Herbert F. (Herb) Lubalin was born in New York on 1918, and the age of seventeen he entered Cooper Union and was immediately enthralled by the art of typography. Lubalin was quite particularly smitten by the diverse interpretation of the meaning of words when changing one typeface to another. He liked expanding one simple message using different typeface to elevate its impact on the readers. In 1939, Herb Lubalin graduated from Cooper Union and had a difficult time looking for employment.
He then became a graphic artist at Reiss Advertising, and after a while, went on to work for Sudler and Hennessey. After slaving for another company for twenty years, he finally decided to start his own studio. Lubalin formed a partnership with Ralph Ginzberg, a magazine publisher, who let him do whatever he pleases. Here, during their collaboration that Lubalin found the liberty to experiment with different typefaces. His works on the magazines published by Ginzberg, such that of the Eros, Fact and Avant Garde, permanently placed him on the list of the most famous graphic artists of all time.
His works, which are very innovative and very daring invited some controversy, particularly Eros. Eros dwelt openly about sexuality and experimentation, this openness chagrined conservatives and an obscenity lawsuit was filed by the US Postal Service. The dynamic duos next project was Fact, which was similarly as controversial as Eros. Fact basically advocates anti-government attitude and opened their doors to writers who are too audacious too be published in mainstream publications.
For the look of the magazine, Lubalin decided to create a mellow design and surprised everyone with an elegant minimalist design. The magazine was tight with budget so Lubalin stuck with black and white printing and paying only one artist to do all the illustrations rather than having multiple creators. He also utilized only one typeface per issue and the result was vibrant minimalism that placed emphasis on the magazine’s underlying sentiment. That was better than those underground papers with screaming typographies to get noticed.
However, one issue that Fact released that got them closed for good because of a lawsuit that cost them ninety-thousand dollars, was about then Presidential aspirant Barry Goldwater. The magazine article was titled “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater. ” When Fact was shut down, Lubalin and Ginzberg created again another magazine, entitled Avant Garde or meaning front guard. The typeface that Lubalin uniquely developed for the magazine was also named Avant Garde.
This was Lubalin’s most known work, probably because it was also the most abused. The all capital typeface consisted of tight-fitting letterform that created a very futuristic and advanced identity. Upon seeing this work of art, the design community urged Lubalin to come up with a complete typesetting of the logo, so Lubalin released ITC Avant Garde from his own studio International Typeface Corporation in collaboration with Aaron Burns in 1970. Afterwards, another version of Avant Garde, called Lubalin Graph, designed by Tony DiSpigna was released by ITC.
It was already late when Lubalin realized that Avant Garde was gravely misused by inexperienced graphic designers who don’t know how to use correct combinations of letters due to the design’s excessive number of ligatures. Nonetheless, the typeface Avant Garde became Lubalin’s signature and remained as one of the most influential typographic design. Regrettably, Avant Garde Magazine got involved in another controversy when they featured an alphabet spelled out by nude models. Ginzberg was sentenced to prison and without Ginzberg, the publication died.
After that series of events with Ginzberg, Lubalin concentrated on his typographic journal known as U&lc, or Upper and Lower Case, which he co-founded in 1971. It became an advertisement of Lubalin’s design that showed him further experimenting with typefaces. As mentioned by the article Herb Lubalin: Rule Basher by Steven Heller: “One might argue that the U&lc was the first Emigre, since it promoted ITC’s growing library of type while proffering Lubalin’s experiments with typography. In U&lc, he tested just how far smashed and expressive lettering might be taken.
Under Lubalin’s tutelage, eclectic typography was firmly entrenched. ” Some examples of Lubalin’s work that created an impact in the graphics design world. This book jacket that he designed for the autobiography of Sammy Davis Jr. entitled “Yes I Can,” made a sculptor out of him. The concreteness of the design of yellow block letters with drop shadows did more than illuminate the label, but expressed more of self-confidence embodying the message of the title. This advertisement in the Avant Garde magazine in response to the Vietnam War was a statement in itself.
With its block letters and hairline spacing, mimicking the American flag, and a bold, black exclamation point at the end, made a remarkable declaration about the ideas of the authors. Lubalin was elected to the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1977, and on the evening of January 1981, Herb Lubalin received his 62nd American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) in the Great Hall of the New York Chamber of Commerce. Lubalin died on that same year, contented with his life and with what he achieved.
His influence in typography is evident today as some graphic artists still tries to imitate his works and style. Herb Lubalin is one of the, if not the greatest, most innovative and free-spirited graphic artist this world has ever seen.
Heller, Steven. Herb Lubalin: Rule Basher. U&lc Online Magazine. U&lc Online Issue: 25. 1. 1. November 8, 2007. http://www. itcfonts. com/Ulc/2511/HerbLubalin. htm Heller, Steven & Chwast, Seymour. Graphic Style: From Victorian to Digital. Published by Harry N. Abrams. New York, 2000. White, Alex. Advertising Design and Typography. Allworth Press. October, 2006.