Creative Titans: Herb Lubalin, the Father of Conceptual Typography

Born in 1918, Herbert Lubalin was a celebrated American graphic designer and typographer. Commonly referred to as “the father of conceptual typography”, he was responsible for introducing expressive typography into print advertising.

As a colorblind and ambidextrous designer, many of his works are in either one or two colors (usually red and green or red and blue). His own work was fairly reductive, so he had to put his faith in illustrators and photographers to create the full-color images. While some would view colorblindness as a setback, he was able to set his focus on letterform and layout, without being distracted by color. This resulted in some truly unique use of typography that had not been seen before, and would set new trends for emerging designers.

Herb didn’t always have a passion for graphic design. Following his education at New York’s Cooper Union, he worked as an accomplished art director for over 20 years. He wouldn’t begin his storied career as a type designer until 1970.

Popular Work


Herb Lubalin has a number of influential typographic works attributed to his name and is responsible for designing the Avant Garde typeface. Along with a number of popular logos, he is also responsible for admired poster designs and avant garde pieces. In 1974, he also created the publication U&lc (Upper and lower case), which showcased the International Typeface Corporation’s (ITC) typefaces (which he also co-founded).


Herb’s philosophy was “you can do a good ad without good typography, but you can’t do a great ad without good typography.” Along with mastering typography in advertising, he also specialized in subliminal logos and the use of negative space. His favorite work (which is also one of his most widely recognized) is a prime example of this. His award-winning logo design for a Curtis Publication, “Mother & Child,” illustrates the name with the suggestion of a fetus inside the logo.


Lubalin was able to express his eclectic side as the art director of three of Ralph Ginzburg’s influential magazines: Eros, Fact, and Avant Garde. There, he was able to combine his work as an art director with his work in typography. The magazines sadly went under due to obscenity charges filed by the US Postal Service against Ginzburg.

Design Strategy


Lubalin didn’t believe that what he did should be considered typography, but rather as “designing with letters”. He was inventive with type and really made words speak, referring to his craft as “expressive typography”.

Lubalin was a political designer who wasn’t afraid to say what he believed. He was a progressive liberal and worked on controversial pieces, like his work with Ginzburg. He didn’t take slack from anyone and was famously quoted as saying: “I’m my own client. Nobody tells me what to do.”

He was the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including seven Gold Medals from the Art Directors Club, Art Director of the Year Award from the National Society of Art Directors, an AGI and AIGA Medal, a Clio, two honors from The Cooper Union, and the TDC Medal.

Lubalin subscribed to both modern and late-modern ideals, which he worked to seamlessly bridge the gap between. He passed away in 1981, but is still commonly regarded as one of the most influential graphic designers of the 20th century. He helped set the stage for typography in advertising and still serves as an inspiration to modern graphic designers today.

Super Bowl Branding

Everybody knows that the real star of the Super Bowl has nothing to do with football – it’s all about the commercials. Every year, millions of people tune in just to see what brands have come up with, and Super Bowl LI is expected to be no different. It’s a real opportunity for brands to go all-out, getting as creative as the networks and their wallets will allow. Snickers, for instance, is going to air the game’s first-ever live commercial, featuring Adam Driver (of Star Wars and Girls) as some kind of cowboy hero. That’s not the only first for this year, either – Yellow Tail is going to be the first wine brand to air a Super Bowl ad in four decades, and both Wendy’s and Tiffany’s are finally putting out their first game day commercials.addriverSometimes, a brand can make as big of a statement by staying off-screen as they would by running an ad. Kraft Heinz has been getting a lot of buzz lately for their public decision to not produce a Super Bowl ad, and instead use those millions of unspent dollars to give employees the day after the game off. And Tostitos’ ingenious chip bag design – which doubles as a breathalyzer to determine when partygoers have had too much to drive home, and can even call an Uber for them using smartphone-enabled technology – is a great example of a brand making the packaging an integral part of the consumer experience. With social engagement and technology being where it is today, brands have lots of options for showing off innovation.tostitosWith the spotlight on sponsoring companies, it can be easy to forget what an undertaking it is to brand the Super Bowl itself as a national event. The process for designing the brand identity of a Super Bowl game begins as far as two years in advance. In fact, the identity and graphic design guide for the 2018 game is going to launch on February 6th, the day after Super Bowl LI.

The design of nearly everything tied to this year’s game, including banners, apparel, advertisements, etc., all use deep reds. This was chosen because it draws from the NFL’s official logo (helping create cohesiveness between the event and the organizers) and also because the designers felt that it best captures the spirit of energy and excitement that the league is trying to promote. Super Bowl LI is also featuring more colors in its designs than in years past, namely turquoise and yellow, as they are attempting to connect with a younger audience.supbowlThe Super Bowl is like Oscars season for those in branding. It is the moment to show off months or years of hard work and planning, and the competition is always fierce. With millions of expectant eyes watching, we will have to wait and see whether or not this year delivers. If these pre-game releases – like what we’ve gotten from Tostitos and Snickers – are any indication of what is to come, then Sunday is going to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls to date.

Can a Brother Get Some Weird Packaging???

As you have probably noticed, weirdness is a theme that has been used regularly in product marketing, and for many years. That said, one advertising campaign that we recently came across got us thinking, and as it turns out, writing. Trolli recently launched a new campaign that embraces weird in all its glory, from the taglines (“weirdly awesome”) to the ads to the original and co-created microcontent.
No doubt Trolli (and its ad agency, Periscope) took note of recent ad campaigns in a variety of industries that brought the weirdness. In the confectionary category, Skittles jumped on the weird train a few years ago with a hilariously weird campaign crafted by TBWA\Chiat\Day. Skittles creative has since maintained a reasonable level of weirdness. Similarly, most of you are certainly familiar with the weird ad campaigns that help revive P&G’s Old Spice brand, or the awkwardly weird Southern Comfort campaign that borrows from the awkward films of Wes Andersen (Royal Tenenbaums, et al), Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and others.

So why does weird work in marketing, and is it here to stay? In our opinion, yes to the latter. And as to the former, weird is a great (and easy) way to stand out in a digital landscape where content marketing is king yet truly engaging content is hard to find. Weird, by definition, is different, edgy, and eccentric. Weird does not require a storyteller to follow a formula or any conventions, as comedic or dramatic storytelling do. Weird is off the reservation, without any rules, and littered with randomness. And the weirder the better. Given the need to produce a constant stream of original and interesting content in the modern digital world, weird is a relatively easy solution that can be quickly created, iterated, and distributed. And more importantly, we humans just seem to be instinctively drawn to awkward and/or weird things. Maybe its something supernatural, or maybe it has to do with our “morbid curiosity,” as highlighted in this video. One way or another, weird works, its easier than being funny, and its not going anywhere.

Sooooo… where does that leave us? Well, Works Design is a branding and package design company, so naturally we got to thinking about weird packaging, and weird branding. Funny, but as common as weird advertising is, its just as uncommon to see a large national brand experiment with weird packaging. The ad below from Ricola is an example of weird packaging, but it seems that this oddly innovative package design was just used for print ads in Germany and did not go into production:
In most cases, weird packaging is left for student work or small (often international) boutique brands that will do anything to stand out on the shelf. Below are a few examples.Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.59.48 AMWith that said, does weird not work at the point of purchase, whether on product packaging or on in-store signage? Might there be an opportunity for larger brands to experiment with “weird” innovative package designs to win at the shelf with unique structural packaging or graphics?

Maybe… or maybe not.

But one thing is for sure: when a brand’s messaging and advertising is as eccentric and innovative as Old Spice…

…it feels a little uneven and disappointing when this is how their products are represented on the shelf.Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 9.17.50 AMWhat do you think?

Coca-Cola Goes With Green Products

Coca-Cola recently launched a unique print ad in limited markets which serves to promote certain green products in their line of diet beverages (see below). In the ad, the company took an affirmative stance in defending certain sugar alternatives that are used in their products (namely, aspartame). Predictably, this advertisement has generated some substantial backlash. For instance, the Center for Science in the Public Interest was critical of this advertisement, and argued that instead of spending so much time defending the artificial sweetener, Coke should be focusing on “phasing out its use of aspartame and accelerating its research into safer, natural sweeteners such as those extracted from the stevia plant.”

Coca-Cola Goes With Green Products

Coca-Cola Goes With Green Products

Source: AdWeek

On a related note, Coke recently launched a “natural” soda named “Coca-Cola Life”, which is flavored with Stevia. Coca-Cola Life is currently only available in Argentina, which is effectively functioning as a test market for these new green products.  Its an innovation product that required a new and unique beverage package design.  Stevia’s use as a replacement for sugar and aspartame products has been on the rise and Coca-Cola is now experimenting with Stevia with Coca-Cola Life (albiet in an international market).




Source: Branding Magazine

Enhanced by Zemanta

The End of the Advertising Agency?

Are traditional advertising and creative agencies facing extinction?  Not so fast.  That said, in a recent article, Harvard Business Review (HBR) takes a close look at a new trend that is striking fear into the hearts of many executives at advertising and design agencies.

The idea is that the crowdsourcing phenomenon, which has taken the fundraising world by storm, has also been finding its way into the creative world. And according to HBR, that trend will only continue to accelerate.

Crowdsourcing creative - the end of advertising & design agencies?

One early product of this phenomenon is the new age agency of Victors and Spoils (V&S). In one example of this new model at work, V&S wanted to land the Harley Davidson account after the motorcycle maker split with its long-time agency. But instead of going through the typical pitch process, the V&S team created a brief and posted it to its crowd of 7,200 creatives and strategists — made up of freelancers,

They keep going…

Remember the last post on Mission Artisan Style Tortillas?

Not only did they launch that new line of product, but check out how they are continuing to keep their name out there and increase consumer involvement:

Mission Foods brings together its passion for tortilla chips, hard core football rivalries and nacho innovation as it announces the unveiling of NachoTron 3000 at the 2011 Border Showdown between the Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers on Nov. 26 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. This spirit of competition has reached a pinnacle as tailgaters will have the chance to show off their football throwing skills and team loyalty for free nachos made with Mission’s authentic Border Showdown tortilla chips.

To boost pre-game festivities, Mission has released limited edition Border Showdown tortilla chips now available in stores while supplies last. University of Kansas Jayhawks bags include red and blue chips while University of Missouri Tigers bags include gold and black chips. Both Border Showdown varieties come in 12-ounce bags, each adorned with their respective mascot, and can be found at major grocery and retail outlets in the Kansas City area.

To view the full article click here


Who’s 50?

With all of the brand names on shelf today, it is tough to keep track of  birthdays… who turns 50 in 2011? Quaker LIFE cereal!

To celebrate their birthday, promotional 50th birthday boxes of Quaker Life cereal will be hitting shelves across the country this month. To show their appreciation to the moms and kids that have kept them in business these past 50 years, specially marked boxes of Original, Cinnamon and Maple & Brown Sugar cereals will contain an official game message inside the carton. These messages will tell the consumer whether they have instantly won a prize for the whole family! These prizes range from a home theater system, digital video cameras to travel gift cards.

Quaker LIFE cereal became popular in the 1970’s with an advertising campaign featuring “Mikey,” a hard to please four year old boy. Today in 2011, Quaker LIFE cereal remains a wholesome, delicious choice for kids and grown-ups alike. The cereal offers 18 grams of whole grains per serving and is an excellent source of B vitamins to help convert food into energy.

Happy Birthday!

Ad campaigns

In school, it was all about the “rule of three” when it came to an advertising message. This rule explains that in order for a consumer to actively think about purchasing your product or service you have to hit them with the advertisement 3 different times. So an example would be TV commercial, magazine ad and a billboard. Do you think that is accurate?

I know for me personally I can see a commercial and think this it is hilarious. But, whether I pay attention to what the product is is another story. I may tell my friends about it and pull it up on you tube but that doesn’t necessarily make me want to go out and buy the product. Take a look at this ad.

I was laughing out loud when I was looking at the Top Viral Video Ad Campaigns on visiblemeasures but is it really fitting to Evian? If I received a mailer and saw a magazine ad in addition to the commercial (rule of 3) would it have the same “purchase your product” effect?
Not so sure.
Is that the idea though with this particular ad? The water cooler effect–just to stir up buzz? to entertain?

GAP Inc. tries to fill its gap

As you may have read in previous posts, refreshing a logo, image or branding may be beneficial or detrimental to a company. Gap happens to have experienced the negative side of their refresh last year. After much flack and consumer complaints, they quickly brought back the old logo.

In hopes of regaining some of their losses, Gap is introducing a new ad campaign which will air on Gap’s facebook page, Pandora, Youtube and many more sites which started on August 1, 2011. This new campaign will give fans and consumers the opportunity to see the “behind the scenes” creativity and a chance to meet/see the faces of the brand designers behind Gap’s denim fits.

Since reality TV is so big right now, why not try this….right?

The ads promote Gap’s 1969 fall collection, with new styles and denim fits.
There will be a course of about 30 vignettes which covers the majority of the campaign, but will too be supported with print ads. The print advertisements can be found in magazines such as: Glamour, GQ, InStyle, People StyleWatch and Vogue.
Check out the first video:


To see more, visit the Gap company facebook page and while you are at it, Like us!


When you think of advertising whether print, radio, tv or online- its all about creativity. Which brand has the better idea, a bigger slam on its competition, a more memorable message. When I myself think of brand competition I think of AT&T vs.Verizon, Lays vs. Herrs, Coke vs. Pepsi.

Since I rarely drink soda I can’t say that I really have a certain side that I am on, but from a creative standpoint at this very moment–Pepsi, in my opinion, wins. There are occasional commercials that will really crack me up. This, for now, is one of those commercials.


I can say that I never really thought about Santa having a “contract” with Coke, I guess it was understood more or less. However, I definitely remember the Coca Cola Santa Clause cans, commercials and advertisements. Regardless, I think this Pepsi ad is fun, perfect for this time of year, and definitely going to stir up the competition between the two brands. I look forward to the response from Coke.

What do you think?