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Bold designs in your mailbox

June 24, 2007|HUGH HART

NEARLY 200,000 L.A.-area residents receive works of art in the mail four times a year whether they know it or not. As evidenced in the exhibition "Masters of Graphic Design: Catalog Covers of UCLA Extension (1990-2007)," the university's quarterly course descriptions come wrapped in museum-quality handiwork by graphic designers responding to a creative brief that couldn't be much simpler: Include the name of the school and the start date for the semester.

"Each cover is the designer's best work because there is no criteria," says program creative director, InJu Sturgeon, who launched the series 17 years ago by persuading Paul Rand, the American graphic designer responsible for ABC and IBM logos, to contribute the inaugural cover. Other heavyweights followed, including Milton Glaser, creator of the "I [heart] New York" slogan; film title designer Saul Bass; fractured type pioneer David Carson; and Bay Area illustrator Michael Vanderbyl.

Sean Adams, the L.A.-based designer whose firm, AdamsMorioka, crafted the current 90th anniversary catalog cover by placing brass numerals atop a sunny orange slice radiating sharpened pencils, says, "You do your best thinking because the assignment is so open-ended.... Nobody's on your back saying, 'Can you make it more serious?' "

Several covers rely on sly visual puns. Michael Hodgson's stretch limo, for instance, suggests a Hollywood-centric play on "extension."

Adams, who also designed the exhibition, says, "The thing that shocked me the most is that when you lay out all these covers and look at them together, they seem to transcend trends. Most of them could have been done today or 15 years ago. At their core, these covers are about 'How do you communicate a good idea?' And that's timeless."



"Masters of Graphic Design: Catalog Covers of UCLA Extension (1990-2007)" runs through Aug. 31 at the Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Admission is free.

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