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  • Mark Eckstein


Updated: Aug 17, 2020

To those of you who have visited before, welcome back. Newbie? Welcome aboard! I hope that you are all managing to muddle through this COVID mess with your health intact and your head above water. Unfortunately neither of those is a safe assumption these days.

This pandemic has changed a lot about how we live our lives, and while very little of that would be considered welcome, it has also provided its silver lining opportunities. Sequestration brought with it a mandate to jump off the runaway train most of us spend the bulk of our lives riding, allowing us to... just... slow...down.

Suddenly those unfinished home improvement projects seemed less daunting, and became welcome -- maybe even therapeutic -- distractions. I, for one, have been grateful to have positive and productive things on which to focus; things other than the distressing news pouring from TV screens, phones, and even the mouths of those closest to me every day.

This web site was one of those productive distractions. (OK, not exactly a house project, but it definitely qualified as gnawing, unfinished business.)

As I mentioned, the process of putting this together began with a deep rappel down Memory Canyon. How deep? Well, let me draw your attention back to the home page on which you undoubtedly saw -- given its size, color, and strategic positioning IN YOUR FACE -- a graphic interpretation of a thumbprint.

That thumbprint is an homage to the man who is most responsible for me sitting here writing this right now – my father. You see, long before the first droplet of water was ever sprinkled on the seed of the notion of me plying my trade in the graphic arts, it was already in my DNA.

My dad grew up in it. His dad, my grandfather, whom I sadly never got to meet, was a display maker. He created grand theater displays during the Golden Age of Hollywood. But while my dad opted not to carry on the family business, he did take what he learned from it, along with his degree in design from Brooklyn College, and leveraged it into a career as a “commercial artist.”

The year I was born, my dad – inspired to an act of irrationality by my arrival, no doubt – decided to give up the security of his corporate job and make a go of it on his own... Well, that’s not quite accurate. You see, Arthur Eckstein was no fool. He figured there was strength in numbers, and if this all went sideways he he was at least taking someone with him. That “someone” appeared in the person of a like-minded designer named Bernard Stone. Together they jumped off that precipice and landed squarely on their feet as the consultancy known as Eckstein-Stone.

Arthur Eckstein (center) and Bernard Stone (right) and staff members

They were, each and together, artists, designers, lecturers, teachers, authors, not to mention neighbors. As a kid they were my portal into a fascinating world, of which I knew nothing at the time. But all the trappings of a pre-digital design studio -- the tools of the trade, the colored materials, and bulletin boards papered with the visual manifestations of creative thinking -- it all captured my imagination. And the sea of framed awards that blanketed the walls of their Manhattan offices had me in total awe, and quite convinced that they were the titans of their industry.

Of course time, experience, and a modicum of maturity have served to temper that impressionable boy's inflated perception, but I stand by and continue to admire this: They were a couple of extremely talented people. And they were prolific.

“OK, OK, but what about the thumbprint?” I can hear you asking under your breath (with just a touch of impatience creeping in). Well, like me, that thumbprint can be traced to its ancestors. As you might have guessed, the original thumbprints were theirs. Here is how those design titans chose to identify themselves back in the day:

Time, experience, and maturity be damned; I still think it was brilliant. There's a lot of message in those thumbprints. They represented the two partners, both as unique individuals and as collaborators. They also represented the inherent promise of their services – creating corporate identities, brand imagery, and packaging design as distinctive as the companies and products for which they were created.

It is the same message and promise that I have strived to deliver throughout my own career. But while I did not go so far as to adopt the thumbprint as my own identity, I have reimagined it for this site, serving it up as a visual tip-of-the-hat in grateful recognition of those who inspired me.

Speaking of which, here are a couple of relics I found in Memory Canyon, from an unearthed portfolio – long forgotten but adequately preserved – of press clippings collected by my Dad, chronicling a long, successful career. I didn't try to fill his shoes, but I certainly did follow in the prints they made.

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