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Ramparts magazine cover, stermer designedIf you don’t know who Dugald Stermer was surely you’ve been affected by his work. Stermer, art director of the influential counterculture magazine “Ramparts” redesigned the Medals for the 1984 Olympics.

This excerpt is reposted  from a profile by Tim J Luddy

In 1964, Stermer was working as a design director in Houston when he was recruited to be the art director of the feisty Ramparts by Howard Gossage, an advertising executive who was advising the new publication. Stermer’s combination of restrained, classic typography with take-no-prisoners art direction helped position Ramparts as the contemporary antidote to stodgy progressive publications and gained him national prominence. The magazine soon became part of the national political conversation and was regularly criticized or lampooned in publications such as Time and Esquire (which at one point offered Stermer a job).

Sometimes this visibility had personal consequences: When Stermer and three other Ramparts staffers allowed their draft cards to be burned for the December 1967 cover, the four were called to appear before a federal grand jury in New York. But the magazine’s impact was felt much more widely than that. Dr. Martin Luther King was so moved by a Ramparts photo essay by William Pepper, depicting the effects of American military tactics on Vietnamese children, that he began speaking out publicly against the war shortly afterward. As an art director, Stermer was bold and self-confident, and he could be incredibly intransigent. When Ramparts editor Warren Hinckle tried to suggest changes in his first cover design, Stermer announced that he was going back to Texas. Hinckle backed down, and Stermer established a high degree of autonomy at the magazine. Nevertheless, his work was always in line with the magazine’s mission. According to Peter Richardson, author of A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America, for all its critical edge and irreverence, “Ramparts in its heyday was centrally concerned with the American ideals—and especially the nation’s failure to live up to them.”

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