When I first learned about the exhibition Voices & Visions and took a look at some of the names involved in the project, I geeked out a little bit. Just as there are celebrity architects like Moshe Safdie (who designed the Skirball) and Frank Gehry, there are celebrity graphic designers like Milton Glaser (of the famed I <3 NY logo), Ivan Chermayeff—perhaps best known for designing, together with Tom Geismar, television network logos like the current iteration of the NBC peacock—and Pentagram Partner Paula Scher. All of them have poster designs on display in the exhibition. Scher designed, among other things, the identity for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York, where I worked as an intern and assistant on web projects before I joined the Skirball. Because of this connection, I was especially interested to see her Voices & Visions poster design.
For Voices & Visions, the creative brief was straightforward: The Harold Grinspoon Foundation sought out contemporary Jewish artists to visually interpret the words of great Jewish thinkers. Each artist was to create a thought-provoking poster based on the Jewish text for a universal audience. As Doris Berger put it, the series “highlights humanistic values that are rooted in Judaism.” They are values and ideas we can all relate to, whether we are Jewish or not. The creative director of the project, ad-man and designer Arnold Schwartzman, was the Foundation’s connection to all of these amazing graphic designers.
The thinker for Scher’s poster? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. One of the few in his family to narrowly escape the Nazi invasion of Poland, he was a great philosopher and writer who stood up for spiritual freedom, civil rights, and an end to war. In his book The Prophets, Heschel describes prophets not simply as individuals who can foresee the future, but as “the men whose image is our refuge in distress, and whose voice and vision sustain our faith.” Heschel could have easily used this definition not only to describe himself, but to describe the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. During the Civil Rights Movement, Heschel courageously supported King and marched by his side to Selma in 1965. [Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball carries a great children’s book about Heschel and King’s common purpose, entitled As Good As Anybody.] Continue reading