At the beginning, Graphic Arts occupied two basement rooms
within Street Hall. When I arrived during the Fall of 1953,
Graphic Design had moved into the basement of the new Kahn
building with the Yale Museum and the architects on the upper
floors. The Graphic Design studios were off a sunken court
so one wall was glass allowing considerable natural light.
There was one large studio with sawhorse and hollow door tables;
Vandercook proof presses, type cabinets and work tables were
at the rear of the studio. A row of steel lockers defined
the right edge of the work tables. The office and pin-up boards
were at the front. The door at the front opened into the hallway,
supply closet and the York Street exit and stairs, or you
could go straight through into the printmaking area. The rear
door opened into a photographic shooting area with light stands,
print dryer, darkrooms and copy camera room. All art classes
were in the old Street Hall.
Every Graphic Design student was required to take six-week
courses in photography, printmaking and typesetting. The course
in photography was to instruct students in photographic processes
in order for them to better understand the language and problems
of professional photographers (However, Jay Maisel and Bruce
Davidson were graduates from the early program). Other than
using their own cameras, students were introduced to a copy-camera
and photo-mechanics. They could enlarge, reduce, copy and
make photostats. Richard Avedons posterization of photographic
images using high contrast film was popular at that time and
students were quick to emulate many of his techniques. They
also were heavily involved in using found images, in particular,
nineteenth century wood engravings of other images drawn from
historical sources. This direction is readily understood because
of their newfound expertise with a copy camera. Also, there
were students in the program with little or no training in
drawing or design. Photography, collage or using found imagery
permitted them to execute class projects. There was one 4
x 5 view camera and students did some studio photographic
work with lighting.
course in printmaking required students to initially work
with intaglio and relief processes. A few years later, Herb
Fink taught lithography. These mediums were viewed as prototype
education for the three basic printing processes of letterpress,
offset and gravure. Printmaking was also a natural outlet
for fine art students in painting and drawing.
principal focus of the program was typography, printing, printing
production and book or periodical design. Typography was taught
as a minimal art, you did not change typefaces or sizes if
priorities could be established through leading or placement.
There was always painstaking consideration for choice and
appropriateness of type as it related to content and function.
The color or texture of text was an important
consideration. There was equal concern for margins. The standard
for styling was to use as few type changes as possible and
to rely more on visual tension, leading and placement. Typesetting
was taught in a letterpress shop using Vandercook proofing
machines and foundry type or monotype.
student was required to purchase the two volumes of Printing
Types: Their History, Form and Use by Daniel Updike. Most
of us studied these books with great diligence. Students became
adept at type identification. Typographic and printing histories
were very important within the program. Most students became
avid collectors of display types. These were recorded on 4
x 5 ortho-film negatives and kept in files. In conjunction
with type, there was extensive involvement with all aspects
of printing production which included lectures and field trips.
Graphic Design graduates were considerably more knowledgeable
about printing production than their counterparts graduating
from art schools.
1953, Eisenman on a trip to Europe purchased some magnificent
large wood types from Derberny and Peignot, an old and illustrious
French type house. Students inked these types individually
with small brayers and hand-stamped them onto newsprint or
rice paper. Many of these playful student exercises were to
find their way into later work of graduates when they became
the same time that Graphic Design students were taking type,
photography, printmaking, and printing production, they were
required to take Albers color class. A number of design
students elected to enroll in drawing classes taught by Albers
or Bernard Chaet. As I remember, art or architectural history
were required and students chose other electives from the
Yale College curriculum. Herbert Matthew taught photography,
and on occasion, design. Eisenman was responsible for typography
and printing production. Ives concentrated in design. Peterdi
instructed in printmaking and the Visiting Lecturers gave
students either short or extended practical problems. In their
last year at Yale, graduate students were expected to find
a manuscript (or write one), and then to design, print and
bind an edition of fifty books. By the time of the second
generation of instructors, the late 1950s, book projects were
no longer required.
and reviews were conducted by several teachers working together
which broadened the scope of criticism and discussion enormously.
Teachers worked as a unit and there was no pigeonholing of
classes in separate rooms with separate instructors. Students
were expected to perform competently in all the areas of design,
typography, printmaking and photography. To fail in any one
area was to fail the program (I do not remember any student
ever being failed, but we were told, and we believed that
to fail one course was to fail them all). Treating the program
of study as a whole strengthened the interrelationships between
the various areas and combined with team-teaching of sorts,
made Graphic Design at Yale different from design instruction
at the majority of other schools from that period.
was done at semester end by review. Eisenman, Ives and one
or more of the Visiting Critics would occupy the front office.
Students would come into the room one at a time with their
portfolio. A timer from the photography lab was set for fifteen
minutes. The reviews were conducted by Alvin Eisenman and
consisted of all faculty members present examining and discussing
the student work along with some general counseling.
When the timer sounded, the review was over and you
were out of there. The new design program at Yale was unique
in several other respects. The curriculum of design, typography,
photography an printmaking was exclusive to it. The faculty
and visiting lecturers constituted the most prestigious concentration
of designers teaching at one school in the country. Failure
in one course was to fail the entire program was a new concept.
Team teaching was relatively different and grading through
review was an innovation not found at most other schools.
Undergraduate and graduate design students were mixed together
in the studios so every student knew every other student.
Concentration in the major and other visual art courses was
considerably more than allowed at that time by art schools,
and several times over what was permitted at other universities.
I recall taking only three academic courses; art history with
Theodore Sizer and John McCoubrey and two semesters of Anthropology
with Ralph Linton.