It's something of a career-retrospective season for Paula Scher, one of the most prominent women in the design world and the first female principal at Pentagram, which she joined in 1991. Last month she became the 16th recipient of the School of Visual Art's Masters Series Award, and she currently has an exhibition running at SVA, which ties in nicely with her new book, Make it Bigger, from Princeton Architectural Press (the title being a nod to the mantra of the clueless client, of which Scher, of course, has dealt with many, recounted in the book with a sort of endearing resignation). Make it Bigger traces the fiftysomething Scher's career from her early music days at CBS and Atlantic Records (guess who did the cover for Boston's multiplatinum debut - an instant '70s design icon and a piece of work she doesn't even particularly like) to recent stunningly elaborate projects like designing building exteriors and interiors for Symphony Space and the New 42nd Street Studios. Along the way, among many high-profile jobs, she managed to create a distinctly high-energy New York poster style for the Public Theater and she hammered out the red and blue Citi logo, which, as she notes in the book, "will probably be the most reproduced mark I will ever design" - going on to point out, in her refreshingly candid style, that "nevertheless, it is remote, because the process of creating it was long, exasperating and often mind-numbing."
The Scher-designed book itself raises some interesting questions. It's not a coffee-table book, it's more like a night-table book. Why? "Because it's called Make it Bigger," she says, agreeing that this can be attributed to what might be called post-postmodern irony. And why the bare jackets? It seems to be going out of its way not to sell itself. "The book is designed to be its own object. It's being sold in a clear acetate sleeve at the suggestion of the publisher." So why orange, black and yellow for the color choices? "Why not?" Scher retorts in a weary conversation she must've had a million times over the years. The design of the $45 mini-tome is "deliberately modest," she explains. "Doing a book of my own work, I couldn't see it being big, loud and expensive."