Typographer of the Week: Herb Lubalin

Herb Lubalin is a spirited American designer who has won wide recognition for his innovations in advertising, publications and books. At the age of seventeen, he entered Cooper Union and was enticed by the world of typography. He was captivated by the various interpretations one could execute by changing one typeface to another. Lublin is one of the pioneers of expressive typography and an influential figure in the ‘creative revolution’ that has transformed American advertising in the 1960s.

”You can do a good ad without good typography but you can’t do a great ad without good typography.’’ – Herb Lubalin

Lublin once declared that a good art director should know the strong points of every one of the many typefaces that existed and how to use them best. However, the existing typefaces were not good enough for him, thus, creating his own. Lubalin designed four typefaces: ITC Avant Garde Gothic (1970),  Ronda (1970), Lubalin Graph (1974), a slab serif and ITC Serif Gothic (1974). One of his prominent faces was ITC Avant-garde. It is also mostly known for being a revision of art deco. He customises serifs, ascenders and descenders to his liking.


Lubalin puts the stress on bold headlines and graphic simplicity. For example, he used flashy layouts and strikingly elaborate graphics for a magazine called Eros, which carries a more sensuous content.


Lubalin took Modernism into the palm of his own hands with the use of geometry and tightly constructed compositions. He also adds slight humor, sensuality and flourishes. For example, his hand lettering for The Sound of Music Programme to the whisper-thin justified stack for Cooper Union. He was also commissioned with a project for Sprite in creating a new package, logotype and ad. He also did graphics for everything from Bazooka bubble gum and Chicken of the Sea tuna to Ebony magazine.


What caught me by surprise was that Lubalin holds a stand in the use of graphic design in advertisement of products or services.

“I don’t particularly like to advertise products and help clients sell products that I have no particular use for. And very often I turn down a product because I just think it detrimental for people to buy certain products.”  – Herb Lubalin

This got me intrigued that there are designers out there that still holds there morals to the ground in the belief of pure graphic design, to communicate your own voice, choice and beliefs. He also rejected Swiss modernism in favor of a more humanistic ‘graphic expressionism’. He felt that it did not fit in with American culture and imagination. This idea links back to Erik Spiekermann’s manifest on how fonts must be altered and varied to ones culture. The different lifestyle and perceptions may affect the people’s opinion on a certain typeface. Hence, it is important to have designs stylized into cultures for it to be understood, absorbed and well functioned. Lubalin commented that the Americans react to new ideas and that they are a “concept-conscious society”. Thus, the creation of graphic expressionism by Lubalin.

In 1979, Lubalin wrote an article for Print magazine and said: “Graphic Expressionism is my euphemism for the use of typography, or letterforms, not just as a mechanical means for setting words on a page, but rather as another creative way of expressing an idea, telling a story, amplifying the meaning of a word or a phrase, to elicit an emotional response from the viewer.”
He illustrates human emotion through impactful juxtaposition. His constant search for something innovative and fresh made him one of the most successful art director/designer of the 20th century.

(Yet another designer that I found myself adoring.)

Herb Lubalin’s sketches + design work:




Ten (or More) Things You Didn’t Know About Herb Lubalin


Herb Lubalin


Landor | Archetypes in Branding

“The role, immediately recognisable and subconsciously familiar, a brand plays in the market due to its offer, communications strategy, identity, and customer experience.”

An archetype helps reflect and position a brand in a specific look towards the target audiences. It helps emphasise the brand’s beliefs and attribute, giving it a personality, a character. It allows the consumer to develop a stronger connection towards the brand on a deeper level, feeding their needs and giving them a sense of identification.

“The brand becomes a character with a clear personality that informs the way it looks, behaves, and speaks. “

According to the article, to create a strong archetype, a brand must consider how the brand’s personality, traits and character positions itself to be. What are the attributes, beliefs and values that may fit into a certain archetype. This is usually found in a brand’s mission statement.

 In Lisa’s class we have identified the 12 fundamental archetypes:

  1. Caregiver
  2. Citizen
  3. Hero/ Warrior
  4. Innocent
  5. Creator
  6. Explorer
  7. Lover
  8. Rebel
  9. Jester
  10. Magician
  11. Sage
  12. Sovereign

For example, these brands carry the archetype of a hero/warrior.

All in all, I did not really notice these factors until Lisa’s lecture cover. I only knew that brands do position themselves within their mission statement and target market in order to appeal consumers but using an archetype as a market strategy was truly an insight! (even the term archetype was new..) Thus I believe the role as a designer is truly important in the world of marketing and communication. We are the ones who can manipulate the mood and feelings on how others portray on a particular thing.

Talking Type with Jessica Hische

There are bountiful intricately designed typefaces up to this day, but how do we choose one that will be the perfect fit for our project?

Jessica Hische’s article, Uping Your Type Game will just be able to help us with that! She gives a thorough discussion on how type designers are the underdogs. She provides step by step pointers on how to choose a good typeface that may be the perfect fit for our design work and how we should broaden our horizon by not having a favourite type (but maybe a favourite type designer).

  1. To analyse the weight of the type. To Jessica, it is important to have access to a wide range of weights. This allows the flexibility in designing with perception of type weight.
  2. Look at the x-height, where it is best to look for an x-height that allows you to set type at small sizes and still have it be legible.
  3. True italics
  4. Type’s personality: What does the type convey and what historical baggage does it carry? What is the meaning behind its design?
  5. Spacing. This affects the legibility, whether it is easy, smooth and fluent to read.
  6. Even type color. This is my first time coming across this term. This is to make sure the letters don’t feel optically heavier at the joints. “Consistent type color also has a lot to do with the counters, or the spaces within the letters. If counters are too closed, it can make a letter seem heavy or affect legibility and letter recognition.” This made me reflect on how precise and intricate type designers must be and I would never pay close attention to it until this reading. Truly impressive!
  7. Widths. This ensures that the type is legible and beautiful per-line word-count.
  8. Using sans serifs. Jessica mentioned that using sans serif could be tricky as a body text. She introduced the “I to i to 1” rule where a capital I, lowercase i and a number 1 are placed next to each other. “If you can’t tell the difference between these characters, you may run into some trouble when setting the text.” 

Besides these pointers, choosing a type means defining the right mood. One must read the content, write down the key points and visual cues. When pairing typefaces, Jessica recommended to choose within a super-family, same type designer or one that has similar characteristics. For example, when pairing a serif with a sans-serif, it is best to choose the ones with a similar skeleton or proportions. When placing the text, place the serif for your body copy and a sans for your headlines.

After reading the article, it made me more aware on these detailed elements a type carries. When and what is appropriate in different moods, pairings and design. However, the article only talks about the functional use of proper text base fonts instead of the decorative and fun flourishing fonts that one can create for a project. It is does not necessarily mean we have to stick to these pointers but rather to keep in mind, for example, when one is designing an editorial or information texts. Personally, I feel it is more important to have fun and go wild with experimentation without these rules, and then maybe come back to them when finalising the design piece. At the end of the day, it all comes down to context, mood and the appropriation of type for the project.

Typographer of the Week: Erik Spiekermann

“Brand = Function”

Erik Spiekermann is a German type designer and information architect that has shaped Germany’s visual culture. With two other designers, Spiekermann established MetaDesign. Some of the notable projects undertaken by the design studio for includes Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Berlin Transit and Heidelberg Printing and other leading companies. 

The image attached below shows the typefaces Spiekermann has designed and developed for neutral/practical uses. Two of the typefaces are actually altered towards the German culture.


Spiekermann has a ‘minimalistic’, non whimsical, neat, clear and informative style. He holds a devotion to clarity and grid-based design, sticking to the base of designer rules. “I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.” This shows how grounded and discipline he is in making informative designs and typefaces. How a grid and design principles can have a good impact in the application of form.


Classic is my own adap­tion of Bodoni; for Con­tem­po­rary, I somewhat rearranged Meta Bold; Industrial is a generic industrial typeface as negative stencils; and Tech is my attempt at designing numbers without any diagonal strokes. The materials are laser-cut, enamelled steel, extruded, and anodised aluminium, laser-cut, painted steel, and water-cut, polished stainless steel.”
Erik Spiekermann

Spiekermann also mentioned how fonts must be altered and varied depending on the culture. The different lifestyle and perception may affect the people’s opinion on a certain typeface. Hence, it is important to have designs stylised into cultures for it to be understood, absorbed and well-functioned. Erik Spiekermann prides himself as a communication designer with clear underlining through his designs, which make him different and grounded from the whimsical and over-elaborative designers. His designs gives of a neat, clean and guided look – pleasing to the eyes in a sense of practicality and functionality (down to the purest form). 


Getting to Know Erik Spiekermann

Fonts Do Matter

Sarah Hyndman’s TEDtalk was insightful and agreeable in how type can completely transform the meaning of a word. It can give it a backstory, a personality and something that can influence. It has the power to impact with the right uniform. She associates type as clothes, where it gives others the first impression of who it is and what it is. This is impactful, in which type turns words into a story with meaning, a voice to help convey the message into the world. I like how she stated typographers and graphic designers as storytellers. Having the power to alter and manipulate the tone, expression and value the word holds. We can turn a “cheap” word into something sizzling, hot and fresh by a change of font or typeface. It can be serious and credible, or fun and entertaining. Type communicates deep into our sub-conscious and affects how we think. Just like the jellybean round versus angular type example Sarah Hyndman mentioned (which I think is really interesting and true), how fonts can alter how food taste. The elements of a typeface can affect a person’s mood and emotions toward the word or design piece. It can also be the deciding factor of consumerism. Type conveys emotions and meanings that relate to our subconscious.

Therefore, fonts DO matter as a medium of communication. At the end of the day, type plays a crucial role in the everyday life, whether for branding, consumerism, safety, directions or aesthetics – we are all type suckers!

Response to Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style

In this chapter, Robert Bringhurst addresses many great principles on type design that has open my mind into agreement. I specifically like how he uses a musical performance as a metaphor for type, where it is an essential act of interpretation.

“Like music, it can be used to manipulate behavior and emotions.”

Bringhurst stated how we as type designers should FIRST “read the text before designing it”, as it is an essential task in correctly interpreting a text and to appropriately choose a design to communicate. Through the designed type it should determine and show its form, structure, tone and tempo. “The typographer is to the text as the theatrical director to the script, or the musician to the score.” Next we should analyze and map, creating an identity to the typographic form. To have the ability to convey the inner message on the outer surface, giving a sense of transparency.

“The reader, like the listener, should in retrospect be able to close her eyes and see what lies inside the words she has been reading.” This suggest the intricate thoughts a type designer needs to pour in when designing a type or even meticulously choose a typeface that would honor the character of text. To be able to achieve the ability of revealing the message clear and loud in the simplest form.

“Letters are microscopic works of art as well as useful symbols”. It is an art and craft holding meaningful bits of information and thoughts. “When the type is poorly chosen, what the words say linguistically and what the letters imply visually are disharmonious, dishonest, out of tune.” This is true. Each of the available typefaces in the world carries different baggage with history and meanings that can characterize texts in certain ways. It acts as a costume or personality wear to these texts – putting meaning on it that may or may not convey the right inner message.

Typography SHOULD draw the reader to the text, slowly revealing the tone and meaning. It should show structure and order that links the texts with other surrounding elements – tying the ambience in the environment together. Typography is like a breathtaking musical performance where it builds the whole character, tone, mood, which eventually carries the inner message into our mind, heart and soul. Yet behind this beautifully scripted piece holds thousands of meticulous choices and thought in the tiniest detail.

Typographer of the Week: Jonathan Barnbrook

Yet another intriguing and refreshing designer. In honesty, I LOVE his works and I think it is by far one of my favorite typographers. Jonathan Barnbrook has the ability to bring forth messages clear and loud, even through a simple design. In the video, he addressed that typography is close to language and letterforms are not neutral things. They provide a tonal voice for text. Barnbrook wants to “speak in a voice that has never been spoken before and is all about the spirit of the age.”

What he mentioned was true, “designers notice details.” It gives you a fresh pair of eyes to see the world in another level, where you notice the smallest details in architecture or the letterforms used in a brand. Typography is a vehicle of ideological expression; it has a cultural function to design, changing society function and a beautifying function. This opened up my mind into curiosity, which led me into a further research on Jonathan Barnbrook.

Jonathan Barnbrook is not only a brilliant typographer but also a contemporary graphic designer and filmmaker. He is best known for designing David Bowie’s album Heathen in 2002.  In the album he incorporated his ‘Priori’ typeface that he used for the first time for commercial purpose. Bowie commissioned him to design more cover art for other following albums. He also introduced the typeface ‘Mason’ through Émigré, which is displayed in The Museum of Modern Art. Currently, he runs his own studio Barnbrook Design founded in 1990.


Record cover artwork designing was one of the factors that pulled Barnbrook into the field of design. Ever since young, Barnbrook had a passion towards music. To him it was like a form of rebellion and a way to relate to the world. He believes that record covers enhance the enjoyment of music and that graphics makes the whole experience more meaningful in some way. He wanted to reflect his own culture into his passion whether it is art, music or type.

Barnbrook’s graphic designs follow a recurring thematic pattern based on his personal responses to political events. His emotional response to the happenings in the world drives his work. Barnbrook set it as his goal in life to use the power of graphic design as a weapon for social change and justice.






Typographer of the Week: Jan Tschichold

 Jan Tschihold is a highly influential and inspirational typographer in the 20th century of design. He was exposed to the Russian constructivism and the Bauhaus, which led him to form his early typographic style and theories. Tschihold developed and promoted principles of typographic modernism through his most known work of redesigning Penguin books. Despite his passion for the elements of asymmetrical typography during his youth, he comes to associate its rigid style with totalitarianism in general. This led to a turn into the classical and symmetric style that he had once criticised.

Some of his works:

  1. Sabon

Tschichold was commissioned to design a new version of Garamond’s classical serif Roman typeface. It was released in 1967 as part of a joint venture by the Monotype, Linotype and Stempel foundries. Sabon is mostly used by typographers as book text, due to its smooth texture. It was also well received by the printing industry and continues to be used frequently in digital typesetting.

2. Page Canons
With the help of the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Ratio, Tschihold established a new rule of a page ratio of 2:3. He expresses this as  ‘the key to this positioning of the type area is the division into nine pans of both the width and height of the page’. A text block which is in a relatively fixed proportional positions with echoed margins.

3. Penguin Books

Tschichold first incorporated a four page guide that covered all things from margins to italics, punctuation to footnotes, which would be used as the base grid. He then started to rework the covers through different weights of Gill San and a hierarchy was established. The tone of those infamous orange strips was changed and rules were made for tracking of text.
A second revision was then made through the rules between title and author. The logo was redesigned and all fonts were made smaller. In the following revision, the fonts were reduced while upholding the golden ratio with a smaller book size.

This was how Tschichold developed the character in each book.
“It had to be perfect.” 

The different ways in which Tschichold played with typography, space, layout highlights the importance of experimentation. It is fascinating in how much thought typographers put in their design work compared to the fine arts or crafts. More than emotions and expression, typographer uses math, ratio and much thought. It is so well thought and concise that almost every single grid system and typeface is still used in various context in this modern day no matter how old it may have aged. Most important the baggage of history it has, the richness a typeface or rule may carry. This is the beauty. 


Jan Tschichold – Typographic Genius


Response to The Crystal Goblet

“Artists feel and Typographers thinks.”
– The Crystal Goblet, Beatrice Warde

In the reading, The Crystal Goblet, Beatrice Warde aims to convey the message that typography is more technical than you think, and not just a casual type on a document.  She uses a metaphor of a solid gold versus a crystal goblet, paralleling it with typographic skills to infer the purpose of type and the effects on communication between humans. She claims that type or printing is meant to “convey thoughts, ideas, and images from one mind to other minds.”  Typography corresponds to the spoken language that humans use everyday – to highlight thoughts and ideas contained in the written word. 

Moreover, Warde commends that typography is not considered a work of art by stating the fact that printing is still an active form of communication and language proves typography cannot be an art.  A fine art artist reflects feelings and emotions, whereas a typographer and designer tend to think more than they feel.  Warde also compares the topics on the readability and legibility of type in order to support her purpose.  Like typography it takes into account the necessity of a clean page that is able to convey the message it is intending to, together with the page layout. This enables the readers to read through the author’s idea without the intervening by the book typographer’s propagandistic ‘art’. 

Typography is a design process of calculative thinking base on measurements and experimentations. It is rather subjective than an expression. Thus, a responsible typographer is like a crystal goblet that is transparent enough to hold the wine (the author’s mind) allowing the connoisseur (the reader) to see directly and clearly on the wine.  This reading brings out a contemporary perspective on typography and how modernism is still influencing the way society thinks. We, as designers need to understand to use typography responsibly in the design industry – to take full control of words we create and see, to be able to understand the word before we absorb and appreciate the aesthetics.

Typographer of the week: Paula Scher

Paula Scher has developed brand identity and branding systems, promotional materials, environmental graphics, packaging and publications for a wide range of clients. She creates images that speaks to contemporary audiences with emotional impact and appeal. These images have come to be visually identified with the cultural life of New York City.

Scher first began her career by creating record and album covers for both Atlantic and CBS. After a few years, she then joined Pentagram where she created memorable identities for clients such as Citi Bank, Coca-Cola, the Metropolitan Opera, the Museum of Modern Art, Parsons and Windows, among others. Furthermore, Scher also maintains an avid interest in environmental design, and a mural-scale painting practice all on her own. It stems from her rejection of modernist structures on neutral and “clean” designs, to expressive art (very different in contrast to Massimo Vignelli, where its clean, simple and functional). For Scher, expressivity is key to high value.

The Citibank Logo carries a polished corporate look. This brand identity was created after Scher’s first meeting with her clients. She was mind mapping on a napkin when she finished “the final idea” the moment she walked out. In the video, she talked about this process and it struck my attention that the ‘t’ with the over head curved red line was a depiction of an umbrella. Scher operates heavily on her intuition, as she believes design is from within where it takes a very intuitive process. For Scher, “big bold strokes of design that comes in her mind first or second are usually the final idea.”  This statement is one to follow. We, as designers, should not force ourselves to design something so fixed in a way that does not reflect our own designer identity, rather we should follow our own intuition that helps us color and reflect our designer identity into our works. Sometimes, you may never know what you come up with is one spectacular piece…right?

Scher suggests that “words have meanings and typography has feelings.” When you add them together it creates a spectacular combination. She responds negatively towards Helvetica as it neutralises feelings. It acts like a plain white wall instead of a bold loud colored wall that speaks emotions. Typefaces have personalities of their own and we should use that to our advantage when designing. She suggests that we as designers should illustrate with type and not press in the corner of type. Scher developed typographic solution based on Art deco and Russian constructivism, which incorporated outmoded typefaces into her work. The Russian constructivism had provided inspiration for her typography, using it as a  vocabulary of form in her works.

Scher illustrate maps using demographic information and paints her type during her weekends, which takes a long time to complete. Before technology, Scher has been using her hands to paint album covers and type. After the invention and innovation of technology, it had made her hands feel useless. Strongly puts forward that we as designers should create our own designs and type with our bare hands through experimentation and process, hence, “you don’t type design”.

Scher’s design communicates with the contemporary audiences through the use of pop iconography, music and film. Her work has been published internationally and her contributions to the field design are numerous. She uses her large scale of experiences and skills vary what the client wants; from a corporate look of citibank to a fun-funky design for an art school like Parsons. She incorporates photos and typography into her works, plays with pure typography that can make such an impact! As a global artist influencer, Scher continues to inspire the new generation of designers.