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Mash-Up New Orleans: My Old Port Home

Written by in Profiles


[Editors Note: This is a second in series on graphic and typographic intersections that make NOLA one of the most delightful places to be a part of, as a newcomer, as tourist, as a native or a fan from afar.  Nancy Sharon Collins hosts these discussions.]

Historically, New Orleans population was described as “Spanish and French colonists, English mercantilists, African slaves, and later waves of German, Irish, Italian, and other migrants.” Other migrants include a huge influx of Haitian refugees in 1809, including French colonists, free Creoles of color, and ex-slaves (who were subsequently thrown back into slavery once they arrived.)


Currently (or as the population flows…) our lively little city by the Mighty Mississippi remains a growing, vital port town where all sorts of folk—tall, short, dark, light, speckled freckled, big-eared and tattooed, Cuban, Viet Namese, Middle Eastern, Honduran, Mexican and Nicaraguan—make their livelihood and home here, albeit (for some) temporarily. New Orleans was and is a transient place; to some, as fleeting a dreamlike experience as the old-time movie musical city of Brigadoon. Compared to some 40% of the traditionalists who remain or return here generation upon generation, many others of us glide through on boats, tugboats and barges, streetcars, railroad cars, bikes, trikes and skateboards.


Though “graphic design” and “south Louisiana” do not, automatically, come to mind in the same sentence, this legendary port city is also home to generations of designers.  Ever since about 1757 when Denis Braud first ordered type from Paris for his soon-to-be printing press, legions of typesetters, Linotype salesmen, sign painters, printers, engravers, lettering artists, paper merchants, graphic artists, coders, programmers, information architects and commercial artists of all stripe have sought their fortune (or, at least, a good life) in this multi-cultured, multifaceted, very international, subtropical, area of the world. In 2011, Forbes.com named New Orleans numero uno “biggest brain magnet.” Recently, NPR reported that “In Katrina’s Wake, New Orleans Enjoys Startup Boom.”

There’s no one style that can be given pride of place here, rather, many lives and minds, talents and cultures, continually flow through our city beneath the sea and lend color, flavor and inspiration that’s part old Europe, part the very deepest of south, and part recent arrival’s spirited imagination!


Catch the New Orleans history fever for graphic design here:


Art Directors and Designers Association of New Orleans 1962 Slideshow Presentation from AIGA New Orleans on Vimeo.


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