Euclid typeface designed by Alvin Lustig, 1939

I have been teaching The History of Graphic Design at both the grad and undergrad level at Marywood University since the turn of the century. One of the major figures I lecture on extensively is AIGA Medalist Alvin Lustig, thanks in no small part to the website that displays scores of examples of his work. Lustig, alongside Paul Rand, greatly furthered the American Modernist school of design, albeit in a highly personal and individualist way. His book jackets and covers in particular still influence the contemporary approach some 65 years later.

One example of his that I show is an anomaly. It is a singular typeface he designed in 1939, entitled “Euclid,” no doubt due to its modular, geometric mathematical components. There are a very few examples of its application, and there is no entire font displayed.

Cut forward to 2008 and soon-to-be MFA grad, Craig Welsh, of Go Welsh Design in Lancaster, PA, leaves the class with a mission. Thanks to serendipity, a confluence of events take place; Welsh acquires the first of many letterpresses and type collections in October 2009, after happening upon a listing for a print shop in Lancaster that was being sold.

Recalling Lustig from the lecture, Welsh contacts AIGA Medalist Elaine Lustig Cohen via email to suggest collaborating on a complete typeface based on the few existing characters of Euclid. During this period he also attends an annual Wayzgoose Letterpress Conference. The conference takes place at the home of Hamilton Wood Type in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

According to Welsh, “[Elaine and I] had e-mail exchanges and a few phone conversations but it wasn’t until early 2013 that I met Elaine at her house in NYC. I felt it was best for us to meet face-to-face so that we could move the project along more quickly. It was just prior to this meeting with Elaine that I had the first conversation with Hamilton about the possibility of having them cut Lustig Elements as wood type.”

Alvin died in 1955 at age 40 due to complications of Diabetes. Married since 1948, Elaine, still in her 20s, took over the studio, becoming one of the first female studio heads in the U.S. She soon established herself as a force in her own right, designing book covers and jackets, museum catalogs and building signage. She remains active to this day and was recently honored with a monograph, Elaine Lustig Cohen: Modernism Reimagined by Aaris Sherin from RIT Press. Interestingly she also designed a modular typeface, which she also named “Euclid”.

Together Lustig Cohen and Welsh, utilizing Alvin’s existing grid, created all the necessary characters, punctuation and glyphs, and renamed the font Lustig Elements. The face has been cut as wood type by Hamilton, and there is a digital version from P22.