Fact magazine covers
Stark typography to deliver stark criticism in the politically charged 1960s.
Shortly after being sentenced to jail time for the Eros periodical he started with Herb Lubalin, Ralph Ginzburg launched Fact magazine in 1964, again enlisting Lubalin as art director. Fact focused largely on political issues and was known for its scathingly satirical takedowns of everyone from Bobby Kennedy to Reader’s Digest to the entire American automobile industry (a young Ralph Nader contributed research on that topic). One issue focusing on the mental fitness of conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater even led to a lawsuit and eventually the closure of the publication.
Following the hard-hitting style of the content, the publication’s design is similarly stark and upfront. Especially with the earlier issues, the covers were mostly simple, monochrome, no frills, and purely typographic – using very basic but well-considered settings of Times. Later issues would feature other common typefaces, with only a couple utilizing custom lettering.
As Alexander Tochilosky describes it for Flat File:
Economy was essential for the magazine’s budget, so Lubalin chose a small black and white format. The inside layout was a simple, quiet, two-column grid of Times Roman. The tone however was set by the striking, bold and text-only covers. Lubalin understood that Fact magazine was all about the attitude, and as a great art director knew when design should take a step back.
In typical Lubalin style, many of the covers are set with “TNT” (tight-not-touching) spacing, often with the text filling the page as large as possible.
Most of the type for the magazine appears to come from versions of common typefaces as offered by either Photo-Lettering and/or Aaron Burns & Co, Inc. This isn’t particularly surprising given that Lubalin often worked with Burns and Photo-Lettering’s founder, Ed Rondthaler. (Lubalin, Rondthaler, and Burns would eventually team up to launch ITC in 1970.) A promotional photo of Ginzburg and Fact co-editor Warren Boroson even shows a type specimen booklet from Aaron Burns & Co, Inc. scattered among rulers, sizing gauges, and previous issues of Fact.
In Tochilovsky’s write-up of Fact, he also describes the simple ingenuity of Lubalin’s design for the publication’s logo:
It was drawn by Tom Carnase, and based on Caslon 540—with the ‘f’ slightly modified to mimic the ‘t’. But the ingenious part is the addition of the colon. It’s not part of the name, but was Lubalin’s graphic invention. It’s genius because it makes you read the headline of the cover beginning with the word “fact”.
Below are all 23 covers of Fact, including both cover variants for volume 2 issue 2. The scans were made from originals in the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design & Typography at Cooper Union. Many thanks to Alexander Tochilovsky for being so generous with the Center’s materials.
4 Comments on “Fact magazine covers”
Zane Goldsbrough says:Jun 6th, 2017 6:56 am
Wow this very factually helpful lol. Thanks for posting these designs. Please keep posting (Y) great content
Humberto Gillan says:Jul 22nd, 2017 5:21 pm
The cover of the obesity looks like if had an early “bottleneck” appearence. Take a look to that font that supossedly was designed in 1972, but this look way too similar.
Stephen Coles says:Jul 23rd, 2017 7:19 am
Humberto, we do state on the Bottleneck typeface description:
But it’s true there are elements of the “Obesity” lettering that are more like Bottleneck than Art Tone. It would be interesting to know more about the origin of Bottleneck.
Humberto Gillan says:Aug 2nd, 2017 4:15 am
Yeah, Stephen, it supossed that Tony Wenman designed Bottleneck in 1972 for Letraset, but this looks way too similar:
Maybe it was the main inspiration for Bottleneck.