Creator of iconic Polaroid color stripes, SX-70.


Short Story —

Paul Giambarba was Polaroid's first art director and creator of the ubiquitous Polaroid color stripes and gods-eye.

He has won many awards including Gold Medals from the Art Directors Club of New York as well as Boston, and three consecutive Certificates of Excellence for Package Design from the A.I.G.A.

His work has been the subject of articles in Dezeen; Industrial Design; American Artist; Idea (Tokyo); Relax (Tokyo); Graphis (Zurich); Grafik (London); Brand eins (Hamburg) and Communication Arts.

Paul Giambarba was a regular contributor to Sports Illustrated, This Week Magazine, Scholastic Magazine, as well as True and Spy Magazines.

Invited Lecturer: Cornell University / Wellesley College / Simmons College

Want the long story from the artist himself? See below.

 “You know how long it takes to do simple? Ten times longer than fast and dirty.”

Long story —

My Italian grandmother taught me how to draw at a very early age. She loved cats and drew them in a witty manner with their tails up (to see their number plates she said in Italian). Her style was much like that of Saul Steinberg, and no wonder -- he studied in Milan where that spidery technique flourished. I loved playing baseball but unlike my Dad and son I was not good at it. I did sports cartoons instead.

I began a short newspaper career as a copy boy for the old Boston Post. On V-J day, August 14, 1945, I scooped the rival Boston Globe by hand-lettering the surrender of the Japanese on chalk boards that were hung on the front of the Post building. I was rewarded with a job in the art department of the Post, but had to leave when the vets came home to reclaim their jobs.

The Boston Herald hired freelance call artists which I then became. Through the kind recommendations of Regis Tranter, the Herald's production manager, I was hired as a daily sports cartoonist, but soon fired by George Minot, the managing editor in front of the whole city room. "Go to college, learn how to draw," he yelled. I did not take his advice. Ten years later he had to send one of his reporters to my Boston studio to take photos and do an article about me and the weekly cartoon feature I had sold to This Week magazine, their Sunday supplement with the largest circulation at the time of any American periodical. The Herald reporter told me that Minot had fired a couple of others who went on to win Pulitzers. I didn't ever win one of those, but I never wanted another newspaper job, or any other -- for that matter.

I had the good fortune to meet Harold Irving Smith who became my first mentor. Harold was a portrait painter and illustrator who had been a student of the great American painter and teacher Robert Henri (1865 - 1929). For two years I was fortunate to occupy a drawing table in Harold's Studio on Boston's Lagrange Street, over Eddie Jordan's barber shop next to Hand the Hatter, one block up towards Tremont Street from Washington Street and the Combat Zone.

My second mentor was Bruce Anderson who presided over a wild and crazy art studio down at 88 Broad Street on the fringes of the financial district. Bruce was a very talented designer and a great teacher. The most famous alumnus of Bruce Anderson Associates is cartoonist Roy McKie. In August of 1952 I married Ruth Tremaine, a student at Massachusetts School (now College) of Art and opened my own shop at 120 Milk Street in the low-rent fringes of Boston's financial district. Ruth was my best and constant model as I progressed from cartoons to illustration using what I had learned from Harold.

My third mentor was Stanford M. Calderwood, whose name you will see displayed as a prominent donor at the entry of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I met Stan in 1955 when he was an assistant ad manager at Polaroid in Cambridge. For the next 28 years I shifted gears and designed Polaroid's corporate image and almost all their product identity. I was their first art director and as such, set up their art and production departments. But we all agreed that corporate life was not for me, so I spent those years working and living on Cape Cod where I physically helped build a studio and a couple of houses.

This was the golden age of Polaroid when it went from $50 million in sales to well over a billion.

When not working on Polaroid designs, much of which were packaging prototypes, I freelanced national magazines where I got full pages in Sports Illustrated and a weekly cartoon feature in This Week magazine, a Sunday supplement with the largest circulation in the world at that time. I also did book covers and illustrations for publishers such as Houghton-Mifflin and corporate and product identity programs for Tonka Corporation and Tonka Toys out in Minnesota.

In 1965 I began my own publishing start-up The Scrimshaw Press. It was to introduce first run original and abundantly illustrated paperbacks for children that dealt with Cape Cod's historical past, marine lore, ecology and conservation. It was a labor of love and I received encouragement and many very good reviews, including articles in American Artist and Horn Book magazine.

Meanwhile, I won countless awards for my designs, Gold Medals from the Art Directors Clubs of New York and Boston, Andy and Hatch awards from the advertising clubs of those cities, and several Certificates of Excellence from the American Institute of Graphic Arts. I was also invited to lecture at Cornell, Wellesley, and a couple of other colleges, and taught a guest semester at Simmons.

In 1980 I plunged into editing and publishing CapeArts, a regional quarterly that featured the creative work of residents and summer visitors of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough and illustrator Edward Gorey were among those whom I interviewed and photographed.

In the last few years I've returned to my first love, illustrating, with a new and revised edition of Cape Cod Light, which I had originally published with Atlantic, Little, Brown and most recently reviving my most popular Cape Cod titles. I was also a volunteer with Senior AmeriCorps and the Cape & Islands Senior Environment Corps.

The big box bookstores invaded Cape Cod and killed off many of my indie customers. My dear wife Ruth departed this life in 1978 while my two children were in college and preparing to enter. In 1981 I literally married Mrs. Wright. Fran and I helped a talented illustrator friend find a home for her wonderful Flower Alphabet by founding Arts & Flowers, a publisher of botanically accurate greeting cards. We moved to Sebastopol in Sonoma County when we noted that most of our customers were in California. We sold the business in 1997 and moved back to Cape Cod and the town of Mashpee where we have been ever since.

Florian Doc Kaps contacted me after he bought the former Polaroid factory in Enschede, Holland, and outdated film for which he needed some identity and package design for his Impossible brand. I designed all the packages and sent .pdfs to Doc’s printer in Austria, and in December 2009 Fran and I celebrated the launch with the Impossible people at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.

Doc was instrumental in getting me to make fine art prints of my work, after a successful sale of my Branding of Polaroid book which has gone into a few editions including the very recent (2019) publication by Les petites éditions in France. My original prints have been exhibited in Paris, Barcelona, and Bologna at specific Photographic events.