CBS design guru Lou Dorfsman dies

Network still uses his custom-made typeface

Lou Dorfsman, the design director who helped mold the image of CBS for more than four decades, died Oct. 22 of congestive heart failure in Roslyn, N.Y. He was 90.

Dorfsman started as a staff designer for the CBS Radio Network in 1946 and rose through the ranks to become design director for the entire company, a job he held until 1987.

He designed the set of "The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite" as well as the floor set for CBS' political convention coverage. Dorfsman also implemented a custom-made typeface for all CBS graphic design called CBS Didot, which is still used today.

The son of a sign painter, Dorfsman was credited with CBS' most iconic designs, including print ads for CBS specials such as its report "Of Black America," which showcased a black-and-white image of a black man with half his face painted in stars and stripes of the U.S. flag. The image became a symbol for race relations.

Dorfsman also came up with memorable slogans like "Re-elected the Most Trusted Man America," for Walter Cronkite's election coverage in 1972; "Jackie of All Trades," for a Jackie Gleason special that showcased the comedian in 11 roles; and a one-time-only print ad for the TV series "The Waltons" with the headline "Save the Waltons," which was credited with bringing new life to the beloved series.

One of Dorfsman's proudest accomplishments was a 35-foot wide, 8-foot tall mural in the CBS employee cafeteria that spells out 235 gastronomical words in wood -- including foods, cooking utensils and other words associated with food -- as well as quotes from Alice B. Toklas on sauces and Longfellow on the beauty of bread and butter.

"Essentially," Dorfsman said, "I designed this wall for CBS employees to feast their eyes on while they feasted their palates."

The wall, which he titled "Gastrotypographicalassemblage," is being restored.

"Lou was a giant in his field and an integral piece of CBS' history, legacy and success," CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves said. "There are few designers who could match the artistry and intelligence in Lou's work, or his instincts, which helped build the CBS brand, recognized across the globe, and led to some of television's most effective marketing campaigns."

Dorfsman came to CBS in 1946 as a staff designer in the CBS art department, moved to the radio side and in 1956 was named vp of CBS Radio's advertising, promotion and press information division.

In 1959, Dorfsman moved over to television and five years later was recruited by CBS president Frank Stanton to become director of design for the entire Columbia Broadcasting System, where he was responsible for all printed materials, advertising and promotion for CBS and CBS News.

He retired in 1987 after 41 years with CBS and at the behest of CBS founder William Paley became creative director of the Museum of Broadcasting in New York.

Dorfsman is survived by his wife, Ann, whom he met in college; sons Mitchell and Neil; daughter Elissa; and one grandchild.