Notes on William Golden

I’ve got this strange soft spot for mid-century broadcast design, in particular the work done for CBS. William Golden was one of the big names at the time, moving from radio to television as creative director for America’s Most Watched Network. Some notes jotted down from Revolution of the Eye and other places:

Favored humanist and socially conscious representational imagery. Supported abstraction (see: his CBS eye logo design) but criticized it. He found it “self indulgent to the point of saying nothing and saying it with considerable facility.”

He believed good design was less about self expression and the approval of other designers, and more about inspiring interest in the network and it’s programming (CBS).

A graphic designer is employed for a certain sum of money, by someone who wants to say something in print to somebody. The man with something to say comes to the designer in the belief that the designer with his special skills will say it more effectively for him.

Art Chantry writes about the relationship between him and his partner, designer Cipe Pineles…

William Golden’s wife, Cipe Pineles, was already independently well established as major design mind and practitioner. However, when Golden was voted the gold lifetime achievement award medal by the New York Art Directors Club, he refused membership or the award unless his wife was also given the award. He fought. No woman had ever been given that award. In fact, no woman had ever been MEMBER! It just wasn’t done. But, he fought and they relented and Cipe Pineles was allowed to be the first (and for a long time ONLY) woman in the Art Directtors club. Eventually, they awarded her the Gold Lifetime Grand Master Medal as well.

More reading here.

Golden’s monograph is freely available here.

“When the world’s rough waters have buffeted you for several decades, you wear down, you lose your resilience. Now if I feel agitated or melancholy, I seek countervailing forces: the more peaceable and orderly music of Bach and Mozart and Handel, the movies of Preston Sturges, the prose of Jane Austen or P. D. James. These are coping mechanisms, ways for me to keep my emotional balance.”

— Alan Jacobs

“Creativity needs the support of knowledge to be able to perform at its best.”

— Massimo Vignelli

A nice bit from the introduction of Rebel Lives: Helen Keller

Hubbard concludes that the mythical Helen Keller, “angelic, sexless, deafblind woman smelling a rose as she holds a Braille book on her lap,” has been constructed primarily to impart “a politically conservative moral lesson, one that stress the ability of the individual to overcome personal adversity in a fair world. The lesson we are meant to learn seems to be: ‘Society is fine the way it is. Look at Helen Keller! Even though she was deaf and blind, she worked hard - with a smile on her face - and overcame her disabilities.”

Helen Keller would not have approved of this myth making. The adult Keller recognized that class privilege (her father was a prosperous newspaper editor who could afford to consult Alexander Graham Bell regarding his daughter’s disabilities, and she was also supported financially by benefactors such as the railway magnate Andrew Carnegie) had provided her with opportunities not available to most. “I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment,” she said. “I have learned that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone.”

Loving Your Work


From 1985′s Real Genius, of all places.

Mitch: So what happened? Did he crack?
Chris: Yes, Mitch. He cracked, severely.
Mitch: Why?
Chris: He loved his work.
Mitch: Well what’s wrong with that?
Chris: There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s all he did. He loved solving problems, he loved coming up with the answers. But, he thought that the answers were the answer for everything. Wrong. All science, no philosophy. So then one day someone tells him that the stuff he’s making was killing people.
Mitch: So what’s your point? Are you saying that I’m going to end up in a steam tunnel?
Chris: Yeah.
Mitch: What?
Chris: You are, if you keep up like this. Mitch, you don’t need to run away from here. When you’re smart, people need you. You can use your mind creatively.
Mitch: I noticed you don’t study too hard.
Chris: Bingo.

A clip of the entire scene here.

Designer Paul Bacon on his way of working:

When describing his approach to design, Mr. Bacon said he had learned to subordinate his own aesthetic impulses to convey the main concept of a book. ‘“I always tell myself: ‘You’re not the star of the show. The author took three and a half years to write the goddamn thing and the publisher is spending a fortune on it, so just back off,’” he said in an interview with Print magazine in 2002.


“Massimo [Vignelli] used to say this specifically, that ‘Good work leads to good work and bad work leads to bad work.’ So a lot of times people will say, 'Do this crummy thing and I’ll promise you a good thing down the road.’ And it just never works that way. If you get a reputation for doing crummy things, people will say hey, I’ve got another crummy thing for you to do.”

— Michael Bierut on where the type of work you do will lead you (via)

“I’m really not the adventurous type. I think I’m intellectually adventurous. I’m adventurous in my musical taste, in my artistic taste… I’m not a physically adventurous person. I’m a risk taker when it comes to radio. I’m not a risk taker when it comes to the outside world.”

— Terry Gross (via)