Imaginary Interview – Menna Hafez

The chosen graphic designer for the interview is Ellen Lupton

It is important to give a brief history of Ellen Lupton as a graphic designer. Lupton is one of the few female designers not only in America but worldwide. This is because this profession is dominated by males as compared to the female gender. Apart from being a Graphic Design MFA program director of at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, she also works in the National Design Museum as curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt (Ellen, 2010). She was born in 1963 in Pennsylvania but grew up in Baltimore MD. She is a twin sister to Julia whose life has not been published as much as Ellen’s She has published several books of graphic designs in different spheres for a variety of audiences due to her love for typography and art. Below is an excerpt from an interview that I carried out with her:


Question: Who is Ellen Lupton as an individual and in the context of graphic design?

Answer: I am many persons in one being. First I am a mother of two lovely sons, Ruby and Jay; secondly, a wife to Mr. Abbot Miller; thirdly I am a sister to one and only twin sister called Dr. Julia who we have collaborated with in design work and have written few books together such as Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things and D.I.Y Kids, just to mention the two.

Within the context of graphic design, my hands are full because apart from being a graphic designer, I am also a director and curator by equal measure and most importantly a writer. I have personally authored more than ten books and co-authored several excluding the peer review ones which I have done many times.

Question: I know you have been involved in many graphic design projects. Would you pinpoint one of your memorable projects by giving the facts how you commissioned this project?

Answer: I do not want to give an impression that I take a specialty in my different projects. I must mention that I do treat and value all my projects in equal measure. However, because you have asked about only one I would like to mention the one I did in 2006 which was about the Triennial. It was titled “Design Life Now.” The reason why I take this project with the exception is the fact that it was purposely designed to catapult the graphic design to the modern life. It was an eye-opener to the social media as it included some populist forms of new social media such as the open-source software, blogs, and D.I.Y magazines (Ellen, 2010). All these were designed to make design literacy part of the mainstream culture, thus helping to put my own desire and design in the public domain. To affirm this point, I need to point out that I am an avid blogger just for the purpose of constructively engaging the public on matters graphic design. I am much active on two blogs: and These are two sites that constantly apply design to everyday life and are co-edited with my twin sister Julia.

Question: Thank you for that in-depth answer. Now, would you volunteer to us some of the restrictions and requirements that the project had to put in place?

Answer: Thank you also for asking such an important question. First, I want to make mention of Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore where I am the Graphic Design MFA program director. This is a special mention because, apart from the institution providing me with the graphic design lab that I have enjoyed working from, they availed to me some of the budding graphic designers who are still adventures and able to learn through taking academic risks. The project required such professionals in order to come to fruition. Another important requirement for the project were the resources (in terms of literature for research purposes and equipment; this was made available by the lab that we worked from). Secondly, when you talk of restriction, I may not be in a position to tell which restrictions you are inferring to; but I can tell you for a fact that I was restricted by the funds that were available to the project. We could only do as much as the point to which the funds allowed us. A caveat though, I am not lamenting of the scarcity of funds to cast the institution in a bad light. No, the institution has endeavored to ensure that it appropriates research funds accordingly and has been helpful to us only that the institution has several projects in different faculties that must also run.

Question: What were your intentions, viewpoint, and thoughts on this particular project?

Answer: You see, one of the notions that people have always held on to is that graphic design is a reserve for the chosen few: and that it should be within the realm of such people. But you realize that we are leaving in a global village and we must act like the same. Culture is dynamic and globalization makes it change in such a way that is terrific. Bringing graphic design to the social media was a way of reaching to everyone that values graphic design. Moreover, I think that it helped me to demystify this notion that it is only a reserve for the few. And I think the project helped in doing just that.

Question: How do you think your contribution as a graphic designer has impacted on your admirers and anybody that follows your work?

Answer: I am glad that I am not only a designer but also a curator too. Going by the nature of my work, I am glad that it has not only imparted knowledge to many but informed the general public because my graphic design work touches on different spheres of life.

Question: Lastly, How do you feel about the fact that you are one of the few females in this profession?

Answer: Awesome!!

Interviewer: Thank you for your time.


Imaginary Interview of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Interviewer: Hello, ladies and gentlemen, today we have a graphic designer in the house, please welcome Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec! Thank you for taking some time off from your busy schedule to be here with us tonight!

Lautrec: Good Evening everyone, it’s my pleasure to be here!

Interviewer: So, as most of us already know you worked as an artist and a graphic designer during the Art Nouveau in France. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and your career as an artist in the 1890’s?

Lautrec: Yes, for sure. Living in the Montmartre of Paris I was constantly surrounded by scenes and artists that inspired my works. Rather than themes of historic revivals, I was always more interested in the visuals of the urban life. As the idea of nightlife and cafes grew popular in France, I often found myself at cabarets, cafes, and restaurants, where I found aspiration for my works. I love to capture alluring scenes of the nightlife. 


Interviewer: Great, Thank you, I noticed that you focused greatly on depicting scenes of the cabaret. Looking at your posters, I can feel the captivating energy of the cabaret dancers. So, I’d like to ask about your specific artwork titled, Mademoiselle Eglantine’s Troupe.

Lautrec: Mademoiselle Eglantine’s Troupe was a poster design that was commissioned by my good friend and an amazing cabaret dancer, Jean Avril. It was used to advertise a cabaret tour of Mademoiselle Eglantine’s Troupe in Britain.

Interviewer: What was the process of creating this poster?

Lautrec: First of all, as I experienced the Eglantine’s Troupe’s cabaret myself, I drew rough sketches on paper capturing the movement and energy of the dancers. After, I transformed the sketches into a lithograph print.

Interviewer: Speaking of lithography techniques, could you tell us more about your style? What inspired you to create this poster?

Lautrec: I was greatly inspired by Japanese woodblock prints as they focus greatly on forms and movement. Japanese art at the time dealt with ideas of playful erotism and depicting women as visualized and somewhat sexualized figure. The themes of Japanese art correlate greatly with my ideas, so it was very inspiring to me. I was especially inspired by their use of negative space, black contour lines and unusual perspectives in Ukiyo-e art.

Interviewer: Very interesting, And what was your main goal in designing this poster?

Lautrec: As this poster was an advertisement for the cabaret, it was a requirement to be able to catch the attention of people on the streets. I believed the method of color lithography would be very suitable for it. I purposely chose colors such as yellow and orange to draw people’s eyes. The delvelopment of color lithography allowed for the poster to be mass produced and plastered through streets of Paris.

Interviewer: Did it reach your original intentions?

Lautrec: I believe that this specific poster reached its intention of accurately depicting the women on a cabaret stage. As I chose to use organic lines, freedom of movement, I tried my best to capture the beauty the dancers.

Interviewer: Why do you think your work was so successful as an advertisement for the cabaret?

Lautrec: Rather than portraying a fictitious characters, I chose to depict real-life individuals. This way, I was able to give the viewers an accurate graphic glimpse of the Belle Epoque era.

Interviewer: Thank you, your poster design is very beautiful and it was such an honor to be able to discuss your work today. Thank you very much, again for your time.

Lautrec: No problem, it has been my pleasure to be able to share my work with you today. 

Imaginary Interview

I choose the “We can do it!” poster by J. Howard Miller in 1943 as the theme of the imaginary interview.

Good morning Mr. Miller. It’s an honour to have you on our interview show tonight.

Hi, I am so glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Q: So let’s start the interview. I have so many questions want to ask you. Could you tell us something about yourself?

A: Yes, I am a graphic designer. I was studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and I graduated in 1939. During the war I was living in Pittsburgh. I was hired to create a series of posters for the Westinghouse Company.

Q: Could you tell us something about your significant graphic design poster “we can do it”?

A: Yes, sure. This is a poster of a female worker in a blue suit. She looks attractive and strong through the muscle on her arms. She is an iconic figure of a strong female war production worker. The image representation and the slogan give audience a clear message and it is about female workers also can make achievement if they work hard in the factory.

Q: Does the company gives you lots if restrictions and requirements when you work on this poster?

A: I work for Westinghouse Company and this Company has a strict policy. This particular poster was only displayed during February 1943 inside our company. Actually, we can consider this poster was not showing up officially in the public at that time period. Basically, I followed the requirement from the company and I want to use simple elements to express the intention of the poster. It was not a stressful work for me.

Q:  What is the specific theme of this poster? Is it about to inspire women workers to join the war effort? Or it was a poster of recruitment during the war?

A: From the poster, we can realize the main character setting is based on the working-class employees and she represents the whole group of working-class women. This poster definitely is not about recruitment. It is about inspiring women workers to join the war effort. It is a poster to encourage women to work hard and to contribute to the country. That is the intention of the poster.

Q: As a graphic designer, sometimes it is a little bit tricky to get a brilliant idea in the project that you get involved. What inspire you to create this poster? Do you use any reference?

A: Yes. I was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s work. He is an Americana and Realist artist and he created a painting for the Saturday Evening Post. The painting is about a woman works in a factory. The most interesting part is he added the name Rosie on the woman’s lunchbox. Rockwell gave me a fantastic inspiration. I used the same outfit that the woman he painted. I also used some figure of female workers as reference for the design of the poster.

Q: What the story behind this particular woman figure and could you tell us about who is she? Is she a friend that you familiar with?

A: Because Rockwell painting, the woman became known as Rosie the Riveter. She is not my friend. She is a “strong and competent woman that dressed in overalls and bandanna”. At the same time, she is also an iconic symbol of “patriotic womanhood.” When the U.S government was facing the problem of labor shortage, women were needed in the defense industries, even the civilian service and the armed forces. In that time period, companies want to build a figure of woman in the public to encourage women to make more effort to the war. Women were described as confident, brave, attractive and “resolved to do their part to win the war.” She is the strong connection between the war and the working-class female employee.

Q: What is the background when you create this work?

A: After the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese military, the U.S. government was in a serious situation. American government called manufacturers to produce greater amounts war products. There are a few conflicts between management and labor unions throughout the 1930s. The corporations were facing the problem of labor shortage. They need more women to make products and work in the factories. Making posters is a great idea to make women believe they are strong and confident to make contribute to their own country.

Q: Could you provide us with some useful advice to up-and-coming designers in graphic design?

A: Yes, I would like to…I mean as a graphic design, self-development and opportunities are important. The study and working environment can provide you so much space to improve yourself. I got attention from Westinghouse Company in my early career, I appreciate the opportunity that the Westinghouse Company gave to me.

Thank you so much for joining our interview.


Work Cited:


“We Can Do It! Rosie the Riveter Description.” 24 May 2017.

Miller , Howard. “Michgan Played Early Part in Women’s Suffrage.” Wkar , Current State , 5 Nov.2013.

Imaginary Interview: Paula Scher

Imaginary interview: Paula Scher


Paula Scher is an American graphic designer who has been in the industry since the 70’s. Scher is most known for her works inspired by Russian Constructivism and her rebranding of The Public Theatre in New York. Scher was the first ever female principle at Pentagram which she joined in 1991


Q: Today we have Paula Scher in house to discuss one of her Russian Constructivist inspired pieces and her thoughts behind The Public Theatre rebrand


A: Thank you so much for having me


Q: Let’s start with your pieces inspired by Russian Constructivism. In particular the 1979 poster for the CBS. What was your thought behind this?


A: Well at the time this was created, the 70’s, this style of graphic design was not common anymore. It was a blast from the past shall we say. I wanted it to stand out in a way that made people take a double take.


Q: The poster includes other influences other then constructivist what were those?


A: The main influences were  from the constructivist movement, but also influences from futurist and dada also. This wasn’t your typical modern day graphic design. The type itself was Victorian wood type, it was really a mix of everything


Q: Now onto the Swatch poster, It was a replica of the original. What was the thought process behind that?

A: Honestly, for that one it was pure parody. It’s something i’ve been coined for, they call it “Post-modern design”


Q: So everything you did on those two posters would fall under this category?


A: yes. That is correct


Q: Now onto your involvement with The Public Theatre whats the story behind that?


A: The public theatre has been a client i’ve been working with for 24 years, it started when George Wolfe became the director of the theatre. Wolfe wanted something bold and new,very typographically heavy.


Q: What was your biggest struggle with the project? Seeing as though this was 24 years in the making

A: Definitely, creating this consistent image for the theatre, creating something that held up the theatres over branding yet left the viewer with something they had never seen before. In 1994 i had brought in that same Wood typography from the cbs poster. That all changed when a play came in called “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk” and i went with this totally overhauled New York theme. Finally, in 2008 I switched back to that same wood type and it just got so boring so we changed that.


Q: So its seems as the theatre went through multiple branding phases but ultimately went back to the original execution. Why did you end up changing it again?


A: Well firstly there was the issue of these other theatre companies starting to catch on and copy The Public’s style. But also as I said before it was boring


Q: how did you end up solving this issue?


A: I realized that the actual issue was not really an issue in the first place. This whole inconsistency ended up being the perfect branding. The theatres image just had to be consistent for a season. So each season became different.


Q: What do you think worked with this inconsistent consistency?


A: I think people were able to get excited again? Each season no one knew what to expect which meant no other theatre company knew what to expect which made copying any of the Public’s themes obviously seem deliberate.


Q: What were the positives of staying with the theatre for 24 years?


A: Definitely being able to try new things, tweak things and ultimately get to know a brand so well you’re able to just revamp parts of it yet still stay true to the roots. It made me realize that half of these things I tested over the 24 years would have actually been thought of.  In these 24 years I really understood and learned what i was doing.


Q: Well, thank you so much for your time Paula


A: it’s been a pleasure

Imaginary Interview – A.M Cassandre


Me: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have a great opportunity to invite A.M Cassandre, one of the greatest French painter, typeface and poster designer, to talk about one of his famous work: Grand sport la Casquette tous adoptée par les champions. It’s a great honor for me to chat with you face to face and share those valuable graphic design ideas.

A.M: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to share my own thoughts of graphic designs in public, also I appreciate you offer such an opportunity for us.

Me: Great, so can you tell us more about the work?

A.M: Sure. This is a commercial poster designed for a French cap company. It’s called “Great sport the cap all adopted by the champions”. Yeah the name of the cap is “champions’ choice”, which was designed as an exclusive edition for The Grand Sport. I’ve done this poster in 1925.

Me: What specifically impressed us is the illustration of the portrait. It’s there any reasons that you come up with this unique solution of painting?

A.M: Well as you can see, I used ink spray roughly made the silhouette of the man’s portrait, then accomplished with white contour lines for the “details” but not quite detailed. This kind of style was somehow inspired by the cubism arts. When I was working at the Parisian printing house, I’ve seen a lot of amazing works made by cubists, which had influenced my way of design. Cubism is beautiful, elegant and clean, it interprets the idea in the simplest way. For this poster, I rendered the portrait in a cubic style to not only emphasizing the product but also work with the overall composition, to provides a clear but also interesting information.

Me: I see, the man’s portrait has successfully become not only a graphic but more symbolic approach to the brand. In this case, can you explain why don’t you make the cap in “cubic” style as well as the portrait?

A.M: Here’s the thing. In my own perception, a commercial advertisement ought to make more sense to the audiences, also I need that target thing to stands out. Yet cubism is a fantastic art style, we also need to note the “balance” between artistic interpretation and information telling. I painted the champion’s cap in the realistic style, complement with the cubic portrait, it lets the cap stand out. When you stand in front of an abstract art, what draws your attention is the most colorful, detailed focal point, and that cap is my focal point.

Me: Make sense to me. Sometimes a commission art needs more attention on the harmonization rather than an emotional interpretation. Let’s talk about the typography, is there any specific intention for using this typeface?

A.M: Exactly. I designed the typeface, and this is the prototype of my future published sans serif typeface in 1935 called Acir Noir. This condensed letterform gives a good representation of geometry, and I keep the capital “O” original size for better contrast. Also, I specifically designed letter “s” as it represents the flow and movement through the composition.

Me: People usually compare your work to other cubist at that time period. How do you think that your style of design is different than others? 

A.M: Well, I have to say that most of my works are deeply inspired by Picasso. As a commercial poster designer, I “refined” his style but not much. You can spot several abstract arts through my works that look similar to what Picasso does, however, I took this kind of abstraction as an element of my composition but not let it take dominance. Instead of performing this style as an art work, I tend to intergrats the style into a unified, consistent piece. Artists at the same time period keep influencing each other and take advantages, that’s how art evolves.

Me: So in which aspect you think your work is unique than others?

A.M: Like I said, I design my own typeface.

Me: Thanks alot for taking your time with us, that’s the interview of the day. We appreciate all the valuable feedback and information you provided. We hope to see you next time!

A.M: My pleasure, thank you.

Work Cited:–A.M.-Cassandre–1925-SS2869028.html

Interview With Peter Saville on Unknown Pleasures Cover

Q: Hello Mr. Saville, its great to be able to finally meet you!

A:      Likewise! Thanks for having me.


Q: Before we get started on your involvement with Joy Division and the era defining work that you did with them, let me ask you this: what is it that got you interesting in graphic design?

A:      To me graphic design is entry level visual culture. I was obsessed with record covers and the look of them and I wanted to do something similar. Now, I was a bit clueless to what graphic design actually involved, and that is a lot of working to make someone else’s vision a reality rather than personal expression.

Q: How did you get into contact with joy division?

A:     I worked for Factory Records with a man named Martin Hannett who was their sound engineer. Rob Gretton who was the band’s manager was a friend of Martin’s so it was natural connection. The band was working on their debut LP and knew of my work through Martin, so they reached out to me.


Q: What were your inspirations behind the design?

A:     Ian Curtis and co. had a great idea of what they wanted in mind before coming to me. I spoke with their manager Rob Gretton and he gave me a big folder of their material, which contained the picture that I would end up using for the artwork. The image is from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy. The research group analyzed an area of space which seemingly appeared empty but, contained a pulsar (an object similar to a star that is far away in space and produces radiation and radio waves) which was emitting a tight, repetitive signal every 1.337 seconds. The final image is replication of the recorded data which was cut out and stacked from paper.


Q: How did you go about reproducing the found image to make the final artwork?

A:     Those paper cutouts from the original that had been stacked together were sent to a draftsperson who traced over the ridges with India ink. This placed the data in 2D, the version of which was shown in the book that the band had found it in and shown to me originally. I subverted this by reversing the position of each color, by making the background black and the line waves white. I felt that this fit this choice made sense because of the sound of the band. They had a deep-toned sound which was reminiscent of The Velvet Underground.


Q: Does the cover symbolize something for the band?


A:     The cover is an abstract image that the band felt worked well with their sound. It has a tight, repetitive rhythm which is reminiscent of Stephen Morris’ drumming. It originated from The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, which is an observatory in Manchester that specializes in radio astronomy related research and development. Joy Division was a leader in the post punk movement in Britain.  Since the band is also from Manchester, this seemed like a fitting image for them because it reflects their roots.  They wanted something abstract for their album artwork because they were not a band that wanted to stand out; they did not want to be popstars but instead, would rather have had their music speak for itself.



Q: Did this make it hard to design an identifiable cover?

A:     The band already knew what they wanted so they made the job easy for me. What I did take into consideration though, was including the name of the album on its sleeve. I spoke to Rob about this idea and in the end, we both agreed that this was not the best route to take. The cover that we used had a much stronger composition than with the name plastered on. Also, it just wasn’t cool. These were a group of blokes making some noise in the post-punk movement and it was more interesting for them to remain sort of aloof.

Q:  Finally, did you have any idea of the cultural impact that the album and its design would have?

A:     I don’t think its possible to think that far in advance. I had heard the record and knew that it was a good album, I even knew that the design for the cover was good. Thirty years later though to see the reproductions of it in the media is crazy. There have been multiple fashion collections that pay homage to it, there have been versions made into pottery, in light installations and people have even tattooed it on to various parts of their bodies. To think that it would have spread so much and become so symbolic is unfathomable.























  1. Christiansen, Jen. “Pop Culture Pulsar: Origin Story of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Album Cover [Video].” Scientific American Blog Network, 18 Feb. 2015,


  1. Grundy, Gareth. “Peter Saville on His Classic Joy Division and New Order Artwork.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 May 2011,


  1. “About Us.” About Us | The University of Manchester | Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, Jodrell Bank,


  1. “Pulsar.” Pulsar | Meaning of Pulsar in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English | LDOCE, Longman Dictionary,


Interview with Stefan Sagmeister

Q: Hello readers, welcome to today’s interview! With us, I have graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer Stefan Sagmeister to discuss his iconic AIGA Detroit poster. First things first, thank you, Mr. Sagmeister, for joining me; would you mind discussing your path as an artist that lead you to the creation of this design piece?

A: Hello, thanks for having me. Though I currently run a studio in New York city with Jessica Welsh,  Sagmeister & Walsh Inc., I’m originally from Bregenz, Austria. I studied graphic design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and later in Pratt Institute in New York After receiving a Fulbright scholarship. My first design job was at 15, where I worked at Alphorn, an Austrian Youth magazine, and have since gone on to work in Hong Kong, Italy and now New York. I pioneered a unique stylistic device in the 90s, a tattooed look for a poster for Lou Reed’s new album Set the Twilight Reeling. It was this kind of design style, using integrated hand-lettered type for a poster, that leads us to the AIGA Detroit Poster.

Set the Twilight Reeling (1996) by Stefan Sagmeister.

Q: So what exactly was the AIGA Detroit poster for? What caused you to make it the way you did? 

A: This poster was made for a lecture I was having at Cranbrook College near Detroit, back in 1999. It was sponsored by them actually, Cranbrook College and the Detroit branch of AIGA. The goal of this poster was to publicize the event, as well as take my tattoo poster design style to the extreme. You see, I’m very much into breaking the norm and touching upon taboos with my work. I’m not designing work that’s trendy or just because it will sell, my work is provocative and it can be seen here in my AIGA Poster.

Q: Provocative indeed. And definitely against the norm. How exactly did you go about creating this design what mediums did you use?

A: Well, instead of adding text digitally onto a photo, as I did with my album cover poster for Lou Reed’s Set the Twilight Reeling, I decided to have hand lettering added in a different way.  Rather, I had acquired the help of one of my assistants to carve the letters into my body with a knife – the tattoo poster style with a twist. And that’s essentially what can be seen in the photograph: I appear in the nude, bottom lip to my lower abdomen in full view, holding a box of band-aids. The words carved into include my name, the time and date of the lecture, my sponsors, etcetera.  Oh, as well as my slogan, “Style=fart”, a reminder to those in and out of my studio that reminds everyone that graphic design has to be more than just trendy, it needs substance.

AIGA Detroit poster (1999) by Stefan Sagmeister.

Q: Besides being provocative, was the concept behind having the words carved into your body? What were you trying to convey by using your physical as a tactile canvas for which to place your design?

A: The concept is simple, what better way to visually convey the pain that accompanies most of the studio’s design projects than to have it made real and physical on my own body. To have it made “tactile”, as you said.

Q: I see. This piece is fitting in terms of your sense of humour wouldn’t you say?

A: Haha, yes, I agree. My humour is self-reflective and I like to showcase it in my work. What this poster does is truly convey at once my  striking and humorous style, in addition to my ability to come up with a concept that is intriguing, thought-provoking, compelling, and execute it with a raw and straightforward technique.

Q: Well, sadly this interview has come to an end. Thank you again, Stefan Sagmeister, for joining me in this chit chat. Your insight into your background, thought process, and concepts have been very intriguing and truly eye opening. As you are arguably one of the best contemporary designers to date,  I can’t wait to see your future work!

A: Thank you, it was my pleasure.

Work Cited

Eskilson, Stephen F. Graphic Design: A New History. 2nd. ed., New Haven, Yale University, 2012. Print.

Heller, Steven. “Stefan Sagmeister.” AIGA, Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

MOMA. “Stefan Sagmeister AIGA Detroit 1999.” MOMA, Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

Wikipedia. “Stefan Sagmeister.” Wikipedia, Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.

Imaginary Interview – Interview with Erik Nitsche

Imaginary Interview with graphic designer, Erik Nitsche the man who pioneered the design of the infographics.

Good evening Mr. Nitsche, could you tell me a bit about your childhood and how it influenced your decision to pursue design?

I was born in an art-minded family in Laussanne, Switzerland. Both my father and grandfather were photographers and we had alot of family friends who were artist. One of whom was Paul Klee, the Bauhaus expressionist artist. We had a close friendship and he pursued me to follow art not photography. Even though Klee had inspired me, I did not attend the Bauhaus school where Klee was a teacher. Instead I chose to attend the Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich.

How did you get started in graphic design and specifically desigining infographics?

I didn’t start right away actually. After graduating, I started working in Cologne, Germany and then Paris. I mainly did illustrations for avant garde magazines and newspapers in the Swiss style which grew popularity amongst the Bauhaus but was considered the opponent to the current Art Deco style of the French.

After rising conflict in Europe, I fled to America where I started doing set designs for Hollywood musicals. This lead to nowhere and I eventually moved to New York where I freelanced as a graphic artist for fashion magazines. I was a Swiss in graphic arts so finding work was no problem. I was very productive and worked for numerous agencys. I had the opportunity to work under Alexey Brodovitch when I designed for Harper’s Bazaar.

In 1940, I was asked to be the Art Director for Air Tech and Air News, a technology magazine showcasing the latest in aero dynamics and hydraulics. It was perfect for me. It had the swiss aesthetic and matched my love for logics and precision. Working there, was when I started experimenting with infographic designs.

I continued to work on this craft of infographic poster until the early 50s. My proudest moment was succeeding Herbery Bayer as the art director for Dorland International in New York.

How did you and László Moholy-Nagy came into contact in the 1950s?

When I started working for Air Tech and Air News, I had complete control over the visual design of the magazine. I definitely wanted to incorporate the Swiss style into the magazine but also the Bauhaus as I do regret not attending the school while in Weimar. Ironically Lászlo, at the time was working as the new director of the Bauhaus in Chicago. Through one of the publications of Air Tech, I assumed that’s how he came into contact with me.  He assauged my disappointment in not attending the Bauhaus when he referred me as “Who is this guy doing the Bauhaus in New York?”

One of your most famous work would be for General Dynamic, could you tell me how you got work there and what was desigining their advertisements were like?

After my time at Air Tech and Air News, I became restless. I couldn’t manage to remain at one job for a long time. I felt being an office-person wasn’t right for me. That’s when I decided to move to Connecticut in 1950.

The Gotham Agency was one the first the contact me. They, at the time had the General Dynamics account and wanted me to work for them. The GD as I liked to call them, were in the conference for ‘International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy’ in Geneva. They wanted to create a series of ads that convey a message of peace and not manufactors of destructive weapons. So in 1955, they asked me to lead as the art director in their new campaign. I was tasked to rebuild their identity from scratch. The General Dynamic were very secretive of their operations and so even as their art director, I wasn’t given alot of visual imformation to work on. That’s why I had to come up with my own visuals. Because of it’s discreet nature, I was forced into using symbolic expressions to not reveal anything specific. I also used geometric forms with different color planes to make very industrial visuals a little bit more poetic. The company was very pleased with my work and my contract was extended. By 1960, I’ve created a total new corporate identity including countless ads, posters, brochures and annual reports. The crowning piece of it all: ‘Dynamic America’, a 420-page book telling the company’s history, included all of my work for them.

Erik Nitsche -   v 

So after working for General Dynamics, you went back to Geneva to start your own company? How did that came about and what work did your agency get the opportunity to work on.

By 1960s, the political climate in Europe changed so I moved back to Geneva, Switzerland where I started my own agency called Eric Nitsche International or ENI for short. We were a very small studio and mostly did work for local companies. We produced pictoral history books with themes like history of transportation, photography, astronomy, etc… One of our largest projects was a twenty volume set visualizing the history of music, where we explored classical to jazz, composition to instrumentation. It was time I stepped out of the world of corporate design. Working in Geneva was a breath of fresh air for me.

Massimo Vignelli is being interviewed by Luca Bolouse

Luca: Mr Vignelli, it’s an honour to speak with you today. How and why did you choose your design career?


Massimo: My first real interest was not design, but rather architecture from the time I was a teenager.  I was accepted to architecture at university. The architectural scene in Italy is a big thing especially in Milan where I was born. People were designing buildings, furniture and exhibitions.  So architecture was a natural fit with design.


I chose graphic design because I moved in to an apartment with a Swiss graphic designer Max Huber. So that’s where I learnt graphic design and where I fell in love with graphic design.  I always liked to try different types of design and materials.


Luca: How much is your design done on the computer nowadays?


Massimo: When I started there was a totally different set of tools than what people have today. Back in the day It was extremely and intensely manual. People used the pencil to contextualize their ideas and plan out what their work might be. This gives the designers a better sense of scale and visual analyzing.


: Please tell me some of your design process and ideas of making the iconic NYC subway identity and map?



Massimo: Until today, I believe that the map is the most clear map I have ever seen in terms of

information for the subways. Every line has a subway color and every station has a dot. There is nothing to fragment the legibility of this map. If you see today in 2008, the subway map is a total disaster!  One big problem with New York City, people couldn’t relate the geography with the lines so people were confused by that. When I released the map to the public there was much debate between New Yorkers because of this.  First of all they shouldn’t be comparing it to a geographical map or neighborhood map to a subway map.  Maybe my mistake was to push the boundaries further and made it more abstract by getting of everything else and keeping it minimal with just the lines and stops.  But otherwise it is so clear it’s unbelievable.


Luca:  Why do you think some of New Yorkers in 1972 reacted so bad?


Massimo: To be honest 50% of the people in the world is visual oriented and 50% of humanity is verbally oriented. So the visually oriented people have no problem reading any map. So I believe it’s based on opinion and I enjoy how some people disagree and agree. That’s what makes the world go around. Most critics said the stations were in the wrong places and the color scheme for the water around the city was colored beige not blue. In fact, it makes it clearer for readers to bring an easier color for contrast. I wasn’t going for a realistic approach to colour more for visual organization. I believe New Yorkers were thrown off by something new when this was released but then it started to grow on them.



Luca : What was it that the public misunderstood?


Massimo: The map was supposed to be accompanied by two geographical maps, one of a local neighborhood and one of the entire geographic footprint. There was also a verbal map which explained how to get from A to B. I couldn’t make it any easier. I feel it was too European or progressive for America in 1972. Maybe it was not meant for that time?


Luca: What would have you changed about the design if you were to do it again?


Massimo: The design was inspired by Harry Beck’s 1933 London underground map. It had similar organizational principles and this really brought to my attention that New York a world famous metropolitan city needed something simplified for large masses and tourists. But my mistake was that included some geographical references, like Central park, Manhattan and Bronx. It should have been more abstract and more minimal.  If I were to do it again, I would take out those geographical references altogether.








Imaginary Interview: James Flagg


James Montgomery Flagg was born in 1877. He is American representational artist and illustrator, and he made remarkable achievements in fine art painting and cartooning. But the most remembered works are his political posters. In 1917, he made the famous political poster “I Want You for U.S. Army”. The poser made great influence and remembered by people. James Flagg takes a interview and he told us about his “I Want You for U.S. Army”.


Q: Can you talk about your political poster “I Want You for U.S. Army” briefly?


A: I originally designed the poster for Leslie’s Weekly magazine as the cover of a July issue in 1916, and named it as “What are you doing for preparedness”. In 1917, the United States entered World War I. My posters were used by the U.S. government for war propagandas and recruiting. The texts on the poster are also changed as “I Want You for U.S. Army”. During World War I, over 350,000 copies of the poster were printed. And the image was used again in World War II, over 400,000 copies was printed. I presented an updated version to the president Franklin Delano in 1940s.


Q: What do you think when you create the image? What makes it so effective?


A: I considered about the rhetoric appeals when I designed the poster. The Uncle Sam in the image pointing and making eye contact with the viewers attracted viewer’s attention. The patterns on the hat and colors I used on the character stir the viewers’ patriot emotions. Uncle Sam points at the viewers with the texts “I Want You for U.S. Army”, which gave viewers the feeling that Uncle Sam is speaking to them directly. The texts are conspicuous and easy to read. The sharp eyes and the words and evoke viewers’ the sense of patriot. It makes viewers feel that the United States is in great danger and they have responsibility to defend it.


Q: When the government finds you, do you feel confident to finish the job? What kind of situation you were under when you make the “I Want You For U.S. Army”?


A: I began to draw when I was a child. I sold my first drawing when I was 12. And I send my works to Life Magazine at the age of 14. And next year, I was hired by The Judge. And then I studied at the Art Students League in New York. I spent a year working in London before moving to France. I was professional with different media including watercolors, oils, pastels, charcoal, and pencil.  I would like to mix pen and ink in my works. I feel I was so struggle with my projects in the magazine. When I did the Uncle Sam for the Leslie’s magazine, the deadline was so tight and I don’t have many ideas for it. I was one of artists in the Division of Pictorial Publicity, and we are required to send the war propaganda and recruiting materials to the U.S. government.

Q: An old man has long white hair and whiskers, and wears blue swallow-tail coat and a tall hat with the Stars and strip. Nowadays, when people talk about Uncle Sam, the character in your posters comes into people’s mind. How do you make such a classical character?


A: Actually, I was refused to draw the character. The Leslie’s Magazine asked for it in 1914, but the model is hard to choose. When I created the character in 1916 for the magazine, it was so rush that I don’t have my model in my studio. So I just putted my own characteristics on the Uncle Sam. So he had grey waved hair and beard. After this, I realized people like this and I kept using myself as the model, and meantime I can save the model fees!


Q: What do you think with the future of the illustration magazine cover?


A: I’m not sure with how much influence but the photography must impact the magazine illustrations. The magazines may want more photography or modern art as the cover, and the future of traditional illustration may be in crisis.



Andrews, T., The Uncle Sam ‘I Want YOU’ poster is 100 years old. Almost everything about it was borrowed. Retrieved from


Staff, M., From Jeeves to Uncle Sam : The Legacy of James Montgomery Flagg, retrieved from