“The best way to accomplish serious design…is to be totally and completely unqualified for the job.” – Paula Scher
This is exactly how Paula Scher, an American graphic artist, felt as she was attending the Tyler School of Art. While majoring in illustration, Scher avoided graphic art classes, because she didn’t draw well, and wasn’t “neat” enough to arrange Helvetica type accurately. She did learn, however, that she had a talent for thinking up concepts and could illustrate them with type. She graduated in 1970 with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
In 1972, Paula Scher began her career as Art Director for CBS Records in New York City. Each year she designed around 150 album covers, and produced many ads and posters. Her style used typography to create a mood or scenario that described the music, instead of an actual picture of the band. Her desire to use typography instead of illustrations, dictated the direction of her career. That is what she became most known for.
In 1991, Scher started working in the New York office of Pentagram. As a partner, she was in charge of keeping her clients and maintaining her design teams, but shared the financial responsibilities with the other business partners. One of her most notable achievements was creating the institutional identity for the New York Public Theater in 1994. She designed their logo, stationary, and billboards using a mix of letterforms that were different, yet flowed together seamlessly. She has also done work for Target, Tiffany & Co., Citibank, the New York Ballet, and the New York Times, along with many other well-known brands.
In addition to logo designs, Paula Scher has spent a great deal of time painting large scale, complicated maps. Scher has also spent a great deal of time lecturing around the world and has held teaching positions at Cooper Union, Yale University and the Tyler School of Art. Paula Scher’s work can also be seen in permanent collections at several museums, including the Museum of Natural Art, the Denver Art Museum, and the Library of Congress. Her list of awards includes the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, and the profession’s highest honor, the AIGA Medal.
Paula Scher is the perfect example of finding a way to follow her dream. She wanted to be an illustrator, but did not have the skills that seemed necessary for her to continue down that path. Instead, she found what she was good at, and proved she could do it her own way. By using her strengths, she became one of the world’s most famous logo designers.
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