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. artand​cul​ture​.com