Five Questions with Pentagram’s Paula Scher

Paula Scher is one of the world’s most legendary graphic designers. The award-winning design icon has been at the forefront of graphic design for more than four decades, working with an impressive roster of big-name clients as a partner at the distinguished international design consultancy Pentagram. From the Citibank logo to the MoMa brand identity, Scher’s iconic images have attracted acclaim throughout the world.

Photo credit: Pentagram. Brand identity designed by Paula Scher. 

Photo courtesy of Citibank. Brand identity designed by Paula Scher.

In her new Skillshare class, Brand Identity: Design Adaptable Branding Systems, Scher reveals her unique process for creating a “liquid identity” — a recognizable, dynamic branding system that can be adapted across mediums. While we were filming, Paula shared her thoughts on learning and inspiration with us in a special Q&A.

Who inspires you? Who’s played the biggest role in your career, your work, your lifestyle? PS: Different people have influenced me at different times. My husband Seymour Chwast taught me how to practice. He really taught me how to work and think about work. Currently I have to say that my partners at Pentagram, who are ever changing, are completely inspiring to me. They affect everything I do in different ways.

What’s the next skill you plan on learning? PS: I’m interested in all forms of materiality. I think what I would like to learn has less to do with communicating, but learning how to work with light, how to work with plastics, how to understand materiality in a new way that can extend the things that I already know how to do.

What projects are you excited about right now? PS: The things that tend to interest me most are things where I get to try something I’ve never done before. There are ways of building and making things that are internally new, and that’s the most exciting kind of thing. I like projects where I get to change the genre. In other words, if the expectation of the design of that sort of facility or place is low, and you get to do something that’s really well designed, it’s really quite exciting. You make a breakthrough, and you get to change people’s perceptions of what something should be. I felt like that when I did parking garages, because when you design a parking garage people think those are disgusting looking places, and all of a sudden there’s a great looking one, and it changed everything.

If you could take a class from anyone, who would it be? PS: I’ve always wanted to see how Paul Rand taught, so I wouldn’t mind taking a class from him. I don’t know if I would learn something new, but I’d like to see him do it!

What’s one book that has influenced you? PS: That’s a good question. One book I think everyone should read...I think anyone that works in a corporation should read Something Happened by Joseph Heller.

Go behind-the-scenes to see how the liquid identities of some of Paula’s most respected projects came to life in Brand Identity: Design Adaptable Branding Systems