Herb Lubalin essay

Herb Lubalin was a notable American designer whose most memorable work was done in the area of type facing (White, 2005). According to Dorfsman, he “used his extraordinary talent and taste to transform words and meaning from a medium to an inextricable part of the message” (Brown, 1981). In his birthplace of New York, he left the Cooper Union in 1939 and after various jobs he soon filled the role of editorial designer at several prominent print companies.

He was in charge of the Saturday Post, and was also responsible for publishing such magazines as the 1962 Eros, the 1967 Pact, and the 1968 Avant Garde Brown, 1981; Fonts, 2005). It was during these years as editorial designer that Lubalin’s talent for creating graphic fonts was nurtured. As editorial designer, he was responsible for much of the spatial aspects of the representation placed within the magazines, and this duty honed his designing skills as much as it created opportunities or necessities for him to produce new typefaces.

Furthermore, he was also the director of editorial design for the promotional journal of the International Typeface Corporation. It was during this time that he created the ITC Avant Garde Gothic font to facilitate the melding of the design with the name of the magazine (Fonts, 2005; “Pioneers,” 1999). The font ITC Avant Garde Gothic was created for the new magazine’s masthead in 1968, and two years later it was placed on the market for use by other companies and individuals (Meggs, 1994; Snyder & Peckolick, 1985).

The Avant Garde magazine, which was the conception of the innovative publisher Ralph Ginzberg, who wanted to place the magazine on the cutting edge of the art, design, and publishing industry (Berry, 2005). The font chosen to represent the magazine was to be the presenting face of all this innovation. However, after numerous sketches, several problems were proving themselves insurmountable. One of the main problems was the placement of a V between two A’s. Since the magazine’s name was to be typed in upper case, this proved a very awkward placement that was inevitable for the masthead.

The AVA as it was set in the fonts available at the time placed too much space between the letters and left the masthead’s appearance being too open. The white space detracted from the tightness and fitted aspect of the rest of the magazine, and it also detracted from the sharpness of the conception that Ginzberg had for the font. Realizing “there was more to type than purity,” soon the creativity and ingenuity of Herb Lubalin came to his rescue (Cherpitel, 2001). He started with the Gothic font, and manipulated this in order to make it fit more with the Avant Garde magazine style (Glasser, et al. , 2006).

A major step was made when he got the idea to vary the angles of the A’s and V’s so that they would be able to fit more closely together. In making the right side of the A slightly more angles and the left side vertical, the AVA managed to become a much tighter combination as the ITC Avant Garde Gothic font developed. Yet, further adjustment was necessary to get the design as compact and strikingly unique as Ginzberg and Lubalin’s conception required. The stem that forms the right end of the N was then made to form a part of the T, and the GA of Garde were tucked into each other so that they appeared to lock arms.

The horizontal line in the A was practically replaced by an elongated version shared by the G in a layered design. The D was fused with the E to complete the compact version of Garde, so that according to on expert, “every spare molecule of air was sucked out of the letter spacing until the logo became a dynamic block of angles, lines and curves” (Fonts, 2005). The letters worked together as a unit to form a dynamic graphic that not only spelled but represented the name Avant Garde.

This led to the development of the magazine cover, but not to the completion of the font ITC Avant Garde Gothic. However, the overarching concept of the font had already been realized and this was soon translated to the formation of the remaining letters of the alphabet. Even though the rendering of the final form of the letters and the structuring of the ligatures were done by Lubalin’s partner, Carnase, the idea that engendered the font was produced by Lubalin. The final version of the font showed up with only one version, and this covers the fact that two versions were actually created.

The design used for headline setting showed primary and alternate characters, while the design for text gave no options. It is the text design that was finally selected when the font became digitalized (Fonts, 2005). The current state of technological sharing has led also to the release of the entire suite of characters ever made for the Avant Garde Gothic font. Not only do these contain the original and alternate characters, but also upper and lower case options. These represent the particularly creative nature of the designers very well.

On the one hand, the font varies with regard to the proximity of the letters to others. Therefore, the G may not lock arms with all letters, nor the A lean on all. On the other hand, further variations on the font have been created, yet this exists still within the general Avant Garde theme. Therefore, though some versions of the font do not slant in precisely the same way, the features are still recognizable as being that of Avant Garde.


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Monotype Imaging. Retrieved on October 16, 2007 from http://www. fonts. com/FindFonts/RecentReleases/2005/ITC+Avant+Garde+Gothic. htm Meggs, P. (1994) “Two Magazines of the Turbulent ‘60s: a ‘90s Perspective. ” Print. 48: 68-77. “Pioneers: Herb Lubalin,” (1999). Communication Arts Magazine. Mar-April. 41:159. Snyder, G. & A. Peckolick. (1985). Herb Lubalin: art director, graphic designer and typographer. Amshow and Archive. White, A. (2005). “Dear Fred and those who would use Avante Garde. ” The Design and Publishing Center. Showker Graphic Arts.