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Design Stars Shine at Legends Gala

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After walking beneath the crossbar in the final A of a giant inflatable AIGA (what typeface was that?), guests arriving at the Design Legends Gala stepped into a narrow hallway lined with huge pillars of light printed with every AIGA Medalist since 1920, from Norman T. A. Munder to the three designers to be honored that evening: Michael Bierut, Rick Valicenti and Lorraine Wild. As you strolled towards the cocktail hour you remembered those who wouldn’t be there–W.A. Dwiggins, Paul Rand, Charles and Ray Eames, Tibor Kalman–but were soon impressed to find out how many others were. We watched as April Greiman and Deborah Sussman (1998 and 2004, respectively) were giddily photographed with their names, glowing even more in the soft ambient light.

After marveling and curiously poking at the pillars (designed by last year’s Medalist Steff Geissbuhler), guests sipped wine and signature apple martinis over the Hudson, in a tall windowed room at the end of Pier Sixty. Those who loaded up on delicate duck spring rolls followed by a small shot of sake were lucky; the appetizers outshone the tasteless, if colorful, purees in the forgettable entree. Luckily, we didn’t have much time to eat as we table-hopped and nobnobbed. Dessert was a highlight as both a chocolate ice cream bombe with Grand Marnier sauce and our company–the wickedly witty women of Number 17–were phenomenal.

After extended opening remarks, Debbie Millman’s radio voice soothed those in attendance as she introduced the winners of the Corporate Leadership Awards. Target, with Design For All as their core mantra, was an obvious and long overdue choice. MTV Networks was a less-obvious choice on the outset, yet seeing Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler present the award to the institution who had provided them with such rewarding creative freedom over the years (and, as they noted, when working on “Beavis & Butt-head,” the opportunity to say “Uranus” in client meetings), it made sense. In an odd yet oddly touching moment, Isaac Mizrahi co-presented Target’s award with Deborah Adler, and managed to share the stage with her, too.

Sylvia Harris disclosed the size of her afro as a clueless design grad looking for a job, and chastised the design industry for not being more diversity-focused. She then presented three students with the worthy Worldstudio scholarships. Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel presented the Winterhouse design writing awards. Tables furthest from the stage were embarrassingly loud during some of the earlier presentations, yet when Paula Scher took the stage to present the first Medalist and warned, “No talking,” there wasn’t. That’s power.

At the close of the ceremony about three dozen Medalists arranged themselves on stage for a group photo along with the newest in their ranks. Another touching moment, but without an element of celebration. Where, we asked, was the after party? Instead, people scurried to meet their car service, the inflatables in the hallway collapsing as if also relieved of their duties. We joined the faithful at The Half King around the corner, where we toasted design with Guinness and giggles.

Photo by Rob Bynder.

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