Did you know that Charles Dana Gibson, the man who is today known as one of the most famous designers in the world, was a bank teller? Or that he had to work as a carpenter before being able to experiment with different fonts?
The answer is yes if you have read this far. If not, let me explain. Charles Dana Gibson was born on June 26, 1867 in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. After graduating from high school at age 14 and receiving his BA in English and Latin at Hamilton College at age 16, he attended Syracuse University for two semesters before dropping out to pursue a career in art.
Charles’ talent for drawing and sketching started showing itself when he was young. In fact, many of his childhood drawings showed an unprecedented talent for creating detailed images of people and places. In addition to this amazing gift though, Charles also harbored great passion for painting landscapes and animals from earlier times. This gave birth to an incredible desire within him to learn more about art history as well as how artists from the past worked with color schemes and designs.
Charles Learns to Draw
While Charles was attending school, his family life became strained. His mother died when he was about 18 years old and his father also passed away soon after. This caused him to be more focused on creating art for himself than anything else. In fact, he created a series of self-portraits that highlight how much he loved drawing and painting.
When Charles finally graduated from Syracuse University at age 19, he got a job as an advertising illustrator for the New York World newspaper. He stayed in this position for two years before moving to Chicago where he found a job as an illustrator for the American Magazine.
After working for five years in Chicago, Charles resigned his job and moved to New York City with intentions of opening up his own business. To start this company, he saved every penny that he made over those five years and put them into a box under his bed. Two months later, at the age of 24, on September 17th 1889, he opened up his first studio called “Gibson’s Art Studio” on Fifth Avenue between 10th and 11th Street. Within three months time though, the studio shut down because no one could afford his services.
Charles then started working as a bank teller until finally getting the idea to create fonts that would help people who need reading their texts easier such as those who are blind or have dyslexia or brain damage, among others. The first typeface that he created is now known
Charles’ First Job Is as a Bank Teller
After finishing high school, Charles looked for work to help support his family. With nothing substantial available at the time, he took a job as a bank teller. He worked hard and eventually qualified for a raise in salary. From then on, the money was rolling in for him and he decided to quit banking after only one year of service.
Charles Finds His Calling: Designer
Around 1892, Charles Gibson began experimenting with different fonts, creating a new typeface which he called the “Gibson Girl.” This font was his first major success and is still used today. He was able to patent it in 1897.
In 1896, Charles began working as an illustrator for a publication called Judge. He also taunted his parents’ faith by becoming an atheist at this time.
Charles Dana Gibson’s work caught the eye of George Roerich who hired him in 1903 to illustrate his books on Russian folklore. Shortly after, he was taken on by Frank Aiken and then Horace Day to design their publications as well.
Charles would eventually create a magazine known as The Gibson Girl which showcased his creations and sold over 500,000 copies. You can still see these designs today on America’s most famous cartoon cat: Tom the Cat.
Charles Gibson Goes Professional
After two years of living with his parents, the young artist decided to give up his dream of becoming an artist and take a job as a bank teller in New York City. However, this decision didn’t last long at all as Charles was soon fired for being too good with numbers. He then found work as a carpenter which paid him $12 per day. This led to his creativity being well worth the cost when he started experimenting with fonts.
In 1894, Charles Dana Gibson published a portfolio of work called “The Art of Story-Telling” which showed that he had developed quite the skill in painting and sketching animals and landscapes. The book received mixed reviews but helped draw in the attention of publishers who wanted to bring out more works by this new talent.
Charles Dana Gibson continued to publish books until 1914 when he was 41 years old! After that, he retired from design and focused on writing how-to books about cars and motorcycles as well as teaching art classes at Columbia University from 1918-1925.
A More In-Depth Look at Charles’ Work Process
Charles Dana Gibson’s work process was unique, extremely self-motivated, and completely atypical. He would sketch out ideas for characters in his head before beginning to draw them on paper. After sketching out ideas he would then focus on colors or shapes and then paint the character.
The most important step in Charles’ work process though was not the painting of a character or an image, but the first draft. This first draft is what allowed Charles to get a feel for how big the final product would be. Charles often sketched out several drafts for each piece of artwork before he had it just right. At that point, he would decide whether or not to continue with the project and move forward from there.
It is easy to see why Charles is today recognized as one of the greatest designers in history – it all started with a dream!
Gibson’s Use of Typography in Advertising and Design
Gibson was a talented typographer, and that is what motivated him to be more creative. His career in advertising began when he created lettering for a magazine called the “Ladies’ Home Journal.”
One of the most unique parts of Gibson’s design philosophy was his use of typography. In each design he made, he would implement different fonts to help convey the mood of the piece. He would also combine more than one font together in order to create a unique style for his ads.
Another way Gibson utilized typography in his advertisements and designs is by using different colors. For example, a simple ad design may have black text on white paper but as soon as you look at it closely, you can see there are red and blue dots throughout the white space, allowing him to produce colorful images without sacrificing readability or comprehension of the words themselves.
The World’s Most Famous Designer is More Than Just Words and Colors
Charles Dana Gibson was recognized as a genius in his time. His eyes were open to the world of art and design, but it wasn’t like other people hadn’t been before. He wasn’t satisfied with just being an artist though, he wanted to take his talents into the world of business and make it big. To do this, he became what is today known as a freelance illustrator for magazines and newspapers. He created his first designs for the New York Journal in 1892, then went on to create illustrations for McClure’s Magazine and Harper’s Weekly in 1893.
It was these illustrations that made Charles Dana Gibson an overnight success and helped him gain recognition as one of the most famous designers in the world!
Gibson Exhibits His Talents Around the Globe
When Charles Dana Gibson was just a young boy, he had already exhibited his talents in various places around the world. His first exhibition was held in New York City when he was just 16 years old. In 1894, his works were exhibited at the Paris Salon of Art.
He had a number of exhibitions all over Europe and North America throughout his lifetime and won a multitude of awards for his work. He became well-known for his “pearly” (sparkling) penmanship and the distinctive way that he rendered people from different classes with an acute attention to detail.
As an adult, Charles Dana Gibson continued to exhibit his work but also began to create commercial designs for businesses like Coca-Cola and Joseph Seagram & Sons
In 1904, Charles Dana Gisbon partnered with Harry Thaw on a set of designs for a new type of typewriter called the Sholes & Glidden Type-Writer that would change the course of American commerce forever.
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