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Harry Marks is considered by many to be the godfather of broadcast design. More than any other individual, he changed television by doing things with graphics that had never been attempted before. Not only did he pioneer the use of emerging imaging technologies, but he did so with style and reason. His pioneering work in the field of CGI brought him into collaboration with many other industry pioneers, including Douglas Trumbull, Robert Abel, Carl Rosendahl (whose company evolved into DreamWorks Animation), and Dale Herigstad. In the early '80s, Harry had the idea of bringing together people who work in the disparate fields of technology, entertainment, and design, so he partnered with Richard Saul Wurman and the TED Conference was born. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers on a historic journey through the extraordinary career of Harry Marks.
Harry Marks: Now this, this was a fight. I was nominated for an Emmy for Entertainment Tonight and the Academy ruled that since it was the first all-computer piece that had been on the air, they ruled it since it, as I said, it was done by a computer, not by a person, it was not eligible. Paramount, who it was their show, went ballistic and used some kind of force.
And it arrived. There is power in the studio. If your design sense is solid and you're comfortable with it and you have the proper foundation, I think you apply that to the tools. I don't think you use the tools just because the tools do it. I think you say, okay, I'm a typographer, here's what I have designed. Now what do I want to do with it? Everything that we did was for a reason.
It's almost like a ballet, a live ballet, that you are revealing something to someone using that technique. But I think we have lots of examples of people who used just the technique and what you get is like, you get slammed in the head if you watch two minutes of commercials or two minutes of promos sometimes. I think what we did was use our sound design foundation and if it meant saying, well, we really don't need that much reflection and this and the other.
There was a wheel of ABC mysteries. Kojak and Columbo, they rotated, and we did the titles for it. I think that's a perfect example of having gone through all the streaks and the reflections and the tricks. It's just plain typography and photography, using type as masks, and it's totally typographic. Every time we did a job and people would say, okay, this is the house of the flying logo, you are the king of flying logo. It wasn't the flying logo.
It was a trip and it was a trip that had been carefully thought out, pretty much like a flight. It's something that would be very pleasing. It wasn't just flipping and flopping and throwing the logo. They are just our rules. There are rules that make things readable. There are rules that make things attractive, that make you say I want to see that or I want to buy that. I'm afraid that today people coming into the business don't get the opportunity to witness the evolution of the craft. They walk in and they've got like a very, very powerful computer as a laptop. I mean we've always had a tool. We scratched on stone. We could paint on a cave wall. We could use a pencil. We can use a very high-powered preprogrammed computer.
A few people will rise above. I mean, a lot of people will do-- Look how many hideous websites there are out there. I mean, beyond the valley of hideous. I mean, they are so bad and they're still doing them, and they're still doing, not so much, but they're still doing what I call ransom note websites.
Look, 100 different faces. Then suddenly you'll see something that is so gorgeous and so right. They're using the same tools, and if you know how to use them, if you have a vision, you will rise above, and if you don't, you will be down there with the ransom notes.
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