Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Caxton Building

Downtown Cleveland is a place that looms large in my memories. My father started a business in 1951 and operated out of the Caxton Building on Huron Road. Morgan Studio focused on art, advertising and photography. It is because of him that I pursued a career in advertising. His clients over four decades included an impressive list of blue chip businesses like Ohio Bell Telephone, Youngstown Steel Door, Lake Erie Screw Corporation, Mooney Chemical, Bonne Bell Cosmetics. He was influenced heavily by a year he spent a Pratt Institute in NYC after he completed college at John Carroll University and before he was compelled to join the war effort (WWII).

My dad was bold enough to suggest Morgan Studio offered Architects of the Printed Page in a building named for William Caxton, the mid 15th century printing pioneer. He was in business throughout the era celebrated in the Mad Men television series. It was in this context, I became passionate about design, typography and illustration.

Recently I checked out a book from my local library entitled Graphic Design, A New History © 2007 by Stephen J. Eskilson and published by Yale University Press. The retrospective may be somewhat revisionist. However, in recognizing the origins of typography and graphic design it honors the proud history of the printed word from the Gutenberg Bible and design from Art Nouveau, Dada, De Stijl, Bauhaus, Deco, International Style and Post Modernism.

Upon reflection of my own career journey and influences, it is impossible to separate this somewhat orderly view of Eskilson’s History of graphic design while scratching my head as I wonder how we will reconcile the impact of what some are calling the digital disruption. I love the tone and outrage of Bob Hoffman in his blog and book The Ad Contrarian © 2012. I cannot help thinking that some time needs to pass before we can really make sense of what it means for the businesses we know and love.