Graphic Design on the Bunny Slope


Milt and Gordon Kaye, 1963

“In 1963, a visionary publisher released the first issue of a magazine that would change the landscape of publishing, help shape the culture of post-war America, and become a household word. That magazine was Hugh Hefner’s Playboy with the inaugural cover featuring a flirtatious Marilyn Monroe. The same month, my father, Milt Kaye, started Graphic Design USA to somewhat less acclaim, an inherently smaller audience, and a less riveting cover story about the new RCA logo. Of these two publications, it is fair to say that the beginning, the mission, the covers, and the trajectory have had little in common these past 50 years.”

So begins Gordon Kaye’s warm and personal introduction to the new GDUSA blog—further testament to the mag’s perseverance and adaptation—and, of course, its longstanding dedication to the many splendors of design. In fact, Kaye sells himself a little short with that last bit: over the years readers have been treated to any number of shapely logos and curvaceous, provocative design spreads. While father-founder Milt Kaye eyed new technologies with suspicion (“He took a principled stand against the fax machine; why should we supply the paper for other people’s messages?”), innovation was nevertheless his stock-in-trade, as evidenced by the magazine’s sustained relevance even in our choosy, quick-change age.  And it’s interesting how these businesses, built on passion, stay in the family: Hefner’s daughter Christie ran the bunny behemoth for years while Dad enjoyed the, let’s call them, perks of empire. The new GDUSA blog—if it reflects back the world of design with the same ardor and discernment the magazine has displayed for half a century—will be a welcome addition to a contemporary landscape where graphic design permeates our daily lives more than at any other time in history. Will it have a centerfold, is the only question we have.