Media Design: Avante Garde, Lubalin 100, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, The Bar
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Iconic print/online: Avant Garde was the most-popular collaboration between editor, Ralph Ginzburg, and art director, Herb Lubalin, staying true to their subversive and provocative form
- Online: Lubalin 100 contextualises the canonical work of one of the most-influential art directors in history
- Independent print/online: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin shows that the medium can still be the message, with a simple conceptual approach using the topography of typography
- Commercial print/online: The Bar promises to deliver on all matters related to film and television from across the globe
Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (Germany), issue 39, 28 September 2018
Themed “wood”, the latest issue of Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazin is a design manual of sorts. First lesson: typography has topography — geometry, anatomy, and architecture — introduced by the cover to this issue. Inspired by geographic isobars, art director Anna Sullivan devised a conceptual approach that displays the word “holz” (“wood” in German). The design template was created by Michael Laux, with paths constructed in Adobe Illustrator and executed on an industrial laser cutter, using nine separate layers. The simplicity involved in the production of this cover, in both concept and craft, is a testament to single-minded communication, showing that, even in our current digital age, the medium can remain the message.
Lubalin 100 (US), October 2018
Following the spirit of the past few weeks of this column’s Iconic section, which has contextualised the design canon of one of the most-influential art directors in history, Lubalin 100 is a concise online platform celebrating the life and work of Herb Lubalin. Themed 100 things over 100 days, this site marks the centenary of Lubalin’s oeuvre with a carefully curated selection drawn from the Lubalin archive, including content about his historic collaborations and the contemporary influence that his work still enjoys. The site ticks all the boxes — research, design, typography, art direction, interface, experience, narrative, etc — as a satisfying ode to the legacy of a doyen within the history of design.
The Bar (South Africa), issue 1, August/September 2018
The Bar is a new, local, online magazine that concentrates on all matters related to film and TV across the globe. The site is meant to be a definitive resource for all kinds of storytelling related to screen-based media. The first issue launched in August this year, offering a variety of news, perspectives, and interviews. Kudos must be given for attempting to produce culture with informative copy, supported by great art direction, styling and fashion photography.
However, one is left unfulfilled and wanting for more, with a site that is clumsy to navigate and interactive elements that seem a tad overbearing, leveraging so much on gimmicky transitions connected to a timed, bulleted slider, coupled with a split-screen content section that displays little more than a formulaic template. This is aside from the pixelated imagery and the odd system of categorisation for the sitemap, which lacks obvious additions such as about and contact sections. For a magazine that’s about film and television, there’s also no real video content on the site itself, yet there are videos on its social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube) accessed by tiny links.
Avant Garde (US) 1968–1971
Following the past two publications featured in this section in as many weeks, which have shed light on the important contributions of editor, Ralph Ginzburg, and legendary art director, Herb Lubalin, this week’s iconic publication sees the culmination of their collective work in the form of Avant Garde magazine. The unforeseen failure of both Eros and Fact, thanks to the poor reception of both magazines’ provocative nature towards power structures in the US (which ended in serious legal woes for Ginzburg), eventually lead to the birth of Avant Garde.
Perhaps the most-popular, and most-difficult, collaboration between Ginzburg and Lubalin, Avant Garde was a forum for art and politics during the late ’60s and early ’70s. Not to be confused with the European avant garde movements during the inter-world war period, the magazine is recognised for its graphic design and branding, notably its logo. Crafted with ligatures that connect the AV, VA, AN, and GA of the logotype, Ginzburg is known to have praised the design as illegible yet still readable, and awesomely stylised, despite initial reservations.
Fourteen issues were printed between 1968 and 1971, propagating traits that are often considered sought-after today, such as creative experimentalism and critical thinking, all in relation to the socio-economic and political situation in the US at the time. As with Eros, sexual material and crude language were commonplace, with the cover to #5 featuring illustrated breasts and nipples, #6 adorned with a naked pregnant woman, and #14 depicting a nipple being pinched. As such, Avant Garde became extremely popular within New York’s advertising community, becoming an influential publication due to its defiance of taboos and its subversive, provocative nature.
Lubalin’s work on Avant Garde’s logo evolved into the popular typeface, also called Avant Garde, known for its geometric forms, rigid lines, and prolific use of kerned ligatures. Conveniently, Lubalin was a founder of the International Typeface Corporation (ITC), an institution within the industry today, allowing him to release a full version of the font in 1970.
The subversive content and the experimental design of Avant Garde is a testament to the relationship that Ginzburg and Lubalin had, particularly the awareness and respect that the editor had towards the work that his art director did (an extremely rare trait today). After three years in print, the title folded due to Ginzburg’s historic legal battle with the US government in relation to Eros magazine and the obscenity charges that had resulted from its content, which pushed the powers-that-be too far.
An online archive of Avant Garde is available here, which happens to be a rad site in its own right.
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio, and is a senior lecturer in graphic design at Vega School in Cape Town. Connect on Pinterest and Instagram.
Media Design, formerly Cover Stories and MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.
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