Tibor Kalman// Provocateur, optimist, contrarian

Tibor Kalman// Provocateur, optimist, contrarian

An inspirational article on graphic designer Tibor Kalman provocateur, optimist, contrarian, and the coolest cat in town. 

Explorer of beauty in the Vernacular
“For a decade he was the design profession’s moral compass and its most fervent provocateur. ….Not since the height of American Modernism during the late 1940s and 1950s had one designer prodded other designers to take responsibility for their work as designer-citizen”
Designing with a social conscience
“Tibor believed that award-winning design was not separate from the entire corporate ethic and argued that “many bad companies have great design.”
“In 1989, as co-chair with Milton Glaser of the AlGA’s “Dangerous Ideas” conference in San Antonio, he urged designers to question the effects of their work on the environment and refuse to accept any client’s product at face value.”
“Tibor saw himself as a social activist for whom graphic design was a means of achieving two ends: good design and social responsibility. Good design, which he defined as “unexpected and untried,” added more interest, and was thus a benefit, to everyday life. Second, since graphic design is mass communication, Tibor believed it should be used to increase public awareness of a variety of social issues.”
“When Tibor sold a “design” to a client, he did not hype a particular typeface or color, but rather how the end result would simultaneously advance both client and culture.”
On making statements
“He devoted M&Co’s seasonal self-promotional gifts to advocate support for the homeless. One Christmas he sent over 300 clients and colleagues a small cardboard box filled with the typical Spartan contents of a homeless-shelter meal (a sandwich, crackers, candy bar, etc.) and offered to match any donations that the recipients made to an agency for the homeless. The following year he sent a book peppered with facts about poverty along with twenty dollars and a stamped envelope addressed to another charity.”
Colors was “the first magazine for the global village,” Tibor announced, “aimed at an audience of flexible minds, young people between fourteen and twenty, or curious people of any age.” It was also the outlet for Tibor’s political activism. In his most audacious issue devoted to racism, a feature titled “How to Change Your Race” examined cosmetic means of altering hair, lips, noses, eyes, and, of course, skin color to achieve some kind of platonic ideal. Another feature in the same issue, “What If…” was a collection of full-page manipulated photographs showing famous people racially transformed: Queen Elizabeth and Arnold Schwarzenegger as black; Pope John Paul II as Asian; Spike Lee as white; and Michael Jackson given a Nordic cast. “Race is not the real issue here,” Kalman noted. “Power and sex are the dominant forces in the world.”
Creating a legacy that lasts
“Of the two names that changed design in the ’80s and ’90s—Mac and Tibor—one changed the way we work, the other the way we think. The former is a tool, the latter was our conscience.”
Read full article here

Want more?
And an interview with Charlie Rose


Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist by Micheal Beirut
I want this book! 🙂

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