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A Marionette Workbench is My Lasting Impression of HOW

Written by in Events

HOW Design Live lived up to its reputation this year. But other than my trip to Cheers, I didn’t get more than a block away from the convention center from arrival, to the last day of the event – so I felt Boston had let me down. But a city as magnificent as this one has a way of making it up to you – and quickly.

With a few hours left before we had to leave, fellow conference blogger Bennett Holzworth (read his latest post on Johnny Cupcakes here) and I headed over to see the Boston Public Library. And after seeing a sign that said “rare books lobby,” Bennett figured we should follow the arrows.


After a room or two of rotating exhibits, well, empty rooms waiting for an exhibit, we saw card catalogs. Really took me back to my younger years. And the drawer that said “design” popped out at me. I thought, maybe this is the rare book lobby, but there was another empty room behind it, and another sign…


A marionette display. Yeah, not creepy at all. And still another room to go through before we see the rare books.


After finally making it to the rare books, and they have a lot of them (all behind glass), there was another room off to the side – behind a locked glass door. This room had items that seemed very cool, but I didn’t know why. Then Bennet said, “Isn’t Dwiggins the guy that coined the term graphic design?”

We didn’t get an answer from the employee, but we did get a, “Did you want me to call someone to open the room for you?” Yes we did.


It was the collection of William Addison Dwiggins. And yes, he did coin the term ‘Graphic Design.’ That’s me in front of his workbench.


Not just limited to Graphic Design, Dwiggins also did art, and was a true craftsman. Above is a light he created and some of his other work.

At top are a few books he was involved with, and they had a whole wall of them on display.


This explains the marionettes we passed on the way here. He created all of them, as well as wrote the plays they were used in. These were on his workbench.


No laptop? How was graphic design done back then?


More tools, work samples and just below the letterforms he was drawing is his AIGA medal. Looks like he got the 9th one ever given – in 1929.

The city always plays a large role in any conference, and being that close to the tools, work, and marionettes of one of the founders in our profession was an amazing experience.

Big thanks to the wonderful team at Neenah Paper for letting me share a few stories from the conference, Bennett Holzworth for blogging with me in Boston, Matt Porter for helping remotely, and the random library employee for opening up that locked door.