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Introducing the Herb Lubalin work in context

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ost people recognize the name Herb Lubalin in association with the typeface Avant Garde yet his career spanned a much wider scope than that. The creative force behind the forward thinking magazines Avant-Garde, Eros and Fact, 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” writes Design is History on the iconic typographer and designer whose inventiveness made him one of the most successful art directors of the 20th century.

A graduate of the Cooper Union in New York himself his work is celebrated once again with the newly launched website Flat File which will showcase singular works of graphic design from its collection on a weekly basis.

“It feels like it took us a few years to get to this place where we could think this up but the actual project took only a few weeks,” says Alexander Tochilovsky, curator of The Herb Lubalin Study Center and the man who edits the site, providing insightful context and history about the works. “A fortuitous meeting with a web designer, Anton Herasymenko, who visited the archive to browse, and a brief chat, got the ball rolling” he added.

The site has already garnered significant attention from the design and typography community although there was no fanfare about Flat File’s launch. “The first tweet about it was seen by 16,000 people; 2,000 viewed the site in its first day. In the first five days that one post about Fact: magazine was viewed 4,300 times. The mailing list we set up for it grew by 1,500 subscribers. This is all in one week,” Tochilovsky says.

The Lubalin Center, which is open by appointment to anyone interested in browsing its extensive collection of design and typographical ephemera, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. A related exhibition included actual flatfile cabinets where each drawer focused on an individual designer. Some of the future subjects for Flat File, the website, include Push Pin Studios’ Almanack and Karl Gerstner’s Capital magazine.

“I think the appeal this has is that there isn’t that much out there that focuses on individual pieces of design, and does it in a short, manageable format that designers can read quickly, and get something out of it,” Tochilovsky says. “We wanted to find a good balance between strong visual presentation and insightful but brief text. I want it to be inspirational, and for designers to be able to see how design history can be relevant to today’s practice.”

Lubalin’s amazing line of work comes direct from the archive at the Herb Lubalin Study Center and is presented via the Readymag format. The first installment of Flat File, with its focus on Lubalin’s art direction and design of Fact magazine in 1964, does not disappoint. “The best detail in this project is the logo Lubalin designed,” Tochilovsky writes in his essay accompanying six images of the 60s magazine. “It was drawn by Tom Carnase, and based on Caslon 540 – with the ‘f’ slightly modified to mimic the ‘t’.”

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