Worksight Blog


Graphic Design Education

Professor Charles Goslin (1932–2007)

When you first meet Charles Goslin you can’t help but think: courteous Bostonian gentleman. It could be his demeanor—quick-witted, yet mindful and attentive to your words. His brown tweed jacket, button-down shirt, and English shoes help the equation. In fact, Goslin is from nearby Attleboro, Massachusetts.

In 1954 he received a BFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). One instructor in particular, someone who made a difference for him, was James Pfeufer (1950–1960). “Jim critiqued design projects with the utmost respect. He taught me how to value graphic design.” RISD gave Goslin the craft and inspiration to apply to the top design offices of the day.

Upon graduation, Goslin began working for noted American designer Lester Beall. “The minute I walked into Beall’s studio at Dumbarton Farm, as Beall called it, I knew it was the place for me,” Goslin recalls. “The studio wasn’t decorated with utilitarian color charts or production materials; only framed photographs and paintings, carefully hung alongside choice design projects pinned to the walls…the message was that design not only solved the client’s problems, it also nourished the designer creating the work and the audience viewing the work.”

After four years of what Goslin fondly calls “an apprenticeship,” he was ready to try his hand at his own studio. “I wanted to work on my own because I didn’t want to compromise with anybody.” In 1958, Goslin transplanted himself to brash and tough Brooklyn. What would have seemed to be a mismatched environment, was in fact, a beautiful fit.

Victorian architecture and leaded Tiffany windows helped. They connected him with a genteel, turn-of-the-century, urban landscape. Slick glass and steel weren’t quite Goslin’s aesthetic. A live-and-work brownstone is where he settled and where he continues to work today.

Clients include non-profit organizations, local businesses, and large corporations. But regardless of the budget, each project receives an equal amount of attention from Goslin, revealing a genuine love of the image-making process. In a presentation given to the New York Chapter of the American Institute of the Graphic Arts (AIGA) in October 2000, he playfully likened himself to a simple shoe cobbler—as close as possible to his work. “To get down into it, to push things around with my hands, crafting a design; that’s what I like best.”

Goslin has also been pushing and prodding students for over 37 years. A dedicated teacher of graphic design and illustration, both at Pratt Institute since 1966 and at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) from 1974—1985, he has inspired literally thousands of designers. His favorite projects are handing out news clippings based on strange but real stories. There’s one from the New York Times about an automotive product called “Nuance” which gives interiors that “new car smell:” Design an advertisement for this pump spray invention. Or the article in the Daily News about an animal chiropractor—what would the brochure’s cover for this odd practice look like? The student’s job is to sketch, conceptualize and interpret, but above all, the student must communicate.

Over the years, Goslin has seen the design and education world move from Modernism’s Swiss International Style of the ’60s, on through to the computer age and Postmodern eclecticism. But Goslin never wavered from his particular method of communicating. “I never bought into the ‘less is more’ Helvetica approach. But then again, I was never really into fashion.” Ironically, Goslin has a Swiss heritage and jokingly says “The Swiss have an amazing ability to say nothing beautifully.”

Maybe the Yankee in Goslin is what comes through. There’s a basic honesty inherent in his design. “I want to put myself in my work and not hide the fact that I’m designing it.” This basic idea extends to his teaching method. Design students are encouraged to speak through their work, and to speak with style. “Very often my students confuse technique with style. I tell them to never try to find ‘a style’ because your own individual style will find you. Style comes to you when it is ready and comes as inevitably as sweat on a July day.”

In order to speak with style, you have to begin by having something to say. To be sure, Charles Goslin has lots to say. He’s a storyteller of the first degree. ”I hate the idea of stating one thing and plopping it in the middle of the page,” says Goslin. The result is that each of his projects is like a collage. But even with the densest works, there’s a clarity nonetheless.

It’s distilled through the idea. “Visualizing ideas is the most important thing we do as graphic designers. Without an idea, you’ve said nothing. But it’s also not just expressing an idea. It’s making a graceful idea, a beautiful idea.”

For the cover of a 50th-anniversary calendar of a hardware store in Park Slope, Brooklyn, an image of the neighborhood icon is used—the arch in Grand Army Plaza. “The concept was to say that all the other hardware stores in Park Slope don’t matter,” says Goslin. “Tarzian is the hardware dealer of Park Slope.”

Within a stark black and white pallet, Goslin is able to create a rich and textured color. The effect is truly masterful. Hand-drawn sketches, abstract shapes, posterized photographs, enlarged dot screens, and jewel-like type: They all add up to strong and straightforward architecture of graphic illustration.

Goslin’s own work, and the student projects he assigns in class, might be reflective of all the newspapers he reads—true stories, in black and white. “Current history has an amazing ability to clarify the mind,” Goslin says. “Analyzing the news, or a student’s work, forces you to analyze your own work.” Actually, Goslin’s work is a bit like a typographic narrative. It’s what makes his work so intriguing. The collaged graphics all re-paraphrase the basic idea of the story until the reader understands. He never gives up trying to communicate.

It’s the same with his teaching. Goslin never seems to give up on his students. And decades worth of professional designers and illustrators never lose touch with him. They become part of a large, extended family because, for each one, Goslin somehow made a difference.

Scott W. Santoro, Worksight

January 2004

Addendum: Charles Goslin passed away on May 16th, 2007, collapsing after teaching two summer design classes at Pratt Institute. He went out the way he had hoped. This is a reposting as I have just completed the archiving of his work, which now lives at The Herb Lubalin Study Center and the Rhode Island School of Design. See more examples of his work at

Design Reviewer

Made it to the top row, third from the left as part of Bejing’s VO/Art Union portfolio review program for design students throughout China.

Branding and Site Design for Tendy Law

Worksight created the visual identity and site design for this New York City-based law firm. Tendy Law provides a sophisticated, boutique outside general counsel practice advising midsized corporations, not-for-profits, and financial institutions regarding all corporate matters. See the site design here.

Design Interview (Podcast)

Thank you Dave Hopkins for the pleasant design interview (lucky 13)!



Pratt Institute interviewed Professor Scott Santoro who shared his thoughts on the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics emblem and other exceptional examples from the past.

Type Director’s Club Lecture

Pace University

An apple is a very popular image and has operated as a sign to represent knowledge (think Adam and Eve’s forbidden fruit), as well as to symbolize elementary education as in “an apple for the teacher,” and also as a sign of health as in “an apple a day.” Here, Worksight used the apple as a kind of piled-on-pride of successes for a Pace University’s School of Education brochure.

Lecture: Graphic Design Is…

A selfie shot during a lecture on graphic design featuring Pratt student work—presented live to design students in Beijing and Shanghai, China; with Xiaoren Liu (Catherine) per ANO Art China, and their subsidiary, Sphinx.


The YOU in Your Work

When other people recognize your work, it is a great compliment. They may recognize your humorous attitude coming through the work or see a visual treatment that you have brought to many of your solutions in the past. These distinguishing characteristics reflect your style, which can come through you unconsciously. In fact, your style is you.

The places we’ve been and things we’ve seen, felt or heard all broaden our vision as designers. They also define us. For example, a trip to Vermont to see the foliage could add to your color pallet; an unfortunate visit to a hospital’s emergency room could shock you into realizing how efficient people can be under pressure. In either case, both experiences will be internalized: you will realize that a recent design has a color you never thought about using before, or it has an energized immediacy about it. These influences can come from everywhere. Can you trace them back? The fact that someplace or thing might feed your work is, in effect, acknowledging connections with your larger culture, community, and environment. A good example of this dynamic is a visual series on the impact of the Iraq war by Maria Uroos. She grew up in the Middle East and felt a need to create a visual dialogue about the changes in life, culture, and religion that she saw there. Her tools include text and image, metaphors and analogies, elements, and principles. All convey thoughts about the region where she lived, fleshed out into a form that is meant to extend conversations. Each piece begins with her.


In a design experiment by Janet Lee, whose family is in retail fashion, two activities are merged into one composition. She created a montage of typography with a dress form, color chips with fabric swatches, and single-edge cutting blades with scissors. The art historian E. H. Gombrich (1909–2001) wrote, “Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.” The connection this designer makes to retail fashion isn’t necessarily there either, but is more a myth that forges a connection to something more personal and perhaps more meaningful to her. She uses that same ability to tell stories and making connections when creating works for her clients.


In another piece, Rick Valicenti examines his own future role as a graphic designer. The poster’s purpose is to announce a design lecture in Vancouver, Canada, and the character pictured—a jester that is full of remorse—is a portrait of Valicenti himself. Hanging off his hat is a flickering sign that reads “HUGE.” The ghostlike, wispy image of an old man beside his own face hints at his later life. Together, the images make a social comment about whether this effort is all there is in Valicenti’s future, and for that matter, in the profession as a whole. In other words, designers can be practical problem-solvers (such as finding a way to announce an event), but also passionate artists whose work also matters in terms of making a positive difference in the world.


From Guide to Graphic Design, by Scott W. Santoro, Pearson Education

Also posted on LinkedIn:

Pierre Bernard Memorial

A Thursday night event at the Fashion Institute of Technology remembering Parisian graphic designer, Pierre Bernard, with (LtoR) Leslie Blum (chair and moderator), and speakers, Scott Stowell, Scott Santoro, and Keith Godard.