In Memoriam: Carin Goldberg A'75
POSTED ON: January 24, 2023
Renowned graphic designer Carin Goldberg passed away on January 19. A 1975 graduate of the School of Art, she had enormous influence on her field thanks to the inventive and uncluttered style she brought to hundreds of book and album covers for the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Madonna, Anton Dvorak, and James Joyce. Her work was regularly published in Graphis, Time, Ad Week, Metropolis, and Print.
Goldberg studied painting at The Cooper Union, before Marilyn Hoffner, at the time Cooper’s director of Alumni Relations and Development, arranged an internship with Lou Dorfsman, another alum and head of CBS Television. Two years later, Goldberg moved to CBS Music where she worked for Paula Scher, at the time CBS Music’s art director. While Goldberg’s time with Dorfsman taught her the importance of precision and detail, her tenure at CBS music was more experimental.
Of that early period of her life as a designer, she said, “I was learning and trying new things in an environment that allowed me to play. Simply. There was nothing forced or contrived about it. It had an open, organic quality that I treasure.” While at CBS Music she designed album covers for Bette Midler, Chic, and Yo-Yo Ma, among many others.
In 1982, she launched her own firm, and was soon designing for every major American publishing house—Farrar Straus & Giroux, Random House, and Simon & Schuster, to name a few—and for recording labels of a range of musical genres including Nonesuch, Motown, EMI, and Warner Brothers. At the same time, her work regularly appeared in major publications like The New Yorker and Time. On Friday, Michael Beirut summed up the popularity and pervasiveness of her work: “I promise you have a Carin Goldberg book cover in your library, or a Carin Goldberg album cover in your record collection.” Noting the attention to subtle details that marked Goldberg’s oeuvre, he wrote, “I would see those grace notes and feel momentarily sick with envy and then resolve to do better tomorrow.”
Dean Mike Essl of the School of Art said, “When you look at Carin Goldberg’s work, you can see the link between two generations of graphic design: there’s the subtle handling of typography from her time with Lou Dorfsman with a playful and bold graphic style. The genius of her work is that she was part of the post-modern design moment in '80s and '90s but infused it with beautiful/subtle typography. Refined, but incredibly bold."
She also contributed to the field through teaching—27 years at the School of Visual Arts. It was an important part of Goldberg’s practice and she worked hard to impart the responsibility of designers: “If I am going to encourage students to enter a profession of making stuff, that stuff better be beautiful, responsible and smart. Otherwise, we don’t need it,” she told Step Magazine. In 2008, the Art Directors Club recognized her teaching when in 2008 she received one of the organization’s first Grandmasters Award for Excellence in Education.
In addition to popular magazines and trade publications like Communication Arts and Print Casebooks, Goldberg's work can be seen in Steven Heller's books Jackets and Covers and Typeplay and in her own recently published book, Catalog, which she designed and authored.
She received the most prestigious honors in graphic design: the AIGA, a group she led from 2006–2008, awarded her its Gold Medal in 2009, and in 2014 she won the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize for Design. The Cooper Union recognized her body of work with a President’s Citation in 2009 and the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Award three years later.
She once said her training as a painter informed her long career as a graphic designer: “I approach my work as a series of experiments—don’t tell that to my clients—that inform each other along the way. Maybe that’s why the personal finds its way into the work.”
She is survived by her husband, Jim Biber, and son, Julian.