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Kit Hinrichs is one of the most accomplished and respected graphic designers and illustrators of the last fifty years. A master of corporate communications and a consummate visual storyteller, he has been awarded the highest honor in his field: the AIGA Medal. Formerly a partner in the legendary design firm Pentagram, he is reinventing himself (again) with a new endeavor called Studio Hinrichs. In this Creative Inspirations documentary, Kit shares highlights of recent projects, his renowned collection of American flags and American flag memorabilia, as well as the irrefutable wisdom of one who has stayed at the top of his game for five decades.
(Music playing) Kit Hinrichs: I went to Art Center College of Design and it has been instrumental in how I kind of think about design and how I use design. So, ten years ago, they asked me to come back and be on the Board of Directors, which was a real honor for me, certainly, to do that. So, the president at that particular time said, "Our 75th anniversary is coming up.
We'd like to do something that really represents the school." As we started talking, I kept saying, "It's not about the school. It's about the impact of the students once they have graduated from the school." I started out when I was in grade school, drawing. I guess I would draw most of the time when I was four or five years old. And as a typical boy drawing Cowboys and Indians, whatever, at that point, I didn't realize it, but kind of telling stories with my drawings. And as I got further along in grade school and so on, you get all these nice things where the teacher says, "Oh! That's nice, kid.
Can you do the painting of the turkey for us?" So as a consequence, you start getting kind of known for being someone who has a little bit of a bent toward illustration, or design, or something, even though it wasn't called that at the time. That progressed, obviously, through high school and I happened to have a very good teacher there who said, "There is this college in Los Angeles called Art Center College." I thought, "Great! Sounds good!" Because the thought of doing something that I actually love to do and might actually be able to make a living out of would be very interesting, and sure enough, it worked.
I was very fortunate to get in, because I was one of the few high school kids that got in. Most of the students there were 22 to 26 years old. Some were on the GI Bill. This goes back a few years. This was 1959. And I thought, "What a wonderful thing to be able to do something that I really love to do." So, as a consequence, I had a four- year training at Art Center, which, in the middle, I took a year off and went to Germany and worked in Germany for a year - nothing to do with design, nothing to do with anything. I was in what I call my 'do-gooder' days, when I went and actually worked in the boys youth home and helped boys from the east zone who had gotten out and their families were still stuck in Eastern Germany.
So, I was working there for a year and learned a tremendous amount of things, which, a lot of it was just understanding other cultures, that the American culture is fine, but it is not everything. So, as a consequence, because of travel, I got exposure to different publications. I got a whole range of international exposure that I just wouldn't have gotten if I had stayed in school during that period of time. So, when I returned to Art Center to finish school, it had completely changed how I viewed design and how I viewed the field I was going to go into.
I had a better perspective of what concepts meant, how they changed from culture to culture. It changed a lot of things, but it also changed my grades. I was a much better student. I had a broader experience level, myself, so it enabled me to think a little better about the assignments I was given. You have to work like hell to get through that school. It's a very, very tough, stringent school. The day after I graduated, I was in the Marine Corps.
It was like I didn't miss a beat, because I was so used to being somewhat stressed, a certain amount of primarily, really emotional, as well as physical difference, when you went to the Marine Corps and boot camp. But it was certainly an interesting experience and gave you a perspective of the rest of the world, because, like Europe, you get exposed to a whole group of people you would not normally get exposed to, if you were just sitting at home, where you grew up.
Going into the Marine Corps, or any service, you get exposed to a range of people in this country who you also would not normally have run into. They're not the same economic group you were probably a part of. Racially, there's a much broader mixture than you get to somewhere else. So it was, again, another way of understanding who people are, how they react to things and I found that also very important in my design career, and having that kind of exposure, early on.
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