Graphic designer Art Paul’s career has been an adventure. He started as a freelance designer and illustrator. In 1953 he became founding art director of Playboy, designing the magazine’s first issue as well as its rabbit-head logo During his three decades there he took an adventurous, award-winning approach to editorial design and illustration.
He also commissioned work for exhibitions he organized that travelled Europe, Asia, South America and the United States. In the intervals before and after Playboy, he freelanced for an eclectic mix of clients. At present, he has returned to his first love, painting, and the quieter adventures of daily, dedicated work and occasional exhibits.
Paul trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on scholarship, and at the Institute of Design—the “Chicago Bauhaus”—on the GI Bill after World War II. He retired from Playboy in 1982 and for the past 20 years has focused entirely on drawing and painting.
In 1986, Paul was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. Among hundreds of awards, he has received the Society of Publication Designers’ Herb Lubalin Award for Lifetime Achievement, and also the Professional Achievement Award from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design in Chicago. He was elected a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and has been a trustee of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and a governor-appointed trustee of the Illinois Summer School for the Arts. Recent exhibitions of his paintings include one at the Chicago Cultural Center. He is now working on several books of his drawings and writings.
In Paul’s words: “The back and forth of my career between fine and applied art has given me a unique vantage point for comparing them. I’ve found there aren’t clear distinctions: some ‘high’ art seems to me commercial, some ‘low’ art illuminating. Both can be honest and humanistic. As a young designer, I took on the Playboy art directorship as a chance to test such ideas, experimenting with participatory graphics, sequential illustration, and conceptual covers. I was always eager to ignore categories and blur boundaries: bringing fine artists into illustration, campaigning for more experimentation, personal fire, and idiosyncrasy in the graphic arts—what I’ve come to cherish as a head-in-the-clouds, feet-on-the-ground approach, and as something worth championing.”