History of Graphic Design: Paula Scher


Paula Scher is a graphic designer best known for her use of type as an illustrative device.  She has designed for the Public Theater, the New York City Ballet, the Museum of Modern Art, and several other well-known companies, including Microsoft.  The poster above was designed for the play The Diva is Dismissed at the Public Theater.  In this example, it is clear that Scher uses type as both advertising for the play as well as incorporating the text into the design as a whole.

Scher was one of the first graphic designers to use text as a major part of a design, rather than just a supplement.  Her use of bold typefaces make it easy to recognize her work from others’.  Furthermore, the subjects featured in her designs are recognizable as she usually references pop culture.  As a result, American audiences find her works to be easy to relate to and understand.

As well as a graphic designer, Scher is also a painter and creates murals of maps.  Her maps seem simple at first glance, but upon further inspection contain lots of detail.  Scher’s map of the United States can be seen below.


scher map

Currently, Scher is a graphic designer at the New York branch of Pentagram, where she has worked for over two decades, and she also teaches design classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Read more about Paula Scher’s accomplishments and see more of her works here.


Books on Graphic Design: Typography, Referenced

The book that I read was Typography, Referenced: A Comprehensive Visual Guide to the Language, History, and Practice of Typography by Allan Haley.  The book aims to be a sort of textbook for typography; rather than delving into the countless details and elements of type, it gives a general overview of the history and development of the art form.  It was fascinating to see how typography has changed throughout history, from the fifth century BCE, to the development of the printing press, and finally to the 21st century.  I had not realized before reading this book that typography, just like any other art form, has varied throughout history.

type p 34type p 39

The part of the book that I found most interesting and informational was the chapter called “Type Design and Development”, which describes the process of developing type and how a particular typographer or team of artists creates a new, polished typeface that looks unified.  The pictures above are from pages 34 and 39 in the book, respectively, and they show the developments of two different typefaces and how they progressed from just pencil sketches into a usable digital font.  This book helped me understand how one can create an original typeface in which all of the letters look unified and work well together, and also acknowledge that this process takes a lot of trial and error.  Overall, I think that this book does a great job of helping the reader understand the art of typography by showcasing the history of the art form as well as examples of individual typefaces.

Graphics for Change: Emek

Emek is a graphic designer and illustrator who was born in Israel.  His works are drawn by hand and then silkscreened.  Emek often utilizes tiny details in his art, and is therefore known for the many layers of deep meaning in his designs.

Most of his work showcases the interaction of organic and mechanical elements.  This particular piece, printed in black ink on holographic paper, was created as a commentary on the BP oil spill in 2010.  Only 400 of these hand-silkscreened prints were created and sold, and some of the proceeds were donated directly to the National Wildlife Federation to help with the crisis.

Along with creating works with deep political and social meanings, Emek also designs posters and album covers for popular musicians and rock bands.  He has previously created covers for Neil Young and Erykah Badu.  Emek’s album art is displayed in Hard Rock Cafés around the globe.

To see more of Emek’s work, visit www.emek.net.  He also has an online store.