Malcolm Grear

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Malcolm Grear
Born (1931-06-12)June 12, 1931
Mill Springs, Kentucky, USA
Occupation Graphic Designer

Malcolm Grear (born 1931 in Mill Springs, Kentucky) is a graphic designer whose work encompasses visual identity programs, print publications, environmental design, packaging, and website design. He is best known for his visual identity work and has designed logos for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Veterans Administration, the Presbyterian Church USA, and Vanderbilt University. He is the CEO of Malcolm Grear Designers, a design studio in Providence, Rhode Island.

Life and work


Grear was born in Mill Springs, Kentucky in 1931. "As a kid growing up in Kentucky, I thought art was the label on a Cloverene salve tin or a magazine cover by Norman Rockwell," Grear says.1 Having come of age in a rural farming community where people learned to make do with what they had, the designer attributes his fundamental values and approach to life to those early years. Much to his surprise, he also discovered that his upbringing gave him a natural predisposition toward design.

After high school Grear joined the Navy, where he trained as an aviation metalsmith, a skill that would subsequently gain him entry to the Art Academy of Cincinnati. There, Grear immersed himself in a multidisciplinary array of art and design courses and learned that "education engages emotion as well as reason."

Teaching career

Grear taught in the Rhode Island School of Design’s graphic design department from 1960 to 1998, serving as its chairman from 1965 through 1969. He has earned an international reputation as a leader in the field of design education and has received five honorary doctorates. "I don't—indeed can't—teach students to be designers," he says, "but I can and do teach attitudes and strategies that help them become designers."2

Malcolm Grear Designers

Grear established Malcolm Grear Designers (MGD) in 1960 and built the studio into a highly respected firm known for its clean lines and clarity of vision. Grear has done memorable visual identity programs for a wide range of clients, including Sonesta International Hotels, Emory University, Colby College Museum of Art, Visual Magnetics, and New Bedford Whaling Museum. MGD has produced award-winning print design work for Scientific American Library, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The RISD Museum, The National Gallery, Harvard University, and the Hallmark Photographic Collection. In the realm of environmental graphics, the studio has designed communication and sign systems for Mayo Clinic, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Brown University, King Khalid City and the MBTA, along with exhibitions for numerous museums, including MIT's 150th Anniversary exhibition.

1996 Centennial Olympics

In 1996, MGD was selected to design the "Look of the Games" for the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. The studio was also chosen to design the 31 sports pictograms, the Olympic torch, safety lantern, traveling cauldron, the Olympic medals, and a commemorative poster. Grear, who believes his small studio was chosen "because of our record—because we respect tradition and avoid novelty," commented at the time: "It doesn't get much better than this. This has got to be one of the highest honors for a design firm."


"I believe a symbol or visual identity should be memorable, unique, even though nothing is timeless, it should be as timeless as possible, it should be gestalt like, that is to say that it should say more than the total of its sums might indicate. It has to be used big and small, and I hope that it would work in three dimensions as well as two dimensions."3

"Design—like music, language, mathematics, art, science (curiosity) and the rest—is part of the structure of the mind....Done by nature with blind but dazzling elegance and by us with human purpose, design is no mere cultural confection; it is in us." 4

"I am a lucky man. Not by design, but through design, I have gained a life of friendships, respectful affections, delightful collaborations—all born of my work, which in itself, in its daily texture and visual diversity, brings pleasure to my soul."5


  • Grear, Malcolm (1993). Inside/Outside: From the Basics to the Practice of Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0-442-01667-0. 
  • Grear, Malcolm (2006). Inside/Outside: From the Basics to the Practice of Design: Second Edition. New York: AIGA/New Riders, An Imprint of Peachpit Press/Pearson Education. ISBN 0-321-44067-6. 



  • Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame Inductee, 20106
  • “Kentucky Star” by the Downtown Lexington Corporation, 2005
  • “History Maker of Rhode Island”, Rhode Island Historical Society, 2000
  • Claiborne Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts, 1998
  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design, Citation for Distinguished Service in the Visual Arts, 1997
  • John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1986
  • Rhode Island Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, 1969

External links


  1. ^ Rhode Island School of Design, faculty profile page, accessed July 2010
  2. ^ Featured Logo Designer, accessed June 2010
  3. ^ "Malcolm Grear on Visual Identity", video interviewclarification needed
  4. ^ "Recognizing a Living Legend". Rhode Island School of Design. 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2012-09-21. 
  5. ^ "Malcolm Grear: "Seeing is Believing"". Newport Art Museum. 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2012-09-21. 
  6. ^ Providence Journal, "8 Rhode Islanders to be inducted into Hall of Fame", April 29, 2010

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