New Work: ‘Paula Scher: MAPS’

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In the 1990s, Paula Scher began painting colorful typographic maps of the world, its continents, countries, islands, oceans, cities, streets and neighborhoods. Obsessive, opinionated and more than a little personal, the paintings were a reaction against information overload and the constant stream of news, which, like the paintings, present skewed versions of reality in a deceptively authoritative way. The paintings are collected for the first time in Paula Scher: MAPS, a new book out now from Princeton Architectural Press.

MAPS presents 39 paintings, drawings, prints and environmental installations, including Scher’s recent commission for New York City’s Queens Metropolitan Campus. Many of Scher’s original paintings are huge—as tall as 12 feet—and the book reproduces the works in full and in life-size details that reveal layers of hand-painted place names, information and cultural commentary. The book’s jacket folds out into a 3’ by 2’ poster of a portion of World Trade, one of Scher’s most recent paintings, from 2010.

The book opens with an essay by Scher about the influence of her father, a photogrammetic engineer who worked on aerial photography for the U.S. Geological Service in the 1950s and taught her that maps were never totally accurate. (The essay’s title: “All Maps Lie.”) Scher’s father invented a measuring device called Stereo Templates that corrected lens distortions when aerial photography was enlarged for printed maps. Simon Winchester, author of The Map That Changed the World, contributes the book’s foreword, about the charm of maps in the age of GPS.

Tonight Scher will be discussing MAPS at a lecture presented by AIGA/NY at Parsons The New School for Design. The event is sold out. She will be signing copies of the book at a public reception at Rizzoli Bookstore at 31 West 57th Street in New York on Wednesday, October 26 at 5:30 pm.

New Work: ‘High Line’

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Since opening in 2009, the High Line, the elevated railway turned public oasis on Manhattan’s West Side, has become one of New York’s most popular parks. It has also become a definitive case study in urban design, inspiring grass-roots movements in other cities to save and re-purpose industrial structures. High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky is a new book by Joshua David and Robert Hammond, the founders of Friends of the High Line, that tells the story of the project. The book is structured as a lively dialogue between David and Hammond, tracing the story from the origins of their idea to save the structure after meeting at a 1999 community hearing about its possible demolition, through the opening of the High Line’s second section this summer.

Pentagram’s Paula Scher has designed the book using the identity and graphics she created for the High Line. Following Davis and Hammond’s narrative, the second half of the book is a portfolio of images from throughout the park’s development. The cover features a debossed image of the logo Scher originally developed for Friends of the High Line, later adopted as the symbol of the park, and the book employs the new NYC Parks green to signal the High Line’s partnership with the city.

New Work: Type Directors Club


Animated variations on Paula Scher’s graphics for TDC 58.

The annual awards competition of the Type Directors Club (TDC) presents the best typographic design in the world. Long a favorite of the design community, the awards are renowned for the quality of their selections and the accompanying annual book published by the TDC. Pentagram’s Paula Scher and her team have created a bold graphic program for this year’s competition, TDC 58, that launches with the call for entries, out today.

Scher and her designers saw the project as an opportunity to explore creating a cohesive, recognizable program of graphics without repeating forms. The TDC 58 graphics treat the organization’s acronym in a series of variations on experimental letterforms constructed of straight lines and concentric shapes.

This is the first year that designers can enter the competition digitally, that all the promotion is digital and that the TDC did not produce a traditional print mailer. Based on this Scher decided to make a series of posters for the organization to sell as a fundraiser.

Pentagram Postmodernism on View at the V&A

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This fall the colors of autumn are a vibrant neon as the landmark exhibition Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 opens this weekend at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The first major survey of art, design and architecture of the 1970s and 1980s, the exhibition shows how Postmodernism developed from a provocative architectural movement to rapidly influence all areas of popular culture including art, film, music, graphics and fashion.

Pentagram’s Paula Scher and Daniel Weil are represented in the exhibition with seminal works from early in their careers. Scher has three posters in the show: the Best of Jazz poster for CBS Records, her influential homage to Russian Constructivist typography (the poster is being reprinted in a limited edition for the exhibition); the 1981 Trust Elvis poster created for Elvis Costello at Columbia Records, later described in Bret Easton Ellis’ era-defining novel Less Than Zero; and the iconic 1984 poster for a Swatch USA campaign inspired by the Swiss poster designs of Herbert Matter.

Daniel Weil is represented by his important Muralla China Radio from 2×4 Tango, a series of four radios designed in unusual shapes and materials. The radio is in the V&A’s permanent collection.

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