[ Feb 17, 2000 ]
Its been over ten years since Karen Greenberg and her husband D. Mark
Kingsley left their respective positions as art directors within the
cosmetics industry and formed Greenberg Kingsley. Karen oversaw the Paloma
Picasso, Armani and Anaïs Anaïs fragrances at Cosmair, Inc., and Mark was at
Intelligent Skincare, a division of Pola, the Japanese cosmetics giant.
"Design in the cosmetic industry mainly consists of Mother's Day, Christmas and everyday 'line maintenance,'" says Kingsley. "We would spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on copy ragging, getting the perfect color, or adjusting how a vacuum-formed base would 'grab' a bottle. It's a wonderful experience for a young designer, but for some people it could be boring. We always wanted to work in the music industry, so as regimes changed and department heirarchys shifted, we did too."
Among Greenberg Kingsley's first clients were Esteé Lauder, Sony Music and Amnesty International. Eventually, that list grew to include The Alternative Pick, Atlantic Records, Blue Note Records, Capitol Records, Geffen Records, The Guggenheim Museum, Lincoln Center, Nick at Nite, VH1 and Calvin Klein. The couple have received awards from the Art Directors Club, The American Institute of Graphic Arts, Billboard Magazine and the Broadcast Design Association. Last month, their box set design for "The Blue Note Years" was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In other words, Greenberg-Kingsley's imprint on the design world has since become unmatchable.
Accomplishments they're most proud of:
"Karen started as the director of Sander Gallery (August Sander's grandson) and Mark shot stats at Desky Associates. We met each other as art directors at Cosmair, Inc. where we designed fragrance packaging for Ralph Lauren, Armani and Paloma Picasso." Is there a common thread or element to your work?
"The back of our stationary has a phrase: half and half again with increments in eighth inches. Thats something only an obsessive freak with a ruler would notice. Other than that, we do have a way of cropping and dynamically scale-shifting images. We pride ourselves on our use of color. Not many people can come up with the color combinations Karen can. Even when we use photographic images, we tweak CMYK mixes to get the best color possible. As service providers, we try to stay out of the way of our client. So most of our work is as minimal as possible. In the end, it's their music." How would you describe your style?
"Direct. An attempt to create a mythology for the client." Who do you consider your mentors?
"Old guys. Dead guys. Conceptual artists. Tasteful gay men. Obscure avant-garde composers. Charles Sanders Pierce, Douglas Hofstader and Robert Ashley." Tools of the trade?
"The telephone, cups of coffee and vitamins." What do you do to keep the ideas fresh?
"Listen." What is your creative outlet when you're away from work?
"Wine, pudding and cheese - then off to the gym. Karen also works as an illustrator, and Mark works as both an illustrator and exhibits as a fine artist (with shows at White Columns and Patrick Callery). (Karen's work can be viewed at littlemissy.com.)
What is the most satisfying part of the job?
"Working with smart, talented people." What about leaving work at the office and just being husband and wife?
"We are always husband and wife. We are always working." The pros and cons of going into business with your spouse:
"The great motivating factor when you own your own business is fear. Fear of destitution. Fear of being irrelevant. Therefore, you always find yourself 'on.' In addition to business, there is design in general and history. Is your work good enough? Will it be remembered? Can you create your own mythology? One needs to be more critical of one's own work than the client. With other people this could adversly affect the relationship. For us, it works. Everyone that knows we are both married and business partners is totally amazed that we can be together for so many hours in a day. We don't look at it that way. We're married, so what?"
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