Thursday 25 September 2014
Meeting Carin Goldberg

To step into Carin Goldberg’s home in Brooklyn, in a classic brownstone neighborhood with tidily kept gardens, is to step into a small design museum. Her house, where she also has her studio, is full of books and objects, cordially arranged according to their colors, patternsand materials. It looks appetizing, full of layers that beg to be delved into. The first time we visit her she offers us tea and biscuits served on mint colored china . It’s our first interview for this project and we’re so nervous that we forget to introduce ourselves. Though if there’s anyone who will calm you down, just by her mere presence, it’s Carin Goldberg. She has a warm personality and a dry sense of humor. We have already engaged in small talk for quite a long time when she kindly asks us who we actually are. Could we perhaps tell her a bit more about our project? Studying Carin Goldberg’s career as a designer, is like taking a truly contemporary history class. It begins at a time when graphic design was artisanal when work was created by means of pen, paper, scissors and glue and leads to our computer dominated present. During her three decades of working in the field, there’s been a steady change of direction from print to more digital content. But in Carin’s opinion, the communicative role of the designer remains the same .

Carin, a born-and-raised New Yorker, quickly realized what the industry asked of her: to be »a cool, irreverent, experimental, hungry, talented smart-ass«. She was educated at Cooper Union in New York where she graduated in 1975 with a degree in fine arts. Her path as a designer then began at CBS Television where she worked for Lou Dorfsman, who was chief designer in charge of the company’s visual communication for over 40 year. After that she moved on to CBS Records Advertising , followed by a short period of working for Atlantic Records before going back to CBS to the Records Packaging Department.

In the early 1980s she established her own business, Carin Goldberg Design, where she continued to work for the music industry but also became, above all, one of America’s most successful book cover designers. She has designed over a thousand covers for Random House, Harper Collins and most major U.S. publishing houses. Perhaps she conveyed her zeal from the art world and the music industry to the more conventional literary world? In any case, she was quickly identified as one of the stars of a rising 1980s art movement, alongside graphic designers like Paula Scher and Louise Fili, that was celebrated for its eclecticism and humor. Carin has said it was simply a reaction to the aesthetic ideals of that time, »smacking tasteful type on a gorgeous photograph. We were bored with that and wanted to actually make stuff paint, cut, paste and play«. But what she didn’t know was that this movement would soon be labeled »postmodernism«. And that it would stick with her throughout most of her future professional undertakings, in spite of her own dislike for the term.

One example is the heated debate following Carin’s cover design for a new edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The publisher wanted something that resembled the 1949 edition, and so Carin made a pastiche of the modernist typography posters and built the design upon a large »U«. This upset the influential designer Tibor Kalman who accused Carin and her colleagues of being »pillagers«, and an aesthetic discussion within the design world began. One that still, in a way, goes on. Nevertheless, Carin kept cool. »While I was busy pillaging history, Tibor was busy pillaging the vernacular. We were all pillagers«, was her riposte.

For Carin, all this belongs in the past. Along with the fact that she designed the cover for Madonna’s debut album one of the most, especially from our generation’s viewpoint, iconic artists ever (so we keep asking her until she agrees to talk about it). She prefers to look ahead, not back, emphasizing her desire to move forward. In recent years she has, for instance, expanded her work to include publicationdesign and brand consultancy.

The second time we see her it’s been a year and a lot has happened. Carin has been awarded the Gold Medal by the American Institute of Graphic Art (AIGA ), for »sustained contributions to design excellenceand the development of the profession«. She has also received the Art Director Club’s Grand Masters Award, for those whose careers in creative education have impacted upon and inspired generations of student creatives. As if that weren’t enough, she’s working hard on her retrospective, which opens at the Centredu Graphismein Échirolles, France, in November 2010. »I’ve hit my prime«, she says smiling, in what we perceive to be an ironic tone. And it seems only right that, for someone with such a long career, the awards are great in terms of acknowledgement and yes, lovely to glance at from time to time but they are perhaps not the drivingforce. This seems especially the case for Carin Goldberg, who appearsto have a distinct and very holistic approach to success at work, in life, and everywhere in between.

Talking to her is almost like having therapy. Design therapy. She believes that it’s the designer’s responsibility to come up with solutions, and her own ability to do so is palpable. She has an aptitude for educating and since the 1980s she has taught at The School of Visual Arts in New York, where her classes are filled with diligent students. And as Carin facetiously remarks, it’s yet another opportunity to be »arrogant, emphatic, brilliant, bossy, nurturing, thoughtful, smart, and silly«. As we sit in this decorative home full of books, pictures and flea market finds, we realize that it says a great deal about graphic design, the ability to observe, make a selection, disentangle, and place everything in context thus making the viewer look at something differently. And above all, it says a lot about Carin Goldberg. The epitome of an experimental yet disciplinary aesthete, who truly lives for, and with, her profession.

Preface Hall of Femmes: Carin Goldberg, 2011
Editor: Maina Arvas
Buy the book here.
Buy the poster here

Posted by: 12:40

Categories: Books, Carin Goldberg, Maina Arvas, Preface

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

NEWSLETTER

ARCHIVE

CATEGORIES


TAGS