Know the Material





“GOOD DESIGNERS MAKE TROUBLE.” As the self-described “Bad Boy of Graphic Design”, Tibor Kalman was best known for his progressive and socially activist works with his design firm M & Co., as well as his tenure as creative director at Interview and Art Forum magazines and as the first editor in chief of Benetton’s COLORS Magazine.

Kalman’s sensibilities were born from his status as an outsider since his youth. Moving from Hungary to escape the Soviet invasion and rejected as a “geek” in social circles as a teen, by his college years he had aligned himself with the political underdogs of the day, even leaving school to support the workers of the Cuban Revolution, embracing the very Communist ideology his family had once fled.

But paradox became Kalman’s playing field, and he played in it well. After his fledgling design work with Barnes & Noble bookstore he opened M & Co., servicing the booming 80’s corporations and discount department stores with sardonically self-titled “Design by the Pound.” Not content however, to simply criticize his clients and the work he did for them, he began to enlist them in his cause. Because design reaches so many on such a wide social scale, Kalman felt designers had a responsibility to express a social conscience in their work. For Tibor, design was a chance to raise awareness of social issues rather than perpetuate social ills.

Getting the message across was not always easy, especially on his colleagues whom he felt were falling short of his lofty ideals. Kalman never missed a chance to stand status quo on its head, and paved the way for a new generation of designers to carry on with socially conscious design. While COLORS was perhaps his crowning achievement, his entire body of work stands as a turning point on the mission of design in the modern world.


Tibor Kalman was born in Hungary in 1949 and moved to the United States at the age of eight. He was the founder of the design firm, M&Co., creative director of Interview Magazine, editor in chief of Benetton’s COLORS Magazine, and known as the “bad boy of graphic design”. He lived every single day until he succumbed to cancer at the age of 49.


1) PLANES CRASHING (Taken from one of Tibor’s famous quotes:  “I am interested in imperfections, quirkiness, insanity, unpredictability. That’s what we really pay attention to anyway. We don’t talk about planes flying; we talk about them crashing.” It could be said that we experience life through intersecting planes, sometimes colliding, sometimes tangling, sometimes in an intricate weave where the sum is greater than the parts. Kalman’s life work explored these very crashes; they were the aspect of life that interested him the most).

2) YOU’VE BEEN A BAD BOY (Kalman was the self described as the “bad boy of graphic design”)

3) COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES (A nod to body of work with COLORS Magazine)



Legal Size Paperweight designed at M & Co. 1984
M & Co. Legal Size Paperweight 1984
M&Co. Blueprint PaperweightM&Co. Blueprint Paperweight
Things Kalman Napkin
American Center for Design Napkin: Tibor Kalman “Things”



Tibor Kalman 1949-1999

Tibor Kalman 1949-1999


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