Edited by Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy
520 pages, softcover, £65
Published by Unit Editions
“Paula Scher is the most influential woman graphic designer on the planet,” design critic Ellen Lupton remarks in the documentary series Abstract: The Art of Design. For evidence, look no further than Paula Scher: Works, a dazzling 520-page monograph from Unit Editions. The retrospective of the Pentagram partner’s five-decade-long career showcases Scher’s kinetic graphic voice and knack for combining “the commercial with the artistic; the pragmatic with the visionary; the smart with the emotive,” as coeditor Adrian Shaughnessy writes.
Three hundred featured projects range from album covers designed by a 24-year-old Scher for Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to brand identities for the Museum of Modern Art and CitiBank. With vintage family photos, pointillistic map paintings, activist work and interviews, you have a dimensional portrait of the awesomely prolific individual behind graphics that many Americans see daily.
Perhaps the most personal work featured is The Truth Behind the Overused Publicity Photo (Circa 1985), a 1992 self-portrait made for the AIGA. Covering Scher’s smiling face is a hand-lettered timeline of adolescent embarrassments (e.g., “1964: Acne,” “1965: Bad SAT Score”). It’s a reminder that although Scher may be the “most influential woman graphic designer” and few people have done more to elevate women in the design world, she’s also human. And Works emphasizes her resistance to being typecast as a feminist mouthpiece. When an audience member at a conference asked how it felt “to be the only woman on stage,” she replied: “Difficult and strange. But it’s even more difficult being short.” —Carey Dunne