Tenacity, Drive and Passion: Margo Chase
“Margo Chase: Chasing the Bright Light” explores the late West Coast designer’s insatiable curiosity and love of design before her untimely passing in an aviation accident in July 2017. The exhibition will officially open with a private reception on March 22 and then continue at Texas A&M University-Commerce, Viscom Gallery from March 23 through May 2, 2018. Works will illustrate Chase’s “tenacious and informed design process,” from her early graphic designs for iconic recording artists such as Cher, Prince and Madonna and films and TV, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dracula, to global brands such as Mattel, Procter & Gamble, Quaker, Califia Farms, Starbucks, etc. “It is our hope that this will light a creative spark in the viewer to constantly seek the new and to keep the passion that she brought to art and life,” says Chase Design Group chief creative officer Clark Goolsby.
“I have been inspired by the work of Margo Chase throughout my career as a designer and educator,” says Joshua Ege, assistant professor of visual communication at Texas A&M University-Commerce. “The work fits perfectly with our goal to inspire while helping educate through exposure to the best work and professionals.” Chase will be the first female designer featured in the Viscom Gallery.
Chris Lowery, CEO and chief strategist at Chase Design Group, leads strategy and client relations for major accounts while also participating creatively in every large project—from strategy and concepting, to copywriting and art direction. Lowery’s previous life was in advertising, where he worked on global accounts such as Sony, Nintendo, Dewar’s and Marlboro. Over the course of his twenty years at Chase Design Group, Lowery has played a key role in hundreds of successful projects, redefining the way the agency views the role of creative in business. I spoke with him recently about “Margo Chase: Chasing the Bright Light.”
Client/Agency: Sire Records Company and WEA International Inc Madonna Like a Prayer (logo) II, 1989. Design firm: Margo Chase Design. Art director/designer: Margo Chase
First of all, what comprises this memorial exhibition? This exhibition is a curated selection of Margo’s graphic design work that seeks to capture her tenacity, drive and passion. The projects on display span three decades of Margo’s career from 1986 to 2017. Margo’s early work in lettering and logo design for entertainment is displayed alongside recent branding and packaging work for global brands illuminating four aspects of Margo’s design ethos: Curiosity, Culture, Craft and Courage.
Margo Chase’s approach to design was both informed and experimental. Her career bridged the analog and digital worlds in graphic design practice. Her love of research, reading, and travel along with unfettered experimentation did not change throughout her storied career. Margo embraced technology as an opportunity to continue to experiment with ideas such as digital and organic. Margo’s studied approach can be seen in her early motion graphic work as well as her experimental posters, logos, albums, font designs as well as process work.
Love Hurts: Cher III, 1991. Client/Agency: Sire Records Company and WEA International Inc. Art director/designer: Margo Chase.
Matteo Fine Linen identity and packaging III, 1997-2001. Credits Client/Agency: Tela, LLC (Matteo). Design firm: Margo Chase Design. Designers/illustrators: Margo Chase, Patricia Guerra. Creative director: Margo Chase. Photographer: Victor Bracke.
Did Margo Chase have a relationship with Texas A&M? The Visual Communications undergraduate students are familiar with Margo’s work and she will be the first female designer to show in the gallery.
She was such a polymath, multifaceted designer; what is the focus of this retrospective? It was Margo’s drive to understand new things and learn new skills that really made her so prolific. In part, this is due to her scientific background. Margo first sought out formal training by majoring in biology with the intention of becoming a veterinarian. Later, she attempted to bridge her artistic talents with her scientific background, pursuing a masters degree in medical illustration at the University of San Francisco, but quickly realized this work was too creatively limiting for her.
Margo saw the world with both the observant, detail oriented mind of a scientist and the curiosity of an artist. She described ideas as “germs of the mind,” that once taken root, would not let go. Because Margo did not have the traditional background of a design student, she was open to experimentation, willing to change course, and was doggedly curious. She drew inspiration from everywhere–calligraphy, architecture, underground clubs, and nature—anything that could become a letterform, texture or an element in her design.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula: logo and poster, feature film IV,1992. Client/Agency: Columbia Pictures. Design firm: Margo Chase Design. Art directors: Margo Chase, John Kehe. Typographer: Nancy Ogami. Photographer: Sidney Cooper. Model Maker: Jacqueline Perrault.
Perdu Lingerie IV, 2000. Design firm: Chase Design Group.
Califia Farms, 2007. Design firm: Chase Design Group. Designers: Tatiana Redin, Maria Gaviria, Margo Chase. Illustrator: Maria Gaviria.
How would you define her place in design, being one of the most versatile of the West Coast designers? Margo’s impact on design was initially very focused on hand lettering and typography for the entertainment industry but this ultimately pigeonholed her as a designer. By the mid 90’s she was bored of working exclusively on music and entertainment, as well as being labeled the “Queen of Goth.” Margo came to a turning point in her career where she wanted to solve problems, not just make pretty or cool things. Her drive to diversify her work, tackle larger design challenges and grow Chase Design Group led her to take on new types of clients and projects. In the last decade of her career, she worked with both small start-ups and global brands to create powerful identities and packaging seen the world over.
Where does her film work fit into her overall oeuvre? Film was certainly one of the areas that first put Margo in the spotlight and something she still loved to work on, but it ultimately was her love of typography and logo design that grounded her in print work.
Will this exhibit travel? The A&M exhibit is a glimpse into what we hope will develop into a traveling retrospective.
Paula Abdul: Spell Bound (CD), 1991. Client/Agency: VIrgin Records. Art directors: Melanie Nissen, Margo Chase. Designers: Nancy Ogami, Margo Chase. Typographer: Margo Chase. Record Label: Virgin Records Studio, Inc.
Califia Farms, 2007. Design firm: Chase Design Group. Art director: Paul Hansanugrum. Designer: Evan Joo. Creative director: Margo Chase.
Kama Sutra Product Packaging, 1996–2008. Client/Agency: Kama Sutra Company, Joe Bolstad. Design firm: Margo Chase Design. Art director: Margo Chase. Designers: Wendy Ferris Emery, Margo Chase, Anne Burdick, Jonathan Sample. Photographer: Sidney Cooper. Illustrators: Jackie Tough, Merilee Heyer Copywriter: Nina Dillon.
IAC Poster: Dual in the Desert Series, 2012–2015. Client/Agency: The Los Angeles Aerobatic Club, IAC Chapter 49. Design firm: Margo Chase. Art director: Margo Chase. Designer: Margo Chase. Illustrator: Margo Chase.
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