George Giusti (1908–1980) is one of the inspired Midcentury Moderns covered in the forthcoming book The Moderns by Greg D’Onofrio and me. As a kid I recall his wonderful covers for Holiday (one of my favorite magazines) and his book covers for Vintage paperbacks. He was also ubiquitous on the advertising pages of many magazines, combining expressionistic line and brushwork for an unprecedented futuristic effect. “He has succeeded to the extent that his designs are consistently ahead of their time,” notes the citation in the Art Directors Hall of Fame, which also says he sought to “build a bridge between fine art and art for commercial use. He disdains the terms ‘fine’ and ‘commercial’ as defining a distinction which should not exist. Art is art, he believes, whatever its purported use.”
Giusti was born in 1908 in Milan, Italy, of a Swiss father and an Italian mother. He studied at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and worked in graphic design there before deciding to move to Zürich, Switzerland, where he opened a design studio, which he operated for seven years.
A month ago, during a visit to the incredible RIT Graphic Design Archive with Vignelli Design Center founder R. Roger Remington, I was privileged to see a collection of Giusti’s many sketchbooks acquired for the Archive. Steven K. Galbraith, curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, was kind enough to share a few of my favorite pages with me. Seeing this process work for Holiday, Command Records and IBM, and Giusti’s sculpture of Chairman Mao, filled me with awe in the sense that great illustration and design is indeed a process of conception, iteration and a certain miracle that can best be described as a gift. Giusti had that gift.
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