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Rhythm of the City
Graphic designer Paula Scher adapted Piet Mondrian’s 1943 painting Broadway Boogie-Woogie when she created the graphic identity for Manhattan Records in 1984. On each LP that Manhattan Records released, the design is printed on the center label of sides A and B. When reflecting on her decision to turn to Mondrian, Scher explained “the strongest...
Speaking in Tongues
Graphic designer Tibor Kalman made a circle of blue the visual centerpiece of Talking Heads’ 1983 release Speaking in Tongues. The circle is seven inches in diameter, just like a 45 record. But while the graphic might evoke the standard format of singles from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it was actually inspired by the...
Only in America
An altered photograph of a roadside motel is printed on a cardboard sleeve for R.E.M.’s 7-inch single “Only in America,” designed by Bruce and Karen Licher. The image of the motel is grainy, which complements the speckled cardboard on which it was printed. Although the grain makes it harder to read the motel sign, the...
A Funky Front Cover
A man in a tuxedo holds a white fedora hat in this Defunkt album cover designed by Tibor Kalman. As in some of his other album designs, Kalman chose to alter the band’s name through reverse lettering. Printed in multicolor, the text is especially striking printed atop the black and white photograph. When reflecting on...
On a High Note
I recently enjoyed a visit to American craftsman Wharton Esherick’s former studio and home, now operating as a museum, on the top of Valley Forge Mountain in Malvern, Pennsylvania.  Exteriors and interiors on the site are amusingly playful yet impressively clever and upon closer examination, carefully calculated. There is barely a straight line in the whole design. Instead...
A Jazzy Print
Between 1925 and 1927, the Stehli Silks Corporation produced the Americana Prints, a series of nearly 100 artist-designed dress silks for the modern woman. American artists, designers, celebrities and cartoonists were selected to create the prints, among them photographer Edward Steichen and cartoonist John Held Jr., who produced the piece featured here. Taken together, the...
A Woman Uncovered
Researching a work in the collection can lead a curator to some very interesting places other than libraries. I was fortunate to have been in Berlin on May 14, 2015 which was the anniversary of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s death in 1847. I had corresponded previously with Thomas Lackmann, a descendant of Fanny Hensel’s and board...
Topographies
Swiss graphic designer Ralph Schraivogel is known for his astonishing posters for cultural institutions, each one resulting from intensive visual exploration. Schraivogel creates surfaces that boil and undulate with strange energy—in Cinema Afrika (2006), swirling contour lines give rise to colliding texts. from the words “Cinema Afrika” resemble topographic lines on a map.   In...
Posters with a Central Image
In 1966, Italian designer Bruno Munari poked fun at the commonplace design solution of putting a big circle in the middle of a poster. In his essay “Posters with a Central Image,” Munari wrote, ““The eye is attracted by the dark disc and has no way of escaping.” He may have had this famous poster...