Paula Scher has played a vital role in the ‘retro’ movement of the 80s. Influenced by her surroundings, Paula Scher executes her high-energy designs that reflect the diverse environment and cacophony of New York City.
She is considered the ‘master conjurer of the instantly familiar,’ and in her designs, she often blurs the lines between fine art and pop culture.
Paula Scher Biography
Paula Scher was born in Washington, D.C., United States, on 6th October 1948. As a child, she had always shown a keen interest in design.
She would spend most of her time alone in her room drawing. Even now, she feels that painting and drawing allow her to escape everyday life.
As a small child, she would wonder about the strange cropping of the faces on the South Pacific’s Cover page.
She states, “As a child, I wanted to be a singer, dancer, piano player, and bareback rider. When I got to be older and realized I wasn’t a beauty, I decided I wanted to be an artist. I didn’t know what a designer was – yet.”
Paula Scher doesn’t come from the family of artists. Her father was a photogrammetric engineer and engineered all the government maps.
He invented a device known as ‘stereo templates,’ which is used in Google Maps today. He was not too happy with the idea of his daughter going to an Art School.
Despite her father not supporting her going to Art School, she says he’s the main inspiration behind her painting maps. Paula’s mother was also unsure about her attending Art school. She made Paula complete a teaching certificate so she would have something to fall back on in case her career in design didn’t take off.
Paula Scher went to a high school in Washington and was the ‘school artist.’ She would make comic strips and paper dolls for her friends. After graduating from high school, she followed her love for design by attending the Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.
She spent her time experimenting with printmaking, drawing, and designing but didn’t feel like she had a style of her own until she took the Graphic Design course in her junior year.
Her teacher gave her the Basel Basics, which involved observing the layout and shape a particular design. She would move the black square over a white background to study the visual messages and forms. She also learned the Swiss International Style of typography. Helvetica on a grid.
Paula was inspired by PushPin Group. She described them as her design heroes. She was fond of their work, which involved illustration with typography and the use of lettering from the historical periods.
She loved trying out different types of Victorian graphics and wood type as well. She completed her studies at the Tyler School of Art in 1970 and obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
Paula Scher Work
Paula Scher has worked on thousands of incredible designs serving various purposes, and some artworks were more notable than others. Here are some of the most iconic artworks by the artists.
CBS Record (1979)
In the 70s and the early 80s, Paula Scher’s work was influenced by historical art movements. The CBS record poster had the tonality of Dada, Russian constructivism, and futurist style.
According to the graphic designer herself, wood types were used to make the poster. She formed and angled the letters into a Russian constructivist method and then printed it on kraft paper.
This was the design that shot her to fame and popularity. After the poster was released, she was described as a postmodern designer. Many others followed suit until she began using a simpler, more modern approach for which she is well-known for today.
Swatch Swiss Ad Campaign Poster (1984)
After Scher co-founded a company with Koppel, they immediately landed a gig with Swatch. This was another big design success of Scher’s career. The design poster was controversial because many claimed it was a ‘borrowed style’ from previous art movements.
However, Paula confirmed that the poster design was a parody or another poster. There were extreme similarities between her Swatch Swiss poster and Herbert Matter poster. This was one of the reasons why this ad design became one of her most famous works.
One of the most recent works by Paula is the rebranding of the Windows 8 logo. It brings back the original logo, which was a window. She changed the four colored symbols to a simpler but a geometric shape. She asked Microsoft why their symbol looked like a flag when they had windows in their name.
Scher changed the flat design to have more dimensionality that had actual motion.
Other famous works by Paula Scher are:
- The Public Theater
- New York City Ballet
Paula Scher is best known for logo designs, album covers, and posters. In her paintings, she portrays large maps with intricate letters that indicate societal and political connections between regional borders and countries.
She says, “The job of the designer is to make things understandable, usable, accessible, enjoyable, and important to a public that involves the public.”
She has managed to develop identity and branding systems, environmental graphics, promotional materials, and packaging and publication designs for a lot of different clients such as Microsoft, Bloomberg, Bausch+ Lomb, Shake Shack, Coca-Cola, Perry Ellis, the Sundance Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and many others.
Legacy of Paula Scher
Paula Scher has been part of the art and design industry for over 30 years. She has developed her work via painting, design, and educating. She is known to push the boundaries and give it her all when it comes to her work.
Paula became the first female Principle at the Pentagram Design consultancy in their New York office in 1991.