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Pamoja Gallery poster

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Aug 23rd, 2020. Artwork published in .
Pamoja Gallery poster
Source: Scan courtesy of Letterform Archive. License: All Rights Reserved.

Poster for Pamoja Gallery, 268 Bleecker St., New York City. This design by Bill Howell was reproduced in Dorothy Jackson’s “The Black Experience in Graphic Design”, published in the November/December 1968 issue of Print magazine. In this article, Jackson interviewed five Black designers including Howell about “the frustrations and opportunities in a field where ‘flesh-colored’ means pink”.

In July 2020, Letterform Archive has revisited the article, which “was perhaps the first in the mainstream trade press to directly address the impacts of racism in the profession and describe the experience of Black practitioners in their own words, [and] asked today’s design leaders to compare their experience to the 1968 discussion and imagine what’s next.”

The typeface that Howell chose for “Pamoja” is called Obese. This bottom-heavy “pyschedelitype” had just been added to the library of NYC-based typesetting studio Photo-Lettering, Inc. The dimensional variant with double outline, Obese A, was shown in PLINC’s 1969 Alphabet Yearbook as #5724. The gallery’s address that is integrated into the women’s necklace is set in caps from Cooper Black.

William “Bill” Lowell Howell was born in Jefferson City, Tennessee, in 1944. From 1960 to 1962, he studied at the Philadelphia College of Art. [Cederholm 1973] He served as art director for J.M. Fields Company, Inc., Black Theater magazine, and the New Lafayette Theater. Shortly before the article in Print was published, he had joined the Weusi Nyumba Ya Sanaa Art Gallery, a cooperative gallery of Black artists in Harlem. Howell died of diabetes in 1975, at the age of 32 years. [New York Times obituary]

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