Design Legends: Tibor Kalman3/16/2009 9:11 AM By Catherine T
The late Tibor Kalman was a major figure in the design scene; in the 1980s he was known almost as well outside design circles as from within. Kalman had a passion for presenting art and commerce side-by-side, but he was also known for his activist take on design. He spent a great deal of time doing cause-based work and encouraging his fellow designers to take a closer look at issues such as poverty, homelessness and sweatshop labor. Like other legendary designers, Tibor Kalman wanted to move design out of the service category. Changing the perception of design as a service to something closer to art and in some cases, activism, was one of his major contributions to the industry.
One example of this comes from Kalman's stint as editor-in-chief of the Benetton magazine, Colors. Benetton was famous for its socially aware take on advertising, and to this day many still identify the company with the United Colors of Benetton campagn. As the head of Colors, Kalman stubbornly ignored fashion stereotypes in favor of breaking new ground and offering progressive ideas. Some of the ideas worked quite well, while others required more thinking time than some believe a mass market can withstand in the context of an ad campaign or magazine edition. Kalman's design philosophy included the notion that graphic design can–and should–be used as form of mass communication to promote social ideals and awareness. Kalman died in 1999, but his legacy is such that some believe only two names in design mattered in the 1980s; Macintosh (the computer) and Tibor Kalman.