By Mark Sinclair
The festive season provided Herb Lubalin’s New York studio with an opportunity to send warm messages of goodwill to its clients, while indulging in some witty, often heartfelt, self-promotional work that displayed its mastery of type. To coincide with the republication of our 2012 monograph, Herb Lubalin: American Graphic Designer 1918—81, we wanted to take a look at some of the work his studio made around this time of year, some forty-five years ago.
The festive messaging that Lubalin and his team produced in the early 1970s – from Christmas and New Year’s cards, to packaging designs for client gifts – occupies an interesting place within the studio’s creative output. Take this holiday poster from 1967, issued by the Lubalin studio’s second incarnation where long-time associate Ernie Smith and lettering maestro Tom Carnese worked as partners.
Set on a bold red background, the central graphic appears to be a Victorian assemblage of several letterforms, possibly found “in one of the old copyright-free graphic ephemera books that Lubalin treasured,” as Adrian Shaughnessy writes in the Lubalin book.
This cryptic design is semi-explained by the small bit of text that runs alongside: ‘It says here, somewhere: “Peace on earth, goodwill to all men.” Let’s get it together’.
While wry humour was often an important part of the studio’s voice, it could still convey more serious sentiments, even during a typically jovial time of year. Attempting to instill a sense of goodwill to all, one seasonal project that Lubalin worked on for the Danish jewellers Georg Jensen in the early 1970s resulted in a rather more austere-looking typographic holiday card in festive green and red.
Bearing the message ‘Others – That’s what it’s all about’, the design was joined by the instructions to ‘Love’ at all times, everyday, all throughout the year.
In the sixth issue of the FlatFile series examining Lubalin’s work, Alexander Tochilovsky, curator of the Herb Lubalin Study Center, points to a New Year’s card that signalled the start of Lubalin’s journey into the 1970s proper, having recently expanded his studio to three partners and changed its name to Lubalin, Smith, Carnese.
“The studio was busy with client work, and were about to embark on a decade of work which will visually come to define the 1970s,” Tochilovsky writes. “What better way to mark the start of this journey than with a typographic bang – a holiday card announcing the year 1972.”
Lettered by Tom Carnese in a Spencerian style, the numerical ambigram made use of the visual similarities between the ‘7’ and the ‘2’ and claimed that while, yes, ‘69 was good – ‘72 is better’.
Interestingly, the ‘72’ design also had a second outing at the close of the year (1972 was nothing if not busy) and was reused in a season’s greetings card issued by the newly-formed Lubalin, Burns & Co., the business that Lubalin established with partners Aaron Burns and Bob Farber and that would go on to become ITC.
Of course, like any studio or agency worth its salt, Lubalin, Smith, Carnase Inc. were also well aware of the power of producing actual gifts for clients over the holiday period. So in 1973, this charming LSC-branded label for ‘Jug-o-Glug’ was designed by the studio’s Annegret Beier for a series of bottles of mulled wine that were delivered in time for Christmas.
According to lubalin100.com, Beier even made the seasonal drink that the bottles contained, too. A clever way to remind people of the packaging design talents within the studio – and a gesture that would no doubt be warmly enjoyed over the holiday period.
Finally, and with this year’s Christmas season already upon us (did the feeling that it gets earlier every year occur in the 1970s?), what better way to finish than with the ‘Love and Joy’ Christmas card that was sent out by Lubalin, Smith, Carnese in 1975 (art directed by Lubalin, designed by Alan Peckolick, with Carnese producing the glorious letterforms).
A lovely sentiment and a pretty effective way of reminding people of the joy that the work of Lubalin and his team could bring to projects in the coming year.
Thanks to the support of our Kickstarter backers we have been able to reprint our 2012 monograph on Lubalin. Herb Lubalin: American Graphic Designer 1918—81 is available to pre-order now, via the Unit shop. Thank you to Alexander Tochilovsky for his help and expertise in putting this post together.