The Bazaar Life of Ruth Ansel

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By: Steven Heller | June 15, 2010

“I got my job through the New York Times” was an oft-quoted slogan from a famously ubiquitous poster campaign promoting the Times’ prodigious classified ad section. Well, I got my job at The New York Times in 1974 not through a classified ad but thanks to then-New York Times Magazine art director Ruth Ansel.

At 24 years old, Ansel became the co-art director, with Bea Feitler, of Harper’s Bazaar. Her amazing photographic layouts are now history. After leaving Bazaar she moved to the Times, and then she was design director of Vanity Fair, HG and Richard Avedon productions.

What did she teach me? That magazines were intricate puzzles where all the pieces, when smartly combined and surprisingly composed, could exude typographic and pictorial elegance. She worked with Andy Warhol, Erik Nitsche, Marvin Israel and others. She racked up countless awards, was essential to the golden age of magazines, and now she has her own long-overdue monograph. On Thursday night, June 17, from 6 – 8pm, she’ll be signing copies at James Danziger Projects, 534 West 24th Street, New York.

Titled “Hall of Femmes: Ruth Ansel,” this is the first in a series of books on female graphic designers, initiated by the Swedish design studio HjärtaSmärta in 2009. They launched the books to “bring female graphic designers and art directors into the spotlight.” In March 2009, the duo visited New York “to meet up with a few lady giants of the design world” and these conversations are the basis for the books. They also started a blog (in Swedish). The books, however, are in English.

Published by Oyster Press, “Hall of Femmes,” can be found here (and, of course, at the signing).

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