Supergraphics legend Barbara Stauffacher Solomon’s new merch


Should you stepped into a modern dwelling or resort within the Sixties and ’70s, you may need discovered the partitions plastered in floor-to-ceiling traces, arcs, circles, and letters that reworked the proportions of the room—making you are feeling such as you’d entered some sort of psychedelic alternate universe. This design development, referred to as Supergraphics, was wildly influential, however few individuals outdoors the design world know the outstanding lady who first invented it: 92-year-old designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon.

Gary Huswit, a filmmaker and visible artist, desires to treatment that. Through the years, he has made movies that function her work and as we speak, he releases limited-edition graphic T-shirts and tote bags in collaboration with Solomon that function Supergraphics. The objective is to introduce Solomon and her physique of labor to a new technology of design lovers.

Solomon has been working as a designer for greater than 70 years and continues to take action now, as a grandmother. After I name her in her San Francisco dwelling, it’s early—7 a.m.—however she’s desperate to get her interviews out of the way in which so she will get to her drafting desk. She’s at present engaged on a new typeface that she says is summary, like a way more simplified model of Helvetica, and she or he’s getting ready a number of retrospective displays of her work that will likely be proven in Los Angeles and Chicago. “Being caught at dwelling throughout COVID labored out simply tremendous for me,” she says. “It allowed me to deal with my work.”

[Photo: courtesy Paul Kozak]

Whereas Solomon is understood for her work as a graphic designer, she says she got here into the sector by chance. Rising up as a third-generation San Franciscan, she spent her childhood doing artwork and finally turned a dancer. At 20, she wed the filmmaker Frank Stauffacher, however he died all of a sudden of a mind tumor, six years into their marriage. Alone in her mid-twenties, with a younger daughter, Solomon had to determine tips on how to help herself, so she made the choice to maneuver to Switzerland to coach as a graphic designer. “I had all the time beloved artwork,” she tells me. “But when I instructed individuals I used to be an artist, I wouldn’t have been capable of earn money. If I mentioned I used to be a graphic designer, I’d be paid like an architect.”


On the Basel College of Design, she studied with Armin Hofmann, a graphic designer who was instrumental in growing the Swiss Type of typography, which was centered on clear traces and readability. There, she fell in love with the Helvetica font, which she went on to make use of steadily in her work, together with in Supergraphics. Learning below Hofman, she noticed Helvetica as a font that represented fact, honesty, and bringing nice design to the lots. “The concept was to do away with adornment by rejecting the serif,” she says. “The wealthy might have their sophisticated serifs. Helvetica was for the individuals.”

However after a number of years in Switzerland, Solomon determined it was time to return to her dwelling city of San Francisco. John F. Kennedy had simply been elected President, and she or he felt that there have been thrilling issues taking place in america that she needed to be a part of. When she returned, she was capable of finding work as a graphic designer as a result of individuals remembered her late husband. She related with panorama architect Lawrence Halprin, who was prepared to provide her massive initiatives instantly. “My husband had been very beloved locally and other people remembered him fondly,” she says.

[Image: Sea Ranch]

Her first undertaking was to assist design Sea Ranch, a housing neighborhood in Sonoma County that was initially designed to be a commune of types, however finally turned a vacation spot. This was the place Solomon leaned into the Supergraphics idea. She painted graphic patterns on the partitions at an architectural scale, which have gone down in design historical past as a superb instance of how one can change an area by graphics alone. She additionally created Sea Ranch’s iconic emblem, which seems to be like rams’ horns, harking back to the animals that graze on the land. (It additionally calls to thoughts the waves of the Pacific Ocean which can be the backdrop of the realm.) Sea Ranch was an enormous success, successful her two awards from the skilled group the American Institute of Architects. This led to many different initiatives, permitting her to proceed working as a graphic designer for the following few a long time, together with a long-standing partnership with the San Francisco Museum of Trendy Artwork.

On the time, it was uncommon for a girl to attain the sort of business success that she did. Solomon believes that she was very fortunate that she was capable of get a giant break because of Halprin. However she additionally acknowledges that there was some sexism on the time. “I used to be fairly and all of those males (who have been shoppers) needed to flirt with me,” she says. “It’s simply true. So I performed into it to the hilt. I didn’t care: I had a toddler to help.”

Huswit, who has been impressed by Solomon’s work for years, believes that a part of the explanation she isn’t higher recognized is as a result of she’s a girl. “I feel a person who was as gifted as she was would have been given extra initiatives, and greater initiatives,” he says. “And plenty of others went on to take inspiration from her work with out giving her the right credit score. This is the reason I feel it’s so essential to seek out methods to inform her story and introduce her title to new audiences.” He hopes the new graphic tees and totes will likely be one small manner to do that.

[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

Later in life, in her fifties, Solomon determined to take a break from her work to get a level in linguistics from UC Berkeley. Having spent her total profession drawing letters, generally at an infinite scale, she needed to be taught concerning the which means of the phrases she was creating. And she or he was significantly interested by how the way in which a phrase was introduced—its measurement and typography—influenced its which means. However a part of what drew her to academia was that she acquired disenchanted with the world of design. Helvetica, which was designed to be the font for the lots, was co-opted by companies: Corporations from BMW to Crate & Barrel used it of their logos. “Design was a strategy to take a shit product and make it look stylish,” she says. “I felt prefer it lacked substance. Design turned a manner for firms to place a reasonably sheen on merchandise that weren’t excellent.”


Her time at Berkeley additionally taught her to jot down. So she has spent the previous few a long time writing books, together with an autobiography known as Why? Why Not? that intersperses storytelling along with her traditional graphic design. However she nonetheless does many creative initiatives that catch her fancy. In a single undertaking in St. Moritz, Switzerland, she painted the letters LOL at monumental scale throughout the partitions. “It stood for Little Previous Girl,” she says with fun. “Or Lives on Liquor.”