Notes on Art: Three Mid-Century Design Masters

Posted by Michael Borshuk On 4:23 PM
I've had design on my mind lately, having recently updated my faculty webpage. The task got me thinking about three of my favorite design masters, from my favorite period in American design: the 1950s and 1960s. A minor tribute, then, here:



Reid Miles (4 July 1927 - 2 February 1993)

Miles, of course, created the oft-copied visual style of Blue Note Records, and thus, essentially drafted an iconography for "cool" in the 1950s and 1960s that has aged unbelievably well.


Saul Bass (8 May 1920 - 26 April 1996)

While Reid Miles effectively created what I like to call "the look of cool," Saul Bass pretty much created the visual identity for everything else. Don't believe me? Well, in addition to the scads of iconic film posters that came from Bass's hand, recall the corporate logos he designed: AT&T, United Airlines, Quaker Oats, Kleenex... Yeah, told you. He created the look of the mid-century, and his style has enjoyed a splendid renaissance of late, with Bass-inspired film posters for the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading or Lee Daniels's Precious. (I am so enamored with Bass's style that I taught myself how to do embedded fonts in CSS-style the other day just so I could use a Bass-inspired typescript on my faculty webpage update.)



George Lois (26 June 1931 - )

Lois designed innumerable iconic covers for Esquire magazine in the 1960s, including my personal favorite: Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian. There's a wonderful piece linked from New York magazine's website, in which Lois talks about twelve of his most famous covers, including the Ali piece, or the image shown above: http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/02/esquire_covers.html#photo=10x40028.




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MICHAEL BORSHUK is Associate Professor of African American Literature at Texas Tech University. He is the author of SWINGING THE VERNACULAR: JAZZ AND AFRICAN AMERICAN MODERNIST LITERATURE (Routledge, 2006), and numerous essays, reviews, and encyclopedia entries on African American literature, American modernism, and music. For ten years, from 1999 to 2009, he wrote on jazz regularly for CODA MAGAZINE. His fiction has appeared in ANTIGONISH REVIEW, DALHOUSIE REVIEW, ELYSIAN FIELDS QUARTERLY, SHORT STORY, and 34TH PARALLEL.

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