Designer and AIGA Medalist Herb Lubalin has been well feted in the design press and history books over the years. Indeed, the seminal book Herb Lubalin: Art Director, Graphic Designer and Typographer (1985), is a must have for any designer’s library. A master of typography, his iconic, conceptual logos are well known: Cooper Union, Channel Thirteen, and Leggs, among many others.
Born in New York in 1918, Lubalin graduated from Cooper Union and, at 28, began working at the communications firm Sudler & Hennessey as art director, a position he held for 18 years. There, he worked with a slew of talented designers, including Art Kane, Roy Kuhlman, George Lois, and John Pistilli. In 1962 he was named Art Director of the Year by the National Society of Art Directors. He founded his own firm in 1964.
In 1961 Lubalin began to make his mark on magazines, starting with the redesign of the Saturday Evening Post; he was was even immortalized on the cover by Norman Rockwell. His new cover put the emphasis on the “Post,” as it was referred to by its readership, and gave the magazine a modern overhaul. Sadly, the redesign lasted only 38 issues (it was a weekly), and the old logo and design reappeared the following year.
Lubalin went on to art direct three other influential magazines, Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde, for publisher Ralph Ginzburg. In 1974 he also created and art directed U&lc (Upper and lower case), a publication that showcased the International Typeface Corporation’s (ITC) typefaces, which he also co-founded, all while teaching at Cooper Union, until his untimely death in 1981.
Type lovers will already be familiar with the many typefaces he designed, including L&C Hairline Gothic (with Tom Carnase), ITC Avant Garde Gothic (with Tom Carnase), ITC Lubalin Graph (with Tony DiSpigna and Joe Sundwall), and ITC Serif Gothic (with Tony DiSpigna and Joe Sundwall). But what’s less known is that Lubalin was colorblind.
Of his over 100 entries in the AIGA Design Archives, there are several examples of how he worked around this condition. Many of the works he art directed are either one or two color, usually red and green or red and blue. When working with illustrators and photographers, he entrusted them with full-color images, but his own work is generally reductive.
The AIGA Design Archives holds many examples of his two- and three-color solutions. While one could view his condition as a handicap for a visual artist, in Lubalin’s case it increased his focus on letterform and layout, resulting in surprising use of ligatures, character substitutions, subtractions, and combinations heretofore never seen before or since.