Malcolm Grear is a renaissance man in the most complete sense of the word: he understands the human values involved with the arts, and has educated himself to appreciate and deliver beauty in our daily lives. He also has taken upon himself to educate others about good design as well.
Although Malcolm’s main discipline is graphic design, he has influenced the human-made environment in many other ways. He is fond of saying, at this stage of his highly successful career, that “there is practically no one in the U.S. today that has not seen and been influenced by our designs in one way or another.” From corporate and brand logos to public signage, from science textbooks to magazine designs, from the Olympic torch to major award medals, Malcolm Grear’s firm, Malcolm Grear Designers, has set standards that others seek to emulate. His books on graphic design and his courses at Rhode Island School of Design give substance to these ideals, as does his firm’s work for its vast array of clients.
Malcolm Grear is never very far from his humble Kentucky roots, yet he shares with his RISD colleagues a broad sophistication for the arts and a love of many periods in art history. His association with an array of prominent artists has nurtured his own craft, especially his friendship with Aaron Siskind and Rhode Island Hall of Fame inductee, Harry Callahan, both seminal photographers of the late 20th century.
Malcolm’s Providence-based firm engages in identity design, sign systems, environmental graphics, museum catalogue and book design, and package design as well as digital media/interactive and web design. Its client list represents prestigious museums, universities, organizations, and corporations, most of which have returned to Grear’s firm again and again for subsequent projects that span the wide range of media available to them.
Grear’s less known, but remarkably important, work on textbooks has helped set revolutionary standards for these usually boring, confusing, and dense publications. His challenge for Worth Publishers was to overhaul college textbooks, helping to make them more useful and clear to the student.
Malcolm Grear Designers has done memorable identity work for a wide range of clients, such as the Metropolitan Opera, the Presbyterian Church USA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, Sonesta International Hotels, and Trinity Repertory Theater. It has also produced award-winning print design work for Scientific American, the Guggenheim Museum, the RISD Museum, the National Gallery, Harvard University, Emory University, Hallmark Cards, the Veterans Administration, and a host of other clients.
In the realm of environmental graphics, Grear’s studio has designed communication and sign systems for the Mayo Clinic, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, King Khalid City, and the MBTA, along with exhibitions for a number of museums. But his high point thus far was when Malcolm Grear Designers was selected from 500 firms to create the “Look of the Games” for the 1996 Centennial Olympics in Atlanta, as well as the thirty-one sports pictograms, the relay torch, the safety lantern, the traveling cauldron, the medals, and a commemorative poster. Grear believes his small studio was chosen “because of our record–because we respect tradition and avoid novelty.” Who can doubt that record of achievement?
Inducted by David T. Shwaery