Artforum was first published in San Francisco in June 1962, “as a mouthpiece for West Coast artists who felt overlooked by the mainstream New York–based art press”. It moved to New York in 1967. In a great article for Art Practical, Gwen Allen set the stage for the logo design by James Robertson with info from his partner, Bruce Montgomery.
Artforum’s design and logo were created by a young graphic designer named James Robertson, who was then teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. The Artforum logo and the magazine’s square shape reflect the influence of the Swiss style of graphic design, pioneered during the 1950s by Josef Müller-Brockmann and Emil Ruder. Swiss design was rooted in the principles of objectivity, utility, and, perhaps above all, legibility. Sans serif typefaces, stripped of their excrescences as if to reveal their most basic alphabetical form, were believed to be more legible and hence more suitable for relaying public messages because they would not distract the reader with “decorative feet and growing and diminishing thickness of the up and down strokes [of roman typefaces].”
The Artforum logo is a condensed, bold version of the Berthold Akzidenz font, a notable fact, considering how difficult it was in 1962 to order the fonts favored by the Swiss school through local European foundries. (This was about to change: Spartan Typographers in Oakland began carrying the Helvetica font just a few months after the Artforum logo was designed.) Robertson created his logo by hand with a razor blade and adhesive. The rest of the magazine was set in News Gothic, an American sans serif designed in 1907 by Morris Fuller Benton for the American Type Founders. News Gothic, while not used by Swiss designers, was known for its geometric look and had more affinity to the Swiss aesthetic than other American sans serifs. Since Artforum was printed with hot-metal type methods, the choice of News Gothic was most certainly guided in part by the availability of that font at the Pisani Press, which had a limited variety of molds for casting type.