Monday, May 28, 2007

cathy: for the love of design

“Only once in awhile, a great talent appears on the scene, someone who creates original, beautiful, classic, joyful and wonderful things. Marget Larsen was one of those people.” Dick Coyne, CA article, 1988.

Marget Larsen (1922–1984) grew up in and around the Bay area near San Francisco and her love of design and fascination with lettering and typography was the focus of her creative life and has had a remarkable and inspirational effect in the world of design and advertising. It was her heart’s desire to be an artist and her first and lasting influence was that of artist Paul Klee whose work she studied devotedly.

She began her career working at I. Magnin, a San Fran department store, by day and studying at the California School of Fine Arts by night. She did not study long however,which proved a good thing, as she was not constrained by traditional “do’s and don’ts”. Rather, she developed her style by looking at the work of contemporary artists, on the job and studying her revered Klee and she was very soon promoted to art director by Joseph Magnin. Her design and use of colour (with illustrations by Betty Brader Ashley) built an image for the store from brochures to packaging and beyond. A true love affair for design was borne. Larsen’s use of colour in newspaper advertising was considered the most successful and groundbreaking campaign at the time.

Larsen’s first promotional design idea for the store was a series of Christmas boxes that could be used as clocks, building blocks, or musical instruments. They were so unique in concept and beautiful to look at that though expensive to produce became so popular that customers purchased items just to get the gift boxes. 
Marget then went on to design many of the ads for the San Francisco agency Weiner & Gossage. Larsen’s knack for typefaces added finesse to Gossage’s unconventional copy and put the San Francisco ad agency on the national map. The ads it placed in publications like The New Yorker were so effective and its output so prolific that the company was thought to be much larger than it was. In actuality they ran the business from a quaint old fire station in a bohemian part of town. One example of her superb typography and layout was the Parisian Bakery wrapping. It was a landmark innovation to market paper bags so beautifully.

From this early work Marget went on to work over the next couple of decades in a number of design areas and her work is characterized by bold signage, sharp wit, a love of simplicity and a perfectionism in typography layout and typeface choice. She set herself apart by her creatively executed work and her devotion to design in all its aspects and the impact of her work has been felt across the expanse of popular culture.


stacy said...

i am not familar with larsens work. i dont dont what decade you are talking about - 40's/50s 60s or 70s. your links dont inform me more. one was wrong but found it after a bit should be

Lauren Rice said...

Hi - do you own this collection of JM boxes? I work for the Granddaughter of Joseph Magnin (daughter of Cyril). A museum is interested in doing an exhibit of this collection so she is trying to source as many as she can. please advise. thank you so much.