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If You Had To Do It All Over Again poster series

Contributed by Mark Butchko on Mar 29th, 2018. Artwork published in
June 1978
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    In 1978, the design publication U&lc began a series where graphic designers found samples of their own work from the past that they wish they could do over.

    U&lc editor Herb Lubalin was asked to be the first designer to take part. He chose to redesign a series of posters he created in 1966 that introduced the winning typeface designs chosen for the VGC International Typeface Design Competition.

    In addition to creating what he considered new and improved poster designs, Lubalin also provided a short written explanation of what was wrong with the original and how he arrived at his solutions.

    What follows is both the before and after of each poster as well as Lubalin’s thoughts on the designs. While it’s open to debate as to whether the 1978 versions are always an improvement, Lubalin’s explanations offer a fascinating glimpse into the thinking that went into his work.

    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “I’ve always had a fond spot in my heart for this quote and for this design interpretation which I feel adds impact to its meaning. The typeface in the original design, however (as I now see it), didn’t exactly serve the purposes of the concept as well as the ITC Machine Bold illustrated below. To reinforce the idea of the black and white horizontals, I needed a typeface that would butt one line against another. ITC Machine Bold was not available at that time, so I used a typeface I felt most suited my purposes. The rounded nature of the original face [Jay Gothic], as you can see, did not work as well as the flat top and bottom surfaces of the Machine Bold. I may be splitting hairs, but that’s what good design is all about. Or should be.”

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “There is a glaring design error in this original poster. The impact of the message depends upon the beauty in the styling of the words, Go To Hell, unencumbered by the competition with fanciful typography. In fact, the beginning and end of the quote surrounding the Spencerian script, I have always felt, should embody an element of ugliness to contrast with, and amplify the essence of, the meaning of Caskie Stinnet’s words. I have, therefore, substituted Italia Bold with underscores in place of the original script [Vivaldi]. Since I am somewhat of a diplomat myself, I don’t wish to imply that Italia is an ugly typeface. It’s a beautiful typeface, made somewhat blatant by the addition of the underscores. Besides which, if you will permit a cliche, beauty (or ugliness) is in the eye of the beholder.”

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Oscar Wilde, who was responsible for this quote, once said, ‘There is no sin except stupidity.’ And to him a misprint of his words represented the height of ignorance. He also said, ‘Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.’ In this particular poster, I was guilty of a sin based on experience – the combined effect resulting in a stupid mistake. The era of the quill pen had definitely ceased to exist during the heyday of Oscar Wilde. He wrote with an ordinary pen just as we have done all our lives (until the felt tip pen took over). So, herewith I have eliminated the quill, which was entirely unnecessary in the first place. All you designers and art directors who know how to spell (bad spelling is a common failure among many of us) will undoubtedly get this message, unaided by the visualization of a goose feather – an entirely superfluous prop.” Arrow had to make way for ITC Benguiat.

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Although the typographic styling in the original poster looks uniquely like computerized cheese in its letterforms [Amelia], hindsight dictates that its entire shape relate to my preconceived image of the recognizable hunk of Swiss. So I squared everything up to define the outside configuration as cheese [using ITC Serif Gothic]. The use of an engraving of a mouse and a photograph of the trap robbed the original design of the reality of the situation as defined by the message. Our new rodent is displaying an air of abject disappointment conspicuously missing in the original. And, remember this: Even without designers, ‘Life goes on for ever like the gnawing of a mouse.’”

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Once again, too much is too little. Why use two ideas – one conflicting with the other – when one good one is enough? In this original poster [in Visa], the mediocre symbolism of old age conflicts with the effective symbolism of death, the soul of the message (pun intended) exemplified by the reclining ‘i’. It didn’t take very long to recognize this error and rectify it emphatically by eliminating the old rocking chair and juxtaposing the “i” in the open where one can’t miss its significance. Lending emphasis to this positioning is the author’s name centered below. One more comment. I used the typeface, ITC Garamond Book Condensed, because in my opinion, it is one of the few beautifully designed condensed roman faces available. By using a condensed face, I was able to create a larger typographic image and thus create more impact for the symbolism. Death and taxes are inevitable, but good design is not.”

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    “A common fault of most designers – present company included – is never to know when to stop after you’ve got a good thing going. In this particular case, I made the obvious too obvious by turning the ‘O’ on its side to graphically illustrate the word ‘mouth’. As you can see in this new design, that added fillip was entirely unnecessary since the ‘O’ prints in red and says mouth any way you look at it. I call this overemphasizing an already emphatic solution. I also tend to feel that the original use of the upper and lower case tends to obscure the small type which is the heart of the message. So much for this anatomical explanation.” The original poster uses Domning Antiqua, the revised version is in ITC Korinna.

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “I’m afraid that I don’t have any great words of wisdom to impart on why I changed the type styling of this poster to ITC American Typewriter Light Condensed. The original type [Wolf Antiqua] was quite adequate. But – since the nature of this article dictates that I give an intelligent, if not erudite, argument for my changes – let me put it this way: First, I think American Typewriter is a swell typeface. And second, the poster’s original typeface was designed in the late ’60s. The subject matter spans three generations. In searching for a typeface that would be generic to this span of time, I selected American Typewriter as being uniquely appropriate. And third, it's ten years later and I had to bring our modern Ms. up-to-date. Enough chronology!”

    License: All Rights Reserved.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    “In this original poster the straw, literally, broke the camel’s back – thereby (in my opinion) breaking the back of the design. Of these eight posters, I find my original solution to this one the most unsatisfactory from a design standpoint. In it you find two solutions to the same problem where one, or the other, would have been much more effective. In fact, the two solutions negate each other. We, as designers, sometimes tend to underestimate the intelligence of others and are often guilty of overemphasis. Given a second chance, I believe that the new poster (below), with emphasis on the additional esses running off the page, the elimination of the nefarious straw that broke the camel’s back, plus the use of ITC Tiffany Heavy Caps, [in place of Antikva Margaret] solves all the problems that should have been solved then years ago. In retrospect, this message by Robert Moses sums up, in no uncertain terms, my 1978 reactions to most of these 1960s posters.”

    License: All Rights Reserved.


    • Jay Gothic
    • ITC Machine
    • Vivaldi
    • Italia
    • Arrow
    • ITC Benguiat
    • Amelia
    • ITC Serif Gothic
    • Visa
    • ITC Garamond
    • Domning Antiqua
    • ITC Korinna
    • Wolf Antiqua
    • ITC American Typewriter
    • Antikva Margaret
    • ITC Tiffany




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    5 Comments on “If You Had To Do It All Over Again poster series”

    1. Mar 29th, 2018  9:44 pm

      Love this post! Such a treat having so much of the thinking laid out plainly. Thanks!

    2. Ian Lanius says:
      Mar 30th, 2018  9:54 pm

      This is the kind of post that elevates this site from a type specimen collection to a serious resource for learning typography. Great stuff.

    3. Mar 31st, 2018  3:31 pm

      What Lubalin doesn’t mention is that he didn’t really have much choice on the typefaces in the initial series as they were all VGC winners. I suppose it was a client job. He replaces them with type from his own new foundry, ITC. I don’t know if all the redesigns are improvements but it’s an effective promo for ITC and a not-so-subtle jab at their competitor.

    4. Mar 31st, 2018  5:31 pm

      Rod McDonald reminded me that the relationship between VGC and ITC was more complex than simply being competitors. Aaron Burns organized VGC’s first two competitions and was then the president and frontman for ITC, so Lubalin’s “client” was essentially the same in both cases.

    5. Jaco says:
      Apr 3rd, 2018  6:59 am

      Great post, thank you!

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