design history July 3, 2020

Push Pin Studios: the design extraordinaire

Milton Glaser, one of the founders of Push Pin Studios, passed away last week. He was 91 years old.
Designers and institutions worldwide, are paying homage to the man who was both a great artist and a master designer.

Today’s post is about one of the great contributes of his career – the Push Pin Studios – and some of its founding members.

The origin of Push Pin Studios

Seymor Chwast, Milton Glaser, Edward Sorel, and shortly after, Reynolds Ruffins were a group of young friends. They met at Cooper Union School in New York City and partner together to offer design and illustration services.

Before even creating the Push Pin Studios, the group developed a bimonthly publication. The Push Pin Almanack featured old editorial material from almanacs that they illustrated. The idea was to reach the public and get commissions for freelance work. 

In 1954, Milton Glaser returned from Europe, and the four friends created the Push Pin Studios.
Three years later, the Almanack was replaced by the Push Pin Monthly Graphic, a publication that – like the previous – was sent to clients and friends. It increased their influence and attracted new clients and professionals that became members of the Studio. 

Ruffins and Sorel left the group to pursue their careers as a children’s book illustrator, and a political satirist, respectively. Therefore, Seymor Chwast and Milton Glaser directed Push Pin for two decades. 

Ultimately, Glaser left the Studio, and, to this day, Chwast remains the director of Pushpin.

The four musketeers

Seymor Chwast

The only friend that still directs the Studio – Chwast – continues to develop work under the Pushpin Group, Inc. seal. He is mostly known for doing commercial work such as posters, packaging for the food industry, and magazine covers.

His work is usually flat, experimental, and characterized by line drawings on top of diverse materials. Like the rest of the group, Chwast takes historical references and alters them to create something unique and current.

Milton Glasser

In 1975, Glaser left Push Pin Studios to seek his interests, and, for over 50+ years, he reinvented himself as an artist and designer.

He used art nouveau, Matisse, and other references to express contemporary solutions.

The I ❤️ NY logo, Bob Dylan’s album cover, and Picasso’s portrait are some of the pieces that became icon symbols of graphic design, and contemporary art.

In 1968, he co-founded New York magazine with Clay Felker and was president and design director until 77.

In 2009, he received the National Medal of the Arts award, making him the first graphic designer to ever receive that prize.

Edward Sorel

Born Edward Schwartz, Sorel is famous for doing cartoons and caricatures of political and religious satire.

He started working as a freelance in 1956. In 1963, he was appointed as art director for the satirical magazine Monocle, and, in the late 70s, he became the New York magazine’s art director.

His work has been featured in magazines such as the New York magazine, Vanity Fair, Forbes, Esquire, and Harper’s Magazine, to name only a few of them.

Reynolds Ruffins

Ruffins is an American graphic designer and illustrator recognized for using vibrant colors and whimsical creatures.

He started working as a children’s book illustrator in 69 and worked several times with the writer Jane Sarnoff.

In 1991, Ruffins produced Koi and the Kola Nuts, a video for children part of a series from Rabbit Ears Productions.

Throughout the years, he has taught in several schools like the School of Visual Arts and Parsons The New School for Design.

Vision and legacy

The Push Pin group was not only influential and groundbreaking in America, but worldwide. The Push Pin style became a real phenomenon. 

When graphic design was all about Modern design, the Push Pin approach was a breath of fresh air. It melted the role of designer with the illustrator and pushed into experimental approaches.

The best legacy that the Push Pin Studios left for the next generations is the unapologetic way to take graphic design’s historical references and play.

Design, as seen from the Push Pin view, is not about visual conventions, unity of techniques, or reproducing what you already know. It’s an attitude about communication and the liberty to explore diverse alternatives. 

Learning as much as possible and changing the present is what the designer should seek during his career.

In the words of the enormous Milton Glaser, every once in a while you really get an opportunity to make things better than they were before.

About Melted

Melted was born in 2017. 
Back then, I was facing some hard time regarding my profession (or lack of), but I wanted to push forward and inspire others to do the same.
So I put my fears aside, and several huge cups of coffee later, this project was online.

Read the full story

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