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AIGA / Philadelphia - Stephen Frykholm introduction

AIGA / Philadelphia - Stephen Frykholm introduction

The following is the text of my introduction

Ray doing the introduction. We thought the drawing of Frykholm might be a better drawing of Ray.

Ray doing the introduction. We thought the drawing of Frykholm might be a better drawing of Ray.

First a few things about Stephen Frykholm.

stephen-ray.jpg

His career as a graphic designer began in 1966 after 2 years in Aba, Nigeria with the Peace Corps at a trade school for girls. He learned silkscreen to teach at the school. That skill would later serve as the basis of his most famous body of creative work.

After returning to the States, Stephen completed his MFA at Cranbrook. Shortly after that, Stephen began his career working for designer John Massey, in Stephen’s words, as a “design custodian,” within a new in-house graphic design group at Herman Miller in Zeeland, Michigan. Within a few months of being hired as he was asked to design the poster for the company’s annual picnic, that year titled the “Sweet Corn Festival.” Each year for the next 20 years he designed the 29” x 39” posters. The permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art includes these posters. It was nice to get started collecting them in the early days.

Some 47 years later, Frykholm is still at the famed furniture company. He has been the recipient of numerous awards from the AIGA, the New York Art Directors Club, and American Center for Design, Communication Arts, Graphis, and Print. His work has been widely published and has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Renwick Gallery, and the Danish Museum of Decorative Art. In 2010 he was awarded the AIGA Medal.

I would now like to take the opportunity of being offered this forum to talk about how Stephen changed my life and the life of Visual Communications students at the University of Delaware.

In 1979 or 1980 we successfully entered a poster promoting our year-end student show to the Art Directors Club. The exhibition was held on the second floor of the Lever House on Park Avenue. We could see the poster from the sidewalk. On the same wall hung the barbeque chicken picnic poster. To say this was a billboard moment in my creative life would be an understatement.

Around 1982 we invited Stephen to talk to our program. We were hand-painting 4’ x 36’ banners promoting events, stretched across the front of our small building. The image for Stephen’s talk was the watermelon picnic poster. After his talk, we rolled it up, and he took it back to Herman Miller where he says he still has it.

It is often said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and I would like to take the opportunity to fess up to a couple of my imitations of his work.

Around 1983 or 84 Visual Communications was taking 2 field trips each semester to New York, often coordinated with design-related exhibitions at AIGA or the Art Directors Club. Once I was talking to Nathan Gluck at the AIGA Gallery, where there were dozens of massive cardboard boxes strewn across the gallery. He said it was rejected work for the AIGA design show. I asked, “What do you do with them?” “We throw them away.” 

“What if I threw them away for you?” 

He said, “Sure.” I yelled for the bus drivers to stop and got the 80 students to grab all of the boxes and shove them inside the buses. We repeated this annually for more than a decade.

One of those “rejected” pieces was a poster series with an odd surface and a very odd velvety black. A phone call to Stephen explained things. It was a blueprint poster. Stephen said contact print a positive film image (black and clear) to blackline blueprint paper and run it through the machine with its ammonia bath, and you’ve got a poster. In Delaware we were connected to Dupont who gave us all of the 30” x 40” Cronolith film we wanted, so we were suddenly in the blueprint poster business.

We bought a blueprint machine and over the next decade made hundreds of posters and won dozens of design awards posted on student résumés. 

"Thank you, Stephen."

One of our blueprint posters designed to send a thank you for something that didn't happen. Then it was going to happen again. Then it didn't. But that is another story that would be nice to put on our blog.

One of our blueprint posters designed to send a thank you for something that didn't happen. Then it was going to happen again. Then it didn't. But that is another story that would be nice to put on our blog.

One of the most often imitated pieces of Stephen’s work was the 1985 Herman Miller annual report showing individual photos of every employee, no matter seniority or job description. I stole that twice.

herman-miller-people-annual-report.jpg

Jill and I produced a 300-page hardback book, Histories of Newark, Delaware: 1758 - 2008. One of the design elements was a 1.5” citizen band of townies running from cover to cover. 3,900 of them. It is one of my favorite 2 projects ever, and we did it when I was 61. 

"Thank you, Stephen."

The opening spread from Histories of Newark. People would come in and we would try to get them to do something. The first five ladies on the left act our our zip code / 19711. It was their idea. We liked it and made it the first image in the "citizen band."

The opening spread from Histories of Newark. People would come in and we would try to get them to do something. The first five ladies on the left act our our zip code / 19711. It was their idea. We liked it and made it the first image in the "citizen band."

Jill and I also produced an annual report for Hagley Museum which was supposed to promote the accessibility of the museum. As some clients often do just to trick you, they handed us a stack of photos to use that had nothing to do with accessibility. We ended up presenting the original photos as large artwork and adding small photos of all sorts of visitors appearing to view them as though in an exhibition. Ahhh, accessibility. 

"Thank you, Stephen."

The table is from a display so obviously there wouldn't be people in it. We took the images and inverted the tone on the outside 1/4" to create a frame. Then the people fit in quite nicely. One of our favorite design pieces ever.

The table is from a display so obviously there wouldn't be people in it. We took the images and inverted the tone on the outside 1/4" to create a frame. Then the people fit in quite nicely. One of our favorite design pieces ever.

I’d like to think Rose DiSanto, who was at Stephen’s first talk at the University of Delaware, for giving me the chance to be able to say this finally.

"Thank you, Stephen."

I’ve heard Stephen say, “When you design something, you need to ask the question “What’s next? And what’s next?”

So, a question now to Stephen Frykholm.

“What’s next.”

MF Cardamone XL clamshells

MF Cardamone XL clamshells

Burning Man and Lead Graffiti's journal

Burning Man and Lead Graffiti's journal