Thank you Charley Harper

Let this brief entry serve as a long overdue expression of my gratitude to Charley Harper for his work and the inspiration it has provided me over the years. I can recall hours spent as a child pouring over his illustrations in the “The Golden Book of Biology” (cover image below), experience that undoubtedly planted seeds that would eventually grow into the passions for both natural history and illustration & design that are my life’s work today.


I have always been captivated by Mr. Harper’s unique style of “minimalist realism”, and inspired by his ability to accurately portray the essence of a life form or a life process in a way that distills the subject to its most important features, without the burden of unnecessary details. Perhaps this style (or the philosophy behind it) is best reflected in the quote he chose for his myspace page, “I don’t count the feathers, I count the wings!”


Mr. Harper’s passed away on June 10, 2007, at age 84. Since his death, I’ve been thinking about him and his work often, always with a feeling of sincere gratitude for all that he has unknowingly given me for so many years. Thank you Charley Harper.

– RG

Video Essay: Todd Oldham talks with Charley Harper:

P.S. My fellow designers who share both a love for Charley Harper’s work and a desire to minimize the negative environmental impact of their work will surely be interested in a publication by Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc., A Field Guide: Eco-Friendly, Efficient and Effective Print, now in its third edition. The guide not only contains some terrific tips for creating more environmentally-friendly print designs, but is also sprinkled with some examples of Charley Harper’s beautiful work.

Never underestimate the power of a planted seed: