Deborah Sussman


Deborah Sussman is one of the first people to introduce environmental graphic design as a specific discipline which essentially consists of graphic design, industrial design, architecture and landscape design. Born in NYC in 1931, her love for exploration of art and design possibilities in terms of shapes and forms that can be put together in order to function as a 3D whole was passed on to her from her father who was a well respected commercial artist. After several different schools she attended, she graduated in Chicago at the Institute of Design. Following her graduation, she got a job at a major design company owned by husband and wife, Charles and Ray Eames. As Sussman grew older her carrier expanded even more, she became the company’s creative director and different variety of projects started emerging. The most recognizable one is a movie based on her research of Mexican culture and its tradition of celebrating the Day of Death. Soon, she gets the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and leaves to Germany where she gets enchanted by all the street graphics and ways in which they were placed, not intentionally creating a much greater whole. This “sweet obsession” with visual materials that were surrounding her while she was exploring narrow streets of Europe, made her realize that visual materials hide endless possibilities. Her idea was triggered and she started finding ways in which to expand the function of visual materials, till then used mostly just on the paper. Finally, after 10 years of working at the Eams company Sussman says she needed to start speaking in her own voice. Architects were intrigued by her possibility to turn a flat 2D form into an original 3D piece and she was encouraged to open her own company in 1968 that will soon be called Sussman-Prejza&co, as she marries her coworker, landscape planner and architect Paul Prejza. Company’s most recognizable work must be the one done for 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her distinguished style of using bright and joyful colors and shapes that together create a monumental space made Los Angeles Olympic Games unique. This was implemented all around LA, colorful flags, enormous posters, balloons and verity of sculptural iconography transformed the city into a playful scenography resembling children’s dream world. However, it was thought trough very precisely so that television distributors have a perfect set up all with the aim of portraying the Olympics as a happy event that celebrates diversity, hard work and mankind in general. In 1990, Time Magazine placed that Sussman’s work for the Olympics as one of the most memorable monuments of 1980s. Today the company is called SP&C and works on an international level still creating intelligent work pushing the boundaries of how we perceive and think of design and its functions.


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