Karen Goldberg, designer of book covers and creator of Madonna’s debut album, dies at 69

Karen Golberg, the graphic designer whose pioneering work included the cover art of Madonna’s debut album and thousands of books, has died, including a series of paperbacks by Kurt Vonnegut that revitalized the author’s sales and a reissue of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” that echoed a late-1920s theme. . January 19 at her home in Stanfordville, New York She was 69 years old.

Her husband, James Bieber, said that the cause was glioblastoma of the brain.

Goldberg, who describes herself as “an eloquent, sarcastic, wise New York Jew,” entered the male-dominated, risk-averse world of design in 1975. She used “visual allusion and iconography,” as she once put it, “to tell the story without telling the story.” Although she has designed hundreds of album covers, Ms. Goldberg is best known for her book covers, which John Updike called “bold and festive” and number in the thousands.

In a postmodern style, Ms. Goldberg drew on historical imagery and typefaces to create “a series of icons that worked in the brutal arena of retail while also engaging — face-to-face — in the design profession’s inner cultural debates,” Ellen LuptonCurator Emeritus at the Cooper Hewitt Museum books in Graphis Design Industry Magazine.

for the 1986 reissue of “Ulysses The publisher instructed Mrs. Goldberg to pay tribute to the 1949 hardcover book, which featured an enormous U-shaped letter. 1928 poster by German designer Paul Renner. Designer Tibor Kalman criticized her for “plundering history,” to which Ms. Goldberg replied, “We are all plunderers.”

“I’m very skeptical when artists or designers claim they never ‘loot’.” Tell Step Magazine. “impossible. To what degree, context and purpose matters.”

Other memorable book covers by Mrs. Goldberg include “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” By Oliver Sachs, “Sonnets to Orpheus” by Rainer Maria Rilke, re-issue of Vonnegut’s paperback novels, with a V with a t0 edge seemingly like the author’s writing and personality, appearing outside the cover.

Ned Drew and Paul Sternberger, professors of design at Rutgers University, evaluated Ms. Goldberg Vonnegut’s work in Their history in book designwriting that those covers “played with postmodern styles of architectural ornament, reflecting her subtle sense of typographical structure and understanding of architectural education and practice.”

Vonnegut certainly agreed. When they meet later at a party, he tells Mrs. Goldberg, “Young lady, you’ve made me a lot of money.”

Karen Goldberg was born in Manhattan on June 12, 1953, and grew up in Glen Cove, New York, and Mattuan, NJ. Her father worked in the garment district manufacturing evening wear, and her mother was a department store buyer.

Intent on a career in the arts, she studied painting at Cooper Union, a private college of arts and sciences in Manhattan. After graduating in 1975, Ms. Goldberg became a choreographer at CBS Television, then moved to Atlantic Records, followed by CBS Records.

CBS described K “Small Workshop / Art School” Where “Designers are blessed with an impressive library of art and design books new and old and have access to magazines like Gebrauchs-Grafik, Life, and Fortune. We’d look to Cassandre, Herbert Baer, ​​Italian Futurism, Russian Construction, and De Stijl for inspiration.”

In the early 1980s, she started her own design firm, working mainly on book covers. In 1982, Warner Bros. called. Records to ask if they would be interested in designing an album cover for a promising new artist.

“When I got the call, I closed my eyes,” she recalled to New York magazine. “At the time, it became a cliché to have a one-word name, because of Cher.”

New artist name: Madonna.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s going to be one of those,’” Ms. Goldberg said. “So I really went in with a few expectations. The fact of the matter is, no one knows who you are.”

Ms. Goldberg designed the cover in black and white, with Madonna wearing bracelets along her forearm and her hand resting mysteriously and seductively on her forehead.

Debbie Millman, designer W Podcast Host, books In memory of. “But here’s the singer: The cover conveyed the attitude Madonna had evidently had long before the singer sang her signature spunk.”

“In my wildest dreams, could I imagine it?” Ms. Goldberg Tell New York Magazine. “I’m really glad we drew a full-face picture for the cover. I think it helped — even incrementally. But it’s hard to tell. I did my job, got out there, and life went on. I will forever be the art director who did Madonna’s first cover, which I suppose was Not a bad thing.”

Among Ms. Goldberg’s survivors are Bieber, her husband of 36 years, and their son, Julian Bieber.

In addition to album and book covers, Ms. Goldberg has also designed covers for The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and other publications. She was a noted professor of typography and design for 35 years at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Drew Hodges, one of her former students, recalled taking her lessons.

“Hip, arty, witty, funny, and full of art history,” he said Tell Design Week. “Every project, she’d say ‘Look at Cassandra,’ ‘Look at Warhol,’ ‘Look at Jim Dane,’ ‘Look at Jasper Johns,’ ‘Look at these lines,’ ‘Look here, look there.'” “

Hodges said it was “frankly overwhelming”. “I just expected magic.”

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