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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: When I went to New York, Push Pin was a very big thing, so Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast were very important to me, certainly Herb Lubalin at that time, very strong in typography and very unique. A lot of people from that period of the 60s and early 70s, when I was influenced, but I think every generation is influenced by whoever hits them when they're in their early 20s to their 30s.
Those are the people who influence what you're going to do the rest of your life. It's not that you don't have continual refocusing of what you're doing, but a lot of the people who've influenced you hit you at that particular moment when you're that sponge, absorbing all kinds of great stuff. As soon as I finished my six months of boot camp, I was on my way to New York, because everybody who graduated from Art Center, if they were going to make it in the field, they went to New York, because that's where the world was happening.
So really, never having been to New York before, I kind of got there with my little portfolio and my dayglo pink and orange design inside. I showed it to all these New York design firms and they were like, "I've never seen this before. What is this stuff?" So, they were very impressed, if nothing else, because it was different than what they'd seen. I was offered job by the advertising agencies, but once I was offered a job by a design firm, I didn't look back.
I went right into working with a design office. They did a lot of things. There was - they did a couple of magazines. They did promotional work for paper companies. They did a range of things, of which I found very interesting, because the whole idea of not just doing one thing for one client was always of interest to me. Because I could draw relatively well and was pretty proficient in being able to have different ways in which I could express the designs, I got to do a lot of illustration as an integral part of that.
I went to another even smaller design firm, and this is where I met my first partner, Tony Russell. He was a Brit. He was working there on a freelance basis. I was the assistant to the group. He had a completely different background. He had a very strong typographic background, as almost all the Brits do. Now at the same time, Tony, I'm sure, never used pink and orange in his life, so, as a consequence, there was this kind of blending of I kind of brought this left coast stuff that you'd get from California and he brought Europe to me.
So, a few months after we worked together at this place, we opened our own office called Russell & Hinrichs. So, Tony and I started out, just the two of us, in one room in an apartment building, doing, at first, individual projects. We were both like two freelancers sharing space. At that point, it was two tabletops, made out of doors, to a couple of sawhorses, a couple of chairs that we had gotten from Salvation Army.
That was our office. It's small. It's very simple, but it had a lot of places start. So, as a consequence, Tony and I worked together for about seven years. We went from just doing small things individually to truly collaborating on things to where we merged ourselves financially. So, it was no longer just two guys working in a shared space. We found that because I had a certain illustrative background to what I was doing, I could visualize a lot of the ideas we had and his typographic training actually helped what he was doing in some of the booklets and brochures we were doing.
I learned from him and we both kind of learned from each other for that period of time. At some point, Tony and I had a bit of a falling out, which I was sorry about, but it happened. So as a consequence, we ended up splitting our office. My wife and I, who had also been working at the office at that time, we opened up our own office called Hinrichs Design Associates and Tony stayed in our existing operation and continued on there.
Several things happened at that point that were really helpful. One was I got contacted by the head of McCall's Magazine, the Art Director at that time, saying, "We have a monthly section that we'd love to have you do for us." It was eight pages every month. Now it, in itself, was not like the best thing I've ever done in my life, but the idea of something that had national exposure every month and gave me the opportunity to work with dozens of artists around the country, again, was another opportunity to expand my own personal knowledge and also to learn from other people who brought something different to what was going on.
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