Cipe Pineles, by Géraldine Biasotto

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Cipe Pineles (1908 – 1991) was a graphic designer and art director from Austria, who made her career in New York working in magazines such as GlamourSeventeen and Charm. Cipe Pineles enhanced the image of each of those magazines through her artistic direction. Her pioneering work in the 40s and 50s has been a point of reference that led to the appearance of women’s magazines in the next decade. In fact, in 1943 Pineles became the first woman member of the Art Director’s Club, breaking the tradition of the male-dominated professional design societies. 

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Vogue, December 1940

Pineles started off as an assistant at Conde Nast for the art director Mehmed Fehmy Agha in the 30’s, where she learned about editorial design. Since her beginnings, Pineles was an experimenter as we can see from the Vogue cover that she realized in 1939, in which she composed the magazine’s name with jewelry and cut abruptly the model out of the page’s border. This playful approach also exemplifies the tendencies in the American figurative typography of the time, in which objects replaced letters as visual puns.

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Seventeen, July 1948

Pineles’ love for modernism continued to evolve in her job as an art director for Seventeen (1497-1450), whose editor Helen Valentine was the creator of the teenage market. In fact, previously teenage girls did not have their own style, as they were expected to buy the same garments as their mothers. Pineles’ task was to visually express the totality of women’s life through articles, fiction and art which not only referred to fashion, beauty and relationship but also reinforced the role of the woman in society. Seventeen was, for instance, the first magazine to treat young girls seriously, by providing them with articles on social issues, science, technology and career opportunities. On the visual side, with it’s book-like typography , the design was more classical than other modernist magazines at the time, such as Harper’s Bazaar under the direction of Alexey Brodovitch which started to promote the use of sans-serif typography. Conversely, Pineles adopted more of a two column approach in Bodoni or Clarendon.

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Seventeen, April 1948

However, the simple typography enhanced the primacy of the artwork. In fact, Pineles is credited for being the first art director to hire painters to illustrate mass-market publications, resulting in editorial pages that broke with conventional imagery. Consequently, the reader would be visually educated with the best american fine artists’ work, and at the same time it allowed artists to access the commercial world. Pineles left a good deal of freedom to her artists, but still required that the works’ standards would be high enough to be hanged in a gallery. What is more, Pineles was also an artist and illustrator herself and often included some of her work, such as her food paintings and found objects.

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“The Adaptable Casserole” and “Wild Rice”, layout spreads designed by Cipe Pineles for Seventeen magazine. Featured image

After her position at Seventeen, in which she stayed for three years, Pineles left to art direct Charm magazine in 1950. Since her beginnings, being herself a clear example of a professional working woman, she had a vision to promote the idea of her gender as an important contributor in society through her intelligence, strength and character. In fact, the cover of Charm carried the statement: “The magazine for women who work.” Through her editorials she visually empowered women with knowledge and money, by portraying them in their offices, as well as during lunch-hour shopping. She had a repeated series called “she works in (the city name)”, in which she would place the working woman in different important metropolis.

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Charm, January 1954

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Fashion spread from Charm, 1957

Under Pineles’ direction the fashion feature often spanned multiple pages. This was both because of her cutting edge creativity, but also because during the golden age of magazine design, art directors had thirty pages of uninterrupted editorial in which to develop their visual ideas in a more cinematically dynamic way than is possible now, despite the fact that there was no aid of a computer and printing overlapping images was difficult and costly.

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A Charm spread from a Detroit-themed

To conclude, it might be argued that Cipe Pineles paved the way for women to follow in order to make design their profession. For instance, today women make up around half of the graphic design profession. Cipe Pineles was the first to break the barrier between genders and became the first independent woman American graphic designer in a predominantly male field. For these reasons she continues to be a role model for our generation in design.


Area, Phaidon Press, 2005, paperback

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