FROM A HATRED FOR HELVETICA TO AN INSPIRATION FOR THE CREATIVE WORLD – PAULA SCHER.

I have recently been looking at the work and career of Paula Scher, and I can honestly say that I have both enjoyed looking at her career and being inspired by her work and ethics.

Starting her career in CBS records, Scher went on to create a number of album covers that offered a controversial style in comparison to the designs of the time. When looking at Scher’s work, it is clear that there was a high influence of the Russian Constructivist style however the way in which Scher juxtaposed type against itself and other elements stood out. It was this experimental way of working that got Scher noticed and seen as a postmodernist.

Scher’s reasoning behind her decisions/styles and ways of working was simply in response to her dislike of the typeface Helvetica.

“So, my goal in life was to do stuff that wasn’t made out of Helvetica, and to do stuff that wasn’t made out of Helvetica was actually kind of hard because you had to find it. There weren’t a lot of books about the history of design in the early 70s. There wasn’t a plethora of design publishing. You actually had to go to antique stores. You had to go to Europe. You had to go places and find the stuff and what I responded to was, you know, Art Nouveau, or deco, or Victorian typography, or things that were just completely not Helvetica.” – Paula Scher, Paula Scher gets Serious.

From this Scher went on to start her own firm along side Terry Koppel – Koppel & Scher –before becoming partner at Pentagram in 1991. It was during this time, after joining Pentagram, that Scher created one her most influential projects. The complete rebranding of The Public Theatre has proved to be one of the most fruitful projects Scher has created, as it has spanned generations and still carries the same impact today as it did in 1994. The logo created in 1994 has progressed over time, however the main message has remained the same by emphasising that the theatre is for the Public.

Following the creation of the theatre’s identity, Scher went on to create numerous advertisements for the various productions to be held there. One of the most well known and seen pieces from this is that of Savion Glover’s ‘Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk’, which featured the use of wood typefaces throughout – much like the initial identity for the theatre.

These advertisements were designed to be featured all over New York from billboards to walls, even on buses and on the floor beneath our feet. They shared the same inspiration and experimental styles featured in Scher’s earlier work, and carried with them an impact that captures and draws your attention towards them. The juxtapositions of the type and images, and the variations of type weights creates a dynamically active piece that reflects heavily on both the nature of the production and of the theatre.

In a video by Nicola Sheller – Paula Scher: The Geography of Design – Scher discusses how New York is a big part of what inspires her work and this can be seen in the ‘traffic jam’ like nature of some of her work. More recently Scher has been creating a range of hand painted maps, which are often created purely from memory and her own personal opinions. These maps offer an entirely new look at the way in which she approaches her work. Often taking up to 6 months to complete, the maps demonstrate a more playful way fo working. Forgetting the digital and embracing the physical.

For over 30 years Scher has been a key player in the creative world and there is so much more of her work to be seen and be inspired by, and so I highly urge you to take a look and absorb all the knowledge she has to offer. We are constantly encouraged to take influence from everything around us and not just focus on ‘design’, and I think this is the best example of that and one that we should all take note of. I certainly will.

(source: Pentagram – New Work: The Public Theatre, TED Talk – Paula Scher gets Serious, Paula Scher: The Geography of Design)

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