A Tribute To Herb Lubalin

Posted by Scott

Peter Gabor has posted a Tribute to Herb Lubalin just to remind us all of how inferior our design skills really are. There are 11 pages of Lubalin’s work spanning all the way from his logos and branding up to his more conceptual art and photography. It’s a rather thorough collection and a good starting point if you’re looking for inspiration from one of the original masters of our medium. Link

On a side note, Gabor’s tribute prompted me to brush up on my Herb Lubalin Trivia by going over his Wikipedia entry. I was shocked to find that he passed away at age 63. Maybe seeing another of my design heroes, Wim Crouwel, looking fit and sounding sharp at age 78 in the Helvetica film gave me an unrealistic ideal of longevity, but I always thought of design as the sort of trade you could still be plugging away at and actually producing relevant work well into your 60’s and 70’s (desire permitting, of course). It’s a shame he passed so soon and it’s incredible what he was able to achieve in the relatively short time he had. I wonder what his thoughts on the digital revolution would have been? And perhaps more importantly, how would he have viewed the resurgence and near ubiquity of his famous typeface (Avant Garde) in the past decade of graphic design?

Update: Daniel asked a good question about Avant Garde Alts in the comments. A lot of people have asked the same thing in the past so I thought I would post up the various sources for those character sets. Click here to view the comment

16 Comments Leave A Comment


Daniel Carvalho says:

August 28, 2008 at 3:08 am

This question may make me seem like a complete neophyte but, I can never find a single Avant Garde typeface that produces anything remotely similar to that depicted above (AVANT GARDE GOTHIC).

I’ve seen it being used in countless places, especially among surfing brands and christian youth graphic design. But, either someone’s done a bad job or I’m just being a noob, but I’ve never had such a hard time finding a typeface, especially when I have the full name. But it seems like it should really be more obvious.


Scott says:

August 28, 2008 at 3:36 am

What you are looking for is commonly referred to as Avant Garde Alternates. These sets contain the character variants and ligatures that you see in so many logos. AG Pro includes a discretionary ligatures set which you can use to create what you see in the original logo. Alternatively, you can do it by hand by converting your type to a shape layer (or outlines in Illustrator)…. Part of an “N” makes the slanted “A” etc…etc. You can build most of those shapes with existing characters in the typical version of the face.

More Info on AG Pro can be found here

ITC Avant Garde Alt will do as well, although I don’t think it has as thorough a character set as Pro.


Daniel Carvalho says:

August 28, 2008 at 4:20 am

Thanks Scott, really appreciate that response, it’s been eating away at me for some time now. My soul is now at ease. Somewhat gives me a bit more respect for anyone that uses that font, since it requires a fair some of manual adjustment.


Scott says:

August 28, 2008 at 4:27 am

No problem. Just be pragmatic in your application of AG, it’s quite easy to get carried away with a font like that.


Daniel Carvalho says:

August 28, 2008 at 7:29 am

On the topic of type, I’ve recently purchased the core set of Gotham, and absolutely loving it. My jaw drops just popping an arbitrary word like, “COFFEE” in white on a black canvas.

I’m sure you’ve been acquainted with it before, especially with your involvement in the Obama campaign. Just wanted to know your thoughts on it, if any on this typeface. Especially since I figured you’re a sucker for gothic fonts.


Marc Garner says:

August 28, 2008 at 9:01 am

I remember reading a while back that Herb was pretty put out by all the miss uses of the typeface. I think it was either in a Michael Bierut or Steven Heller article. Nonetheless I’m sure Herb made a hugh profit off the font. It really is humbling to see his body of work. Quite the type master.


Brian says:

August 28, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Herb will always be an inspiration! His sense of type just blows me away. Does anyone know this script typeface Herb also used in his work? I have not been able to find much info. on it…..

Also, the Helvetica documentary is such a great film that really challenges you to think about a typeface that most of the world rather has no idea the work and beauty behind it.


Alex / HeadUp says:

August 29, 2008 at 6:50 am

I was in Cooperstown, NY at the beginning of this month at my Grandmother’s house. My Grandma was an art teacher for many years, and her library of books, especially ones from the pre-digital era of design, is massive, to say the least. My favorite of her books was one on the work of Herb Lubalin, page after page of pure design genius…and versatile genius at that. I wanted to take the book home, but she wouldn’t let me :-(

I really need to get my hands on Avant Garde Alt, but it’s rather costly at a time that finds my budget in dire straits, esp after purchasing my MacBook Pro.


Brian says:

August 29, 2008 at 10:26 am

Thanks…I thought it could be, but I kept telling myself “no way” because of the fine detail and complexity of the characters. It just makes me respect him that much more now….if that is even possible, haha.


Anita says:

January 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I am a professional photograher and graphic design major at college. I have a class assignment where I get to choose typeface from one or many eras, time period and culture change. I chose to do my letter collage of typeface with a focus on the decades spanning from 1970 through to the present. My search for letters and typeface within these criteria and time period brought me to the works of the late great Herb Lubalin. Could anyone help me find the source of the typefaces used used above in the white box? I would like to use them extended the honoring of Mr. Lubalin and his work by using his design (with credit to him) in my work. Thanks
His work is something I love and remember seeing all around growing up as a little girl.