Graphic Design

The Beauty of the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs



Here, I offer something most personal. Below are some pages from a project I prepared for and then sent to my beloved, in the autumn of 1977 (© Stephen Holmgren 2023), about 45 years ago. She was someone who I very much hoped might in the future be my betrothed. She was and is, Martha, to whom I sent this booklet in the autumn of 1977. Designed and composed in a pension in Florence, Italy, assisted by access to a manual typewriter at St James, the local Episcopal / Anglican parish in Florence, I prepared this multipage document, and sent it to Martha who was pursuing a study year in Taipei. Amazingly, it got there through international mail, and equally amazing is the fact that we still have the physical original of the little  booklet today. (God is good / all the time)

Of course, like all proponents of eternal love and affection, I have fallen short of living into the ideal. But, I still believe in it! Those of us who have entered into this particular covenant can admit this. Why? Because in the covenantal reality of Judaism, and then within Christianity, what we do, and perhaps more importantly what we have failed to do, is not the real issue. The real thing is the the One who grasps us, holds us, and saves us, always. And, the One who holds us together.

More Early Graphic Design

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An ink and water color design for the cover of a small pamphlet


Above, an additional cover design for a small pamphlet

Below, I share the top third of a number of designs for tri-folded office or home stationary, suitable for insertion in a business size envelope. When the whole page is unfolded, a blank area occupies the lower two thirds of the page, allowing space for either typing or hand writing.

Obviously, Frank Lloyd Wright has loomed large in my aesthetic formation as an aspirant to architectural and graphic design. The designs I share here are just short of fifty years old.

I have learned much from FL Wright and his work, and while enduringly appreciative of his vision I am not blind to the problems and challenges that his self-confidence sometimes led him to encounter. My favorite (perhaps anecdotal) FLW quote: “I am, by my own admission, the world’s greatest architect!”

And my favorite FLW story involves Johnson Company scion, ‘Hib’ Johnson. He commissioned Wright to design the now world-famous SC Johnson Company headquarters and research facility in Racine, Wisconsin, in the latter 1930’s. At the same time, Hib also commissioned Wright to design a grand residence for himself, later known as Wingspread. Apparently, one evening, with Mr. Johnson hosting a formal dinner party, the roof began to leak (a not-unknown aspect of some challenging Wright designs). Johnson took to the phone and called Wright, complaining that water was dripping on his head at the dining table. FLW cooly replied by saying, “Well, Hib, move your chair!”

Yet, I have an abiding sense that FL Wright’s now somewhat dated, but totally relevant, sensitivity to what he called organic design principles still has much to teach us. As much as I admire the modernist work of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and so many others, I am so grateful for what I have learned from and through engagement with the life, work, writings, and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.


The designs presented here are copyrighted (© Stephen Holmgren 2023).




The Beauty of Psalm 139

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Frank Lloyd Wright is known primarily for the huge scope of his architectural work, and perhaps secondarily for the furnishings he designed for his buildings, which include everything from furniture to lamps to tableware. Less well-known are Wright’s graphic designs which were materialized in tapestries, wall panels, carpets, and in stained glass windows.

Just as I was strongly influenced by Wright’s architectural work when I aspired to follow him into the practice of his vocation, my design vision was just as impacted by his graphic work. In my case, this influence was not manifest in plans for such things as tapestries or windows, but in designs for paper products such as cards and stationary, and for handmade pamphlets. Among these were one featuring text from Psalm 139 (:1-17), and another text from the Song of Songs.

Above and below are some images of the little Psalm 139 pamphlet I created in the autumn of 1977 using a circle template, a rapidograph pen, an old-fashioned typewriter, and charcoal paper, along with a binding of stranded thread.



The above images are copyright, © Stephen Holmgren 2023. This post is based on a little pamphlet featuring Psalm 139:1-17, which I made while staying at the Pension Colorado in central Florence during the fall semester of 1977 while on a study abroad program through St Olaf College, in my sophomore year. I also acknowledge the probable influence of Alexander Calder’s mobiles.