Joseph Magnin Stores, Almaden, CA, and Costa Mesa, CA, 1968-69
Deborah Sussman & Co., Interior and exterior graphics
Frank O. Gehry & Associates, architecture

Sussman used large-scale graphics that could be rapidly deployed and easily altered to achieve big gestures and impact on a minimal budget. Interior amenities were by Gere Kavanaugh and Sister Corita Kent.

Joseph Magnin Stores, Almaden, CA, and Costa Mesa, CA, 1968-69
Deborah Sussman & Co., Interior and exterior graphics
Frank O. Gehry & Associates, architecture

Sussman used large-scale graphics that could be rapidly deployed and easily altered to achieve big gestures and impact on a minimal budget. Interior amenities were by Gere Kavanaugh and Sister Corita Kent.

Joseph Magnin Stores, Almaden, CA, and Costa Mesa, CA, 1968-69
Deborah Sussman & Co., Interior and exterior graphics
Frank O. Gehry & Associates, architecture

Sussman used large-scale graphics that could be rapidly deployed and easily altered to achieve big gestures and impact on a minimal budget. Interior amenities were by Gere Kavanaugh and Sister Corita Kent.

Joseph Magnin Stores, Almaden, CA, and Costa Mesa, CA, 1968-69
Deborah Sussman & Co., Interior and exterior graphics
Frank O. Gehry & Associates, architecture

Sussman used large-scale graphics that could be rapidly deployed and easily altered to achieve big gestures and impact on a minimal budget. Interior amenities were by Gere Kavanaugh and Sister Corita Kent.

1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, 1984
Sussman/Prejza & Co. and the Jerde Partnership, design directors
Identity, Signing, Wayfinding & Pageantry

SP&CO and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles. As a matter of practicality, SP&CO’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics.

1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, 1984
Sussman/Prejza & Co. and the Jerde Partnership, design directors
Identity, Signing, Wayfinding & Pageantry

SP&CO and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles. As a matter of practicality, SP&CO’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics.

1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, 1984
Sussman/Prejza & Co. and the Jerde Partnership, design directors
Identity, Signing, Wayfinding & Pageantry

SP&CO and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles. As a matter of practicality, SP&CO’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics.

1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, 1984
Sussman/Prejza & Co. and the Jerde Partnership, design directors
Identity, Signing, Wayfinding & Pageantry

SP&CO and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles. As a matter of practicality, SP&CO’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics.

1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, 1984
Sussman/Prejza & Co. and the Jerde Partnership, design directors
Identity, Signing, Wayfinding & Pageantry

SP&CO and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles. As a matter of practicality, SP&CO’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics.

1984 Olympics, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, 1984
Sussman/Prejza & Co. and the Jerde Partnership, design directors
Identity, Signing, Wayfinding & Pageantry

SP&CO and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles. As a matter of practicality, SP&CO’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, Disney Development Company, 1996-1998
Signing, wayfinding, and transportation graphics

Walt Disney World encompasses an area larger than the city of San Francisco; all visitors arrive by highway or freeway. Sussman/Prejza’s task was to develop a vehicular signing system that would be unique in spirit, clean, easy to follow, and capable of being expanded as the area continues to grow. The theme park was divided into several major “districts.” A hierarchy of signs was established to first lead visitors toward a specific district, and once there, toward a distinct destination. The 1,000 sign system includes large freeway signs, major and minor road directionals, regulatory signs, gateways, and bus graphics.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, Disney Development Company, 1996-1998
Signing, wayfinding, and transportation graphics

Walt Disney World encompasses an area larger than the city of San Francisco; all visitors arrive by highway or freeway. Sussman/Prejza’s task was to develop a vehicular signing system that would be unique in spirit, clean, easy to follow, and capable of being expanded as the area continues to grow. The theme park was divided into several major “districts.” A hierarchy of signs was established to first lead visitors toward a specific district, and once there, toward a distinct destination. The 1,000 sign system includes large freeway signs, major and minor road directionals, regulatory signs, gateways, and bus graphics.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida, Disney Development Company, 1996-1998
Signing, wayfinding, and transportation graphics

Walt Disney World encompasses an area larger than the city of San Francisco; all visitors arrive by highway or freeway. Sussman/Prejza’s task was to develop a vehicular signing system that would be unique in spirit, clean, easy to follow, and capable of being expanded as the area continues to grow. The theme park was divided into several major “districts.” A hierarchy of signs was established to first lead visitors toward a specific district, and once there, toward a distinct destination. The 1,000 sign system includes large freeway signs, major and minor road directionals, regulatory signs, gateways, and bus graphics.

Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), San Francisco, CA, 2006
Identity Program, Exhibit Design, & Signage
architect: Freelon Group Architects

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is a first-voice museum that will explore and celebrate the history, culture and contributions of people of the African Diaspora around the world. The museum is slated to open in San Francisco in the winter of 2005, in the heart of the Yerba Buena arts and culture district. In addition to the main task of exhibit design, SP&CO is also working with the client on a comprehensive branding program including logo, print collateral and website design. The branding program has already won national awards from graphic design and museum organizations (AIGA and AAM).

Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD), San Francisco, CA, 2006
Identity Program, Exhibit Design, & Signage
architect: Freelon Group Architects

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is a first-voice museum that will explore and celebrate the history, culture and contributions of people of the African Diaspora around the world. The museum is slated to open in San Francisco in the winter of 2005, in the heart of the Yerba Buena arts and culture district. In addition to the main task of exhibit design, SP&CO is also working with the client on a comprehensive branding program including logo, print collateral and website design. The branding program has already won national awards from graphic design and museum organizations (AIGA and AAM).

Eames Words, Los Angeles, CA, A+D Museum, 2011-2012
Exhibit Design for A + D Museum
co-designed by Andrew Byrom
architect: (M) Arch
Photographer: Clark Dugger

Charles and Ray Eames inspired us to appreciate the world by honoring “the uncommon beauty of common things.” This exhibit uses quotes by the Eames to focus on the lesser-known aspects of their lives, revealing their appreciation of the value of humble objects and useful tools. Their insights about the simple pleasures of daily life are illustrated with objects and materials available during their lifetimes and contemporary examples from the world around us. The intent of the ‘Eames Words’ exhibition was to allow the guest the opportunity to ‘take in’ the philosophy, and ideas of Charles and Ray Eames while at the same time being surrounded by the everyday items that inspired them. The glass facade of the museum features the word EAMES in 8ft high three-dimensional black letterforms. Visitors enter through doors featuring the letters A and S; the letter M extends onto the pavement outside, while both the letter Es extrude into the museum space - creating three 18ft long display units.

Eames Words, Los Angeles, CA, A+D Museum, 2011-2012
Exhibit Design for A + D Museum
co-designed by Andrew Byrom
architect: (M) Arch

Charles and Ray Eames inspired us to appreciate the world by honoring “the uncommon beauty of common things.” This exhibit uses quotes by the Eames to focus on the lesser-known aspects of their lives, revealing their appreciation of the value of humble objects and useful tools. Their insights about the simple pleasures of daily life are illustrated with objects and materials available during their lifetimes and contemporary examples from the world around us. The intent of the ‘Eames Words’ exhibition was to allow the guest the opportunity to ‘take in’ the philosophy, and ideas of Charles and Ray Eames while at the same time being surrounded by the everyday items that inspired them. The glass facade of the museum features the word EAMES in 8ft high three-dimensional black letterforms. Visitors enter through doors featuring the letters A and S; the letter M extends onto the pavement outside, while both the letter Es extrude into the museum space - creating three 18ft long display units.

Eames Words, Los Angeles, CA, A+D Museum, 2011-2012
Exhibit Design for A + D Museum
co-designed by Andrew Byrom
architect: (M) Arch

Charles and Ray Eames inspired us to appreciate the world by honoring “the uncommon beauty of common things.” This exhibit uses quotes by the Eames to focus on the lesser-known aspects of their lives, revealing their appreciation of the value of humble objects and useful tools. Their insights about the simple pleasures of daily life are illustrated with objects and materials available during their lifetimes and contemporary examples from the world around us. The intent of the ‘Eames Words’ exhibition was to allow the guest the opportunity to ‘take in’ the philosophy, and ideas of Charles and Ray Eames while at the same time being surrounded by the everyday items that inspired them. The glass facade of the museum features the word EAMES in 8ft high three-dimensional black letterforms. Visitors enter through doors featuring the letters A and S; the letter M extends onto the pavement outside, while both the letter Es extrude into the museum space - creating three 18ft long display units.

Duke Energy Center, City of Cincinnati, Ohio, Department of Transportation & Engineering, 2008
Interior Color & Materials, Icon Graphics, Naming Rights
architect: LMN Architects

The river that has brought people, commerce and prosperity to the city of Cinncinnati is celebrated as the inspiration for this convention center renovation and expansion. The walls, ceiling and floor surfaces of the main concourse, two city-blocks long, becomes the canvas on which the story of the river unfolds in graphics, color, and carpet patterns. SP&CO’s scope also includes a 50 by 300 foot “sign” created from sheet metals suspended within a three dimensional structural framework. Integrated into the architecture of the building, the word “Cincinnati” looks out over the highway and across the river, a new icon for the city.

Duke Energy Center, City of Cincinnati, Ohio, Department of Transportation & Engineering, 2008
Interior Color & Materials, Icon Graphics, Naming Rights
architect: LMN Architects
photographer: J. Miles Wolf

The river that has brought people, commerce and prosperity to the city of Cinncinnati is celebrated as the inspiration for this convention center renovation and expansion. The walls, ceiling and floor surfaces of the main concourse, two city-blocks long, becomes the canvas on which the story of the river unfolds in graphics, color, and carpet patterns. SP&CO’s scope also includes a 50 by 300 foot “sign” created from sheet metals suspended within a three dimensional structural framework. Integrated into the architecture of the building, the word “Cincinnati” looks out over the highway and across the river, a new icon for the city.

Grand Park, Los Angeles, CA, City of Los Angeles, 2012
Signing, Wayfinding & Amenities
architects: Rios Clementi Hale Studios

This new 16-acre park in downtown Los Angeles serves to unify multiple cultural institutions in the city’s Civic Center and has quickly transformed this previosuly underutilized area into a vibrant public space. Grand Park provides residents with much needed outdoor recreation options including an event lawn and performance stage. Sussman/Prejza’s work scope includes branding, graphics and amenities such as a self guided “Floristic Regions” planting exhibit within the community based gardens. These amenities provide an identity as well as a cultural richness to the park. The illuminated entrance totems proudly offer their message in a site specific twenty six languages: “the park for everyone”.

Grand Park, Los Angeles, CA, City of Los Angeles, 2012
Signing, Wayfinding & Amenities
architects: Rios Clementi Hale Studios

This new 16-acre park in downtown Los Angeles serves to unify multiple cultural institutions in the city’s Civic Center and has quickly transformed this previosuly underutilized area into a vibrant public space. Grand Park provides residents with much needed outdoor recreation options including an event lawn and performance stage. Sussman/Prejza’s work scope includes branding, graphics and amenities such as a self guided “Floristic Regions” planting exhibit within the community based gardens. These amenities provide an identity as well as a cultural richness to the park. The illuminated entrance totems proudly offer their message in a site specific twenty six languages: “the park for everyone”.

Grand Park, Los Angeles, CA, City of Los Angeles, 2012
Signing, Wayfinding & Amenities
architects: Rios Clementi Hale Studios

This new 16-acre park in downtown Los Angeles serves to unify multiple cultural institutions in the city’s Civic Center and has quickly transformed this previosuly underutilized area into a vibrant public space. Grand Park provides residents with much needed outdoor recreation options including an event lawn and performance stage. Sussman/Prejza’s work scope includes branding, graphics and amenities such as a self guided “Floristic Regions” planting exhibit within the community based gardens. These amenities provide an identity as well as a cultural richness to the park. The illuminated entrance totems proudly offer their message in a site specific twenty six languages: “the park for everyone”.

R.I.P. Deborah Sussman, Who Made Graphic Design Larger Than Life

The self-proclaimed "supergraphics" designer has died at age 83.

Deborah Sussman, the designer best known for creating the environmental graphics of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. She was 83.

Sussman often characterized her own work as "supergraphics:" large-scale, brightly colored designs that shaped the built environment and brought the urban landscape to life often more powerfully than architecture itself. "The idea of supergraphics was not that it was just ‘big' but that it was ‘bigger' than the architecture," she said in a 2013 interview with Creative Review. "It didn't have to fit in to prescribed spaces in a traditional way. It could have its own life and go beyond the ceiling, be cropped, be as though it had almost flown over the architecture." That might mean a giant orange star planted on top of a building at the Olympic Arts Festival, or a massive yellow-and-orange X installed on the wall of a department store. The approach has now become mainstream, but in Sussman's time, it was pioneering.

Born in Brooklyn in 1931, Sussman took classes at the Art Students League in Manhattan and studied acting and painting at Bard College. She later graduated with a degree in graphic design from Chicago’s Institute of Design, then run by Bauhaus painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy. Her professional career started at age 22, in 1953, in the offices of Charles and Ray Eames, where she worked on seminal exhibits for IBM (at the 1964 World's Fair), the government of India, and the Ford Foundation before winning a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Hochschule für Gestaltang, an art and design school in Ulm, Germany.

In 1968, she opened her own design practice, and in 1980, she was joined by her husband, urban planner and architect Paul Prezja, in creating Sussman/Prejza & Company. Their “urban branding” projects included city identities for Philadelphia and Santa Monica, as well as wayfinding systems for Walt Disney Resorts and interiors for Hasbro, Inc. She was the first woman to exhibit in New York’s School of Visual Arts’ “Master Series," and in 2004, won the prestigious American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal.

Sussman was part of a design team that worked on the 1984 Summer Olympics, one of the best examples of her "supergraphics." The team created bold, brightly colored "pop-up" towers, gateways, and walls made from inexpensive scaffolding, upcycled tents, nylon banners, and canopies--cheap replacements for permanent buildings that would be used for the Games, then never again. Instead of the expected national hues of red, white, and blue, the designs were rendered in hot magenta, vermillion, aqua, and chrome yellow, channeling the sun-drenched color palette of Los Angeles and the Pacific Rim. The designs incorporated "pictures of those huge papier-mâché figures made in Asia and Mexico which go up in flames, and bamboo for the scaffolding," Sussman told Creative Review, capturing these cultures' unique "technologies of celebration." "More is more," she sometimes liked to say.

“Several people have told me over the years ‘just give them what they want’ with regards to clients, and I can’t bring myself to do it,” Sussman said in a 2013 interview with Designboom. "I have to inspire them, and that can sometimes be a very dangerous attitude to have because you can lose yourself a lot of money."

Below, a video interview with Sussman, wearing her trademark spectacles, by the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum.

[Top Photo: Chris Felver/Getty Images]

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1 Comments

  • Ricardo Gomes

    Deborah Sussman made the world of graphic design an alluring, fun, colorful & pleasingly informative environmental experience from her Ray & Charles Eames Studio Days to her LA Olympics & DisneyWorld thematic ventures