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Scher Paula

ne of the most influential American Graphic Designer, painter and art educator, Paula Scher was born October 6, 1948 in Washington D.C. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Tyler School of Art in Pennsylvania and started her design career at CBS Records in 1972. She quickly realized how the corporate world functioned and left CBS for a more creative job at Atlantic Records. One year goes by and CBS offers Scher the position of Art Director. During her eight years there, she helped create over 150 album covers a year. In 1984, she co-found Koppel and Scher, a design firm with fellow graduate Terry Koppel. Then, in 1991 she joined Pentagram Design Studio as the first female principal and is still a partner today.



In 1966, during the height of the 60s and the Vietnam War, I went to college at Tyler School of Art, and that’s where I came into my own. I went to college thinking I was going to be a painter, but I couldn’t really draw, so I tried other things…It seemed like I wasn’t good at anything, but then, in my junior year, I discovered graphic design.


1. Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, Public Theater Posters 1995 2. Paula Scher 3. Manhattan Records 1984



I have never made a pivotal career decision based on money. Money has always been a by-product of design. When I have taken on projects that I am indifferent to but for which I have negotiated a high fee, I have found that the fee is never high enough.




Corporation The Laws of the

cher’s first staff design job was in the advertising and promotion department of CBS Records. She reported to the assistant of the art director, who reported to the art director, who reported to the creative director, who reported to the vice president of merchandising, who reported to the vice president of sales, who reported to the vice president of CBS Records. As you can see, she started at the very, very bottom. Scher was teamed up with a copywriter and together they would collaborate on a concept and headline. She would design the ad as the copywriter would craft the body copy. Once they would have a layout finished, they would need to get it approved. The layout would have to climb the ladder of importance until it reached the Vice President or even sometimes the President of CBS. After her fourth layout did not pass, she talked to the assistant art director about what she was doing wrong. He drew a thumbnail of what looked like her first layout and told her it needed to be more like that. A month later she found a loophole in the system, where she didn’t need his approval. Six months later, after he was fired, she found out he was never consulted in hiring Scher. “I quickly learned that the judgements made about graphic design in corporations, institutions, and organizations composed of more than one decision maker often have little to do with the effectiveness of a given design in the marketplace and more to do with how human beings naturally behave in complicated hierarchical social situations.”


1. A Room of One’s Own Spreads 1993 2. Those Lips, Those Eyes 1992 3. Multiplication Album Cover 1977

4. Process of Approval Charts 5. Process Board of Manhattan Records 6. Boston Album Cover 1987







n the early 1990s, Scher began painting maps of the world as she sees it. The larger the canvases grew, some as tall as twelve feet, the more expressionistic the geographical versions became. These maps display a powerful command of type as image and they transformed the surface area of our world brilliantly. These paintings are depicting continents, countries, and cities that are swirling with information and swelling with colorful layers of hand-painted lines, place-names, and cultural commentary.


My father was what’s known as a photogrammetric engineer, the co-ordination of the United States Geological Survey who made all the government maps. He’s the reason I paint maps.


Hand Painted Maps 1. The World 5’x8’ 1998 2. Manhattan 11’x5’ 2002





Making It

The answer lies in working effectively with other, often exasperating, people in politically complex situations. This means understanding human nature and learning to explain to ordinary people how extraordinary design can be. Every design success story makes the process easier. Every piece of writing in a mainstream magazine or newspaper that explains how design functions makes the process easier. Every talented designer who persuades a corporation that an innovative solution works makes the process easier. Every talented designer who designs a better package, a better book jacket, or a better magazine makes the process easier. Every client who supports a designer makes the process easier. Every client who can accept a design because they have come to believe in the intelligence and instincts of the designer makes the process easier... In fact the process gets a bit easier all the time.

itigroup has announced that it will be uniting its businesses under one name, “Citi,” adopting the now-familiar red arc design recommended by Pentagram nearly nine years ago. “Our unified brand represents the promise to serve our clients as one company, as one Citi,” Citi Chairman and CEO Charles Prince said in a statementendorsing the change. “Our extensive global research and analysis also confirmed Citi is a highly effective brand across many languages, markets and technology platforms. It is how most of our clients think about us already.” The story of how Pentagram designed the Citi logo follows after the jump.


Pentagram was approached by Citi in spring 1998 when the bank first announced its combination with insurance giant Travelers, then the largest merger in the world. Working with consultant Michael Wolff, Pentagram’s recommendation was to unify the merged entity under a single, four letter name—Citi—and to adopt a logo that would transform the Travelers’ red umbrella into an arc over the letter “t.” (Not only is that letter Travelers’ initial, but it also is one of the few letters that looks like an umbrella handle!) The recommendation originally met resistance as a corporate-wide solution. The Travelers umbrella still had substantial equity, and various components within the bank were reluctant to surrender their customary house dress. However, Citi’s consumer banking operations and cards divisions—arguably the most visible, customer-facing parts of the organization—responded to the new identity with enthusiasm, and, thanks to the dedicated leadership of Citi’s brand managers, relaunched the company’s consumer banking operations around the world over the next three years. During that period, Pentagram’s New York, London and Berlin offices worked with Citi on the design of prototype banking facilities, signage systems and credit cards.

Over the last eighteen months, consultants Landor Associates conducted a brand identity analysis and concluded that the Citi logo had achieved such a level of awareness that it was, ultimately, the appropriate face of all its operations. “We’re really proud of the work we’ve done with Citi over the past decade,” said New Yorkbased partner Paula Scher, who drew the original napkin sketch nine years ago. “Adopting a unified brand is a long process for a company this size, but we’re as sure now as we were then that it’s the right thing to do.”* *Text from

Various Images of Citi Bank



ne morning, my snotty twenty-two-year-old assistant danced into the studio and informed me that he had gone to the opening of some graphic design competition and that I only had one piece in the show.

“Was it a good show?” I asked. “Yeah, it was OK,” he said. “There was a lot of work from a guy in Iowa who sort of looks like Duffy Design.” I harrumphed and muttered, “Too much style and no substance.” I’ve been muttering “too much style and no substance” frequently for the past several years. I love muttering it, and I hear all kinds of people I respect and admire mutter it. Our great designer “institutions” mutter it a lot. I’ve noticed thats it’s usually muttered in relation to designers who are younger than the mutterer. “Too much style and no substance” is often coupled with “flash in the pan” as a way of describing hot young designers who get more than one piece on a design show. What a wonderful way to demean youth! “Too much style” helps us conceal that nagging inkling we have that our own work may be out of style, and “no substance” convinces us that our potentially dated work is show how more meaningful, rendering style irrelevant. Sometimes it is even true.



But what all this muttering denies the great excitement in finding and creating style, that thrill in

putting the pieces together in a way that looks new and fresh, if not to the design community at large then at least to ourselves. These are the kind of discoveries we generally make early in our careers, when each design is a new experience for us, when problem solving seems more experimental and some of our solutions may be true breakthroughs. This is when we are building and expanding the graphic vocabulary that will probably serve us for the rest of our careers, when we are establishing our rules and parameters, and breaking them, and reestablishing them.

Flash in



I’ve always felt that a design career is like a long, surreal staircase. At the bottom, the risers are steep, and the landings are short. One makes long leaps of discovery at the bottom in a relatively short period of time—a step a year, or two, and sometimes even one great leap to the middle of the stairs. Then, suddenly, the risers become shallow and the landings lengthen. We trudge along the same endless plateau, and the scenery doesn’t change. The light becomes dim around us, but there are sudden flashes back in the distance from the bottom of the steps. We dont dare turn around to look because we might lose our footing. Worse yet, the flashes seem ominous, hostile, like a potential fire that could burn up the whole staircase. If only we could scamper to the top with the ease with which we loped to the middle. Instead we take baby steps and mutter “Too much style and no substance,” because we learned that line from higher-ups when we were hot young flashes at the bottom. Very often, when we look at the work of our great graphic designers institutions, we find that so much of their truly important, innovative work was produced over a relatively short period of time: five years, then years, flashes in the pan. Then there seems to be a leveling. Maybe these institutions never made it to the top of the staircase but were merely inching along some other plateau in the dark. Maybe there is no top, just shorter risers and longer plateaus that go on forever. Plateaus are actually very comfortable, because it takes less energy to move. The problem is the dark. Perhaps the solution is to step aside and allow a flash to trot by. With a little light from that torch, we may find the next step.*

*Text from The Dark in the Middle of the Stairs Originally published in Graphics, Issue 264, November/December 1989

Various Images from Queens Metropolitan Campus



Sources: Make It Bigger by Paula Scher

Designed by Autumn Frantz Composed in Helvetica Neue, typefaces designed by Anuthin Wongsunkakon of Cadson Demak Co. in 2012 Copyright Š 2014 Autumn Frantz, Portland, Maine Maine College of Art

Blue Tiffany


ny color is good, as long as you’re consistent. There are no ugly colors; there are only ugly colors in combination. Any color next to white is fine. If your product is linked with a color, and the product is associated with a certain level of quality, that color will be perfect forever.

You will never have to change it, because you can own that color with such confidence and such completeness. However, if you make a bad product and the reception is poor, you’ll have to get rid of that brand’s color. Tiffany & Co. has a totally different attitude toward color than other companies I have worked with. When we began working together, there wasn’t a standardized method toward using Tiffany’s trademark blue. Tiffany’s didn’t use the blue consistently and on the same level across its branding and packaging. It wanted to become more judicious about matching colors. Tiffany’s is a global company with different types of advertising and packaging production worldwide, so a big part of the process was to consolidate and change certain practices in manufacturing. For

*Text from Coloring a Brand: Tiffany Blue

Image of Tiffany Shopping Bag

example, Tiffany’s used a glossy shopping bag. I changed the paper to a dyed matte paper stock that had a fabric like quality. The glossy paper affected the perception of the Tiffany blue when light would reflect off it. The company’s famous jewelry boxes featured a shiny paper-wrapped box with a white interior. I decided to dye the inside of the boxes blue so that the outside and inside worked together. Everyone at Tiffany’s referred to the company’s color as Robin’s Egg Blue, even though it technically wasn’t. But they were using it and they established a color in relationship to the product. Tiffany’s had never really done any branding prior to our work—the company didn’t seem to know how it arrived at the Tiffany blue, other than at one point in time, it was a fashionable color. Tiffany’s had selected the blue maybe fifty years prior and had stuck with it. The company knew that at some point it was going to have to take a longer look at all the things it manufactured as a global brand. There were times when that color was terribly out of style. And that is what happens with colors. Like greens, for example. Sometimes jade greens are more fashionable than Kelly greens or lime greens. These things move around all the time—the same is true with blues and hues of red. But if you are confident about who you are and what your product is, like Tiffany’s is, you never have to change because you just made a commitment to it—you own that color.*


A Creative Mind: Paula Scher  

Final design book by Autumn Frantz

A Creative Mind: Paula Scher  

Final design book by Autumn Frantz