Dream Design: A Lifetime of Dreams, Design, and Serious Play

By Zach Rosen   |   March 15, 2022
A collection of Vigon’s prints and personal works will be on display at Silo118

Chase your dreams. It all too often is considered just the ideals of naive dreamers, but for Larry Vigon it has led to a lifelong career designing album covers, posters, and other artworks, including Carl Jung’s The Red Book. His commercial design has had a significant cultural impact but his personal artwork – drifting somewhere between Matisse and Modigliani with its own dreamy twist – and new book, Serious Play, will be on display for his first ever solo show at Santa Barbara’s Silo118.

For Vigon, art has been a lifelong dream and career. He was born in Chicago, with his family moving to L.A. when he was three years old. He remembers always drawing as a kid – his new book, Serious Play, even has a drawing from when he was six. But it was at seven years old that he decided he wanted to be an artist. Since then, he has never wavered in that dream, finding support all around him. Growing up, his parents gave him art lessons, and even his school wanted to encourage his art. Vigon adds, “In elementary school I used to get excused from class to do paintings for the hallway (which probably explains why my math skills aren’t what they should be).” 

While math may not have been his strong point – clearly art was – he later attended the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. The school hones students’ technique and skills, but also emphasized how to think conceptually about art. It was with this focus that he fell in love with graphic design and art direction. “Well I got into school because I could draw but had never really thought about graphic design,” says Vigon, “I hadn’t looked at, say – a bottle of wine – and analyzed it. Thinking, oh someone actually designed that label.” He was in his early twenties at the time (which coincidentally, also happens to be the age most people begin to look at wine bottles through a new lens), and began to think about where he wanted to go with his art. 

“I’ve always had a tremendous love of music. I thought the ideal job for me would be designing album covers because I could combine my passion for art, with my passion for music,” he describes. One of his ArtCenter instructors had worked for Herb Alpert’s A&M Records and told him: “When you start looking for a job in the music industry, tell them I sent you.” This certainly helped open some doors, as did a promo poster he designed and sent out to all of the different record labels and album design studios. One day he got a call from one of the studios that received his poster, asking if he could do some hand lettering for a Captain Beefheart album cover. Never having done lettering by hand, he naturally answered – “Of course I do.” This first gig led him to designing a Fleetwood Mac album, and eventually five more covers for the band. From there the rest is, as they say, history. 

Old Blue Eyes 3

Over the decades he has done conceptual design, typesetting, and artwork for everyone from Eric Clapton, Chicago, and Pat Benatar, to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Carole King, and the Counting Crows. His background and passion for graphic design has also led to an extensive career in logo design and commercial branding where he has worked with the L.A. Opera, IBM, Epson, and LAX, to name only a few. Vigon also explored art direction for the printed page, including The Art of the Empire Strikes Back for the historic Lucas film. 

In his thirties he began to do a lot of dream analysis, recording every dream in a journal with an accompanying illustration, which lasted for 17 years. He eventually had the good fortune to meet J. Marvin Spiegelman, the last living analyst to study at Zurich’s Jung Institute while Carl Jung was still there. When friend, collaborator, and magician Ricky Jay saw his extensive dream journal collection, he encouraged Vigon to reach out to his editor. Vigon did, and the editor enjoyed the visual dreamscapes, working with Vigon to publish a coffee table book of his works. This eventually led to Vigon working on Carl Jung’s The Red Book, in which he and his wife played an instrumental part getting the book published, in addition to being in charge of the art direction and design. 

After an extensive career that has spanned 50 years, Vigon has a new book, Serious Play, coming out that encompasses his body of work. This two-volume set is split between his commercial art direction and design in one book, and his personal work in a second volume. Vigon adds, “Most of my career I’ve tried to combine my personal artwork with my commercial artwork. So, when you get a chance to look at my book, a lot of my illustrations that you see, not only for album covers, but for advertising and whatnot, are my illustrations and things that I had done on my own – not for any particular assignment – just for my own amusement.” Or in other words – some serious play.

The book also lends itself to his upcoming exhibit, Serious Play, at Silo118 in the Funk Zone. This show marks his very first solo exhibit ever. “I’ve had a few things in group shows, here and there, some in L.A., some in London, also in Italy, but I’ve only ever had a couple of or a few pieces up, and so this is quite special to be having a show all to myself,” says Vigon. He met Silo118’s Bonnie Rubenstein through a mutual friend, and the two are just getting started – adding, “It’s actually what Bonnie has offered, it’s not just this show based on the book and my backlog of work, she’s wants to have several shows within the next year or two.”

Vigon and his wife moved to Santa Barbara three years ago after spending over 12 years living in Europe. But not wanting to face another English winter, the couple decided to head towards the sunny skies and seas of Santa Barbara. “I’ve always wanted to live in Santa Barbara since I was a kid – and now we’re finally here.” For Vigon, this is just the next scape in his lifelong blending of dreams, art, and serious play. 

Serious Play will run at Silo118 (118-B Gray Avenue) from March 5 to April 30 with an opening reception on Wednesday, March 16, from 6 – 8:30 pm. Visit silo118.com for more information. 


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