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.

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

— Massimo Vignelli

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)

“Liking or not liking is unavoidable, but also, the reasons are unprovable. I like it, and if somebody else doesn’t, that’s the end of it. You can’t do anything about it unless you have some special skill and can talk people into, or out of anything.”

— Paul Rand

“The first image we recognize as human beings is a face. Babies can recognize parents and mimic expressions within days of birth. We operate as social animals by identifying other people we know. The human face is the first place we look. It gets our attention. This is why every magazine cover is an almost life size image of a face looking at the viewer. It works to get our attention, but not particularly exciting or unexpected.”

— Sean Adams

“Gimme a piece of black paper and a pair of scissors and I’ll kick your ass.”

— James Victore (via)

“You have to do a lot to get good at what you do. It’s more than practicing; you have to do bad things before you can do good things and if you’re any good at all you have a curse because you can tell the bad things are bad. If you’re not talented you can’t tell – you do crappy stuff and you think it’s great. I remember when I was younger, all along I would have an image in my mind of what I wanted and then it would get out there and it just wouldn’t quite be there and other times I would get it almost all the way there and time would run out, or my talent or my abilities would run out. You have to just keep doing that and doing that is the only way to get better.”

— Michael Bierut