Lou Danziger (right) critiquing students’ work, 1959
Lou Danziger (right) critiquing students’ work, 1959

feature / alumni / faculty / advertising
October 25, 2018
Writer: Mike Winder
Except for archival photo, all images
courtesy of Lou Danziger

Lou Danziger:
Shaping Culture

A pillar of West Coast design, Advertising alumnus Lou Danziger (BFA 48) has worked as a designer, art director and consultant since 1949, bringing his talents to a diverse list of institutions, from Microsoft to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Trademark for Sundormer mobile camper, 1963. Designer: Lou Danziger; finished artwork: Roland Young (BFA 61 Advertising)

His work has garnered numerous awards, including an NEA Distinguished Designer Fellowship in 1985 and the AIGA Medal from the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1998. He has been an elected member of the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale ) since 1974.

And he probably knows more about ArtCenter than anybody else alive.

Interior of Kerr printers and stationers greeting card, 1951

Danziger, who turns 95 this year, attended ArtCenter on the G.I. Bill®, studying at the Third Street campus at a time when Tink Adams, the College’s co-founder, was still teaching. “The school was very strict, and Tink was very demanding,” says Danziger of Adams, recalling how he once spent 75 hours rendering the landing gear of a P-51 Mustang for an assignment.

Recent Sculpture U.S.A. exhibition announcement card for LACMA, 1954
“F” logo and brand identity for Flax’s Artist Materials, 1949

On the opposite end of rigidity was another one of his instructors, pioneering graphic designer Alvin Lustig. Danziger says Lustig often lectured about culture, religion and issues of the day. “Lustig made you feel that design was very important,” he says of his instructor’s impact. “That designers shaped culture, that we played a significant role, and that we could make a difference.”

Years later, when Danziger started teaching at the College, he made it a point to talk to his students about social responsibility. “I was influenced by Lustig, but also influenced by my father, who was a socialist,” Danziger explains. “I grew up with the sense that I needed to make a contribution to the world.”

Trademark for Xybion, a technology firm, designed on a computer with assistance from a Caltech programmer working on a mainframe, 1975

He has certainly done that. In addition to becoming a legendary instructor at the College, he also taught at institutions like Chouinard, the California Institute of the Arts and Harvard University. “Lou taught me that being a good designer was not enough,” says Sean Adams, interim chair of the Graphic Design Department, of his CalArts instructor and mentor. “It was important to give back, be involved with the community, teach, and just be a plain good person.”

Danziger retired from design more than 20 years ago to focus as a consultant and educator. “Teaching is a mining operation,” says Danziger of the educational process. “It’s your job to find the call that is within the student, to allow them to discover their possibilities.”