How Clip Art Changed the World

Before the retro style was codified as part of PostModernism, it was simply practiced without much fanfare. Before Dover and Hastings House began publishing reprints of old cuts as copyright free clip art books, which fed the retro style, designers found their own old cut books, made photostats and cut and pasted them. One of the New York studios that worked in this way was Reba Sochis’ Beacon Studios. Sochis was ahead of her time, hence she was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame in 1990:

She was the only woman responsible for a staff of over 20 men. Sochis looks back on her pioneering days at Beacon as being a “jewel of a job.” She attributes this to the fact that she never looked upon herself as a threat to the men and their jobs. Sensing this, they quickly accepted Sochis for her talent. She immediately became one of the boys without ever having to sacrifice her femininity. As long as her high standards of work were not compromised, there were no wrinkles at Beacon Studio.

Sochis’ studio was the launch pad for such designers as George Lois, Seymour Chwast, Bob Gill, Kit Hinrichs, Steve Horn, Andrew Langer, Gilbert Lesser, Rick Levine, Tony Palladino, Tony Russell and Bob Tucker.

Years ago, I obtained two large, black loose leaf volumes of Sochis’ photostat cuts. With their glue-stained, frayed pages and irregularly cut stats in positive and negative, I see the systematically composed pages as a seminal document, of sorts, evidence that before all the Internet resources, that bits and pieces of design ephemera aided and abetted the development of graphic style.

Reba Sochis clip art

Reba Sochis clip art

Reba Sochis clip art

Reba Sochis clip art

5 thoughts on “How Clip Art Changed the World

  1. Lorraine Gagliardotto Garry

    I don’t miss the stat machine. So much nicer to use the scanner. For years and years before computers and the internet, I clipped away all things printed and wound up with 5 full sized filing cabinets filled with the stuff. Over the past year I’ve donated 4 of those cabinets to a design department in a high school. I’ve one cabinet left to clean out. I was surprised to find that it was painful to part with. I had come to think of these collected pieces as friends. The really sad observation going through all this clip art was how extensive and vibrant was the use of art up until just a few years ago. 

  2. Jeff Barton

    This is awesome. It reminds me of my early career when I’d search used bookstores for old books with odd art to photocopy to eventually use in a layout somewhere. I kinda miss the old Agfa “stat machine”—but not the smell of the developer.
    Jeff Barton

  3. Edogs

    It’s fantastic seeing a comparison twixt Sochis’ photostats and the work of a contemporary artist like Jane Hammon http://www.artequalstext.com/jane-hammond/ .  The symbolism of each collaged page in Sochis’ reference book are work-related and implicit instead of explicit- it’s cool that you’ve ‘liberated’ them their reference purposes so their artistic merit can be seen outside the confines of her daily use of ’em.  Makes me wonder what people will make of our flickr folders a century from now…

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