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April Greiman :: Riding a New Wave :: By Erfert Nielson

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You don't have to give up your pencil when you switch to computer design," declares April Greiman. "The Mac's just another pencil!"

For more than 15 years the Los Angeles-based artist-entrepreneur has used design tools ranging from pencils and paint to still cameras and videos. And since 1984, when she bought her first Macintosh, she's also used personal computers. Greiman continues to expand her artistic horizons through a variety of new media, including desktop publishing.

There isn't much in her field that she hasn't tackled. She's designed everything from cracker packages and corporate logos to TV commercials. For one Los Angeles restaurant, she designed not only the interior but the menus, the wine list, the matchbook covers, and even the sign out front. Recently the City of Los Angeles chose her firm to help revamp deteriorating Hollywood Boulevard.

Trained in the United States and Switzerland, Greiman was elected to the prestigious Alliance Graphique Intemationale in 1985 and serves on the board of the American Institute of the Graphic Arts. Her six-person firm, April Greiman Incorporated, sits square in the center of the artists' community of aging factories that borders downtown Los Angeles. The studio decor is warehouse chic: a stuffed puma, zebra-striped chairs, a row of her cracker packs tacked to the wall--and two Macs.

She used both of them, along with Macwrite, Macdraw, Fullpaint, and Pagemaker, to redesign Main, a tabloid-size desktop journal that covers the Los Angeles art scene. And she made short shrift of the notion that a desktop publication should look typeset: The magazine's all-too-familiar Times and Helvetica typefaces were the first to go.

"It's ridiculous to try to conceal the fact that it's desktop published," Greiman avers. "I asked myself, within the restrictions of the technology, how can we push it the other way, so it's obviously desktop published, but elegant?"

Her solution: to use bit-mapped fonts developed by Emigre magazine (see "Border Crossings" in the January issue). "They make a strong statement that this is desktop publishing," Greiman says. "I'd rather go with something eccentric--but beautifully eccentric."

Greiman proved just as unpredictable when Design Quarterly gave her an entire issue to display her work. "Rather than do yet another retrospective, I wanted to make it a personal piece," she explains. "I decided there could be nothing more personal than a nude, digitized portrait of myself."

Using the Macvision video digitizer and Macdraw, she consolidated the magazine's 32 pages into a single life-size self-portrait. Then, for a border, she offered up a Greiman's-eye view of the history of technology, from the birth of the solar system through the advent of the Mac.

Now Greiman plans to take her Design Quarterly package one step further—by placing her picture and time line on a number of electronic bulletin boards for others to toy with. "I want to see how they're changed," she explains. "I'll publish whatever comes back."

That willingness to exploit serendipity is central to Greiman's success. "In traditional design you learn from accidents: You spill paint and come up with something better than what you intended," she observes. "The same thing happens on the Mac: You go into Fat Bits, see a pattern, and say, 'Ah, that looks better than the original!"' Clearly, April Greiman aims to break new ground--by accident or design.

L.A.'s doyenne of digital design looks to the future as the combination self-portrait and time line behind her chronicles the past.

Source: Publish! 67


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