What was your first idea that sold?
Early in my career I designed a small book promoting Speckletone, a paper manufactured by the French Paper Company, which is one of the last remaining, family-owned American paper mills. 10,000 copies of the book were printed and distributed to designers across America, and in 6 months time, Speckletone went from being French’s worst to best selling paper lines. French Paper became true believers in the power of design.
Where do you get your inspiration?
The CSA Images library is inspired by the entire history of design, advertising and illustration, which is also where my own inspiration comes from. CSA Images capture the authenticity and detail of hand-drawn illustration, digitally preserving the legacy and artifacts of ink printed on paper.
We began in the 1970s and now have the largest, highest caliber collection of pop culture inspired illustration in the world, built by the most talented artists, illustrators, and designers in the industry. CSA Images embody the entire essence of visual pop culture, inspired by camp, kitsch, pop, graphic, modern, abstract, comic, collage, vernacular, mod, futuristic, classic, beautiful, ornate, creepy, cute and more. CSA Images are timeless, iconic and modern, yet inspired by history and pop culture.
You are in a cab with 3 people, anyone in the world, dead or alive; who would they be?
The logical answer would be the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the creator of all and the source of all creativity. The design answer would be Steve Jobs, Paul Rand and Saul Bass, an interesting mix of design visionaries that I was fortunate to have had conversations with while they were alive. It would be even more interesting to take part in a discussion with all three of them at once.
“CSA Images are timeless, iconic, and modern, yet inspired by history and pop culture.”
Jobs was kinetic—he never completely stopped moving. His mind would jump between subjects as quickly as his black eyes would dart around the room, joined by rapid-fire questions about everything he surveyed, mostly about our package design samples that he kept grabbing from the display shelf in our conference room. He did snap into complete focus when he walked us through the incredible Next identity book that Rand had recently presented to him. Jobs was the most intense individual I’ve ever met. When he left the room, all of the energy went with him, almost as if someone had switched off the lights.
Paul Rand worked with Steve Jobs when he designed the Next logo. I had a chance to hear the story first-hand from Jobs. The truth was that Rand did many different logo explorations for Next, not just one. His presentation book rejected all of these logos one at a time, explaining why each one was unsuitable. Rand had built his case so well that his final logo not only seemed logical but also inevitable, even if you didn’t like it visually.
I do take some comfort in knowing that a few of those same iconic images that Paul Rand so disliked nearly a quarter of a century ago are still as impactful as when the were first created, and are alive and well on the Getty and iStock sites!
In the early 90s when I was first establishing my design firm, I received a call from the legendary designer Saul Bass. He invited me to come to LA to discuss a possible partnership. I told him that I was extremely flattered, but was determined to try to make it on my own in Minneapolis. He was very kind and gracious. A few years later he passed away, and I’ve always regretted not flying out to meet him in person. Years later when I conveyed this story to Paula Scher, she told me in the very direct and unedited manner that I love about her, “Don’t feel special. Saul was dying of cancer.” He called everyone, which instantly deflated my long-held notion that Saul Bass had chosen me.
Which piece of design/art do you wish you had come up with?
An enduring advertising character like Mr. Bubble or Count Chocula – these classic, amazing, campy icons have painfully and inextricably woven themselves into the fabric of our hearts as well as American pop culture. The Turner Classic Movies logo is probably the closest I've come to creating an enduring trademark character.
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