My Dream, My Wannabe: Paula Scher

This project was a semester long project for my typography design class. The task was to choose a designer whom we admire and study their design style, subsequently reflecting it in our designs: 4 keywords, 3 stories, an exhibition and its poster, and a kinetic typography video.

Project Type
Class Project
Typography Design | Spring 2021

Keyword Design


Paula Scher is best known for her numerous logo and identity designs such as for Citibank, Microsoft, the Metropolitan Opera, and most notably, The Public Theater in New York. The Public Theater's logo makes use of varying weights for each letter to represent the diversity of people, hence I sought to use that idea for my keyword design, as everyone has their own unique identity.

In the word ‘identity’, I wanted to emphasise the letter ‘I’ to convey the meaning of identity, an individual. Just like in The Public Theater’s logo, I used a range of thick to thin weights for each letter to represent how identity can be used for a diverse group of people. In addition, I designed it to have an image of a barcode, like how a product has a barcode that defines its identity.


“I’m driven by the hope that I haven’t made my best work yet.” Paula Scher never stops trying new things. Even though she has already established a career and a name for herself, she is open and enthusiastic about other aspects of design, delving into environmental graphics and painting.

I imagine ‘evolving’ as an image that is expanding or growing bigger. I took inspiration for the letter ‘A’ shape Paula Scher designed for the Atlantic theatre, as it expands from a short end (the top of the A) to a long end (the bottom of the A), and arranged the word ‘EVOLVING’ to expand in a similar way. The second half of the word, ‘VING’, comes forward out of the shape to represent how Paula Scher breaks boundaries in trying new things.


Paula Scher has an obsession with typography, and it is thanks to this obsession that she has produced amazing designs and made a name for herself. She is also an artist- her typographic map paintings have garnered attention for their incredible, obsessive amount of detail.

To express obsession, I wanted to use repeating lines to create a feeling of being sucked into a point. I used repetitive lines surrounding the word 'obsessional' to create a dizzying effect.


Paula Scher began her career at CBS and Atlantic Records, where she was responsible for the designs of a whopping 150 album covers per year. These records are still loved by many today, and through her cover designs, we can say that Scher has played a part in the record of music.

I took my inspiration from the designs Paula Scher did for the TDC. The repeated lines ranging from thick to thin around the type remind me of the lines on an LP record, albeit not very accurate. In contrast to the letterforms made up of strictly straight lines and 90 degree angles, I used circles around each of them to create an image of a record, and to represent sound and music spreading. I left the letter ‘O’ round as its shape reminded me of a recording button.

Story Design

Design is Play

Paula Scher's design philosophy can be summarised into 3 words: 'Design is Play'. According to her, great design is serious, not solemn; the best work comes from serious play. In her TED Talk in 2009, she shared 2 definitions of play:
1. Engaging in a childlike activity or endeavour
2. Gambling

When I thought of the word ‘play’, the first thing that came to mind was alphabet blocks that children play with. Hence, I started my design by placing the main word ‘PLAY’ on cubes, wrapping each letter around the edges of the cube, inspired by Paula Scher’s environmental graphics. From another perspective, the cubes can be interpreted as dice as well. I thought this fit in well with the two definitions of play; alphabet blocks for a childlike activity, and dice for gambling. I arranged the cubes to appear as if they were being thrown upwards, starting from the words 'Design is'.

Get Bad to Get Good

This story originates from another quote of Paula Scher- “It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.”

I wanted to make use of the colours black and white to convey the meanings of the words- ‘BAD’ in the dark and GOOD’ in the light. I played around with the idea that because of the darkness of ‘BAD’ things, the bright ‘GOOD’ is able to stand out even more, by placing a black background behind the word GOOD’. I then thought of how I could use the shapes of the type more to convey the meaning. The letters G, O, O, D condensed are thin, long, and mostly rounded, reminding me of fingers, hence I set the letter G to be sitting vertically on top of the other letters, forming an image of a thumbs-up. Similarly, ‘BAD’ was designed to look like a thumbs-down.

Be Loud and Proud

Paula Scher's design works embody the spirit of New York- Loud, Urban, Evocative and Proud. Her designs feature large, bold type that fills up the entire page, grabbing viewers' attention to convey a message powerfully.

I selectively emphasised certain letters based on how I would want the viewer to interpret its pronunciation. In ‘LOUD’, the O is stretched, and the ‘R’ and ‘O’ of ‘PROUD’ are stretched to emphasise those parts of the pronunciation. PROUD’ is also warped to arc in the middle, to evoke a feeling of a head being held up high or a lifted chest posture when one is proud.

Exhibition Design

i. Poster Design

The way I imagine a Paula Scher Exhibition is one that is all about play. Bold, big type with vibrant colours that showcase her style, catching visitors’ attention as soon as they walk in. Hence, for or this task, I made use of the ‘Design is Play ‘ story as the main theme of the exhibition poster design. I got my main inspiration from Scher’s design for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park 2016 season Be in the Park’.

The main image of the poster is the words ‘Paula Scher’ in the background with ‘PLAY’ overlapping it on top. The words ‘Design is Play’ are the only coloured words to establish a connection between these words. Another goal I has was to fill the entire page with bold, big type to reflect Paula Scher’s style.

ii. Exhibition Hall Design

With ‘Design is Play ‘ as the main theme of the exhibition, I recreated the 2D ‘PLAY’ cubes into 3D using acrylic cubes, paint and resin. I constructed the exhibition with the cubes hanging in the middle as the main focus of attention.

I designed the floor to be part of the world map painted by Paula Scher, and placed a ‘Design is Play’ marker sign where Korea is, as this particular exhibition is presumed to be held in Korea. As the exhibition is held across many countries across the world, the location of the sign and the excerpt of the map can be changed to match the corresponding country to create a photo zone.

Kinetic Typography

Let's Play

Titled ‘Let’s Play’, I made use of my keyword and story designs to create a one minute motion graphic film that would give an insight to Paula Scher’s style and design philosophy. As Paula Scher’s work is largely showcased in and reflects the culture of New York, I chose an upbeat and fast song with loud, city vibes. In the motion graphic design, I especially considered how the movement of each element can further convey the meaning of each keyword and story.