PENGUIN BRIEF: INSPIRATIONAL SOURCES – ALVIN LUSTIG

Abstract + Realism + Surrealism

Abstract art involves the utilisation of shapes, form, colour and line in order to forge a visual language which may exist independently of visual references in the real world. Drawing from this in addition to my realistic illustrative approach, will create works that should be strong enough to communicate my ideas to the intended audience. Since my attention to detail has been my strongest point, approaching my projects from a less-detailed/realistic perspective will be an up-hill task.
With regards to book cover design, a few creatives come to mind.
The likes of Alvin Lustig, Edward Gorey, Roy Kuhlman at this point, top that list.

ALVIN LUSTIG

A multidisciplinarian, Alvin Lustig’s contributions to the design of books and book jackets, magazines, interiors, and textiles as well as his being a teacher, is proof of the depth of his knowledge and creative ability and he stands as a great inspirational source.

Prior to passing on in1955, he had already introduced principles of Modern art to graphic design that have had a long-term influence on contemporary practice. He was in the vanguard of a relatively small group who fervently, indeed religiously, believed in the curative power of good design when applied to all aspects of American life. He was a generalist, and yet in the specific media in which he excelled he established standards that are viable today.

 

Lustig created monuments of ingenuity and objects of aesthetic pleasure. Lustig’s paperback cover for Lorca: 3 Tragedies, remains one of the most influential and significant book jackets till date.
It is often considered a masterpiece of symbolic acuity, compositional strength and typographic craft that appears to be, consciously or not, the basis for many great contemporary book jackets and paperback covers.

 

 

The current preference among American book jacket designers for fragmented images, photo-illustration, minimal typography and rebus-like compositions can be traced directly to Lustig’s stark black-and-white cover for Lorca, a grid of five symbolic photographs linked in poetic disharmony. This and other distinctive, though today lesser known, covers for the New Directions imprint transformed an otherwise realistic medium-the photograph-into a tool for abstraction through the use of reticulated negatives, photograms and still-lifes. When Lustig’s approach (which developed from an interest in montage originally practiced by the European Moderns, particularly the American expatriate E. McKnight Kauffer) was introduced to American book publishing in the late 1940s, covers and jackets were mostly illustrative and also rather decorative. Hard-sell conventions were rigorously followed. Lustig’s jacket designs entered taboo marketing territory through his use of abstraction and small, discreetly typeset titles, influenced by the work of Jan Tschichold. Lustig did not believe it was necessary to “design down,” as he called it, to achieve better sales.

 

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