Woody Pirtle was born in Cosicana, Texas in 1944. After different starts in professional life he decided to focus his energy into graphic design and on finishing college in 1967 he went to work for a small advertising agency in Shrevenport. Wanting to reach a larger market and make a success of himself he then moved his young family to Dallas in 1972 and worked in the design studio of Stan Richards where he stayed for seven years gaining experience in his chosen field.
In 1978 he established Pirtle Design and over the next ten years produced some of the most celebrated graphic design work of the decade; working for clients Baylor Medical University, Dallas Museum of Art, The Dallas Opera and Hines Interests to name a few.
Pirtle Design merged with Pentagram in 1988 and for eighteen years Woody was a partner in the New York office. While at Pentagram he produced designs for The Flying Fish Brewery Company, Amnesty International, The Rockerfeller Foundation, Northern Telecon and many others.
Woody left pentagram in 2005 and re-established Pirtle Design. He continues working in the design to this day.
Woody says that he endeavours to keep his designs as simple and classical as possible. He uses his logo design for The Dallas Opera as an example and points out that though he did the work in the 80’s that it is just as relevant today. “You can try too hard. The answer is always in the problem and what is appropriate is usually what is the most effective.” The logo uses the economic means of the D and the O intertwined.
When talking generally and about poster design he says a similar thing. “Posters are usually viewed from the subway or the street. You literally have a second or two to capture someones attention. So they have to be very reductive and instantly be able to communicate the message. The answer is always from the problem itself. The more deeply you become immersed in what the client and their message is all about, the solution sort of rises to the surface.” In Woody’s poster for The University of California he uses the motif of two books to form a palm tree, the logo for the institution is on the spine of one of the books.
His logo for The Good Diner is both literal and symbolic. By placing the halo over the coffee cup he conveys the company’s name exactly through very simple , direct means. Woody allows viewer of his work the space to have their own thoughts while still being able to recognise the brand.
In his own words he accredits his success as a designer to,” not just the skills with the programs and support mechanisms that allow one to do the work that we do in the design arena; In addition what separates the successful designer is the level of confidence and being able to exhibit a way of seeing things a little differently from the mainstream. It’s the view from off the beaten path.”
In his later years he has become much more interested in what he describes as his personal work. Much of it is still design related and includes assemblages, collages and paintings. He’s stated that his work is now about what he wants to do or needs to do more than being controlled by a design company.