Brain Pickings

Paula Scher on Combinatorial Creativity

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Paula Scher is one of our favorite designers and arguably the most daring typographer in design history, whose work never ceases to surprise, delight and provoke, thriving on reinvention yet oozing Scher’s unmistakable style. In this excellent microdocumentary, part of Hillman Curtis’ artist series, Scher recounts her creative process on some of her best-known projects, including her famous Citi identity work the iconic New York Public Theater campaign, which evolved into a whole new style that eventually permeated the New York design aesthetic across multiple facets.

The reason we find this interview particularly compelling is that, when talking about how she created the iconic Citi logo on a napkin in a matter of seconds, Scher echoes our founding beliefs in combinatorial creativity — the concept that ideas are born out of the myriad pieces of stuff populating our memories, our knowledge base, our mental pool of inspiration and resources, and creativity is simply the capacity to put those together in incredible new ways.

How can it be that you talk to someone and it’s done in a second? But it IS done in a second — it’s done in a second and 34 years. It’s done in a second and every experience, and every movie, and every thing in my life that’s in my head.

For more on and of Scher, you won’t go wrong with Make It Bigger, her fantastic 2005 book (and one of our five favorite book designs by famous designers), nor would her compelling TED talk on serious versus solemn design disappoint.

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