The Daily Heller: Arnold Shaw, Midcentury Modernist

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There are many websites devoted to known and lesser-known graphic designers still to be researched for the benefit of historians and practitioners alike. Midcentury American Modernism has been revived in recent years, and one such modernist, New Yorker Arnold Shaw (1922–1967), has finally received his due. Through the diligence of his daughter Susan Shaw, a new website devoted to his work in pharmaceutical, identity, editorial design and typography has debuted, and it’s a welcome addition to digital design history.

In addition to work and sketches, the site contains his biography and additional notes. His life follows a path that various New York moderns adhered to. As the site describes:

“At 15 he won first prize and his first award, for a poster in a New York City Parks Department contest. He majored in Applied Arts at Straubenmuller Textile High School, a highly respected vocational high school, while living in a NYC public housing project.

“By the mid-1940s, ineligible to serve in World War II due to a disability from a childhood illness, Arnold worked days in the art department of RKO Radio Pictures. He attended Cooper Union at night, graduating in 1946. While at Cooper, he studied design with Howard Tafton at the Art Students League and attended György Kepes’ illustrious “visual fundamentals” class at Brooklyn College, as well as Alexey Brodovitch’s workshop at the New School.

“In 1948, after a few years freelancing, he set up an independent studio at 19 E. 48th St. in New York. Arnold’s wife, Dorris, whom he met waiting for an elevator at RKO, assisted him in the studio with production work. In the late 1960s, following his death, Dorris became one of the first women to work in typography sales in New York….

“The studio was a magnet for designers, writers, photographers and illustrators who continuously dropped in to borrow a desk, share stories and exchange ideas about design projects. A small roster of young designers, handpicked from design schools, were hired as assistants. Many moved on to stellar careers in the advertising and design world.”

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