The Daily Heller: Poster House Pushes Push Pin

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In 1953 when the first Push Pin Almanack was published, it would have been impossible to predict that its four principle contributors—Seymour Chwast (b. 1931), Milton Glaser (1929–2020), Reynold Ruffins (1930–2021) and Edward Sorel (b. 1929)—would develop a graphic style that challenged the prevailing ethic of functionalism imported from Europe, practiced by leading American corporate and advertising designers, and manifest in work by exponents of the Swiss International Style.

Yet when that first four-by-nine-inch compilation of facts, ephemera and trivia illustrated with woodcuts and pen-and-ink drawings was mailed out as a promotion for these freelancers, other New York designers and art directors began to take serious notice. Indeed, the Push Pin Almanack brought in so much work from book, advertising and film-strip clients that the four Cooper Union classmates decided to leave their day jobs and start Push Pin Studios, the major proponent of illustrative design in America.

"American design in the 1950s and ’60s was undergoing a revolution," writes Angelina Lippert, chief curator of Poster House in New York City. "While the majority of advertising agencies were content to showcase beaming, toothy models and dapper gentlemen embodying an idealized Postwar American lifestyle, a few pioneers were changing the modern visual landscape. On one end of the spectrum were agencies like McCann-Erickson and J. Walter Thompson that embraced conceptual photography and stark typography, presenting crisp, direct messages surrounded by lots of white space. On the other was Push Pin Studios."

Today, Poster House opens its doors to a new exhibition, The Push Pin Legacy, the first major showing of Push Pin's charter members in over two decades. Push Pin was referential, drawing from troves of disparate and often forgotten tropes from past art movements and time periods, hurtling them into the new, playful visual language of the 1960s and beyond. On view are posters, ephemera and documents by members during and after their time at the legendary studio.

Can't get enough Push Pin? Be sure to book tickets to Poster House for a special evening panel on Sept. 23 featuring five distinguished alumni gathering together for the first time in ages. They'll be sharing stories from their time at Push Pin as well as intimate knowledge of the evolution of the New York advertising world over the past 60 years.

The New York Times (1972), Ed Sorel
7 Up (1969), John Alcorn
Daniel Hechter (1970), Barry Zaid
Hugh Masekela (1967), Milton Glaser
For Colored Girls (1976), Paul Davis
Harlem On My Mind (1969), Reynold Ruffins
The Belle of 14th Street (1967), Tim Lewis
Head Out To Oz (1967), Jim McMullan
End Bad Breath (1967), Seymour Chwast