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


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!

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


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.


Typographer of the Week: Neville Brody

Neville Brody is an English graphic designer, typographer and art director. In his student years, his designs were often criticised by his professors as uncommercial designs. Brody was highly inspired and influenced during the era of punk rock, but his experimentation was not met up to standards to his teachers. However this did not stop him into exploring the boundaries of graphic design, thus he began researching on the subject comparison between Dadaism and Pop art (which is reflected in his following works).

Brody started his career as a record cover designer but was recognised in the market through his work as an Art Director for The Face magazine. Thereafter, he gave direction to several international magazines, newspapers and even redesigned one of the top two leading English newspapers. His achievements has revolutionised and gave meaning to the media and the world of visual communication. 

Brody is also one of the founding members of Fontworks/Fontshop and has designed numerous notable typefaces for websites. Such as:
Arcadia, Industria, Insignia, FF Pop.

Some of his font design, such as Arcadia was influenced through the style of Art deco. It reflects “the great gatsby” period, capturing the vibrant spirit and the lush atmosphere of the Art Deco. It features a tall and striking geometric design with extremely condensed and contrasting forms. Arcadia’s elegance is used to display settings for advertising, packaging, invitations, or logos. 

Furthermore, Neville Brody established the FUSE project, which fuses typeface and graphic design in a magazine. The project brings forth designers, architectures, sound and film directors together through conferences. 


Neville Brody plays with colors, form, weight and type that evokes loudness and eye-catching elements in order to push through the boundaries of design whilst playing with the unconventional. His work effectively hinders the line of rule breaking by creating a refreshing side on graphic design. Brody embodies the essence and the true meaning of design and to communicate visually, instead of falling into commercialism. One has to stand up in order for the rest to rise.