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

Sunday 24 August 2014
L’hommage: Thomas Kracauer > Deborah Sussman

1902983_10152177868869303_1059414481_nDeborah Sussman at the opening of the exhibition Deborah Sussman loves L.A. Photo: Laure Joliet.

On the 20th of August, graphic and environmental designer Deborah Sussman passed away, at the age of 83. The Brooklyn born designer was the woman behind groundbreaking work in environmental design, just recently acknowledged in a retrospective exhibition called Deborah Sussman Loves L.A –  her designs still being very much part of the landscape of her adopted home town. Her most famous work includes the large scale graphic identity for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, which paved the way for a whole new platform in graphic design as part of the public space. She also worked at the Ray and Charles Eames office, and founded the agency Sussman/Prejza in 1968, together with her architect husband Paul Prejza.

Since Deborah Sussman’s name has probably been less known than her iconic work to most, a few enthusiasts started fund-raising to make a show in honor of her achievements. The exhibition took place at the  WUHO Gallery in Los Angeles earlier this year, just months before her passing, and became noticed far beyond the channels of the advertising/design industry. The exhibition was curated and organized by Catherine Gudis, Barbara Bestor, Thomas Kracauer and Shannon Starkey.

Considering us big fans of Sussman and her work, Hall of Femmes took great interest in the exhibition this spring. We contacted the fellow admirer and graphic designer Thomas Kracauer, to find out more about the show. Here he talks about the project and about spreading the creative spirit of Sussman to the next generation:

f093d472cad74e84a4ad98f484f04d18_largeThomas Kracauer’s poster for the exhibition Deborah Sussman loves L.A.

9437_10152177869089303_1470784043_nThe team behind the exhibition, Paul Prejza and Deborah Sussman. Thomas is to the left. Photo: Laure Joliet.

What was your relation to Deborah Sussman’s work before this project?
Before we started talking to Deborah about her work, and digging through her archives, I was only familiar with the work she carried out for the 1984 Olympics and a few recent projects around Los Angeles. I have always gushed over the Sonotube designs. Before seeing them at the Getty last year at the Overdrive show I wasn’t aware of that every day I encounter signs, buses and structures in Los Angeles designed by Deborah and her office.

How did the idea for this exhibition first arise? What was your interest in the project?
It was the architect Barbara Bestor’s idea to do a show about Deborah’s work; we just didn’t know what kind of show. After collecting material we decided to focus on her work from 1953 to 1984, Eames Office to the Olympics. When the project started I was extremely excited to get to design an exhibition about such an important character in Los Angeles design – she was one of the best subjects to design an exhibition about since a lot of her (and Paul’s) work was spatial. It was great material to craft messages in space.


There seems to have been a bit of a buzz about the exhibition even before it opened, because it was crowd funded – what were the advantages of doing the project this way?
I think the buzz wasn’t because it was crowd funded, but because it was a long time coming for a dedicated show about Deborah’s work. The 1984 Olympics was her most well known contribution to the city, and now a new generation was able to experience her work from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Barbara Bestor said in an interview that part of the intention with the exhibition was to bring the designer’s work into the Pinterest age – what would you like for people to see and take away from the exhibition? 
The element of joie de vivre that is so apparent in all her environmental work.

The title of the WUHO Gallery show was Deborah Sussman Loves LA – how would you describe Sussman’s Los Angeles?
So much of Los Angeles is Sussman’s. Driving through downtown you can see her work at Grand Avenue Park and signage for office buildings. On the highway you’ll drive past a FlyAway bus with the logo designed by S/P (Sussman/Prejza). Santa Monica and Culver City’s urban branding were done by S/P, and soon you’ll be able to see their work in the Willowbrook neighborhood. Many Metro stations are coated with S/P designs. Every show about the Eames has echoes of Deborah’s contributions. It’s actually really hard to go a day in Los Angeles and not see Deborah’s (S/P’s) Los Angeles. And that’s just what you can see today. Her work on such culturally significant stores as Standard Shoes, Joseph Magnin and Zody’s were dazzling Angelenos in the 60s and 70s… Deborah has always been a pioneer in improving the visual culture, street culture and shopping environments of Los Angeles, and we’ve all benefited. She was incredibly generous with her creativity.

6D4A1157-1024x682Deborah Sussman and exhibition visitors. Photo: Laure Joliet. All images by Joliet borrowed here, and more photos from the exhibition can be found here.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 21.29.37Deborah Sussman at the Eames office. Photo from this video.

98af37377a4f828c3335d67f37c3e21aOne of Deborah Sussman’s first assignment at the Eames office was designing the instruction paper for House of Cards.


Standard shoes store

deborah_sussman_WUHO_LA_16Sussman standing behind Standard shoes store S sign


Detail of the of the department store J. Magnin signage

oly_B-con_kitofparts1984 L.A Olympics graphic identity

TKracauerThomas Kracauer

Posted by: 21:58

Categories: L'Hommage, Uncategorized

Friday 21 March 2014
About Bea

Article from Bruno Feitlers collection, borrowed here.


Posted by: 07:36

Categories: Uncategorized

Tuesday 18 March 2014
Bruno Feitler on Bea Feitler

A few weeks ago we contacted Bruno Feitler, the nephew of art director Bea Feitler, and the initiator of a recently published book about her life and work. Bea Feitler was an outstanding designer who unfortunately passed away in the 1980s (how we wish we could’ve paid tribute to her with a Hall of Femmes book). She was Ruth Ansel’s art direction partner at Harper’s Bazaar in the 1960s and gave the form to Ms Magazine, Rolling Stone, and numerous book covers. We skyped with Bruno who lives in Sao Paolo on a cold winter Sunday in Stockholm.

Hi Bruno!
Is Bea well known in Brazil? Is she a kind of design celebrity?

Because of the book now: yes, but maybe five years ago, much less. But she was well known while she was alive. Once a year when she came to Brazil, there would be something about her in the newspapers. But when she passed away, after a while, nobody talked much about her.

Can you tell us a bit about her background, and why she went to New York?
When she was 18 she wanted to study something related to fashion, and my grandparents decided to send her to New York to study at Parsons. She had an aunt in New York, so maybe they decided to send her to the United States and not to Europe, or somewhere else, because of that. Once there, she realized that she wanted to study graphic design.

After her degree, she came back to Brazil where she started to work at a magazine called Senhor. It was a very important publication at the time, and she worked there from 1959 to ’60. And she also designed very, very important covers for important Brazilian authors at the time.

Do you have the books that she did those covers for?
Yes, I have one here, O Homem Nu. It’s in very poor condition, but it is iconic of design in the ’50s and ’60s. I also have this one. O Encontro Marcado. You can see the palette of colors she uses.

2She also worked for an art gallery, making invitations and posters, very typical of that period as well. But when she was fired from the magazine together with the main editor, she decided to go back to the United States after only one year in Rio. She started to look for work there, and that’s when Marvin Israel approached her.

Because Marvin Israel used to be her teacher at Parsons?
Yes, he taught at Parsons and that’s how she knew him. But there’s also Diana Vreeland, she says somewhere that someone had spoken very highly of her, that’s why she was hired.

Bea Feitler, Bill King, Ruth Ansel. New York, 1965.

Bea Feitler, Bill King, Ruth Ansel. New York, 1965.

What’s so special is that there were two art director’s assistants hired at the same time: Ruth and Bea. Do you know anything about how they worked together from Bea’s point of view?
It’s very hard for everyone who was there: for Ruth, for some photographers that I interviewed, people that were assistants for Bea later, to explain how they worked together. But Avedon wrote something about that once, saying that one was the classic and one was the modern, Bea being the classic. In fact there was emulation and a lot of collaboration, making it sometimes difficult to say exactly who did what. One would come with one idea, that would be developed by the other one, and then maybe reused by the first one in another spread of Bazaar.



We have gotten the impression that Bea was a wild child and a rebel. What’s your thoughts on that?
Yes, she was very exuberant!

Bea Feitler

And everyone mentions the bracelets that jingled when she walked.
Yes, I remember her necklaces with Brazilian things hanging, and the bracelets I really remember also. And she was very expansive. But she knew of course, in design, what would be the best solution, what would be the best thing to do.


What else interested her?
In Rio, before going to Parson, she used to come every week to the opera house in Rio, to watch ballet and opera, she was really passionate about ballet. And in NYC, while still studying, every week she would write a friend of hers about ballet and not much about work. But she also wrote in a couple of those letters (and I write that in the book) that she noticed during school that she needed a high-voltage tension. She needed to do all these things at the same time, she needed all this information coming out, and without that she wouldn’t be happy.

For example: when she worked with Bazaar, she also did a magazine here in Brazil and no one knew about that. It’s called Setenta, “Seventies”. So here’s the first issue.


And nobody in United States knew, because she was still hired at Bazaar, so she couldn’t be working with other things. She was an advisor but she also made the layouts for some issues. For instance, she took Bill King to Brazil to take photos for this magazine. There are some gorgeous pictures and gorgeous spreads. She did that secretly and there were some spreads and some pictures that were used in this magazine and later, also in Bazaar. She mixed things up.

That’s daring, two-timing Harper’s Bazaar … So she needed stimulation?
Yes, she needed a lot of things at the same time, working a lot, later also teaching at the SVA, and having the rhythm that they had in New York at that time. And that was not the same in Rio.

How did the idea for the book come about?
My mother passed away very early. My father passed away, Bea passed away in the ’80s, my grandparents too. So it was a way for me to remember all of them at the same time.

Since we haven’t read the book, because it’s in Portuguese, how is it written? Is it from your perspective or from a design history perspective?
We didn’t want the book to be sentimental. In the book there are two texts: one is my text, a personal biography, it goes sideways when you hold the book straight, so you have to turn the book to see texts and images that relate to her personal life. And all the work images, and the text with design analysis, are set out in the regular way, written by André Stolarski, a great design theorist among many other things. Stolarski analysis of Bea’s work is amazing, and his text is the most important one for the book. Unfortunately he recently passed away. The book’s layout was a way Elaine Ramos found to play with Bea’s idea of the use of text as image. The size of the book is the same size as Bazaar’s magazine. So it makes it easier to reproduce some of those images.

Has the book been well received?
Very well. We got a lot of good press.


Can you say something about her work at Ms magazine?
After leaving Bazaar in 1971, Bea was called by editor Gloria Steinem to be the art director of Ms magazine, which was just starting. It was a huge success. According to André Stolarski, Ms’ popularity was a direct consequence of its graphics, and thus also was the influence of feminism in the US. It was in fact a pop magazine, and Bea was able to gain a lot of space for images over text in it. Ms while dealing with political and serious social matters, was visually agitated, informal, and also well humored, what certainly helped its popularity. Bea worked there until July 1976.


Can you tell us something about how the photographer Annie Leibovitz and Bea worked together?
Bea asked Annie to shoot some photos for Ms. magazine, and that’s how they got in contact. Annie then had Jann Wenner call Bea to do some special projects for Rolling Stone, where Annie was the head photographer; works as “capturing the soul. Seven master photographers”, of May 1976, or the 10th anniversary issue, of 1977, a huge work of edition of Annie’s photos. Once Rolling Stone moved to NY, Bea started collaborating even more, first as consultant art director and later as design director. For Annie it was very important to have Bea there. Have you seen the documentary Behind the Lens? Annie said that Bea took her under her wing and taught her a lot.

Actually, that was one of the starting points for Hall of Femmes, when we saw that documentary, because it was the first time we ever heard a woman speak of another woman as a mentor and give that kind of credit to another woman in a work collaboration thing. So it got us really curious about Bea and about the whole mentorship between women.
They had a very intense relation. And Bea was the one who took Annie Leibovitz to fashion, when she worked on the prototype for Vanity Fair. Do you want to see the prototype?



That’s wonderful.

What made Bea the mentor type?
She recognized talent, and what would become the focus of that photographer or artist. For example, Richard Wilde (director of the SVA) told me that Bea paid attention to Keith Harring when he was a student, at a time when other people would not. With photographers and designers, she would know which path they had to follow. She would know how to make them develop their own personality.

Thank you for taking the time to talk, Bruno, bye!

Bruno Feitler lives in São Paulo, Brazil, where he is a Professor of History at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo, with studies mainly on the Church in Brazil and the Portuguese Inquisition. O design de Bea Feitler is published by Cosac Naify and ipsis in 2012. Buy it here , even if it’s in Portuguese, it’s worth it.
Bruno with Bea, 1976. From the Cosacnaify blog.

Bruno with Bea, 1976. From the Cosacnaify blog.


Posted by: 20:25

Categories: Annie Leibovitz, Bea Feitler, Diana Vreeland, Gloria Steinem, Harper's Bazaar, Marvin Israel, Mary Shanahan, Ruth Ansel, Uncategorized, Vanity Fair

Monday 4 November 2013
Bengt Hanser 2013
to Hall of Femmes


»With the help of sold-out lectures, hip podcasts, and multiple book-releases with international success, they’ve contributed to an improved industry for both men and women – and they’ve given us a more inclusive history of design.«

Hall of Femmes is the recipient of the 2013 Bengt Hanser award, presented by the Swedish Association of Communication Agencies (Komm!). The award was established to »encourage opinion-forming contributions that illuminate and argue the role of market communication in the economy and society.«

Posted by: 20:17


Categories: Uncategorized

Wednesday 30 January 2013

If all the women on this site aren’t enough for you, we’d like to recommend this one.  Interviews with many, many women –  Gloria Steinem, Hillary  Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Tavi Gevinson to name a few.


Posted by: 20:59

Categories: Ladies, Uncategorized

Wednesday 30 January 2013
Gone fishing

Please stop overfishing our oceans just to keep famous people happy and cuddly. More of the fishy ”stay-famous-get-naked-with-a-fish”-frenzy here.

Skärmavbild 2013-01-30 kl. 00.01.20

Posted by: 20:58

Categories: Uncategorized

Thursday 20 December 2012
Time off

Posted by: 11:43

Categories: Uncategorized

Friday 23 November 2012
Battle of the Numbers

Anna Wahl är vår hjälte. Nu känner vi oss mindre ensamma. Kunskap är allt.

Posted by: 13:06

Categories: Uncategorized