The Creative Spirit of Tom Suzuki

On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition in honor of the memory of Tom Suzuki. Walking through the gallery I scanned over the humble pieces of everyday printed collateral push-pinned to the white walls that Suzuki created. There were no screaming examples of bold innovation, just beautiful design that was implemented in every-day context. I marvel at finding good design in spectacularly ordinary places, and Tom Suzuki will be remembered for implementing it in the most academic of those situations… text books.

The Creative Spirit of Tom Suzuki

An Excerpt by Steven Heller From the New York Times:

When Mr. Suzuki was starting out as a designer, American textbook publishers had been adhering to formulaic designs for decades, with printing often done in black and white to save money and professor-authors required to furnish their own often-prosaic photographs and sketched diagrams. Mr. Suzuki “turned the process on its head,” said a former colleague, Eugene Schwartz, currently an editor at large of ForeWord Magazine, devoted to independent publishing.

In the late-1960’s, as art director of the textbook division of CRM, publishers of Psychology Today magazine, Mr. Suzuki developed original design concepts and fluid production methods and created mold-breaking typography and visuals.

To make textbook design more efficient, he introduced a storyboard approach adapted from magazine-production techniques. With each book’s content precisely plotted, it was possible to commission photography and illustrations while the authors were still writing. He developed novel ideas for images, like designing three-dimensional models and having professional stylists stage editorial photography.

“He had that important editorial designer gift — he actually read what he was designing for,” Mr. Schwartz said. “And the art department worked interactively with the editorial department and the authors and consultants in developing art and photo concepts.”

The so-called coffee table textbook eventually became standard.

Tom Suzuki

Often Designers can become so focused on that one perfect client or scenario that will create the conditions right to produce that one ultimate portfolio piece. Suzuki had a clean understated style that contributed to overall experience of everything he created.

The Creative Spirit of Tom Suzuki is going on through October 24, 2007 at Northern Virginia Community College. It is worth checking out.

One Comment

  1. — September 29, 2007