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Comments (1) Posted 01.25.11 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Jessica Helfand

Certificate of Approval




My father acquired this print (and several more like it) in a collection he bought from the estate of a friend in France: a certificate of approval for a pharmaceutical product, combining official stamps, labels, and signatures — a visual testament to the due diligence of a battalion of government bureaucrats who were, one can only assume, its intended audience.

It is, of course, so much more than this — a composition of stunning modernity, especially given that it was produced at the end of the nineteenth century. The print is dated 1889 — the same year that marked the Exposition Universelle in Paris, the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower and the opening of the Moulin Rouge. (Van Gogh painted Starry Night in 1889, too.) A good quarter-century before Saul Steinberg would begin making his mixed media collages, this stunning piece of graphic design gestures at once to the formality of the past and the uncertainty of its future: centered and serious, yet marginally askew and surprisingly dynamic, it’s both classical and modern. It may just be my favorite thing, ever.


The above text is an excerpt from the book I Heart Design (Rockport 2011), the book features eighty different designers, writing about their favorite piece of design. This excerpt appears here with the publishers permission.



Cover of I Heart Design, edited by Steven Heller and published by Rockport (2011)

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It looks like Steven Heller has come up with another winner with I Heart Design. I like Debbie Millman’s selection. “When it rains it pours.” The Morton Salt umbrella girl, 1951
Carl W. Smith
01.25.11 at 09:35


Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer and a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Communications Arts and Eye magazines. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director's Hall of Fame, Helfand received her B.A. and her M.F.A. from Yale University where she has taught since 1994.
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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Jessica Helfand

Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
Winterhouse Editions, 2001

Scrapbooks: An American History
Yale University Press, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel
Winterhouse Editions, 2002

Paul Rand: American Modernist
winterhouse Editions, 1998

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

More books by contributors >>

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