Design was in Herb Lubalin’s blood. Even though in high school he didn’t show any signs that he would work in graphics, he was always a designer, simply because design was a part of who he was. Lubalin didn’t discover his gift of design until he casually entered a poster competition and won second place, thus deciding to pursue a career in graphics. He went to school, but he had qualities that can’t be taught. He was an inventor, which is essentially what you must be to be a graphic designer. Sometimes I think I won’t succeed as a designer because I don’t know enough of the tricks or because everything I could make has been made before, but I really feel like God gave me an eye for design and that’s just who I am, and I hope that I can use my gift the way Lubalin used his.
Lubalin wasn’t just successful because he was talented, though. He was dedicated. He strove to achieve excellence and he didn’t settle for anything less. I think sometimes as a designer it’s tempting to settle for something safe, or something good even if it’s not great, or something better than what existed before even if it’s not really unique. Lubalin didn’t settle, though. He was always searching for simple and stronger ways to say things. As a result, his work sent very powerful messages, included genius subtle details, and communicated ideas from one mind to another with extreme effectiveness. He was committed to perfection and to his art, despite the fact that he was colorblind and couldn’t find work right away. I hope I can show the same dedication and hold myself to the same high standard.
There are rules of design, although most teachers call them principles, and design rules have a tendency to choke creativity. I think the most stifling is the rule that says, “Think outside the box and be unique.” I admire the way Lubalin soared past all the established norms and boundaries of design, because that’s hard to do, especially when that’s what you’re told to do. He was so independent that he changed the definition of design. He wasn’t just a typographer, but used the shapes of letters to make meaning. He had an incredible imagination and a sense for the impact of words. He took the flat world of design that existed in his day and elevated it to an art form and an influential communication medium.
Herb Lubalin was a quiet and gentle person, and yet he was a master of strong graphical communication. He broke all the rules and he was able to use visual language in a way that was meaningful, artful, and simple. I think I’m rather quiet too, but I hope I can stay focused on sending quick, effective messages the way design legends like Lubalin did, and not let all the pressures and expectations of the structured design world squash the abundance of ideas I will forever be filled with.