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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: I love the idea of being able to fly through this perfect typography. I mean I was in pig heaven. I mean I had perfect typography and this wonderful imagery, making them solid objects, and being able to travel through them, which was just wonderful. I got a job offer through my art teacher at school to be an apprentice designer at Oxford University Press. I just went over there and fell in love. I mean, I fell in love with everything they were doing, everything about book publishing, because they did everything from make their own paper. To have like 17th century actual fonts that were cut by masters, that they would get out sometimes.
I spent three years there, three very, very happy years, because I loved what I was doing. I just loved it, because they had such an enormous library of typography from all over Europe, everywhere, and from this country. They just let me loose in there, and I just spent all my time there. I just loved it.
That three-year shows up in everything that I've ever done, because everything is very typographically oriented. It's like, I guess I'm a type snob, I really-- I get crazy if I see a letter up backwards. Somebody puts an A up backwards or an N up backwards, just drives me nuts. On the other hand, I can stop and moon over a beautiful G. Look at that, isn't that gorgeous? So those were my formative years I think.
This was the title for 'The Six Million Dollar Man,' which I rather like. I tend to use the bright type. It's a beautiful piece of light sculpture to me. People always used to say to me, you're a book designer, what's a book designer? A book is pages and letters and a story or something. I said no, there are books you cannot read. My job is to make this book readable and as enjoyable and as informative as possible, and I do it with the proper choice of type. I do with the proper choice of leading, proper size of page, proper size of margins, proper numbering, proper headlines, to organize this into an enjoyable document.
You see something in the newspaper with no leading or you see a tiny column, where they've justified it out, and then you've got three letters on the line, but you can't read that. I remember, jumping ahead a little bit, I went to a film school in San Francisco, and for the first year you could only use prime lens. We were using Bolexes, and it was just the normal lens, no zooms, no nothing, and you figure it out and you learn what works and what doesn't, and it was the same thing with type.
I think I looked at enough prewar design, wartime design, postwar design, American broadcast design, that I kind of took on the mantle of this. I did have a wonderful art teacher in school. The guy was-- he was wonderful and he taught me a lot and the apprenticeship at Oxford, my boss taught me a lot, about type and how it works and how it doesn't work.
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