Mervyn Kurlansky was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1936. He trained in London at the Central School of Art and Design, and then freelanced before becoming graphics director of Planning Unit, the design consultancy service of Knoll International. In 1969 he joined Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes and in 1972 co-founded the design studio Pentagram, which he left in 1993 to live and work in Denmark.
His clients have included multinational corporations, cultural establishments and educational institutions throughout the world. He has won a number of important awards, including a bronze medal from the International Biennial of Graphic Design Brno, a gold award from the Package Designers Council, silver awards from the Designers and Art Directors Association, a silver award from the New York Art Directors Club, a gold award from Japan’s Minister of Trade and Industry, the Gustav Klimt prize in 1995 and the Danish IG design prize in 1996. He was inducted into the South African Hall of Fame in 2006.
Kurlansky’s work is in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art and has been featured in several publications and exhibitions worldwide. He conceived and designed the book Watching My Name Go By, the first documentation of New York graffiti, and Masters of the 20th Century, celebrating the work of the 107 speakers of the Icograda London Design Seminars from 1974 to 1999. He also coauthored four books about Pentagram.
Kurlansky is active in design education, lectures extensively and serves on design juries internationally. He is a past president of Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations), a fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers, the International Society of Typographic Designers and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale and the Association of Danish Designers.
Mervyn Kurlansky on the making of his Masters Series poster:
"Several years ago, in Israel, during a spiritual workshop on ancestry, I experienced a remarkable vision. One morning at sunrise, meditating, eyes closed, on a mountain top overlooking the Dead Sea, I found myself surrounded by a vortex of several hundred people, whom I took to be my ancestors.
All at once, they began to form themselves as individual points of a series of interconnecting triangles, until the entire universe seemed to be made up of a complex structure of mathematical forms. On reporting my experience to the workshop group, one of the leaders asked if I knew anything about the Kabbala, and when I replied that I had never heard of them, she suggested I look them up. On my return to Copenhagen I did a Google search and to my utter astonishment, in a book on the sacred geometry of the Kabbala, I came across an almost identical image to the one I had seen. Over the next few months I began to experiment with the abundance of geometric forms that can be created by joining a number of selected points on the circumference of a circle.
When I was invited to participate in the Voices & Visions program, the quote ‘I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me. Likewise I am planting for my children’, I interpreted to be, not so much about material things, but about the planting of knowledge and wisdom. It seemed obvious to me that the sacred geometry of the Kabbala represented a substantial body of wisdom that was planted for the benefit of generations to come, and today, we are witnessing a revival of interest in their philosophy.
The illustration I created is not a literal interpretation of the quote but a subtle hint at the abundance of knowledge and wisdom my ancestors planted, and if my work, in any way, inspires those who view it, then I hope I will have passed on the planting."