Paula Scher makes her job look like the easiest thing in the world. By her own admission, she took about ten minutes to create the prototype of the logo that would eventually be seen across all of Citibank’s offices across the globe, after its merger with the Travellers Group. And she created that design on a paper napkin. The hardest part of the Citibank job, according to Scher, was not the ideation of the brand identity itself, it was the one and a half years of meetings with the client that it took for her to convince them that this was the identity that would work. Scher’s most recent work includes a redesign of the Dubai daily, The Khaleej Times. She was also behind the redesign of Tiffany & Co’s identity.
Scher, a partner at New York based design and communications agency Pentagram, was the first speaker on day two of the Kyoorius Design Yatra 2008. Scher’s resume runs long and wide. She began her career designing album covers at CBS and Atlantic Records in the 70s, founded her own firm Koppel and Scher in 1984 and became a partner at Pentagram in 1991. She is a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame and a past recipient of the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design. She has served on the national board of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), and in 2001, was awarded the AIGA Medal, in recognition of her distinguished achievements and contributions to the field. She has served on the board of directors of The Public Theatre, and in 2006 she was named to the Art Commission of the City of New York.
Known for her forthright political views, Scher began her presentation by showing some of her personal work, which includes detailed hand drawn maps of Manhattan and the world. A firm believer in the power of typography influencing people’s behavior towards products and beliefs, Scher, giving the example of the last US elections, pointed out the difference in the typographic styles of George W Bush and John Kerry’s election logos. Scher was of the view that while Bush’s logo was strong and leaned towards the militaristic, Kerry’s was a more friendly logo and that people in USA seemed to need the assurance of a strong leader who assuaged their security issues. Pointing out the issues attached to working in a consumerist society, Scher said that she was a fan of commerce so long as there was a conscience attached to it. She said that there had been times in her career when she had refused to work with certain companies, because she wasn’t comfortable with their practices. Showcasing some of her professional work done for educational institutes and New York cultural spots like the Jazz at Lincoln Centre and the Metropolitan Museum, Scher had a piece of advice for Mumbai: namely to paint the buildings to prevent them from looking dull and jaded and help revive the landscape.