by Steve Wasserman, all images courtesy Steve Wasserman
Originally published at Alta magazine online, March 2, 2023.
David Lance Goines between two of his iconic designs.
David Lance Goines died at his home in Berkeley on Sunday, February 19, 2023. He was 77 years old and had recently had a stroke. He was one of the country’s most talented graphic artists, and his posters were internationally renowned. He was a virtuoso offset pressman who printed all of his own posters. For decades, we’d been friends and, in recent years, collaborators.
I first met David in 1969, when I was 17. I was in my senior year at Berkeley High School, and with my fellow radical mischief-makers, he let us lay out our underground newspaper, Pack Rat, at Saint Hieronymus Press, his printshop on Grove Street (now renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Way), which he’d founded in 1968.
He’d been working in that shop since 1965, when it was still known as the Berkeley Free Press, and he served as an apprentice pressman to Leo Bach, who owned the shop. David had been expelled from UC Berkeley for his participation in the Free Speech Movement. He liked to joke that he never attended the demonstrations that were mounted in those turbulent years, as he was too busy printing leaflets for the protests that others organized.
David taught me how to operate a Gestetner printing machine, but it was my great pal and fellow high school troublemaker Jenny Stone whom he took under his wing. She lived just up the street from his shop and used to hang out with him. He’d show her how the presses worked and would occasionally let her help out. Jenny told me over text that “one day, David asked if I’d sit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe poster (lions coming out of my mouth).
I don’t think it was what the mime troupe had in mind, but it was fun to be a part of the making.” Jenny went on to work in the printing trade, apprenticing with the International Typographical Union. “David really inspired my love for printing, posters, and Berkeley life in the ’60s/70s,” she said. “I’ve always had a thing for his distinctively Goines designs and his commitment to traditional printing techniques.”
Born in Grants Pass, Oregon, David was the eldest of eight children. He’d never intended to become a graphic designer but instead came to UC Berkeley to study classics, after harboring a childhood hope of becoming a Lutheran minister. In 1965, he apprenticed with Berkeley lithographer Marion Syrek, becoming a master printer. He also became Alice Waters’s boyfriend in the spring of 1966, when she was helping to manage Ramparts editor Robert Scheer’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Congress on a platform to end the war in Vietnam and end poverty in Oakland. Alice tells the story best in her 2017 memoir, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook:
I found my way to David Goines’s print shop in June 1966. We were having Bob Scheer’s leaflets printed there—I was the “press liaison,” and I came by every afternoon at four p.m. to pick them up. I took in the amazing big printing press machines and the beautiful ink and the pungent smell of the press running. David was there in the middle of it all, designing and making incredible posters and teaching calligraphy. He wore the same uniform to the print shop every day, jeans and a blue work shirt and a vest and brown boots. He had curly hair and little wire-rimmed spectacles, like a cross between Trotsky’s and John Lennon’s. He always carried a pocket watch and had a Mont Blanc fountain pen tucked into his vest that he would hand-fill with ink. It almost felt like he had dropped in from another century—his considered speech, his manners, everything.
At work on a Gestetner.
She fell for him hard.
“David was a perfectionist in all things,” Alice recalled, “even food, and made his espresso just so: he always got the perfect beans and ground them with a hand grinder.”
Five years later, in August 1971, Alice opened Chez Panisse, and David designed the original poster for the restaurant. He designed and printed an annual poster to commemorate its founding every year for the next five decades.
He did posters for the Telluride Film Festival, cofounded in 1974 by Alice’s later boyfriend, Tom Luddy, who, in a cruel twist of fate, died the week before David, on February 13. David also did a series of movie posters for the Pacific Film Archive when Tom was its director in the 1970s.
His knowledge of fonts, typography, and the arts of calligraphy and lettering was as deep as his opinions were pronounced. He consciously emulated a range of admired artists, including Ludwig Hohlwein, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Hans Rudi Erdt, Albrecht Dürer, Katsushika Hokusai, and Utagawa Hiroshige. He wrote several books, including A Constructed Roman Alphabet, which received a 1983 American Book Award for typographical design, and, perhaps most dear to his heart, his nearly 800-page The Free Speech Movement: Coming of Age in the 1960s.
I had long conversations with David, who was convinced that what was special about the FSMers was that they were the first generation of UC Berkeley students who’d decided to settle in the town where they’d gone to school. A critical mass of radicals remade Berkeley, seeding the counterculture and making it possible, David argued, for folks like himself—and Alice—to survive and thrive outside the mainstream economy. Moreover, they’d done so while remaining loyal to first principles of integrity and moral practice.
David Lance Goines
David was old-school. For years, like countless others, I had admired his meticulous craftsmanship and near-medieval dedication to exquisite poster design. Seven years ago, when I became the publisher of Heyday, the Berkeley-based nonprofit independent press founded in 1974, I longed to publish a series of note cards that showcased a selection of David’s posters. I worried that he’d not agree, wanting, as ever, to assure the highest possible quality, something only he could achieve with his bespoke printing methods.
I finally screwed up the courage to ask him, and he readily agreed, telling me that modern technological methods had become so good that only an obsessive like him could tell the difference. I duly prepared a contract and handed it to him for his review and signature. He plucked his Mont Blanc fountain pen from his pocket and asked where he should sign. I pointed to the last page of the six-page document filled with the usual publisher’s legalese, asking him, “But don’t you want to read it carefully before signing?”
He looked both dismayed and puzzled and said: “Why would I want to do that? I know you. I trust you.” And without another word, he scrawled his signature and handed the contract back to me and said that he didn’t want to see it again and that I should just get on with printing the note cards as I had promised.
With David’s death, we lose a pillar of modern Berkeley, a person whose moral passion and commitment to artistic excellence were forged in the heat of the over-oxygenated 1960s. He was a multitalented, one-of-kind guy who never lost his spark of creativity. He knew in his bones that aesthetics are ethics.
A poster for the Frankenstein movie, available as part of a Notecard set from Heyday Books.