To young women of a certain age (and some of their male contemporaries), the name Lisa Frank conjures up psychedelic images of rainbows, hearts, music notes, teddy bears, and unicorns. “To me, no other name conjures a very specific aesthetic more than Lisa Frank,” one colleague and contemporary emailed today. “Not even the names of, like, legit artists.” It is art focused on “everything that makes a kid happy,” according to Frank herself in a new short documentary about her signature multi-colored aesthetic, which has been marketed to young girls for decades now.
The reclusive artist, whose popularity peaked in the ’80s and, especially, the ’90s, agreed to be interviewed for the Urban Outfitters-produced The World of Lisa Frank (the retailer began selling Lisa Frank items last year), directed by Scott Ross and Karl Beyer. But she only appears in discreet shadows, which emphasize, by contrast, the rainbow-tinted floor-to-ceiling glass windows of her Tucson, Ariz. headquarters. While the video is brief, the self-described “crazy” businesswoman provides a bit of insight into how her distinct art was created before and after computers, and notes that the company’s vaults contain a version of every single item ever produced. (And stay tuned for a clip of the 1993 commercial featuring a very young Mila Kunis, right around the 3:00 mark.)
Even if the rest of us have outgrown the loud, trippy colors that once adorned our backpacks, notebooks, pencils, and Trapper Keepers, Frank still shows a dedication to making a new generation of kids happy—and, as she admits, is still very much a child at heart.