“Ultimately, in order to communicate a design must first be noticed. It should stand out and be unique, compelling, interesting, funny, strange… anything except boring, predictable, and just like everything else.” —CSA Design 2011
On December 8, the Walker’s Art School welcomed one of the most critically acclaimed graphic designers in the nation, Charles Anderson. The Walker is known for its passion for pursuing all art forms, especially the graphic arts. Our own graphic design studio has been the recipient of a multitude of awards, including the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Corporate Achievement, in recognition for their innovative programming such as their annual Insights Design Lecture Series. Lead by Design Director Emmet Byrne, the Walker’s design department has continued to give spark and imagination to the entire art center.
Many of our art school attendees had been previously introduced to the work of Charles S. Anderson Design Co., whether through publications like the New York Times or large-scale museum exhibitions such as the Walker’s touring show Graphic Design: Now in Production, created in conjunction with the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Graphic Design: Now in Production was the Walker’s largest graphic design exhibition since Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History in 1989 (the same year CSA Design was established).
But the connection between CSA Design and the Walker doesn’t end here. As a young student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Anderson found a mentor in his instructor, Peter Seitz. Seitz lead an outstanding career, working with graphic arts greats all over the world – and eventually he was recruited to Minneapolis to be the Director of Design at the Walker. Anderson gained his first few years of experience working with Seitz at his design firm. He later moved on to the Duffy Design Group. But in 1998 Anderson formed CSA Design with the French Paper Company, narrowing his focus to “identity development, packaging, and product design.”
Our eager students received a glimpse into the design-paper duo team of Anderson/French with the handy printed booklet produced by CSA Design for French Paper. The afternoon’s lecture then began with Emmet Byrne introducing Charles Anderson and his steadfast business partner, Jerry French, of French Paper. Through Byrne’s opening, the audience gained an understanding of CSA Design’s contributions to the world of art. Not only did CSA Design in partnership with French Paper Company create their own line of products in the Pop Ink Brand, but they’ve also exhibited in a multitude of museums, galleries, and have been reviewed in high-profile arts publications.
CSA Design’s fine art connections stem from a background in pop culture, instilled in Anderson at a young age. Growing up in a small town in Iowa, Anderson was fortunate to forge a friendship with graphic artist Clyde Lewis. Lewis’ work in advertising combined with his passion for 1960s and ’70s comic books and monster magazines led Anderson to seek an education in graphic arts, bringing him to Minneapolis and MCAD. Minneapolis is now considered to have the second most vibrant design community in the nation, second only to New York.
The business partnership between CSA Design and the French Paper Company — which is over 140 years old — reiterates CSA Design’s focus on commercial art and in a way, commodification. Just the idea of a paper company brings to mind rolling machinery producing endless rolls of paper. However it was within this cross of pop culture, mass-production, and commercialization that CSA Design discovered the Pop Art phenomenon, the philosophy most famously explored by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg. Parallels can easily be drawn between these revolutionary artists and CSA Design’s own mission. The Walker’s current exhibition Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties (closes January 12, 2014) focuses on his developmental years as an artist. In the exhibition, one can see his intense interest in the small details around him, the everyday objects which are generally overlooked in the realm of art. Oldenburg is known for his “soft sculptures” in which he took those everyday objects, those commodities, and recreated them in unusual materials.
Similarly, CSA Design takes images many of us have become familiar with through commercialization and gives them a creative twist. Over the years, Anderson has taken on a momentous project in which he with his team created “one of the most extensive and well-respected archives of licensable artwork in existence” which can all be viewed on the online CSA Images Database.