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Great Females Graphic Designers: Deborah Sussman

Deborah Sussman

We review the history of the Great Female Graphic Designers: Deborah Sussman.

We continue with our entries related to the great female graphic designers of history. We have reviewed the life of Susan Kare and her work in Apple and the work of April Greiman. Some works that were worth to be done in a time where men were the hero stars in the world of Graphic Design and Advertising.

Today we are going to review the life and work of Deborah Sussman. Considered a pioneer in Environmental Graphic Design, her most famous work is the design of the 1984 Olympic Games.

The beginnings of Deborah Sussman

Una joven Deborah Sussman

Deborah Sussman was born in Brooklyn on May 26, 1931. Of immigrant parents from Warsaw and Belarus, her father was a successful commercial and her mother was a linguist. Both influenced the development of their interest in the arts. He began his artistic career at the Arts Students League of New York. There he edited and drew illustrations for the school’s arts magazine. In the summer of 1948 he attended the summer school of Black Mountain College, where he studied and worked with the musician John Cage, the painter Frans Kline and the dancer Merce Cunningham among others. He continued studying at Bard College in New York and eventually graduated in Graphic Design at the Chicago’s Institute of Design, a school founded by László Moholy-Nagy, a professor at the Bauhaus.

Her work at Eames

Deborah Sussman en Eames

In 1953 he began working in the studio of Charles and Ray Eames: Eameses, which had clients such as IBM, Ford Foundation or the Government of India.Here she worked as an office designer, designing printed materials, exhibitions for museums or showrooms. In this stage he developed a multitude of multidisciplinary works combining architecture and industrial design.
Here she nurtured his passion for the connection between graphics and the built environment, collaborating hand in hand with world-renowned architects.

In 1957 he got a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm (Germany). He took the trip to travel through Europe, arrived in India and ended up in Mexico.During this trip he dedicated himself to photographs of street life and Hindu and indigenous cultures of different countries. After this time, he returned in 1961 to work for Eames until 1968.

Deborah Sussman en Eames

In this second stage, Sussman designed toys, packaging, magazines, posters and showrooms. She became a designer capable of leading teams and projects in the multidisciplinary work environment of Eames.

Her studio, the SP & Co

SP&Co logo

In 1968, she opened his own design office in Los Angeles. He shared the study with Frank Gehry and Gere Kavanaugh and named him Deborah Sussman & Co.There she met her future husband, the architect Paul Prejza. They married in 1972 and in 1974 Paul went to work full time. In 1980 the studio was renamed Sussman / Prejza & Company (SP & Co).

For more than 40 years they worked together on more than 340 notable projects. Her huge portfolio of clients took them to the main cities of the United States as well as to Europe and Asia. They collaborated with large architectural firms such as Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, Foster Partners, GGN, Olin, MRY, Barton Myers and SOM.

Deborah Sussman Los Angeles 84

But it was in 1984 when he did his most memorable work, when SP & Co was the studio in charge of designing the design for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles’84. Its design was considered a turning point in the history of the Olympic Games, influencing later editions.

The Olympic Games of Los Angeles’84

Deborah Sussman - Los Angeles 84

The Olympic Games in Los Angeles did not have the support of the government and they worked with a much lower budget than previous editions. This is how the architects Jon Jerde and David Meckel in charge of the design decided to “dress” existing places and built with all kinds of ephemeral structures. A total of 130 different and scattered locations that transformed the area into a cohesive olimipic community, which had the air of a music festival.

Deborah Sussman - Los Angeles 84

For this they needed someone who knowed the architectural and design language. Before Sussman got involved, the design consisted of a red, white and blue logo on a star. Sussman considered it inappropriate to give a nationalist vision of the United States and developed a new logo. They decided that he should express the culture of Los Angeles and Southern California. They combined the traditional elements of the USA flag with new colors representative of the cultures of the city. Architect Jon Jerde called it “Festive Federalism“. In total 150 designs were created to build the visual language for the Olympic Games.

Deborah Sussman - Los Angeles 84

It was awarded by Time magazine to the “Best Design of the Decade” thanks to the design that surprised by its color, size and cultural references.

Her latest works

Deborah Sussman Works

Deborah Sussman continued working in her studio after the celebrated design of Los Angeles 84. This gave her the opportunity to work on multiple projects such as the Los Angeles subway signage, the W Hollywood Hotel, the Berkeley and UCLA campuses as well as several American embassies.

He led the Eames Words project, a highly acclaimed exhibition at the A + D Museum in Los Angeles. In 1991 she was named member of the Experimental Graphic Design Society, in 2004 she was awarded with a medal by AIGA. In 2006 he won the Golden Arrow Award of the SEGD and in 2013 the WUHO gallery held the first retrospective of the work of Deborah Sussman, covering its first days in Eames Studio until the 1984 Olympic Games.

Deborah Sussman died on August 20, 2014 at the age of 84.

Deborah Sussman

Interview with Deborah Sussman

Deborah Sussman’s gallery

Sources | Wikipedia, Graffica, Monográfica, SP&Co



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