LA designers Margo Chase and Clive Piercy remembered

Written by

This summer the Los Angeles design community lost two of its leading graphic designers: Margo Chase and Clive Piercy. Friends and colleagues remember them here.

This summer Los Angeles lost two of its leading graphic designers: Margo Chase, who was killed in an airplane crash on July 22, and Clive Piercy, who passed August 20 following a battle with cancer. AIGA president Amanda Hovest told DnA, “Our design community has lost two genuinely wonderful people—renowned designers who touched and inspired people with their work for decades. They had outsized impact because of their unending passion, and their generous commitment to mentoring so many. They will be sorely missed.”

Below are remembrances of Margo and Clive:

Margo Chase

Sean Adams, Executive Director, Graduate Graphic Design, ArtCenter College of Design:

Many of us were stunned by Margo Chase’s passing, followed this week by another body blow, as Clive Piercy passed away (although Clive would have preferred “died.”). Both of these designers had an influence and impact that reached far beyond Southern California. They were recognized as industry leaders internationally.

Margo embodied the California dream, working with rock stars and clients such as Geffen Records, Columbia, and Warner Brothers. Her work was unique, beautifully crafted, and copied by a generation. Her work in the Goth style was the opposite of Margo’s personality. She had a fast laugh and was endlessly upbeat and optimistic.

Around her ten-year mark, the music industry was becoming more corporate, and Margo was ready for a new challenge. Margo successfully transitioned the business, and for many years they’ve provided finely crafted and strategically aligned logos, letterforms, and designs for leading brands like CVS, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Campbell Soup Co.

You can read Margo Chase’s obituary in Design Observer. A memorial is being planned. You can get more information about it here.

Clive Piercy with students. He once said: “Teaching is a very big part of what I do. . . it has fueled my creative soul in a big way.” (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Clive Piercy

Sean Adams, Executive Director, Graduate Graphic Design, ArtCenter College of Design:

Clive was an English gentleman. But he also had a uniquely Southern Californian approach and style. His work helped make Los Angeles one of the nation’s design centers. His exquisite attention to typography was equaled with his unique and delicious color sense. In 1988, he formed Ph.D with Michael Hodgson and challenged the concept of brand messaging. In 2007, his founded air conditioned and continued to work with a roster of blue chip clients such as Nike, Levi’s Chronicle Books, and Roxy/Quicksilver.

Clive’s impact goes beyond visual inspiration. His work as an educator, leader with AIGA, and mentorship will ripple for generations. He was elegant, generous, and had a clever dry wit. When he spoke about his wife, Ann Field, his eyes lit up, and he was in awe of her talent. At ArtCenter, his students complained that he asked too much of them, but they loved him for it when their work exceeded their expectations. The world will continue, but without Clive, it will be less vibrant.

Both Margo and Clive shared a passion for design and were never satisfied with the status quo. The painted our community to the rest of the world with the California dreams. But the loss here goes beyond the professional. For many of us, we will think of them with love and sorrow whenever we are tempted to call Margo just to hear her laugh, or expect Clive to come bounding around the corner with his wry smile and mismatched striped socks.

Ann Field, Chair of Illustration Department at Art Center, wife of Clive Piercy:

Clive believed in the power of a great design to communicate and inspire. Something he took very seriously and which he presented with wit and humor. He was uniquely the ultimate example of an unexpected winning combination of qualities. He was a Modernist with timeless values.

Hilary Laffer, Partner at Clive Piercy’s design firm, Air-Conditioned:

For the last year he faced advanced cancer with strength and grace in equal measure, his innate creativity, inimitable style, sharp wit, and joie de vivre rarely in question. As recently as a week ago, he was working at his computer and critiquing work in the studio, mismatched striped socks peeking out from under the desk, with the BBC’s Robert Elms playing in the background.

Clive understood the power of design and taught us all how to be better thinkers and problem solvers. Whether he knew it or not, he pushed us to push ourselves, to expand our interests, to find the unexpected (word, story, concept, image…) and to set every bar higher. His work will be remembered as nothing less than iconic.

Remembrances from some of Clive’s former students (on Facebook):

Jaime McFarland:

Clive was an enduring reminder that the world certainly wasn’t going to go out of the way to make it easy for you, but that hard work, sincerity and conviction counted for a lot, if not the most. He knew the difference between good, great, and shake you by the shoulders “fucking fantastic.” He imparted lessons about design, art and life that resonated and have stayed with me, as I’m sure many, many others can attest to.
I find it impossible to forget about his love for the perfection in small, wonderfully imperfect things. He believed that you could find them too if you simply bothered to pay attention.

Andrew Jamison-Johnson:

There was a time way back in 2009 that a snarky Brit told me my work was shit. He took me down a few pegs. It stung.
Now it’s 2017. And I’m joining all of my Art Center friends in mourning this man, Clive Piercy. A rare combination of unalloyed wit, skill, craft, snark, unforgiving standards and — dare I say — love. His parting words have stuck with me all these years later: “Here’s the hard truth: we don’t need you. The world has enough designers. In fact, there are already far too many. The world needs GREAT designers. That is your goal.”

Scott Ponik:

I would be nothing without him. Straight up. Zero hyperbole.

An ArtCenter’s Scholarship Fund has been established in Clive Piercy’s name. Online donations may be made here by including Clive’s name in the Tribute section. A memorial will be held Saturday September 30th, 12:30 – 3:00PM at Ahmanson Theater, Art Center, Hillside Campus, 1700 Lida Avenue, Pasadena CA 91103.