"...recognized as a pioneer of environmental graphic design for creating arresting visual imagery and designing its highly imaginative applications for architectural and public spaces. deborah’s passion for the marriage of graphics and the built environment began during her time at the eames office and has since led to collaborations with planners, architects and clients..."
"Caring deeply" is the way to add to or improve the quality of everyones's lives. It means being aware of and dealing with culture as a whole. It also leads to the best and most useful designs. It's the only way to live, in my view."
"Design is neither static nor silent. Design requires speaking in your own voice, while acting is giving life to other peoples' voices. Design requires the ability to convince people to embrace one's ideas. Performance plays a significant part of most designers' lives."
"Sometimes visual and physical solutions happen simultaneously. Sometimes the word comes first - then the visual - then the physical. Sometimes it's the other way around...The more that designers research and "feel" the "there, there" the more chances we have to contribute something relative and new"
"Collaboration will be the way to save the planet."
Deborah Sussman was born in Brooklyn, May 26, 1931 under parents who were involved in art (father was an artist, mother a cultural linguist). She took classes here and there from the Art Students League, Black Mountain College, and studied acting and painting at Bard College. She then learned graphic design at IIT in Chicago.
She worked in Charles and Ray Eames' office when she was 22 years old, where she spent 10 years of her career. During this time, she traveled to Mexico to document folk culture for the Eameses' 1957 film Day of the Dead.
Deborah Sussman then began her own company when she was 37 years old. She married Paul Prejza, a fellow artist who specialized in architecture and urban planning. In 1980 she formed Sussman/Prejza & Co.
She is mostly known for making exuberant and bold work
Here's an interview I found with Deborah Sussman
DB: please could you tell us about your background and how you became interested in design?
DESIGN INFLUENCESDS: I grew up in brooklyn where my parents exposed us to the arts from a young age: we had dance lessons, piano lessons, french lessons, trips to museums, performances and galleries. after high school I went to study painting and acting at bard college in new york, which was a very radical school at that time. in those days I thought I’d become an actress or an artist but then I heard about a school in chicago, the institute of design, ran by lászló moholy-nagy and I really wanted to go there and see what it was all about. I got transferred to chicago and design completely took over my life from then on.one of my teachers in chicago was konrad wachsmann, who was friendly with charles and ray eames. in my first year there the eames came to give a talk at our school and also afterwards asked konrad to recommend them a student who could work with them for the summer, as a graphic designer. he suggested it should be me.
Primarly 3 influences: Eames, Mexico, and Europe
-Details of Eames and Trip to Mexico
DB: have the eames' been the biggest influence on your work?
DS: ray and charles along with alexander girard who worked with us were great mentors to me. another experience from those days that really shaped me a lot was my first trip to mexico. I went there in the early 1950s to take photos as part of the research for ‘the day of the dead’ film and was really taken-back by the place, the people, the culture. the vibrancy of color that I discovered there has always stayed with me, the bright yellow and magenta icing on the sugar skulls and sweet breads – amazing! it was the first time I had been to another country and I absolutely loved it. that really whetted my appetite to travel more and before I knew it I was off to germany.-Trip to Europe
DB: how did your time in europe influence you?
-Other InterestsDS: I have to be honest when I arrived to the hochschule für gestaltang I was quite shocked. I found it very rigid and hadn’t realized how much freedom I had previously. now, everything was conformist; one language, one color, one typeface. it wasn’t really the right fit for me but I learned some valuable technical skills. I decided in my free time I’d explore as much of europe as I could. over three years I made my way through germany, italy, france, spain, north africa an other places – photographing everything! I ended up with thousands of pictures that I still have. after my scholarship ended I worked in paris for some months, but began to feel it was time to go back to the USA. I freelanced in new york for about a year before joining up with ray and charles again.
DB: what are you passionate about apart from design? DS: poetry. I would have said photography some years back but now it’s definitely poetry. I write free verse poetry, often about the way I see things and for the last few years myself and juan felipe herrera (poet laureate of california) have been writing poems back and forth to one another, that’s something I have a lot of fun with WorksWORKS
Sussman does a wide range of works from dealing with architectural space to logo identities.
Here are some examples of her work over the years:
Los Angeles Olympics 1984
|J. Magnin Department Stores (late 60s) and Standard Shoes (late 60-early70)|
collaboration between Frank Gehry and other architects
|Catalogue of an exhibition of L.A. pop art 1963|
|paper bags for the los angeles county museum of art mid1960s|
|4th of July glasses 1965|
|Disney World freeway sign mid1980s|
|Signage for fashion show|
|Signage for Hollywood and Highland movie theatre|
|Signing program for Pioneer Place 2000|
|Logo for Museum of the African Diaspora|
Sussman's ability to use color is really astonishing. I think "eye candy" would be the best way to describe her portfolio. Since I'm usually too scared to use color because of its endless possibilities it presents, her use of color in an environment stood out to me the most. Another quality in her work that stood out to me was her ability to create drama. As a performer and actor, Sussman somehow brings out that feeling of theatricality.
I have a feeling Kidwell chose Sussman as my designer because of her interest in environmental graphic design and her involvement with IIT in Chicago. In many ways, I identify with her desire to visually arrest the viewer and her conceptual way of thinking, however I find my work more safe, subtle and not as bold. While she emphasizes collaboration and exudes a charismatic personality, I usually work alone and am introverted. I have to figure out how to mediate between our differences and bring out qualities in both myself and Sussman.
For this project, some design problems I need to solve are:
Who am I as a designer? How would I describe my own work?
What makes my work unique to my own hand?
How can I show my own style while exhibiting another person's style?