Not Flat

When I was a young designer, Lou Danziger showed me a booklet designed by Herbert Bayer. It took my breath away. Bayer used a Trompe-l'œil effect to simulate a collection of flowers on top of an open spread. This was one of those moments similar to noticing the arrow in the FedEx logo. It was as if a light had been turned on and the world looked entirely different. The page isn’t a 2-dimensional form? It’s a window into a 3-dimensional world? Who knew?

Clearly Bayer knew this. He used the Trompe-l'œil effect on other pieces including a Nazi propaganda piece in 1936. Paul Rand used the effect on a cover for American Apparel magazine beautifully. I’ve attempted to incorporate this idea into several pieces. Usually someone pipes up and says, “Is that some dirt on the page? What is that? Is that a bug?” Then last night when I was on press with Cedars-Sinai’s Discoveries magazine, my wish was granted. The editor, Laura Grunberger worked with us to create settings for a story on inspiration and new medical devices. In the midst of the press check, I was upset that someone had written on the press sheet before me. But, no, it was part of the effect of the setting. What joy.

Images from the Lou Danziger Collection

The Eyes of Lester Beall

One of my favorite clients is Cedars Sinai. I love learning about complex medical issues, and working with smart and logical people. A common issue I face is trying to communicate a difficult and unappealing subject, such as prostate cancer, in a way that invites the audience. I want to be true to the subject, but detailed images of surgery tend to not be good for publication covers. Upjohn Pharmaceuticals produced Scope magazine in the 1940s and 1950s. Incredible designers such as Will Burtin and Lester Beall designed arresting and seductive covers. These offer an alternative to the high rez 4 color digital photography that is the default medium for everyone this day. They may look light and playful, as if the designer threw it together on a sunny afternoon. But, guess what, it probably took some time, and I like to imagine Beall slaving away in a dark Dickensian hovel as it snows outside.

from the Lou Danziger collection


New Discoveries

I love working with clients who are smart. Duh. They know what they want, their business, audience, and how a design job happens. Cedars-Sinai is one of those for us. We’ve worked on several projects for them and each project continues to be challenging and rewarding intellectually and aesthetically. We recently completed the Cedars-Sinai magazine, Discoveries. Now I can boast about it, because I had only a part in its creation. Everyone in the office from Nathan, Monica, Chris, Terry, and Noreen worked to make a fantastic publication. Monica said it best when I asked her why she was happy with the final project, “This project was one of those wonderful examples of transcending the designer/client boundary and really working together as a team. We collaborated directly with Laura Grunberger at Cedars-Sinai and her staff; sharing ideas, refining concepts, and determining the vision for the magazine as a whole.” Monica clearly has a far better talent for articulation than I.

When someone asks me if print is dead, Discoveries is a great response. There is something about holding a physical artifact and spending time reading it, as opposed to looking at an article and reading a paragraph on screen. Colorgraphics printed almost 150,000 copies. And we used Mohawk 50/10, of course.

In the end, this project had a million moving parts, but the team worked together so flawlessly that it came together and looked effortless. That’s good design for me: work that looks easy not desperate. As I’ve said before, desperation is bad on a date, and in design.