James Cross

2004 AIGA Medal
1934, Los Angeles, California

Over a five-decade long career, James Cross's elegant and direct graphic work has made a significant visual contribution to the U.S.'s corporate landscape. He has generated and honed the visual identities for such corporations as the independent research organization RAND Corporation, global defense company Northrop, and Simpson Paper. With each of these companies, Cross developed rich and long-lasting relationships and was consequently empowered to effect deep-level change.

During Cross's senior year at UCLA School of Fine Art he worked part time in the RAND Corporation's System Development Division and in 1956, when he graduated, he became their corporate design director. Three years later when he had cultivated a design department of twelve people, he began to be courted by IBM and Northrop Corporation. Cross chose the Los Angeles-based Northrop because, unlike IBM, it did not yet have an established design culture and he relished the challenge of building something from scratch. He set to work creating a visual identity for the company that included annual reports characterized by their conceptual black and white photography, simple classic typography and extremely fine printing. Cross continued to work on Northrop reports for the next 25 years.

He joined Saul Bass's studio for a short time and then, in 1963, formed his own design firm that by the 1980's had offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Newport Beach, CA. The firm's clients included Fluor. Corp., Smith International Inc., Lockheed Corp., Western Digital Corp., the Newport Harbor Art Museum, and Ramada Inns. In 1988 Cross Associates was acquired by the British advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, with Cross himself as its Managing and Creative Director until his departure in 1994.

Cross served on the Board of Directors for the International Design Conference in Aspen in 1960, with specific responsibility for increasing attendance by communicating with the domestic and international design communities. He was also a board member of AIGA, International President of Alliance Graphique Internationale, and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles.

Cross now lives in the Napa Valley and designs packaging and related materials for many small high-end wineries including Schramsberg Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars, Darioush Winery, Spottswoode Winery, Duckhorn Winery, and Calera Wine Company.

“Cross Associates is notable for its elegantly simple design and for a sure touch in determining client needs.”

Print, March/April 1984