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... a brief visit with

Seymour Chwast: icon of contemporary graphic arts

In the late 1960s, during school, I idolized a number of contemporary illustrators -- because of their taste, their style, their humor and their obvious success. Seymour Chwast was one of those. His works through Pushpin Studios became the ultimate goal to strive for. After all, it was the New York scene and all the fame and fortune that went along with it. I never got to meet Seymour until last week. (Note that images are clickable for enlargements)

Seymour Chwast show

Thanks to the James Madison University School of Visual & Performing Arts, Duke Arts Gallery and the university program board, Seymour came to Harrisonburg. I made it a point to be in the front row for his lecture, and was determined to say hello. I brought along a copy of "Audience" magazine, just to show my history as a Chwast follower. He was amused... "I haven't seen one of those in years!" he said in amazement. No, I didn't buy it... I was a subscriber.

Seymour Chwast show

We gathered to enjoy an hour of slides, discussion and wit from the master, then moved into the gallery where some of Chwast's best works were on display.

Seymour Chwast show

For some 30 years, Chwast has been known for his unique style of illustration; and a fresh, sometimes playful approach to typography. His social commentary and unique way of combining images and ideas influenced an entire generation of designers and illustrators. The Push Pin Studio produced an award-winning bi-monthly publication, The Push Pin Graphic. Over the years it gained a world-wide reputation for its innovative design and illustration because of Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser. It was the showcase and springboard for many illustrators and designers like David Croland, Michael Hostovich, Jeffrey Krassner, Fred Marshall and Haruo Miyauchi. Today, Chwast and Pushpin publishes The Nose, a publication designed to draw attention to relevant social issues as well as trivial ones -- you can subscribe at The Nose

Chwast children book   Earth Day Poster   Brochure

From posters to book covers to children's books and advertising design, Chwast has touched on virtually every facet of visual communications. Many 'new' graphics we see today are heavily influenced by Chwast's touch. He's been there -- done that.

important type styles


Chwast in Typography

I include this article in our annual Fonts Festival because it happened in September, but more importantly because Seymour made more of a contribution to type and typography than one might guess. Not only did much of his art include hand lettering, he always imbued a strong sense of typography into his layouts which incorporated set type. Much of his lettering -- done as a lark -- was picked up and replicated by designers as gospel.

Chwast Buffalo

Some of his type and type styles were created specifically for clients, and later became fonts. At right you'll probably recognize some of the styles you've seen someplace before. You may not remember where -- but you've seen them.

Today, you can even purchase Chwast Buffalo at any number of online vendors. This version was first forged by Linotype who originally manufactured fonts to be cast a line of type at a time on Linotype equipment. Others as pictured at right were picked up by Letraset for their popular press-type products of the 1970s and 1980s before digital type became popular. Some of those are available as shareware in our Publishers' Warehouse.

Further reading...

I'll encourage you to discover all of Seymour's treasures online...
BEST Seymour Chwast's Pushpin Studios
BEST A little bio information
BEST AIGA Hall of Fame article by Steven Heller (Be sure to run the slide show!)
BEST Graphic Style: From Victorian to Digital by Steven Heller and Seymour Chwast
BEST Art is Work a fabulous interview with Milton Glaser, Chwast's partner, by Hillman Curtis.
BEST Browse Seymour Chwast art courtesy of Google's image browser.

Have a great time discovering this icon of the visual communications industry!

Fred Showker
      Editor / Publisher, DTG Magazine

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Many of the images here are Copyright © Seymour Chwast, Pushpin Studios. Photos of Sawhill Gallery are by me.

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