Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Four Lessons of Lou Dorfsman

by Michael Bierut

Lou Dorfsmand was responsible for everything at CBS from its advertising to the paper cups in its cafeteria. "Every bit of it was executed with intelligence, verve, glamour and taste. " His work was timeless. He had 4 lessons:

1. Mind the client's business.

When Dorfsman began working at CBS at the age of 28, he was working along side his hero and mentor, Bill Golden. After CBS was divided into two sections, Dorfsman was made art director of the radio unit, the company's "orphan child." He embraced this new position and did hundreds of ads for this seemingly fading media type. After Golden died in1952, Dorfsman was made the creative director of the CBS TV

2.Learn to identify opportunities.

Through his career at CBS, Dorfsman never sat around passively waiting for requests from his internal clients. He created a way to document technological feat of broadcasting multiple games each Sunday all over the country.

3.Assume responsibility.

He valorized every one of CBS's shows as if they were separate clients, each with individual importance. He advocated for programs he thought were great, and created ads that supported them. Dorfsman, who began his career as an exhibit designer for the 1939 New York World's Fair, never limited his ambitions to print and broadcast. He didn't worry about his job description, he did what needed to be done.

4. Define the company's character

1n 1965, CBS moved to a new building, a black granite skyscraper designed by Eero Saarinen. Quickly nicknamed "Black Rock," the tower was conceived as a defining symbol for the company by its leader. Dorfsman understood that this new building would play a role in how the company would be seen, and it's commitment to excellence. Dorfsman commissioned two new fonts from Freeman Craw, CBS Didot and CBS Sans, and these were deployed everywhere throughout the building, including door numbers, elevator buttons, and wall clocks, 80 of which had to be dismantled and reassembled with new faces installed. He applied his typographic skills to a 40-foot long blank wall that was covered in three-dimensional collage combining words related to food and culinary phrases. This art work was named "Gastrotypographicalassemblage."

There is no one today that can match the excellence of design work from Dorfsman designed in his years at CBS.

Main points: Dorfsman was an excellent designer, he took responsibility and initiative, he was responsible for all of CBS' design work, he created a piece of art called "Gastrotypographicalassemblage," he was proud of what he did.

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