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

Tuesday 23 September 2014
Meeting Paula Scher

As designer Paula Scher enters the room, we see that how she
describes herself fits: »Short, with a big personality.« Even the
dog she’s brought along is big. We stare at the dog and then make
ourselves guilty of one of our stupidest interview openings yet.
Us: »Hello. We met Carin Goldberg yesterday. (Pause.)
She has a dog too.«
Paula Scher: »Oh really? She’s a friend of mine, we’re the dog-ladies.«
Us (gravely): »Okay.«

It’s the first time we’ve met Paula – in real life, that is. We’ve spent
quite some time with her already, in our office; we’ve read her book,
once, twice, three times. We’ve quoted it. We’ve taken her truths
to heart, and used them when talking to clients, pretending they’re
ours. But now everything feels different. We’re at her workplace,
Pentagram, in New York, one of the world’s most renowned design
agencies. We’ve taken pictures of ourselves at the entrance, posing
under their big red banner. We’ve waited in the conference room for
half an hour, nervously poking around Pentagram’s book shelves,
and unwinding a little leafing through the magazines. Suddenly she’s
standing there: a small woman and a big design star. With a big dog.

Paula Scher began her career in the record business in the 1970s.
After the interview we take out a record we’ve brought, the Yardbirds
from 1977, and ask if she could sign the sleeve. Paula is overjoyed, as
she has no examples of her own (during her years with CBS Records
she designed over 150 records a year), and is pleased to discover
that the record is »… really well designed and hasn’t aged a bit«. She
wonders if she can buy it, or exchange it for something. We give it to
her, and get a proof copy of the same sleeve in return.

It was at CBS Records – in this hierarchical organization – that Paula’s
interest in power structures and workplace psychology began, an
interest we return to during the conversation. To analyze the social
game between customer and designer she wrote her own book,
Make it Bigger (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), in which she
punctures the myth that design is something created in ivory towers.
Design, according to Paula Scher, is about people.
A year later, we hear by chance that Paula Scher is lecturing at a
design seminar in Norway. We ask to meet her there for a follow up
interview and, despite the sudden eruption of the Icelandic volcano

Eyjafjallajökull clouding half of Scandinavia, all three of us make it.
We meet in the not yet open bar of her hotel. It must look better in
the evening; the daylight is merciless. In decor of varying flesh-tones
and pile-covered sofas, we welcome a design queen.
The interview feels more relaxed than last time. Paula talks about
growing up in a suburb outside Washington DC with a cartographer
dad and a teacher mum. The structure of how you were supposed to
look and behave was rigid; she felt suffocated by the suburban ideal,
and criticized for who she was. She responded by rebelling, and we
think that she still burns with a desire to be contrary.

Later in the evening we meet Paula in the bar again, where she and
the other speakers from the seminar have got together for a drink.
The positive feeling from earlier in the day disappears immediately as
we fall back into usual social patterns. We get shy and embarrassed,
creep silently in and take a table some distance away. The young
men in the group, on the other hand, make a grand entrance: greet
everyone cheerfully, say what they’re called, what they do. They have
styled glasses, are charming and self-assured. We’re stiff and acting
like idiots.

But even so, when one of the guys leaves Paula’s table, we take our
chance and quickly sit there. She says hello with a hug and a kiss.
Later she asks nicely to borrow a pen and writes in red ink on a napkin
the names of those women she thinks should be added to our list
for the Hall of Femmes book series. The napkin is immediately worth
a million.

At the table a discussion rages on about money and the future of
design. Paula is confrontational and hungry for debate. The men
around her sigh, tell her everything she’s said is wrong, and explain
how things really are. But it’s clear that they have great respect for
her, and it shows in her flashing eyes that she’s never going to let
them be right. At the same table sit two women, 30 years younger,
struck dumb. One of them’s gripping a napkin like it was a life-buoy.

Preface Hall of Femmes: Paula Scher, 2011
Editor: Maina Arvas

Buy the book here.
Buy the poster here.

Posted by: 06:28

Categories: Books, Maina Arvas, Paula Scher, Preface, Uncategorized

Sunday 21 September 2014
Meeting Tomoko Miho

After having tried to get in touch with Tomoko Miho for months, we’re standing in a clothes store on Broadway when the phone rings. It’s Tomoko, and she tells us she’s been in hospital for some time. Without going into details, she explains that the situation is serious, and we understand that there’s little hope that things will improve. But the main reason she’s calling is to say that despite her illness (or maybe because of it) she’s decided that she wants us to make her book, and she’s looking forward to starting work on it as soon as possible. This is the only time Tomoko mentions her illness and, although we’re in close contact we never bring up the subject again. From now on, we just talk about work, and over the following months, the book slowly takes shape.

Tomoko’s friend Eric Breitbart helps her go through the countless boxes of work materials and transparencies that have been stored for years in a room in her apartment. Despite her illness, her stubbornness and her devotion to her work remain intact, as does her need for control and her obsession with details.

Tomoko Miho was born Tomoko Kawakami in 1930s California, where her parents of Japanese descent ran a flower shop. Part of her childhood was spent in one of the camps in the Arizona desert where Japanese Americans were interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, during the Second World War. When we ask how this shaped her, it becomes clear that it’s something she doesn’t want to talk about: »Those were difficult times but we all came out well in the end«. After studying at the Minneapolis Art Institute, and then at the Art Center School in California, Tomoko Miho decided she wanted to be a designer. She became one of the best we’ve seen.

We meet Tomoko Miho for the first time in her apartment on New York’s Upper East Side, across from Central Park. The mood is polite nervousness. With her reserved manner, Tomoko feels more Japanese than American. She offers us green tea. Afterwards, we learn that she has deliberated for two months over whether we should or shouldn’t meet. It seems that she never makes hasty decisions.

By the time we leave, we’ll have a notebook full of names. It’s the names of people that Tomoko has been inspired by or worked with: George Nelson, Herman Miller, Frank Gehry, Lester Bookbinder, Ray and Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Buckminster Fuller, Irving Harper, John Massey, Lella and Massimo Vignelli. She spells each of them out carefully for us, »N-O-G-U-C-H-I«, but of Tomoko Miho herself we learn very little. For several hours she skillfully avoids talking about herself, and the only thing we actually learn is that she was married to a man who worked in Chicago, and that one of her brothers was an architect. Optimistically, we schedule a follow-up interview to find out more.

However, what we’ve experienced on this first visit is the charm of browsing through her work, which we’ve previously only seen in pictures, and we’re utterly fascinated. Tomoko Miho is a dedicated modernist and, despite the formalized idiom, her work has a spiritual dimension that greatly moves us emotionally. With her creative solutions and her self-will, Tomoko Miho is a designer’s designer. Although we know that what we’re seeing is the result of many hours of work and the fine tuning of details, it looks so free and easy. Influenced by her Japanese background, she’s an architect in paper, even applying spatial solutions to printed matter. Nothing follows a standard format; her posters are often built on several levels, with different folds and layers. The tactile qualities that arise through particular choices of materials and print techniques can never really be reproduced accurately in pictures.

As so often during the Hall of Femmes project, it feels like we’ve opened the lid of a treasure chest and found something far too valuable to be seen only by us. We want to make this book about Tomoko Miho because we want to show the world everything she’s done. We think that a museum should purchase all of her work. We’re beginning to dream of mounting an exhibition ourselves.

Standing in the doorway to say goodbye, Tomoko takes us by the hand
and says, »Everything is history now, and then it all carries on«. When we get out on the street, a downpour has started and we just cry.

We take great pleasure and pride in the fact that Tomoko, after much consideration, decided that this book was worth pursuing, even though she wouldn’t get the chance to see the final result. We hope we’ve managed the task and the responsibility well, and that as many people as possible will become familiar with Tomoko Miho’s work, and be as inspired as we were; her contribution to our design history is significant. Her archive is now part of the design collections of the Rochester Institute of Technology.

– Samira Bouabana, Angela Tillman Sperandio, 2013

Preface Hall of Femmes: Tomoko Miho, 2013
Editor: Maina Arvas

Buy the book here.

Posted by: 19:34

Categories: Books, Maina Arvas, Preface, Tomoko Miho, Uncategorized

Thursday 18 October 2012
Hall of Femmes intervjuar: Maina Arvas

Du har varit redaktör för tre Hall of Femmes-böcker, om Carin Goldberg, Paula Scher och Tomoko Miho. Vad har varit mest givande med arbetet?
Förutom lusten i att få lära mig om de här intressanta personerna så är det laddningen i projektet i sig. En emotionell bergochdalbana som kommer med perspektivet: den kvinnohistoriska ambitionen inom feminismen är ju både nedslående och euforisk. Hall of Femmes är ett nyktert kartläggande projekt, ett ledset och argt projekt, och ett kärleksfullt, positivt projekt – det personliga och känslomässiga tror jag att alla inblandade i varje bok har känt.

Har arbetet med de olika böckerna skiljt sig åt?

Det är tre helt olika designers – med egna sätt att arbeta, olika områden och speciella personligheter. En påtaglig skillnad är det sorgliga i att Tomoko Miho gick bort strax innan vi påbörjade boken om henne. Utöver att jag inte kunde följa upp det ursprungliga mötet med ytterligare intervjufrågor, som med Goldberg och Scher, så gav det en speciell känsla åt arbetssituationen. Andaktsfull, nervös, vemodig kanske? Det var skönt att veta att hon själv verkligen ville att boken skulle göras. Och att ha den ovärderliga kontakten med hennes nära vän Eric Breitbart, som har samredaktörat boken med mig.

Tycker du att de privata och de yrkesmässiga delarna i intervjuerna är lika intressanta?

Jag ser dem nog inte som separata delar. För mig är just det en viktig poäng med projektet. Hall of Femmes är en serie möten mellan yrkeskvinnor i designvärlden: samtal som uppstår när två yngre kvinnor och ett antal erfarna, framgångsrika kvinnor möts. För att bli djupt och analyserande gör ett sådant samtal kopplingar mellan det privata och det politiska, helt enkelt.

Har du lärt dig något nytt om design i och med böckerna?

Jag hoppas att jag har fått en djupare förståelse för strömningar och politik inom designhistorien. Om jag ska ta några exempel är det Tomoko Mihos personifiering av modernismen, Paula Schers sociala aspekt på design, och pedagogen och loppmarknadssamlarsjälen Carin Goldbergs idéer om estetik och inspiration.

Posted by: 08:16

Categories: Carin Goldberg, Hall of Femmes intervjuar, Maina Arvas, Paula Scher, Tomoko Miho

Tuesday 14 August 2012
Tomokååååh Mihos bilder

Trots att bilderna är suddiga går det inte att ta miste på entusiasmen i våra aaah- och åååå-ande ansikten. Vad är det vi tittar på? Jo, det nya bildmaterialet som vår USA-redaktör Eric tagit med sig till Stockholm. Där finns en bild på Tomoko som barn framför ett Kaliforniskt blomsterfält där hennes familj odlade blommorna som såldes i familjens butik, här finns bilder på en ung Tomoko som åker genom Europa i en silver-Porsche, där finns en bild på Tomoko som provar en klänning i Finland tillsammans med Marimekkos grundare Armi Ratia, här finns en bild på en äldre Tomoko som kritiskt inspekterar sitt skyltsystem på Penn Station i New York. Det känns som att vi sitter med en guldskatt framför oss, även om det som nu återstår är det plågsamma arbetet att välja bort.

Posted by: 06:37

Categories: Eric Breitbart, Maina Arvas, Tomoko Miho

Friday 10 August 2012
Redaktören har ordet

Maina Arvas, redaktör för Tomoko Miho-boken, lägger sin hand på bokens struktur. Åh, vi blir alldeles knäsvaga av tydliga direktiv i listform.

Posted by: 08:01

Categories: Maina Arvas, Tomoko Miho

Friday 11 May 2012
Tomoko Miho till bordet

The Dinner Party – Middagsbjudningen är en performance på Dansens Hus i Stockholm som utgår från Judy Chicagos konstverk. Upplägget är att varje gäst (bara kvinnor är inbjudna) tar med sig en fiktiv gäst. När vi själva var inbjudna valde vi att ta med oss Cipe Pineles, den första kvinna att väljas in i Art Directors Club Hall of Fame år 1975. Förra helgen hade middagsbjudningen fina gäster då vår redaktör Maina Arvas valde att ta med sig Tomoko Miho. Läs mer om bjudningen här.

Posted by: 15:33

Categories: Maina Arvas, Tomoko Miho

Thursday 3 March 2011
Nu i produktion: boken om Paula Scher

Här sitter vår redaktör Maina Arvas och gör en kompletterande intervju med superstjärnan Paula Scher. Efter trekvart kommer hon ut med förhöjd puls och beskriver Paula som 50 % varm, 50% barsk, och tillägger: ”Det här är en person jag inte skulle vilja få en utskällning av.” Eftersom vi träffat damen vid ett par tillfällen förstår vi precis vad hon menar och håller med om allt.

Till bildmaterialet efterlyser vi Manhattan Records skivor och gärna en fin singel att fota av. Den grafiska profilen gjorde Paula Scher 1984, inspirerad av Piet Mondrians Boogie-Woogie målningar. Maila oss om ni har något.

Posted by: 14:23

Categories: Maina Arvas, Paula Scher

Friday 3 December 2010
Kvinnors former i fokus 2.

Låt oss presentera Maina Arvas. Vår intelligenta och extremt tålmodiga (vi lär oss) redaktör för Carin Goldbergs bok. Till vardags frilansande kulturjournalist och teaterkritiker med uppdrag för bland annat DN, City, Nöjesguiden och Nummer. Design är inte hennes expertområde (hon lär sig) men hon gillar intelligenta böcker och snygga kvinnor. Och tvärtom.

Posted by: 10:39

Categories: Carin Goldberg, Ika Johannesson, Ladies, Maina Arvas