Alvin Lustig

Alvin Lustig

Alvin Lustig was a renowned twentieth century graphic designer. Besides he also designed books and typefaces. For his valuable contribution to graphic design two of the most prestigious American art clubs honored him with the accolades.

Born in 1915, Alvin Lustig grew up in Denver, Colorado. He received his formal art education from Los Angeles City College, Art Center. He also studied design independently with American architect Frank Lloyd Wright at his Taliesin studio. In 1937, Lustig initiated his professional career designing book jackets in Los Angeles, California. Subsequently, Look Magazine offered him a position as the Director of their Visual Research department, in 1944. Moreover, he lent his designing expertise to Girl Scouts of the United States and Fortune. Lustig’s creativity was not just limited to graphic design but he was also known for his contribution as an interior and architectural designer. In 1949, for Paramount Furniture in Beverly Hills, he designed a piece of furniture-cum-art that famously came to be known as the “Lustig Chair”. The original design of the chair has inspired the following generations of designers. The replica of the chair is still continued to be produced.

During mid 1940s he was invited by Josef Albers to teach at Black Mountain College and was also offered a teaching position at Yale. However, Lustig is recognized for his years of work at New Directions Publishing. He served the independent publishing company for a decade developing some of the most innovative and ingenious designs. From 1945 until his death in 1955, he designed over seventy dust jackets for the New Classics literary series. What set Lustig’s book jackets apart from other designer’s was his employment of a modern design sensibility along with the revolutionary approach to typeface design. His work has earned the respect of many and become a hallmark of New Directions publications. Furthermore, his artwork was showcased on the covers of classic works of modernist literature. He illustrated the book covers of eminent literary figures, for instance, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Gertrude Stein. New Directions Publishing published several of Tennessee Williams plays and Lustig was the one who designed the book jackets for the first edition of Williams’ work. Some of the works that feature Lustig’s artwork include, Orpheus Descending, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.

As the fate would have it, Lustig developed diabetes at an early stage of his life. Consequently, he went virtually blind by the time he reached his forties. In fact, he developed Kimmelstiel-Wilson syndrome, an incurable kidney disease related to diabetes. Lustig could not survive the complication that the disease entailed and passed away at the age of 40, in New York. Upon his untimely demise, Lustig’s wife Elaine Lustig Cohen took over his New York based design firm. Posthumously, Lustig was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. Moreover, he was presented the AIGA medal by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, in 1993. AIGA remembers him with the words that his artwork will influence the practice of graphic design in America. Besides, AIGA displayed Alvin Lustig and Elaine Lustig Cohen’s artwork at a special exhibit at the AIGA National Design Center. The exhibition titled The Lustigs: A Cover Story, for the first time featured the collection of Alvin and Elaine Lustig’s artwork together.

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