Tag Archive for Joe Duffy

Joe Duffy: Reflecting on his contentious debate with Tibor Kalman 28 years ago

At the 1989 National AIGA Conference, Tibor Kalman took the main stage and talked about what was wrong with design. He then proceeded to point the finger at an ad Joe Duffy and Michael Peters put in “The Wall Street Journal” as an example of bad design. Duffy, who was in the audience, was stunned and completely caught off guard.

It was unprovoked and unfair, to say the least. After the onstage debacle, Duffy called for a session in which he could respond to Kalman. It was perhaps too little, too late. Kalman’s wrath had already gone viral, or as viral as things could go in 1989. So, Print magazine’s editors invited the two to sit down in their New York office, with Steven Heller as moderator, and published the debate. It’s recently resurfaced online, so I wanted to talk to Duffy today, 28 years after the fact, to get his take on it. Kalman, of course, passed away in 1999, and was feisty til the end.

Duffy is still designing, but his son and daughter—who are his business partners—are mostly running the show at his Minneapolis-based office. He prefers to paint as much as possible.

Tell me what happened at the conference?

Tibor was a different guy. I was in the audience. We knew one another, at least by reputation back then. I think I was on the national board of AIGA at the time. He knew I was going to be there. He took it upon himself to tell the audience all the things that were bad in design, and as a summation he projected this full-page ad that I took out with Michael Peters and said, “Now here is a perfect example of what’s wrong with design,” or something like that.

It was a cheap shot, to say the least. It was like this 12 year old boy on the playground that was jealous, basically.

Read the rest of the interview here.