Design History: Graphic Design in Southern Louisiana

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Design History

“If you’ve watched the TV show, “Mad Men” we’ve found the real thing.”

Picture New Orleans 55 years ago. It’s a balmy afternoon in the city known for its soulful jazz and enticing Creole flavors. Don Smith and Byron Levy are chatting over lunch.

At the time, The Ad Club was one of the oldest professional clubs in the city. It attracted the businessmen—the sales guys, the moneymen, the account executives. But what about the city’s creative minds? Where could they go to meet and network? This was Smith’s question.

“Wouldn’t it be great…if all the artsy guys could join forces and make themselves known?”

The Art Directors and Designers Association (ADDA) was born. By 1999 ADDA had officially been chartered as the local New Orleans AIGA chapter.

Now in 2016, Nancy Sharon Collins and her team have created the “History of Graphic Design in South Louisiana” (GDSL). The project is meant to “honor the fathers and daughters of local [New Orleans] pop culture.” Collins acquired the original slide show and audio used by ADDA to showcase itself and its members.

The project brief explains the inspiration behind GDSL:

This project was inspired by two entities; first, publication of the book Printmaking in New Orleans edited by Jessie J. Poesch. The book is the product of a symposium sponsored by the Historic New Orleans Collection, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Louisiana State Museum, it documents the graphic arts industry in New Orleans from colonial times through the first half of the twentieth century. The second major impetus for this project was a comment made by Gene Mearns, reporter, The Advocate newspaper, Baton Rouge Louisiana to one of the Project Co-Chairpersons.

“The Golden Era of commercial art in New Orleans had passed.” said Mr. Mearns, which inspired the question: what was the heyday of graphic design in this region and can it be recaptured?

View the original slideshow:

For further information, to volunteer and or contribute, please contact: Nancy Sharon Collins: nscstationer@earthlink.net.


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Say hello to this year’s New Visual Artists. For the second year in a row, we’ve taken an in-depth look at 15 of the “most interesting, challenging [and] provocative voices working in visual communications” under age 30. Foreword from editorial and creative director Debbie Millman challenges these young designers to question whether they will be “of the moment” or continue making work that lasts throughout time.

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