Rediscovering Alvin Lustig


We are delighted to add 36 of Alvin Lustig’s New Classics to the Humantific Collection. The series was published in the 1940s and 50s by New Directions Books, located just down the street at 500 Fifth Avenue here in New York.

The series included E.M Forster’s Room with a View, Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, and many others. Alvin designed the covers for the entire series.

At Humantific, we love historical artifacts of all kinds! What we find, is that having original materials to hold and behold informs and inspires in ways that are very different from just looking at photographs. To hold and view the original books from the 1940s and 50s is rich!

Austin Lustig (1915-1955) was a design pioneer who studied briefly with Frank Lloyd Wright before his own prolific career took flight. Largely self-taught, he revolutionized the approach to book cover design in the late 1940s, rejecting the common practice of creating a generalized image that summarized the book’s plot. Instead, Alvin adopted a process that involved reading the book to “get a feel for the author’s creative drive,” and then translating it into his own graphic style. His use of small, discrete lettering for the book title was seen as marketing sacrilege; Lustig famously proclaimed that he was “born modern.”

Alvin Lustig died too young, at the age of 40.  His career was short, but his output was stunning! His use of simplified shapes, flat colors, fragmented images, photo-illustration, and minimal typography still inspire many communication designers today.

More about Alvin Lustig

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