Deborah Sussman: 1931-2014

It is with great sadness that I write the following words:

Deborah Sussman passed away peacefully at her home in West Los Angeles last night after a long battle with breast cancer. Her partner and husband Paul Prejza was at her side. She was 83.

As a pioneer in the field of environmental graphics, Deborah’s vision, talent and personality have inspired countless others. Though her legacy will live on, today we’ve experienced a tremendous loss, not only to our chapter, but also to the larger design community.

With her passing we’ve lost not only a massive part of AIGA Los Angeles history (she was instrumental in the founding of our chapter in 1983/84), but also that of the design profession at large. Her powerful personality is legendary and matched only by her contributions to the field of design itself.

Elizabeth Guffey offers us the following reminder of Deborah’s amazing career:

“As a member of the Charles and Ray Eames studio and later as an independent designer with her own practice, Sussman quickly became a key figure in the California design scene; but it was her long-term civic projects, including oversight of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, that fixed her reputation on the international stage.

A woman working in a field once dominated by men, Sussman joined the Eames office in 1953 and worked on many of their iconic projects. After leaving their studio, Sussman became an early and key innovator in the emerging field of environmental graphics. A gifted colorist, Sussman’ s contributions were many, but include fixing an image of California design as light-hearted, multi-cultural, and dynamic with her Olympics designs. A student at Bard College and the prestigious Black Mountain College, Sussman also attended the famous “new Bauhaus” at the Illinois Institute of Design. But her career and design vision centered on Southern California, where she settled in 1953. Sussman was the subject of a retrospective exhibition in 2013; focusing on her work from 1953 to 1984, the show reflected her effervescent and design sensibility; true to the role she played in her adoptive city, the show was fittingly titled “Deborah Sussman Loves L.A.”

It is requested that all calls and contact be made through the Sussman Prejza office.


Jason Adam
President, AIGA Los Angeles

By AIGA Los Angeles
Published August 21, 2014
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