director, Ampersand Institute for Words & Images
B.A., Maryland Institute College of Art
When I was much younger and several sizes smaller, influenced perhaps by writers such as Hemingway and Damon Runyon, I joined a local boxing team. I loved the training and the bouts, but after losing most of my matches and breaking my nose a few times, I realized, much to my mother's relief, that there was no future for me in boxing. That's when I discovered design, which, to me, has the same unpredictable and elemental appeal as boxing.
Unlike boxing, which brings us closer to animal behavior, design is the one thing we do that absolutely separates us from other creatures. Our ability to consciously imagine and create things—clothes, tools, paintings, ads, buildings, assembly lines, political parties and the millions of things that make our world better or worse—appears to be unique in nature.
After graduating from MICA in 1955, I worked for a small design firm for a year, then left to work at a local advertising agency. But I found I just wasn't very comfortable working so hard to sell stuff that people really didn't need, so when I got a call from one of my friends informing me that the Barton-Gillet Co. had just gotten a local airplane manufacturer as a client and was looking for someone who could draw airplanes, I decided to apply for the job. Not having any drawings of airplanes in my portfolio, I worked all night drawing a whole bunch of airplanes doing everything an airplane does. The next morning I showed my drawings to Dave Barton, who hired me on the spot. My guess is that he knew nothing about art or airplanes.
Unfortunately, within a couple of weeks BG lost the manufacturer as a client, so I never got to draw any airplanes at BG. Fortunately for me, Dave Barton decided that he could use me as a designer, so he didn't fire me.
I worked for Barton-Gillet for 35 years. For most of these years, I served as its creative director. During those years, Barton-Gillet became the most dominant design firm in the area of institutional marketing. At BG I was lucky enough to work with dozens of terrific designers, including Dave Ashton, Dave Crowder, Bill Shinn, Claude Skelton, Bob Rytter and Bob Shelley, to name a few.
When it occurred to me that I should begin to think about life after BG, I realized that I've always wanted to teach design. In 1982, my daughter, Gigi, was studying design at Penn State. Her instructor was Bill Kinser, who happened to be teaching weekends in UB's Publications Design program. He asked her to speak to me to find out if I might be interested in teaching a course or two in the program.
After talking to Peter Fitz, who still teaches in our program, I realized that, unlike any other university program I had ever heard of, the driving philosophy of the Publications Design program was the integration of words and images, a mantra I had been chanting all my professional life. I was hooked, and I've never regretted it for a moment.
I taught for about eight years as an adjunct instructor, helping to shape the design components of the program, the single most important part of which was the seminar, which turned out to be the program’s capstone course.
In 1985, I published my second book, The Business of Graphic Design (Watson-Guptill), which turned out to be an important addition to the library of design books. In 1996, Watson-Guptill published a completely revised edition of this book, which was later cited by Critique magazine as "one of the 82 greatest books on design ever written."
In 1990, after expressing my intentions to retire from BG in a year, Wayne Markert, who at the time was dean of the College of Liberal Arts, asked me to join the faculty as a full-time instructor. The catch was that the opening needed to be filled that year, and I wouldn't be retiring for another year. I accepted the position and, for a year, worked full-time in both jobs, which, while stressful, was very exciting.
Looking back on my career, I guess the thing I'm most proud of is the lasting effect I've had on the local design community as both a designer and a teacher. I was really touched when I read these words in a fall 2002 interview with Tony Rutka, president of Rutka-Weadock Design: "If there is one single individual who would classify as a design icon in Baltimore, it would be Ed Gold, who worked at Barton-Gillet, which basically spawned the Baltimore design community."