Sunday, August 18, 2013

Modern Design God Alvin Lustig

I was in an actual book store recently - not the kind where you buy coffee and scones and board games - the kind where there are books on shelves to hold in your hand and purchase if you like. One caught my eye called Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig by Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen, Lustig's widow.   I had not heard of Alvin Lustig - that's on me - but the design work was so interesting my curiosity piqued and out came the credit card.  

By my estimation, Alvin Lustig is the Fred Moore of modern design.  He set the style and, like Fred Moore, died young.  His bread and butter was book jacket design, but he also designed ads, business lobbies, and corporate logos including the one for  - here comes the animation connection - UPA!
Alvin Lustig's UPA logo designs, from Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig.
An excerpt from Born Modern, page 98, tells of Lustig's UPA design :

"Lustig had a keen sense of how to make "old Fashioned" elements look contemporary, but he also knew how to create marks from whole cloth (or type).  His first logo design for UPA (United Productions of America) in 1946 was a textbook example of modern form based on memorable lettering.  The curvilinear letterforms with dots as endpoints evoked modern furniture and gave the company a progressive aura.  Nonetheless, he revisited the studio in 1950, changing it to three ellipses, each containing one of the letters U, P, and A.  'The UPA', wrote Lustig, 'is a vey lively and talented group of men in Hollywood who are producing probably the finest animated cartoons in America today.....The first (logo) produced a few years ago was perhaps a bit more elegant and worked well on stationery, but did not satisfy the requirements for film"  Since it was monotone, it failed to give the necessary impact.  'As color is an integral part of their work, it was planned to emphasize it more than usual went (sic) to the point of using four colors on all the stationery.  Lustig rejected the trite symbols of film and determined that a discreet signature would be more effective - and joyful. (Incidentally, in 1952, Lustig designed the opening sequence for the popular animated cartoon series Mr. Magoo.)"

The stuff you learn in books!  

Amid Amidi wrote about Lustig years ago in his Cartoon Modern blog.  Check it out here.  

And treat yourself to a copy of Born Modern here.  After all, it's almost Christmas!

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