TED Talks: Paula Scher

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Paula Scher’s original mission to eradicate the use of the typeface Helvetica (it looked fascistic to her) turned into a career filled with the creation and application of highly unique typeface designs, applied to all manner of media including classic 70s album covers, Joe Papp’s The Public Theater and The Symphony Space. Scher is a ground-breaking graphic designer, illustrator, painter and art educator at the School of Visual Arts in New York, a winner of over 300 awards including a 2001 recipient of the esteemed AIGA medal, and the first female principal at Pentagram.

Paula Scher appeared on TED Talks at the Serious Play conference in May 2008 to consider with great humility her lengthy career, which has spanned from the hackneyed to the successful. She discussed the surreal staircase of the designer’s career, her various experiments and her view of “serious play” verses “solemn play.” To paraphrase, solemn work is what professionals crank out, in some ways “perfect” but often derivative (most often of her own earlier work). On the other hand, serious work is produced accidentally, spontaneously and carelessly. It is not perfection but rather imperfection, created from innocence, ignorance and intuition, that produces great design. All designers should watch the video.

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