Typography I – Typographer of Week 8: Herb Lubalin


When I read about the 10 things we didn’t know about Herb Lubalin, it’s interesting to know more about him through those little facts. Like how he supports liberal causes. I wish he was still alive – I would wanna know what are his views on the politics in this day and age.

Like Herb, I would like to devote my life to painting too after I retire! But it’s sad that he did not get to do both the retiring and painting as he died early.

Herb Lubalin was the famous typographer and designer behind the creation of the typeface Avant Garde. Aside from creating works meant for positive political changes, Lubalin was a constant boundary breaker on both a visual and social level. Part of the founding team of the International Typeface Corporation (ITC)  and the principal of Herb Lubalin, Inc it was hard to escape the reach of Herb during the 1960s and 70s.

Coming to terms with Herb Lubalin’s work takes us quickly to the heart of a very big subject: the theory of meaning and how meaning is communicated—how an idea is moved, full and resonant, from one mind to another. Not many have been able to do that better than Lubalin.


The Avant Garde Gothic typeface was originally designed for the Avant Garde magazine. It can also be noted that Lubalin Graph is a typeface family on its own but was derived from Avant Garde Gothic.

The Avant Garde Gothic typeface was based on Lubalin’s late 1960’s logo. Despite the overuse and misuse of Avant Garde Gothic in the 1970s, it’s still extremely influential and remains as one of Lubalin’s most iconic fonts. This font could be described as a reproduction of art-deco and is seen in logos created in the 1990s and 2000s.

Image result for Avant Garde Gothic in 1970s

Herb Lubalin devised the logo concept and its companion headline typeface, and then he and Tom Carnase, a partner in Lubalin’s design firm, worked together to transform the idea into a full-fledged typeface.

Announcement for Avant Garde magazine’s antiwar poster contest, designed by Herb Lubalin, 1968.

As mentioned by Adrian Shaughnessy, a graphic designer: “Lubalin was…a political designer. He was never a radical‚ but a progressive liberal at a time when such sympathies were undoubtedly ‘bad for business.’ When this is compounded with his work with Ginzburg‚ which put him at the forefront of the 1960s free speech and anti-censorship movements‚ we see he was unafraid to declare his political allegiances and sympathies.”

We see this in the above poster he created for. Herb Lubalin’s work punches straight at the gut simply using letterforms. Look at that bold red using every letter in caps-lock. The typeface he uses as well. How smart it is of him to use every negative space (The black but bold exclamation mark at the side catches my attention too somehow).  As a viewer, this whole poster evokes some strong attitude and emotion in you. Don’t you feel it? I do.


Herb Lubalin
U&lc magazine

Lubalin spent the last ten years of his life working on a variety of projects, notably his typographic journal U&lc and the newly founded International Typographic Corporation. U&lc (short for Upper and lower case) served as both an advertisement for Lubalin’s designs and a further plane of typographic experimentation.

Here, he tested just how far smashed and expressive lettering might be taken. Unlike other most designers, he had the freedom of being his own client where nobody tells him what to do, and he enjoys it.


Hence relating that to my learning point: I admire how he had his own personal convictions and stood by them. You could tell his character by the kind of work he produces, and hence has helped him shape his works as a designer. He stands firmly on what he believed in so that he would design works that are true to himself, instead of simply following with the trend. Lubalin is definitely in a class from his own.

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