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Creative Inspirations: Margo Chase, Graphic Designer
Illustration by John Hersey

Gothic design


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Creative Inspirations: Margo Chase, Graphic Designer

with Margo Chase

Video: Gothic design

(Music Playing) Margo Chase: For a long time, a lot of the work I did was called Gothic by lots of people. I guess including myself, and it's a little bit hard to figure out what the label is for the style. But it sort of evolved for a number of reasons, primarily just because of something I really love and still do. But I also think it was really influenced by the period of time. When I first started working, it was mid 80s, and really there was a lot of Gothic-style going on in the world.

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Creative Inspirations: Margo Chase, Graphic Designer
1h 18m Appropriate for all Sep 04, 2008

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Margo Chase is one of the most influential graphic designers of our time. Over the past 20 years, Margo's highly expressive work has been seen in movie posters for Bram Stoker's Dracula; on album covers for top performers like Cher, Madonna, and Prince; and in ads for brands such as Starbucks, Target, and Procter & Gamble. With a background in biology, Margo migrated to the world of graphic design, where she brought a unique, organic quality to logos, lettering, and identity design. Never one to live life passively, Margo has developed a love for competitive aerobatic flying in her own high-performance plane. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers inside the studio, portfolio, and adrenaline-pumped lifestyle of this inspired and inspiring designer.

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Design Creative Inspirations Documentaries
Author:
Margo Chase

Gothic design

(Music Playing) Margo Chase: For a long time, a lot of the work I did was called Gothic by lots of people. I guess including myself, and it's a little bit hard to figure out what the label is for the style. But it sort of evolved for a number of reasons, primarily just because of something I really love and still do. But I also think it was really influenced by the period of time. When I first started working, it was mid 80s, and really there was a lot of Gothic-style going on in the world.

I mean, in furniture, and in fashion , and lots of influences out there. So those were the things kind of pushing me I think to develop something I already really liked. And then I was doing a lot of work in the music business for which there is lots of places you can do Gothic. So I had a lot of fun with it, and it started out with me, mostly with letter forms and various types of typographic expression. Some of them developed into fonts, some of them just into album cover logos, some of them into posters like this one here.

So I think because a lot of the stuff evolved in the 80s, it was really -- it was a lot of license to explore different styles of Gothic, and one of the projects I like the most is this, which was done for this magazine called Letter Arts Review. Which originally was titled Calligraphy Review and it's published out of Oklahoma by a woman named Karyn Gilman who is really a sort of global expert on calligraphy, and she has really talked to calligraphers all over the world and would always feature different calligraphers in every issue.

So I felt really honored when she asked to do an article on me and let me do the cover for it. So I kind of stressed out over that, and just because I am thinking I am not really a Calligrapher, I am a Designer, a Graphic Designer. So I don't really do calligraphy per se, so I wanted to do something that was clearly not calligraphy so people wouldn't think I was trying to do something I don't know how to do. But I do do a lot of typography. So I really wanted to do a Gothic typeface that had its roots in some of the idea of how calligraphy was built. So I designed a font for this project specifically, and I called the thing vitriol and it's actually comes from a Latin quote about the idea of finding gold.

The alchemists used to think that they could basically turn lead into gold, it's kind of a myth, but it's one of those things that sort of as an allegory, I really liked the idea that as designers we are turning raw materials into this really precious thing this beautiful object, whether it's a book cover or a package or a logo. That's our process. So using that as an analogy, I took the Latin and created this atrial piece of -- this is the magazine cover.

So that's the front and the back. And this was obviously done in the computer, but the original letter forms were all drawn by hand. So that's the full character set. Those are the caps, and the lowercase, and as you can see, it's definitely a headline font. That's something you never want to set in text. And it's a little bit hard to read, but it was a blast to do, and it really was done just really for this one single project. And then a lot of these other -- these are fonts that I have done over the years in our company that sells fonts, it's called Gravy, which is sort of a little joke on making the extra gravy.

It's like you do the font for some reason whether it's for a client or for yourself, and then selling it as kind of the gravy on the side. This is actually the font called Kruella that we developed and as part of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer logo and is now for font called Kruella. And this is another one that I really like called envision. That was developed as part of a poster for a design conference up in Sacramento called the envision Conference. And we really only created just the word envision for the poster, and then after a while, I was like I really, really like those letter forms I want to make a whole alphabet out of them in caps.

So it became an entire font. And that's actually the way most of these fonts have started this one is called Shiraz, it's really decorative. We did a project -- that was about Marco Polo's tour, I created his journey and so I wanted something with a lot of kind of Asian and Middle-Eastern influences in it. So that's where this came from. So there are lots of different alphabets here and fonts that I have created over the years, and most of them have kind of a Gothic feel to them. Probably the most famous Gothic thing I have done is the poster for Bram Stoker's Dracula, the movie, and the original carving is done on surfboard foam based on drawings, I did.

I didn't do the carving, but we found a woman who works for Disneyland and she carved all kinds of things for the park, like dancing hippos, and all that kind of stuff, and so she was able to take my drawing of the sort of gargoyle head, and turn it into a three-dimensional sculpture. That we then painted and mounted to a background and photographed for the final poster. And then the logo of course was done with a brush and ink to simulate blood and the drippy quality of it. So the whole project was really pretty fun thing to do from the view poster. And I think that started to be one of the reasons that we got.

I got a little pigeonholed as a Graphic Designer who did Gothic style, and getting known as doing one thing is kind of nice because you get lots of work in that one style, and it's kind of horrible because people think you can't do anything else. And so going in to present projects and try to pitch work for new business with other clients, we'd have to show this portfolio that had a lots of music, lots of Gothic, and people would be afraid that that's all they were going to get from us, and that they would never get anything that was really relevant or really appropriate for their own company.

And that was really frustrating for me, because I know I can redo, and now you can see the work is quite -- a bit broader, but they were definitely some years where it was a challenge for me to convince people that we could do something that wasn't scary, or dark, or pointy, or going to make them uncomfortable, or make their customers uncomfortable. In recent years, I have been able to prove that and here is -- this is about a painting girly and stuff as you can get. These are style guides for Polly Pocket, so they are definitely not Polly the Vampire Slayer.

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