Sunday, August 12, 2018

Midcentury Modern: Alvin Lustig

The book I'm working on is about UPA
(United Productions of America),
an animation studio active from the
1940s through the 1970s (think
Mr. Magoo). Alvin Lustig designed
their logo, shown here—with
cartoon characters added.
I have been working lately, so not reading—so no book reports. But this blog was whispering to me, "Isn't there something you want to say or share?" And then, in the work, I stumbled on a reference to one Alvin Lustig, well known in the mid–twentieth century for a series of book covers he created for New Directions' "New Classics" series (1941–52). They epitomize midcentury modernism. I thought I'd share a few here.

But first: what is midcentury modernism? To quote Creative Bloq, it is "a practical, clean-lined design movement spanning architecture, interior design, furniture, product and graphic design created during the middle of the 20th century. The exact dates are open to debate: some place mid-century modernism between 1933 and 1965, while others claim the time period was smaller—from 1947 to 1957." The design aesthetic is marked by "clean, sculptural lines, simple, organic shapes and neat proportions, as well as vibrant colour palettes—an evolution of earlier Modernist styles such as Bauhaus." See this page for 15 iconic examples of the style. You'll recognize them.

And here is "A Mid-Century Modern Primer for Graphic Designers," focusing on the qualities of color, shapes, typography, and use of space that practitioners of the style manipulated to arrive at their signature designs.

And now, here's Mr. Lustig (who curiously is not listed in the above "Primer" as a designer to study to learn more about the style). As the author of the book I'm working on puts it, "Lustig’s trademark, particularly on display in his book covers, was his ability to assess a large body of information and to distill it into a representation that was stark, simple, and arresting." See for yourself.











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