Origins Yale Years page 2


Development of the Department of Design
Sawyer established the Department of Design with its own curriculum and faculty which was separate from the existing program in fine arts. An educational policy was instituted based on making use of renowned practicing artists and designers as teachers and role models. At the graduate level, the art and design programs were directed toward professional practice marking a significant shift from the beaux arts emphasis of the existing program and the liberal arts programs at most other universities.

Prior to Sawyer’s appointment, there were other activities and events which contributed to shaping the new program. During 1933, Carl P. Rollins, book designer at the Yale University Press, Theodor Sizer, an art historian, an Dr. Keough, a Yale librarian, began offering a course in fine printing, typography and book design called The Art of the Book. Rollins was a devotee of the Arts and Crafts movement, an this undoubtedly was reflected in the content of the course. The rare book collections at Yale University afforded students a marvelous opportunity for examining original printings. The course was offered through the library, although it was under the auspices of Art History, and it was attended mainly by students from Yale College. The course was made available to students on an irregular basis between 1933 and 1948.

After WWII, a number of veterans attended the School of Fine Arts at Yale University under the GI Bill. Among these was James Fogleman. He later created the corporate design program at CIBA in 1952, and was a cofounder of Unimark in the 1960s. In 1972, he became corporate design director at Raychem.

Fogleman remembers how he and several classmates agitated for change of the Yale art program from its current focus. They advocated a curriculum which included applied arts. These veterans were older, and most of them had some practical experience with art prior to coming to Yale. They were excited about the newly emerging design fields.

Fogleman reminisced that students most interested in design concentrated in painting composition classes as classical composition was the closest thing to design at Yale in 1948. Professor Rudolph, an instructor in composition, arranged with a firm in New York City to sponsor a wall paper design competition for his students. Fogleman won this competition, and when he told about the competition in later years, it is apparent that it gave him immense satisfaction at the time. To further broaden their design awareness, students enrolled in a variety of architectural studio and history courses.6

Student efforts for curriculum changed were directed through Charles Sawyer who was not only Dean of the School of Fine Arts Architecture, but also Director of the Division of the Arts and master of Timothey Dwight College. Fogleman remembers well the informal discussions between students and Sawyer in the Master’s apartments regarding the roll for applied arts within the Yale program. Dean Sawyer was supportive of this broader interpretation for the arts. He was also aware of the course which had been taught by Rollins, Sizer and Keough through the library.

Dean Sawyer’s recollection is that initially, Chester Kerr, head of the Yale University Press, proposed that if the press hired another designer, it would be a joint appointment with the Division of the Arts. Sawyer was to allocate funds toward the appointment, and the person hired would initiate a program in Graphic Arts. This was shortly after the appointment of Josef Albers. The educational concept formulated by Sawyer and Kerr was that the program would be directed toward professional practice and identified as Graphic Arts. The program would reflect work done at the Yale University Press.

Development of the Design Faculty
This accounts for the early curriculum emphasizing typography, printing processes and production, book and periodical design. Dean Sawyer had known Albers for a number of years having met him at Andover around 1938. During 1948, Albers was invited to Yale as a Visiting Critic. Shortly afterwards, Dean Sawyer and George Howe, Chairman of Architecture at the time, met with Albers in New York City. Both men were aware that Charles Kuhn at Harvard University was interested in hiring Albers, although the faculty there was not particularly enthusiastic about such an appointment. This lent a certain urgency to the interview and Dean Sawyer immediately began negotiations with Albers, whose appointment was publicly announced sometime around November of 1949.

Sy Sillman, a student of Albers at Black Mountain College, came with him as his assistant. Sillman carried on the program in color an drawing after Albers was retired by the university during 1958. Albers was a strong believer in interdisciplinary studies for all the visual arts programs. During 1950, in a letter to Alvin Lustig, Albers describes the program as, “most of the students are majoring in painting, I encourage the painters to learn lettering and typography, they are inclined to think first of etching, lithography, etc. Just recently, we were able to introduce class problems with emphasis on typographic problems.”7

The entire art department reflected Albers educational philosophies throughout his tenure at Yale University. It was the stature of Albers and his reputation that attracted so many outstanding critics to join the program at Yale University.

Shortly after the appointment of Albers, Paul Nash at Dartmouth called Chester Kerr to recommend Alvin Eisenman as a replacement for Carl Rollins when he retired. Eisenman was hired as a joint appointment to work at Yale University Press and he became the first Lecturer in Graphic Arts. Eisenman coordinated the various Visiting Lecturers and oversaw program affairs. His primary teaching responsibility was typography which included type history.

Alvin Lustig was invited to join the design program by Josef Albers. Elaine Lustig Cohen has kept the telegram dated February 6, 1951 from Albers offering Alvin a position as Visiting Critic in the Graphic Arts program. As previously mentioned Lustig had taught a course called Graphic Design in conjunction with Albers at Black Mountain College during the summer of 1946.

Lustig began his role as Visiting Critic from March through June of 1951. In the initial class there were approximately fifteen students, some at an undergraduate level and others as graduate students. John McCrillis and Norman Ives were among these early graduate students. Both were to become teachers at a later date with Norman Ives becoming a full-time faculty member following his graduation in 1952 and teaching at Yale until his death in 1978. Herbert Matter was recruited during 1951 for the faculty. Gabor Peterdi was appointed in 1953 as the instructor in printmaking. By 1955, Joseph Low, Leo Lionni, Robert Osborn, Lester Beall and Alexey Brodovitch had participated as Visiting Lecturers.

There were a number of illustrious visitors such as Buckminister Fuller who came as critics or lecturers in Architecture but also visited the design program. I recollect Lou Kahn, Senior Critic in Architecture, coming into the Graphic Design studios at night and holding court with design students who were working late. These were very stimulating discussions.

The following generation of visiting instructors included Walker Evans, Bradbury Thompson, Paul Rand and Armin Hofmann among others. John Hill became a faculty member and taught photography. Eisenman and Ives continued in their faculty roles.

Although the program was listed as Graphic Arts in the catalog, most students referred to it as Graphic Design. Sometime during the late 1950s, Robin Darwin, Director of the Royal College of Art in London, an Richard Guyatt, a design teacher there, visited the Yale design program Darwin chided Eisenman for calling the program Graphic Arts as that suggested printmaking. Darwin and Guyatt both recommended graphic design and soon thereafter, Graphic Arts was officially changed to Graphic Design.


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6 Notes made from personal conversations with Jim Fogleman during the 1980s when he visited Arizona State University campus. We discussed his experiences as a student at Yale University during the period prior to the hiring of Josef Albers and establishment of Graphic Arts.

7 Personal papers of Elaine Lustig Cohen.



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