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Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

Drexel University :: Graphic Designer to the Stars
by Juanita Berge, 1 May 2008

Drexel University :: Graphic Designer to the Stars
by Juanita Berge, 1 May 2008

Drexel's Westphal College offers a unique approach that teaches creative students creative disciplines in creative ways. They do this through focused programs that empower students to learn by doing.

Learn more about Drexel's Westphal College by visiting them online at

Carin Goldberg has spent her career creating album covers, book jackets and design concepts for some of the most famous entertainers in the world. Carin Goldberg Design, the firm Ms. Goldberg founded in 1982 has worked for almost every major American publishing house including Simon & Schuster, Random House, Harper Collins as well as record labels such as Warner Bros., Motown, and EMI.

Visit Carin online at

Carin Goldberg, of Carin Goldberg Design in New York City, a speaker of unusual talent and exceptional success, was heard at the Bossone Auditorium of Drexel University on April 10. A capacity crowd was engrossed in a lecture that ran a full two hours. Having done work for the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and Madonna and appearing not infrequently in the pages of the New York Times she has been billed in various press releases as graphic designer to the stars. She has certainly traveled the fast lane. Graduating from New York City's Cooper Union she was working for CBS Records within three years. Ultimately becoming an art director there, she was designing album covers and working with the city's best photographers during her time employ.

"It was a dream job. Designing record covers was a sexy thing in the late '70s," Carin remarked. (From where I'm standing it still is.) But the beginnings of a slight ennui set in and that propelled her into the world of publishing, where she spent the bulk of her graphic design career. She began designing book covers for Random House, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster, among others. She sees this task as very much about being an interpreter of an art form.

Her lecture began with these words on the big screen: "Who What Where Why How," and began by describing who the pivotal people in her career life had been and are now. "It's who you hang with. The community of people you cultivate is who you learn the most from," she said. "For me it began with my mom. She was a buyer for I. Magnin - a real city girl. Just in observing her in my childhood I was taught a lot about how you present yourself and about style." Her father was in the garment industry with her grandfather in NYC after the War. He sold evening wear in the '60s, though he got a degree in forestry. As a young person her dream job was to draw specimens for the Museum of Natural History. She then recounted how TV and early '60s music was her early childhood world: how bohemian best friend Mavis gave her a taste for the 'wild side' and how a childhood neighbor and Cooper Union alum painted her garbage can with pop art. This appealed to her in a fundamental way... the neighbor becoming a confidant and constant source of inspiration. She told the the story of how she and fellow CU graduate Gene shared a studio for years and became muses for one another and her first job opportunity, also afforded by a CU alum. An exhaustive list of some thirty designers and artists rounded out her discussion of the 'who' in her life. She talked about the emotional connection she's had and still has with these artists. "Just speaking about them I am moved to the core, with a lump in my throat. Everyone has their own list, but their works are what keep you inspired, what keeps you going." She spoke at some length about her recent work on a senior portfolio compilation at SVA (the School of Visual Arts), where she has been teaching for the past 30 years. She discussed her work and processes for the design of a Hanoch Piven (a star in Israel) monograph.

Drexel University :: Graphic Designer to the Stars

She then moved on to the 'What' portion of her lecture. The 'what' being the things that have influenced her work. For instance, wood type... she's in love with it. Remember that childhood neighbor? She had tons of it and Carin was allowed hands on access to it. That developed an affinity that's seen in her work today. Her book jacket designs clearly show the over-arching influence of type. She discussed how an alphabet she designed lead to a book. Then there are the magazines – Life (like bibles to her,) The New Yorker (has been completely influential,) Rolling Stone, Esquire, the New York Times. She has had her work appear in all of the above except Life. She cited ephemera – labels, children's books, early '50s catalogues, old dictionaries. And the customary influences of popular culture - books, TV, movies, theatre and music of the '70s and '80s. She discussed her work and processes on the Superwoman series of posters commissioned by the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. When asked what guided her through all of these various influences, she responded with, "You do the things that you want to do and before you know it they add up to a human being with a point of view."

Her 'Where' amounted to New York, New Jersey, Paris and L.A. – the bookstores and flea markets of each locale being particular draws.

The 'Why' portion of the lecture was the most concise and succinct. "Why go down this road at all? For love, profit and fun. For love of your art. For the potential profit involved."

"I made a body of work from it (designing for publishing houses,) became a better designer because of it, and built a career on it."

"You should relish the process," that's where the fun resides. "You should be cultivating the life you want to have right now."

When asked what courses would be best for a design student to take her answer was an unapologetic, "Take the courses that will get you out of bed in the morning. Listen to your instincts."

She never had a chance to get to the 'How.' Her two hours were up. But she had held the audience captivated the entire time. Her designs evidently have the same effect on her public. She has designed thousands of book covers. Her book jacket for James Joyce's Ulysses has become an icon of postmodern design. Her design work has garnered hundreds of awards and commendations. The Bibliotheque Nationale de France, the Cooper-Hewitt and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum all house permanent collections of her work.

It was an insightful evening for graphic arts aficionados of all levels. It's always interesting to see 'from whence they came.' We had a chance to see that and more – from whence she came, where she's gone and how and why. The Who, What, Where and Why of a lifetime in graphic arts provided a fascinating glimpse into this woman's career.

Print Article  Brought to you by: Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

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