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Recognized for crafting iconic names, identities and branding strategies that have become an essential part of the American vernacular and for his generosity of spirit.
Michael Patrick Cronan was a big man with a big heart—attributes equaled by his stature as a designer. Like the man himself, Cronan’s work was eloquent,
intelligent and deeply human, and his naming of Kindle and TiVo (both the company and their core product), and the identities he created for Amazon Kindle
and TiVo, have become an essential part of the American vernacular. As a brand consultant, a role he often played in the latter part of his career, Cronan
was persuasive and astute. He had a way with words. But he also possessed an uncanny ability to point clients in the right direction—and their loyalty
Born in San Francisco in 1951, Cronan grew up in nearby Sacramento, where his discovery of letterpress in a junior high class eventually led to a job
creating posters at a local print shop. He received a degree in fine art at California State University, Sacramento, and studied at what is now California
College of the Arts (CCA). Cronan first came to national prominence in the 1980s along with a group of fellow San Francisco–based designers nicknamed “The
Michaels” (Cronan, Mabry, Manwaring and me), whose “sprightly and colorful” graphics, as described by design historian Steven Heller, came to be known as
the Pacific Wave.
Establishing Michael Patrick Cronan Design with business partner and wife Karin Hibma in 1980, Cronan’s clients over the years have included Apple, Estée
Lauder Origins, Levi Strauss & Co., SFMOMA, the U.S. Postal Service and Williams-Sonoma. In 1992 he and Hibma created a line of apparel called Walking
Man. (In Design Observer, Michael Bierut wrote that, “Like the designer, the garments were big, warm and comforting.”) The line received I.D. Magazine’s 1992 Consumer Product Gold Award. It is a testament to their longstanding partnership that Cronan and Hibma were recognized
jointly on Fast Company’s list of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” in 2009.
Anyone who met Cronan was immediately charmed by his humor and warmth and awed by his limitless energy. Colleagues found his work inspiring and
instructive. Clients felt lucky to have him as their ally. He was not only a brilliant designer but also an awe-inspiring human being.
Cronan, recognized for uncommon artistry throughout a nearly 40-year career, had work featured in the 1987 Museo Fortuny exhibition “Pacific Wave,
California Graphic Design,” as well as SFMOMA’s very first design exhibition, “In the Public Eye,”in 1993. His work also
resides in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Library of Congress, SFMOMA, the Smithsonian Institution and the Victoria and Albert
Museum in London. Cronan was deeply involved in San Francisco’s design community. He was a founding member and president of AIGA San Francisco, served
on the AIGA board from 1991 to 1994 and was named an AIGA Fellow. He taught at CCA for nearly two decades in the 1980s and ’90s.
Widely admired for his virtuosity as a designer and the indelible mark he left on the world of design, Cronan was also known for the peerless example he
set as a husband and father. He and Hibma not only worked side by side throughout his career, but raised two sons, Shawn HibmaCronan, a sculptor, and Nick
Cronan, an industrial designer, who both carry forward their father’s creative legacy. Later in his life, Cronan even became known for large-scale portrait
paintings—his outsize talent always overran boundaries.
Cronan passed away in Berkeley on January 1, 2013, after five years of living with cancer.
Michael Cronan will be posthumously awarded the AIGA Medal at The AIGA Centennial Gala on April 25, 2014, in New York City.
AIGA’s design community will gather in New York City for “The AIGA Centennial Gala,” a celebration honoring the 2014 AIGA Medalists and supporting national design initiatives.
The distinguished AIGA Medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the field of design.
Section: Inspiration -
Information designer and educator John Caserta reflects on the past hundred years that led up to today’s most galvanizing design, and how we can use it to shape the hundred years to come.
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, social responsibility, innovation
Good design has the ability to define a great product, service or cause. AIGA member Sara N.A. Suttle shares some thoughts on why skimping on design is never, ever a good idea.
Section: Why Design
More at powerofdesign.wolfsonian.org
This weekend, The Wolfsonian in Miami hosts its multi-day, multidisciplinary festival on the theme of complaints and the design solutions they generate. Exhibitions, performances and discussions (from Complaints Court to Complaints Choirs and a Complaints Film Festival) make up this unique approach to community challenges and collective problem-solving. Those who cannot attend can submit their own complaints, check out original posters curated by AIGA Medalist Steven Heller, and watch events (streaming and/or recorded) on the Power of Design site.
Section: Inspiration -
When it comes to design, most companies have at some point found themselves at a crossroads, choosing between doing work in-house or hiring an agency. The more important design becomes to business, the more businesses are inclined to try their hand at developing in-house talent. This presents a challenge for agencies. As the work shifts, how do we shift accordingly? And what would the goals of such a shift entail?
Section: Why Design -
in-house design, digital media, business strategy, partnerships, problem solving, strategy, technology, business plans, new business development, studio management
Why has the magnetic ribbon revolution been so successful? Patton reports on the ubiquitous emblems that have tied motorists of a certain stripe to one another.
Section: Inspiration -
information design, experience design, Voice
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