Graphic design legend and educator Lou Danziger, who taught at Chouinard, CalArts, Harvard University–and continues to teach at his alma mater, Art Center College of Design–celebrated his 90th birthday on Nov.17. In appreciation of his work and teaching, an exhibition of Danziger’s work was mounted at Art Center’s South Campus in downtown Pasadena last week.
At the opening reception on Nov. 14, Danziger was greeted by a throng of well-wishers including designers Wayne Hunt, Jayme Odgers, Mikio Osaki, Meryl Pollen, Scott Taylor, Tracey Schiffman and Roland Young. In a biography of Danziger posted on the AIGA website, art director and graphic design historian Steven Heller wrote of Danziger, the recipient of the AIGA Medal in 1998:
Although his work promoted a time-sensitive product or idea, Danziger used a timeless design intelligence—a true universality that defies the parameters of the period—when he ensured that the page or pages he designed were structurally sound, piqued the audience's interest, imparted a message, and left a mark. Danziger’s work challenges the notion that all graphic design is ephemeral. Though the message may eventually be obsolete, like a classic painting or sculpture, the formal essence of his work is as fresh as the day it was composed.
In an interview conducted by Heller for his book Graphic Design History (Allworth Press, 2001), he asked Danziger about the origins of his class in the history of graphic design:
I began teaching [it] at CalArts in 1972 or ’73. It was a course begun by Keith Godard a year earlier and it was to my knowledge the only course of its kind at the time. It all began because Keith and I who were colleagues at CalArts would often commiserate about how difficult it was to teach students who had no knowledge of the design pioneers. As far as I know Keith should be given the credit of teaching the first course in graphic design history that was listed in a school’s catalog. It was an official part of the curriculum… when he left CalArts for New York City I picked up and greatly elaborated the course over the next twenty-five years…
On benefits students derive from having an historical grounding Danziger said:
…Students develop a greater commitment to their work, which they now see as a continuum. They see themselves as part of something, perhaps the next contributors to this history. They also begin to understand the connections between industrial and social change and how these changes play a role in the shaping of designers’ work. The connection between their work and the milieu from which it springs.