Georg Olden (graphic designer)

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Georg Olden
Born George Elliott Olden
November 13, 1920
Birmingham, Alabama
Died February 25, 1975(1975-02-25) (aged 54)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Graphic designer, ad man

Georg Olden (November 13, 1920 – February 25, 1975) was an AIGA medal winning graphic designer who worked in television and advertising. A Japanese magazine, Idea, once listed him among the top fifteen designers in the United States.

Biography

He was born George Elliott Olden in Birmingham, Alabama, the grandson of a slave and the son of a Baptist minister. In youth he attended Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.,[1] then Virginia State College, before dropping out shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor to work as a graphic designer for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA. When the war ended in 1945, his supervisor in the OSS, Colonel Lawrence W. Lowman, who in civilian life became Vice President of CBS's television division, recommended him to the agency's Director of Communications. From a one-man operation involved with six programs a week, Olden eventually headed a staff of 14 in charge of 60 weekly shows. When he joined the network in 1945, there were 16,000 television sets in the entire nation. By the time he left the network in 1960, there were 85 million sets, one for every two Americans.[2]

From 1945 to 1960, Olden worked with William Golden, art director for CBS, and as such was one of the first African-Americans to work in television. In 1960, he began to work in advertising and went on to design the Clio Award as well as receive seven of them. He worked in the arts departments of BBDO, then at the major firm, McCann Erickson. In 1963, he designed a postage stamp for the United States Postal Service commemorating the centennial of the declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation, the first African-American to do so.[2] He has been said to have a mixed legacy in terms of race.[citation needed] He tended to avoid pressing racial issues or pressing firms to hire blacks, but in 1970, he sued his former employer, McCann Erickson, for wrongful termination caused by discrimination. The case failed.

After moving to Los Angeles, California, Olden started working on a new case, but was shot to death, allegedly by a live-in girlfriend who was arrested and tried. She pleaded not guilty and was acquitted in court.[3]

References

  1. Graphic Design History 115-128
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Georg Olden". AIGA Medal biography. 
  3. Source: Graphic Design History 115-128; personal interviews: 2010-2013