Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sussman's Supergraphics: Witty & Fun

Last month I visited Woodbury University's gallery on Hollywood Blvd. (WUHO) to see an exhibition featuring the graphic design work of legendary Los Angeles-based designer Deborah Sussman.

As a young teenager, I attended many events during L.A.'s Summer Olympics in 1984, and have long remembered the "supergraphics" and colors used in and around the venues. Orange, bright green, turquoise and magenta were chosen by Sussman and her design team to reflect the world's athletes.

One of my favorite large-scale design elements at the Olympic venues were "Sonotubes," stylish cylindrical artwork which flanked venue entrances — modern-day Greek columns. They look a bit like giant paper towel rolls wrapped in bright hues, patterns and type. A group of Sonotubes was assembled in WUHO's space. It was great to see them again after 30 years!

This show also featured the artist's early work — including brochures and packaging Deborah created while working in the Office of Charles and Ray Eames (where she began her career in 1953). In the 1950s, Ray Eames and Deborah were among the few women designers in our profession.

In the last few years, Deborah's artwork has been featured in several exhibitions. And she's still doing impactful design — Sussman/Prejza & Co. designed downtown L.A.'s Grand Avenue Park wayfinding and graphics (2012). You can't miss the "signature" magenta park benches.

Thanks, Debbie, for inspiring generations of designers — including me!

Deborah talks about her career in these video clips:

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Bright colors defined the '84 Olympics.
Poster showing "kit of parts" (graphic standards) for '84 Olympics.
Get out your sunglasses! :)
Gallery murals show Olympic architectural structures.
Visitors enjoy the artwork.
Vintage brochure for Eames chairs. I have a bright blue "PKC-1" from 1968.

Bags for L.A. County Museum of Art's gift shop (1960s)
Sonotubes flank the rear of the gallery.
More Sonotubes in the spotlight. Cheers!

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