At high school in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Allen Hurlburt (1910–1983) decided to become an art director, even though he was not encouraged by his family. “Phrases like graphic design and visual communication held little meaning for my father,” said Hurlburt. “And he was never completely convinced of the legitimacy of my profession, conceding only that probably ‘it was better than stealing.’”
With support like that, he decided he wanted a college education and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. His major was marketing and he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in economics from the Wharton School. He was conscious of his lack of specialized art training and he compensated for it with a continuing process of self-education.
Hurlburt started his career as an assistant art director at Robbins Publishing and within a year was art directing all six of their trade publications. After a period as art director of the Bureau of Advertising, ANPA, he went into the army where he received a battlefield commission and the Bronze Star. After the war, Allen became art director of NBC. In his five years there, he had a significant impact on the development of television graphics and promotion and received two gold medals from the New York Art Directors Club. This was followed by a year at the Weintraub Agency as administrative director working with Paul Rand.
In 1952, Hurlburt went to Look as promotion art director and a year later became art director of the magazine, a position he held for fifteen years. He never did a redesign of Look but kept the magazine under continual and gradual change, creating some of the most beautiful and intelligent design in the history of magazine publishing.
Mildred Constantine, writing in Contemporary Designers, said of Allen, “During his tenure as art director, he brightened the pages with illustrative material that reflected his broad knowledge and his spirit of investigation of the visual world. He had the rare ability to relate graphic originality to the requirements of journalism.”
In later years, Allen served as a trustee and coordinator of the curriculum at Parsons School of Design and as a senior lecturer and visiting professor in New York and London. In addition, he was a freelance designer and author of several books: The Grid; Publication Design; Layout: The Design of the Printed Page and Photo/Graphic Design: The Interaction of Design and Photography.
He accumulated ten more New York gold medals to go with his other honors: The National Society of Art Directors (1965) Art Director of the Year, the AIGA Medal (1973) and the New York Art Directors Hall of Fame (1978). Testimony to a solid career that was indeed much better than stealing. ca