Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Pioneer of Supergraphics, Dies at 95

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, an audacious graphic designer, landscape architect and artist who first made a splash in the 1960s with the supersize, geometric architectural painting movement known as supergraphics, died on Tuesday at her home in San Francisco. She was 95.

Her daughter Nellie King Solomon confirmed the death.

In 1962, Ms. Stauffacher Solomon was the rare woman to set up shop as a graphic designer in the Bay Area, working for clients like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (now SFMOMA). Her style was bold and fresh: often red and black graphics with lots of white space, and always sans serif Helvetica lettering — an astonishing sight at the time in San Francisco, where most lettering was either traditional typefaces like Baskerville and Times Roman or, a bit later, the loopy, trippy, hippie style found on rock posters and album covers.

Ms. Stauffacher Solomon had been trained in Basel, Switzerland, in the Swiss style of graphic design, which had a modernist ethos: a belief in the power of good design, expressed in clean-lined Helvetica, to remake society for the better.

It was architecture, however, that put Ms. Stauffacher Solomon on the national stage.

In the early 1960s, an architect turned developer named Al Boeke envisioned a new community on a windswept bluff and former sheep ranch a few hours north of San Francisco. With the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the architects Joseph Esherick, Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull Jr. and Richard Whitaker, he planned a modernist utopia called the Sea Ranch, with common land and buildings shaped by the wild landscape and deference to it.

Ms. Stauffacher Solomon was the graphic designer for the project, working on promotional materials and the Sea Ranch logo, which she shaped like abstracted ram’s horns — a broad, curly Y — each horn encircling a spiral nautilus shell, a nod to both the land’s former life as a sheep ranch and to the sea.

The architects had nestled Sea Ranch’s athletic club (a tennis court, a pool and locker rooms) into berms that they had created to shield it from the wind. The walls inside were unfinished plywood — money was running out — and they turned the interior over to Ms. Stauffacher Solomon. With the help of a local sign painter, she spent three days creating enormous spatial illusions: bold diagonals, circles, arrows, letters and blocks of bull’s-eye colors. “Make it happy, kid,” the contractor told her.

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