A book cover by Herb Lubalin for Regina Reynold’s Beards, 1976.
You can’t unsee type.
with special feature:
Herb Lubalin: Designer of Avant Garde
Bad Typography: How It Affects Just About Everything
Once you see type ...
table of contents 04. 05. 06.
links and books
feature 1: the type of nolita
10. feature 2: bad typography
type history: gill sans
type portrait: herb lubalin
website and app visuals
E D I T O R I A L
editorial Welcome to the twenty-third edition of Serán. Our new-look November issue is dedicated to those people the curious design revolutionaries who think differently. We’ve made a bold, entertaining and informative magazine to celebrate them and give these important, varied new voices a place to talk about who they are and what they stand for. I am incredibly proud of what the Serán team has created and curated on the pages that follow, and this issue is one of the highlights of my career as Editor-in-Chief. From our type safari of NoLIta (p. 6) to our exclusive feature of Bad Typography: It Affects Just About Everything (p.10), we have shone the spotlight on inspiring designers who I hope will provoke stimulating ideas. Creating this design magazine, with its four features sections and
unique cover, has been an epic project. I tasked the team with bringing me fresh thinking, big, bold ideas and a new, more diverse and inclusive approach. The issue is loosely based on the theme of typography, design and media, and we spent months asking, ‘What constitutes a great design?’ There are so many ways to answer this; so many creative approaches and methods from designers all around the world. So now it’s over to you. What do you think of our new look, both in print and online? I hope you enjoy this first issue and do let us know if there are any topics you’d like to see covered in the future. Sincerely, Karissa, Editor-in-Chief
L I N K S
& B O O K S
modern typography Kinross, Robin, Modern Typography, Hyphen Press, 2nd edition (February 2004)
an illustrated history of type from the earliest letterforms to the latest digital fonts
links type directors club tdc.org
designing with type designingwithtype.com
thinking with type thinkingwithtype.com
fonts to use fontsinuse.com
i love typography ilovetypography.com
Dodd, Robin, From Gutenberg to OpenType: An Illustrated History of Type from the Earliest Letterforms to the Latest Digital Fonts, Hartley and Marks Publishers 2006.
texts on type: critical writings on typography Heller, Steven (Editor) and Meggs, Philip B. (Editor), Texts on Type: Critical Writings on Typography, Skyhorse Publishing, New York 2001.
paul renner: the art of typography Burke, Christopher, Paul Renner : The Art of Typography, Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition, New York 1998.
typography Friedl, Friedrich, Typography, Konemann UK, London 1998.
the anatomy of type: a graphic guide to 100 typefaces Coles, Stephen, The Anatomy of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces, Harper Design, New York 2012.
bad typography has ruined more than just the oscars
Paul Renner: The Art of Typography by Christopher Burke, 1998.
S E R Ă N
B. photographs courtesy of © Karissa Munaf
A. Rubirosa 235 Mulberry St, B. 230 Elizabeth St, C. Cafè Belle 280 Mulberry St, D. Prince Street Pizza 27 Prince St A, E. Grotta Azzurra 177 Mulberry St,
New New New New New
York, York, York, York, York,
NY NY NY NY NY
10012 10012 10012 10012 10013
S E R Á N
T Y P E S A F A R I
ABOUT NOLITA Nolita, sometimes written as NoLIta, and deriving from “North of Little Italy” is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Picturesque Nolita is a charming, upscale area with a trendy vibe. It’s known for its chic shopping scene, and has plenty of designer jewelry shops, unique clothing boutiques and home-design stores. Fashionably casual crowds stroll the neighborhood and fill the popular sidewalk cafes, chic bars and trendy restaurants. On weekends, street vendors selling hand-made jewelry and artwork line Prince Street. The area’s cozy cafés, stylish boutiques and burgeoning bar scene make it a destination.
HISTORY The neighborhood was long regarded as part of Little Italy, but has lost its recognizable Italian character in recent decades because of rapidly rising rents. Most of the longtime residents despise the portmanteau that was forced on the neighborhood by the real estate conglomerates and the media. Many elderly descendants of Italian immigrants continue to be pushed out of the neighborhood by greedy landlords that circumvent the rent control laws. Moreover, the Feast of San Gennaro, dedicated to Saint Januarius (“pope of Naples”), is held in the neighborhood every year following Labor Day, on Mulberry Street between Houston and Grand Streets. Historically most of the vendors that participated in “ Picturesque the “Feast” lived in the neighborhood, but over Nolita is a the past 10 years have been replaced by midcharming, west style carnival touts. upscale The feast, as recreated on Elizabeth Street area with a between Prince and trendy vibe.” Houston, was featured in the film The Godfather Part II.
In the second half of the 1990s, the neighborhood saw an influx of yuppies and an explosion of expensive retail boutiques and trendy restaurants and bars. After previous unsuccessful tries to pitch the neighborhood as part of SoHo, real estate promoters and others came up with several different names for consideration of this newly upscale neighborhood. The name that stuck, as documented in an article on May 5, 1996 in the New York Times City Section debating various monikers for the newly trendy area, was Nolita, an abbreviation for North of Little Italy. This name follows the portmanteau pattern started by SoHo (South of Houston Street), and TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal Street).
THE TYPEFACES The typefaces of Nolita are very delicate and decorative. They are strongly evident on the cafes, restaurants, and chic boutiques. Based on the observations, they are dominantly serif typefaces. This gives a sense of the “older” New York city. Nolita after dark is filled by vibrant neon signs. They usually come in calligraphy typefaces, or the typical all-caps neon letters. This small neighborhood becomes so colorful because of the radiant, glowing typefaces on restaurant windows. Whenever I walk around this neighborhood, I can feel the downtown lifestyle with a cozy, quaint vibe — and the selection of typefaces truly emphasize this.
I. photographs courtesy of © Karissa Munaf
F. Grotta Azzurra 177 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013 G. Little Cupcake Bakeshop 30 Prince Street New York, NY 10012 H. L’Appartement Sézane 254 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012 I. Caffe Roma 176 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013
S E R Á N
B A D T Y P O G R A P H Y
bad it affects just about everything
ruined more than just the Oscars
AWARD SHOWS Typography is all around us. And that’s why bad typography is also everywhere. There’s this moment at the Oscars, right before La La Land was mistakenly awarded Best Picture, where you can really tell that whatever announcer Warren Beatty is looking at doesnt make sense. He knew something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure. But here’s an idea: What if better typography could have prevented this whole snafu? A better announcement card design could have made for a very different Academy Awards show. Benjamin Bannister, a graphic designer who put together an alternative design for the announcement card, said, “It’s like driving on the side of the road, you literally have a few seconds to read all the information on the signs, or else you’re going to make a wrong turn.” To fix this “bad” typography, the categories should be the first thing on the page (example: ‘Best Actress’). Then the winner of the category should be the biggest thing on the page. If presenters were given this card, one of the two things would have happened: their eyes would have first read “Best Actress,” or “Emma Stone.” You can apply the same fix to the card that prompted Steve Harvey to crown the wrong person in Miss Universere in 2015. With the same application, there will be no bad typography, no confusion, and no embarrassing mix-up.
BALLOTS The consequence of bad graphic designs extend far beyond award shows. In the fall of 2000, the supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, Florida was tasked with designing a ballot with more candidates that could fit on a single column. It was called “butterfly ballot” because of the way the text occupied two columns. Because of the poor design, the Palm Beach Post estimated that over 2,800 Gore voters accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan. According to the news, “A number of voters here in Palm Beach County have filed lawsuits asking for a new election because they claim they either voted for the wrong candidate or double punched their ballots because of confusion over the ballot design.” That year, Bush
Top: Original screenshot of the Best Picture winner’s card © ABC, 2017. Bottom: Before (original card) and after (modified) card designs © Benjamin Bannister
won Florida by a margin of 537 votes. Better typography here arguably could have changed the history of the United States. Furthermore, Marcia Lausen, Director of the UIC School of Design and author of Design for Democracy: Ballot and Election Design, stated “ Designers need that “Designers need to advocate for what to advocate for designers are good at what designers advocating for: good are good at advcommunication. The ocating for: good basics of good information design don’t communication,” change. The work is the said Lausen. advocacy in and around S E R Á N
B A D T Y P O G R A P H Y
Ballot design by Michael Bierut, 2001.
the world of elections to make sure the design is a part of the equation.” Graphic designer Michael Bierut put together this version of what ballot could have looked like (image above). It uses the same format but consolidates information horizontally, so that you can fit all the same candidate names in the same amount of space. Instead of there being two conflicting visual paths to follow, there is only one. As Michael Bierut said in 2001 — ballot design counts.
Illustration by Vox, 2017.
There is also a lesson here for public health. When it comes to health, there is probably no single piece of household typographic design that is as common as this one: the orange prescription bottle. These have been found around since just after World War II, and they haven’t changed much apart from the addition of a child-safety cap in the 1970s. But they are not the easiest things to read. Just look at how information is prioritized here (image on right):
the pharmacy branding is often the first and biggest thing on the label, which is fairly unimportant information for the user. The rest of the text on the label is small, and it’s all the same size and weight. Even the RX numbers, which the user does not need at all, get the same amount of emphasis as everything else. On top of that, some key warnings are printed on hard-to-read color combinations, like black on dark red. Put all of that on a curved bottle that you have
A new and improved prescription packaging, ClearRx, designed by Deborah Adler, 2005.
to rotate to read, and you’re left with a pretty unfriendly design. A design student named Deborah Adler, created a model for what a new and improved pill bottle could look like. She called it ClearRx. She was inspired after her grandmother took her grandfather’s medicine by accident, and it’s a common problem. Experts estimate that there are 500,000 cases per year in the U.S. of people misreading prescription bottle instructions. According to the Washington Post: small print, technical language and incomplete instructions might play a role in the roughly 500, 000 preventable outpatient medication errors that occur nationally each year in the U.S. In Adler’s design, “ Ballot the branding moves to the bottom, and design the most important information for the counts,” user is big at the top. says Adler also used colored-coded rings, so Michael that the packaging Bierut. clearly distinguishes
between users, not just between medications. The extra surface on the back allows for space to be dedicated to warnings for the user. Target bought this design and rolled it out in 2005 to positive reception. But ten years after that, Target sold its pharmacy business to CVS, and the new pill bottle was never to be seen again. Stories emerged afterward that some users had actually fished their old Target bottles out of the trash because of how much they liked them. Others took to Twitter. CVS has said that it’s developing a new, similar model — but it hasn’t released yet. As with a lot of designs, it’s hard to notice the things that are done well until they are not there anymore. “I think it was a good moment to show people and educate them on the fact that design does matter. And most people seem to forget, and say that it is not a big deal. Until something like this happens. Designers are there to prevent things like this from happening.” So would different typorgraphy have totally changed the outcomes of these cases? Maybe. But if you are Warren Beatty or Steve Harvey or Al Gore — that is a pretty big “maybe.” S E R Á N
gill sans H I S T O R Y
Eric Gill by Howard Coster Half-plate film negative, 1927
Gill Sans is a sans-serif typeface designed by Eric Gill and released by the British branch of Monotype from 1928 onwards. Gill Sans is based on Edward Johnston’s 1916 “Underground Alphabet”, the corporate font of London Underground. Gill as a young artist had assisted Johnston in its early development stages. In 1926, Douglas Cleverdon, a young printerpublisher, opened a bookshop in Bristol, and Gill painted a fascia for the shop for him in sans-serif capitals. In addition, Gill sketched an alphabet for Cleverdon as a guide for him to use for future notices and announcements. By this time Gill had become a prominent stonemason, artist and creator of lettering in his own right and had begun to work on creating typeface designs. Eric Gill was then 14
commissioned to develop his alphabet into a full metal type family by his friend Stanley Morison, an influential Monotype executive and historian of printing. Morison hoped that it could be Monotype’s competitor to a wave of German sans-serif families in a new “geometric” style, which included Erbar, Futura and Kabel, all being launched to considerable attention in Germany during the late 1920s. Gill Sans was released in 1928 by Monotype, initially as a set of titling capitals that was quickly followed by a lower-case. Gill’s aim was to blend the influences of Johnston, classic serif typefaces and Roman inscriptions to create a design that looked both cleanly modern and classical at the same time.
Marketed by Monotype as a design of “classic simplicity and real beauty”, it was intended as a display typeface that could be used for posters and advertisements, as well as for the text of documents that need to be clearly legible at small sizes or from a distance, such as book blurbs, timetables and pricelists. Designed before setting documents entirely in sans-serif text was common, its standard weight is noticeably bolder than most modern body text fonts.
Gill’s aim was to blend the influences of Johnston to create a design that looked both cleanly modern and classical at the same time. An immediate success, the year after its release the London and North Eastern Railway chose it for all its posters, timetables and publicity material. British Railways chose Gill Sans as the basis for its standard lettering when the railway companies were nationalised in 1948. Gill Sans also soon became used on the modernist, deliberately simple covers of Penguin books, and was sold up to very large sizes which were often used in British posters and notices of the period. Gill Sans was one of the dominant typefaces in British printing in the years following its release, and remains extremely popular: it has been described as “the British Helvetica” because of its lasting popularity in British design. Gill Sans has influenced many other typefaces, and helped to define a genre genre of sans-serif, known as the humanist style.
CHARACTERISTICS Gill Sans compared to other sans-serifs of the period. Gill Sans does not use the single-storey “g” or “a” used by many sans-serifs and is less monoline than Johnston. Its structure is influenced by traditional serif fonts such as Caslon rather than being strongly based on straight lines and circles as Futura is. The proportions of Gill Sans stem from monumental Roman capitals in the upper-case, an traditional “old-style” serif letters in the lower. This gives Gill Sans a very different style of design to geometric sans-serifs like Futura, based on simple squares and circles, or realist or grotesque design like Akzidenz-Grotesk, Helvetica and Univers influenced by nineteenth-century lettering styles. For example, compared to realist sans-serifs the “c” and “a” have a much less “folded up” structure, with wider apertures. The “a” and “g” in the roman or regular style are “double-storey” designs, rather than the “single-storey” forms used in hand-writing and blackletter often found in grotesque and especially geometric sans-serifs. The uppercase of Gill Sans is partly modelled on Roman capitals like those found on the Column of Trajan. Edward Johnston had written that, “The Roman capitals have held the supreme place among letters for readableness and beauty. They are the best forms for the grandest and most important inscriptions.” While Gill Sans is not based on purely geometric principles to the extent of the geometric sans-serifs that had preceded it, some aspects of Gill Sans do have a geometric feel. The “O” is an almost perfect circle and the capital “M” is based on the proportions of a square with the middle strokes meeting at the centre; this was not inspired by Roman carving but is very similar to Johnston. But the influence of traditional serif letters is clear in the “two-storey” lower-case “a” and “g,” unlike that of Futura, and the “t” with its curve to bottom right and slanting cut at top left, unlike Futura’s which is simply formed from two straight lines. The lower-case “a” also narrows strikingly towards the
S E R Á N
H I S T O R Y
top of its loop, a common feature of serif designs but rarer in sans-serifs. Following the traditional serif model the italic has different letterforms from the roman, where many sans-serifs simply slant the letters in what is called an oblique style. This is clearest in the “a”, which becomes a “single storey” design similar to handwriting, and the lower-case “p,” which has a calligraphic tail on the left reminiscent of italics such as those cut by William Caslon in the eighteenth century. The italic “e” is more restrained, with a straight line on the underside of the bowl where serif fonts normally add a curve. Like most serif fonts, several weights and release of Gill Sans use ligatures to allow its expansive letter “f ” to join up with or avoid colliding with following letters. The basic letter shapes of Gill Sans do not look consistent across styles (or even in the metal type era all the sizes of the same style), especially in Extra Bold and Extra Condensed widths, while the Ultra Bold style is effectively a different design altogether and was originally marketed as such. Digital-period Monotype designer Dan Rhatigan, author of an article on Gill Sans’ development after Gill’s death, has commented: “Gill Sans grew organically... it takes a very ‘asystematic’ approach to type. Very characteristic of when it was designed and of when it was used.” (At this time the idea that sans-serif typefaces should form a consistent family, with glyph shapes as consistent as possible between all weights and sizes, had not fully developed: it was quite normal for families to vary as seemed appropriate for their weight until developments such as the groundbreaking release of Univers in 1957.
DEVELOPMENT Morison commissioned Gill to develop Gill Sans after they had begun to work together (often by post since Gill lived in Wales) on Gill’s serif design Perpetua from 1925 onwards; they had known each other since about 1913. Morison visited Cleverdon’s bookshop while in Bristol in 1927 where he saw
and was impressed by Gill’s fascia and alphabet. Gill wrote that “it was as a consequence of seeing these letters” that Morison commissioned him to develop a sans-serif family. In the period during and after his closest collaboration with Johnston, Gill had intermittently worked on sans-serif letter designs, including an almost sans-serif capital design in an alphabet for sign-painters in the 1910s, some “absolutely legibleto-the-last-degree... simple block letters” for Army and Navy Stores in 1925 and some capital letter signs around his home in Capel-y-ffin, Wales. Gill Sans grew Gill had greatly admired Johnston’s work organically... it on their Underground takes a very project, which he wrote ‘asystematic’ had redeemed the sansapproach to serif from its “nineteenth-century corruption” type, Dan of extreme boldness. Rhatigan says. Johnston apparently had not tried to turn the alphabet (as it was then called) that he had dessigned into a commercial typeface project. He had tried to get involved in type design before starting work on Johnston Stans, but without success since the industry at the time mostly created designs in-house. Morison similarly respected the design of the Underground system, one of the first and most lasting uses of a standard lettering style as corporate branding (Gill had designed a set of serif letters for W.H. Smith), writing that it “conferred upon the lettering a sanction, civic and commercial, as had not been accorded to an alphabet since the time of Charlemagne”. In the regular or roman style of Gill Sans, some letters were simplified from Johnston, with diamond dots becoming round and the lowercase “L” becoming a simple line, but the “a” became more complex with a curving tail in most versions and sizes. In addition, the design was simply refined in general, for example by making the horizontals slightly narrower than verticals so that they do not appear unbalanced, a standard technique in font design S E R Á N
H I S T O R Y
A large amount of material about the development of Gill Sans survives in Monotype’s archives and in Gill’s papers. While the capitals (which were prepared first) resemble Johnston quite closely, the archives document Gill (and the drawing office team at Monotype’s works in Salfords Surrey, who developed a final precise design and spacing) grappling with the challlenge of creating a viable humanist sans-serif lower-case as well
The Gill Sans typeface used for the “Penguin Books,” 1920s.
“ as an italic, which Johnston’s design did not have. Gill’s first draft proposed many slanting cuts on the ends of ascenders and descenders, looking less like Johnston than the released version did. Early art for the italic looked very different, with less of a slope and swash capitals. The final version did not use the calligraphic italic “g” Gill preferred in his serif designs Perpetua and Joanna, instead using a standard double-storey” “g.”
In the regular or roman style of Gill Sans, some letters were simplified from Johnston, with diamond dots becoming round and the lower-case “ L” becoming a simple line, but the “a” became more complex with a curving tail in most versions and sizes. In addition, the design was simply refined in general, for example by making the horizontals slightly narrower than verticals so that they do not appear unbalanced, a standard technique in font design which Johnston had not used. The “R” with its widely splayed leg is Gill’s preferred design, unlike that of Johnston; historian James Mosley has suggested that this may be inspired by an Italian Renaissance carving in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Particular areas of thought during the design process were the “a” (several versions and sizes in the hot metal era had a straight tail like Johnston’s or a mildly curving tail) and the “b”, “d”, “ p” and “q”, where some versions (and sizes, since the same weight would not be identical at every size) had stroke ends visible and others did not. Rhatigan has commented that Monotype’s archives contain “enough material for a book just about the ‘ b’, ‘d’, ‘p’, and ‘q’ of Gill Sans”. The titling capitals of Gill Sans were first unveiled at a printing conference in 1928; it was also shown in a specimen issued in the Fleuron magazine edited by Morison. While initial response was partly appreciative, it was still considered dubious by some ultra-conservative printers who saw all sans-serif type as modern and unsound; one called it “typography Bolshevism.” Sans serif were still regarded as vulgar and commercial by purists in this period: Johnston’s pupil Graily Hewitt privately commented of them that: “In Johnston I have lost confidence. Despite all he did for us ... he has undone too much by forsaking his standard of the Roman alphabet, giving the world, without safeguard or explanation, his block letters which disfigure our modern life.
Gill Sans Ultra Light ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUV WXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuv w x yz 1234567890 Gill Sans Light ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuv w xyz 1234567890 Gill Sans Book ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuv wxyz 1234567890 Gill Sans Medium ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuv wxyz 1234567890 Gill Sans Semibold ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ a bcdefghijk lmnopqrs tuv w x y z 1234567890
Gill Sans Bold ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ a bcdefghijklmnopqrstuv wxy z 1234567890
Gill Sans Ultra Bold ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuv wxyz 1234567890 19
S E R Á N
H I S T O R Y
His prestige has obscured their vulgarity and commercialism.” Gill Sans’ technical production followed Monotype’s standard method of the period. The characters were drawn on paper in large plan diagrams by the experienced drawing office team, led and trained by American engineer Frank Hinman Pierpont and Fritz Steltzer, both of whom Monotype had recruited from the German printing industry. The drawing staff who executed the design was disproportionately female and in many cases recruited from the local area and the nearby Reigate art school; they worked out many aspects of the final drawings including adaptations of the letters to different sizes and the spacing. The diagrams were then used as a plan for machining metal punches by pantograph to stamp matrices, which would be loaded into a casting machine to cast type. It was Monotype’s standard practice at the time to first engrave a limited number of characters and print proofs (some of which survive) from them to test overall balance of colour and spacing on the page, before completing the remaining characters. Walter Tracy, Rhatigan and Gill’s biographer Malcolm Yorke have written that the drawing office’s work has not been fully appreciated; Yorke described Gill as “tactless” in his claims that the design was “as much as possible mathematically measurable... as little reliance as possible should be placed on the sensibility of the draughtsmen and others concerned in its machine facture.”
USAGE First unveiled in a single uppercase weight in 1928, Gill Sans achieved national prominence almost immediately, when it was chosen the following year to become the standard typeface for the LNER railway system, soon appearing on every facet of the company’s identity, from metal locomotive name plates and hand-painted station signage to printed restaurant car menus, timetables and advertising posters. The LNER promoted their rebranding by offering Gill (who was fascinated with railway engines) a footplate ride on the Flying Scotsman
express service; he also painted for it a signIt [Gill Sans] has board in the style of Gill Sans, which surbeen described as vives in the collection “ the British of the St Bride Library. Helvetica” In 1949 the Railbecause of its way Executive decided on standard types of lasting signs to be used at all popularity in stations. Lettering was British design. to use the Gill Sans typeface on a background of the regional colour. Gill Sans was also used in much of its printed output, very often in capitals-only settings for signage. Specially drawn variations were developed by the Railway Executive (part of the British Transport Commission) for signs in its manual for the use of signpainters painting large signs by hand. Other users included Penguin Books’ iconic paperback jacket designs from 1935 and British official mapping agency Ordnance Survey. It was also used by London Transport for documents which could not be practically set in Johnston. Paul Shaw, a historian of printing, has described it as a key element of the ‘Modernist classical’ style from the 1930s to the 1950s, that promoted clean, spare design, often with all capitals and centred setting of headings. Gill Sans remains popular, although a trend away from it towards grotesque and neo-grotesque typefaces took place around the 1950s and 1960s under the influence of continental and American design. Typefaces that became popular around this time included original early “grotesque” sans-serifs, as well as new and more elegant designs in the same style such as Helvetica and Univers. Mosley has commented that in 1960 “orders unexpectedly revived” for the old Monotype Grotesque design: “ it represents, even more evocatively than Univers, the fresh revolutionary breeze that began to blow through typography in the early sixties.” He added in 2007 “its rather clumsy design seems to have been one of the chief attractions to iconoclastic designers tired of the... prettiness of Gill Sans.” As an example of this trend, Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert’s corporate rebranding of BR as British
Eric Gill took inspiration from Edward Johnston’s typeface for London Underground, 1930s.
Rail in 1965 introduced Helvetica and Univers for printed matter and the custom but very similar Rail Alphabet for signage, and abandoned the classical, all caps signage style with which Gill Sans is often associated. Kinneir and Calvert’s road signage redesign used a similar approach. Linotype and its designer Hermann Zapf, who had begun development on a planned Gill Sans competitor in 1955, first considered redrawing some letters to make it more like these fonts before abandoning the design project (now named “Magnus”) around 1962-3. An additional development which reduced Gill Sans’ dominance was the arrival of photoIt has been typesetting, which allowed typefaces to described as “the be printed from phoBritish Helvetica” tographs on film and because of its (especially in display lasting popularity use – hot metal continued for some body in British design. text setting for longer) massively increased the
range of typefaces that could cheaply be used. Dry transfers like Letraset had a similar effect for smaller projects; their sans-serif. Compacta and Stephenson Blake’s Impact exemplified the design trends of the period by choosing dense, industrial designs. Of the period from the 1930s to 1950s, when he was growing up, James Mosley would later write: “The Monotype classics dominated the typographical landscape ... in Britain, at any rate, they were so ubiquitous that, while their excellent quality was undeniable, it was possible to be bored by them and to begin to rebel against the bland good taste that they represented. In fact we were already aware by 1960 that they might not be around to bore us for too long. The death of metal type ... seemed at last to be happening.” While extremely popular in Britain, and to a lesser extent in European printing, Gill Sans did not achieve popularity with American printers in the hot metal era, with most preferring gothic designs like Franklin Gothic and geometric designs like Futura and Monotype’s own Twentieth Century. Gill Sans therefore particularly achieved worldwide popularity after the close of the metal type era and in the phototypesetting and digital era, when it became a system font on Macintosh computers and Microsoft Office. The category of humanist sans-serif typefaces, which Gill Sans helped to define, saw great attention during the 1980s and 1990s, especially as a reaction against the overwhelming popularity of Helvetica and Univers in the 1960s and 1970s. It can be identified by a tendency to use ‘double-storey’ as and gs in the roman and “single-storey” as in italic, like serif fonts.
S E R Á N
herb P O R T R A I T
designer of Avant Garde
lubalin HERBERT LUBALIN Herbert F. “Herb” Lubalin (March 17, 1918 – May 24, 1981) was an American graphic designer. He collaborated with Ralph Ginzburg on three of Ginzburg’s magazines: Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde, and was responsible for the creative visual beauty of these publications. He designed a typeface, ITC Avant Garde, for the last of these; this font could be described as a reproduction of art-deco, and is seen in logos created in the 1990s and 2000s. 22
EDUCATION & EARLY CAREER Herb Lubalin entered Cooper Union at the age of seventeen, and quickly became entranced by the possibilities presented by typography as a communicative implement. Gertrude Snyder notes that during this period Lubalin was particularly struck by the differences in interpretation one could impose by changing from one typeface to another, always “ fascinated by the look and sound of words (as he) expanded their message with typographic impact.” After graduating in 1939, Lubalin had a difficult time finding work; he was fired from his job at a display firm after requesting a two dollar raise on his weekly salary, up from a paltry eight (around USD100 in 2006 currency). Lubalin would eventually land at Reiss Advertising, and later worked for Sudler & Hennessey, where he practiced his considerable skills and attracted an array of design, typographic and photographic talent that included George Lois, Art Kane and John Pistilli. Pistilli Roman was Lubalin’s first typeface (1964), later comprising the logos of Lincoln Center, the Met and New York Philharmonic. Lubalin served with Sudler for nineteen years before leaving to start his own firm, Herb Lubalin, Inc., in 1964.
PRIVATE PRACTICE Lubalin’s private studio gave him the freedom to take on any number of wide-ranging projects, from poster and magazine design to packaging and identity solutions. It was here that the designer became best known, particularly for his work with a succession of magazines published by Ralph Ginzburg: Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde. Eros,(Spring 1962 to issue four 1963) which devoted itself to the beauty of the rising sense of sexuality and experimentation, particularly in the burgeoning counterculture, it was a quality production with no advertising and the large format (13 by 10 inches) made it look like a book rather than a quarterly magazine. It was printed on different papers and the editorial design was some the greatest that Lubalin ever did. It quickly folded after an obscenity case brought by the US Postal Service. Ginzburg and Lubalin followed with
Fact, largely founded in response to the treatment Eros received. This magazine’s inherent anti-establishment sentiment lent itself to outsider writers who could not be published in mainstream media; Fact managing editor Warren Boroson noted Lubalin was that “most American magazine, emulating always “fascinathe Reader’s Digest, ted by the look wallow in sugar and and sound of everything nice; Fact words (as he) has had the spice all to itself.” Rather than expanded their follow with a shocking message with design template for the typographic publication, Lubalin impact,” says chose an elegant minimalist palette consistGertrude Snyder ing of dynamic serifed typography balanced by high-quality illustrations. The magazine was printed on a budget, so Lubalin stuck with black and white printing on uncoated paper, as well as limiting himself to one or two typefaces and paying a single artist to handle all the illustrations at bulk rate rather than dealing with multiple creators. The end result was one of dynamic minimalism that emphasized the underlying sentiment of the magazine better than “ the scruffy homemade look of the underground press (or the) screaming typography of sensationalist tabloids” ever could. Fact itself folded in controversy as Eros before it, after being sued for several years by Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential candidate about whom Fact wrote an article entitled “ The Unconscious of a Conservative: A special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.” Goldwater was awarded a total of $90,000, effectively putting Fact out of business.
AVANT GARDE MAGAZINE Lubalin and Ginzburg again turned one magazine’s demise into the creation of another, releasing Avant Garde six months later. The creation of the magazine’s logogram proved difficult, largely due to the S E R Á N
P O R T R A I T
Top: A book cover by Herb Lubalin for Regina Reynold’s Beards, 1976. Bottom: Avant-Garde magazine “Volume 1” by Herb Lubalin, 1968.
inherent difficulties presented by the incompatible letterform combinations in the title Lubalin’s solution, one which sought to meet Ginzburg’s hope for an expression of “the advanced, the innovative, the creative,” consisted of tight-fitting letterform combinations to create a futuristic, instantly recognizable identity. The demand for a complete typesetting of the logo was extreme in the design community, so Lubalin released ITC Avant Garde from his International Typeface Corporation in 1970. Unfortunately, Lubalin quickly realized that Avant Garde was widely misunderstood and misused in poorly thought-out solutions, eventually becoming a stereotypical 1970s font due to overuse. Steven Heller, one of Lubalin’s fellow AIGA medalists, notes that the “ excessive number of “ Avant Garde ligatures were misused by designers who had was Lubalin’s no understanding of signature and in how to employ these his hands it had typographic forms,” character; in further commenting that “Avant Garde was others’ it was a Lubalin’s signature, and flawed Futurain his hands it had charesque face,” says acter; in others’ it was Steven Heller a flawed Futura-esque face.” Regardless of ITC Avant Garde’s future uses, Lubalin’s original magazine logo was and remains highly influential in typographic design. Avant Garde ( January 1968 to issue 14 summer 1971) also provided Lubalin with a large format of wide typographic experimentation; the page format was an almost square 11.25 by 10.75 inches bound in a cardboard cover, a physical quality that, coupled with Lubalin’s layouts, caught the attention of many in the New York design scene. Often, the magazine would employ full-page typographic titles, which at the time was a largely new idea; in recent times, Rolling Stone art director Fred Woodward has used this method widely in his publication. Ginzburg, who held some experience as a photographer, gave Lubalin total control over the magazine’s look: “Herb brought a graphic impact. I never tried to overrule him, and almost never disagreed with him.” Other
issues included a portfolio of Picasso’s oft-neglected erotic engravings, which Lubalin willingly combined with his own aesthetic, printing them in a variety of colors, in reverse, or on disconcerting backgrounds. Unfortunately, Avant Garde again caught the eye of censors after an issue featuring an alphabet spelled out by nude models; Ralph Ginzburg was sent to prison, and publication ceased with a still-growing circulation of 250,000.’
U&Ic MAGAZINE Lubalin spent the last ten years of his life working on a variety of projects, notably his typographic journal U&lc and the newly founded International Typographic Corporation. U&lc (short for Upper and lower case) served as both an advertisement for Lubalin’s designs and a further plane of typographic experimentation; Steven Heller argues that U&lc was the first Emigre, or at least the template for its later successes, for this very combination of promotion and revolutionary change in type design. Heller further notes, “In U&lc, he tested just how far smashed and expressive lettering might be taken. Under Lubalin’s tutelage, eclectic typography was firmly entrenched.” Lubalin enjoyed the freedom his magazine provided him; he was quoted as saying, “Right now, 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.”
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G L O S S A R Y
type to Z)
A point at the top of a character where two strokes meet.
The part of the letters that extends below the baseline.
Embellishment that connects a ligature.
Where a stroke meets a stem.
glossary C Bowl
The fully closed, rounded part of a letter.
A small stroke extending from the upperright side of the bowl of lowercase g.
A thin stroke usually common to serif typefaces.
Adjustment of space between certain characters in a line of text. 26
The height of a capital letter measured from the baseline.
A tapered or curved end.
A cursive alphabet which is matched with a roman font and used along chiefly for emphasis.
Short, descending portion of a letter.
Imaginary line running along the top of non-ascending, lowercase letters.
The point is the smallest unit of measure. It is used for measuring font size, leading, and other items on a printed page.
Vertical, full-length stroke in upright characters.
The outside point at the bottom or top of a character where two strokes meet.
The letter Y with an acute accent. The acute accent (´) is a diacritic used in many modern written languages with alphabets based on the Latin, Cyrillic, and Greek scripts.
A stroke that connects the top and bottom bowls of lowercase double-story g’s.
An antiquated sort or glyph, used to recreate the typographic flavor of a bygone age.
The end of a stroke that does not include a serif.
The partially open space within a character that is open on one end.
AaBbCc AaBbCc Roman
The normal typography style in which the vertical lines of the characters are straight up and not on an angle.
A letter or group of letters of the size and form generally used to begin sentences and proper nouns. Also known as “capital letters.”
aa x Weight
The weight of a particular font is the thickness of the character outlines relative to their height.
The height of lowercase letters reach based on height of lowercase x; does not include ascenders or descenders.
Ź is a letter of the Latin alphabet, formed from Z with the addition of an acute accent. It is used in the Polish and Montenegrin alphabets, and in certain other languages. 27
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Bel- Air Bulmer’s “beautiful air” Bel Air is Bulmer’s 27th letter. It was designed by Syalsabila Karissa Munaf in 2018. Unique for its curved ascender and arc, the name takes after the richness and elegance of a neighborhood in Los Angeles. Try it!
Designed by Syalsabila Karissa Munaf