From time to time there seems to be no correlation between the amount of work a designer has in the AIGA Design Archives and his or her significance in the world, let alone the design community. Such is the case with graphic designer and art director Cipe Pineles, who surprisingly only has half a dozen or so entries in the Design Archives and none from her groundbreaking work at magazines like Seventeen, Charm, and Mademoiselle. Fortunately, this didn’t affect her posthumous AIGA Medal, awarded in 1996. Among her many accomplishments, Pineles was the first independent woman American graphic designer, and served as a role model for the next generation of women in design.

A graduate of Pratt Institute in 1929, Austrian born Cipe Pineles (1908-1991) was hired by Mr. Condé Nast himself in the early ’30s and worked as a designer at Vogue with art director Dr. M.F. Agha before becoming the first American woman art director at Seventeen, where she commissioned fine artists to illustrate the pages of the magazine, effectively bringing modern art to the attention of a young public. Among the young artists she championed were Richard Anuskiewicz, Ben Shahn and his wife Berarda Bryson, and AIGA Medalist Seymour Chwast. She worked with myriad designers and photographers, among them AIGA Medalist Herbert Matter, Cornell Capa, Toni Frissell, AIGA Medalist Ladislav Sutnar, and Richard Lindner.

Pineles was considered by many to be the perfect art director, affording the artists she worked with great freedom. She also created her own illustrations and innovative typography for some of the most experimental women’s magazines of the time, including Charm and Glamour. Pineles was even welcomed into the good ol’ boys club: she was the first woman to be asked to join the all-male New York Art Directors Club and the second woman to be inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1975.

In 1963 she joined the faculty of Parsons and became their director of publication design, positions she held through the mid ’80s. One entry in the Design Archives is the result of her editorial course, in which she required students to come up with the subject, define the audience, and develop an entire magazine, as well as all the marketing materials. That project, the Parsons Bread Book: A Celebration of the Art of Baking Bread and the Great Bakers of New York City by Students at Parsons School of Design Who Made This Book, was so well received that a trade paperback edition was published by Harper and Row in 1974 and was named one of the AIGA’s 50 Books of the Year in 1975. She also created the Parsons/Otis Parsons catalog covers and posters featuring apples and oranges representing New York and Los Angeles, creating an indelible icon for the school. She continued to teach through her 70s before retiring.