With design work ranging from classic illustration to typography, logos, and icon design, Daniel Pelavin is known for his restrained yet sophisticated vocabulary of geometric forms, bold, rich colors, and letterforms that are inspired by a range of 20th-century cultural memorabilia. It’s this command of color and style that makes Pelavin a Graphis Master!
Pelavin was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Though he earned his BA in advertising and MFA in graphic design, he credits various apprenticeships with local art studios, along with his high school industrial arts classes, as his most valuable sources of training. His designs have been the subject of various books and magazines, and he’s also an instructor of illustration, design, and lettering, has written many articles on design practice and education, and has presented his work at design organizations and universities throughout the United States.
Pelavin’s hard-edged, bold style has been featured on everything from magazine and book covers to packaging. Whether it’s a postcard from sunny Costa Mesa (above, left) or a first-aid kit designed for the Top Doctors issue of Rhode Island Monthly (above, right), Pelavin’s clients can always count on his work to be colorful and fun. However, Pelavin always remembers the classic styles that paved the way for designers like him, and has never shied away from 20th-century forms, colors, and typefaces that are reminiscent of pop art and Art Deco styles, like in his book cover designs for The Red Arrow (below, left) and Lost Angeles (below, right).
Here’s a sneak peek of Graphis’ Q&A with Daniel Pelavin:
You’ve written many articles on design practice and education. Which article is your favorite and why? Which one do you think all design students should read?
“No art director ever asked to see my diploma” from the book “The Education of an Illustrator” by Steven Heller. I think that one along with “Make it Bigger” by Paula Scher would be of use for students.
You’ve also presented your work at different design organizations and universities. Which presentation has been your favorite and why?
I must say I’ve enjoyed every opportunity to engage with students and fellow designers. However, there was a very memorable visit to Oklahoma where I did one evening in Oklahoma City and the next in Tulsa. I was truly amazed at the vastly different character of those places less than two hours apart on US 44. A particularly touching moment was when the folks in OC proudly pointed out the glitter that still remained in the auditorium from a visit the previous year by my friend the illustrator José Cruz.
Who were some of your greatest past influences?
I think my mom, who encouraged me to follow my dreams in the face of a world where they weren’t judged as practical. Oh are you asking for influences by other artists? Too many to mention but, I’ll try. In no particular order: Lucien Bernhardt, Ludwig Hohlvein, AM Cassandre, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Oswald Cooper, Edward McKnight Kauffer, Will Bradley, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Aubrey Beardsley, Antoni Gaudi, Stuart Davis, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Vincent Van Gogh, WA Dwiggins, Frederic Goudy, Doug Johnson, Charles White III, Victor Moscoso … I fear I’m leaving too many out.
For the rest of this Q&A and more on Daniel Pelavin and his bold and classic designs, as well as our other brilliant featured designers and products, be sure to subscribe and preorder Journal #369today!