Art Paul

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Arthur "Art" Paul is an American graphic designer and was the founding Art Director of Playboy Magazine for 30 years. During his time at Playboy, he commissioned illustrators and artists to illustrate (Warhol, Dali, and Ronsenquist among them).

In addition to being an art director and graphic designer (in particular of Playboy's rabbit logo), Art Paul is an illustrator, fine artist, curator, writer, and composer. There has been a surge of recent interest concerning both Art's past and present, with recent talks, books, exhibitions, and a documentary being made about him. At 91 years old, he is now putting his drawings and writings into book form, with projects focused on race, aging, animals, and graphic whimsy.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Art Paul was born on January 18, 1925 in the Southwest Side of Chicago, but his family later moved to Rogers Park. There, while attending Roger C. Sullivan High School, an art teacher recognized that he was talented enough to earn a scholarship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which he attended from 1940-1943. After World War II service in the Army Air Corps, he attended the Institute of Design, known as the "Chicago Bauhaus" and now part of Illinois Institute of Technology, where he studied with László Moholy-Nagy.[2][3]

"For Paul--student at the Institute of Design, commonly called the Chicago Bauhaus--Playboy was a laboratory for producing a model of contemporary magazine design and illustration...Paul helped create a forum that demolished artistic and cultural boundaries. In doing so, he transformed magazine illustration." --Steven Heller, an American design critic.[4]

Playboy magazine[edit]

"I at first hesitated to accept Hugh Hefner's] offer. For as a freelancer I had the best clients one could in Chicago. So I freelanced the first few issues. What convinced me to accept was that I was promised freedom to buy the kind of art most illustrators couldn't sell in 1953, the personal visions that lay closest to their hearts. I told illustrators I don't want 'commercial' art. I want the kind you do to please yourself when you're not trying to get work in a magazine. At first they thought I was kidding. As for fine artists, I convinced them they would not be selling out to work for us but would reach a larger audience with their most authentic work."—Art Paul.[5]

Paul was working as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator in a small office on Van Buren Street next to the Chicago 'L' tracks when in 1953 he was contacted by Hugh Hefner. Hefner needed an art director for a magazine he was developing, and learned of Paul through a mutual acquaintance. At the time, Hefner planned to call the magazine "Stag Party." The initial dummy, designed by cartoonist Arv Miller, resembled movie star/screen magazines of the time. Hefner wanted a different, more innovative and sophisticated look. Together, Paul and Hefner created the first issue of Playboy, with Paul creating the look of the magazine.[3]

The name of the magazine was changed to Playboy shortly before the first issue went to print, after Hefner was threatened with a trademark dispute over the "Stag Party" name. The cartoon mascot designed by Miller, originally intended to be a stag, was quickly changed to a rabbit by replacing the head, although the stag's hoofs remained visible in the altered drawings. The magazine's famous rabbit-head logo with cocked ear and tuxedo bow tie was developed by Paul for Playboy's second issue. Initially intended as an endpoint for articles, Paul sketched the logo in about an hour. Soon, however, the decision was made to use the logo as the symbol of Playboy's corporate identity.[2][3]

As Art Director, Paul supervised the design of the magazine for 30 years. Early on, he commissioned many local Chicago artists and photographers to illustrate the magazine. These included Franz Altschuler, Leon Bellin who illustrated Playboy’s continuing ‘Ribald Classic’ feature, Roy Schnakenberg, Ed Paschke, Seymour Rosofsky, printmaker Mish Kohn and photographer Arthur Siegel.[2]

During Paul's years at Playboy, the magazine won hundreds of awards for excellence in graphic design and illustration. Paul has been credited for helping create a revolution in illustration (what Print Magazine called the "Illustration Liberation Movement") by insisting that graphic design and illustration need not be "low" arts but could, when approached with integrity and emotional depth, and in a spirit of experimentation, be as "high" an art as any.[2][3][6]

Career after Playboy[edit]

After leaving Playboy in 1982, Paul did graphic design, posters, and logos for a number of clients in magazines, advertising, television and film. For the last ten years he has concentrated primarily on drawing and painting, exhibiting most recently at the Chicago Cultural Center and at Columbia College in Chicago. He has served on boards of the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, the Association of Art Curators in Chicago, and the Illinois Summer School of the Arts. At present he is working on two books of his drawings. Paul currently lives in Chicago.[2][3] Paul was the subject of a talk at the Chicago Humanities Festival on November 1, 2014, given by graphic designer James Goggin, at which Paul and his wife Suzanne Seed were present.[7]


In 1980, Paul was elected a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale. The Institute of Design, IIT, honored him with its professional achievement award in 1983, and in 1986 he was elected to the Hall of Fame of the Art Directors Club.[6] He received the Herb Lubalin Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Publication Designers, and in 2008 was made a Fellow of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists.[8] The Society of Typographic Arts gave him a special award for outstanding achievement in trademark design for the Playboy rabbit head symbol. The Art Directors Club of Boston gave him an award for "inspiring, encouraging, and creating an outstanding showcase for contemporary artists". The Art Directors of Philadelphia awarded him the Polycube Award for "consistent excellence in communications". The City of Milan, Italy, awarded him its Gold Medal for the exhibition, Beyond Illustration. Art Direction Magazine gave Paul the first award in its publishing history for "interest and support of illustration and illustrators and the tremendous range of illustrative styles that run in Playboy magazine.[6]


Title Location Dates
Art Paul: Inner Faces Chicago Cultural Center November 15, 1997 – January 18, 1998
The Manuscript Illuminated Columbia College Chicago March 16-May 4, 2001
Head Games[9] Coda Gallery March 14-March 26, 2015
Art Paul: Hard Heads, Sweet Knees, Forked Tongues[10] Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art June 5-July 26, 2015

International exhibitions[edit]

Paul organized many years of Playboy illustrations and special projects he'd directed into the exhibition Beyond Illustration: The Art of Playboy, which toured museums in North America, Europe and Japan between 1971 and 1974. An updated version of the exhibition, The Art of Playboy: From the First 25 Years, opened at Chicago's Cultural Center in 1978, and toured North and South American museums and universities. The exhibitions included artists such as Andy Warhol, Larry Rivers, Salvador Dalí, LeRoy Neiman, James Rosenquist, and Tom Wesselmann. The Hyde Park Art Center hosted the 2004 exhibit I Read It for the Art: Chicago, Creativity, and Playboy, featuring Paul’s works, along with the works of many of the Chicago artists he helped to establish.[2][3][6]


Two books have been published on Paul's work,Vision: Art Paul,[11] and The Art of Playboy[12] surveying many years of his art direction at Playboy.

Upcoming projects[edit]

A new exhibition is under development, entitled Conversations. Art Paul says, "drawing in my sketchbooks often feels like a conversation. As I write in them and sketch visual sequences, the images I draw of imagined people seem also to be conversing, page to page, with each other. Themes and hints of stories come and go, embodied by faces."[13]

Additionally, there are two books, Race Face and Talking Sketchbook, that are in the works. On his inspiration behind Race Face, Art Paul says, "Many of my drawings of heads aim to reveal how we are haunted by the projections other mask us with and use to deride us, how our self-images are altered by violence, paranoia, shame, and dread. So often we feel compelled to hid our authentic selves behind masks."

There is also an autobiography in progress with the working title Graphic Graphics: Art Paul's Advice to Young Designers Facing Difficult Clients, Art-Blid Editors, Exploding Technologies, Budget Trolls, and Sexual Revolutions.[14]


  1. ^ "Home". Arthur Paul. Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Faye, Marcia, "Art Paul: The art of designing Playboy", iitmagazine (Spring 2009)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Heller, Steven and Vienne, Véronique, The Education of an Art Director Allworth Communications, Inc., (2005)ISBN 1581154356, ISBN 978-1-58115-435-1 pp 174-180
  4. ^ Heller, Steven (January 2000). ""The Art [Paul] of Playboy"". Print Magazine. 
  5. ^ "Art Director". Arthur Paul. Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  6. ^ a b c d Art Paul Bio at Art Directors Club
  7. ^
  8. ^ Art Paul Bio, American Institute of Graphic Artists
  9. ^ "CODA Gallery - Art Paul". Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  10. ^ "Art Paul – Hard Heads, Sweet Knees, Forked Tongues | UIMA". Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  11. ^ Paul, Art Vision: Art Paul Tokyo Designer's Gakuin College (1983)ASIN: B000K05I6G
  12. ^ Bradbury, Ray The Art of Playboy A. van der Marck Editions(1985)ISBN 0912383194 ISBN 978-0-912383-19-4
  13. ^ "Exhibitions". Arthur Paul. Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  14. ^ "Book Projects". Arthur Paul. Retrieved 2016-09-16.