“This is the last avant-garde. Bold new forms. The power to shock.”*…
Avant Garde was a seminal, but somewhat obscure, magazine, launched in 1968, that broke taboos, rattled some nerves, and made more than a few enemies. The brainchild of Ralph Ginzburg, am adventurous publisher, it was the third major collaboration between Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin, the magazine’s widely-admired art director.
Avant Garde is the magazine that gave birth to a much maligned and equally lauded typeface of the same name. A typeface that reveled in the mutability of letterforms, exhibited brilliantly by its extensive set of ligatured characters. The magazine’s logo, which inspired the typeface, is a perfect encapsulation of what the magazine represented in 1968, the year the magazine launched: exciting, vibrant, edgy, with just the right amount of playfulness to move it out of the corporateness its geometric sans serif forms might otherwise imply. The magazine ran for 3 years, spanning 14 square-sized issues, and only folded due to Ralph Ginzburg losing his long-running legal battle with the US government over obscenity charges (partly stemming from Ralph’s and Herb’s first collaboration, Eros magazine)…
Now Alexander Tochilovsky and The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at the Cooper Union have digitized the entire run of Avant Garde and made it available on the web.
* Don DeLillo, White Noise
As we speculate on The Shock of the New, we might send masterfully-observed birthday greetings to Saul Erik Steinberg; he was born on this date in 1914. A cartoonist and illustrator (best known for his work for The New Yorker, most notably View of the World from 9th Avenue), he described himself as “a writer who draws.”
People who see a drawing in the New Yorker will think automatically that it’s funny because it is a cartoon. If they see it in a museum, they think it is artistic; and if they find it in a fortune cookie they think it is a prediction.
– Saul Steinberg