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Top 3 Graphic Designers (Who Balance(d) Art & Commerce)

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

This list is full of the usual suspects, but it's worth noting that many of the greatest designers may also be the worst business people. For those who are/were able to balance art and commerce, here goes:

Top 3 graphic designers, Saul Bass, Stefan Sagmeister, Paula Scher
  1. Saul Bass May 8, 1920 – April 25, 1996, was an American graphic designer and Oscar-winning filmmaker, best known for his design of motion-picture title sequences, film posters, and corporate logos. During his 40-year career, Bass worked for some of Hollywood's most prominent filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. Among his most famous title sequences are the animated paper cut-out of a heroin addict's arm for Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm, the credits racing up and down what eventually becomes a high-angle shot of a skyscraper in Hitchcock's North by Northwest, and the disjointed text that races together and apart in Psycho. Proof that Saul Bass balanced art and commerce: Bass designed several of the most iconic corporate logos in North America, including the Bell System logo in 1969, as well as AT&T's globe logo in 1983 after the breakup of the Bell System. He also designed Continental Airlines' 1968 jet stream logo and United Airlines' 1974 tulip logo, which became some of the most recognized airline industry logos of the era. Source:

  2. Stefan Sagmeister Stefan Sagmeister (born August 6, 1962 in Bregenz, Austria) is a New York-based graphic designer, storyteller, and typographer. Sagmeister co-founded a design firm called Sagmeister & Walsh Inc. with Jessica Walsh in New York City. He has designed album covers for Lou Reed, OK Go, The Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Jay Z, Aerosmithand Pat Metheny. Sagmeister studied graphic design at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. He later received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Pratt Institute in New York. He began his design career at the age of 15 at "Alphorn", an Austrian Youth magazine, which is named after the traditional Alpine musical instrument. In 1991, he moved to Hong Kong to work with Leo Burnett's Hong Kong Design Group. In 1993, he returned to New York to work with Tibor Kalman's M&Co design company. His tenure there was short lived, as Kalman soon decided to retire from the design business to edit Colors magazine for the Benetton Group in Treviso, Italy. Stefan Sagmeister proceeded to form the New York-based Sagmeister Inc. in 1993 and has since designed branding, graphics, and packaging for clients as diverse as the Rolling Stones, HBO, the Guggenheim Museum and Time Warner. Sagmeister Inc. has employed designers including Martin Woodtli, and Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker, who later formed Karlssonwilker. Proof that Stefan Sagmeister balances art and commerce: This one goes against the grain for perceived work ethic norms, but is highly likely a key to creative longevity: Sagmeister goes on a year-long sabbatical every seven years. While away, he does not take work from clients. He has spent many years designing for the music industry. Several years ago he decided to dedicate 25% of his work to the art world—books and publications for galleries—another 25% to the scientific community, 25% to social causes, and the last quarter remains dedicated to the music industry. Source:

  3. Paula Scher Paula Scher (born October 6, 1948, Washington D.C) is an American graphic designer, painter and art educator in design. She also served as the first female principal at Pentagram, which she joined in 1991. Scher studied at the Tyler School of Art, in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1970. Scher moved to New York City and took her first job as a layout artist for Random House's children's book division. In 1972, she was hired by CBS Records to the advertising and promotions department. During her eight years at CBS Records, she is credited with designing as many as 150 album covers a year. Some of those iconic album cover designs are Boston (Boston), Eric Gale (Ginseng Woman), Leonard Bernstein (Poulenc Stravinsky), Bob James (H), Bob James and Earl Klugh (One on One), Roger Dean and David Howells (The Ultimate Album Cover Album) and Jean-Pierre Rampal and Lily Laskin (Sakura: Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp). Her designs were recognized with four Grammy nominations. She is also credited with reviving historical typefaces and design styles. She left Atlantic Records to work on her own in 1982. Scher developed a typographic solution based on Art Deco and Russian constructivism, which incorporated outmoded typefaces into her work. In 1984 she co-founded Koppel & Scher with editorial designer and fellow Tyler graduate Terry Koppel. In 1991, after the studio suffered from the recession, Scher began consulting and joined Pentagram as a partner in the New York office. Since then, she has been a principal at the New York office of the Pentagram design consultancy, where she has developed identity and branding systems, promotional materials, environmental graphics, packaging and publication designs for a broad range of clients that includes, among others, Bloomberg, Microsoft, Bausch + Lomb, Coca-Cola, Shake Shack, the Museum of Modern Art, the Sundance Institute, the High Line, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1992, she became a design educator, teaching at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York. She received more than 300 awards from international design associations as well as a series of prizes from the American Institute of Graphic Design (AIGA), The Type Directors Club (NY), New York Art Directors Club and the Package Design Council. She is a select member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) and her work is included in the collections of New York Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich and the Centre Georges Pompidou". She has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for over two decades, along with positions at the Cooper Union, Yale University and the Tyler School of Art. Proof that Paula Scher balances art and commerce: More than most designers Ms. Scher has demonstrated an elegant path in balancing art, design, businesses and education. For any designer out there looking for professional inspiration, look no further than Paula Scher. Source:

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