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Herb Lubalin (1918-1981)

Born in 1918 in America, Herb Lubalin was schooled at The Cooper Union. Although he showed no particular flair for art, he gained a reputation as a dirty young man with his nude drawings of Tarzan and Jane. Before graduating in 1939, he won second prize in a poster competition. It was this event that proved to be the impetus for his career.

Despite this success, he struggled in his early working life. He was fired from his first job at a display firm when he asked for a raise. Eventually he settled at Reiss Advertising and later moved to Sudler & Hennessey. After 20 years with the firm, he left in 1964 to start his own business designing posters, magazines, packaging, and identity solutions. He was joined in business by Ernie Smith, Tom Carnase (with whom he created ITC Avant Garde) and Roger Ferriter. Together they formed LSC, Inc, and the company existed in various guises thereafter. During this period, he worked on two redesigns for the Saturday Evening Post, as well as designing Air Mail stamps and a masthead for Mother & Child magazine.

He also collaborated several times with Ralph Ginzburg, working on three of his magazines. The first was Eros, which was closed after the US Postal Service brought an obscenity case against it. Fact arrived hard on its heels. Printed in black and white on uncoated paper, it was produced on a budget, so Lubalin confined the design to just a few fonts. It was closed following a scandal. Soon afterwards, Ginzburg launched Avant Garde, for which Lubalin designed his Avant Garde typeface. This new font was soon widely used, but he complained that it was overused and abused.

In 1970, together with Aaron Burns and Ed Rondthaler, he founded the International Type Corporation. Its typography magazine, U&lc (Upper & lower case), acted as a showcase for his designs and typographic experimentation.

His work attracted awards; his first was in 1952, a New York Art Directors Club Gold Medal. He was also a sought-after lecturer, undertaking worldwide tours. As well as holding the post of visiting professor at his old school, The Cooper Union, he also taught at Cornell and Syracuse universities. He died in 1981.

[LC, December 2009]

Fonts designed by Herb Lubalin

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