10 graphic designers you should be able to name-drop

Kaitlyn Ellison

We all know that as graphic designers we have to study those who came before us and advanced the field of design. Here at 99designs, we love focusing in on the work of some of the biggies. We’ve covered giants like Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Saul Bass and more on this blog.

But there are a lot of famous graphic designers, hundreds in fact, who have made hugely significant contributions to graphic design at large who you also need to know, and as stated in the title of this post — need to be able to name-drop in a conversation. Know them, their name, their work, and their influence! It’ll make you a more complete designer and able to hold up your own in a conversation about the field (in no specific order).

1. Otl Aicher

Otl Aicher

“Good art inspires; Good design motivates.”

Nationality: German
Studied at: Academy of Fine Arts Munich
Era active: 1940s through 1980s
Specialties: Identity, typography
Known for: Lufthansa branding, 1972 Munich Olympics, Ulm School of Design
Find out more:otlaicher.com

2. Michael Beirut

Michael Beirut

Mohawk paper identity: Michael Beirut (via Designboom)

“Only good work leads to doing more good work.”

Nationality: American
Studied at: University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning
Era active: 1980s through present
Specialties: Identity and print work, design writing and criticism
Known for: Redesign of The Atlantic, graphics for the New York Times building
Find out more: Pentagram.com

3. Neville Brody

Neville Brody

“Design is more than just a few tricks to the eye. It’s a few tricks to the brain.”

Nationality: British
Studied at: London College of Printing
Era active: 1970s through present
Specialties: Typography, art direction
Known for: The Face Magazine, Arena Magazine, record cover art
Find out more: Interview with Eye Magazine

4. David Carson

David Carson

“Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does.”

Nationality: American
Studied at: Oregon College of Commercial Art
Era active: 1980s through present
Specialties: Magazine design, art direction
Known for: Ray Gun Magazine
Find out more: davidcarsondesign.com

5. Alan Fletcher

Alan Fletcher

“I like to reduce everything to its absolute essence because that is a way to avoid getting trapped in a style.”

Nationality: British
Studied at: Hammersmith School of Art, Central School of Art, Royal College of Art, Yale School of Architecture
Era active: 1960s – 1990s
Specialties: Identity design, book design
Known for: Founding Partner of Pentagram, The Art of Looking Sideways
Find out more: alanfletcherarchive.com

6. Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd

“Never fall in love with an idea. They’re whores: if the one you’re with isn’t doing the job, there’s always, always, always another.”

Nationality: American
Studied at: Pennsylvania State University
Era active: 1980s through present
Specialties: Book cover design
Known for: So many awesome book covers and his work with graphic novels
Find out more: chipkidd.com

7. Armin Hofmann

Armin Hofmann

“There should be no separation between spontaneous work with an emotional tone and work directed by the intellect. Both are supplementary to each other and must be regarded as intimately connected. Discipline and freedom are thus to be seen as elements of equal weight, each partaking of the other.”

Nationality: Swiss
Studied at: Apprenticed in lithography
Era active: 1940s through 1980s
Specialties: Poster design
Known for: His teachings as head of Schule für Gestaltung Basel, poster for Giselle
Find out more: Thinking form: Armin Hofmann

8. Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin

“You can do a good ad without good typography, but you can’t do a great ad without good typography.”

Nationality: American
Studied at: Cooper Union
Era active: 1940s through 1980s
Specialties: Typography, art direction
Known for: ITC Avant Garde font, work on Eros and Avant Garde magazines
Find out more: The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography

9. Stefan Sagmeister

Stefan Sagmeister

“It is very important to embrace failure and to do a lot of stuff — as much stuff as possible — with as little fear as possible. It’s much, much better to wind up with a lot of crap having tried it than to overthink in the beginning and not do it.

Nationality: Austrian
Studied at: University of Applied Arts Vienna, Pratt Institute
Era active: 1990s through present
Specialties: Album covers, typography
Known for: Lou Reed Poster, book Things I have learned in my life so far
Find out more: sagmeisterwalsh.com

10. Paula Scher

The Public Theater

“You never can do what the kids do. What you do is look at yourself and find your own way to address the fact that the times have changed and that you have to pay attention. You can’t be a designer and say, ‘Oh, this is timeless.’ Nothing is timeless!”

Nationality: American
Studied at: Tyler School of Art
Era active: 1970s through present
Specialties: Branding and identity, album covers, illustration
Known for: Her poster work, and being the first female principal at Pentagram
Find out more: paulascher.com

What other famous graphic designers should we be talking about? Let us know in the comments!

The author

Kaitlyn Ellison
Kaitlyn Ellison

Kaitlyn is part of the Community Team at 99designs.com. She grew up in Boulder, CO and went to school at Northwestern University in Chicago. When she's not blogging, she spends her time having adventures and being generally creative. She's all about having new experiences as often as possible!

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