A photo of artwork by Paula Scher

Creative Voices

Paula Scher

By Dan Cowles

One of the best things about my job as creative director for video at Adobe is the part where I get to fly around the world, meet interesting and creative people, and make movies about them.

My team of talented producers and I fly across continents and times zones to shoot customer success stories, artist profiles, product launches, and—more recently—a series called Creative Voices. This series brings us face-to-face with some of the most talented and interesting designers and artists on the planet. Talking with them, and even just hanging out with them for a while, is a gift.

Creative Voices videos are straightforward, marketing-free conversations with true luminaries in their fields. They're also documentaries of innovative artists and agencies creating cutting-edge work. The purpose is to provide a body of interesting, useful, and inspiring ideas for Adobe's creative community.


One recent, memorable conversation I had was with designer Paula Scher. From her early days at CBS Records art directing some now-iconic album covers through her years as principal at Pentagram, Paula has developed a body of work that is truly awe-inspiring. She has designed instantly recognizable, type-based identities for such New York institutions as The Public Theatre, MoMA, the Met, and the High Line. For corporate clients like Citibank and Microsoft, she has extended her playful typographic approach to groundbreaking environmental installations, as well as to her more personal Maps projects. She is truly a legendary designer.

This interview with Paula is one of my favorites. She came of age as a designer during the tumultuous 1960s when, according to her, "we thought we could change the world." To this day, there is a mischievous and even subversive quality about her work. We talked about where her ideas come from and the mysteries of the creative process, of course, but I found it just as instructive to hear her discuss the importance of healthy organizational structures, how bad approval processes can kill creative output, and what she's learned about the client-designer relationship. Although these aren't always the first things that creatives talk about when they get together over beers, they can be just as important to the success of a project as a great idea.

Click the image to watch the video.

Boston album cover by Paula Scher

I told Paula that, as a teen, I was a huge fan of the Boston album cover she designed, and she just laughed. She’s not particularly proud of it. As she says in her 2002 book, Make It Bigger, the music “is decidedly mediocre, and so is everything about the album package, but it struck a chord with 16-year-old boys and their girlfriends in 1976.” It sure did.

October 1, 2013

Video: Dan Cowles