I.D. Magazine and package design comments by Ralph Caplan

I.D. Magazine has always been one of the guideposts of our profession. And on the AIGA website, Ralph Caplan, the former Editor writes about his recollections and behind-the-scenes memories of the publication that, after 55 years, has released it’s last print issue this month.

He talks about his first staff assignment at I.D., probably written in 1957 that led to his becoming the default editor of package design.

“I wrote an article about dresses made of flour sacks; cigar boxes that, when empty, made perfect toy stages; oil drums that became musical instruments in Jamaica; and, of course, an ice cream container that could serve as a purse. No one in particular had been assigned the packaging beat, so I became by default the editor in charge of packaging.”

I would love to get a copy of that article and will search for it.

But in his closing paragraph he sums up, in a poignantly understated way, what many of us felt when hearing about the demise of the publication. He says,

“One of the validating marks of a profession is a journal to steadily examine and interpret it. That function cannot be fulfilled by official organizational publications. ”

Interesting distinction, a “journal” vs. an “organizational publication”. I could be way off base, but I think he means that there will always be a distinct difference in the kind of design coverage that you get in I.D. vs Business Week or Fast Company. We have certainly witnessed a serious increase in the amount of ink we get in some forms of media. It has never been higher.

But I think he is right, it is not the sort of informed, peer reviewed, and objective criticism that Caplan is referring to.

Hard to imagine what will take its place.


About Richard Shear

designer, husband, teacher, blogger, father, athlete, author, historian Richard has over 25 years of brand identity and package design experience, with a wide range of clients such as Ahold, Coca-Cola, Hasbro, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Pernod Ricard and Procter & Gamble. He began his career working with the legendary advertising art director, and AIGA Medalist, George Lois and the British design manager Clive Chajet. In his next design management position at Lippincott & Margulies, he worked with Walter Margulies learning the complex skills of global corporate identity. He then became Creative Director and Partner at Peterson & Blyth, one of the premier brand identity and package design firms of the time. He is a founding faculty member of the Masters in Branding Program at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He publishes the blog The Package Unseen, and has been a guest lecturer at colleges including FIT, Trinity College and Tyler School of Art. He is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. Richard is a Board member of the AIGA MetroNorth Chapter, past President of AIGA‘s Brand Design Association, President of the Package Design Council and a member of its Board of Directors. He is a member of USA Cycling and US Rowing, a nationally ranked masters bicycle racer, and a member of The Saugatuck Rowing Club, the 2010 Masters Club National Champion.
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