Peter Seitz, a pioneering graphic designer closely associated with Minneapolis MN’s creative community, served as, among other things, the first design director at The Walker Art Center, established the graphic design program at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and was crucial to organizing the Minnesota Chapter of AIGA. Seitz, who passed away in late September, is often credited with being the spark that turned the Twin Cities into a design mecca.
Born in Germany, Seitz studied at The Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung (Ulm University of Design, HfG) opened in 1954. HfG was modeled after the Bauhaus, which was shut down by the Nazis in 1933. After earning his undergraduate degree in 1959, Seitz came to the US at the age of 28 and received an MFA in Graphic Design and Photography from Yale University; among his teachers in New Haven were Paul Rand and Bradbury Thompson. After Yale, Seitz was hired by architectural firm, I.M.Pei & Associates and, soon after, by the Walker Art Center named him design curator and editor of the Design Quarterly, a national publication of applied arts, architecture, and design.
Among the design firms he founded or served as a principal included Seitz Yamamoto Moss, later world-famous as Yamamoto Moss (founder Miranda Moss also passed away this Fall); Visual Communication, Inc., a solo practice, and InterDesign, known as the Twin Cities’ first truly interdisciplinary design firm. Major InterDesign projects included identity and signage for the Minneapolis Parkways and the St. Paul Skyways, the Minnesota State Capitol and the Minnesota Zoo.
In 1971, Seitz began teaching graphic design classes part-time at MCAD. He served as Chair of the Design Department, assembled one of the first computer graphics laboratories at MCAD in 1981. He was an Emeritus Professor at the time of his death.
His body of work is chronicled in “Peter Seitz: Designing A Life,” a monograph published originally by MCAD to help consolidate his reputation and legacy. In connection with the publication, design historian Steven Heller observed: “By virtue of his geographical location Seitz may not have received the same canonical attention as those on East and West coasts, but his influence as an interpreter of mid-century European Modernist and Swiss practice is not merely noteworthy but integral to the history of the field.”
Patrick Redmond, an early protégé, was hired by Seitz at InterDesign and also followed him as president of the Minnesota Graphic Designers Association, which evolved into the AIGA Minnesota chapter. Redmond writes, in part:
“Peter Seitz taught many graphic design courses, yet I never attended any of them. He hired me for a full-time position in graphic design at the newly-formed, dynamic, innovative interdisciplinary design firm he had co- founded, InterDesign, the summer of 1970. I had the honor and opportunity to learn from him directly there, not as my teacher but as an exemplar, in what I consider to have been like an apprenticeship to a master graphic designer… Years later I would join the early MGDA, Minnesota Graphic Designers Association, becoming very involved with the fledgling organization. Peter was one of the early, influential leaders of MGDA. My term as President of MGDA immediately followed his term leading the organization. Peter was one of the Board Members during my term, helping to guide the organization through some of its early growing pains and survival challenges of an economic recession… I was honored to join those who celebrated Peter receiving the first AIGA Minnesota Fellow Award. He was also among the relatively small percentage of those working in the field who had a master’s degree. His design education and career lineage are impressive in themselves. As one of his early protégés, I have always admired and respected Peter and his work, appreciating his positive influence in the field and in my own career.”