I believe that to be a successful designer, it is extremely beneficial to look to others who have gone before me for inspiration to build from. The more exposure I have to the world around myself as a designer, the stronger the outcomes are in the work I create. So, without further ado, today’s spotlight designer report is on:
April Greiman, Queen of Chance (1948 – present)
“I am the Queen of Chance” – April Greiman
MEET THE QUEEN
The “Queen of Chance” was the title graphic designer April Greiman established for herself. This happens to be quite an accurate description of who Greiman is as a designer and as a person. She is one to take chances and isn’t afraid to make mistakes. For, as she describes it,
“Mistakes are accidents, and accidents often reveal unexpected possibilities.”
Greiman was born in New York in 1948 to two parents who raised her to have a questioning and curious attitude and find adventure in life. Neighbors called her family, “The Flying Greimans” because they were always looking up, searching for interesting phenomena, and traveling by air. It is no doubt that young April took a lot from her parents as a young child into adulthood and applied this learned attitude into her work and life.
April Greiman’s system of designing requires mixing and matching different tools an individual may not think to match. Such as the traditional design tools matched with low-tech-low resolution image making equipment then combined with state of the art manipulating systems.
The result is a unique style of design all her own. However, it isn’t just the design tools she uses that creates her unique look, it’s the thought and emotion she puts into her designs.
April Greiman’s formal education began after she first started college at the Rhode Island School of Design. She failed miserably when it came to the part of the application that required her to draw a pair of old boots. The dean of admissions pointed out that her portfolio was very strong in graphics and he suggested that she apply to the graphic design program at the art institute of Kansas City, Missouri.
Having no idea how one might define graphic design or what it meant, she nonetheless took his suggestion and was accepted into the program in 1966. Greiman studied here until graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Arts with a major in Graphic Design and a minor in Ceramics.
While studying at the Art Institute, Greiman was instructed by teachers from the Swiss school, Allgemeine Kunstgewerbeschule in the city of Basel. She took an adventures leap and decided to broaden her education and enrolled for classes at the school herself. This marked the beginning of her personal study.
Basel was a completely perpetual school. The teachers didn’t speak English, so they taught in silence and body language. Then they would disappear and Greiman would be left to teach herself, which was an invaluable experience and pushed her to think and experiment beyond normality.
Sometimes the greatest teacher is within one’s own self.
In 1984, Greiman was introduced to the Macintosh computer and was swept away with the endless possibilities. She was one of the first American graphic designers to get her hands on the computer. In many ways, the Macintosh helped build her business with all of the different software programs she could use with it.
“Globally, culturally, and economically, we’re moving from working with matter to working with light. With the Macintosh, we’re manipulating light. Now we’ve got a global dialogue working on a network of light. -The Internet – where we can actually float our ideas, text, and images into time and space.”
Geiman obviously has an attitude of exploration and infinite curiosity, which fuels her mind and keeps her designing.
“I’ll always be designing. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am,” says Greiman.
She moved to Los Angeles in 1976, soon after he friend Jayme Odgers introduced her to Death Valley, in which after setting eyes on the endless nothing of landscape of nothingness, Greiman knew she found a special place for inspiration. She states,
“…in L.A. I could have both extremes – everything I needed from a city as well as peace of mind and total quiet just half an hour away.”
Greiman found the desert completely enthralling and described it as “it’s own educational vehicle.” She also says,
“While most processes occur at an invisible or microscopic level, the desert reveals its evolution in its very existence. I felt as if, for the first time, my eyes were wide open to the process of evolution, to growth, to change.”
It was here that April set up her very own graphic design studio called, Made in Space, INC. Greiman’s design practice has been directed by her philosophical readings and by analyzing her own dreams. She states,
“If there was a very concrete symbol in a dream, I’d sketch it, or I’d write down a word which spoke the loudest.”
Many of these symbols she has created over the course of her design career, she creates from her subconscious state, so they are a part of who she is as a person. Most clients she’s had understand this and ownership to these specific symbols or design ideas isn’t an issue, which allows her to continue using the same symbols within her designs.
Over the course of her designing career, she has had a numerous array of cliental. Her clients have challenged her inner curiosity by taking her on a wild run to do a wide variety of different things. Anything from designing magazines, creating a whole business identity, or putting together large sculptures for a whole community of people to enjoy.
Greiman found that she never really needed to inquire for work but instead her clients came to her on their own accord. Her popularity spread via word of mouth with good feedback from all walks of life. This has allowed her to work numerous jobs.
A few specific examples include: Lifetime Television, Workspirit, The U.S. Postal Service, and the Pacific Wave. Others include working for the school SCI-Arc, Piles Peak Lithography Company, the Walker Art Center, Vertigo, Stilnovo, as well as many different posters promoting and showcasing graphic design. She also contributed to the magazines Wet, Main, and Design Quarterly.
These are only a few of the many clients and projects that have helped build her design career portfolio.
What was especially interesting to her with this project was that it was her first experience at using a wide range of new image making and video technologies.
For the final spots, her method of development was relatively inexpensive since Greiman and her colleagues also used low-end technologies like disposable Kodak cameras and 8mm video. She would take the still frame video shots and manipulate them to create her images.
In 1986, Rolf Fehlbum hired Greiman to completely design his first issue of Workspirit. He was a European man who wished to promote his furniture company, Vitra, to the American audience. After Fehlbum saw the magazine “Main”, that Greiman had also designed, he thought she would be the perfect candidate for the job.
Greiman jumped at the opportunity and Fehlbum trusted the designing aspect entirely up to her. The two communicated long distance, as Greiman resided in L.A., and Fehlbum lived in Switzerland.
Greiman stated that…
“It was the first time I had used low-resolution printouts and the fax machine to communicate with a long-distance client. Rolf never saw the detailed artwork. He supplied the photographs and text and trusted me entirely with making the design decisions.”
For the U.S. Postal Service, Greiman designed the official 19th Amendment Commemorative Postage Stamp. On the stamp itself, Greiman chose a cool color palette and layered an image of the capital building with two images of freedom marchers from different time periods in history. The concepts of freedom, equality, and progress are displayed in text form, disappearing with the image, as well as standing out, thus insinuating “freedom”.
Greiman designed an especially interesting piece for the exhibition Pacific Wave California Graphic Design, shown in Venice, Italy. She formulated a 3-D sculpture, with different digital looking entities upon an AstroTurf and plywood inclined base.
The eight different objects, made of plywood, spell the word WAVE and also show an eye and three hands. All of the objects look as though they belong on the computer, except they are set in 3-D sculpture form, thus creating a very unusual piece.
FOREVER THE QUEEN
April Greiman is a designer that definitely breaks away from the routine of traditional graphic design and goes out to explore the depths of her inner being so that she may vividly express herself within her work.
Greiman is a courageous adventurer and many graphic designers look to her for inspiration that extends past the normality.
She still continues her work today and is regarded as one of the most influential women graphic artists working in digital media.
“I’ll always be designing. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am.”
– April Greiman
For further information on April Greiman, you may view her website madeinspace.la
Below are the works cited for this posting:
“April Greiman” AIGA | The professional association for design. 28 Sept. 2009 <http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/medalist-aprilgreiman>.
“April Greiman.” Art Directory. 23 Sept. 2009 <http://www.art-directory.info/design/april-greiman-1948/index.shtml>.
“Farrelly, Liz. April Greiman Floating Ideas into Time and Space (Cutting Edge). Minneapolis: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1998.
Greiman, April. Hybrid Imagery the Fushion of Technology and Graphic Design. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1990.
Greiman, April. Something from Nothing (Design Process). Switzerland: Rotovision, 2002.
Poyner, Rick, and David Crowley. Communicate! Grand Rapids: Laurence King, 2004. Remington, R. Riger. American Modernism Graphic Design, 1920-1960. New York: Yale UP, 2008
(1) Cover Image – CalArts (http://www.madeinspaceshop.net)
(2) greiman manipulated photograph (http://www.aiga.org/)
(3) Greiman (http://www.aiga.org/)
(4) Walker Art Center – Graphic Design in America (http://www.madeinspaceshop.net/)
(5) The Kansas City Art Institute (http://designigniteschange.org/)
(6) 1984 Macintosh Logo and Computer (http://www.slywitch.com.br/)
(7) Los Angeles Desert (http://kimdy.gri.re.kr/travel/_2005/20050409_usa/page_05.htm)
(8) Made in space website design (http://madeinspaceshop.com/)
(9)”Think about what you think about” lecture series poster (http://madeinspaceshop.com/)
(10) Sci-Arc Magazine Cover Cropping (nelson-atkins.org)
(11) Lifetime Television Identity Spot 1 of 12 (http://www.aiga.org/)
(12) Workspirit Magazine Cover and spread (http://www.aiga.org/)
(13) US Stamp (http://www.aiga.org/)
(14) WAVE Concept and Sculpture (http://www.blurb.com/books/972028-april-greiman-queen-of-chance)
(15) April Greiman in the LA desert (http://www.blurb.com/books/972028-april-greiman-queen-of-chance)