The Man Behind the Bunny: Art of Playboy

Project Status: 
In Progress

"Art Paul did for publishing what Warhol did for fine art: he blurred the line between what hangs in galleries and what appears in magazines.”
----Hugh Hefner, Playboy Magazine


The Playboy logo, that frisky and charming rabbit, is among the top corporate icons in the world. It has become synonymous with Playboy magazine and is recognized everywhere around the globe. Art Paul, the founding art director of Playboy created that logo at the age of 29. Paul is a renowned designer, art director, and artist. He served as art director at Playboy for 29 years. Print Magazine credited him with leading the "illustration liberation movement" for his innovation and groundbreaking design.

The Man Behind the Bunny: Art of Playboy is a feature-length documentary film about the life and impact of Paul and his work. Interviews with artists, art critics and design experts will paint a portrait of a man who was born into a poor immigrant family on the South side of Chicago and rose to the top of the design field. Historical photos, film footage, and interviews will blend together to present an outstanding designer, art director, and master artist.


"Art Paul represents a really important part of Chicago design history," said James Goggin, former Director of Design and Publishing at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. "He studied at the new Bauhaus here in Chicago, was involved in one of the biggest magazines in 20th century popular culture in America, and straddled the fields of art and design as a practitioner." Playboy magazine was noted for its creative design and first class artwork during Paul's tenure. Paul commissioned some of the top fine artists in the world to illustrate for the magazine, including Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Alberto Vargas, as well as Chicagoans Ed Paschke, LeRoy Neiman, and Seymour Rosofsky. He persuaded Playboy to acquire their artworks instead of the illustration rights, an uncommon practice, and in doing so, helped Playboy amass a large collection of museum quality artworks while supporting many local artists. Hefner first met Paul in 1953. He was immediately impressed by the artwork at Paul's studio and hired him to be the art director for his new magazine. He promised Paul autonomy in design with free reign to experiment. Paul and Hefner were the only two people working on the first issue of Playboy, which debuted with a two-color cover and centerfold of the not yet iconic Marilyn Monroe. Without any prior advertising, the first issue in 1953, with its unique design of bold open space and little typography, stood out on crowded newsstands and sold over 57,000 copies, an instant success. Sales of the magazine continue to soar, peaking at over 7.5 million copies in the mid 1970s.


Paul changed the landscape of the two-dimensional magazine by bringing other media such as construction, collage, and die-cut to entice readers, later emulated by many other publications. Paul left Playboy in 1982 to re-establish his design studio and explore his own artistic pursuits. Over the past three decades, his work has included logo design, newspapers, magazines, and posters. He also continues to paint and draw, including hundreds of heads—an exploration of human emotions and masks. His work has had many public showings at museums and cultural centers. He has lectured across the U.S. and internationally at universities, design schools, and art directors' clubs. He served on the board of several art organizations and remains relevant today.


A feature presentation about his life’s journey was a highlight of the Chicago Humanities Festival in November 2014 and exhibitions of his work was featured at the CODA Gallery in Palm Desert, CA, in March 2015, and another one at the Ukraine Museum in Chicago in June 2015.