Years ago I found this book of poems (the one above) in a crummy old book store in London and fell in love with the colours and design, I still haven’t read it! I bought it for the jacket. Yep, I’m all about the packaging… Over the years I have picked up a few more Alvin Lustig ‘covers’ and have seen even more on the interweb. There is something about his work that I find alluring — it’s bold and simple, always strangely creative and free and his use of colour is fantastic, his book jackets must have jumped off the shelves back then.
Alvin Lustig was born in Denver in 1915. Alvin performed magic shows to avoid school, he only became interested in art and sculpture thanks to the inspiration of a teacher. When he became interested in modern art, he started designing and making his own posters to promote his magic shows. Alvin studied at the Los Angeles City College and Art Center. He was also an independent student of Frank Lloyd Wright (maybe with whom he developed his very modernist style) and Jean Charlot (which I think was important for his flair and colour comprehension). When Alvin was 21 he worked as a printer and typographer, a year or so later he dedicated himself to becoming a full time Graphic Designer and designed many of his own typefaces. By 1937 Lustig was designing book covers, and was telling people he was ‘born modern’ and denied the conformity to produce boring works for West Coast businesses. By the 1940’s Lustig was also writing and talking about design. In 1944 he moved to New York and became Director of Visual Research for Look Magazine, he also worked on design for Fortune and New Directions. It was in NY that Alvin also became interested in Interior and Industrial Design.
“His method was to read a text and get the feel of the author’s creative drive, then to restate it in his own graphic terms,” wrote James Laughlin in “The Book Jackets of Alvin Lustig“
In 1946 Alvin returned to Los Angeles where he worked for an interior design business creating modern fabrics and furniture, he also designed buildings! Lustig sustained his freelance graphic design work until he went blind in 1954 and even then continued to lecture and give talks about the importance of design to modern day culture. Alvin Lustig died at the age of 40 in 1955 due to nearly life long problems with diabetes. Imagine how much more he could have accomplished? Or perhaps let’s just be amazed by what he did accomplished in his short lifetime…
See more of his work here and look out for this amazing book that chronicles his short but productive life and beautiful works; Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig.
Have a great week guys.