Rational Beauty

Lou Dorfsman

Lou Dorfsman (1918-October 22, 2008) is considered one of our graphic design greats. I don’t think many people would argue about that. At least from the research that I read. His designs are characterized by The New York Times as “clear typography, simple slogans and smart illustrations”. He sculpted and crafted the CBS brand (1946–1987) and was a big player in what I call the “golden age” of art direction. He oversaw all communications—ranging from print advertisements, annual reports, commemorative books to designing the sets for Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News. I think you get the picture. He had his eye on everything.

Dorfsman directed the wayfinding system, designed wall clocks, elevator buttons and even elevator inspection stickers to harmonize with the CBS Building designed by Eero Saarinen. The building is known as Black Rock because of the dark granite cladding and is considered a midcentury gem.

Dorfsman may be best known for the expansive wall (35 feet-wide x 8 1/2 feet-tall) for CBS’s cafeteria that he cleverly called “Gastrotypographicalassemblage”. The assemblage using a variety of hand-milled wood typefaces listed all of the food that the dining hall offered. The installation was completed by 1966 with the help from graphic design legend and friend Herb Lubalin, along with Tom Carnese whom skillfully crafted the typography.

Today I am inspired as if it was the first time I saw The Center for Design Study’s video about the “Gastrotypographicalassemblage” wall. It’s a piece of graphic design history from the 60s. The video is narrated by Dorfsman from a CBS interview. It’s quite lovely as he discusses the creation of the installation. It’s worth another look for those of you that have already seen it.

The Center for Design acquired the wall for preservation. As stated on their website “Unceremoniously abandoned in the late ’80’s, the walls 9 panels were salvaged by NY designer Nick Fasciano, however, time and storage has ravaged the monument leaving it in terrible disrepair.” If you would like to contribute to Dorfsman’s legacy please consider helping The Center for Design to restore a part of our graphic design history.

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Dorfsman may be best known for the expansive wall (35 feet-wide x 8 1/2 feet-tall) for CBS’s cafeteria that he cleverly called “Gastrotypographicalassemblage”.