Big type, big sky.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

A couple of brief farewells to start this week before the election. Famed CBS Designer (his life forever intertwined with the Eye network) Lou Dorfsman died last week, the creator of, no, not the iconic CBS eye logo itself, but so much else that defined the once Columbia Broadcasting System as a serious force in American journalism and American culture.

His obsession with the details—as they fit into a very big picture—could be seen in his Gastrotypographicalassemblage, which was, to put it simply, a really, really big wall of 3d wood type in the CBS cafeteria. This was nothing a CBS viewer ever saw on the air—yet for Lou, it had to be crafted with meticulous care and style.

Big (BIG!) type, used boldly, distinctively, confidently—that was Dorfsman all over. I was, of course, inspired by him and his work.

And much further west, we say goodbye to Tony Hillerman, born in Oklahoma, moved to go to school in New Mexico, and there around the Four Corners is where he spent most of his life, amidst great visual beauty and immersed in the ancient culture of native Americans…and their very modern poverty and marginalization.

He was able to bring to life realistic stories of Navajo detectives on tribal land…and in some ways, he brought the sights and smells of the land itself to life in books like “Skinwalkers” and “The Blessing Way.” His attention to telling detail in the written word, and spare, yet evocative word-painting earned my respect from the first words of his I read.

One of my enduring memories is traveling New Mexico with Ms. Sam, heading up to Canyon de Chelly, surrounded by stunning vistas, while reading a Hillerman paperback and listening to the soft discordant melodies of Navajo speech come out of the radio. It almost seemed like random tonalities…until the announcer read the phone number and said the word “brake repair” in English.