Portfolio Magazine, 1949–1951.

by Sandi Vincent

Portfolio – Volume 2
Cover features design for a kite by Charles Eames,
reproduced from his original paste-up made with swatches of colored tissue paper

Portfolio Volume 1
Cover design by Alexey Brodovitch

Portfolio – Volume 1
Back cover design by Alexey Brodovitch

Voting Booths – Volume 3
Painting by Ben Shahn for Container Corporation’s series “Great Ideas of Western Man”

Optician’s shop window – Volume 1
by Irving Penn

Kite – Volume 2
Charles Eames design for a kite, pasted up from brilliant swatches of paper

Cattle Brands – Volume 2
Back cover inset from an article on the same (cattle brands)

Constellations – Volume 3
Floating shapes of brightly colored wooden shapes by Alexander Calder

Portfolio – Volume 3
Cover design by Paul Rand

Poster – Volume 1
by E. McKnight Kauffer, 1938

[ All images © ]
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There once was, for a brief and brilliant time, a wondrous experiment in design arts publishing entitled PORTFOLIO, a magazine created under the leadership of Frank Zachary and George S. Rosenthal (editors) and legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch (art editor). I’ve spent some time puzzling over how to best describe this treasure chest, crammed cover to cover with all manner of visual delights. Only three volumes were published, each issue exquisitely crafted and curated.

The idea for Portfolio took root in 1949, when publisher George Rosenthal Jr. suggested to Zachary “that they create a magazine for America such as Graphis was for Europe, only not so rigid in format. “The format itself should be a graphic experience,” says Zachary.” (Frank Zachary Bio by Steven Heller, AIGAPortfolio’s art director was Alexey Brodovitch, best known for his pioneering art direction at Harper’s Bazaar.

The highest quality materials were used in producing the magazine and incorporated inserts such as 3D glasses, wallpaper samples and shopping bags. Dissatisfied with the types of ads they received, the decision was made to not include advertising. Zachary explains, “George and I spared no expense in buying the best paper and the best of everything else that we could. Then we decided to sell advertising. Well, we hated the ads we got. So we said, ‘Hell, we’re not going to mar our beautiful magazine with these cruddy ads.’ We were terribly idealistic.” (AIGA)

Volume 1 was published in 1949, first issue contents featuring work by future icons Paul Rand, Saul Steinberg and E. McKnight Kauffer. Volume 2, a personal favorite, shared the incredible design for a kite by Charles Eames. Volume 3 gave us work by Ben Shahn, examples of stereoscopy and an extended visit with Alexander Calder’s work. The contents are so much more than what I’ve listed and, hopefully, we will someday see a reissue of them.

See more >> Portfolio Magazine flickr set
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Sandi       VincentSandi Vincent grew up in the bay area of California surrounded by mid-century modern architecture and other influences responsible for her affinity for the period and its pop style, including her early exposure to The Monkees, The Avengers and Gerald McBoing-Boing. Sandi now resides in Portland. In her day job at a community foundation, she sports the web/social media/print materials coordinator title.

Follow Sandi on Twitter > @SandiV
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