With the upcoming AIGA Awards Gala, where the design world gathers to celebrate the recipients of the annual AIGA Medal, I thought we should look at the accomplishments of the very first Medalist, Norman T. A. Munder, who was awarded back in 1920.
The son of Charles Munder, who earned the distinction of Maryland’s first maker of candy and preserves, Norman Thompson Aeisler was born in 1867 and raised in Baltimore with his two older brothers, Charles Jr. and Wilmer Lee. When he was seven years old, the elder Munder boys purchased a small printing press and were soon delivering calling cards (a popular leave-behind item for uninvited or unexpected visitors to homes) with a billygoat-drawn wagon.
When he grew up, Munder and his brothers founded Munder & Co. and designed and printed books on a myriad of subjects for clients like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the private libraries of J. Pierpont Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, as well as maps, greeting cards, and advertising broadsides. Munder was also an author, and in 1925 wrote and published The Advertising of Truth. He won numerous industry awards, including the (very specifically named) International Award for Color and Black-and-White Halftone Printing at the San Francisco Exposition in 1915. Munder traveled the country, giving lectures about printing to prospective clients and students and exhibited his work.
The many books he published include Gulliver’s Travels (Limited Editions Club) as well as his own biography in 1929, written by L. J. Hawley. In a 1937 issue of PM magazine dedicated to Munder, virtuoso printer and type designer Frederic W. Goudy wrote his tribute. In that issue AIGA Medalist Robert L. Leslie wrote, “A fine piece of printing generally starts with the salesman. It must be sold before it is made. As a salesman and propagandist for fine printing, Mr. Munder has a long and illustrative record. Printing as a means of communication is something that we all take for granted. But there is also printing as a thing of beauty… this was Mr. Munder’s field.”
Munder was held in such esteem that he had several typefaces named after him, including Norman Capitols by Goudy and a series of Munder Types designed by Barnhart Brothers & Spindler. There are also 16 cases of examples of Munder’s printing in the Library of Congress.
He eventually closed the Munder & Co. plant after 44 years and joined the advisory staff of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, where he created the first facsimiles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and produced work for President Herbert Hoover as well as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Library of Congress, and John D. Rockefeller.
By the time Munder died in 1953 at the age of 85, he had helped set the standard for American printing, as well as the caliber of the AIGA Medalists that would follow him. Despite his standing his work does not appear in the AIGA Design Archives, as it predates it by four years—but if you happen to be swimming in work by Munder or you’d like to donate any pieces to our archives, please do get in touch with our archivist.