By Seymour Chwast
256 pages, hardcover, $50, published by Chronicle Books LLC, www.chroniclebooks.com
Fifty years ago, Seymour Chwast joined Milton Glaser, Edward Sorel and Reynold Ruffins to form Push Pin Studios, a firm that combined design, typography and illustration in a single practice. Push Pin turned away from the prevailing Swiss School and International Style and rejected grids, Helvetica and illustration typified by the gentle realism showcased in the Saturday Evening Post.
This quarter century of work features their Monthly Graphic, a 1953 promotional mailer designed to attract potential clients that became an influential design magazine from 1957 to 1980. All 86 issues are included, each with double-page spreads representing the spirited work from the talented and changing group of designers throughout the years.
Push Pin designers liked ornament, whimsy and irony. Their eclectic taste urged them to reference a wide variety of visual history, including Art Nouveau, German woodcut, Folk Art and Chinese wash drawings. They also liked esoteric typefaces, combining classic and novelty type and using vintage rules and borders in their designs. Each issue had a theme, reflecting the curiosity and interest of the designers from simply “Fishing” and “Walking” to “Nuclear Fear” and “Violence and the American Dream.”
Kudos to Martin Venezky’s Appetite Engineers and Seymour Chwast for the book’s design. The clever use of elements from the original graphics reworked and incorporated in the design gives a fresh look to the page.
Early issues reflect Push Pin’s interest in experimentation with offset printing. They worked with a printer’s creativity, manipulating with lines, tints and duotones and experimenting with die-cuts and bindery in the same way people now push software.
Also included is 25 years of “Miscellany,” a chapter grouping the tremendous variety of projects from the Push Pin Studios showing work that has influenced decades of designers. The impressive list includes posters, books, products, exhibitions and their gourmet candies and snacks. Of special interest are the bonus pages like the full-scale fold-in calendar and a copy of the 1967 insert from “The South” issue. There is also a fine moment, in issue #59, when an essay by Philip Roth on Franz Kafka is printed in its entirety and the spread is no longer part of a reproduction, but dissolves into the art piece itself. —Ruth Hagopian