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Talking with Rhoda Lubalin

By Adrian ShaughnessyOne of the great pleasures of researching our book on Herb Lubalin was speaking to his widow, Rhoda. An artist in her own right, Rhoda Sparber provided me with a unique insight into her life and work, and her time with her late husband. Rhoda was Herb’s second wife. His first, Sylvia Kushner, died in 1971. Some of Rhoda’s work can be seen in an issue of UL&C magazine, where she made sculpted heads of Saul Bass, Lou Dorfsman and Milton Glaser. Her life in art began in ninth grade. Rhoda Sparber, 1971As she told me: “My art teacher Ms. Curran, (carrot-colored hair, purple clothes) tiptoed to my desk and whispered ‘Mayor La Guardia is opening a new...

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Ten Things You Should Know About Herb Lubalin

Our recent Kickstarter campaign to republish our 2012 book on US designer and typographer Herb Lubalin was successful. Warm thanks to all our backers! Last year, Adrian Shaughnessy talked to the #Lubalin100 project about his experience of writing and researching the book, and describing what he discovered about this legendary figure of American graphic design. By way of an introduction to Lubalin we present the full text, here. Prior to writing a book on Herb Lubalin (1918–81), I had a rather sketchy opinion of him, writes Shaughnessy. Of course, I recognised that he was a significant American typographer and designer, responsible for some high quality typographic logos and a handful of era-defining typefaces. Yet the more I delved into the life and work of Lubalin,...

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Unit Editions @ ten

By Adrian Shaughnessy When we started Unit Editions ten years ago, lots of people told us not to waste our time. Print was dead, they said, and it certainly looked that way. Bookshops were closing, magazine and newspaper sales were evaporating, eBooks were on the rise, and pretty much everything that was once printed now seemed destined to move online.  But something told us this wasn’t the complete picture. When Tony Brook and I decided to set up a publishing company, we were only sure of two things: firstly, we both loved books and, secondly, we knew that graphic designers, no matter how immersed in the digital world, also loved books. So, despite the warnings about the future of print, we pushed ahead and formed Unit Editions. Now, ten...

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Season’s Greetings, Herb Lubalin style

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...

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Lance Wyman talks Process

By Mark Sinclair Our new book, Lance Wyman: Process, is a near facsimile of the leather-bound ‘sketchbook’ that the US designer made when working on his proposal for the 1976 American Bicentennial identity. The book opens with an interview with Wyman where he discusses how the project began, how his design thinking evolved over its duration, and how an understanding of his own ‘process’ became integral to the creation of the work. An edited extract of this conversation with Adrian Shaughnessy is featured below. Wyman’s original book catalogues the work he produced in collaboration with the architect Michael Cohalan, which was submitted in a competition to design a logo and graphic identity for the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations that would mark the creation of the USA as an independent republic. By 1970, Wyman had acquired quite a reputation. His...

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Lars Harmsen: visual crashes in Letraset

By Mark Sinclair Lars Harmsen, a Munich-based creative director and the co-founder of Melville studio and Slanted magazine, has been publishing a personal visual diary to his Instagram account which makes interesting use of Letraset. We included some examples of his work in our book on the lettering system – and recently spoke to him about his process and what has drawn him back to this analogue practice. In using a rubdown instant-transfer version of the typeface FF Clan, Harmsen makes “striking typographic compositions that are free from the inflexibility of computer software,” we write in Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution. “I started the rub-off-type-diary a year ago,” Harmsen says. “All the pieces are in a thick blue book. I pick up stuff from the news. They...

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At the Franco Grignani archive

By Mark Sinclair Last week, Unit’s Tony Brook and I were lucky enough to get the chance to visit the archive of artist and graphic designer, Franco Grignani (1908-99). Thanks to the work of his daughter, Manuela, the Milan-based collection records Grignani’s working life in vivid detail and contains thousands of original works, proofs, sketches and projects he produced over fifty years. Joined by Mario Piazza, founder of 46xy studio and former AIAP president, the opportunity to see so many of Grignani’s visual explorations on paper was a real privilege. Housed in a basement studio beneath an apartment building in central Milan, the Grignani archive is a large space divided into two main areas: paintings and prints are housed in racks on...

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Letraset, Lubalin and ligatures – in newsprint

By Mark Sinclair Two things close to Unit Editions’ heart – Letraset and Herb Lubalin – came together recently in the form of a broadsheet newspaper produced by the Herb Lubalin Study Center and Adobe Type’s Dan Rhatigan. Made in collaboration with Newspaper Club, ‘100% Lubalin Letraset’ was created for Day 90 of the Center’s #Lubalin100 project that has been celebrating the designer’s centenary. The newspaper features 17 images of Lubalin’s typefaces as they appeared on sheets of the lettering system in the 1970s. Each sheet comes from Rhatigan’s own collection and he introduces the paper with a text on Lubalin’s International Typeface Corporation (ITC), the foundry that the US designer launched with Aaron Burns and Edward Rondthaler in 1970. ITC...

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‘You feel you’re there – in his head’. On the appeal of Lance Wyman’s sketchbooks

By Mark Sinclair Designer Jim Sutherland recently tweeted his admiration for US graphics legend Lance Wyman’s sketchbook work, which is collected together in our book, Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries 1973-1982. What is it about preparatory drawings, work-in-progress doodles and annotated ideas on paper that people find so appealing? We asked Sutherland about what this insight into Wyman’s working practice gave him – and how sketching fits into his own graphic design practice. Limited copies of Lance Wyman: The Visual Diaries are still available from the Unit shop. Mark Sinclair: What does seeing Wyman’s sketch work presented like this mean to you as a designer? Jim Sutherland: I love seeing the thought process and progression of ideas. From initial sketches and variations to the final iterations...

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How I made Letraset: an interview with Freda Sack

Over the next few weeks we’re featuring a selection of highlights from our Letraset book, our visual history of the rubdown lettering system that revolutionised typographic expression. For our second extract, we have an interview with type designer and typographer, Freda Sack, who joined Letraset in the 1970s and worked in its Type Studio. While there she perfected the art of cutting master letterforms from Rubylith using tools that she made and customised herself. Adrian Shaughnessy talked to her about her fascinating career. (Our first post looked at how Letraset became a staple of the DIY attitude to music-making in the late 1970s early 80s.) Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution is available now from the Unit Editions shop. The negative film masters and...

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