Marget Larsen

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Marget Larsen
1930-1984
margetlarsenMarget apparently had the touch: she was known for assessing at a glance what factors made an image a success or a dud. From Irish whisky ads to bread bags, Larsen’s intrepid designs created waves throughout the advertising industry. From there, her impact was felt across the expanse of popular culture. Born in San Francisco, Larsen studied with sculptor Bob Howard and jewelry designer Margaret de Patta. According to partner and colleague Robert Brewster Freeman, she had always wanted to be an artist; she idolized Paul Klee, whose work she pored over and practically memorized. Larsen’s first job was with I. Magnin; she worked at the department store by day while taking night classes at the California School of Fine Arts. From these humble beginnings, she was promoted to art director at Joseph Magnin, working in concert with advertising manager Toni Harley and artist Betty Brader. Larsen’s first promotional device for the store was a series of Christmas boxes that could be used as clocks, building blocks, or musical instruments. While expensive to produce, these versatile inventions were a hit with the clientele. Larsen’s collaboration with Freeman began when she went to work for Howard Gossage at what was then Weiner & Gossage. Larsen’s knack for typefaces added finesse to Gossage’s unconventional copy and put the San Francisco ad agency on the national map. The ads it placed in publications like The New Yorker were so effective and its output so prolific that the company was often thought to be a much larger than it really was — in fact, its headquarters were located in a quaint, retired firehouse. Working in a creative environment with a liberal attitude toward budgets, Larsen and Freeman had free reign to invent what they would. Among the design fads of this period was the instantly popular “Beethoven” sweatshirt, a Larsen original. Designed to help raise money for a local classical-music radio station, the athletic gray shirts were printed with a period engraving of the stern composer. The idea was as novel then as it is ordinary today, and soon knock-offs were for sale on street corners around the country. Larsen didn’t limit herself to any one genre or field. She is credited with creating an innovative arrangement for a university library card catalog, coming up with the Parisian Bakery wrapper and lines of après ski wear and draperies. She also helped to develop the first ecology ads in the ’60s. Marget Larsen died prematurely of cancer in 1984. artandculture.com