Lubalin Old and New

To look at Herb Lubalin’s (1918-1981) design from the 1970s in the light of 2011 may be jarring. It is either going to strike some – those who lived back then – as old fashioned, while others – whose parents had not even reached puberty – as a new experience.

Lubalin worked with what we now call “retro” typefaces, but he invested them with contemporary style. The father of smashed and overlapping type in an age of Akzidenz and Helvetica, was a neo-modernist. His compositions were clear and clean, yet also complex and illustrative.

I recently came across the above mini-poster (thanks to Louise Fili, who worked with Lubalin). For me, it was at once old and new. I could smell the musk of decades and yet, having thought I saw everything Lubalin had done, this was a new delight.

I hope it delights you too, whatever your chronological perspective.

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  1. Pingback: Lubalin Is Coming, Lubalin Is Coming

  2. I lived “back then”, and I must admit that at the time (and this opinion has persisted in my mind) I was of the opinion that Lubalin’s work was a bit “old-fashioned”, and not that innovative. But I’ve started to look at his work with fresh eyes, and I’ve been coming around to the acknowledgement that his work was far more influential to me (and to others in my field) than I had cared to admit. Thank you Steven, for this post which may help assuage any doubts about this very influential 20th century designer.

  3. I enjoy experiencing Herb Lubalin’s work. His type talks and dances with great enthusiasm. As he was a neo-modernist of his time, I find his work to hold a strong character. It would have been great to see what he would have created with today’s technology. Thanks for the post!

  4. Anything Lubalin immediately makes me recall with fondness regularly receiving the free issue of U&lc while in college and in my early years as a designer. I was sad when the publication’s life ended! It was consistently fun, inspiring, delightfully educational and built in me an enduring appreciation for Lubalin’s prowess with typography and his excellent design sensibilities. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Besides Herb Lubalin’s type design (and strong copy) his colors always astounded. When I worked next door to Herbie at S&H, I found out why. He was totally colorblind! When I gave a talk about him at the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame dinner in 1977, I raved about him for a few minutes, leading up to my closing sentence: “There is no doubt in my mind that Herb Lubalin is the greatest…left-handed…colorblind…Jewish art director…that ever lived.”
    Herbie and his best pal, Lou Dorfsman, fell off their seats on the dais.