Happy 75th, Print Magazine!

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of Print Magazine. As the longest-running stateside graphic design publication, and one of the most popular and widely-read magazines serving the design industry, it is no surprise that they have chosen to celebrate by asking 75 of today’s most talented creatives to design the word “print” in their own style, with no direction beyond basic specs.

Throughout the year, the 75 exclusive designs have been rolling out, creating a well-rounded collection that is sure to inspire. Each design is unique to its creator and allows you to dive deeper into individual interpretations and philosophies on the meaning of “print.” We caught up with Print’s Editor-in-Chief, Zac Petit, to learn more about the project and his favorite moments of the publication. Print75th_02

How did Print poster design concept evolve? Last summer, we began gearing up for Print’s 75th anniversary. We knew we wanted to do something big and somewhat out of the box to honor the legacy of the magazine, so we were blue-skying it around the office. The brilliant Debbie Millman and I were out to lunch, and I ran the anniversary by her. Debbie hit back with a seemingly insane idea: Have 75 of the best designers working today, both legendary creatives and voices on the cutting edge, all design one word: “print.” I loved it. But again, it seemed wildly intense from a logistical standpoint. How would we, a rather small staff, coordinate everything, make sure all the designers adhered to the specs, make sure everything gets turned in and on time, get the printing done, coordinate an exhibit, etc. etc.? I wondered if maybe we had been having the equivalent of a pie-in-the-sky big idea bar talk. But a couple of weeks later, I sent Debbie a note saying that we were going to formally start planning some anniversary items, and she sent the fleshed-out idea over, along with a curated list of 75 designers she was ready to approach. Debbie’s drive and idea generation never ceases to amaze me, because she’s not the type of person who blows smoke—she gets things moving and done.

I wondered: Could we actually pull this thing off?


Chen Design Associates

How did you select the 75 top designers? Debbie started contacting everyone on her initial list, and then the Print staff made suggestions to fill some spots out. Four members of the Print staff also each designed one, which was interesting to see everyone’s internal take. (I’m not a designer, so in what could be seen as an immense copout, I built mine out of the words of my editor’s letter in the 75th anniversary issue. I was originally going to photograph a print-related tattoo I have, but changed course when I remembered it’s on my arm and biceps aren’t exactly my strongest suit.)


Zac Petit


The designers had “no rules or directions to run with, besides the specs of the work.” What were the specs? We started with Debbie’s core idea of having 75 designers illustrate the word “print.” But then, naturally, we dissected the idea and morphed it around, and sort of did the whole “a camel is a horse designed by a committee” thing. Eventually, after considering things like having 75 designers each illustrate a number, having 75 designers illustrate the phrase “Print is not dead,” having fewer designers create a “75”-related piece, etc., we took it back to basics and to the core idea—which was always the right way to go.

As for the specs themselves, here is what Debbie sent out based on the criteria we developed: We would like to invite you to be one of 75 notable designers and artists to create a piece of artwork using the word PRINT. The work can be created in any style, in any medium, with any tools, as long as it uses the word PRINT. This is what we are requesting: Project: The word “PRINT” designed, illustrated, painted, drawn, photographed, etc. Size: We recommend that the dimensions be 11×17 inches horizontal, but you can create something larger as long as it can proportionally shrink down to 5×7 inches horizontal. Specifications: 300 dpi. If you send us anything at 72 dpi, you’ll need to send at a size large enough that can be resampled. TIFF or JPEG files, please. CMYK, PDF or eps files please. And please convert all fonts to outline and label your file with your FULL NAME, first then last.


Aaron Draplin

Each poster is unique to the designer and expresses differing ideas about “print.” What do you find to be the greatest difference between the designs? This hits upon a fear I had going into the project. I was nervous that we’d end up with a pool of designs that essentially all approached the subject matter in a similar way, and too deeply echoed one another. But that was an underestimation of the brilliant minds we had contributing. The very first one that I saw was Erik Spiekermann’s. It was followed by Louise Fili’s. They were each so distinct and so amazing, and from that point on, I knew we were in the clear.


Erik Spiekermann


Louise Fili

Some designers utilized a fingerprint motif, which was a callback to Print’s first (and quite odd) cover from 1940. Others utilized different iterations of our masthead over the years. Still others took direct and personal reflections on the printed form, such as John Fulbrook’s neon sign and recycling bin—which he actually made. One of Mucca Design’s pieces—a tree with “print 75” in the middle and 75 rings surrounding it—was so striking that we used it as the cover of the 75th anniversary issue.


John Fulbrook III


Mucca Design

When Print’s art director Adam Ladd and I hung the full exhibit at HOW Design Live for the first time, it was fascinating to walk the full length of the gallery and see a macro view of how each designer internalized the theme and made it uniquely their own.


Why did you choose to print the posters that were exhibited on Mohawk Paper? Earlier this year, Chris Harrold and Diane O’Connor of Mohawk came to our offices to show us all the amazing pieces they had dug up in the Strathmore Archives. In between geeking out about all of it, I told them about the 75th anniversary plan we had in the works, and we all took a moment away from the archives to geek out about that. One conversation led to another, and it was just a natural fit that flowed organically. The paper is Mohawk Superfine Smooth Digital with iTone, Ultrawhite 80 cover. It feels good in your hands. The colors represented well. Basically, it’s what I’d want to hang up in my office. (And what is currently hanging up in my office.)

What is your favorite cover of Print (throughout its history) + why? Oh man. This is nigh impossible to answer. I’m too biased and there are so many. But if you want to open this dangerous door… We’ve been going through all of our covers recently for an upcoming book by Steven Heller — Covering Print: 75 Covers, 75 Years (Fall 2015). There are the historic ones that are striking—by Matisse, Leo Lionni, Rudolph de Harak, Saul Bass, Chermayeff & Geismar, Milton Glaser. And then some of my personal favorites are Art Spiegelman’s (1981), Chip Kidd’s (1995), Chris Ware’s (1997), and more or less all of Steven Brower’s covers. His September/October 2001 RDA cover still really hits me. The issue was set to go to press 9/11/01, and Brower pulled the final cover at the last minute and replaced it with his beautiful echo of Milton Glaser’s iconic design.


1981 | Art Spiegelman


1995 | Chip Kidd



1997 | Chris Ware


September/October 2001 | Steven Brower

As for other favorites, Debbie Millman’s RDA cover is a huge one, and the covers from the ‘50s really get me.


2013 | Debbie Millman


1950’s | Henry Wolf



1950’s | George A Shealy


1950’s | Frank Leslies

What is your favorite story from Print (throughout its history) + why? Ah! Another nigh impossible question. Here again, it’s the classics versus the more contemporary pieces. Steven Heller did a great recap of Print’s coverage of political issues over the years for our 75th anniversary issue. When Martin Fox took up the helm of Print in the ’60s, he brought with it an amazing focus on the intersections of design and progressive culture, which led to excellent pieces about race, gender and myriad other subjects that had never been covered in the design press. That is when Print, as we know it today, began to take shape. I’m also partial to Tibor Kalman’s pieces. We re-ran one in the 75th anniversary issue. (The legendary ’The Good, the Bad and the Bad’ talk that spurred the Duffy/Kalman debate.)

How would you describe the past and future of print? Being the editor of a magazine called “Print,” I’m probably a terrible person to answer this question objectively. But I’m also a realist.

Looking at the good and the bad, let’s start with the bad. Digital, as no one needs to be reminded, dominates, and has put a lot of good publications out of business. But not only that, the internet has fundamentally changed how we read and consume content—and not always for the better. We digest information in bits and blurbs, which tends to kill the notion of context and any depth of understanding of the core issues in any given discussion. But that’s a whole other article on its own.

As the result of digital-everything existing in a cloud that we cannot see, I think psychologically, we have begun to instinctively yearn again for the tangible. We yearn for the real. And it’s my hope that eventually, that will drive people back to print in larger numbers—where information takes a longer form, and a true sense of high-quality curation is at play.

As for how digital has changed the way I consume content: If I like an album I hear streaming on YouTube or NPR, I’ll buy a physical record (this coming from someone who has never fetishized vinyl nor collected it). If I like a book that I read on a Kindle or listen to in audiobook form, I’ll buy the hardback (this, admittedly, from someone who has always fetishized printed books). Regardless, to me, the really good stuff—the things that deserve to be in print, that deserve the immense amount of time and dedication they take to create, print and bind—are the things that should, and with hope, will, make it to the physical page. And as content creators, we should all aspire to create something so good that it will compel people to further seek it as a lasting physical artifact. When someone tells me they’ve been saving their copies of Print for years, I think that’s the highest compliment we can receive.

I’ve also been fascinated recently by print designs that cannot be replicated digitally—such as JJ Abrams’ and Doug Dorst’s novel S., and the amazing amount of ephemera and colored inks, handwriting, etc., that accompanied it. It would be impossible to deliver any authentic semblance of that experience digitally, because the tactile nature of it is the key.


On the whole, I guess, a hell of a lot of things fell into place for us to be able to pull this Print75 poster project off. And it’s my hope that everything will fall into place for the future of print media, too.


Philippe Becker


Michael Osborne


Paula Scher

Coinciding with the release of Print’s Fall 2015 issue, Felt & Wire is celebrating Print’s 75th Anniversary with a “25 Days of Print” poster giveaway.

Each day for the next 25 days, we will share one Anniversary poster on Instagram. Comment on your favorites, and be sure to include #25DaysofPrint, and #PRINT75 for a chance to win that poster!  

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Comments (1)

  1. Posted by yahoo on 01.2.16 at 5:56 pm

    The particular Grapes associated with Fury : David Steinbeck.
    Robinson’s innocence was clear even in the eyes of kids,
    Mr. ” Whether the students enjoy it and learn from it is another story.

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