There are few pieces that represent the typographic and design spirit that illuminated that moment of history,
and certainly none on a scale as ambitious. Milton Glaser

 

 

Gastrotypographicalassemblage is a 35 feet (11 m) wide by 8.5 feet (2.6 m) tall work of art designed by Lou Dorfsman to decorate the cafeteria in Eero Saarinen’s CBS Building on 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue, New York City, New York, USA. With custom type created by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase, the installation contains almost 1500 individual characters.

As the senior vice president and creative director for marketing communications and design for the Columbia Broadcasting System, Dorfsman was responsible for all aspects of the building’s graphics, designating the type, design and spacing for wall clocks, elevator buttons, and elevator inspection stickers. He designed what he called Gastrotypographicalassemblage for the building’s cafeteria, using varied typefaces to list all of the foods offered to patrons in hand-milled wood type. The completed work was based on ideas conceived in the mid-1960s. The project was ultimately completed in 1966 with assistance from graphic designer Herb Lubalin, and Tom Carnase, who crafted the typography from Dorfsman’s original design. Dorfsman considered this work to be “his magnum opus, his gift to the world”.

Gastrotypographicalassemblage was discarded in the early 1990s by CBS, but the work’s nine panels were retrieved by designer Nick Fasciano. It was in an advanced state of disrepair, aggravated by improper storage. The piece was acquired by the Atlanta-based Center for Design Study, which has undertaken an effort to raise the funds needed to support the restoration of the work of art. The group’s goal is to restore Gastrotypographicalassemblage and to use it in a permanent traveling exhibition focusing on historical American design, and using the piece as an example of the value of intelligently applied design.

Lou Dorfsman in 1982, at the “Gastrotypographicalassemblage” he created for the CBS cafeteria.

File Photograph of Lou Dorfman (extreme-right) with Ed Katz and Bob Denverand Marlene Dietrich

Louis “Lou” Dorfsman (1918 – October 22, 2008) was a graphic designer who oversaw almost every aspect of the advertising and corporate identity for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in his forty years with the network.

Lou Dorfsman joined CBS during 1946 after leaving the U.S. army. Dorfsman was attracted to CBS because of its “high graphic standards.” For 41 years, he would work within CBS, shaping every aspect of its design and advertising. He became the Art Director of CBS Radio during 1951, five short years after joining CBS, and graduated to Creative Director of the CBS Television Network during 1960. Dorfsman was appointed Director of Design for CBS, Inc. during 1964, and he became Vice President and Creative Director of the CBS Broadcast group during 1968. Alongside William S. Paley and Frank Stanton, he shaped every aspect of their advertising and design, from their award-winning advertisements to the look of the convention floor to the appearance of Walter Cronkite and the CBS Newsroom. Dorfsman played an integral role in the Golden Age of Broadcast Television. During 1978, Dorfsman became Senior Vice President and Creative Director for Marketing Communications and Design for the CBS Broadcast Group. Milton Glaser called him simply “the best corporate designer in the world,” a testament to the beauty and strength of his ideas, which still resonate with designers of all ages.

In 1978, Dorfsman was recognized as a medalist by the AIGA, “awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication”.

The Art Director’s Club, of which Dorfsman was a past president, honored him through the years with 13 Gold Medals and 23 awards of Distinctive Merit for outstanding work in print and television advertising, packaging, film titling, book design and direct mail. He won two Clios and five 50 Ads of the Year. During 1978, The Art Director’s Club inducted Lou into the Art Directors Hall of Fame , and the AIGA awarded him with its annual AIGA Medal during the same year. He was the recipient in 1984 and 1989 of an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the New School of Social Research and the Long Island University, respectively.

The 1988 book Dorfsman & CBS by Dick Hess and Marion Muller covered his more than 40 years with the network.

References:

  1. Kemistry Gallery / http://kemistrygallery.co.uk
  2. AIGA / http://www.aiga.org
  3. Art Directors Club / http://www.adcglobal.org
  4. The Center for Design Study / http://thecenterfordesignstudy.com

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