The first time I heard Reba Sochis‘ name was on the same day that I met George Lois. We were both on the 1990 Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame selection committee, me for the first time and Lois for the umpteenth. He took charge immediately. I had yet to experience the battering-ram approach to achieving consensus (was this how things worked in the advertising world?). Without a greeting or a moment to allow us to settle into our roles as committee members, Lois announced his agenda: “Reba Sochis is in! I don’t care who else you pick! Sochis is in!” (Exact words.) She became only the second woman elected to the Hall of Fame. It was a long time coming. She died in 1998.
Lois had been a designer for Sochis while still in his penultimate year at Pratt Institute. He became her golden boy until the Army called him to fight in the Korean War. His replacement was Seymour Chwast, who told me he never reached the status that Lois enjoyed in the Sochis office and was fired before or upon Lois’ return.
In the 1940s, the indomitable Sochis, who studied in 1929 with Alexey Brodovitch in Philadelphia, was one of very few women editorial art directors (another notable exception was Cipe Pineles Burtin, art director at Seventeen magazine and, in 1975, the first woman selected as a Hall of Famer). Sochis’ first job in editorial design was at Esquire, where she was given the rare opportunity to take risks. She next moved on to Charm. A pioneer at the Beacon Design Studio, she was responsible for a staff of over 20 men. Late in 1949, she set out on her own, taking Beacon’s client Talon zippers as her first account. Her eponymous studio was a wellspring of notable future graphic designers and art directors, including Lois, Chwast, Bob Gill, Kit Hinrichs, Steve Horn, Rick Levine, Tony Palladino, Anthony Russell and Bob Tucker.
Eventually, she acquired major New York City clients, most notably Pappagallo (below), a well-known fashionable shoe emporium, and Bali Bras. A decade ago, I was given some of the job books that her office maintained as a record of when and what ran in newspapers, like these modest beauties from the early 1960s. As we delve below the topsoil of graphic design history, it’s useful to see not just the monumental pieces that were heralded in the annuals, but the day-to-day works that even the future Hall of Famers had to produce.