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Paul Davis: Life

Innovation Heller Wiley

Paul Davis T


Innovation by: Steven Heller

he revolution was already in full swing when in the late 1950s a young artist named Paul Davis entered the fray. Some renegade illustrators and art directors had already begun to revolt against the saccharine realism and sentimental concepts prevalent in most American magazines and advertising. Among the vanguard artists were Robert Weaver, Bob Gill, Jack Beck, Robert Andrew Parker, Tom Allen and Philip Hays, who advanced journalistic illustration; art directors Cipe Pineles, Leo Lionni, Otto Storch and Henry Wolf gave outlet to these and other new realists; and Push Pin studios which, in addition to reinvigorating historical styles, returned narrative and figurative illustration to the design equation after it had been deemed passĂŠ for many years. Although Paul Davis was not among this first wave, he was swept up by it and soon contributed to the illustration and design of the epoch. By the early 1960s, he had developed a distinct visual persona which, owing to a unique confluence of primitive and folk arts, brought a fresh new American look to illustration. In a relatively short time he was among the most prolific of the new illustrators, and his style had a staggering impact on the field. Yet by the late 1960s, during a period of personal success, he was no longer content to simply repeat his triumphs. From the sixties to the present, he has contributed eclectic mix of American graphic art.

Steven Heller, the ubiquitous, tireless chronicler of our design times, is the author, co-author, or editor of more than sixty books on design-related topics (with fourteen more due to be published as we speak). A journalist, critic, and commentator, he has written for a wide array of publications, including Print, U&lc, I.D. Magazine, Affiche, Graphis, Creation, Eye, Design, How, Oxymoron, Design Issues, Mother Jones, Speak magazine and the New York Times Book Review. Steven Heller has also been editor of the AlGA Journal of Graphic Design since its inception as a serious forum for design writing-and criticism, in the early '80s.


With Seymour Chwast he has directed Push Pin Editions, a packager of visual books, and with his wife Louise Fili he has produced over twenty books and design products for Chronicle Books and other publishers.

As editor of the AIGA JOURNAL OF GRAPHIC DESIGN he published scores of critical and journalistic writers on design, and currently as editor of AIGA VOICE: Online Journal of Design, he continues to help build a critical vocabulary for the field.

In this process of impossible Herculean output Heller has managed to completely chronicle the past hundred years of graphic design to such an extent and depth that his influence cannot help but be felt by every design student and practitioner everywhere in the world. He is the Samuel Boswell of our graphic design age.

ISBN: 1584230045


For over two decades he has been contributing editor to PRINT, EYE, BASELINE, and I.D. magazines, has had contributed hundreds of articles, critical essays, and columns (including his interview column "Dialogue" in PRINT) to a score of other design and culture journals.

If we keep our discussion here restricted to this particular AIGA medal, then we are talking about lifetime achievement that comes from a workday existing roughly between 4:30 and 8:45 A.M.—FOUR-THIRTY TO EIGHT FORTY-FIVE A.M.—before a full workday at the Times, to produce sixty some books; edit a bunch of magazines; write innumerable articles, reviews, forewords, and obits; plan the annual Modernism and Eclecticism symposium; and chair a graduate' program at the School of Visual Arts. I've known Steve for about twenty years and have never been able to figure out this math.


e is the co-founder and co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, where he lectures on the history of graphic design. Prior to this, he lectured for 14 years on the history of illustration in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual arts. He also was director for ten years of SVA’s Modernism & Eclecticism: A History of American Graphic Design symposiums.

Apparently, all of this has been nothing but a sideline because the same Steven Heller is also a full-time, salaried employee (senior art director) of the New York Times Book Review, a weekly publication that closes on Wednesdays. In this capacity, Heller has launched and nourished the careers of innumerable successful and influential illustrators. But that alone would be worthy of a whole other medal from a whole other graphic arts organization.

Paul Davis: Life



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paul davis