Paula Scher Paints It Bigger

Written by Ricardo Cordoba on January 9, 2006

Paula Scher map paintingOver the past few years, graphic designer Paula Scher has been painting giant, colorful maps filled with densely packed letterforms that spell out names of cities, states, ZIP codes, and, in some cases, voting statistics. These are intricate and expressive paintings, and she showed slides of them during her opening presentation at last year’s TypeCon. Now, happily, these paintings can be seen up close at the Maya Stendhal Gallery, in New York City’s Chelsea district. The show has been extended through January 21, and the gallery’s website features images of the paintings and of “The Daily News,” a series on paper that she did for Print magazine. The site also includes links to a Hillman Curtis film on Paula Scher, an essay about her paintings, and an excerpt from her book “Make It Bigger”.

See also: The Logo Campaign: Kerry Is Losing

Paula Scher - South America Map
South America 2002 (Detail)
73.75\” X 88.25\”
Acrylic on canvas

Paula Scher Manhattan Map
Manhattan 2002
132\” x 60\”
Acrylic on canvas

Paula Scher - Manhatten detail
Manhattan 2002 (Detail)

Ricardo Cordoba is a graphic designer based in New York City. His interests include book covers and typeface design. He contributed to Quipsologies from 2010 through 2017. During 2017, he worked as a freelance copyeditor and fact checker for AIGA’s Eye on Design. He is a frequent contributor to Typographica.


  1. Marc Witt says:

    Paula is also the subject of the “At Home With” column in today’s New York Times (registration required.) Her beautiful “South America” painting is featured, along with some thoughtful comments about the relationship between fine art and design, both of which are naturally infused with typography. (“The thing about corporate work is it involves other people,” she said. “Painting does not involve anybody.”) Paula’s husband Seymour Chwast seems to have escaped the photo shoot, but the Times piece does offer a glimpse of some of his work that I hadn’t seen before.

    Incidentally the Stendhal Gallery is going to be producing a limited edition silkscreen of some of her paintings, starting with “The World.”

  2. nick shinn says:

    I’ve never liked her commercial design work.
    Probable something to do with the zombie fonts she mostly uses.
    But her artwork (when she makes her own letters) blows me away. The maps are incredible, and the 9/11 timeline calendar is unforgettable (although I forget the exact dates it runs between).

  3. Ricardo Cordoba says:

    Thanks for the links and info, Marc!

    Nick, The Headline Series starts in 2001 and ends in 2003. It originally ran in the January-February issue of Print (it’s still available as a back issue, in case anyone’s interested). The series can also be seen here. Paula Scher also created an illustration in the same style for The New York Times. It was published in the December 26, 2004 edition, and accompanied an article by Charles McGrath, “The Year of (Your Catchphrase Here).”

  4. Laura says:


  5. Laura says:

    beautiful!!! i wish i could say it was i who did this. it must be fun to paint, too… loving life

  6. Solid work! I have been a fan of this work for some time. I realize that this may be an obvious observation but I am always impressed at how the overall composition subjugates the type, It could be in any language and still be relevant. One could say this is because of the universality of the map but I think it is primarily superior design sense.

Post a Comment

Comments at Typographica are moderated and copyedited, just like newspaper “Letters to the Editor”. Abusive or off-topic comments are not published. We appreciate compliments, but don’t publish them unless they add to the dialog. Thank you!