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
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. 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.”
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 vision and perception of
letter forms, words and language.”
Lubalin at his best delivers the shock of meaning through his
typography-based design. Avant Garde literally moves
ahead. The Sarah Vaughn Sings poster does just that.
Ice Capades skates. There is a child in Mother &
Child, and a family in Families. If words are a way
of making meaning, then the shapes of their letters give voice,
color, character and individuality to that meaning.
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 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.
And finally, 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
Copyright 1981 by AIGA.
Anwyln, Richard. “Rebuilding a Legacy: The Gastrotypographicalassemblage.” Voice.
AIGA. 5 Mar. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Bird, David. “Herb Lubalin, Graphic Designer for Publications and Advertising.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 26 May 1981. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Brower, Steven. “Herb Lubalin’s U&lc, the First Magazine for Typeface Lovers.” Eye on Design. AIGA, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Brower, Steven. “How Herb Lubalin Triumphed as a Colorblind Designer.” Eye on Design. AIGA, 20 Aug. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Crescenzi, Darrin. “Herb Lubalin: American Graphic Designer: Spin/Unit Editions.” Design Envy. AIGA, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Heller, Steven. “Crimes Against Typography.” Voice. AIGA, 4 Aug. 2004. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Heller, Steven. “Is There Anything Funny about Graphic Design?” Voice.
AIGA, 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
“Herb Lubalin.” ADC Hall of Fame, Awards. ADC, 1978. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
McLean, Ruari. Book Review: “Herb Lubalin, Art Director, Graphic Designer, and Typographer” by Gertrude Snyder and Alan Peckolick. AIGA Journal of Graphic
Design 3.3 (1985): 7. Print.
Meggs, Philip B. “When Norman Rockwell Painted Herb Lubalin.” AIGA Journal of Graphic Design 4.3 (1986). 6. Print.
Shapiro, Ellen. “Looking Back: Working with Herb Lubalin on U&lc.”
Print. F+W, 29 Jul. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Shaughnessy, Adrian. “Rethinking Lubalin.” Eye 83, 2012. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Zhuang, Justin. “You Can Touch Me: Visiting the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography.” Eye on Design. AIGA, 30 Jun. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
American Institute of Graphic Arts. AIGA Graphic Design USA: 2: The Annual of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1981. Print.
Clifford, John. Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design. Peachpit Press, 2014. Print.
Coyne, Richard. Communication Arts : 40 Years of Creative Excellence 287. Coyne & Blanchard Inc, Mar/Apr 1999. Print.
Hillebrand, Henri. Graphic Designers in the USA. New York: Universe Books, 1971. Print.
Glauber, Barbara. Lift and Separate: Graphic Design and the Vernacular, Quote Unquote. New York: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art,
Kurlansky, Mervyn. Masters of the 20th Century: the Icograda Design Hall of Fame. Graphis, 2001. Print.
Laufer, David. Dialogues with Creative Legends: Aha Moments in a Designer's Career. Berkeley, Calif.?: New Riders, 2013. Internet resource.
Shaughnessy, Adrian. Lubalin: American Graphic Designer, 1918-81. London: Unit Editions, 2013. Print.
Snyder, Gertrude, Herb Lubalin, and Alan Peckolick. Herb Lubalin: Art Director, Graphic Designer, and Typographer. New York: American Showcase, 1985.
Herb Lubalin: Then. Day one of a two-day symposium hosted by The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography and Unit Editions. The Herb Lubalin Study Center: New
York, Fri. 26 Oct. 2012. Event.
Herb Lubalin: Now. Day two of a two-day symposium hosted by The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography and Unit Editions. The Herb Lubalin Study Center: New
York, Sat. 27 Oct. 2012. Event.
AIGA Design Archives. AIGA, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
The Herb Lubalin Study Center. New York: Cooper Union, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
“Herb Lubalin.” Design is History. Design History, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Herb Lubalin Gallery. New York: Cooper Union. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
“U&lc.” Design is History. Design is History, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Bayer, Herbert, Lester Beall, Jules Feiffer, Allen Hurlburt, George Lois, Herb Lubalin, Peter Palazzo, Gordon Parks, John Peter, and Roman Vishniac. Design
1964: Art Directors Club Visual Communications Conference. n.p., 1964. Sound recording.
Kjartansson, Stefan. “Herb Lubalin talks about creating his PBS logo.” YouTube. YouTube. Online video.
18 Nov. 2015.
For further reading visit AIGAdesign at Worldcat. Have another resource to share? Contact AIGA's archivist, Heather Strelecki.
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