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Avant Garde magazine #13

Contributed by Jan Middendorp on May 23rd, 2018. Artwork published in .
    Avantgarde-American-PeopleM.jpg
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    The original Avant-Garde (Gothic)

    As 8 out of 10 visitors to this site will know, ITC Avant Garde Gothic was born here: on the covers and pages of Avant-Garde magazine, edited by Ralph Ginzburg and art-directed by Herb Lubalin. Lettering artists in Lubalin’s studio, like Lubalin’s partner Tom Carnase, and Tony Di Spigna, were working overtime to draw Lubalin’s lettering designs or invent their own.

    The Avant-Garde logo (the hyphen and camel case in the mag’s name was how they usually wrote it) was the first thing drawn with the new all-caps alphabet. In his definitive Lubalin book (Unit Editions, 2012), Adrian Shaughnessy sketches the history of the logo. At first, Ginzburg was unhappy with all of Lubalin’s proposals. Lubalin wrote: “I tried to dazzle him with a multitude of ornate swashes, which usually does the trick with less knowing clients. He said: ‘Cut it out!’ When a man is as graphically astute as Ralph Ginzburg, one is hard put to dazzle him with anything but something completely out of the ordinary. Ligatures! Nobody knows about ligatures. Not lower case ligatures, not upper and lower case ligatures. But cap ligatures. To my knowledge, nobody had ever fooled around with cap ligatures. And that’s how the logotype for Avant-Garde magazine was born.” The designer who drew the final version (1967) was Tom Carnase.

    This front page by Lubalin of a special issue of Avant-Garde (#13, spring 1971) was an early masterpiece using the typeface’s letterpairs/ligatures — sparsely but very effectively. Note how the lines in the justified text block optically line up on both sides, while (or because) the horizontals of F, L and T stick out almost 4mm or 1/8 inch. The first version of ITC Avant Garde Gothic, jointly credited to Lubalin and Carnase, had come out a few months earlier, so the cover must have been an early use, and a kind of demonstration, of the new typeface. A similar earlier cover, for issue #8 in 1969, “Picasso’s Erotic Gravures”, may have been a first major test of the concept — possibly hand-drawn or cut-and-pasted from a photostat test alphabet.

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    1 Comment on “Avant Garde magazine #13”

    1. May 23rd, 2018  9:42 am

      Thank you, Jan!

      For the intensely curious, see Lubalin100’s story about the Avant Garde logo, including some “never-before-seen intermediate logo proposals, set in Hairline Gothic, an early Lubalin and Carnase collaboration”, and Steve Heller’s article “Crimes Against Typography”. Lubalin’s own account, “Is Avant Garde avant garde?”, can be found in the very first issue of U&lc.

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