In 1988, the School of Visual Arts commissioned Paula Scher—a longtime faculty member but not yet a principal at Pentagram—to redesign its corporate identity.
Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast, with an introduction by Steve Heller and an essay by Paula Scher, came out last April. A lively conversation around the book and the work it included built up in a comments thread at Design Observer last week, which brought in Scher and Heller, along with Michael Bierut, Armin Vit, Lorraine Wild, and others. Some unhappy commenters questioned the significance of his work, and this lead to a pretty interesting consideration of the concept of “dated” art (my favorite writing on this subject is I. A. Richards’ essay “Permanence as a Criterion,” which finds both “dated” and “timeless” problematic from the start).
This label, stuck authoritatively on the back of a mounted board as a bit of corporate identity — complete with the overrule, grotesk “Group Incorporated,” and high-contrast logotype — exploits its context to achieve a kind of reflexive wit, a kind of acknowledgment of what is being put over, that gives it a unifying effect (it is at once more than, and no more than, a “bit of corporate identity”). This is achieved with an unusually unaffected air — a combination that I think has always characterized Chwast’s work.