Meet Onofrio Paccione, the master art director and photographer, whose immense talent and brilliant career have made him a model of excellence for artists around the globe. Born in 1930, the second son in a family of five boys, Paccione grew up in Brooklyn, where he spent most of his childhood roaming the galleries of art museums, foreshadowing his career in the arts. He graduated as the Valedictorian from Brooklyn Community College with a degree in advertising. After this, Onofrio Paccione began his lustrous career, collecting key accounts, receiving awards, and attaining positions at the top ad agencies in New York City during the golden years of Madison Avenue.
Paccione was brilliant from the very start. At 21, he was the protégé of Paul Rand, “the father of intelligent advertising.” At 22, he became the youngest art director to head a major cosmetics account, developing the renowned “Fire and Ice” for Revlon. At 25, he was the head art director of Grey Advertising. And at 30, he joined Leber Katz and Paccione, one of the great agencies of the 1960s.
In 1966, he was elected Art Director of the Year by the National Society of Art Directors and in 1992, he was inducted into the Art Directors Club’s Hall of Fame. Over the years, Paccione has sustained his passion for making art and continues to reinvent himself, beginning new careers in photography and more recently painting. To this day, his work continues to illuminate the art world with his sheer brilliance.
In 2001, Graphis had the pleasure of interviewing Paccione. Here is an excerpt from his interview, which can be found in Graphis Magazine Issue 335:
Graphis: Would you say that you have a specific style? And, if so, can you try to describe and qualify it?
Paccione: Well, I don’t know if I have a specific style, because I’m always changing. My whole style is change. I never relied upon any specific style. My style was: an idea and create and image for it. That was the style. Whether it was mirrors in the water, or zoom lenses. But I never relied upon tricks as such. I relied upon the techniques to enhance the idea. It was never the technique first and then the idea.
Graphis: How do you define the role of the art director today? Has your definition changed since then, by practicing photography, by playing this role from both sides?
Paccione: The art director should be one who inspires the client’s product, who is able to sell the product. Most art directors forget that the basic rule of advertising is selling – they call it marketing. How do you sell a product? Most art directors don’t even begin to understand it. Everything that you see today, you can’t understand, nor remember, you just don’t see it…There’s no big message, there’s no simplicity. When people like Helmut Krone and Bill Bernbach, George Lois and Lou Dorfsman did it, it was with simplicity, directness and understanding of what the product was about. It communicated. The purpose of advertising is to sell the products’ advantages so people will understand it.