A peek into a lost civilization….
Art Chantry (email@example.com):
When this issue of Art Direction came out in 1981, it was generally considered a quirky, snarky, referential insider design joke – a sort of “look at the dopey stuff we used to do. Aren’t so much cooler now?” The outfit that created it was called “M&Co.” (spearheaded by a guy name of tibor kalman) and was based out of New York City. However, when I saw this thing, my head spun. This image single-handedly sent me into the direction that resulted in the research into mid -American industrial graphic design that empowered my “tool “poster I wrote about previously. Tibor’s exploratory snide joke of a cover was in my mind, the peek into a lost civilization that I’d been hoping for.
A couple of years later, Print Magazine did a profile of M&Co. and introduced me to the larger world Tibor explored. He tossed around the word “vernacular” to describe the sort of design he found fascinating. In reality, that word was a catch basin for anything that academia hadn’t really examined (for whatever sordid reasons) and had ignored. It if wasn’t European in origin or perhaps was so ubiquitously American that the authorship has been temporarily misplaced, then it became “vernacular” – as if it grew on trees.
Tibor was instrumental in the rediscovery of our own American design history, (however, misdirected.) His entire ouvre consisted of design notions, mail order gimmicks, visual design puns, printing errors and sly sarcastic humor that draws heavily from the American visual environment. He used to send out little mailing items that would arrived and sorta blow your socks off.
He employed a brilliant staff of young designers (particularly one alexander isley) whose previous personal portfolios of self-promotional items became the backbone of M&Co.’s design reputation. as was/is the custom, when he hired new talent, they’re individual portfolios were folded into the company portfolio. As a result, M&Co. became renown for their “10-2-4 watches” and “paper weight” and “architectural template” etc. etc. However, they were deigned by his brilliant designer before they ever heard of M&Co. Tibor spotted their thinking and built a company vision on everybody’s combined history and effort. tibor had GREAT taste in the arcane and witty and he had a remarkable eye. Not bad for a guy who forthrightly claimed to not be a designer at all. Indeed, he was trained entirely outside the medium of design and sorta dropped into it cold.
The first time I met Tibor was when he and I were among the jury members judging an AIGA competition called “HUMOR” (back in the early 1980′s). His observations and quick mind became the spine of that competition and I felt I had made a new friend.
Later, I went to visit him with my meager portfolio in New York, hopefully to get some advice on how to find some work there. After touring M&Co. studios in an old beater downtown building, he pulled me into his office and we sat down to look at my work. He flipped through the pages of my portfolio and made the appropriate satisfying comments – “nice work”, and “lotsa good stuff in here.” When he was done, he pushed my book away and looked me in the eye and asked, “Art, just what exactly do you want from me? What is it that you want to do?”
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