Obsessions

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Happy Birthday To The Cathedral Of Commerce!

As many people do, I’ve often found it necessary to have things framed for display at home and in our studio—a relatively simple process that had always had a satisfying result. One “gallery” I used to take my stuff to also specialized in selling vintage prints of all kinds that they would beautifully frame...

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Ads with Strings Attached

There is a proud history to be told of the “hang-tag,” those printed bits of heavy paper or board attached with string, ribbon, wire or plastic that attaches to the product in some way. Unlike most forms of print ephemera, the hang-tag is a more tactile artifact, usually discarded but, paradoxically, made to last....

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The Cave

My son, NIcolas Heller (a.k.a. Ricky Shabazz) recently directed and edited a short interpretive video about the apartment where I keep benign, volatile and explosive artifacts of design and commercial media that I use in some of my books on politics and counter culture. He writes: Since I was an infant, I have feared...

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Bag Art

The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry  was founded Ruth and Marvin Sackner in Miami Beach, Florida in 1979, later moving it to Miami, Florida in 2005. Dr. Sachner, a noted pulmonary surgeon, began by collecting Russian Constructivism with his wife, then switched focus to establish a collection of books, critical texts, periodicals,...

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Post-Modern Storybook Illustrations

I consider myself very lucky to have been exposed to children’s books as a kid that were published way before my time—it gave me a wonderful perspective on everything from design and illustration to historical content. A good example is “The Modern Storybook” from the 1930’s. I grew up reading my father’s copy of...

Illustrated Aviation Books By Assen Jordanoff

As a kid, whenever I’d visit my Grandmother’s house in Columbus, OH, I’d make a beeline to her bookshelf. It consisted of books on public health and education (she worked with the Ohio State Department of Health), as well as books my Dad had gotten as a kid. Books like original Edgar Rice Burroughs...

Hirschfeld, Do Re Mi, and Peacock Feet

  I’ve always loved Al Hirschfeld’s work. It seems so timeless and each image he created was always a treat to visually wander through—even without his playful “Ninas.” He had solidly established his style of designed caricature by the mid 1930’s and it changed little until he passed away in 2003. While browsing in...

The Vintage Speedball Textbook

I once found a set of Speedball pen nibs as a kid. I was familiar with conventional pen and ink usage, but had never seen nibs like this before. It wasn’t until taking a calligraphy course in college (with Professor Don Anderson, author of “The Art Of Written Forms”) that I ran across them...

Covering Print Magazine, 1940-1953

The magazine we all call Print has had a half dozen different names since its inception in June of 1940. It was originally a limited-edition periodical that discussed the endless techniques used in the graphic arts industry, and even included original prints and tipped-in features within. From its first edition up to Volume VII,...

Ambassadors of Goodwill: Vintage Matchbook Advertising and Design

I picked up this salesman’s catalog for the Mercury Match Corporation of Zanesville, Ohio, about 25 years ago at the big antique show in Brimfield, Massachusetts. I remember the purchase vividly—I was over the moon, but tried to act all cool as I attempted to barter the price down from $35 to the far...