Lou Danziger is a pillar of West Coast design. He has worked as a designer, art director and consultant since 1949, bringing his talents to a diverse list of institutions, from Microsoft to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Danziger studied at Art Center in the late 1940s and went on to become a legendary instructor at the College as well as at institutions like Chouinard, the California Institute of the Arts and Harvard University. And he recently turned 90 years old.
To celebrate the occasion, earlier this month at the Public Programs gallery at South Campus, Art Center held Danziger@90, an exhibition and appreciation of Danziger’s work and teaching, organized and curated by instructor and former Advertising Department Chair Elena Salij. In addition to Danziger himself, the event attracted more than 150 individuals–with some guests traveling from as far away as Hong Kong–former students of Danziger’s from Harvard, California Institute of the Arts and Art Center.
Past and present leaders and instructors from the Advertising department were at the event, including Chair Gary Goldsmith, former Chair Mikio Osaki and former instructor Roland Young. Other guests included former President David Brown, Provost Fred Fehlau, alumnus and JPL Visual Strategist Daniel Goods and Williamson Gallery director Stephen Nowlin.
The audience to this intimate event were treated to a presentation of Danziger’s work along with his singular philosophy and timeless insight.
We’re pleased to present to you a taste of the event below.
Danziger, on a publication he created in 1952 for the Art Director’s Club of Los Angeles (above): “The inside spread is a single print composite, designed in the darkroom, under the enlarger, using 14 separate negatives. We spent six hours making the one print! Today this would be a matter of minutes on the computer.”
On his advice to students: “WORK. No matter how brilliant, talented, exceptional and wonderful the student may be, without work there is nothing but potential and talk. THINK. Design is a problem-solving activity. Thinking is the application of intelligence to arrive at the appropriate solution to the problem. FEEL. Work without feeling, intuition and spontaneity is devoid of humanity.”
On an album cover he designed for the band Earthquake in 1971 (above): “One of the very few album covers I ever designed … The group liked the cover so well that they adopted it for their band’s logo.”
On ‘good design:’ Since design is my view is always purposeful, a good design always accomplishes its purpose, and it is generally better if it does so with minimal means and effort.”
On substance: “I have this feeling that current graphic design is all pastry, and what we need today is a good slice of whole wheat bread. Something that will stick to the ribs, that’s nourishing. Pastry is wonderful once in a while, but a steady diet of it will do you in.”
On a logo created for Xybion Corporation in 1975: “This logo was designed on the mainframe computer at CalTech. I worked together with a very skillful programmer … This may be the first logo ever to be designed on a computer.”
On creating ‘interesting’ design: “Who says that graphic design has to be ‘interesting?’ This is such an incredibly interesting world. It’s much better to read, go watch (a) program about astronomy. That’s better than looking at design annuals. The world is full of incredibly rich and fascinating things. And that’s what you have to be interested in. Design is simply the mechanism in which you express your ideas about life. It’s life that’s the interesting thing.”
On his cover for UCLA Extension’s 1990 Spring Quarter (above): “Here is a job where I was free to do anything I wanted … And so I said, I’m going to do something that is the simplest possible thing that can be done. The most under-designed. I limit myself only to black and white, do an image that doesn’t look like anyone designed it, no typographic tricks … I wanted to demonstrate, and essentially to young designers, that it is possible to do something of real value and of interest that has power, that’s poetic and that demonstrates intelligence and aesthetic sensitivity without the bells and whistles.”
On finding satisfaction: “I’m a great believer in spending time doing what you like to do. It doesn’t matter that you are getting $100 for the job and you put $10,000 worth of time into it. It doesn’t matter. We lose money on this job, we make it on another one. The thing is to keep yourself involved.”
Danziger attended Art Center on the G.I. Bill, and in his biography on AIGA’s website, he describes his first encounter with Alvin Lustig, who was teaching at the College at the time: “I didn’t like school at all, because it was very rigid at that time. But one day I heard this voice coming out of a classroom talking about social structure, religion, and the broadest implications of design. So I stuck my nose in the door and saw that it was Lustig. From then on I sat in on every class.”
Danziger’s work has garnered numerous awards, including an NEA Distinguished Designer Fellowship in 1985, the Pacific Design Center “Stars of Design” Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 and the AIGA Medal from the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1998. He has been an elected member of the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale ) since 1974. Danziger retired from design more than 20 years ago to focus as a consultant and educator.
Danziger@90 was organized by: Kristine Bowne, Director of Alumni Relations; Stephen Nowlin, Director, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery; Julian Goldwhite, Associate Curator, Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery; Elena Salij, Advertising instructor; and Dana Walker, Managing Director, Public Programs.
As we celebrate Danziger’s legacy, we encourage you to consider making a fully tax-deductible gift in honor of his 90th birthday. We’re hoping to raise at least $50,000 to establish a new endowed scholarship fund for Advertising students. To make a gift, contact Kate Nevels, Director of Development at 626.396.4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also give online. Be sure to note that this gift is for Danziger’s 90th.