Richard Danne

2014 AIGA Medalist
1934, Kingfisher, Oklahoma

Recognized for elegant, effective design for corporate and cultural contexts and for sustaining a decades-long commitment to strengthening the design community.

Richard Danne has lived and practiced design by a singular principle: Create work that has beauty, simplicity and permanence.

A classically trained graphic designer, Danne has applied a fresh, contemporary sensibility to every project he has undertaken—from his signature corporate annual reports, to a total program for NASA that remains one of the world’s most-recognized designs, to his career-long role in elevating the stature of the design profession.

Born in 1934, the youngest of four children, Danne grew up on a farm near Kingfisher, Oklahoma during the height of the Dust Bowl. Early on, he learned the importance of hard work, doing much with little and sharing his talents for the benefit of all. In that vast open space he first called home, Danne became a top student and a versatile trumpet player. He had no art classes, but drew constantly. He developed an early confidence and open mind with encouragement from his family. Fortunately for the world of design, Danne did not follow his early jazz calling, after a summer spent on the road. It was a turning point, although the trumpet and a Steinway piano remain to this day.

After attending Oklahoma State University and UCLA’s Graduate School of Design, Danne set out for Dallas, where he immediately won clients and accolades, catapulting himself to the center of the local design community. Sensing there was more to discover, he and his wife, Barbara, took a leap of faith and moved to New York City in 1963, with a toddler in tow. He established himself quickly, becoming a partner at Gips & Danne in 1964, and later at Danne & Blackburn in 1973, although he has led his own firm, Richard Danne & Associates (now DanneDesign) for most of his career.

Danne’s annual reports, created from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, defined an era. In a time when the annual report was a corporation’s key branding statement, Danne designed books for such well-known companies as DuPont, Potlatch and Seagram, using gorgeous photography and elegant but simple typography to tell meaningful stories. He displayed a rare gift for convincing clients to trust a creative process that ultimately yielded beautiful, award-winning pieces. His longtime clients included household names—AT&T, Bristol-Myers, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Labs, NASA, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the South Street Seaport Museum, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Harvard Business School. He has won national and international awards, including three U.S. Presidential Awards for Design Excellence.

Over the years, Danne has devoted countless hours to his other passion: creating a community of graphic designers and enhancing the profession’s standing. Elected to the Alliance Graphique Internationale in 1974, he was president of AGI/USA for many years. As president of AIGA from 1977 to 1979, he helped set in motion innovations that make the organization the leading voice of the profession it is today. He also served as founding president of the New York chapter of AIGA. “As a designer, Richard Danne can lay claim to an outstanding body of work,says AIGA Medalist George Tscherny.“ As a citizen of New York’s design community, Dick contributed generously of his time and talent. He served as president of AIGA at a time of critical transition and guided the organization from a largely local club to a national institution.”

Danne leaves a lasting legacy through his work—elegant, understated, modern, beautiful.

Richard Danne will be presented with the AIGA Medal at The AIGA Centennial Gala on April 25, 2014, in New York City.