The Daily Heller: I Wish I Had Done That!

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SIMPLEXITY is one way—indeed, my way—to describe the various ways that the illustrator/designer George Giusti (1908–1990) expressed himself and solved clients' problems. Although he was working in the '30s, during the '50s through the '70s he was known for minimalist complexity and simplicated precision. These should have been formally at odds, but somehow they were, and are, not.

This cover for the 1956 Art Directors Club of New York's 35th annual is one such simple yet complex solution. It weds geometric form and playful composition. The minimal color palette suggests the light and dark spectrum of an artist’s eye and an architect’s logic. The precariousness of the solid triangular 'A' atop the semi-circular solid 'D' implies a balance between art and commerce—or does it? The 'AD' might have taken many contorted forms; Giusti chose formal and conceptual perfection. I wish I had done that!

For those of you (not yet) familiar with his output, Giusti designed scores of magazine covers, book jackets and covers, record album sleeves, advertisements and much more; he was among the most highly visible practitioners of his day.

Trained in architecture at the Reale Accademia e Belle Arti in Milan, Mies van der Rohe and Mondrian were among his Modernist models. At the outset of his education, becoming a serious painter was one goal; becoming an engineer was another. Much of his best work (and this 'AD' is certainly one of many such pieces) reveals this bent for engineering and physics.

Like much of his generation, he was a spiritual follower of the Bauhaus. After working with a Milanese ad agency, he settled in Lugano, Italy, and Zurich. He opened an advertising and editorial design studio in the latter. In 1939, he emigrated to the United States. He was invited by Herbert Matter to work on the Swiss Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. His early work in the U.S., including propaganda materials for United States government agencies during World War II, required a Modernistic airbrushed illustration style, rendering real things in symbolic situations—primarily representational but leaning toward the surreal. Then in the Postwar early '50s came a stylistic epiphany: Giusti's painting, metal sculpture and paper collage became more abstract, and Simplexity was born.