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Herb Lubalin
Herb Lubalin Type

A naive person might say there’s only a few ways to draw the letter 'A'. A cynical person might say there’s only a few good ways to draw the letter 'A'. A designer like Herb Lubalin knew there are endless possibilities, and with every possibility, there’s an opportunity to make that 'A' the most beautiful and perfectly set 'A' you’ve ever seen. It was this optimistic and forward thinking outlook that led him to be one of the great American graphic designers and art directors of the 20th century.

Print Magazine, 1979. If you look closely you will find a number of adjustments that were made to the letters. They are never stretched or distorted, but simply massaged into place. Note especially the NN in INNOVATIVE, and the small word BY tucked into the HE in HERB
Some of Lubalin's most simple but clever logos.
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Taking type off the page and into the 3 dimensional space, Lubalin created a smart installation on the under-constuction store for George Jensen's NYC store. It teased the idea of "opening soon" without needing to scream it.

Lubalin’s story almost reads like a fairytale of a New York kid. Born in the Far Rockaway area of Queens, Herb struggled in school until he ended up at Cooper Union in Manhattan at the age of 17. It was here that he would recognize “the use of typography, or letterforms, not just as a mechanical means for setting words on a page, but rather as another creative way of expressing an idea...to elicit an emotional response from the viewer”. He struggled with jobs until ending up at Sudler & Hennesey, an advertising firm on Park Avenue that designed the NBC Peacock logo and employed Andy Warhol before he became Andy Warhol. Think Mad Men, but one street over.

Herb's original logo for his studio.
Lubalin had to adapt it as he brought on partners while still skillfully maintaining the same look.

It was here his design career really gained momentum and his list of accolades and achievements almost becomes exhausting. Here’s a quick rundown: created the font Avant Garde and the magazine of the same name, designed the PBS logo, formed the International Typeface Corporation (ITC), created Eros Magazine, created Fact magazine, designed a bottle for Sprite, did graphics for everything from Chicken of the Sea tuna to Ebony Magazine, received over 500 awards from various institutions including the New York Art Directors Club, designed stamps for the US postal service, was named Art Director of the Year in 1962... and now has his work in the Whitney Museum, the National Gallery, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt, and the Herb Lubalin Study Center, formed specifically to preserve all his work.

Eros magazine, done in collaboration with Ralph Ginzburg, pushed forward sex-positive ideas controversial to the time which led to it quickly shutting it's doors after an obscenity case brought by the US Postal Service.
After the collapse of Eros, the pair created Avant Garde just 6 months later. It was probably most famous for its logotype that Lubalin turned into a complete font. It became so popular it became the stereotypical font of the 1970s.

A voracious learner who was always trying to push his thinking and work forward, at 59 he was said to proclaim “I have just completed my internship”. Unfortunately, it would be only four years later that he would pass away in his beloved NYC.

Lubalin's group of friends called themselves "The Gladiators" and would meet every Wednesday night to workout, swim, and steam at a Russian bath near Times Square.
To ignite some competition amongst the group they created "The Order of the Golden Jock" which was given out every month for whatever reason they made up that day.

We could go on and on about the his accomplishments and the how his work broke down barriers in sex, race, and publishing and offered inspiration for all graphic designers after him. However, in honor of Herb, a quiet man, said to be more prone to grunts and nods than anything else, we’ll let his work speak for itself.

Branding for the Wold Trade Center
Wayfinding for the WTC.
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Herb’s desk with a pack of Kent cigarettes, open specimen of Avant Garde, and a button that reads: “Kiss Me I’m Lefthanded” even though he was ambidextrous.
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