Paula Scher


Our most recent project we were tasked with picking a famous designer and making a brochure about them and their work. To sweeten the thinking pot, we were also asked to design the brochure in their style. To further complicate things, our professor asked us to consider highlighting a designer who’s style we didn’t necessarily like. 

I took the bait. 

During my initial research, I discounted the typical designers that I love: Paul Rand, Saul Bass, George Nelson, etc. I also decided that I wanted two other things in my choice: a female and a living designer. 

Most of the examples the professor has are males. Why follow that narrow path? I wanted to research a living designer because… that is just how I role. No seriously, a living artist’s work seems much more alive and vibrant. Same for designers for me. That is not to say that some of the other great’s work can’t be seen as viable and even still ground breaking. It can. 

After viewing several females and their work, I settled on Paula Scher. I didn’t love her work, but I did like some of it. However, none of it is in a style I would typically pursue. Particularly most of her posters for The Public Theater

Digging a little deeper, I found out that most of her work is based on the idea of using type as illustration. I love that concept! Her most intricate work are her maps. They are huge (according to the photos I have seen). Lots of text all over the maps. Lovely use of text. 

I am a slow reader, and for the turn around on this project, I was happy to find several videos online of her lectures and some interviews. My favorite one was a short documentary by the late Hillman Curtis.

After much research, I started to formulate my answer to the problem posed. Usually I have a hard time finding the right colors. This wasn’t the case. Seeing Paula speak and getting a feel for her personality, I felt that she has a warm personality and she seems to be a likeable person. I decided that a sunshine yellow would be my primary color and a sunny grey would be my secondary color (this project was limited to two color “spot”). Yes grey can be sunny! 

I found a nice portrait of Paula on one website, and luckily a lot of her work can be found in high resolution (but small dimensional size) on her Behance site. These images were perfect for the size that I needed for the brochure. 

I wanted to mimic her The Public Theater logo on the front of my brochure. The rest of the side of the brochure that makes up the front, inside flap and back of the brochure came together quickly and easily. I used a photo of one of her maps as a very faint background image. A nice quote under her photo made up the flap. 

The inside of the brochure was much harder. I had heard in one of the videos I watched that she came to hate the Helvetica rub-down letters from her college days. Couple that with the fact that sans serif fonts are prominent in her work. I thought that it was fitting to use Helvetica as the main font. Normally, I would pick a complimentary serif font for the headlines, but I decided to stick with sans serif throughout to closely mimic Paula’s style. I picked a nice fat, League Gothic, for the headlines. 

After seeing her maps, I decided to try and use dots in some way inside to reflect the subway maps on her New York maps. First, I thought I might try to connect her works with lines and dots. That didn’t work too well. After a few other iterations, I decided that having some dots but in a more abstract way was more appropriate. I put a row of dots behind the headlines and the area showing several of her pieces. 

It was a fun project, and by picking someone who’s style I didn’t necessarily love it opened my mind a little to trying new things. A pdf version of my brochure can be found below: