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Inside the Herb Lubalin Study Center

Yesterday, while the humidity in New York grew to more than an inch thick, Bryony and I had the pleasure of spending the day inside the Herb Lubalin Study Center (HLSC) in famed Cooper Union. Founded in 1985 — and first curated by Ellen Lupton until 1992, and now headed by Mike Essl and Emily Roz — the HLSC houses one of the most impressive (and one of the few accessible) collections of graphic design work from the twentieth century. As the name implies, a remarkable amount of the collection is devoted to Cooper Union alumn Herb Lubalin, including copies of his magazines fact:, Eros, Avant Garde, and the newsprintalicious U&lc, along with countless logos and lettering samples, type specimens from ITC, and punctuated by an overwhelming amount of drawings and sketches.

The rest of the collection is made up by the work of Lubalin’s contemporaries like Lou Dorfsman, Herbert Bayer, Bradbury Thompson, Alvin Lustig and Alexey Brodovitch among others; and then there are mini collections of wood type, dutch design, posters, big magazines, little magazines, type specimens and a hundred other items to make your head spin. After recovering from the initial over ventilating we got to scouring the flat-file drawers, packed with original samples and clippings inside tidy plastic bags, and have captured a little bit of our experience here. More official-looking photographs and documentation will appear in, you guessed it, our upcoming book. Aside from these pictures we do recommend anyone with a loving interest in design to visit the HLSC if you can — it sure is better to look at the real thing, than a 3-inch wide image in a book. (Still, do buy our book when it comes out, it will have great 3-inch images!).

The light inside the center wasn’t that great, so some of the colors are yellower than they actually are. Click on any image for a bigger view.

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Herb Lubalin Center

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Herb Lubalin Center

As one of the first drawers to open we were a little disillusioned that this was just one of two original book covers by Alving Lustig in it.

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Herb Lubalin Center

For Herbert Bayer there were some goodies, but none more appealing than this Bahausome box cover containing some of his drawings and paintings.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Bradbury Thompson’s drawer was just too juicy, so I couldn’t even pick up anything for this photo. There were some annual reports for Westvaco worth fawning for. And, yes, for the very discerning viewer, the black book with the XXIV on it is by Paul Rand, but page 4 had a Thompson design in it.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Mmmmm… Alexey Brodovitch’s Portfolio. Relive the glory with Chester’s Alexey type family.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

Lou Dorfsman, the art director for CBS and another alumn from Cooper Union, had not one, not two, but three drawers full of tightly-tracked typography.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Fortune magazine, October 1939. How things have changed in the magazine world.

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Herb Lubalin Center

This was a drawer labeled “German Type.” No further questions, your honor.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Now we come to the man whose name engulfs all these drawers, Herb Lubalin. I forgot to write down the details, but this looked like a full issue of a magazine devoted to Lubalin, and it was written in Japanese.

Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

Of course, there was no shortage of U&lc samples. Catch up on all you need to know about this magazine with John D. Berry’s great book.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Now, this is not for the faint of heart. Massimo Vignelli and Unimark lay down the law.

Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

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Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

And to make your heart faint, here is Massin’s visual interpretation of Ionesco’s play, La Cantatrice Chauve. Check Laetitia Wolff’s book for all your Massin.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

The Tibor Drawer. Made the palms of my hands sweaty.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

An original Watching Words Move by Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar.

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Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

Herb Lubalin Center

One of the last drawers had one of my favorite finds: A selection of Willi Kunz’s posters for the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. I never realized most of these were printed with metallic inks.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 4949 FILED UNDER Show and Tell
PUBLISHED ON Jun.24.2008 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
LorraineDesign’s comment is:

Wow: that's enough to make anyone drool. Is the center open to the public? Or do you have to get permission to view everything?

On Jun.24.2008 at 10:27 AM
Armin’s comment is:

You have to make an appointment, as it's not open all days and it's not a walk-in kind of situation.

On Jun.24.2008 at 10:35 AM
Kevin’s comment is:

wow...

On Jun.24.2008 at 03:13 PM
Jon Dascola’s comment is:

Pretty awesome. What a great opportunity. Love the original Watching Words Move. Brilliant.

If anyone is in London, The British Museum allows you to study their drawings archive. I remember holding Michelangelo's study of Adam for the Sistine. Awesome.

On Jun.24.2008 at 03:24 PM
N Silas Munro’s comment is:

Armin,

Great post. Makes me want to make a trip to New York just to see all the work.

One note though, Watching Words Move was also the brainchild of Robert Brownjohn when he was still in New York working with Chermayeff & Geeismar, when their studio was called: Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar.

The Design Museum in London says the piece is from 1959

If you see any of his other typography from the time you can really see that lot of what is in that booklet is Brownjohn's voice.

On Jun.24.2008 at 06:03 PM
LorraineDesign’s comment is:

Thanks for the info! I'll be sure to keep that in mind next time I visit NYC.

On Jun.25.2008 at 02:09 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> One note though, Watching Words Move was also the brainchild of Robert Brownjohn

Silas, yes, you are right. For some reason I was under the impression that this was a "debatable" issue of who had actually done it. It's all over the Brownjohn monograph for sure. Since it was in the Ivan Chermayeff drawer I just attributed to them.

On Jun.25.2008 at 08:37 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Wow, how great it would be to flip through this stuff.

I was just in New York in May, for the first time in 11 years. It doesn't seem likely I'll be going back anytime soon, but it's good to know about this.

On Jun.25.2008 at 01:16 PM
Derrick Schultz’s comment is:

If I recall correctly, the Herb Lubalin Center funded that wonderful little book on blackletter...no doubt thats where some of that "german type" came from.

On Jun.26.2008 at 12:04 AM
Ricardo Cordoba’s comment is:

Great post, Armin. The Herb Lubalin Center is one of those little-known New York resources, and Mike and Emily do a great job of overseeing it.

On Jul.02.2008 at 01:39 AM
Todd Childers’s comment is:

WOW.

I apologise for the lack of originality in my response.
I am planning to visit NY this Summer.
You can bet that you will find me at the Herb Lubalin Center!

By the way is the HLC part of Artstor?

On Jul.02.2008 at 03:56 PM
Commander Schweppes’s comment is:

I walked over to Cooper Union a few days ago. The guard had no idea what I was looking for in this place, had never hears of it and denied me access to the 2nd floor where I believe the study center is. I asked him if we were in New York City, to check his sobriety. He sat with pink eyes and a lap full of crumbs, staring at me.
Regardless, anyone know how to reach this place and set up a phone appointment?
Danke
The Commander

On Nov.12.2008 at 11:38 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Commander, I hate to share your experience, but I was there a couple weeks ago and also told the guard I was going to the Herb Lubalin Center and he gave me a blank look. He had no idea, and he asked me if I was looking for the Cooper Union, not the Herb Lubalin Center, as if I had gotten the names confused. I told him I had been here before, and he just said "well, if you know where you have to go, go right ahead."

The thing though, is that you can't just walk in, your best bet is to set up an appointment with Emily Roz, who manages the archives. You can probably called the switchboard and ask for her.

On Nov.12.2008 at 12:45 PM
Commander Schweppes’s comment is:

Thank you Armin. Your response brings closure to the case of the glazed gendarme.

The Commander

On Nov.12.2008 at 09:14 PM