For over four decades, Paula Scher has impacted the graphic design industry and made her mark on New York, working for Pentagram. Scher first studied design at Tyler School of Art and later made her way to New York to begin work as art director for CBS Records. With the founding of Koppel & Scher in 1984, she expanded her work beyond records to bring unique designs to other products and promotional items. In 1991, Scher became a partner at Pentagram and since completed projects for identity, editorial design, and environmental design for reputable clients. (Walters)
Scher is known for her detailed maps which uniquely convey powerful messages and capture vast audiences. In an article about Scher’s work exhibited at the Maya Stendhal Gallery, David Coggins describes the paintings as “so rich with information and color they seem to glow… Scher also fulfills our childlike wish to grasp our surroundings in a visual way.” (156) The use of space proves to be much more than simply a physical representation and help people better understand the world, as well as the place everyone holds within it. Emphasis of specific words symbolize important elements in various cultures or places. Her typographic selections include contrasting colors, fonts, and placement on the maps to communicate visual messages to the viewer – whether political, geographical, social, or historical. (Coggins) Her maps grasp the attention of the viewer and bring an impact unlike many commonly used maps today.
Fig. 1. Mural from atrium of Queens Metropolitan High School, New York, September 2010.
Scher’s diversity of work hold a common theme of bold messaging integrated in society, and this is apparent especially in her environmental designs. In both the maps and murals, such as the mural in Queens Metropolitan High School in fig. 1, Scher proves that graphic designers can strongly influence the appearance of a city, or even an indoor space. The bright colors, bold sans-serif fonts, and street sign style bring the atrium to life and reflect the unique magnificence of New York. (Walters) This is one of many pieces of Scher’s work that successfully transformed a common space or idea and by attracting attention, brought people together. Scher continues to shape the graphic design industry and challenge the way we view the world.