Symbol

Some architects anticipate the inevitable attachment of graphics and signage to their buildings by controlling placement and typeface. Others take cues from graphics instead of treating them as a necessary evil, making a virtue of flat architectural surfaces by coloring constituent parts such as spandrels and mullions to create buildingwide patterns, and elaborating flatness into a mutable quality. It is ironic, then, that a graphic design firm rather than an architect has been at the forefront of making graphics in this way for a generation. The Los Angeles-based environmental design firm Sussman/Prejza has developed and honed a spatial understanding of graphics, logos, and signage—a transition akin to the strokes of paint that Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein lifted off the canvas and turned into sculpture. Off the wall and independent of surface, signs and even color in designs by Sussman/Prejza stand free on their own, becoming markers that articulate and organize space through both placement and message.

In their wide-ranging practice, the husband-and-wife team of Deborah Sussman and Mark Prejza embrace the multi-disciplinary nature of design, not a surprise given their backgrounds—Sussman long worked at the Office of Charles and Ray Eames, and Prejza was trained as an architect and planner. Their projects, both stand-alone and in collaboration with architects, sit at the nexus of graphics, architecture, and city planning; the work ranges from designs for the printed page to the visual identity of entire cities.

Joseph Giovannini is an architect and critic based in New York and Los Angeles.

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