We review the history of April Greiman, a pioneer of computer graphic design in the late 70s.
In the telling advertising agency we are passionate about knowing the history of the great female graphic designers of history. They are personalities that greatly influenced the vision we have today of advertising. Artists such as Susan Kare, Paula Scher or Deborah Sussman have contributed to the world of graphic design starting from a time when women were a minority. Many were contemporaries and had collaborated with big names in the industry such as Paul Rand, Walter Landor or Chermayeff.
Today we are going to review the life of April Greiman, pioneer American designer of Graphic Design by computer at the end of the 70s.
Who is April Greiman?
April Greiman was born on March 22, 1948 in New York City in a typical American family. Her father was one of the first computer programmers of the time. His brother Paul Greiman studied to become a meteorologist.
April Greiman began studying graphic design during her university days at the Kansas City Art Institute during 1966 and 1970. In a classic travel of the time, he decided to explore the world and went to Europe where he entered to study at the Basel School of Design, Switzerland until 1971. There she was a student of Armin Hofmann and Wolfgang Weingart where she was influenced by the International Style and the introduction to the style later known as New Wave.
In 1976 he moved to Los Angeles, the cradle of graphic design of the time where visions were more daring. His vital and passionate character matched perfectly with the style in Los Angeles, where Deborah Sussman was already beginning to show his colorful works to the world. In a time when computers were beginning to show all the potential to process images and vectors, Greiman embraced technology without fear thanks to his father’s teachings in this field.
Although most designers rejected the fact that computers would endanger the International Typographic Style, Greiman opted to embrace technology to create new breakthrough compositions for the time.
His work at the California Institute of the Art
In Los Angeles, Greiman established the multidisciplinary approach that has marked his history as an artist, practicing with multiple elements to shape his work. She finded the errors of the process of digitization and printing and integrated them into their jobs. Collaborated with the California Institute of the Art (Cal Arts), where she became head of the design department and met the photographer Jayme Odgers, who became a significant influence for Greiman.
Together with Jayme they designed a famous Cal Arts poster that would become an icon of the New Wave of California. In 1984 he changed the name of the department to Visual Communications, since he considered that the term “Graphic Design” limited and conditioned the work of future designers.
In 1984, Apple began to introduce the Macintosh as a design tool. The professionals were increasingly reluctant to use it in their jobs. Greiman did not hesitate to acquire a model to master the tool. With the computer did make his contribution to the Design of the Olympic Games of Los Angeles 84, project directed by Deborah Sussman.
Does it make sense?
In 1986 his work Does it make sense? for Design Quarterly magazine # 133 was a turning point in his career. He presented his digital work and challenged the existing notions of what a magazine should be. He reinterpreted it and instead of the 32 pages he turned it into a poster that was folded into multiple layers.
The design consisted of his naked body stretched in a provocative gesture, with symbolic images and texts adorning the image. “Greiman reimagined the magazine as a poster that folded almost three feet by six feet. The poster should be carefully displayed three times, nine times down. It contained a life-size image, generated by MacVision, of her naked body in a provocative gesture, adorned with symbolic images and text.” The design faced the objective, rational and masculine tendencies of modern design.
The start of the New Wave
During his years working at Cal Arts he created an iconography that would later be known as New Wave. A current that broke with the most academic and established bases for graphic design and typography.
It was a style influenced by Punk and postmodern language. Completely contrary to the Swiss style, characterized by its grid design and organization of the elements. The New Wave freed itself from the rules and worked the designs freely; where typography, photography and other elements were mixed without hierarchies and a complex order.
The Sans-Serif font still predominated the design, but breaking the grid meant that typography could be established anywhere. The New Wave granted an artistic freedom that embodied the anti-corporate nature of the time in Los Angeles.
Greiman is still active today and develops different projects in collaboration with architects. For example, for his work “Inventing Flight” he worked with a team of experts in an active approach to design to be able to represent every detail of the air history. The result was an interactive exhibition that mixed moving graphics, designs made in different materials and other graphic elements.
He also teaches at the School of Architecture and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) trying to inspire other designers to be curious to find their own approach that breaks the pre-established schemes.
April Greiman’s prizes are numerous, ranging from the AIGA Medal to 4 Honoris Causa. The United States Postal Service launched a stamp designed by her to commemorate the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which allowed the right to vote of women in the country.
LA Design History: April Greiman
April Greiman Works