100 Graphic Designers On The Charms (And Curses) Of San Francisco

Today’s leading graphic designers–including Paula Scher, Eddie Opara, Ivan Chermayeff, and more–visualize all the things that make San Francisco so … San Francisco.

Few cities inspire as much love (or as much vitriol) as San Francisco. Which makes sense considering that the city has given us everything from hippie culture to Silicon Valley to that walking technocratic haircut of a man that is Gavin Newsom. Here to give visual form to all that unbridled passion are 100 graphic designers recruited by the San Francisco arm of the American Institute of Graphic Arts for a silent auction. InsideOut SF, as it’s called, will benefit AIGA educational programs.


For the project, AIGA sought work from some of the top graphic designers working today (Paula Scher, Ivan Chermayeff, Eddie Opara), and from San Franciscans and outsiders alike. “We wanted to put on a global show as opposed to just a local show,” says AIGA San Francisco Education Chair Rob Duncan, who led the project. Plus, the outside perspective is just plain interesting: “Already there are quite a few references to earthquakes from outsiders, but it’s probably the last thing any insider wants to highlight or think about.”

Also observed by outsiders? The seals. “The sight of them (and smell) remains with me to this day,” says U.K.-based Michael C. Place of his poster, on behalf of the firm Build. “This piece was designed in their honor.” Even New Yorkers–San Francisco’s East Coast counterpart–seem to indulge in some stereotypes. Paula Scher’s renderings of flower-child icons and peace icons swirling around a typeface straight from That ’70s Show hark (perhaps predictably) back to the Summer of Love.

Impressions become a little more poetic when San Francisco’s inhabitants get their say. Harvey Milk, the fog, and little municipal souvenirs like the Muni monthly pass are the seemingly ubiquitous, but quietly romantic, icons for the designers who call San Francisco home. As Manual’s Tom Crabtree puts it: “The Muni Fast Pass was an absolutely beautiful piece of utilitarian design. Many people (everyday people, not just designers) kept and collected them for years, for no other reason than they were beautiful, eclectic, and colorful–a little like the city itself.”

The posters will be auctioned off at the InsideOut SF event on November 12, 2013.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.