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The Unexpected Designs of Famous Designers

By: Steven Brower | March 6, 2018

The best of the best is what they are known for. Those groundbreaking designs indelibly linked with the designers themselves. But what happens when those designers step out of their comfort zone?

Case in point, Alvin Lustig. Best known for his seminal book covers in the 1940s and 1950s for New Directions, he was also the creator of the opening credits for the classic cartoon “Mr. Magoo.” Having designed the UPA (United Productions of America)’s logo in 1946, he took on the title design three years later that introduced the nearsighted lovable character to the world.

Design: Alvin Lustig

Likewise, other designers have made forays into the pop culture realm, some successful, others that look like perhaps they were approved by Mr. Magoo. You be the judge.

Milton Glaser designed what is perhaps the most ubiquitous (and misused) logo worldwide, “I ♥ NY” (“I ♥ My Chihuahua” anyone?). Just before that, in 1976, he redesigned the DC comics logo. According to Glaser, he was inspired by Captain America’s shield from rival Marvel, which was itself designed in 1941 by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Glaser also designed a life-sized statue of Clark Kent that once sat in the lobby of DC when they were still located in New York. The latest iteration of their logo was designed by Pentagram partner Emily Oberman in 2016.

Design: Milton Glaser, 1976

Design: Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, 1941

Design: Milton Glaser

Pentagram, 2016

Speaking of Pentagram, partner Michael Bierut, along with designers Joe Marianek and Kai Salmela, redesigned the video game Guitar Hero’s logo in 2009.

Pentagram, 2009

And legendary CBS designer Lou Dorfsman, back in 1981, designed the logo for the burgeoning kids’ television cable channel Nickelodeon. It was set in Frankfurter, with a pinball behind it illustrated by Bob Klein, making the most of early 1980s-era computer graphics.

Design: Lou Dorfsman, Bill Klein, 1981

ADDENDUM: For years I have believed that the Mr. Magoo opening titles shown above were designed by Lustig. They are after all from Magoo’s inaugural appearance in 1949, the same year that Lustig is credited for designing them. Not so says Steven Heller, and he should know, after all he wrote the book. Shown below is the title Steve believes is Lustig’s. However this poses as many questions as it answers. Why does it say “Columbia Pictures” and not “UPA” (Columbia was the distributor). Why is it in black and white when the cartoon was in color, and why does it not look anything like animation? Anyone know more? Comments welcome!

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