Creative Focus: Lou Dorfsman – A CBS Design Legend
“It’s not just the visible work, but the thinking behind it that is the beginning of the creative process. Creativity is essentially a lonely art, an even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing; to others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.”
– Lou Dorfsman
The advertising and design giant, Lou Dorfsman, was first supposed to study bacteriology at University of New York but having it hard to pay the high tuition he was accepted into the Cooper Union in 1934 and he graduated in 1939. He joined the U.S. Army in 1943 where he served as an exhibit designer until 1946. The very same year he started working in Columbia Broadcasting Group (CBS) under the supervision of William Golden, an art director for the group and the designer of the emblematic and well-known eye logo. Golden managed the CBS TV Network until 1959 when he unexpectedly passed away of the age of 48. Lou Dorfsman was appointed as his successor.
While working at CBS, Lou was responsible for designing everything at CBS. When the new CBS building opened at 1965 he was asked by the president of CBS to create the interior and exterior graphics. Lou has used the typefaces he designed to create the stationery, elevators, signage, telephones and more.
Possibly, one his most famous works called “Gastrotypographicalassemblage” was created for the corporate cafeteria. It is a 11 metre long, 2.6 metre high three dimensional artwork of words, food, kitchen utensils and other eating related images.
George Lois, one of the groundbreakers of so-called “creative revolution” in the advertising industry, said, “He was the kingpin of the New York School of Design, a pluperfect, fearless, uncompromising perfectionist, and a father of corporate image of the world”. Mr. Lois was also a part of CBS as he worked there in the 50’s and regarded Lou Dorfsman as a mentor.
Mr Dorfman left a great deal of legacy for designers and advertisers. His wit and intelligence is visible through all that he has created.
For the “The Warren Report: A CBS News Inquiry in Four Parts” promotion he has chosen the title “This is the bullet that hit both President Kennedy and Governor Connally. Or did it?” The image he used in this ad was a close-up of hand holding a bullet.
He was not only spreading his creative skills in the advertising field, he was also responsible for creating annual reports and other promotional materials for CBS. When Armstrong landed on the moon, he was asked to create a limited edition book. Dorfsman created a special cover for that particular book embossed so he can achieve a look and feel of the moon surface.
Lou Dorfsman was also the one who integrated graphic design into interior design. He was having a great attention to details which was visible in the CBS headquarters building where he made sure that the type and the spacing was perfect on the wall clocks, numbers on the elevator etc..
Lou Dorfsman is a receiver of honorary doctorates in fine arts from the Long Island University and the The New School of Social Research. In 1978 he received the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal for Lifetime Achievement which is only one from many others design appreciations.