Art Paul, the original art director and logo designer for Playboy who commissioned the likes of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali as illustrators, has died aged 93. Paul was Hugh Hefner’s first employee for the magazine in 1953 and stayed as art director for nearly 30 years.
Paul conceived the title’s iconic “bunny in a bow tie” logo after a discussion with Hefner, during which the magazine’s founder said: “We’d been talking about animals and we thought of the rabbit, the playboy of the animal world.” Paul later claimed to have drawn the symbol in an hour. It went on to become one of the most recognisable logos in history, found on every Playboy cover (except the first issue) and emblazoned on all sorts of products, corporate ephemera and even the tail of Hefner’s private jet.
Starting out as a freelance illustrator, Paul once said that he took the job with Playboy after a meeting with Hefner, because the founder offered him complete freedom and the chance to create the magazine’s visual identity.
As art director, Paul designed the publication’s layout and led its creative direction across photography – the inaugural issue’s cover star was Marilyn Monroe – and illustration. He famously commissioned a plethora of well known artists to create artwork for the magazine, including Warhol, Dali, James Rosenquist, LeRoy Neiman, Brad Holland and Shel Silverstein. In the documentary Art of Playboy, Christie Hefner, Hugh Hefner’s daughter and Playboy’s former chief executive, said: “[Paul] deserves the credit for the illustrator’s liberation. He helped redefine the whole notion of commercial art as being able to be as well-regarded and legitimate as high art.”
During Paul’s time as art director, Playboy won multiple awards for illustration and graphic design.
Paul retired from the magazine in 1982 and worked as an independent designer in advertising, TV, magazines and film, as well as becoming an artist, creating thousands of paintings which he occasionally exhibited in his home city of Chicago. He died on 28 April.
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