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THE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF GRAPHIC DESIGN
‘Herb Lubalin’s work takes you quickly to the heart of a very big subject: the theory of meaning and how meaning is communicated— how an idea is moved, full and resonant, from one mind to another.’ 4 Eye 96/12
Herbert Lubalin in 1956. He pushed back what were believed to be the boundaries of design for entire generations of designers who were to follow.
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Below.w Pistilli Roman is a typeface collaboratively designed by Herb Lubalin and John Pistilli. Pistilli was a partner with Lubalin at the firm Sudler & Hennessey from 1949 to 1964.
Above. Letâ€™s talk type (1959). Bespoke lettering used as part of a trade advertisement promoting the work of the advertising firm Sudley & Hennessey, where Lubalin worked for 19 years.
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Herb Lubalin was two years old when AIGA awarded its first medal to the individual who, in the judgment of its board of directors and its membership, had distinguished himself in, and contributed significantly to, the field of graphic arts. There has been a lot of history between that moment and the evening in January 1981, when members, directors, friends and admirers gathered in the Great Hall of the New York Chamber of Commerce building to be with Lubalin as he accepted the 62nd AIGA medal. A lot of that history, at least in the graphic arts, had been written and designed by Herb Lubalin. And Lubalin has been recognized, awarded, written about, imitated and emulated for it. There’s hardly anyone better known and more highly regarded in the business. Lubalin’s receipt of AIGA’s highest honor was never a matter of ‘if,’ only ‘when.’
Coming to terms with Herb Lubalin’s work takes you quickly to the heart of a very big subject: the theory of meaning and how meaning is communicated—how an idea is moved, full and resonant, from one mind to another. Not many have been able to do that better than Lubalin. Typography is the key. It is where you start with Lubalin and what you eventually come back to. However, ‘typography’ is not a word Lubalin thought should be applied to his work. ‘What I do is not really typography, which I think of as an essentially mechanical means of putting characters down on a page. It’s designing with letters’. Lubalin was a brilliant, iconoclastic advertising art director; in the 1940s with Reiss Advertising and then for twenty years with Sudler and Hennessey. Recipient of medal after medal, award after award, and in 1962 named Art Director of the Year by the National Society of Art Directors, he has also been
a publication designer of great originality and distinction. He designed startling Eros in the early 60s, intellectually and visually astringent Fact in the mid-60s, lush and luscious Avant Garde late in the same decade, and founded U & lc in 1973 and saw it flourish into the 80s. But it is Lubalin and his typographics; words, letters, pieces of letters, additions to letters, connections and combinations, and virtuoso manipulation of letters to which all must return. The ‘typographic impresario of our time,’ Dorfsman called him, a man who ‘profoundly influenced and changed our perception of letter forms, words and language.’ Lubalin at his best delivers the shock wof meaning through his typography-based design. The shock of meaning, in Lubalin’s artful hands, delivers delight, as well, delight that flows from sight and insight. ‘Lubalin,’ praises Dorfsman, ‘used his extraordinary talent and taste to transform
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Herb Lubalin claimed not to be a great typographer. ‘In fact,’ he said, ‘I’m terrible, because I don’t follow the rules.’ words and meaning from a medium to an inextricable part of the message? and in so doing, raised typography from the level of craft to art.’ And it is in his paper U & lc that a lot of threads in Lubalin’s life and career get pulled together. It is publication dedicated to the joyful, riotous exploration of the complex relationships between words, letters, type and meaning. An ebullient advertisement for himself as art director, editor, publisher and purveyor of the shock and delight of meaning through typography and design. ‘Right now,’ he said, ‘I have what every designer wants and few have the good fortune to achieve. I’m my own client. Nobody tells me what to do.’ And 170,000 subscribers which, with a conservative pass-along estimate, yields 400,000 readers, benefit. Herb Lubalin’s unique contribution
to our times goes well beyond design in much the same way that his typographic innovations go beyond the twenty-six letters, ten numerals and the handful of punctuation marks that comprise our visual, literal vocabulary. Lubalin’s imagination, sight and insight have erased boundaries and pushed back frontiers. As an agency art director, he pushed beyond the established norm of copy driven advertising and added a new dimension. As a publication designer, he pushed beyond the boundaries that constrained existing magazines—both in form and content. In fact, some said he had pushed beyond the boundaries of ‘good taste,’ though in retrospect that work is more notable today for its graphic excellence than for its purported prurience. Lubalin helped push back
the boundaries of the impact and perception of design from an ill defined, narrowly recognized craft to a powerful communication medium that could put big, important ideas smack in the public eye. He pushed back what were believed to be the boundaries of design for entire generations of designers who were to follow. For such a quiet, gentle person to have accomplished so much is testimony indeed to the power of ideas in the hands of a master. In a Cooper Union class on typography, Lubalin said, ‘We’ve been conditioned to read the way Gutenberg set his type, and for 500 years, people have been reading widely-spaced words on horizontal lines... We read words, not characters, and pushing letters closer or tightening space
Left. Herb Lubalin designed many well recognised logos over the decades of his work. Above. Examples of rejected logos from his time at Herb Lubalin Associates, 1971.
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Lubalin and Ginzberg released Avant Garde, an attractive hard-bound periodical which would run for 14 issues between January 1968 and July 1971
Right. Avant Garge Magazine. The most notable legacy is arguably its instantly recognisable logo designed by Lubalin. Lubalin expanded the logo design into an extensive range of characters and ligatures intended solely for use in the identity and headlines of the magazine.
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‘What I do is not really typography, which I think of as an essentially mechanical means of putting characters down on a page. It’s designing with letters.’
between lines doesn’t destroy legibility; it merely changes reading habits.’ Lubalin joined with phototypography pioneer Edward Rondthaler and typographer Aaron Burns in establishing the International Tywpeface Corporation (ITC) in 1970. ITC was founded to commission new and redrawn typefaces for computerized photosetting; it gave designers copyright protection and royalties for the first time. With Lubalin as design director, ITC began a journal, U&lc, to publicize and demonstrate its typefaces and license them to subscribers. His lifelong friend Lou Dorfsman said, ‘Perhaps the most awesome contradiction in Herb Lubalin was his blend of silence and eloquence. His conversation consisted of occasionally nodding his head to show
that he was still awake and listening—but on paper he caressed words.’ Lubalin didn’t play by the rules, but instead experimented with the radical, shifting the focus of type design from simply the alphabet to an art form, which is what made his work so remarkable. ‘He made an important contribution to and revolutionized his profession, and set its course for decades to come,’ Dorfsman said. ‘He gave form to thought and thought to form, and in doing so, made his talent and gift a gift to us all.’ One of the genuine, original Mad Men of his era, graphic designer Herb Lubalin is an undeniable giant of American design and typography. ‘Lubalin helped push back the boundaries of the impact and perception of design; from an ill defined,
Upper & lowercase (U&lc) was magazine of typographic experimentation‚ which became something of a cult object among typography fans and the project by which generations of design students have been introduced to his work. mHe won the prestigious AIGA Medal in 1980. 10 Eye 96/12
Famous for being taciturn and for his monosyllabic utterances, his best friend, Lou Dorfsman recalled flying from New York to L.A. with him, without Lubalin uttering a single word to him. Below. Classic work by Lubalin often showed a combination of his experience in advertising along with well constructed and often elaborate typography.
narrowly recognized craft to a powerful communication medium that could put big, important ideas smack in the public eye’ writes the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) for a reason. A sublime typographer, Lubalin was sometimes offended at the use of that word. ‘What I do is not really typography, which I think of as an essentially mechanical means of putting characters down on a page. It’s designing with letters. Mr. Aaron Burns called it, ‘typographics’, and since you’ve got to put a name on things to make them memorable, ‘typographics’ is as good a name for what I do as any.’ He had a unique and rather playful approach to design. Experimental unlike many, Lubalin evolved with the times. Most of us recognise his name in association with the typeface Avant Garde but his career spanned a much wider scope than that. A constant boundary breaker on both a visual and social level, he was a co-creator of the culture-shocking magazines and it was this passion for inventiveness that made him one of the most successful art directors of the 20th century and beyond. This small, subdued man, was once described as a person ‘who churns out mountains of work without ever looking ruffled, frantic or hurried.’ Lubalin was emphatic about the need for good typography to get a message across whether it was editorial matter,
advertising or a gum wrapper. ‘You can do a good ad without good typography’, he once said. ‘But you can’t do a great ad without good typography’. When asked how he selected the right type and placed it just the right way to get the right message across he answered: ‘You can’t say why you do these things - sort of a subconscious thing that a good art director does’, he said. ‘The guys who can explain are the ones who can’t do them too well.’ ‘From a classic sense, I don’t feel I am a great typographer. In fact, from this standpoint, I’m terrible, because I don’t follow the rules. I use razor blades, cut out spaces between letterforms and join type together in a kind of design unity’ he once wrote. ‘He was no intellectual, yet he was a highly intelligent and selfreflective individual’ commented Adrian Shaughnessy. The color-blind and ambidextrous graphic designer who rejected Swiss modernism as he felt was ill-suited to the popular American imagination was an avid supporter of liberal causes. Lubalin ‘pioneered a form of typographic design that required the participation of his audience, and never did anything that was authoritarian, bombastic or elitist. Today, as we foreground human-centered design, Lubalin seems remarkably contemporary’ he added.
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EYE NO. 96 VOL.29
It is Lubalin and his typographics to which all must return.’ David R. Brown on Herb Lubalin
Emily Gosling on Hey Studio
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Ed Fenster on Electrical Banana
HEY STUDIO / L E GUN / LUBALIN / HOUSE OF ARTS / IRENE VAN NES / ELECTRICAL BANANA
‘Hey has made a name for itself creating bold, brightly coloured, forward-thinking design work.’
‘A beautifully visual definitive examination of the international language of psychedelia.’
Published on Mar 14, 2018
Published on Mar 14, 2018
HBUC/UCLAN FD GA Yr 2 Editorial Brief: To produce a cover and 4 double page spreads centred around a chosen designer/ artist and present thi...