A Kansas City native who grew up in Chicago, Lester Beall (1903–1969) was a self-taught graphic designer known for his strong and direct work in corporate identity, editorial, advertising and packaging. After receiving a degree in art history from the University of Chicago and gaining experience as a designer in Chicago, Beall moved his studio to New York in 1935. “I was fortunate to work with some outstanding people in the advertising field such as Laura Hobson and George Bijor,” he said. “They both respected my individualistic point of view and permitted me considerable freedom in the design of advertising.”
“Beall was responsible for taking American graphic design of the 1930s out of its mundane, tasteless form into the beginnings of what we know now as effective visual communication,” said renowned designer Herb Lubalin.
Because of his varied interests and extensive reading, Beall utilized a variety of influences in his work, blending the new typography of Tschichold, the Dada movement’s intuitive placement of elements and 19th-century American wood types.
Beall sought visual contrast and a rich level of information content. Prime examples of this are his poster campaign in the late 1930s for the Rural Electrification Administration and his art direction of Scope magazine for Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in the 1940s. In 1955, Beall moved his studio from New York City to his country home at Dumbarton Farm in Connecticut. In his new environment, Beall became a leader in the emerging corporate design movement of the 1950s and ’60s. Known for his International Paper identity, Beall was active in developing comprehensive identity programs well before most other designers.
“A designer...has the responsibility to give his audiences not what they think they will want, for this is almost invariably the usual, the accustomed, the obvious and, hence, the unspontaneous,” Beall said. “Rather he should provide that quality of thought and intuition which rejects the ineffectual commonplace for effectual originality.” ca