Designer and SVA MFA Design Faculty member Keith Godard passed away on Monday at the age of 77. We had the profound delight of getting to know Keith as we were aquiring his work for the Archives - his sneaky sense of humor, his eye-catching red shoes, his profound wonderment at the ways he could manipulate physical materials in revelatory ways. That fascination extended to the digital realm, with Book Mates, a sweet, scannable children's book published in 2016 in which a paper book develops an unexpected friendship with a digital book.
Born in England, Godard attended graduate school at Yale and founded Words design group in 1968 with Craig Hodgetts, Bob Mangurian, and Lester Walker. Their first client was the legendary children's toy maker Creative Playthings.
Godard's logo (above on stickers) was also fabricated as a light sculpture outside the CP store on E. 53rd St in NYC. Illuminated advertising signs were prohibited on the block so Godard presented the sign as sculpture to work around the requirements.
From 1975 to 1985 he worked with new partners, Hans van Dijk and Stephanie Tevonian, and in 1986 he established his independent practice, StudioWorks, specializing in exhibition design, wayfinding, and public art. He created elaborate exhibition models under plexiglass for projects including the permanent exhibition at the NYC Transit Museum (available in the Archives).
One of his most beloved public art projects is his mosaic in the 23rd Street N/R subway station. It features hats of NYC's most famous denizens from the 1880s-1920s who might have been seen around 23rd Street and Broadway. The hats are all placed at the appropriate height of the wearer (while waiting for the Brooklyn bound R train I almost always aim for Samual Gompers' simple brown hat).
Here's Godard with the original art for the subway project on the wall in his home.
Keith was a true original, an artist who never lost his joy in experimenting and making stuff. We are heartbroken that he's gone. Below are some posters from his collection in the Archives, spanning his student days to work created within the past few years.
Godard also designed a newspaper for this fascinating Cooper Hewitt walking tour. More here.