Art Paul



As a teenager, Art Paul had a rebellious nature, so he was surprised when his high school art teacher submitted his work to a scholarship competition—that he won—for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His education was interrupted when he volunteered for Air Corps Service in World War II. On his return, Paul chose instead to attend the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

He was working as a freelance illustrator when Hugh Hefner offered him artistic autonomy in starting a magazine from scratch—Paul accepted, and Playboy was born. At the beginning, Hefner and Paul were the only two employees and had what Paul describes as an ideal editor–art director relationship of mutual respect and flexibility.

His design of the Playboy rabbit is said to be so successful because it was a symbol rather than a trademark. It is a testament to Paul’s design acumen that the rabbit invokes universal recognition even without the Playboy name.

Paul led what Print magazine called the “Illustration Liberation Movement,” and in so doing, made Playboy the most visually exciting magazine of the day. At first, because Playboy was financially limited, Paul turned to lesser-known Chicago artists in whose work he had faith. He is credited with supporting many well-known artists early in their careers, artists such as Brad Holland, Paul Davis, Ed Paschke, Kinuko Craft and Robert Lostutter, to name a few.

Paul has earned numerous awards for his work for Playboy and for his own illustration, photography and design, including a number of special awards: from the Society of Typographic Arts, the Art Directors Club of Boston, the Art Directors of Philadelphia, the Polycube Award from the City of Milan, Italy, and, from the IIT Institute of Design, the Professional Achievement Award.

Paul once stated, “Good design principles should apply to bubble gum wrappers as well as museum posters.”