Famous Faces of Design

In our pathetically optimistic way, we’re going to keep on believing that designers are only beginning to enter an era of unrivaled fame. But if we read the latest issue of STEP, we’d learn that, according to Marty Neumeier, the design star is already no more. In this interview “The Rise and Fall of the Design Star,” Neumeier says, quite simply, the world doesn’t care:

Would your portrait grace the cover of general-audience magazines? Would you be invited onto talk shows to discuss your latest website, book cover, or trademark? Would you host your own TV program? These are definite possibilities, but who would care? Probably only other designers and wannabe designers. Everyone else will be watching Jessica Simpson on E! News.

We thought for sure that, like Jessica Simpson, designers graced the covers of general-audience magazines, so we enlisted the delightfully searchable archive of Time, which has every single one of the their covers online, to see which designers were the biggest celebrities. We were surprised to find that designers are actually becoming less famous.

14 designers and architects have been featured on the cover of Time, and all before 1979 (Philip Johnson was the last). There was an issue titled “The Rebirth of Design” in 2000, which pictured, not a designer, but a green rubber radio submerged in a fishbowl.

A little more disturbing, but not in a celebrity kind of way, is the propensity for Time to feature designers as Disembodied Heads of Industry (see Yamasaki, Le Corbusier, and Saarinen):

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But we’d take floating heads over floating radios, anytime.