A TRIBUTE TO CARIN GOLDBERG, 1953–2023
A tribute to Carin Goldberg from designers, artists, friends and students who were influenced by her, were taught by her, or just loved her to share their thoughts on her influence and impact.
Carin Goldberg was a force of nature. A native New Yorker through and through, she received her BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in 1975. She began her career as a staff designer at CBS Television, CBS Records and Atlantic Records, where she designed iconic covers for artists including Madonna, Steve Reich, Caetano Veloso, Glenn Gould, Yo-Yo Ma, Sly and the Family Stone, Bette Midler, Chic, Patti LaBelle, Carole King, Earth, Wind & Fire and hundreds more.
Carin established her own studio in 1982 and helped revolutionize book jacket design, creating unforgettable book covers for Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Carver, James Joyce and many, many more. In addition, she made her mark in publication design with clients including Time Inc., Custom Publishing, Mademoiselle Magazine, The Hearst Company, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, Meredith Corporation, Conde Nast, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She even designed a cover for Print Magazine for the July/August 1994 issue. Finally, she also worked in the fields of brand consulting, editorial illustration, authorship, and curation.
In 2009 Carin received the American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal and in 2012 The Cooper Union awarded her the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Medal for distinguished achievement in art. That same year she received The Cooper Union President’s Citation for “exceptional contributions to the field of graphic design … recognizing outstanding citizenship, ethics and social responsibility.” In 2010 a retrospective of her work and career was exhibited at Musée Géo-Charles, Échirolles, France. In 2008 Carin completed a two-year term as president of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. She was a member of the Alliance of the Alliance Graphique Internationale since 1998 and served on its board of directors from 2006-2009. Carin taught Typography and Senior Portfolio Thesis, Design History and Editorial Design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City for 35 years and was one of the first recipients of the Art Directors Club Grandmasters Award for Excellence in Education.
In 2014 Carin won the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize for Design and spent six-months at The American Academy in Rome where she earned her fellowship. Her work was exhibited all over the world and included in numerous anthologies and books.
Carin passed away on Thursday, January 19, 2023. She is survived by her husband James Biber and her son Julian Biber. In an effort to honor the life and work of Carin Goldberg, the editors of PrintMag.com asked designers, artists, friends and students who were influenced by her, were taught by her, or just loved her to share their thoughts on her influence and impact. We will be updating this post with additional tributes as they come in.
Sean is the Chair of ArtCenter Undergraduate and Graduate Graphic Design and National President, ex officio, AIGA.
I was in Honolulu for a project at the Ala Moana Mall. Carin Goldberg called me and I spent the next hour speaking with her sitting on a bench under a fake palm tree. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I’m sure it was…lively. Carin had more energy and passion than three people combined. That call, filled with her laughter is the only thing I recall from the entire trip. Losing Carin is like turning the saturation levels down on life.
Gail is the Chair of BFA Design and BFA Advertising, and the Creative Director of the Visual Arts Press at the School of Visual Arts.
The response from my School of Visual Arts classmates to Carin Goldberg’s passing has been so profoundly moving, yet, of course, not surprising. Some have said that Carin helped make us the people we are today, and others have said we wouldn’t have the careers we’ve enjoyed if not for Carin’s influence. We are indeed better at our crafts and stronger as adults for sweating through Carin’s tough critiques and experiencing her tough love. Carin was a true artist who worked with simple materials, collaging with stickers and ephemera, and later embroidering graphic shapes into magical creations. She was a genius at working with words and instilling her joy of using typography to express feelings into her students. I had the honor of getting to thank Carin Goldberg on behalf of all of us in person only a few weeks ago, and her response, with a snarky little knowing half-smile, was just, “For what?” Your SVA kids will love you forever, Carin. Thank you for changing all our lives.
Michael is an award-winning designer and partner at Pentagram and a co-founder of Design Observer.
Carin Goldberg was not a networker. She didn’t talk about “design thinking” or make claims about design’s importance to the corporate bottom line. She simply did beautiful, original, courageous work, day after day, year after year.
It’s a cliche, but Carin was a graphic designer’s graphic designer. Though she was quiet in her work, she got her share of recognition. She was a member of AGI, a recipient of the AIGA medal, a Fellow of the Academy of Rome. But it was as a teacher that she made her influence felt, as generations of SVA graduates will testify.
She could be modest and even offhand about her own work, saying, for instance, that Madonna was the easiest performer she ever designed an album cover for. But note the tender loving care of those twin Os that frame the face. With Carin there was always something extra like that. I would see those grace notes and feel momentarily sick with envy and then resolve to do better tomorrow.
I promise you have a Carin Goldberg book cover in your library, or a Carin Goldberg album cover in your record collection. What we don’t have any more is Carin Goldberg. She died on Thursday, January 18 after a three-year battle with cancer. My love and thoughts go out to her husband Jim, son Julian, and her countless students, protégés and admirers who will forever bear her mark. Let’s all do better tomorrow.
Debra Bishop is the Design Director and co-founder of The New York Times for Kids. Previously, she worked at Martha Stewart Omnimedia. She has designed for clients including The New York Times Magazine, More magazine, Esquire, Conde Nast Traveler, House & Garden and Rolling Stone.
Being in Carin Goldberg’s sphere was magical. When I was with her she made me laugh deeply, not only because she was quite funny but because she understood me more than most. I enjoyed her bluntness and her honesty. As a teacher she was just as kind as she was tough, but she taught us so much. “What is good,” comes to mind but the truth is, she quite literally changed my life and inspired my career. Her exquisite body of work is one of the most influential of our times— and included album covers, book covers, and magazines. She is and will always be my design idol, my inspiration, my teacher and also a beloved friend. I will miss her so.
Nicholas is a designer, illustrator and Creative Director of The New Yorker.
Carin Goldberg was a larger than life influence on me. She was a design icon I deeply admired. Over time she became a colleague, then an ally, and ultimately a dear friend. She made me feel as if I was part of her family. I felt connected to her as a designer, but also as a quintessential New Yorker. With Carin there was no bullshit. She had integrity. And exquisite taste. Carin was a force of nature—right up to the end. I will miss her.
Santiago is a designer, artist, animator and founder of ArtCamp.
Simply put, Carin taught me how to think and how to see. Hard to understate the enormous implications of that. Carin changed how I see the world and how I think about design.
I also found this email she wrote to me in 2012 right as we finished portfolio class, and I was feeling very insecure about all the experimental work I made. At the time it brought me much needed peace and confidence, and today, it brought tears to my eyes. Rest in peace to our dearly beloved Carin Goldberg, a true legend.
Kristina is the Vice President of Design at Vox Media. From 2006-2009 she was the Art Director of Print Magazine.
Carin’s typography class was my first step into art school. Week after week I showed up with new ideas, struggling to land a strong one. In a last-ditch effort, I pinned a new idea to the wall. When it was my turn, Carin sitting a few seats to my right wearing her signature black pants and white button down, adjusting her posture in a very matter of fact way turned to me and said, ‘Kristina, you got it’. It was the moment it all clicked.
From that point forward, when I’d feel that click, I could transport back to that very moment and hear her voice saying ‘Kristina, you got it.’
The lessons I learned in class were applicable everywhere through the many moments I shared with her: as a student, an employee, a co-teacher, an AIGA board member, and certainly as a friend. Most importantly her nurturing guidance carried through as I became a parent myself.
Carin was a champion for thinkers, creators, students and more. A true rainmaker inspiring and empowering everyone she was in contact with.
Thank you for being my forever click. I love you, Carin.
Steven is the author of over 200 books on design and culture, the co-founder of the MFA Design program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the Editor-at-Large at PrintMag.com
The Teacher Who Wouldn’t Say No
When Carin Goldberg announced that she was no longer teaching her regular undergrad classes at SVA, my first thought was not about her ill health. That reason for her departure was unclear and unpublicized. It was common for teachers who gave as much as Carin had given to burn-out. (In my experience almost everyone eventually returns to teaching after “pressing refresh”).
No, my first thought was a selfish one.
Carin was often the undergrad teacher who many of the MFA Design students called upon first when they were having trouble with their own typographic fluency. And Carin welcomed them all; some once or twice, others were invited to audit an entire semester. Therefore, my first thought when her final semester came to an end: I would not be able to call on her talents and dedication as an invaluable teacher to help the MFA students, who benefited from untold reservoirs of critical wisdom and emotional generosity. We had simply come to depend on – and even take for granted – her extreme passion for design, unyielding attention to detail, pursuit of perfection and willingness to embrace and celebrate innovation.
Carin was always at the ready. It was not, as far as I could tell, an additional responsibility or chore. She could say no! But she wouldn’t! She loved the students, reveled in how they excelled and was proud that she could enable and influence such large number of students to become great designers. That’s what I call an exceptional legacy. I will be forever grateful.
Drew is an award-winning designer and entrepreneur and the founder of SpotCo.
I was starting my junior year at School of Visual Arts. I had done well so far, but nothing special had really happened, unless you count being intimidated by every native New Yorker with Pink cowboy boots who went to school with my middle class ass.
I began week one, going to my classes. That’s when I started to see work in the halls. I don’t know how to describe it—it was just better than anything I had ever seen. I didn’t know who was making it, or why it was so different. So I inquired through Richard Wilde, the head of the undergraduate Graphic Design program. Turns out, there was a new teacher at SVA. She had started a week late, last minute, so late that students hadn’t been able to sign up when her classes were first announced. Every student in her class was a transfer student, from all over the country. Tougher students. Quieter students. Students with wildly different backgrounds: pre-med, architecture, every age. Grown-ups. Nothing like my classmates from Ronkonkoma thus far. They were tough and smart and driven. I take a deep breath, suck it up (which was not a phrase in 1983), and transfer in.
And then, there was Carin. It was her first year, her first class teaching. And she was terrifying. Hip, arty, smart, funny, and FILLED with art history. Every project, she would say “Look at Cassandrè,” “Look at Warhol,” “Look at Jim Dine,” “Look at Jasper Johns,” “Look at these fonts,” Look here, look there. Everyone had already presented their first project being a few weeks in to the semester, and sizing up had definitely happened, as everyone including Carin was brand new to each other. My first assignment: The Modern Chair. I worked and worked and got ready to present. Carin was frankly overwhelming. Not because she was brutal—we all came to know later as contemporaries that she did not suffer fools gladly. But she loved her students and brought them forward with kindness and caring. She took them under her wing.
She expected magic.
I put my piece on the wall, reminded myself to breathe, and sat down. Carin walked up to it, and said “Whose is this?” with a downtown bark. I responded sheepishly “me.” She turned, tapped the work three times with the world’s best design finger and said, “This is good.” And with that, she changed my life.
I wanted her approval so badly. I wanted the approval of every person in that class. God, they were all so talented, I just raced to keep up, to learn my history, to learn scale, to survive, to hang in, to excel. Jody, David, Jackie, Sue, Alan, Gail. You were all Gods to me. But none more than Carin. She literally lifted me with her gift for teaching. I cannot imagine my career (or frankly my adulthood) without all that I learned from her. Later, she asked me to take over leading the New York Chapter of AIGA after her term as President. I said I wasn’t famous. I felt that I didn’t bring the weight that was needed for the position. She didn’t care. She told me, “You’ll be great.” Again, I received her blessed validation.
And that was Carin.
I want everyone to know that she was the funniest, most elegant designer I ever encountered. And being famous didn’t matter to her. So now, it does to me—but for her. I want to shout from the rooftops about how spectacular she was. To say we will miss her is like saying you will miss a parent; it’s just not nearly enough.
So look at her work. Celebrate it. She deserves it.
Julia is the Executive Creative Director at Google Creative Lab, EMEA.
Carin Goldberg was an alchemist.
She turned her students into actual designers.
There wouldn’t be a whole generation of great designers if it weren’t for Carin. There are thousands of us that she taught and molded over the decades. Her legacy lives on in all of her students work.
If you were lucky to get into her class at SVA (and I was one of those lucky ones to have her for two consecutive years), you were safe, but you had to work hard and be open to let yourself be guided by her. She turned everyone in that class into a designer, even the ones you thought would be absolutely hopeless. She found that one thing you could focus on and relentlessly pushed. Although painful, she didn’t let you get off the hook. Ever. Every little detail needed to be considered and designed. Everything had a purpose, and don’t even dare to go the easy, fast route. She was a real stickler.
The students who didn’t get into her class jealously dismissed her teaching style as micro art directing. Yes, she was that person who was constantly whispering into your ear which typeface may be better, which exhibition you should go to, and what flea markets to visit to find that perfect little detail for one of your posters. Words like verbatim and vernacular were suddenly added to my limited vocabulary. Yes, she was that hovering art director but, let’s face it, how would a 20-something who just started studying design really know which typeface is good or bad? How else could we have known what photographer is good or not? Those things come with time and experience, none of which we had. We were dumb spring chickens. And Carin spoon-fed us her wisdom, talent and taste, class by class. Her passion was contagious.
The assignments she gave us, whether The New York Times redesign or Picture magazine, weren’t merely to learn how to layout a page of gorgeous type; they were there for us to become inquisitive researchers, detectives learning about subjects we never considered. All of a sudden, we became visual journalists to tell stories with designs that made you feel something. She made us develop an eye for good photography. She made us honor and respect the art we chose for our layouts. “Never compete with the artist, and don’t even pretend you could be as good as one of them,” she preached. “Pay homage to the art you are designing for, and complement it with your typography, be playful, have fun and above all, it has to have a purpose.” That skill came in handy for me seven years later when I worked at MoMA , where I put exactly that into practice: “be the stage, not the star.” To this day, I can hear Carin whisper into my ears when I am designing.
She not only taught me about design, she also taught me how to be a Mensch. She taught me about good taste, culture, art, and history. How to think, how to have a point of view, and how to continue learning.
Ultimately Carin helped me put my portfolio together, which got me my first few jobs. She also is the one who helped me get the internship of my dreams with Paula Scher. Carin is one of the women who had a significant influence on me. She prepared me for life.
I will be forever grateful for everything she taught me and I will always celebrate her.
MICHAEL IAN KAYE
Michael is the Chief Design Officer of Sylvain.
In 1996 when I was a young designer, I asked Carin, one of my graphic design heroes, to collaborate with me on designing an issue of the magazine Upper and Lowercase, a typographic journal that had previously graced the drawing boards of many more of my heroes. Because I was young and not a designer of note, I expected a kind but swift “thank you, but no.” Quite to the contrary, I received an enthusiastic yes. Little did I know that this invitation would not only garner a consummate collaborator but also provide me with wisdom and a sense of humility that would guide my practice and presence from that point forward.
Carin treated me as a peer and an equal on all fronts. She befriended me as if we had known each other for many years and through many lives. She inspired me with a casual brilliance that contextualizes “true” genius. She showed me that smart-made simple and simply-made genius shines brightest. She taught me to say “fuck it” in a way that had gravitas and integrity. Carin valued me in a way that made me feel heard and seen from the inside out.
I know I carry with me only a small fraction of Carin’s influence. Her work as a teacher, designer, and leader will guide makers and watchers of culture for years to come. For me, the importance of Carin’s work transcends a unique design sensibility and prioritizes sensitivity and passion as a means to progress in both work and life.
Thank you Carin.
Chip is an award-winning designer, writer, author of many books and one of the foremost book jacket designers in the world.
Not long after I started working in NYC in the late ‘80s, I was at Three Lives bookstore and saw the jacket of a book called ‘Sinatra! The Song is You, A Singer’s Art by Will Friedwald.’ I was stunned: not only was it absolutely beautiful, it was absolutely perfect. The concept, the execution, the composition, the craftsmanship. Jaw-dropping. Who could make yet another book on Sinatra look so fresh and classic at the same time? Carin Goldberg, of course. Over the years, I was lucky enough to get to know her, and even though I never formally took her class, I learned so much from just looking at her work. Her career is a gift, to us, and we are lucky to have it. Thank you, Carin.
Emily is a partner at Pentagram.
I had my kids late in life. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. But Carin Goldberg did. She saw the look of fear in my eyes and swooped in and became my caretaker and confidant. She did everything short of going to Lamaze classes with me (My husband Paul Sahre, of course, still did that). She loved the planning and the plotting—the DESIGNING of the how life could be for my future family. She made everything easier, and even fun. And after my twins Harry and Eli were born she was right there, biking over with treats and gifts. They were always perfectly designed, and chosen for their humor and beauty, or because they were just friggin’ delicious. My boys loved her like crazy from the get-go. I will forever miss this smart, talented, funny, beautiful, silly, serious, person. Like my kids said so many times, I can only say, “Thank you Aunt Carin.”
Stacey is the Executive Director of AIGA NY.
An iconic designer, dedicated educator, and giving mentor to so many emerging designers in NYC and beyond. As the President of AIGA NY, we here remember her for her humor, candidness and the forever iconic ” / ” in our branding. Carin left a deep legacy at AIGA NY and we are forever grateful for her leadership and love. She will be missed.
Paul is an independent designer, illustrator and the founder of The Office of Paul Sahre. He is also author of the book Two-Dimensional Man.
Two Small Stories about Carin Goldberg
Carin Goldberg lived graphic design. She made it, influenced it, taught it, collected it, curated it. It surrounded her. Bits of typography, printed matter, bag tags, ticket stubs, postcards…And not just in her studio, in every room in the house. One of these made it to my garage in New Jersey. A letterpress placard that read:
“hi paul. saw your nifty new cg (’73 Karman Ghia) on instagram. nice. hope all is well. C” (Typed on old typewriter)
I still have the sign on the dash.
The other, an enormous silkscreen poster originally part of a series titled Superwoman, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, 2002. This poster signifies absolutely nothing until you understand the context. Bowling Ball? Black Hole? Period? Nope, Human Head. For Carin context was EVERYTHING.
Luise is an Editorial and Brand Consultant and the Director of Photography at The Atlantic.
I took this photo in June of 2014, a few days after Carin Goldberg’s birthday, a few weeks before she left for the Rome Prize to start her fellowship at the American Academy.
In the studio she shared with her husband, Jim Biber—and for a few years with me—there was a small glass cube of a room, lined floor to ceiling with Carin’s books: photography, fashion, illustration, textile design. One of the walls held seemingly floating, slender shelves with things Carin collected on her travels – a museum of tiny treasures that were so exquisite visitors would gasp at the sheer beauty of them. Many of those pieces made their way to Carin’s friends and students; her gifts might come wrapped in pale pink Parisian butcher paper, tied up with vintage flashcards. It was hard to open them because you had to destroy the fantastic presentation.
Carin loved deeply and generously. She listened hard and campaigned for you, she was a connector, a mentor, a motivator, an inspiration, and the most loyal friend. Seeing the world through Carin’s eyes made you appreciate a color, a letter, your shoe laces, LIFE. Great design wasn’t something Carin just did, she lived it, she believed in it, and she shared it every day.
The world is poorer without Carin Goldberg. My heart is heavy, and I will forever love and miss her.
Zipeng is a designer, illustrator, animator and art director in New York City who wants to make everyday a razzle-dazzle musical.
Caring. It just dawned on me that her name spelled out the word “Caring”, and I think that’s probably the most essential adjective that I would use to describe this fierce lady. Carin cared, Carin cared a lot and sometimes she cared too much that’s overwhelming. She cared about the work, she cared about her work but more importantly, she cared about every single one of us in her life. It’s heartbreaking to use the past tense to write this paragraph, and it’s tremendously sad that I won’t be able to hear her voice again. But it truly has been an honor and incredible privilege to have her as a teacher, a mentor and a friend. Love you and miss you a lot, my type queen, Carin.