the life story of a long-lost relative. I have a continued fascination with the art/literature intersection (Siglio’s specialty) and with how archival materials tell a story, so trying to collage a narrative arc seemed like an interesting challenge at the time.
It all looks so random and yet the narrative holds together. Was the continuity difficult to do? Did you ever find you were getting lost in the bramble of word and picture?
Thanks for the “holds together” comment. The continuity issue was a nightmare, especially after I decided the entire manuscript would be hand-typed. At some point, I pretty much knew what would happen in the story, but if I wanted to make the smallest edit on a page that had already been typed, say, on top of a vintage photograph, I would have to scrape off the typewriter ink with a pin or find a new photograph that illuminated the text in the same way. I got more and more careful about committing type to picture; I learned to make copies of the really good stuff and save making the final until I was pretty sure the text would be permanent. I also had a restriction on the number of pages, so I was trying to tell the story within those limitations. So, yes, there was a lot of getting lost for the four years I worked on it, but I do like working with constraints—I like the process of distilling the hell out of something.
I’m curious to know if you worked from a conventional manuscript and then translated passages into your visual language?
I believe it started as a semi-conventional manuscript … I usually start by writing longhand, then type it out multiple times, editing as I go. (The initial inspiration was, however, visual—a couple of photographs and a letter from WW2.) Although by the time I finished the book, it wasn’t on a computer at all, it was spread out on the floor in sections. I was working from printed pages of prose chunks and massive amounts of sheet music, photographs, ephemera.
Who are the girls in the photos?
Many of the photos are photos of my aunt, who disappeared before I was born. Originally, I had hoped to find out what really happened to her, going so far as hiring a private investigator, who only complicated matters. I had to let go of finding the “facts,” which in biographies are only as truthful as the people who talk to the biographer, anyway, and just start bringing her back to life as best as I could. Some of the photos of her I found at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in the Italian USO folders—that was thrilling. I also found a couple of her on eBay with the heading, “pretty lady singing in Italy, 1940s.”
I presume it took you considerable time to acquire the images you wanted. Where else did you find them, and how long did it take?
I just kept scrounging—the library, eBay, thrift stores, antique stores. One of the best resources I found was an antique store in Northern California that had a secret “War Museum” in the basement, complete with manikins in regalia. Very unnerving, but it’s where I found the ration books, some of the blank period stationary, as well as some really extraordinary photographs.
Tell me a little about the relationship of these two sisters. The cover photo is such an allure. And what is their relationship to mouse?
The photograph is of my mother and aunt. I’m glad you think it’s alluring. I do, too, although it’s also, I think, a bit creepy/beautiful in a Sally Mann kind of way. In the book, Connie, the narrator, is in constant dialogue with her sister, who remains unnamed and unresponsive throughout. This is a fictional account, but it is also the best I could do with the real relationship between the two, who were so close in childhood but who lost track of each other, or claimed to, in the post-war years. Whatever the case, they couldn’t help each other.
Mouse is their evil brother who embodies every animal-torturing, cat-calling, gun-toting Harvey W. who ever slithered over the earth. Honestly I had hoped I would find my aunt or at least her offspring and be able to give that knowledge to my mother at the end of her life, but the more I found out, the more I realized this fictional account would not have a happy or tidy ending, just as its parallel narrative didn’t. It became a story about all the Jane Does I researched, and how early trauma and lack of agency (I can’t think of another way to say it here) grooms them for and presages their disappearances: wrapped in old rugs and thrown off bridges, dumped in the desert, hospitalized for hysteria or, if they’re luckier, just married to jerks and silenced more benignly. (Oh dear, this may be a strident note to end on, ha!)
We live in an individualistic digital world where we’re often so locked into our personal screens that we forget to look up and appreciate what’s around us. Wish Fountain, a new project by San Diego experiential design firm SOSO, doesn’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. This digital water fountain inspires people to enjoy moments of surprise and delight while still honoring the relationship with personal screens.
Visitors virtually respond to prompts displayed on screens throughout the space by communicating their wishes as an image or text message. Each wish is a secret between the sender and the fountain, creating animated waves of colors across the bench and screens. To everyone else, the wish just looks like a light show traveling across the space’s furniture and walls, visually translating the essence of water after a coin hits the surface of a wishing well.
By leaning into what humans are connected to most (their phones) to create an interactive exhibit, SOSO has proven that even the most personal exhibits can build a community-inspired space.
Regent Properties is a real estate developer based in Los Angeles committed to creating dynamic and beautiful properties out of contrarian, out-of-favor, complex, or distressed assets. When reviving 1 Columbia Place, the developer aimed to attract newcomers and generate social media buzz by creating a “surprise and delight” moment for visitors. Regent turned to creative studio SOSO to create Wish Fountain, a nature-inspired, technology-infused interactive installation that transforms visitors’ wishes sent via SMS into a colorful, water-like light show across a ripple-shaped wooden bench and wall-mounted screens.
Inspired by San Diego’s natural environment and ocean landscape, Wish Fountain conveys the undulating surface of the water after a coin hits the surface of a wishing well. Visitors share their wishes via SMS to a posted phone number, as an image or text, in response to a prompt displayed on the screens. The wishes then are transformed into a light show rippling across the installation.
Each wish is a secret between the initiator and the fountain, resulting in a unique and captivating animation of colors across the bench and screens. To keep the prompts timely, the building owner has access to a cloud-based Content Management System, allowing them to update the wish prompts to reflect current events, holidays, or important local themes.
The cloud server powering Wish Fountain draws from online visual sources to decipher the content of each visitor’s text. Then, the installation changes its colors and display inspired by the wish, resulting in reflective and distinctive displays of each visitor’s thoughts and feelings. The building manager can update the prompt for the Wish Fountain so new and returning guests can have new experiences each time they visit 1 Columbia Place.
Wish Fountain connects people, builds community, and reflects San Diego’s pulse. The installation is visible to all entrances and levels of the building, inviting anyone to view and participate with their own wishes. Not only does it give onlookers the ability to impact their environments and a sense of respite, but it also serves as a new social gathering space to share their wonder. Regent’s commitment to creating unique, fun, and dynamic environments was the perfect catalyst for these immersive experiences.
Wish Fountain is a part of a series of unique digital artworks for Regent Properties that build community, give visitors a canvas to impact the space, and reflect on local San Diego culture. SOSO worked hand in hand with Tecture on fabrication and installation, Digital Ambiance on LED/electrical engineering, and Performant Advanced Manufacturing on wiring and electrical installation for Wish Fountain.
What’s better than a typography trend report? How about a typography trend report assembled by some of the most trusted experts in the field?
Cue the 2023 Monotype Type Trends Report, which was released to the masses today. We look forward to this equally thoughtful and robust collection of examples and analysis of the year’s hottest type, and the 2023 issue does not disappoint. Their roundup includes a few continuations of trends identified in their 2022 report like the “Mix-up” trend, while introducing some new additions you’ll have to read on to discover.
“Type is a gateway to an entire conversation around technology and today’s trends,” Monotype Creative Type Director Terrance Weinzierl said in a press release. “This report is an educational collection of work that fascinates and excites us and, most importantly, represents a ripple coursing through the ocean of design. Through these 10 trends, we provide perspective of how our daily life is impacting letterforms.”
So let’s get down to it! Within the ten trends laid out in the compendium, Monotype reports that playful will continue to be a big visual theme, while the creative industry’s growing focus on diversity and inclusion can also be felt in today’s type trends. Motion and 3D typography are seeing a boom as well, with even static letters appearing as if they are moving.
Check out a breakdown of the trends below!
The “Mix Up” trend is all about more is more— “Why use three colors when you can use thirty?” says Monotype. “Mix Up” reflects the way our culture continues to value diversity and inclusivity in all forms, including typography.
The “Smart Grid” trend takes the idea of a grid as an organizing principle and then softens the corners and angles with selective curves, adding a human element and warmth.
This bold graphic style akin to letters found in comic books features outlines and shadows, often tilted, skewed, or curved into perspective. “It’s explosive in form and color,” says Monotype.
In direct contrast to the “Mix Up” and “Superhero” trends is the austere “Super Sober,” popular in startup and lifestyle spaces. Its simplicity and minimalism is meant to create a sense of calm and zen in an otherwise noisy landscape of competing brands, apps, and notifications.
“Making the Cut” sees the cutting and removing pieces from letterforms to create a crisp, angular look. Monotype mentions that the incorporation of exaggerated ink traps are prevalent within the “Making the Cut” trend.
This nostalgia-fueled trend takes inspiration from the look of ’90s computer renderings and first-generation video games. “Just because the construction is reduced to simple squares doesn’t take away from the complexity or sophistication,” says Monotype. “A crude restriction can force perseverance and increase creativity.”
“Flux” encompasses letters in motion— or those with the appearance of being in motion. Movement is critical to grabbing the attention of the 2023 consumer and viewer, which is where variable fonts and animation come into play.
Type envisioned as 3D models is everywhere thanks to ongoing advancements in technology and tools that are hitting us at breakneck speed. “Volume Up” is Monotype’s term for this phenomenon, as we continue to see renderings of glossy, chromed-out, and textured letters we feel like we can reach out and touch.
Organic, blobby letterforms aren’t going anywhere, and the psychedelic, playful “Liquify” trend prioritizes vibes over readability.
It wouldn’t be a 2023 trend report without a mention of AI. “AI will change the art and design world; we just don’t know exactly how it will pan out yet,” says Monotype. Artists are already dabbling in AI Land, with controversy around these tools also on the rise.
The full report can be found here.
We live in an era in which power is shifting from old players to new ones. From cultural institutions, to philanthropies, and grassroots advocacy movements, this is not just a changing of the guard. It is a fundamental rethinking of how we run organizations, how they bring value to the world, who gets a seat at the table, and whose voice is consulted and valued. It is also a push to question what is good, what is right, and what is necessary in the work of social change.
Our role as branding experts in the nonprofit space affords us unique access to the challenges and vulnerabilities organizations wrestle with day in and day out. We confront these head-on as we guide our clients through the process of sharpening their positioning and branding. After working with dozens of clients, we’ve started to see trends and commonalities across sectors. One such trend has to do with the shifting shape of power in our world.
We live in a time defined by the growing struggle between Old Power and New Power, two paradigms at odds with each other. It may seem like what is “old” is on the way out and what is “new” is here to stay, but it’s actually more complex than that. The key to navigating these new waters may lie less with throwing out the old and embracing the new, and instead with learning to be fluent in both.
The framework of Old Power and New Power was developed by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms in 2014. Almost nine years out, their diagnosis of our society has only become more accurate than ever.
According to Heimans and Timms, Old Power is like currency: owned by the few, jealously guarded, inaccessible, top-down, operated through command and control. New Power, on the other hand, is like a current. It flows. It is open, participatory, peer-driven, and collaborative. It channels power rather than hoards it.
Old Power downloads; it is “curated” and controlled by one leader or entity who decides what to give and what to keep. New Power, on the other hand, uploads; it is a generous and dynamic stream of information owned and shared by all, for the betterment of all.
Foundations, especially private ones, are bastions of Old Power, dedicated to preserving and extending their power for as long as possible. Even though their primary purpose is to direct money towards charitable purposes, the vast majority of them only disburse the legal minimum of 5% of their endowments every year, keeping the remaining 95% invested in stocks, bonds, and other assets. Even on the grantmaking side, the explicit and implicit norms that govern how they grant money, who they grant it to, how they manage the relationship, and how they measure their success is notoriously traditional and antiquated.
Pushing change through traditional halls of power is another example of Old Power: impact litigation, policy advocacy, lobbying. Each of these pieces are uniquely powerful in the larger game of social change, but more and more, they have come under the social microscope for being opaque, paternalistic, and concentrated in the hands of too few.
A different tide has been rolling in—New Power in myriad forms.
Though it has been around for years, participatory grantmaking has recently gained prominence in the philanthropic zeitgeist. It flips the equation, placing decision-making power in the hands of those who are closest to the problem, challenging traditional notions of expertise, removing institutional barriers, and enabling otherwise overlooked individuals and organizations to access funds. In contrast to Old Power, this New Power model of grantmaking is transparent, peer-driven, and collaborative.
It’s not just funding organizations that are feeling New Power’s influence; advocacy nonprofits are too. Organizations that used to operate solely at the grasstops are adding grassroots work to balance out their theories of change. As New Power gains traction, these multistrategy organizations are locked in internal debate over who should set the agenda. Should strategy be informed by impacted communities and those with lived experience? Or should strategy be informed by who is in political power and what windows of opportunity are available from a policy perspective?
Many of the clients we advise are Old Power legacy institutions. And they are facing internal and external criticism from those who wield and value New Power. Philanthropies are under mounting pressure to move from traditional grantmaking to participatory grantmaking. Advocacy organizations are encountering demands that they shift their priorities toward the needs and values of impacted communities, allowing the people closest to the problems to determine what is important and what is necessary.
While Old Power is asking what are the best ways to defend the Constitution from erosion, New Power is asking, “Why must we pledge loyalty to a document that was racist to begin with?”
While Old Power is asking how to drive more philanthropic money to racial justice, New Power is asking whether philanthropies are complicit in the very racial disparities they are trying to mitigate.
While Old Power is trying to win the game, New Power is pointing out that the players themselves may be compromised and demanding a whole new set of rules.
While Old Power is asking, “How can we do more good,” New Power is asking “How can we do less evil?”
Shifting power presents new and interesting challenges for legacy organizations that are feeling the pressure to change in ways that feel contrary to their DNA. Organizations often sense an agitated atmosphere within their teams and embarking on a rebranding journey often reveals what has long been floating in the air. Rebrands have always been anchored in questions like, “What is the purpose of this organization?” and “What makes the organization different from other players in the field?” These alone used to inflame passions in both staff and leaders, but in this new era, the questions are cutting even closer to the bone.
“What is our power for? Are we putting it to the best use? Should we wield it, share it, or cede it?”
New Power is on the rise, but is it more effective than Old Power? Does it have to be an either/or?
New Power surges. It rises quickly, swells like a wave, reaches a peak, and then recedes. It is dynamic, eager, sometimes impatient for change. It is an effective tool for forcing conversations and influencing change. New Power is impossible to ignore.
But New Power is frenetic energy. New Power often lacks structure, clear roles, and leadership models (even if that is collaborative and distributed) required to get things done. This is why Occupy dissipated into a little more than a ghost of a populist uprising. And yes, while New Power can force and influence change, it does not hold the final keys, which means that New Power still has to cooperate with Old Power. The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activist group, has galvanized a whole generation around the urgency of climate change. They are a hugely important force shaping policy agendas, but they still have to play nice and negotiate with classic Old Power, whether that is Congress or the United Nations.
Let me be clear, neither is inherently good. Old Power is both Ruth Bader-Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas. New Power is both Obama’s 2008 campaign for hope and Trump’s 2016 campaign for Make America Great Again. Power, in either form, is only as good as the intentions behind it.
For better or for worse, Old Power is still the way the world works and how change is made. It has structure, hierarchy, connections, and fluency in the status quo of our world. It has a track record of making change and getting things done.
Rather than adopting one over the other, success in this new era will be defined by the extent to which organizations can become bilingual in both forms of power. New Power will be an essential skill going forward. It’s a mindset and muscle that we’ll all have to learn to flex.
And we see this in our work with organizations all the time. Philanthropies want to be seen as more than just a funder. They want to be seen as strategic ally, respectful advocate, and thoughtful counsel. No longer satisfied with their distant positions in an ivory tower, they want to decrease the distance between themselves and the people they are trying to help with their funds.
Policy advocacy organizations that have historically operated at the “grasstops” are increasingly realizing that wins from on high are rarely durable unless they are bolstered by a strong, ground-level foundation. Grassroots and grasstops work create complete feedback loops. Grassroots mobilization builds power from the ground up, increasing the pressure on the grasstops to create the necessary change. Once these advocacy organizations are able to push change through at the top, they turn to their grassroots arms to fortify the work by demystifying new policies and rulings and educating individuals to understand and defend their full rights.
As more and more organizations become bilingual in both forms of power, we can start to see the chasm that divides Old Power institutions and New Power movements as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
In this new world, bridging Old and New Power is quickly becoming a new and intriguing value proposition for legacy institutions who are ready to reinvent themselves to be more relevant in these new times. The rolodexes of legacy institutions run deep; they often have direct channels to policymakers, sector leaders, powerbrokers, high-net worth individuals, and influencers. With this kind of access, New Power-enlightened legacy institutions, who understand and value transparency, participatory models, and power sharing, can carve out a new space for themselves, no longer as bastions of Old Power, but as translators, bridgers, and brokers between what always has been and what now could be. These organizations have a unique opportunity to position themselves in the middle and define a role that helps to channel New Power ideas to influence Old Power ivory towers.
We at Hyperakt are working through, closely examining, and wrestling with the tectonic tensions in this power struggle. This paradigm shift is not something we consult on at a distance, even as a small team, we ourselves feel the tremors.
This moment is fluid. And our greatest stride forward has been being able to give it a name. This framework of Old and New Power has clarified what we are going through — and that all corners of society, whether it is at the dinner table or the negotiating table, are going through it together. We can see the challenge more clearly now. Defining the problem is a huge step forward, even when the solution may still remain unclear.
We know that being bilingual and transforming Old Power into bridging and brokering power is a key part of the larger puzzle. But we don’t have all the answers. Have you experienced this power shift in your own organization? In the spirit of transparency, collaboration, and New Power, we’d love to hear from you. Send us a note.
Félix Beltrán was one the most popular graphic designers in his native Cuba following Castro’s revolution; he was also a powerhouse of Latin American corporate design after leaving Havana for Mexico City. Although his work bolstered certain ideals and personalities of the revolution, it was not so ideologically dictated as to be slavish propaganda, but it did establish an empathetic brand. “Unlike the graphic arts introduced to Cuba by the U.S. before the revolution, the new poster [in Cuba] aimed to engage the viewer as a thinking person, not as a passive consumer of commodities,” the website Cuba50 states. “The posters of past days with easily digested soundbites were rejected—instead, the goal was to ‘raise and complicate consciousness—the highest aim of the revolution itself.'”
Beltrán’s work (like many Cuban designers) was antithetical to Communist-Socialist realism (which also was receding in the ’60s). He studied in the United States during the Midcentury Modern era, between 1956 and 1962—graphic design at the School of Visual Arts, painting in the American Art School and lithography at the Pratt Graphic Art Center in New York City. He also took classes at the New School for Social Research, where he met the theorists/philosophers Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse, amongst others.
He died in December 2022 at his home in Mexico City. Had he stayed in the United States, his design thinking would have been hand-in-glove with the Bauhaus-inspired, geometry-driven Moderns that influenced his own grid-locked simplicity, and occasionally subtle, witty work.
In 2022 Sonia Diaz and Gabriel Martinez wrote and published a two-volume compilation and analysis of Beltrán’s life and work: Félix Beltran Inteligencia Visual and Siempre el Diseño. A career-inclusive exhibition, Félix Beltrán Visual Intelligence, has also been launched at the Complutense Art Centre in Madrid, now through March 16. I asked the duo to explain Beltrán’s legacy through the lens of this show.
When was the exhibition conceived?
In May 2022, [Isabel García,] the vice chancellor of culture of the Complutense University of Madrid, proposed that we present an exhibition project because the books Inteligencia Visual and Siempre el Diseño were already published and had already been a great success, both in the international edition published by Optik Books and the Spanish edition published by Ediciones Complutense. In this sense, it seemed logical that the publishing project should evolve towards the exhibition, given that we already had all the graphic material and a very elaborate and well-defined conceptual proposal after more than 10 years of research. What is very clear is that without the support and trust of García, the project would not have gone ahead, because she values Félix Beltrán’s work very highly and knows that the importance of his work as a designer and teacher is an example to be followed.
Was Félix involved in the selection?
To tell the truth, like all creative people, Félix was very critical of his work and always wanted us to eliminate much of the material he considered “imperfect.” But we always told him that it was important to see the work as a whole because it gave us many clues to understand his influences, the times he lived in and his philosophy of work.
Félix and Teresa Camacho—his partner—were very involved in the whole process we followed to produce the publications, and they were involved in the possibility of putting on an exhibition with all the material. In fact, in September we visited Mexico City to present the books and we talked about the project, although Félix’s already deteriorated health made us think that it would be complicated for him to travel for the opening.
What is it about Félix’s life and work that is so compelling?
The intellectual consistency and commitment he maintained throughout his life in a political, social, conceptual and graphic sense. Félix’s life is unique because he lived through important moments in history; the fact that he was able to study at the School of Visual Arts in New York in a flourishing era of design and advertising; being the person in charge of the corporate and institutional image of the Cuban Revolution for 20 years; and, finally, from Mexico, his contribution to the culture of design through his university work.
Félix’s work is methodical and systematic, but it also stands out because he is capable of combining without complexes a colorful optimism coming from his Hispanic culture and the rationality and Modernist intellectuality discovered in New York and in his travels around Europe. As the designer and artist Raúl Martínez pointed out, “Félix Beltrán is the most intellectual, universally intellectual designer in Cuba.” His intellectuality makes him worthy of a place in the history of design, but he also had the quality of being close and very human in his social relations. As Félix himself said: “The only thing I can boast of is having human qualities.”
Before he passed away did you have the opportunity to show him any of the plans or preparations?
We had telephone conversations with him and Teresa until a few days before his death on 28 December. Despite his illness, he kept alive the illusion of being able to be at the opening. We sent him sketches of what the exhibition would be like and he was very happy that his “design in a social sense” could reach the maximum number of people. The truth is that he always respected our proposals and there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t receive a new and surprising graphic document that, motivated by the progress of the project, he was discovering in his archives. This exchange has allowed us to rescue some 700 images, some of them of very poor quality, but no less important for that.
What has the response been?
The response to the exhibition has been surprising, as was the response to the publication of the books beforehand. This is because Félix is a very well-known personality who appears in design history books. Yet much of his work is unknown even to specialists. For us it has been a journey into the past, a priceless contemporary research of “visual archaeology.” For this reason, it seems to us that to be able to present Félix’s work to all types of the public is an opportunity to update and revalue the work of a lifetime, and also to bring to light part of the history of Ibero-American design—something that for many is a truly unknown subject.
Are you currently attending art school? Is your work attracting raves from teachers and envious glares from peers? Do you get a huge glimmer of pride scanning through your own portfolio? You might just be in your “I knew them when…” phase. You’re the kind of design student who will leave a mark on your alma mater, who can’t help but enhance the looks of everything you come in contact with, who’s ready to make waves in the real world. You’re perfect for the Student category of the PRINT Awards!
Since students are arguably the real movers and shakers of design, this accessibly-priced category is one of our most consistently exciting races. It only makes sense to feature judges with fascinating lives, impressive jobs at big name companies, and robust client lists. Get to know our education experts below!
Strategist — The Nucleus Group
Jack of all trades Chelsea Carlson has a keen understanding of both left-brain subjects like strategy and data and more artistic pursuits like hand-lettering and laser cutting. She has a knack for seamlessly blending compelling narratives and artful details into clear research, concrete visuals, and results-driven work. Chelsea has brought her knowledge to a wide variety of exciting clients like HBO, The Institute of Design, and Indeed, and currently works in strategy at The Nucleus Group. In 2021, she earned her Masters in Branding with honors from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Partner — Anderson Newton Design
Designer Joe Newton has participated in some of the most exciting artistic moments of the past few decades. After creating music visuals at the height of Seattle’s grunge heyday, he took his vision from iconic local papers like The Stranger to world-renowned publications like Rolling Stone. Joe teaches typography at SVA, serves on the board at Type Director’s Club, and has worked with impressive clients like The Smithsonian and NASA. He’s the longtime illustrator for Dan Savage’s beloved podcast Savage Love and earned a 2022 PRINT Award for his packaging work on Savage Love from A to Z.
LinkedIn — Senior Product Designer and Strategist
Sara Remi Fields has made great design a cornerstone of her life, from her day job in product design and strategy at LinkedIn to her passion for book binding, calligraphy, and writing. For the past three years, the Brooklyn resident has shared her knowledge with design students as a teaching assistant at SVA, where she earned her Masters in Branding in 2020.
Our judges can’t wait to see what the class of 2023 has store for them! If you’re curious about what’s caught our eye in the past, last year’s top honor went to Jasmine Chan for her colorful, historically rich recipe cards inspired by early 20th century Hong Kong cuisine.
To respect the busy schedules and tight budgets of aspiring designers, the entry fee for students will be $75 until admissions close on February 28. Feel free to take your time crafting the perfect entry— but don’t wait too long!
Think you’ve got what it takes? Enter our Student category today!
While many are still basking in the afterglow of the 2022 men’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, real soccer fans know that that tournament was simply an appetizer for the main course coming to Australia and New Zealand this July: the 2023 women’s FIFA World Cup.
The excitement around this World Cup is palpable, which has already sold over half a million tickets to fans from more than 120 countries. Co-host nation Australia has already had to switch venues for their opening match against Ireland to accommodate more fans, upgrading to a 83,500-seat stadium that will allow an additional 40,000 viewers. In conjunction with this excitement came Adidas’ unveiling of the Official Match Ball for the tournament yesterday, which included the spectacle of an airborne giant replica of the ball dangling from a helicopter over Sydney that was then deposited at Marks Park in Bondi.
Just because you already got your paws on “Al Rihla,” the 2022 men’s FIFA World Cup ball, doesn’t mean you should pass on its flashy new sibling, “OCEAUNZ.” This ball features blue and green designs on a white pearlescent background that nod to the Australasian landscape, Australia’s connection to the Indian Ocean, and the vast mountains of New Zealand. Cultural markings and the initials of both host nations are also incorporated into the look of the ball in an effort to celebrate their coming together. The Australian patterns in the design were created by local Australian artist Chern’ee Sutton, while the New Zealand markings come courtesy of Kiwi weaver and textile artist Fiona Collis. Both Sutton and Collis also contributed to elements of the tournament’s vibrant brand identity that was unveiled in November 2021.
A looker though it is, OCEAUNZ is far more than just a pretty face. It’s been designed with “connected ball technology” through a motion sensor installed via a Suspension System inside the ball that provides precise data to aid referees and officials in making correct calls during games. The motion sensor offers unprecedented levels of insight into the ball’s movement, and is powered by a rechargeable battery that’s charged by induction. The ball’s technological abilities also include FIFA’s semi-automated offside technology, delivering information to Video Assistant Referees (VAR) instantaneously to once again help optimize decision making.
The physical ball itself is constructed with a CTR-core at its center that’s been designed to improve accuracy and consistency on the pitch, support fast, precise play, and ensure shape and air retention. On the outside, OCEAUNZ has a polyurethane skin that’s spangled with micro and macro textures. Meanwhile its 20-piece panel shape was developed to enhance aerodynamics.
The OCEAUNZ ball is priced at €150 ($163.31) a piece, with 1% of its net sales benefitting Common Goal’s ‘Global Goal 5 Accelerator,’ a collective project aimed to increase female participation, representation, and leadership in the grassroots game. The organization’s mission is to propel girls’ participation and the proportion of female coaches and female leaders within soccer-based community programs. The ball is available for purchase starting today through Adidas stores and other selected retailers, as well as online at adidas.com.
Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, I have the most fondness for bunnies. (I once failed to interest publishers in a book on graphic symbolism of the bunny.) So, I am certain that this Lunar New Year—the Year of the Rabbit—will bring us hope and fulfillment. In this respect I was happy to learn that one of my favorite illustrators, Emiliano Ponzi, has his first solo exhibition in China on display at the historic Sun Ke Villa in Shanghai.
The Dreamer: Stories From Another World gives bunnies their due. The exhibited work pays respect to Chinese culture with site-specific custom pieces, sharing space with Ponzi’s European and American archival output. “It’s the first Italian illustrator solo show in China,” he proudly told me. He’s right to be proud, “especially [given] the magnitude of the venue and the number of artworks displayed.” The show continues until March 5.
On view are over 60 artworks created throughout Ponzi’s career, including graphics, editorial illustration, animation and advertising. His first sculpture My Precious Pillow was designed specifically for the Year of the Rabbit.
The Dreamer is what gallery organizers call “a step-by-step travelogue that analyzes the core of creativity. This exhibition is an ensemble, for it bridges two macro worlds of mankind, an open and chaotic inner world in disorder and restlessness and a cold and orderly business world.”
The exhibition is sponsored by Marvis, a century-old Italian dental brand. Inspired by the Mad Hatter (“Reject banality; being crazy helps me keep my head”) in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Ponzi’s fluffy wonderland (above) is decorated with imagined scenes for the brand.
His so-called dreamland includes surrounding mirrors and a fluffy meadow to “amplify the imagination.” Craziness in art is often not well-organized. “Mirrors in the space represent a reflection of the real and the imagined,” he notes. “The fluffy bunny guides the audience into the dreamland to explore the boundary between craziness and rationality.”
All this is housed in Sun Ke Villa, one of Shanghai’s most historic buildings in the European (in this case) Spanish Moderne style, which is also a blend Italian Renaissance and Baroque, designed in 1931 by Modernistic architect Laszlo Hudec, known for bringing Art Deco to Shanghai. The villa belonged to the only son of the “founder of modern China,” Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and is located in Columbia Circle on Yan’an Road; as a Western enclave, this district dates back to the 1920s and 1930s.
Dieline is the world’s leading website dedicated to the global packaging design community. With over 7 million unique pageviews per year, it provides our winners a platform to be seen and regarded by Dieline’s audience of practitioners, potential clients, brands, media, and business stakeholders around the world. For many individuals, agencies, and brands, winning a Dieline Award is a defining and elevating experience.
Beyond the bragging rights, prizes include:
Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.
Arezoo Moseni is an artist & community cultivator whose work is exhibited and collected by major institutions like Bibliothèque nationale de France and Brooklyn Museum.
What is the thing you like doing most in the world?
Guiding my imagination, heart, and soul to fulfill my potential as an individual.
What is the first memory you have of being creative?
I majored in math and science in high school, and also took art classes. I would stay up long hours into the early morning studying and thinking about experimental possibilities especially in chemistry and physics. My room had two large wall to wall windows, one opening to an interior garden with a glass ceiling, and the other to the backyard garden with an iron gate connecting to the community street. One night, I decided to paint instead. I was so excited as I quickly arranged my paint palette with the primary colors and also green. I chose a large brush, and painted sweeping simple forms on the window facing the interior garden. As I was painting, I was experiencing an uncanny feeling of freedom and responsibility because I was making my first large painting on glass that could be seen by everyone. This is my first memory of a glimpse of my inner soul and having a burst of energy to bring it to life. For a while the painting became the talk of the community driving or walking by to see it especially at night lit from the back and front. This pivotal experience made me aware of the importance of freedom, imagination and responsibility in the life of an artist.
What is your biggest regret?
Being courageous and proactive is liberating and keeps me free of regret.
How have you gotten over heartbreak?
As we know, the heart is a muscle. I stretch and expand my heart as I stay in the present and move ahead.
What makes you cry?
Injustice and war destroying the lives of innocent civilians, wildlife, and the Earth.
How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?
Zero seconds, my mind is focused on the conceptual, experimental and evolutionary aspects of thinking, doing and making. Much of the time, the end result holds little premium for me unless it is a remarkable solution to improve lives. Pride can be a fickle emotion resulting in self-aggrandizement and loss of compassion.
Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?
This life of flesh and blood is my firsthand observation of the perpetual transformation of all things in the boundless universe. As I watch an owl slowly swallow down a whole field mouse, or a dragonfly seal and eat a butterfly, I observe an instant transformation where the mouse and the butterfly continue on in the form of an owl and dragonfly despite the tragic process. Is our imagination, observations, and stories of how we lived and treated one another parts of an afterlife? I also wonder if the breathtaking intelligent engineering of design in nature, will play any roles in an afterlife?
What do you hate most about yourself?
I used to upset myself because I lacked the skills to stand up to bullies in the workplace. Now, I have learned strategies to break up bullying syndromes.
What do you love most about yourself?
Listening to and respecting my intuition to do the impossible.
What is your absolute favorite meal?
It can be any meal as long as I am surrounded by loved ones and also people from all walks of life that introduce me to other cultures and new possibilities.
Aerodynamics aren’t typically examined within the typography space since there’s theoretically no need for typography to worry about the subtleties of airflow. But aerodynamics also correlate with balance, the inevitable flow of things that could easily include letters and words. You can find a beautiful typographic depiction of aerodynamics in Aeroko, a new typeface designed by freelance type designer Krista Radoeva and the Monotype Studio.
Aeroko is an ideal typeface for technology, transportation, and sports spaces. It’s strong and assertive, but still has an attitude dripping with quiet confidence. Unlike a technology-inspired typeface that often takes influence from 8-bit design, Aeroko is smoother, more sleek, ideal for modern design wanting a nuanced industrial touch.
The typeface comes in four display weights and three widths, facilitating a vast potential for various uses.
Monotype today introduced Aeroko, a boxy and solid typeface geared toward high performance brands from sports to energy and transportation. Designed by freelance type designer, Krista Radoeva, and the Monotype Studio, Aeroko offers designers and creatives a new expressive typeface to convey a sporting grit and aggression in the form of a sans that also flexes when and where it’s needed.
“Designing a typeface for the sports genre, I challenged myself to define what are the shapes that express confidence, high energy and power, but also keep an amiable feel,” says Radoeva. “We explored ideas around aerodynamic forms and how to interpret that into letterforms. We played around with the balance between roundness and squareness, which is also something evocative of Scandinavian design. Still, we wanted it to have a certain human touch, so we played with the contrast, we introduced some cuts and thin strokes and we pushed the proportions to the extremes. There is a competitive feel to it, actively encouraging you to be courageous and daring with type in your own way.”
Aeroko is powered by four display weights and three widths as well as a two-axes variable font. The forms are boxed and solid from condensed to wide, and they provide a distinct contrast when paired with rounder text fonts for use in strong brand headlines. The power of variable font technology enables a wide range of typographic scale and expression.
“Aeroko is a fresh, utile and adaptive voice that hits our global zeitgeist for inventive variable brands and generative design,” adds Phil Garnham, Creative Type Director at Monotype. “We’re seeing trends emerge heading into 2023 that balance the weighting of square and soft forms, modular and organic typefaces that have a demeanor, an arresting disposition. We are seeing type that sparks but also empathizes, type that calls and whispers. Aeroko plays well to our future selves in this respect — it has both a thoughtful and striking voice.”
Since reporting on the first issue of Nightingale: The Journal of the Data Visualization Society, something remarkable has occurred: A second edition has been published. That says a lot. But to expand on the story of this much-needed publication, I’ve asked one of its founders, Jason Forrest, to return with an update.
Dataviz is even more important than ever in harvesting information—separating the wheat from the chaff and keeping the … well, you know.
It has been six months since your first issue of Nightingale. How’s it going?
Great! We’ve published a ton of great digital articles, doubled our subscribers (don’t worry, we’re still tiny), and we’re just super excited about the latest issue, which is all about inspiration!
Is data visualization still as open to innovation as it has been over the past 10 years? Or have designs come full circle back to “it looks nice”?
We’ve been talking about this in the dataviz community a lot lately. Data continues to be incredibly important in our lives, but what value does it have if no one pays attention? That’s why the design of dataviz becomes so important. While Nightingale has been promoting dataviz with a design edge, we also emphasize the fundamental importance of being true to the data and the audience it is intended for.
I’d also argue that the design of dataviz isn’t returning to a design sensibility from a decade ago, but rather embodying design concepts that may have been too difficult to achieve technically before now.
What are the stories and themes that you find most engaging for designers and data specialists?
This issue is about inspiration, and our editors started asking questions about how to quantify, track and evaluate it. What is the true value of dataviz if not to inspire others? We want to understand the data of inspiration beyond mere social media metrics.
Have you found the cure yet for misinformation?
I think many of us working in dataviz feel like we’re part of the solution—or at least trying to be! This goes back to always being true to the data and the needs of your audience.
Kids have to be taught data as language (e.g., reading, writing, arithmetic = data). Is that the reason you produce a section for kids?
The fact that we culturally diminish mathematics is just kind of lame. Lots of kids naturally collect or organize their toys and like to think about how to categorize things. At Nightingale, we think that giving kids a new angle into understanding all of the information around them as “data” can empower them to think about math differently. Data science, analytics, visualization—these fields aren’t going anywhere, and we want kids to understand that there are a million—fun—ways to work with data.
Incidentally, do you think dataviz should be taught in elementary school? Get ’em while they’re young, I say!
Carin Goldberg was a force of nature. A native New Yorker through and through, she received her BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in 1975. She began her career as a staff designer at CBS Television, CBS Records and Atlantic Records, where she designed iconic covers for artists including Madonna, Steve Reich, Caetano Veloso, Glenn Gould, Yo-Yo Ma, Sly and the Family Stone, Bette Midler, Chic, Patti LaBelle, Carole King, Earth, Wind & Fire and hundreds more.
Carin established her own studio in 1982 and helped revolutionize book jacket design, creating unforgettable book covers for Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver, James Joyce and many, many more. In addition, she made her mark in publication design with clients including Time Inc. Custom Publishing, Mademoiselle Magazine, The Hearst Company, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, Meredith Corporation, Conde Nast, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She even designed a cover for Print Magazine for the July/August 1994 issue. She also worked in the fields of brand consulting, editorial illustration, authorship, and curation. She was a design polymath.
In 2009, Carin received the American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal and in 2012 The Cooper Union awarded her the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Medal for distinguished achievement in art. That same year she received The Cooper Union President’s Citation for “exceptional contributions to the field of graphic design … recognizing outstanding citizenship, ethics and social responsibility.” In 2010, a retrospective of her work and career was exhibited at Musée Géo-Charles, Échirolles, France. In 2008, Carin completed a two-year term as president of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. She was a member of the Alliance of the Alliance Graphique Internationale since 1998 and served on its board of directors from 2006-2009. Carin taught Typography and Senior Portfolio Thesis, Design History and Editorial Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City for 35 years and was one of the first recipients of the Art Directors Club Grandmasters Award for Excellence in Education.
In 2014, Carin won the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize for Design and spent six-months at The American Academy in Rome where she earned her fellowship. Her work was exhibited all over the world and included in numerous anthologies and books.
Carin passed away on Thursday, January 19, 2023. She is survived by her husband James Biber and her son Julian Biber. In an effort to honor the life and work of Carin Goldberg, the editors of PrintMag.com asked designers, artists, friends and students who were influenced by her, were taught by her, or just loved her to share their thoughts on her influence and impact. We will be updating this post with additional tributes as they come in.
I was in Honolulu for a project at the Ala Moana Mall. Carin Goldberg called me and I spent the next hour speaking with her sitting on a bench under a fake palm tree. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I’m sure it was…lively. Carin had more energy and passion than three people combined. That call, filled with her laughter is the only thing I recall from the entire trip. Losing Carin is like turning the saturation levels down on life.
Gail is the Chair of BFA Design and BFA Advertising, and the Creative Director of the Visual Arts Press at the School of Visual Arts.
The response from my School of Visual Arts classmates to Carin Goldberg’s passing has been so profoundly moving, yet, of course, not surprising. Some have said that Carin helped make us the people we are today, and others have said we wouldn’t have the careers we’ve enjoyed if not for Carin’s influence. We are indeed better at our crafts and stronger as adults for sweating through Carin’s tough critiques and experiencing her tough love. Carin was a true artist who worked with simple materials, collaging with stickers and ephemera, and later embroidering graphic shapes into magical creations. She was a genius at working with words and instilling her joy of using typography to express feelings into her students. I had the honor of getting to thank Carin Goldberg on behalf of all of us in person only a few weeks ago, and her response, with a snarky little knowing half-smile, was just, “For what?” Your SVA kids will love you forever, Carin. Thank you for changing all our lives.
Carin Goldberg was not a networker. She didn’t talk about “design thinking” or make claims about design’s importance to the corporate bottom line. She simply did beautiful, original, courageous work, day after day, year after year.
It’s a cliche, but Carin was a graphic designer’s graphic designer. Though she was quiet in her work, she got her share of recognition. She was a member of AGI, a recipient of the AIGA medal, a Fellow of the Academy of Rome. But it was as a teacher that she made her influence felt, as generations of SVA graduates will testify.
She could be modest and even offhand about her own work, saying, for instance, that Madonna was the easiest performer she ever designed an album cover for. But note the tender loving care of those twin Os that frame the face. With Carin there was always something extra like that. I would see those grace notes and feel momentarily sick with envy and then resolve to do better tomorrow.
I promise you have a Carin Goldberg book cover in your library, or a Carin Goldberg album cover in your record collection. What we don’t have any more is Carin Goldberg. She died on Thursday, January 18 after a three-year battle with cancer. My love and thoughts go out to her husband Jim, son Julian, and her countless students, protégés and admirers who will forever bear her mark. Let’s all do better tomorrow.
Debra Bishop is the Design Director and co-founder of The New York Times for Kids. Previously, she worked at Martha Stewart Omnimedia. She has designed for clients including The New York Times Magazine, More magazine, Esquire, Conde Nast Traveler, House & Garden and Rolling Stone.
Being in Carin Goldberg’s sphere was magical. When I was with her she made me laugh deeply, not only because she was quite funny but because she understood me more than most. I enjoyed her bluntness and her honesty. As a teacher she was just as kind as she was tough, but she taught us so much. “What is good,” comes to mind but the truth is, she quite literally changed my life and inspired my career. Her exquisite body of work is one of the most influential of our times— and included album covers, book covers, and magazines. She is and will always be my design idol, my inspiration, my teacher and also a beloved friend. I will miss her so.
Carin Goldberg was a larger than life influence on me. She was a design icon I deeply admired. Over time she became a colleague, then an ally, and ultimately a dear friend. She made me feel as if I was part of her family. I felt connected to her as a designer, but also as a quintessential New Yorker. With Carin there was no bullshit. She had integrity. And exquisite taste. Carin was a force of nature—right up to the end. I will miss her.
Simply put, Carin taught me how to think and how to see. Hard to understate the enormous implications of that. Carin changed how I see the world and how I think about design.
I also found this email she wrote to me in 2012 right as we finished portfolio class, and I was feeling very insecure about all the experimental work I made. At the time it brought me much needed peace and confidence, and today, it brought tears to my eyes. Rest in peace to our dearly beloved Carin Goldberg, a true legend.
Kristina is the Vice President of Design at Vox Media. From 2006-2009 she was the Art Director of Print Magazine.
Carin’s typography class was my first step into art school. Week after week I showed up with new ideas, struggling to land a strong one. In a last-ditch effort, I pinned a new idea to the wall. When it was my turn, Carin sitting a few seats to my right wearing her signature black pants and white button down, adjusting her posture in a very matter of fact way turned to me and said, ‘Kristina, you got it’. It was the moment it all clicked.
From that point forward, when I’d feel that click, I could transport back to that very moment and hear her voice saying ‘Kristina, you got it.’
The lessons I learned in class were applicable everywhere through the many moments I shared with her: as a student, an employee, a co-teacher, an AIGA board member, and certainly as a friend. Most importantly her nurturing guidance carried through as I became a parent myself.
Carin was a champion for thinkers, creators, students and more. A true rainmaker inspiring and empowering everyone she was in contact with.
Thank you for being my forever click. I love you, Carin.
The Teacher Who Wouldn’t Say No
When Carin Goldberg announced that she was no longer teaching her regular undergrad classes at SVA, my first thought was not about her ill health. That reason for her departure was unclear and unpublicized. It was common for teachers who gave as much as Carin had given to burn-out. (In my experience almost everyone eventually returns to teaching after “pressing refresh”).
No, my first thought was a selfish one.
Carin was often the undergrad teacher who many of the MFA Design students called upon first when they were having trouble with their own typographic fluency. And Carin welcomed them all; some once or twice, others were invited to audit an entire semester. Therefore, my first thought when her final semester came to an end: I would not be able to call on her talents and dedication as an invaluable teacher to help the MFA students, who benefited from untold reservoirs of critical wisdom and emotional generosity. We had simply come to depend on – and even take for granted – her extreme passion for design, unyielding attention to detail, pursuit of perfection and willingness to embrace and celebrate innovation.
Carin was always at the ready. It was not, as far as I could tell, an additional responsibility or chore. She could say no! But she wouldn’t! She loved the students, reveled in how they excelled and was proud that she could enable and influence such large number of students to become great designers. That’s what I call an exceptional legacy. I will be forever grateful.
Drew is an award-winning designer and entrepreneur and the founder of SpotCo.
I was starting my junior year at School of Visual Arts. I had done well so far, but nothing special had really happened, unless you count being intimidated by every native New Yorker with Pink cowboy boots who went to school with my middle class ass.
I began week one, going to my classes. That’s when I started to see work in the halls. I don’t know how to describe it—it was just better than anything I had ever seen. I didn’t know who was making it, or why it was so different. So I inquired through Richard Wilde, the head of the undergraduate Graphic Design program. Turns out, there was a new teacher at SVA. She had started a week late, last minute, so late that students hadn’t been able to sign up when her classes were first announced. Every student in her class was a transfer student, from all over the country. Tougher students. Quieter students. Students with wildly different backgrounds: pre-med, architecture, every age. Grown-ups. Nothing like my classmates from Ronkonkoma thus far. They were tough and smart and driven. I take a deep breath, suck it up (which was not a phrase in 1983), and transfer in.
And then, there was Carin. It was her first year, her first class teaching. And she was terrifying. Hip, arty, smart, funny, and FILLED with art history. Every project, she would say “Look at Cassandrè,” “Look at Warhol,” “Look at Jim Dine,” “Look at Jasper Johns,” “Look at these fonts,” Look here, look there. Everyone had already presented their first project being a few weeks in to the semester, and sizing up had definitely happened, as everyone including Carin was brand new to each other. My first assignment: The Modern Chair. I worked and worked and got ready to present. Carin was frankly overwhelming. Not because she was brutal—we all came to know later as contemporaries that she did not suffer fools gladly. But she loved her students and brought them forward with kindness and caring. She took them under her wing.
She expected magic.
I put my piece on the wall, reminded myself to breathe, and sat down. Carin walked up to it, and said “Whose is this?” with a downtown bark. I responded sheepishly “me.” She turned, tapped the work three times with the world’s best design finger and said, “This is good.” And with that, she changed my life.
I wanted her approval so badly. I wanted the approval of every person in that class. God, they were all so talented, I just raced to keep up, to learn my history, to learn scale, to survive, to hang in, to excel. Jody, David, Jackie, Sue, Alan, Gail. You were all Gods to me. But none more than Carin. She literally lifted me with her gift for teaching. I cannot imagine my career (or frankly my adulthood) without all that I learned from her. Later, she asked me to take over leading the New York Chapter of AIGA after her term as President. I said I wasn’t famous. I felt that I didn’t bring the weight that was needed for the position. She didn’t care. She told me, “You’ll be great.” Again, I received her blessed validation.
And that was Carin.
I want everyone to know that she was the funniest, most elegant designer I ever encountered. And being famous didn’t matter to her. So now, it does to me—but for her. I want to shout from the rooftops about how spectacular she was. To say we will miss her is like saying you will miss a parent; it’s just not nearly enough.
So look at her work. Celebrate it. She deserves it.
Julia is the Executive Creative Director at Google Creative Lab, EMEA.
Carin Goldberg was an alchemist.
She turned her students into actual designers.
There wouldn’t be a whole generation of great designers if it weren’t for Carin. There are thousands of us that she taught and molded over the decades. Her legacy lives on in all of her students work.
If you were lucky to get into her class at SVA (and I was one of those lucky ones to have her for two consecutive years), you were safe, but you had to work hard and be open to let yourself be guided by her. She turned everyone in that class into a designer, even the ones you thought would be absolutely hopeless. She found that one thing you could focus on and relentlessly pushed. Although painful, she didn’t let you get off the hook. Ever. Every little detail needed to be considered and designed. Everything had a purpose, and don’t even dare to go the easy, fast route. She was a real stickler.
The students who didn’t get into her class jealously dismissed her teaching style as micro art directing. Yes, she was that person who was constantly whispering into your ear which typeface may be better, which exhibition you should go to, and what flea markets to visit to find that perfect little detail for one of your posters. Words like verbatim and vernacular were suddenly added to my limited vocabulary. Yes, she was that hovering art director but, let’s face it, how would a 20-something who just started studying design really know which typeface is good or bad? How else could we have known what photographer is good or not? Those things come with time and experience, none of which we had. We were dumb spring chickens. And Carin spoon-fed us her wisdom, talent and taste, class by class. Her passion was contagious.
The assignments she gave us, whether The New York Times redesign or Picture magazine, weren’t merely to learn how to layout a page of gorgeous type; they were there for us to become inquisitive researchers, detectives learning about subjects we never considered. All of a sudden, we became visual journalists to tell stories with designs that made you feel something. She made us develop an eye for good photography. She made us honor and respect the art we chose for our layouts. “Never compete with the artist, and don’t even pretend you could be as good as one of them,” she preached. “Pay homage to the art you are designing for, and complement it with your typography, be playful, have fun and above all, it has to have a purpose.” That skill came in handy for me seven years later when I worked at MoMA , where I put exactly that into practice: “be the stage, not the star.” To this day, I can hear Carin whisper into my ears when I am designing.
She not only taught me about design, she also taught me how to be a Mensch. She taught me about good taste, culture, art, and history. How to think, how to have a point of view, and how to continue learning.
Ultimately Carin helped me put my portfolio together, which got me my first few jobs. She also is the one who helped me get the internship of my dreams with Paula Scher. Carin is one of the women who had a significant influence on me. She prepared me for life.
I will be forever grateful for everything she taught me and I will always celebrate her.
MICHAEL IAN KAYE
Michael is the Chief Design Officer of Sylvain.
In 1996 when I was a young designer, I asked Carin, one of my graphic design heroes, to collaborate with me on designing an issue of the magazine Upper and Lowercase, a typographic journal that had previously graced the drawing boards of many more of my heroes. Because I was young and not a designer of note, I expected a kind but swift “thank you, but no.” Quite to the contrary, I received an enthusiastic yes. Little did I know that this invitation would not only garner a consummate collaborator but also provide me with wisdom and a sense of humility that would guide my practice and presence from that point forward.
Carin treated me as a peer and an equal on all fronts. She befriended me as if we had known each other for many years and through many lives. She inspired me with a casual brilliance that contextualizes “true” genius. She showed me that smart-made simple and simply-made genius shines brightest. She taught me to say “fuck it” in a way that had gravitas and integrity. Carin valued me in a way that made me feel heard and seen from the inside out.
I know I carry with me only a small fraction of Carin’s influence. Her work as a teacher, designer, and leader will guide makers and watchers of culture for years to come. For me, the importance of Carin’s work transcends a unique design sensibility and prioritizes sensitivity and passion as a means to progress in both work and life.
Thank you Carin.
Chip is an award-winning designer, writer, author of many books and one of the foremost book jacket designers in the world.
Not long after I started working in NYC in the late ‘80s, I was at Three Lives bookstore and saw the jacket of a book called ‘Sinatra! The Song is You, A Singer’s Art by Will Friedwald.’ I was stunned: not only was it absolutely beautiful, it was absolutely perfect. The concept, the execution, the composition, the craftsmanship. Jaw-dropping. Who could make yet another book on Sinatra look so fresh and classic at the same time? Carin Goldberg, of course. Over the years, I was lucky enough to get to know her, and even though I never formally took her class, I learned so much from just looking at her work. Her career is a gift, to us, and we are lucky to have it. Thank you, Carin.
I had my kids late in life. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. But Carin Goldberg did. She saw the look of fear in my eyes and swooped in and became my caretaker and confidant. She did everything short of going to Lamaze classes with me (My husband Paul Sahre, of course, still did that). She loved the planning and the plotting—the DESIGNING of the how life could be for my future family. She made everything easier, and even fun. And after my twins Harry and Eli were born she was right there, biking over with treats and gifts. They were always perfectly designed, and chosen for their humor and beauty, or because they were just friggin’ delicious. My boys loved her like crazy from the get-go. I will forever miss this smart, talented, funny, beautiful, silly, serious, person. Like my kids said so many times, I can only say, “Thank you Aunt Carin.”
BOBBY C. MARTIN JR.
The first time I met Carin Goldberg she had two slide carousels under her arm. It was a time before social media, when amazing work from different pockets of the world could only be collected with great effort by someone who cared. For three hours, we never left our seats and her eyes never left the screen. She had no patience for anything but full engagement.
Carin could create magic with type. What she did can’t be learned. Her son, Julian Biber (my one-time intern at Jazz at Lincoln Center), once described himself as growing up with artists for parents.
Carin Goldberg truly was the most artful designer.
Stacey is the Executive Director of AIGA NY.
An iconic designer, dedicated educator, and giving mentor to so many emerging designers in NYC and beyond. As the President of AIGA NY, we here remember her for her humor, candidness and the forever iconic ” / ” in our branding. Carin left a deep legacy at AIGA NY and we are forever grateful for her leadership and love. She will be missed.
Two Small Stories about Carin Goldberg
Carin Goldberg lived graphic design. She made it, influenced it, taught it, collected it, curated it. It surrounded her. Bits of typography, printed matter, bag tags, ticket stubs, postcards…And not just in her studio, in every room in the house. One of these made it to my garage in New Jersey. A letterpress placard that read:
“hi paul. saw your nifty new cg (’73 Karman Ghia) on instagram. nice. hope all is well. C” (Typed on old typewriter)
I still have the sign on the dash.
The other, an enormous silkscreen poster originally part of a series titled Superwoman, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 2002. This poster signifies absolutely nothing until you understand the context. Bowling Ball? Black Hole? Period? Nope, Human Head. For Carin context was EVERYTHING.
I took this photo in June of 2014, a few days after Carin Goldberg’s birthday, a few weeks before she left for the Rome Prize to start her fellowship at the American Academy.
In the studio she shared with her husband, Jim Biber—and for a few years with me—there was a small glass cube of a room, lined floor to ceiling with Carin’s books: photography, fashion, illustration, textile design. One of the walls held seemingly floating, slender shelves with things Carin collected on her travels – a museum of tiny treasures that were so exquisite visitors would gasp at the sheer beauty of them. Many of those pieces made their way to Carin’s friends and students; her gifts might come wrapped in pale pink Parisian butcher paper, tied up with vintage flashcards. It was hard to open them because you had to destroy the fantastic presentation.
Carin loved deeply and generously. She listened hard and campaigned for you, she was a connector, a mentor, a motivator, an inspiration, and the most loyal friend. Seeing the world through Carin’s eyes made you appreciate a color, a letter, your shoe laces, LIFE. Great design wasn’t something Carin just did, she lived it, she believed in it, and she shared it every day.
The world is poorer without Carin Goldberg. My heart is heavy, and I will forever love and miss her.
Zipeng is a designer, illustrator, animator and art director in New York City who wants to make everyday a razzle-dazzle musical.
Caring. It just dawned on me that her name spelled out the word “Caring”, and I think that’s probably the most essential adjective that I would use to describe this fierce lady. Carin cared, Carin cared a lot and sometimes she cared too much that’s overwhelming. She cared about the work, she cared about her work but more importantly, she cared about every single one of us in her life. It’s heartbreaking to use the past tense to write this paragraph, and it’s tremendously sad that I won’t be able to hear her voice again. But it truly has been an honor and incredible privilege to have her as a teacher, a mentor and a friend. Love you and miss you a lot, my type queen, Carin.
Driving in Los Angeles can be a dangerous game. There’s the stop-and-start traffic, the Tesla-wielding egomaniacs with immortality complexes, the TikTokers filming videos from the driver’s seat. But there are also those architecture looky-loos who find their eyes wandering from behind the wheel toward the many very stunning buildings in LA that steal focus.
Of these distracted drivers, I think we can cut the building rubberneckers the most slack— and I’m not just saying that because I am one. Los Angeles is a sun-soaked mecca of architectural splendor, home to a rich tapestry of styles that range most notably from Spanish Mission Revival and Craftsman to Art Deco and Midcentury Modern, not to mention many others. At its worst, LA is a city filled with narcissistic pipe-dream-seekers, but at its best, it’s a stunning time capsule of aesthetics that need to be protected at all costs.
None more so than the cult favorite, Googie.
While you might not have heard the term “Googie architecture” before, anyone who’s ever stepped foot inside of a Denny’s has encountered it. During the Atomic Age of design, Googie took mid-century America by storm in the form of futuristic coffee shops, carwashes, and even churches. Bold, swooping structures, jaunty neon signs piercing the sky, and large outdoor eating areas all began popping up throughout Southern California in the 1950s, primarily to catch the eye of drivers passing by.
The term “Googie” was derived from the Los Angeles eatery Googie’s Coffee Shop, designed by John Lautner on Sunset Boulevard in 1949. But Googie’s was just the beginning.
Smash cut to present day Los Angeles. The California Coffee Shop style at the core of Googie architecture is still deeply embedded into the look and feel of the sprawling metropolis, most iconically represented in the chain Norms Restaurant, the Burbank burger joint Bob’s Big Boy, and the crème de la crème: Pann’s Restaurant, just a stone’s throw from LAX in Inglewood. While these buildings have stood the test of time, it hasn’t been easy. Relics of Googie architecture have endured thanks to the immense efforts of Googie obsessives at places like the Los Angeles Conservancy, who continue to fight tooth and nail to protect these masterpieces from real estate developers licking their chops for the buildings’ coveted locations.
At the frontlines of this fight is LA native Chris Nichols, a senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine, historic preservationist, the author of Walt Disney’s Disneyland, and one of the foremost Googie-philes. Nichols has volunteered at the LA Conservancy for decades, where he’s served as the Chairman Emeritus of the organization’s Modern Committee. At the end of last year, Nichols ran the Googie World Expo in LA, which included a day-long bus tour of Googie landmarks on the west side of the city, and I was fortunate enough to be a participant.
“I love this stuff so much,” Nichols told our gaggle of Googie fiends at the top of the tour, donning his signature suspenders and bow tie. “I’ve been suffering from Googie Disorder since I was a teenager.” We had all gathered at Armét Davis Newlove Architects (formerly Armét & Davis up until 1972) in Santa Monica, the heralded firm founded in 1947 that pushed Googie architecture to even greater heights after its initial inception. “John Lautner may be credited with doing the first googie building, Googie’s—which gave it its name—but Armét and Davis and then Armét Davis Newlove perfected the style, and really gave it the energy and excitement that we all love about it,” Nichols explained.
Armét Davis Newlove is responsible for many of the most adored Googie buildings that typify the aesthetic, including Pann’s and the first Norms location on La Cienega Boulevard, along with the prototypes for chains that would soon pervade the rest of the country, such as Bob’s Big Boy and Denny’s. They’ve constructed over 4,000 Googie restaurants, and the firm is still operational to this day. “They’re producing what they’ve always produced: churches and restaurants! Those are their two specialties,” said Nichols. Modern-day franchises they’re currently working with are Wendy’s, Burger King, El Pollo Loco, and Dutch Brothers coffee shops. But this tour was all about the Googie heyday, which, according to Nichols, was at its peak in 1957, 1958, and 1959.
The postwar boom hit Los Angeles in a flurry of expansive glass walls, flamboyant, seemingly floating roofs, and indoor-outdoor landscaping that came together in a style met with a mixed reception. To this day, people like Nichols have to fiercely protect the integrity of Googie, which has long been derided as “a little too commercial, a little too flamboyant, a little too western, and a little too American for serious consideration,” as Alan Hess writes in his landmark book from 1986, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture.
“I was given a copy of Googie by Alan Hess when I was 17, and I said, ‘Wow! This is incredible!’” Nichols told us through a megaphone once we were on the tour bus, careening through the city. “I made my parents drive me around and show me all of these buildings. Then I called Alan Hess out of the phone book, who told me that the Los Angeles Conservancy was starting a ‘50s group that I should be involved with. So I went to the meetings and it changed my life! I met all of my best friends there, I met my wife there.” It was clear from the jump that the group on this tour was tightly knit, just like any group of pals united by a common interest. It just so happens that this crew was bonded by a deep and profound admiration for a niche architectural style pioneered in Southern California.
The handful of stops we made on the tour ranged from a church to Mel’s Drive-In (of American Graffiti fame) in Santa Monica, but the crowning jewel of the day was Pann’s. “I love Pann’s with all of my heart and soul,” Nichols gushed as we ambled into the parking lot. “This is the greatest, best, most amazing Googie building in the world,” he continued. “It still has its original owners. It’s completely restored, completely intact. Completely beautiful and perfect. This is what I live for.”
Pann’s was chiefly designed by the visionary Helen Liu Fong of Armét & Davis in 1958. She was just 24 years old when she was hired by Armét & Davis in 1951, shattering barriers as a Chinese-American woman in a white-male dominated field. But her skill was undeniable, primarily as an interior designer who designed many café booths, barstools, and counters herself.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that 65 years after it was first built by Fong and the rest of the Armét & Davis team, Pann’s remains a pristine beacon of authentic Googie architecture. Owner James Poulos has been intent to restore Pann’s throughout the years in ways that meticulously preserves its original Googie features, but not all restaurateurs are as thoughtful.
“The biggest challenge is that restaurant owners are a unique breed who oftentimes are not interested in preservation,” another preservationist on the tour, Peter Moruzzi, lamented to the group. “Commercial buildings are difficult; they’ve always been difficult, and they always will be difficult, compared to residential. Residential, you have a single owner, and you can often find an owner who appreciates the property and wants to do the right thing. With commercial, there are just so many other pressures and interests. You have council people involved and neighbors— it’s just hard. It’s really, really hard. Restaurants in particular.”
The harsh reality is that the magnitude of classic California coffee shops make their upkeep unrealistic in modern times. “The economic changes in the last 75 years made it so that you can no longer have one person with a lot for parking hire Armét Davis and Newlove to come in and do something with custom artwork and landscaping and a giant neon sign—all of this expensive beautiful stuff—and still sell a hamburger for 59 cents,” Nichols said. Land values in Los Angeles have skyrocketed to such an exorbitant extent that it’s unsustainable to have restaurants take up that much square footage of property, not to mention the cost of staffing. Nevertheless, the fight for Googie respect and rescue wages on.
As a 17-year-old, Nichols stood helplessly across the street from the original Googie’s Coffee Shop as it was being demolished in 1988. “I was on a pay phone with the LA Conservancy at a gas station,” he shared. “I called the Conservancy and I was like, ‘It’s coming down! What are you doing?! Googie’s is being demolished and you’re not here, I don’t understand!’ And they said, ‘That ship has sailed. You would’ve had to deal with that years ago.’”
At the end of the tour, Nichols encouraged all of us to write letters to cultural heritage commission meetings, attend the meetings, and call our council members to protect these landmarks. “That’s a big deal, and that stuff goes a long way,” he said. This lively, sold-out group gathering for a Sunday bus tour in November 2022 serves as a starburst of hope that there are still determined guardians of Googie architecture out there, committed to protecting this special style. But we can’t take any of it for granted. “The fact that any of these Googie coffee shops survive is remarkable in and of itself,” said Peter before we all returned to our 21st-century lives. “So whenever you see one, you need to go patronize it, because you don’t know how long it will be there.”
The world lost a legend on January 19, 2023, and I lost an old friend. I’ve interviewed the great Carin Goldberg numerous times, but my favorite discussion is included in my book How To Think Like A Great Graphic Designer back in 2007. As part of our remembrance of Carin, I wanted to share this interview today.
It was the summer of 1983. David Bowie, The Police, and Evelyn “Champagne” King filled the airwaves. When a little-known artist burst onto the scene, the way our culture viewed celebrity and the cult of visual reinvention was changed forever.
I am, of course, alluding to Madonna. The moment I saw her first album, I knew something was forever different. I am not, however, referring to the singer herself. I am describing the profound impact of the album cover. Unapologetically in-your-face, the cover was charismatically smart and sassy. But here’s the kicker: The cover conveyed an attitude that was distinctly Madonna long before the singer had cultivated her characteristic bravado. And that cover (and the necklace that graced Madonna in the photograph) was created by Carin Goldberg.
Carin has been working in the field of graphic design for over 30 years, completing design and
advertising commissions for major publishing, music, and TV corporations. She’s headed her own firm, Carin Goldberg Design, since 1982. She designed and authored her first book, titled catalog, in 2001, and has been working on Home, a second collection.
Carin and I talked over lunch at a Manhattan eatery and lingered until the restaurant began to serve dinner. We discussed career relevance and longevity, her dispute with Tibor Kalman, the importance of taking risks, her longtime friendship with Paula Scher, and, of course, fishing for flounder.
DM: What do you love most about design?
CG: There is something very gratifying when you’re involved in your work—once you’ve hit that point of focus and you’re really in it. That’s what we all look for. We all wait for that moment when we’re in it, and we love the making of the piece.
What don’t you like?
A lot of design has become about schtick. people might take me to task for this, but you know what it reminds me of? It’s like this: someone starts off in life very beautiful. then there’s someone else who’s not so beautiful. But in the end, both people get wrinkled and old. We’re all on the same planet, and it really doesn’t matter. The real dilemma is this: should we just grab the schtick while we can and use it? Because when we hit our fifties or sixties, we’ll all be in the same boat.
It’s really hard nowadays to maintain a career in graphics, particularly in the field of graphic design. It’s a youth-oriented business. I often wonder about whether I’m relevant or not. But that’s not how I was brought up. It’s not what I saw. When I was growing up, designers were anonymous. They weren’t celebrities. They did not write books. They didn’t do schtick. Not one of them.
It became clear to me at a certain point in my career that being publicly clever might be the only thing that could give my career any kind of longevity. It has been a rough thing to come to grips with. I’m certainly not a shrinking violet, but I don’t get great enjoyment out of getting up there publicly and doing that kind of thing. I’d rather do the work. I also think that a lot of people find that when the schtick really works, they’re on planes half the time doing the schtick.
I wonder when they have the time to do the work, and I’m also suspicious as to whether they actually have “the work.”
You’ve had a long and illustrious career. How would you describe it?
I’ll tell you a story. When I was little, I used to go fishing with my father. He was an outdoorsman and we used to go out to the long island sound in a little boat. We’d put our rods out, and we would hope that we would hit big pockets of flounder. And sometimes you would hit them, and sometimes you wouldn’t. But sometimes if we hit that hole, we could fill two giant galvanized cans with flounder, and we would bring all of the flounder home to the neighbors. everyone would wait for us to come back, and then they knew they’d be eating flounder for the entire winter.
And that’s how I think of my career. I hit some flounder holes. I hit the record business at a time when flounders were there for me. I hit the book business at a time when flounders were there for me. My colleagues and I were under the radar, spinning up these flounders, and I remember thinking, “Is anybody watching this, why aren’t they with us getting the flounders, too?” We could not believe we were alone in this great discovery.
That was what it was like for me. I was very lucky to find these flounder holes, these moments of utter fertility. I was lucky. Lucky to be there, while it was all happening. But after the luck, there was all the hard work. That’s the part that makes me just absolutely livid, when I hear men talking about women and their careers. In my own career, I had to be as tenacious as a dog with a bone.
I made sure I was observing and watching and looking over the shoulders of the right people and learning from them and killing myself to learn everything I could. My career has been about luck and hard work.
Having projects come your way might be luck but doing a good job with them is much more than that. Let’s talk about security. How important has security been to you?
I remember the moment in 1983 when I knew I would never be a painter. It was because I would never survive. I’ve given lectures on this. I open it up by saying, “I’m a graphic designer because I like nice sheets and towels.” And I realize too that I don’t like to be alone. Occasionally I do, but often I don’t. There is a small part of me that loves being solitary. As a kid, I used to run away to be by myself and draw. That’s how it all started. As a graphic designer, I like collaboration. I don’t want to be in a cold garret somewhere smoking unfiltered Camels all by myself with paint all over my body—because I like sheets too much.
Speaking of compromise, I remember for my first job at CBS records, I hired Milton Glaser to do an illustration for a Carole King ad. As I was dialing his phone number, I was shaking in my boots. It was like calling the pope. I remember I rang him up, and I asked him to do an illustration for a full-page ad for Carole King. He sent me an illustration that was—well, let’s say it wasn’t his best. I knew it. Even at that age, I knew it, even though I thought of him as God’s gift to the universe. I called his rep and told him we were hoping he’d give us something different. Milton absolutely refused. he just said, “Sorry, what you see is what you get.” And I went home and cried and didn’t sleep for a week because I thought I had offended Milton Glaser. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that he had done the right thing by standing up for what he thought was right. If you don’t, people will take everything you have. You may risk losing a job, but in the grand scheme of things, I believe that by standing up for yourself, you’re doing the graphic design business a service.
I used to get angry with friends of mine who were also doing book jacket design as freelancers. They wouldn’t charge for messenger bills, and they wouldn’t charge for mechanicals, and I’d say, “You know, you’re fucking it up for the rest of us.” And they’d say, “I’m afraid I won’t get called again.” And it just drove me crazy. I’m a big believer in the bungee jump. I think you have to do the right thing and the fair thing even if you’re afraid.
When I stopped designing book jackets, it was a huge bungee jump. I knew I could have been shooting myself in the foot. But I couldn’t get up in the morning anymore and go to my desk; I could not deal with the people I was dealing with anymore. It was over. And I think you have to take those risks. It takes a while to recover, but in the end, you end up ahead of the game. Morally and emotionally, you’ve evolved.
Back in 1989, Tibor Kalman said that you and Paula Scher and Louise Fili were pillaging design history. Why do you think he felt that way?
In some ways, what he said was valid. In retrospect, I can’t really fault him for what he was saying. It was a time when we were changing things. Changing the way design was being done. If you look at what I was doing, what Paula Scher was doing, and what Louise Fili was doing, it had to happen. Design was evolving. If you look at the architecture of that time, if you look at photography, it was all happening at once. There was a discovery of something that we had previously not known about. It was inexplicable. You can call it postmodernism, for lack of a better description. My husband, Jim Biber, went through it in architecture. It’s the nature of the way these movements occur. All of a sudden, there were books around that hadn’t been there before. suddenly, we didn’t want to be art directors anymore. We didn’t want to shoot a picture of somebody and stick a name on the cover. We wanted to design things.
So how did that make you a pillager of design history rather than, say, a catalyst for change?
Paula got crucified for her Swatch Watch campaign because it was an homage to Herbert Bayer. My book cover for James Joyce’s Ulysses got killed because it was an homage to modernist posters. I was asked to do something that was purely typographic because the famous 1960s cover by E. Mcknight Kauffer was a big U. The publishers didn’t want to lose that tradition, and they wanted me to do yet another big U, so I did 12 big U’s, and it just so happened that the U they ended up with was influenced by a Swiss design I had seen while doing my research.
Now, if you think about it, there is no content in a U. The publishers did not want content. I wanted content. They did not want me to read Ulysses and then come up with a content-oriented cover. today, if you don’t have content in some way embedded in your jacket design, you are considered to not be doing your job.
The same thing happened to me while designing the Oliver Sacks book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. the publishers, in no uncertain terms, didn’t want me to do anything that was intellectual. I wanted to do something very surrealistic, very Magritte; I wanted to go crazy. but I couldn’t. Now I’ve got this cover out there, and once it’s out there, it becomes fodder for people who are in a position to denounce what you’re doing, by criticizing you as part of a group or as an individual.
If you’re doing a cover for the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, you are essentially dealing with work that can’t change. the poetry itself is a work of art. you investigate it as a work of art coming out of a particular time. you ask: Who was Rilke? What did the work look like then? How do you make it relevant? It’s not like the “new and improved” Rilke. It’s still Rilke. How can you visually educate your public? The publishers are reissuing this Rilke, it’s not being rewritten. It’s not like Dave Eggers is rewriting Rilke.
So what do you do? Do you do some modern, weird, wacky thing? No, you go to the source, because you want to maintain the work’s integrity. At that time, in the 1980s, the general public was not aware of the Wienericht, and no one knew what the Bauhaus was. But 20 years later, this style has become ubiquitous. At the time, we were unearthing what had not yet been verbalized as a visual style.
Do you ever want to do anything besides graphic design?
Yes. I wanted to be a painter. I still would like to find a way that I can make my own work, perhaps painting or drawing. I still have a lot of ideas; I still feel like there’s a side of me that would like to segue into this. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. I think this is because I’m still fundamentally excited about being a graphic designer.
Do you ever look back on your work and say, “Damn, that was a good cover design”?
It depends on the day. I might be proud of the fact I did it. I would likely be bored by it. I’d be bored because I would like another 15 years to do it all over. I did those book covers when I was pretty wet behind the ears. Now I feel I would have done some of it very differently. So I usually think, “Ugh, I would have done that differently…” I rarely think, “Oh, I was lucky I could do that, and that was kind of cool.” Every once in a while there are days when I might look at something and think, “Hmm, maybe that was a little ahead of the curve…” But it’s up and down; it primarily has to do with wishing I did not have to care about the body of work. I’m more interested in my next phase. Like anything you do in life, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve gotten better and that I have wisdom. I’m proud that I can impart that wisdom to my students, and that I can help myself grow and move on with that wisdom. That is very exciting to me. I can look back and say, “Wow, I’ve really learned a lot.” But I’m not done yet.
How do you know when something you’ve designed is really good?
When you’re having fun. “Fun” is a tricky word. People think that if you’re having “fun,” you’re ignoring content, or you’re ignoring the importance of the piece. But that’s not true. I try to create visual imagery that is fun and funny and warm and artful, without being superficial, and work that has a point. I’ve always thought of myself—I mean, this is a dirty word, maybe there’s a better word for it—but I have thought of myself as a populist on the one hand, and a complete elitist on the other hand.
There is a part of me that wants to speak a common language, and there is a part of me that wants to scramble the language.
I do have a consciousness about that. I don’t have a manifesto that I’ve written about this, but I think that I have two very distinct takes on what my job is. I feel like I straddle the fence of the Abbott miller, “what is the manifesto?” approach with Michael Bierut’s “dog food” approach.
I don’t think either can exist on its own. I think we must always try to elevate. It’s the job we’re supposed to be doing. We have to try to get people to feel comfortable—but not too comfort-able. I don’t like talking above people or making them feel that they have to work too hard to understand the design that’s in front of them. I do want them to work, but I don’t want to bore myself to death and make something uncomfortable either.
There’s no question that I want there to be a voice in my work. Whether it’s a conceit of some-thing very simplistic or a conceit of ambiguity. I’m very clear about what I want to say. People have said—and sometimes they say it nicely and sometimes they say it with an agenda—that they see my work as being beautiful. For me, that has always been a prerequisite. I want my work to be beautiful. I want it to be smart, but I also want it to be beautiful. I don’t have a lot of patience for “just smart,” and sometimes I see work that is just smart—and it’s not beautiful. Sometimes the typography isn’t beautiful, and the craft isn’t there. That drives me nuts. I think typography should be beautiful; otherwise, you should just be a writer.
I feel like there’s so much more to be explored, but at the same time, I’m quite proud of what I have done. I get very emotional about the lucky trajectory of my career and the fact that I’ve been around such inspiring people. I could not have been more nourished. With all of its ups and downs, and strangeness, and shifts in expectations, and whatever it is that we all go through, I don’t think I would have wanted to do anything any differently. I’m really proud of what I’ve done.
Often a photograph says more than a drawing or painting. Other times the drawing or painting adds a necessary emotional spark to the same scene or idea. And then sometimes both media trigger unique responses. This is nothing new. Ask five people to describe the same object, and that sameness becomes entirely obscured by a slew of fixations, prejudices, agendas and preferences.
This is how I feel about NYC Storefronts by Joel Holland (Prestel), a book of 225 colorful pencil drawings of well- and lesser-known mom and pop shops around greater New York. All are portraits of the stores and their personalities—as different from one another as the customers who frequent them. When decontextualized from their surroundings, each is something of an icon unto itself—like the Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery (below), which, despite its run-down facade, is a beauty of a bygone relic that has forgotten to be bygone. This and the other venerable storefronts suggest the greed-mongering real estate developers cannot eradicate and homogenize everything, no matter how hard they try. New York won’t let them.
When I first saw this book (with text by David Dodge and a foreword by New York Nico), I dismissed it as yet another of hundreds of sketchbooks I’ve seen. This is not to demean sketchbooks (in fact, I co-authored five books on and about sketchbooks). But I’ve also collected (and wrote an introduction to one of) James and Karla Murray’s photo books on storefront heritage, including Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York. At the time of their respective publications, actual photographs satisfied my desire to see and feel the vintage beauty of each store. In other words, I preferred the real to the impressionist.
As I began browsing Holland’s drawings, though, looking closer at the details and reading the brief descriptive texts, I was entranced by the emotion embedded in each image. The Murray photographs are wonderful documents of distinct commercial architectural and sign styles, devoid of sentimentality, of what may or may not survive during my lifetime. Holland’s drawings capture his personal passion that translates into the viewer’s memory, recollection or imagination of these stores.
James and Karla Murray have done an essential service to anyone who loves old New York and lives in the contemporary city. I admire their thoroughness and tirelessness in preserving these images. Holland’s drawings are not about preservation but sanctification of the individualists in a city where glass and steel edifices are overpowering the streets.
His drawings are not postcard renderings (although they could make beautiful memory cards). He draws them as he sees them, introducing nothing that is not in his field of vision. What he adds that a photograph will not is an intimate eye and personal hand.
Holland is not the first nor last artist to pay respect to the city through its common and uncommon stores and shops, even as neighborhoods are devoured and starchitecture sucks up the air. But his collection of images is the first I’ve seen to capture the city exactly the way I saw it from the family car window as we’d drive up and down city streets looking for a place to park.
An industry legend passed away yesterday. We lost Carin Goldberg, who designed many things, our personal favorite being the first ever Madonna album cover. To name just a few of her many accolades, Goldberg earned an AIGA Medal, an Augustus Saint-Gaudens Medal for distinguished achievement in art, and the President’s Citation recognizing exceptional contributions to the field of graphic design. She was also a consummate educator, a Rome Prize Fellow, and an AGI member. But most of all, she was a talented designer who shaped how so many of us look at things, and through her teaching, she led multiple generations toward excellence. Her husband shared this video of her work, it’s our treat to share it while we begin the process of remembering one so talented. We’ll post a full tribute to her soon. —PRINT MGMT.
There she was, behind her big rimmed glasses, once seemingly coiffed hair, and smile that fooled the world. She was young, naive, and in pain. The depression and dysphoria lay behind his tired blue eyes. The world outside his busy mind paid no attention to the misery or their entangled existence.
I seemed like a happy kid to most. Friends and extended family had no idea the trauma that we held as siblings. Even some of the siblings had no idea of the trauma and torment we each held. The secrets that families carry can unravel in an instant, like when the afghan of woven love begins to unfurl at an untimely snag.
My mother and biological father divorced when I was four years old. Memories prior to their divorce have been shuttered by years of blocked off trauma. Over the years of my desperate need to understand the truth, I’ve experienced all types of therapy options. Some sessions of hypnosis-type attempts have unlocked deep unforgiving moments. Often, I’ve had to confirm with my mother if the dreams or nightmares of recalled memories were real moments, or made up monsters.
More often than not, the secrets slowly were confirmed. My earliest memory I can ever recall was a moment my mom tells me I was no more than 18 months old in. After seeking more support from a sexual assault in my early 20’s, a friend recommended rapid eye therapy; a session I would walk away from into a paradigm shift of insurmountable anguish.
In an April 2021 article for Harvard Health, Dr. Andrew Budson, a neurologist and chief of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology at VA Boston Healthcare System, states there are two things that tag a memory; emotion and significance. How we recall these memories is based on a few age based factors. When we are younger, we can be triggered by a thought of a memory. However, the older we become, the more cueing we must do to trigger the memory.
In cueing, you can use an article of clothing from the time of the memory, a song that strikes you, visiting physical space, and yes a photograph can trigger the memory. Often times, keeping still and thinking about the emotions and elements of a memory can assist in filling in the missing details. Or in my case, being removed from a present space into the tunnels of the mind, through what is now called EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
I heard the muffled sounds grow louder and louder. Screaming incoherent words through what sounded like being underwater, experiencing the confrontation just on the edge of a pool. I only am reminded by the sounds, like that of a tearing material. The deafening curdle scream, followed by a desperation to gasp for air through tear flooded nose and mouth. The stinging pain under the right shoulder blade, like a hot knife digging in from the back. Snapped from the back of a space, to the front. The screaming louder and louder of hate and fear. And then day glow white, and no more noise at all.
The memory… real? Imagination? A nightmare that continued to haunt me weeks, months, after my session ended. I couldn’t shake the pain. I couldn’t hide it anymore. So I asked her, as I described above every smell, sound, sense. Tears running down her cheeks, there was no way I could have remembered that moment. No way I could have recalled that. I was no more than 18 months old.
The day glow white? Her running from him. My mother explained that they were in a heated argument; something probably stupid and for sure forgotten. They argued a lot, and he pushed her a lot. There I was, belted in my car seat; you know the 80’s style, hard-to-break seat belt. The tearing material? That seat belt holding me in safety. The curdling scream? Me, being yanked from the back seat and over the front seat, legs smacking the car ceiling, by the man who people see in photographs as a gentleman and father.
My mother ran, taking my brother and I to my grandparents house. He’d managed to pull my arm out of my socket. My grandmother, a registered nurse, and my grandpa, a loving man who would have killed him if grandma didn’t stop him, proceeded to reset my arm there in the kitchen. It was better that way.
I recalled this memory from the trauma I carried in my right shoulder blade. We often carry many memories in our injuries. They follow us, yes the continued shoulder problems since then and the trauma the wound can mask. I learned that from my chiropractor.
She asked me one time after I’d been seeing her for treatment after a car accident in 2006, all intuitively, “so, what did your father do to you as a kid?”
“Why?” I asked.
“We carry deep wounds in places we might not imagine. You carry such heartache in your shoulder. I can see it, drooping there on your right side.”
No one knew. I hadn’t told anyone outside of my ex-wife about it. There this wonderful, thin, wild-haired, dynamite of a chiropractor just knew. She said “this is going to get weird for a moment. I want you to know this room is sacred, and I’m right here. We are going to adjust the shit out of this shoulder. It’s going to be painful, but not in a physical type of way. You’ll feel some deep pressure, hear a pop, and experience the most flooded emotions. Don’t hit me.”
She did her magic. I was paralyzed in a flash of memory, and sadness, and relief, and so many more unexplainable feelings. Then I just laid there, from soft tears, to sobs, to the most ugly crying. She just laid right there, enveloping me like a weighted blanket. She didn’t say another word for five minutes, and just let me cry.
We recall moments in many different ways. We deal with the trauma of them in the best ways we can. For some, it never goes away. For others, they find another way to tuck it back into the drawers of the dark places. For me, I’m continuing to figure it all out.
Until then, I’ll let the photographs shape-shift from the pain they once carried into the cape of authenticity. The recent discovery of one of these photographs was shared by my older step-sister. A photograph of the kids in his life whose lives were forever changed when their mother married that man.
We weren’t given the chance to be close. We were forced to look like he was a perfect father; a loving functional family. The moment we came to realize we really were family, was the moment we had to stand up to the monster that he is. He hurt us, each one of us, in his own manipulated way.
Some of us weren’t so lucky in his way of affection. I thought it was my fault. I came out to him as a lesbian. I didn’t know that he’d try to show me how women and men should be together. There I sat trying to figure out who I was, but be authentic and open a better relationship with him in truth. This was before the EMDR session; before I discovered even a single ounce of the monster.
I ran out of the house, to my car, and just tried to recount the moments that happened just before. Was that… real? What did I do? What did I say? I was paralyzed with disbelief. I ran away from it and carried so much guilt once I found out he’d been doing the same to my little step-sister.
We stood, against him. He still won, manipulating the system meant to apparently protect the victims. I was called as a witness, A WITNESS; even after giving my statement about the moments I went through. I NEVER got my chance to speak in court. He won, with a hand slap basically.
Our only solace…he tried to expunge his reduced charges to misdemeanor lewdness. The judge, the same man who felt sick about the way it all went, said the monster got away with it, and he’d better not see him in his court again.
I told my family that day, my step-siblings, we weren’t step anymore. We made a pact so to speak, we’d never go it alone if he ever tried anything again. I have a few photos now; all of us kids in our Sunday best with our Olan Mills’ smiles. We talk about the pain out loud now. It’s better that way, otherwise he continues to win.
My step-mom left a long time ago. She carries so much guilt. I tell her it wasn’t her fault. My mom feels the same. They were both pitted against each other like they were the enemy. It would have been different, had his manipulation not got in the way. I think, what might I feel when he’s gone. I can’t imagine that feeling.
I can say this, that last day I saw him in court, the bailiffs ushering each party out different doors, I said my final peace. I stood there, outside, him reaching to hug me, as strong as I could be.
“We can shake hands as adults, but you will not get a hug from me. You do not have any right to my success. What I have been able to accomplish in my life is mine and mine alone. You will never be able to see what more I become. You will not take my space. You will not try to use the words, I love you. Love of a Father, is not what your actions have burned as your legacy. What ever you are searching for in life, I hope you find peace. This is goodbye. I’m stronger today. I’ll walk away now, knowing I did nothing wrong, and I lay that guilt I felt for so long here at your feet. Today, I can’t forgive you. You’ll never know when I will, as that and that alone is mine.”
The photographs danced on a recent social media post, shared by one of my older sisters. There we all were, growing together in a thread about what was and what may be. I have one younger sister and one older brother from my mom and him. I have 3 stepsisters; two older and one the baby of all of us. Then there’s my two stepbrothers, one older than me, the other just a little younger than me, I believe. The brood of eight tossed together from my (step) mom and his marriage.
The conversation was read by extended family who had no idea. I have their support. I always have. It was me who pushed them away. I opted to share the blurred photo here, only because it’s still fresh for my little sister. She’s finding her way toward what she needs. I have found mine.
Our baby sister knows though, that I’m never going to let her go it alone. Not while the big coke-bottle-lens glasses, semi-haunted smile of a 12-year-old dressed in girls clothes, continues to advocate for truth and justice, and dignity and authenticity.
I love that twelve year old kid I was. She had so much to keep smiling for, to keep the pain hidden for, to carry on for. Without her, I couldn’t be me. She was strong and brave. She just needed to hold on long enough.
We fought hard— the she I was and the he I am— to shoulder the burden. Today, I carry the wound to remind me I can survive. I’ll turn the memories into the happy kind, even when the truth isn’t always captured in a photograph.
Sean Childers-Gray is a designer, writer, trans advocate, and educator. This essay was originally published on his Substack, The Shape of Our Dignity.
If you’re on the lookout for great shows, books, movies, and other memorable cultural experiences, why not let our staff recommend you something? This week, our crew shares charming bookstores, addictive social media accounts, riveting movies, and gorgeous stationary.
I know that, in many ways, Twitter is breathing its last dying breath, but it still has a few gems to offer amidst the wreckage, like this delightful account that posts old photos of cats. Curator Molly shares antique studio photos, postcards, pictures from museum collections and books, and other sources, all featuring cats of all kinds. If anyone can withstand Elon’s tyranny, it’s cats. —Charlotte Beach, Feature Writer + Content Editor
Frenchmen Art & Books in New Orleans, LA
I moved to New Orleans a few months ago, and my brother recently visited. If you’ve been to New Orleans, you know that there are an overwhelming amount of things to do, so my brother and I spent the entire weekend exploring neighborhood after neighborhood. One afternoon, we found ourselves on Frenchmen Street, stumbling into a bookstore called Frenchmen Art & Books. We spent a good chunk of time scouring the shelves and loved seeing all the local authors and stories shared. If you find yourself in New Orleans, this is definitely a local gem to check out, but my favorite of the week is local bookshops and their thoughtfully curated shelves. —Chloe Gordon, Social Media Manager + Content Editor
Each year during the holiday season I am sent a wonderful array of gifts from PRINT‘s partners. I’m lucky and the gifts are always wonderful design-driven items I use. But one company always out-gifts everyone else and that company is Sappi. If you were lucky enough to receive this year’s gift then you know what I am referring to. It’s a box within a box so beautifully designed, by VSA Partners, that you’ll never throw it out. The box is filled with greeting cards, envelopes, stickers and a pen (that’s even better than a Sharpie). After you use all the cards the box continues it’s life with dividers that allow you to sort and save greeting cards so you can find them when you need a card. I hope you got one, but if not, keep your eyes peeled because Sappi often releases some in the summer and at trade shows! —Laura des Enfants, Publisher
Strange Days (1995)
One of my favorite kinds of movies is late 20th century cyberpunk that agrees with Philip K. Dick’s fear of the 21st century on one hand, but also thinks it sounds kind of fun on the other hand. I’m probably biased as a median-age millennial, but I think the best time for this was the mid-to-late ’90s, when a lot of movies were centered around this very zippy, loud, aggressively stylish depiction of the near future. No one knew where things were going to go when the internet became widely accessible, but it’s clear everyone knew it was going to go somewhere weird, so movies like The Matrix, Hackers, and eXistenZ take huge liberties with their guesses. Kathryn Bigelow’s extremely weird sci-fi Strange Days is interesting for imagining 1999 from the perspective of 1995, so it feels a bit more like an exaggeration of a fairly recent present than a prediction of how the tide would turn. It has all the standard characteristics of classic LA noir, but turned up to 11: a jaded detective who sells grimy interactive videotapes (Ralph Fiennes) and an action hero reimagining of Lauren Bacall (peak Angela Bassett!!) navigating a glitchy industrial underground. It’s a fun watch, but by no means an easy one, primarily concerning itself with the politics of policing after the Rodney King riots and sex in the age of AIDS and increased surveillance. It’s heavy, complicated subject matter, and it doesn’t quite stick the landing, but it maintained a vice grip on my interest for two and a half hours, which is a very rare feat. The music is wild, the design is extremely fun on all angles, and I have a hard time not being immediately sold on anything that features Juliette Lewis doing impressions of PJ Harvey in glittery outfits. It’s on HBO Max! —Sarah Fonder, Managing Editor
Header image by Rosie Kerr.
Typography has the innate ability to cause strong opinions. From Comic Sans to Helvetica, people have steadfast views and stick to them wholeheartedly. People have such strong beliefs about certain typefaces that when one is altered or changed entirely within a design, people often become distressed.
The Washington Post recently reported on The U.S. State Department’s announcement that they’re phasing out their use of Times New Roman, an elegant serif typeface, and moving in a sans serif direction with Calibri. The change comes as the U.S. State Department works to be more inclusive to those visually impaired or with complications reading.
The change will officially be implemented on February 6, from which all requested papers must use the Calibri typeface as the primary font. Despite the fact that the secretary’s office advised the change of diversity and inclusion, there’s been push back on the switch up.
As with any typographical change, especially one that changes a typeface that’s been used for almost a decade, this one comes with ridicule and irritation. But inclusion comes in many shapes and forms, so out with the old and in with the Calibri.
Despite UX, UI, AR, AARP and all the other letters in the digital alphabet soup, I get no kicks from AI. Rather, paper engineering is my special FX stimulant of choice. With so many pixels running rampant on phones, watches and smart-this-and-that, cut and transformed paper—and especially pop-up devices—hold my attention.
That breed of vintage material may seem quaint compared to the marvels that are easily downloaded from the cloud—but it remains quite satisfying. And if you agree and want to be satisfied with old but no less complex engineering, an exhibition at the Grolier Club in New York City may be right for you. Animated Advertising: 200 Years of Premiums, Promos and Pop-ups highlights eye-catching and informative materials that promoted food, fashion, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, travel, music and politics.
Currently on view through Feb. 11 in the Grolier Club’s second floor gallery, the exhibition is curated by Ellen G. K. Rubin and drawn from her extensive pop-up and movable book and ephemera collection. She traces how advertising advanced during the 19th century with printing and manufacturing inventions. The 170 or more objects on view in the exhibition are embellished with interactive paper features—such as pull tabs and moving pieces—and comprise games, trading cards and collectible sets.
“To sell a product, one’s attention must be grabbed and held onto,” Rubin noted. “Paradoxically, the material that was the most fragile and meant not to be saved oftentimes demonstrated the most complex mechanisms. I have come to treasure and be grateful for these ephemeral objects, which are decades, if not centuries, old, and were kept, valued and passed down through generations.”
In the past few years, the world has experienced rapid, destabilizing shifts that show no sign of slowing down. It’s highlighted the need for deep, systemic change to many aspects of everyday life, and design continues to be one of the most exciting ways to respond to this change.
In 2022, as the world entered the third year of the pandemic, PRINT launched a free-to-enter Citizen Design category to recognize the work and critical thinking that designers bring to issues of social justice, community intervention, sustainability, and human rights across issues and borders. This year, after witnessing the erosion of voting rights and democracy throughout the United States and around the world, the Citizen Design category will honor work designed to protect these critical freedoms for us all.
“2022 was a critical year for Democracy. Voting rights were— and continue to be— challenged. Design has a role to play— ensuring that citizens understand how and where to vote and how to participate in their democracies. The 2023 Citizen Design category is open to designers who have created print and online campaigns designed to protect freedom.” —Steve Heller, Editor-at-Large
We couldn’t be more excited to hear your stories! But before you enter, learn all about the fascinating backgrounds of the judges who will look at your work.
Chair — SVA MFA Products of Design; Partner — Core77 Inc.
Allan Chochinov is a writer, educator, and critic passionate about the expansive potential of design. He’s a fixture at workshops and conferences dedicated to the medium and has spoken about the subject at a variety of storied institutions like the Yale School of Management, MIT, the Columbia School of Business, and Carnegie Mellon. Allan’s experience in education expands to New York’s School of Visual Arts, where he’s a founding chair of the Products of Design MFA graduate program. He’s also a partner of Core77, a design website dedicated to informing and connecting creatives around the world.
Co-Director and Founder — The People’s Graphic Design Archive
Louise Sandhaus has collected many hats in her career as a graphic designer, educator, and archivist. This expert on the design of her home state of California teaches at CalArts and wrote a book about the state’s visual culture entitled Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots. She is also the founder and co-director of The People’s Graphic Design Archive, a crowd-sourced archive that aims to make design accessible and bolster its unsung heroes. Learn more about the project in our recent interview with Louise about what inspired the archive, her vision for its future, and how the public can support it.
Senior Project Manager — Wasserman
Lisa Grant is a brand fanatic and cultural anthropologist immensely curious about brands, consumer behavior, emerging trends, their collective points of intersection and how they are visually articulated. After serving as the Senior Project Manager at Pentagram NY, Lisa recently joined Wasserman, a culture-centric agency serving the best athletes, artists, brands & properties in the world. She and her expert team work to establish enduring connections between brands and audiences across sports, music, and entertainment.
Looking for inspiration? Last year, VICE Media took home First Place with Gender Spectrum, a gorgeous collection of stock photos that center the members of trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming communities.
Do you think you’re our next Citizen Design winner? Step right up and try your luck as many times as you like! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.
What’s your favorite brand of black pepper?
That’s a question that would have been absurd 30 years ago. Black pepper was black pepper back then. The only decision you made was whether to get whole peppercorns or pre-ground pepper.
Remember what your spice rack was like when you grew up. Turmeric? Coriander? Smoked paprika? Depends on when you grew up. My peers… probably none of those. Yours, maybe all of them. What happened?
Culture turned food into an important marker for personal identity.
Today, we have favorites in things that barely existed 30 years ago. Merchants have created categories and products to fill the “identity space” available. As the identity-possibilities in culture have expanded, so have the products that support those identities. That means that while black pepper might have been an “identity-neutral” category in the past, it’s now become a small part of a much larger network of “identity-strengthening” or “identity-diminishing” objects.
This also means that there has been a subtle change in our relationships with objects over that time. More things have become important to us than they were in the past.
Last time, we looked at the identity-expressing role of a fleece jacket. Patagonia? Land’s End?, Nike? Our choice is very likely to be consistent with a larger style of declaring my culturally-consistent-way-of-being-in-the-world. In a world of identity-expression-through-objects (which we may not be consciously aware of), fewer and fewer choices are simply functional objects-in-themselves.
Almost everything we buy means something.
Our identities have become more sharply discernible through the objects we choose. We express ourselves in more and more detail today. Consequently, items that strengthen and signify clusters of those identities have come to market: more fine-grained choices for more nuanced expression of identity.
Anyone whose identity involves “serious” engagement with food (aka, “foodies”) now explores market offerings with an eye towards cuisines, ingredients, and equipment that are suited to their particular kind of commitment to food. That might mean finding the “best” quality of every ingredient that goes into preparing increasingly diverse dishes. Maybe only shopping in the most “authentic” markets for the same ingredients used in a cuisine’s native land will do.
What used to be called “ethnic” food is now deeply integrated into the American supermarket. (This is an indication of how important food has become for identity expression.) For some of us, finding an ingredient in a local supermarket is an automatic disqualifier. Specialty stores in a wide variety of cuisines have become a well-served market niche. Cities of all sizes have seen a proliferation of specialty groceries focused on preparing items from every corner of the world. Preparing what used to be called “cosmopolitan” cuisine at home is now commonplace. And, of course, there are scores of TV shows and hundreds of YouTube/Instagram/TikTok channels available to teach us all we need to know about how to expertly execute our chosen approach to food.
This is the kind of world Barry Schwartz envisioned when he wrote The Paradox of Choice. We now need to “decide” what kind of pepper we want, when just reaching for pepper on the supermarket shelf was all we needed to do in the past. But identity-congruent choices make selection a guided process. If you’re a “serious” foodie, you only want to buy black pepper that reflects that seriousness. Natural. Organic. Sustainable. An intimate relationship between the grower and the brand. No pre-ground mass produced McCormick’s for you! Then, it’s just a matter of Diaspora or Burlap & Barrel. Or maybe an even more bespoke spice dealer you’ve discovered in your search for the clearest expression of your food passion!
Think of this as the hidden spending of “identity consumerism.” Black pepper prices: Diaspora, $12.00. Burlap & Barrel, $9.99. McCormick, $3.44. If your identity is tightly connected with your approach to food, these price differences are irrelevant. You will choose the identity-coherent brand. Pepper’s price is probably highly elastic for you. Perhaps pepper is important enough to be a Veblen category.
Now think about your favorite bath soap, shampoo, or tea. What are your choices in these categories? How do they express your identity? What are the cost factors involved in those choices?
We live in these minute choices much more than we realize. It’s their aggregation… the emergence of the whole from the coherent patterns that are fractally micro-present in the details… that allows us to see ourselves in our things more clearly. But, it’s too easy to get tripped up by the obvious big choices (“I drive a Tesla”) and to miss the “Tesla-ness” of the black pepper choice.
Let the details of your object choices, especially your favorites, show you the depth of your commitment to a particular way of presenting yourself in the world.
Tom Guarriello is a psychologist, consultant, and founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He’s spent over a decade teaching psychology-based courses like The Meaning of Branded Objects, as well as leading Honors and Thesis projects. He’s spearheaded two podcasts, BrandBox and RoboPsych, the accompanying podcast for his eponymous website on the psychology of human-robot interaction. This essay was originally posted on Guarriello’s Substack, My Favorite Things.
Header image by Tijana Drndarski.