Paula Scher’s Exhibition “Serious Play”

Victor Chia  User Interface Design Director

From February 4 to March 25, the Ginza Graphic Gallery in Tokyo held an inspiring exhibition of the works of Paula Scher, who is recognized as one of the most influential graphic designers and graphic artists in the world. Titled “Serious Play”, the exhibition features a wealth of Paula’s work from her early career in the music industry through to joining the renowned design firm Pentagram.

As you enter the first floor of the gallery, you are immediately confronted by a stunning selection of Paula’s hand-painted maps, which she did as a side project. These maps are often saturated with various facts and figures from a country’s geography to zip codes painted in a chaotic and colorful way. Her aim for these pieces is to be recognized as artwork, not infographics, so you will notice cities are often misspelled and misplaced, borders are overly simplified or in some cases deleted. Her paintings provide a real contrast to her corporate design life, showing another fascinating aspect of her creativity.

On the second floor, the room is filled with a wide range of her graphic work, including numerous campaign posters, along with record covers, book covers, and well-known identities. Among them was the new identity and promotional graphics for New York’s Public Theater – “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk”. Using unconventional spacing, mixing font weights and colors, and utilizing uncommon typefaces, Paula’s text-heavy poster presents a large amount of information in a dynamic and expressive way. Her bold typographic approach created a new trend in the ’90s when designers started rejecting the modern neat and gridded design.

Paula was present at the opening of the exhibition at the gallery. She shared her experiences with a small audience on “Life Lessons from the Field”. Her talk, including a Q&A session, was recorded and played on the third floor of the gallery. It’s also available on YouTube.

If you are in Tokyo, the exhibition will continue until 25 March and admission is free.