My new Graphic Design Hero

So, I was doing research for my essay this week.  Loosely the topic was about women in graphic design.  One of the women I needed to learn more about was Bea Feitler.  Our text didn’t have much about her so I had to turn to the god’s of Google for info.  WOW!  What a woman!

You can read her AIGA bio here: the bio was written by the author of my text book, Philip B. Meggs.  Great bio but shame on him for not putting more of this info into the text book!

The cliffnotes version of her story is that she grew up in Rio de Jenero, Brazil, went to Parsons to study Art and Graphic Design in New York.  She was fascinated with fashion and the magazine Harpers Bazaar but when she applied for a job after college was told to try again when she had more experience.  She Ended up going back to Brazile and worked for a year – gaining experience during that time – and then went back to New York.

Back in New York she got a call from one of her teachers at Parsons who was now working at Bazaar which lead to a job as an Art Directors Assistant.  From there this charismatic woman just continued to flourish.  She became co-art director at Bazaar with Ruth Ansel in 1963.  This co-director partnership was successful for almost a decade winning awards and creating relevent cutting edge layouts and spreads that built trust with artists and respect with others in the industry.  The dynamic between Feitler and Ansel at Bazaar could be described as magical.  While at Bazaar Feitler was quoted about the dynamics of magazine layouts, this is what she said:

“A magazine should flow. It should have rhythm. You can’t look at one page alone, you have to visualize what comes before and after. Good editorial design is all about creating a harmonic flow.”

Magazine Cover for Bazaar
Magazine Cover for Bazaar

In 1972 Feitler recieved an offer from Gloria Steinham to become the Art Director of  Ms. Magazine.  Due to changes in editorial staff at Bazaar and with the opportunity to forge new grounds with Steinham, it was an opportunity that an effervescent personality such as Feitler couldn’t pass up.

Magazine Cover for Ms.
Magazine Cover for Ms.

Again, and again Feitler with her boundless energy, eye for design and talent pushed the bounds, forged new grounds, made mistakes, and won the hearts of everyone she came in contact with.  She had earned a well deserved reputation of being creative and innovative,  all of which could be seen though her ventures in Ms. Magazine.

It wasn’t always easy for Feitler.  Her color choices were bright and bold which mixing neon pinks and yellows and she always had to push for her design aesthetics, yet again and again it was the right thing to do as the awards kept coming.  But awards were not why Feitler did what she did.  It was the love of her work, the love of design and art, the love of new talent that kept her going.  That and her self proclaimed nervous energy.

Feitler was inexhaustable, in addition to being an art director for a major magazine she always had side projects going on.  Feitler was working on album and book covers, advertisement campaigns for major fashion designers.   She even taught at the school of Visual Arts from 1974 – 1980.

What I admired the most about Bea Feitler, more than anyone else I read about during my essay research, was that she took the time to mentor people. Ok let me put an aside here, so did Cipe Pineles whom I also adored A LOT and Jacqueline Casey.  But there is someting in the personality, paired with the mentoring of people like Annie Leibovitz that just struck such a resonate chord in me.

I read in the AIGA bio that Feitler had “an eye for people’s talents” and she would encourage them.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have a mentor for a short time. Mentors are invaluable.  It’s so rare that you find someone who’s as interested in your career as they are in their own.  Someone who’s willing to help grow you, teach you, lead you, and groom you and to see that it’s not work to them but it INSPIRES them back, what a mutual gift.  It’s precious.

Bea Feitler sadly passed away at the age of 44 from a rare cancer.  This woman who boldly blazed trails and paved the way for women in graphic design.  She was unafraid to make mistakes, to be creative and innovative.   She fully lived design and to shared her creativity with the world as well as nurtured, grew and encouraged new designers.  She is even said to have “enfranchised those who had been left out”.  Feitler included everyone in her design.  She designed for the world and that’s why she’s my Graphic Design Hero.

Bea Feitler  Born 1938 Brazil Died 1982 Brazil
Bea Feitler
Born 1938 Brazil
Died 1982 Brazil

By the way, if you’d like to know a little more about Bea Feitler here are 3 articles that I found pretty awesome:

The AIGA Bea Feitler Bio by Philip B. Meggs :

ADC Global Hall of Fame :

Hall of Femmes  by Bruno Feitler:

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