For many years Grafik has had the privilege of working with the National Museum of the American Indian. As the designers of the museum’s identity, we often worked with curators to make sure that we were capturing the essence of the museum. One such curator was George Horse Capture, a legend in the in the museum professional community. Mr. Horse Capture died in April at the age of 75, and upon seeing his obituary I was reminded of a wonderful encounter that one of my partners, Lynn Umemoto, and I had with him.
Lynn and I were charged with designing a logo for a fundraising campaign in the mid-’90s. The theme of the campaign was The Great American Spirit, and our long time colleague, Maggie Bertin, requested that we use a feather as the emblem of the campaign. As with most of the NMAI projects, budgets were tight, and I was glad to have the client give us a clear idea of what she wanted. To us, a feather was a feather, and I started the design team off and running designing marks.
As with all NMAI projects, all designs were passed by a curator, and in this case George Horse Capture was our man. I distinctly remember presenting a wide variety of beautiful feather marks to him for his approval—all lovely forms. And, I will never forget his face as he looked at our feather logos. “You can’t use any of these feathers! They are all wrong,” he proclaimed. I was stunned expecting that he would love several of our designs. He paused, and in a calm voice taught us that all feathers are not created equally. For one thing, all of our feathers looked like crow feathers, a symbol that was not appropriate for the new institution. And our designer had sensitively broken the structure of the feather at 3/4 of the way down—also a no-no. Quality feathers are those of an eagle or a hawk and the feather’s edge could not be broken—the way we had shown it. George took that opportunity to educate us, not put us down, and yet he would not accept anything that was not perfect. We worked on that feather for weeks until we got it just the way he wanted it.
I have worked with hundreds of clients over the years, but few are stored in my memory bank the way George Horse Capture is. And while I have not seen him in years, the impression he made is indelible. I will miss him.