Supergraphics legend Barbara Stauffacher Solomon’s new merch


Should you stepped into a trendy house or resort within the Sixties and ’70s, you may need discovered the partitions plastered in floor-to-ceiling strains, 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, often known as Supergraphics, was wildly influential, however few folks exterior the design world know the outstanding girl who first invented it: 93-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 immediately, he releases limited-edition graphic T-shirts and tote baggage in collaboration with Solomon that function Supergraphics. The aim is to introduce Solomon and her physique of labor to a new era 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 house, it’s early—7 a.m.—however she’s desperate to get her interviews out of the way in which so she will be able to 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 he or she’s making ready a number of retrospective displays of her work that will likely be proven in Los Angeles and Chicago. “Being caught at house throughout COVID labored out simply positive for me,” she says. “It allowed me to give attention to my work.”

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[Photo: courtesy Gary Hustwit]

Whereas Solomon is understood for her work as a graphic designer, she says she got here into the sector accidentally. Rising up as a third-generation San Franciscan, she spent her childhood doing artwork and ultimately grew to become a dancer. At 20, she wed the filmmaker Frank Stauffacher, however he died instantly of a mind tumor, six years into their marriage. Alone in her mid-twenties, with a younger daughter, Solomon had to determine help herself, so she made the choice to maneuver to Switzerland to coach as a graphic designer. “I had at all times beloved artwork,” she tells me. “But when I informed folks I used to be an artist, I wouldn’t have been capable of generate income. If I stated I used to be a graphic designer, I might be paid like an architect.”


On the Basel Faculty of Design, she studied with Armin Hofmann, a graphic designer who was instrumental in growing the Swiss Fashion of typography, which was centered on clear strains and readability. There, she fell in love with the Helvetica font, which she went on to make use of often in her work, together with in Supergraphics. Learning beneath Hofman, she noticed Helvetica as a font that represented reality, honesty, and bringing nice design to the plenty. “The concept was to eliminate adornment by rejecting the serif,” she says. “The wealthy may have their sophisticated serifs. Helvetica was for the folks.”

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

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[Image: Sea Ranch]

Her first challenge was to assist design Sea Ranch, a housing group in Sonoma County that was initially designed to be a commune of types, however ultimately grew to become 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 way of graphics alone. She additionally created Sea Ranch’s iconic emblem, which appears 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 might be the backdrop of the realm.) Sea Ranch was an enormous success, profitable her two awards from the skilled group the American Institute of Architects. This led to many different tasks, 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 Fashionable Artwork.

On the time, it was uncommon for a girl to realize the sort of industrial success that she did. Solomon believes that she was very fortunate that she was capable of get an enormous break due to 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) wished 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 baby to help.”

Huswit, who has been impressed by Solomon’s work for years, believes that a part of the explanation she isn’t higher identified 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 tasks, and larger tasks,” he says. “And plenty of others went on to take inspiration from her work with out giving her the right credit score. Because of this 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 approach to do that.

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[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 whole profession drawing letters, generally at an unlimited scale, she wished to study in regards to the which means of the phrases she was creating. And he or she was notably curious about how the way in which a phrase was introduced—its dimension 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 plenty, was co-opted by companies: Firms 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 grew to become a approach for companies to place a fairly sheen on merchandise that weren’t excellent.”


Her time at Berkeley additionally taught her to put in writing. So she has spent the previous few a long time writing books, together with an autobiography referred to as Why? Why Not? that intersperses storytelling together with her traditional graphic design. However she nonetheless does many creative tasks that catch her fancy. In a single challenge in St. Moritz, Switzerland, she painted the letters LOL at huge scale throughout the partitions. “It stood for Little Outdated Woman,” she says with amusing. “Or Lives on Liquor.”