Some years ago, I created a triptych of 40x60 mixed media pieces around vintage Playboy magazines from the 1970's. Over the next few posts, I will examine their history, the story I was attempting to tell and what their final life has been. There is a lot to unpack, and the history of the publication and its art director is essential to the story. This is not about the founder. A million words have been written about him. This is about the visionary man behind the visual look and direction of the publication. It was, and to some degree still is, ground breaking. The story and visual code of the original publication has been lost to time, mis managed ip and changing attitudes and social moires. Before we examine my art, let’s look at Playboy’s Art.

Art Paul: How We got here

Art Paul (1925-2018) was a trailblazer in the world of graphic design and publishing, making an indelible mark on the industry with his innovative and striking work. As the founding art director of Playboy magazine, Paul's contributions to the visual language of publishing cannot be overstated. In this essay, we will explore the significance of Art Paul's work and his lasting impact on the publishing world, delving into his unique artistic approach, the challenges he overcame, and his influence on subsequent generations of designers.

Early Life and Career

Born in 1925 in Chicago, Art Paul began his career as a freelance designer, working with a variety of clients and creating pieces for various mediums. Paul's talent for visual storytelling and his keen eye for aesthetics quickly garnered attention. In 1953, Hugh Hefner approached Paul to design the visual identity for a new magazine called Playboy. This collaboration marked the beginning of a fruitful partnership that would last for three decades and redefine the world of publishing.

Playboy Magazine: A Visual Revolution

As the founding art director of Playboy, Art Paul revolutionized the way the publishing world approached visual design. His groundbreaking work on the magazine's layout, typography, and visual elements elevated the publication to a level of sophistication and style that was unprecedented at the time. The iconic Playboy logo, featuring the simple yet unmistakable rabbit head silhouette, is a testament to Paul's ability to create lasting and impactful imagery.

Under Paul's direction, Playboy became a platform for some of the most talented illustrators, photographers, and artists of the time. His insistence on showcasing high-quality artwork alongside the written content not only enhanced the magazine's visual appeal but also set a new standard for integrating art and design in the publishing industry. This innovative approach to magazine design paved the way for countless other publications to follow suit, changing the landscape of modern publishing.

Breaking Stereotypes and Encouraging Dialogue

Art Paul's work at Playboy played a crucial role in breaking down stereotypes and taboos surrounding sexuality, art, and culture. By commissioning and featuring artwork that tackled controversial and provocative themes, Paul encouraged open dialogue and critical thinking. He consistently pushed the boundaries of visual storytelling, challenging readers and fellow creatives to engage with art in new and unexpected ways.

Legacy and Influence

Art Paul's lasting impact on the publishing world is evident in the numerous designers, art directors, and creative professionals he inspired throughout his career. His innovative approach to integrating art and design into the fabric of a publication has become a standard practice in the industry, shaping the visual identity of countless magazines and other media. His contributions to the field of graphic design have earned him numerous accolades, including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

In summary, Art Paul's contributions to the world of publishing were transformative and enduring. As the founding art director of Playboy magazine, he revolutionized the integration of art and design in publications, elevating visual storytelling to new heights. His groundbreaking work has left an indelible mark on the publishing industry, inspiring generations of designers and challenging the way we engage with art and visual narratives. Art Paul's legacy serves as a testament to the power of creativity and innovation, forever altering the landscape of the publishing world.