Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Lunch with Paul

I first met Paul Giambarba on the Internet, where we both occasionally participate in the same cartoonists' forum. Chances are you haven't heard of Paul, but he's a real professional's professional: one of the guys whose career goes back fifty years to what I consider the Golden Age of cartooning and illustration. His website summarizes some of the highlights of his career as an artist, designer, writer, educator. However, a list of his accomplishments doesn't hint at his deep knowledge of graphics, typography, printing, publishing, and the nuts and bolts of the commercial art world. He's the real, complete deal.

Among Paul's career highlights was serving as Polaroid's first art director for 25 years beginning in 1958. Paul designed the angular rainbow-striped graphics that not only instantly identified his product as more exciting and hip than its "stodgy" competitor Kodak--a branding strategy companies like Apple would later use to great advantage--but I think helped define the look of a generation. I took the liberty of lifting the picture below from his website:

Paul Giambarba created that. If you're of a certain age, one look at those boxes really takes you back.

As we got acquainted on the Web, it emerged that Paul had once lived in my hometown. A couple of weeks ago he said he was coming back for a visit and would love to get together, which we did for lunch today. He and I talked for more than two hours over sandwiches and beer. I won't share too many details since Paul wasn't speaking "on the record" (although when I asked our waiter to take our photo, I warned Paul it was going on my blog), but we had a terrific conversation about art, careers, families and life that I'll always treasure. He shared some wisdom about the business that I'll take to heart and couldn't have been warmer or more encouraging.

Paul's website is densely packed with examples of his work, both commercial and personal. One of my favorite sections is a collection of more than three dozen short essays he wrote about the great illustrators of the past century. If you visit, also be sure to see a collection of ink and watercolor sketches he made during a visit to Europe in 1955. It's all great stuff.

Plus, he picked up the check. That makes him my friend for life.


ronnie said...

Re: the boxes.

Wow. Just, wow.

I remember the day my Mom brought it home.

(And being the packrats they are, I bet it's still in the box, on top of the bookcase in the hallway between the living area and bedrooms :) )

patricia said...

Lucky you! Though I've never met him in person, I know Paul to be kind, intelligent and very talented. And above all, a true gentleman.

Great pic, btw.

Brian Fies said...

Ronnie, I know what you mean about the boxes. I actually remember standing in the store studying how those rainbow patterns worked from box to box. Paul earned his pay on that job.

Patricia, "Gentleman" is just the right word. As I recall, Paul has had some nice things to say about you before, too.