In 1980, the 62nd Annual AIGA Medal was awarded to Herb Lubalin (1918-1981) legendary art director, designer and type designer. For over 40 years, he led the way for others, crossing defied boundaries to explore different areas of design.
In the beginning, it was a rocky road. After graduating from Cooper Union in 1939, Lubalin struggled to find employment. His first job working for a display firm paid $8 a week and when he asked for a $2 raise, he was fired—not a promising start.
He began at Reiss Advertising in the early ’40s and later went to Sudler & Hennessey, where he was art director for 20 years. By the time Lubalin left Sudler, he was vice president and creative director. In the early ’60s, Lubalin set up his own studio, where he took on a wide range of assignments.
Very much in demand as a magazine designer, Lubalin was responsible for Eros, Avant Garde and Fact and the redesign of the Saturday Evening Post. He also created a number of popular typefaces, the best known being Avant Garde. His ability to manipulate letterforms and his handling of the positive and negative spaces in typographic design led to the creation of many outstanding layouts, logotypes and letterforms.
In a Cooper Union class on typography, Lubalin said, “We've been conditioned to read the way Gutenberg set his type, and for 500 years, people have been reading widely-spaced words on horizontal lines...We read words, not characters, and pushing letters closer or tightening space between lines doesn't destroy legibility; it merely changes reading habits.”
Lubalin joined with phototypography pioneer Edward Rondthaler and typographer Aaron Burns in establishing the International Typeface Corporation (ITC) in 1970. ITC was founded to commission new and redrawn typefaces for computerized photosetting; it gave designers copyright protection and royalties for the first time. With Lubalin as design director, ITC began a journal, U&lc, to publicize and demonstrate its typefaces and license them to subscribers.
His lifelong friend Lou Dorfsman said, “Perhaps the most awesome contradiction in Herb Lubalin was his blend of silence and eloquence. His conversation consisted of occasionally nodding his head to show that he was still awake and listening—but on paper he caressed words."”
Lubalin didn’t play by the rules, but instead experimented with the radical, shifting the focus of type design from simply the alphabet to an art form—which is what made his work so remarkable. “He made an important contribution to and revolutionized his profession, and set its course for decades to come,” Dorfsman said. “He gave form to thought and thought to form, and in doing so, made his talent and gift a gift to us all.” ca