PART FOUR: The Charrette New York Creative Culture

Part Four was written by me, Alison D. Gilbert, The New York Graphic Design Examiner. It was published by the on February 21, 2011.

The first time the Charrette Catalog cover was printed in 4-color fluorescent inks instead of the usual 4-color process © Jim McClear 2011
The first time the Charrette Catalog cover was printed in 4-color fluorescent inks instead of the usual 4-color process
© Jim McClear 2011


The historical digs for the Charrette NY stores unearthed an abundance of artifacts and details. The process leading to the creation of their flagship store at 33rd & Lex, and the story since make it apparent that this chronicle needs and deserves to include every gem encountered along the way.

From interviewing several primary sources, a single article has evolved into a series with no sign of wanting to end. Unlike Charrette NY, which did conclude after 20 years as the premier place to purchase design supplies, its story is very much alive. There is even a Charrette Alumni Group on LinkedIn, with many members yet to be interviewed.

Stephen Dill was the first Charrette Alumnus discovered and interviewed. He arose from a ‘Charrette’ search on LinkedIn. He led the way to co-founder Lionel Spiro.

Mark Levitan started with Charrette straight out of school and rose through the ranks of almost every department over his 29-year tenure. NY architect, Rand Rosenbaum, AIA, worked in the NY stores in high school and then while at Pratt. He continued to order Charrette supplies from Cornell. Art Director, Johanna Bohoy, created award-winning graphics some of which are in the Cooper Hewitt Museum in NY and the Smithsonian in DC.

With each of these and interviews to come, Charrette NY jewels emerge. They provide a unique perspective adding color, charm, and even panache to the stores, staff and customers. A creative culture was born within the NY design scene that became a template for chic, boutique style stores that catered to a select group and are a NY signature.

The list of clientele was a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of NY architects, graphics and all kinds of designers. It included a cast of celebrities and glitterati that make the Charrette NY story sound more like a Broadway event than a retail business. (To this day, that list remains buried like other artifacts were. It may never be unearthed.)

There is no doubt that place, time and cast were intimately woven together to create a shimmering fabric. It was a cloth that stretched from Boston to NY and down the East Coast to DC, and out to the Midwest.

The Charrette NY family history and genealogy still ache to be documented until every detail of its glorious life has seen the light of day. This creative culture was home to thousands of people who all played a part in its magical, rich and on-going tale.


PART ONE: Invitation to a graphic memoir, the Charrette Corporation
PART TWO: The baby was born in a Harvard closet
PART THREE: Charrette meets ‘Big Apple’ graphic standards
PART FOUR: The Charrette New York creative culture
PART FIVE: The Charrette Chronicles Synopsis
The Charrette Alumni Group on Linked

Continue Reading