Blue Pencil no. 15—Mixing Messages

Mixing Messages by Ellen Lupton (1996), cover. Design by Chip Kidd.

Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture
Ellen Lupton
New York: Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution and Princeton Architectural Press, 1996

designed by Ellen Lupton

edited by Mark Lamster, Princeton Architectural Press and Kathleen Luhrs, National Design Museum

This Blue Pencil dissection is different from previous ones in that there is little to find fault with in Mixing Messages. It is included because the subject of the book is graphic design history, the original focus of this blog. Mixing Messages shows that it is possible to create a design history text that is simultaneously aesthetically pleasing, textually intelligent, and editorially thorough. In fact, the major complaint that Blue Pencil has with the book is the result of its own high standards.

p. 12 “A NOTE ON THE CAPTIONS IN THIS BOOK: Design is a collaborative process. To compile this book, the editorial team attempted to assemble complete credits on all pieces published. Wherever possible, we have provided birth dates for the principle designers on each project. ”

Adding biographical data on designers is a laudable goal. Many designers—like actors and actresses—try to hide their age. But such information is essential for the design historian. Despite Lupton’s lofty goal such information is not always present in Mixing Messages and when it is, it seems to be erratically applied. It appears that the rule of thumb is to include the information the first time someone appears in the credits on a page or a spread and not to repeat it for subsequent entries on that page or spread. This is in keeping with the general academic approach for abbreviating or shortening names, titles, etc. in text. However, captions are not the same as text. They are skimmed rather than read straight through and thus it seems that information should be repeated. Most of the time in Mixing Messages the birth date information is repeated when the names appear on non-consecutive pages, but not always. An alternative to repeating such information over and over again would be to include it instead in the index with each individual’s name.

Lupton is trying hard to follow through on the contemporary view that design is a collaborative process and that everyone involved deserves to be credited. However, if this is the case, then why is only the principal designer deserving of having birth date information included? What she has done is admirable, but as she is surely aware, it tremendously complicates the job of the design historian. Trying to track down such information can be extremely difficult, nay even impossible. (And it should be remembered that Mixing Messages was written at the dawn of the Internet age so online searches were not available to Lupton and her colleagues.

All of this aside, there are still instances in Mixing Messages where birth dates are inexplicably missing. Below I have noted where such information is missing. I have divided up the instances into three categories: 1. missing entirely (though, to be fair to Lupton, many of these individuals do not qualify as the principal designers of the work in question); 2. missing from a caption but present in a caption on the opposite page; and 3. missing from a caption but present in an earlier caption on the same page.

People described as either designers or art directors/creative directors (but exclusing photographers and illustrators) with missing birth dates. I have added a few dates based on a quick internet search.

p. 16 Deborah Sussman (b. 1931); Terron Schaefer [described as a fashion professional online]
p. 17 Julie Marable; Douglas Morris
p. 26 John Jay; Young Kim
p. 27 Jerry Gonzalez; Leon McConnell
p. 34 Matt Eller
p. 36 Harold Feinstein; Morris Taub; Steve Brower; Allan Butella
p. 38 Ernie Smith; Harris Lewine (b. 1932)
p. 41 Robert Delpire (b.1928) [he is actually a publisher rather than a designer]
p. 43 Tibor Kalman [birth date information appears on p. 64]; Neil Seilkirk [sic; should be Selkirk]
p. 44 Tom Kluepfel
p. 51 Katherine McCoy [birth date information appears on p. 69]
p. 53 Vincent Van Baer
p. 62 Frank Heine (1964–2003)
p. 64 Carol Bokuniewicz
p. 66 Paul Howalt; Joel Templin
p. 66 Charles S. Anderson (b. 1958)
p. 68 Michael Bierut (b. 1957)
p. 71 April Greiman (b. 1948)
p. 79 Rick Valicenti
p. 80 Sze Tsung Leung; Stuart I. Frolick
p. 81 Darren Namaye; Darin Beaman
p. 82 James Modarelli
p. 88 Ann Breaznell
p. 94 Tom Hazelmeyer; Lisa M. Owen
p. 98 Mike Szabo; Scotto; D.B. [designer credits such as these last two make one realize why complete information is a chimera]
p. 100 Lady Kier (b. 1963) [a singer rather than a designer]
p. 101 Keva Marie
p. 102 David Covell; Michael Jager
p. 103 Steve Rocco, John Thomas
p. 106 James Modarelli
p. 107 Charles S. Anderson; Haley Johnson; Dan Olsen; Sara Legard
p. 116 Frank Metz (b. 1926)
p. 118 Peter Kruzan
p. 123 Kevin Sugden; Nigel Smith; Greg Van Alstyne; Alison Hahn; Chris Rowat
p. 128 Geraldine Hessler
p. 132 David Carson (b. 1955)
p. 135 Gary Koepke (b. c.1957); Elizabeth Rodriguez
p. 136 Erik Adigard (b. c.1966); John Plunkett
p. 137 Jason Pearson
p. 138 Bill Barminski; Rodney A. Greenblatt (b. 1960)
p. 139 Peter Girardi; Yin Yin Wong
p. 140 Sarah [sic; should be “Sara”] Eisenman; Marc J. Cohen; Julie Duquet
p. 141 Joseph Montebello (b. c.1941); Lloyd Ziff [now a photographer but previously an art director]; Susan Mitchell
p. 142 Neil Stuart; Barbara Buck
p. 144 Kim Abeles (b. 1952) [artist not a designer]; Karen Moss
p. 150 Andrew Gray
p. 154 Lorraine Wild (b. c.1954)
p. 155 Lorraine Wild (b. c.1954) [birth date information appears on p. 147]
p. 156 Eric A. Pike; Agnethe Glatved; Claudia Bruno; Constance Old; Scott Schy
p. 157 Eric A. Pike; Agnethe Glatved; Claudia Bruno; Constance Old; Scott Schy
p. 159 Charles “Chank” Anderson [birth date information appears on p. 63]; Dean Seven
p. 160 Tibor Kalman [birth date information appears on p. 64]; Paul Ritter
p. 164 Mick [another name that is difficult to track down]

These are individuals whose information appears elsewhere on the same page.

p. 34 Matthew Carter
p. 54 Zuzana Licko
p. 57 Ed Fella
p. 58 Jeffery Keedy
p. 66 Charles S. Anderson
p. 73. Jan Jancourt
p. 86 Saul Bass
p. 100 Mike Mills; Lady Kier [birth date information does not appear previously]
p. 108 Tibor Kalman
p. 116 Caren Goldberg
p. 118 Chip Kidd; Barbara de Wilde; Carol Devine Carson
p. 128 Fred Woodward
p. 130 Alexander Isley
p. 156 Gael Towey
p. 158 Bridget de Socio
p. 163 Fabien Baron

These are instances where the birth date information on individuals appears on the opposite page.

p. 65 Tibor Kalman
p. 81 Rebeca Méndez
p. 95 Art Chantry
p. 117 Louise Fili
p. 119 Carol Devine Carson
p. 120 Richard Eckersley [birth date information appears on p. 121]
p. 123 Bruce Mau
p. 127 Fabien Baron
p. 129 Fred Woodward
p. 131 Alexander Isley
p. 153 Stephen Doyle [birth date information appears on p. 150]; Andrew Gray
p. 155 Laurie Haycock Makela

The remaining comments about Mixing Messages are in the normal spirit of Blue Pencil.

p. 25 Matuschka [is there a first name?]

p. 32 “PostScript, introduced by Adobe Systems in 1986….”

PostScript was introduced in 1984 and used in the first Apple LaserWriter 1985. See Wikipedia.

p. 33 “Alongside the rapid ascendence of desktop publishing there has been a surprising revival of letterpress printing.”

The revival of letterpress printing began in the 1970s as part of a new private press/fine printing movement. It was chronicled by Fine Print magazine and was spread through various centers for the book, most notably in Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco and Washington.

p. 34 “Carter & Cone” should be “Carter & Cone Type Inc.”

p. 34 text: “Bell Centennial (1975)” but caption to Bell Centennial p. 32 “design completed 1978”.

Several sources—including Linotype and the Museum of Modern Art—say the typeface began in 1976, others say 1974. I would accept 1976. But I prefer to use end dates only for typefaces.

p. 36 “SUN-DRIED TOMATOES” on the Cous Cous package is not set in Neuland but handlettered. The S is in the style of Neuland and the inline mimics Neuland Inline.

p. 37 the caption for Neuland is wrong in several respects. Neuland Inline did not appear in 1923 but in 1928 (as Neuland Licht). The Continental Typefounders Association (its full and proper name), founded in 1925 by Melbert B. Cary, Jr., was not a typefoundry but an importer and distributor of English and European types. It should not be listed as a “publisher” alongside Gebr. Klingspor. The specimen—probably datable to 1928—was published by them, but the typeface came from Klingspor. (This is why I dislike using the term “publish” to indicate the public issuance of a typeface. I prefer the verb “issue”.)

p. 37 “The letters [of Neuland] appear to have been spontaneously carved out of wood than carefully cut out of metal.”

Rudolf Koch cut the face as “spontaneously” out of metal as anyone “spontaneously” cut letters out of wood. Because Koch cut each size of type without recourse to any drawings, there is considerable variation within Neuland from size to size which is not recognized in digital versions. But Neuland was prefigured by similar lettering written with the broad pen (e.g. Einleitung des Johannes-Evangelium 1921) and cut in wood (e.g. the title page of the program for Franz Liszt’s Missa Solennis 1921).

Missa Solennis by Franz Liszt, program cover. Cut in wood by Rudolf Koch.

p. 39 “Lubalin exploited the potentials of phototypesetting by employing tight letter spacing and densely overlapping forms, gestures prohibited by the older metal technology.”

Lubalin was already doing tight spacing and overlapping of letters in the era of metal type in the 1950s. He did so without mitreing or filing the metal letters. Instead, with the help of Aaron Burns and his staff at The Composing Room, he achieved those effects by cutting up galleys of type. See Typography by Aaron Burns (New York: Reinhold, 1961) for examples of how razor blades and rubber cement and white paint made it possible to do tight spacing with metal type.

p. 39 “Working with designer and lettering artist Tom Carnase in New York, Lubalin created voluptuous interpretations of Victorian ornament and Pop revisions of modernist geometry.”

Carnase was not the only letterer that Lubalin relied upon. There were others: Tony DiSpigna, Ronne Bonder, Tad Szumilas, Hal Fiedler and even Ed Benguiat who was briefly a partner.

p. 39 ITC Avant-Garde Gothic “rejected modernism’s search for reduction and efficiency in favor of a profusion of humorously idiosyncratic forms.”

This shows a misunderstanding of the typeface. The alternate letters and ligatures were not humorous (or at least not meant to be) and certainly not idiosyncratic. They were intended to help Lubalin and his designers (and later other designers) to create closely packed layouts. Properly used, the alternate leaning A, V, W, etc. act like flying buttresses supporting other letters and closing up the holes normally created by letters with diagonal strokes. Similarly, the t with the missing left side of the crossbar and the various ligatures (including the innovative NT) were also created to save space. With the ligatures Lubalin and Carnase had revived a mainstay of manuscript design. Mating them with a geometrical sans serif was the humorous aspect of the typeface—and its genius.

p. 40 the date for the One Line Specimen from Photo-Lettering Inc. is given as “1988 (first released 1960)”. This is misleading since the sample page shows Milton Glaser’s Baby Teeth face (which dates to 1968) and several other psychedelic era-influenced designs. There should be some indication of what year the specimen book with those faces was published.

p. 43 “Scher founded the studio Koppel and Scher in 1984….”

The studio was originally Mantel, Koppel & Scher. Richard Mantel, briefly the lead partner, seems to have been written out of Scher’s history. The studio was profiled in Idea no. 192 (1985). Some of their record design work can be seen online at

p. 47 “The typeface Helvetica—whose name is derived from Helvetia, meaning Switzerland….”

Helvetia is the Latin name for the area that is now Switzerland during the Roman era. It was named after the Helvetii, the dominant tribe of the region.

p. 51 there is no mention of Katherine’s McCoy’s stint at Unimark in the the discussion of her rebellion against modernism.

p. 53 “Vanderlans” [see also p. 175] in text and footnotes should be “VanderLans”.

p. 55 Soda Script is not a true script. Only a few letters are cursive: f, g,j, s, y, z. Otherwise Soda Script is a condensed, sloped sans serif with some curly bits added on.

p. 57 “[Ed] Fella has rarely worked with computers, relying instead on a battery of hand skills that have become nearly obsolete.”

Hand skills of the quality of Fella’s (or even surpassing his) are still around. They just happen to be in places that graphic designers often overlook (e.g. calligraphy and the lettering arts world). See the work of John Stevens, Julian Waters, Michael Clark, Georgia Deaver, Susan Skarsgard, the late Raphael Boguslav (1929–2010), Tony DiSpigna, Gerard Huerta, Doyald Young (1926–2011), Carl Rohrs, Carl Kurtz and many others.

p. 58 Jeffery Keedy is quoted as saying, “You can’t do new typography with old typefaces” Jeffery Keedy (from interview in Emigre 15 (1990)). This statement confuses typography with type design. Certainly the “new” typography of the 1920s used old typefaces. The typography was still new because the old faces were used in an unfamiliar way.

p. 60 “Didot” should be “HTF Didot”

p. 61 “Amsterdam” as the typefoundry should be “Amsterdam Type Foundry”

p. 61 “cites” should be “cities”

p. 82 who within Danne & Blackburn did the NASA logo? The firm was founded by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn.

p. 84 who within Lippincott & Margulies did the Betty Crocker logo? The firm was founded in 1943 by J. Gordon Lippincott and Walter Margulies (1914–1986). It is now called Lippincott.

p. 86 The client should be described as either the “Bell System” or “AT&T Bell System” and not just “Bell”.

p. 87 the image of the old Continental plane makes no mention of its (visible) logo that was designed by Bass & Yager (1968). The caption refers to the bottom image (with the 1990 logo by Landor Associates) but that is not clear.

p. 106 The three Nasa letterheads are repeated from p. 82

p.107 “Joe Duffy Design, Inv.” should be “Joe Duffy Design, Inc.”

p. 111 Globe Poster Printing Corporation was not the only printer in the 1950s and early 1960s that was doing concert posters in the style shown. See also E.J. Warner and Murray Poster Printing at rayopos.

p. 116 there is no credit for the title lettering of The Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke. I believe it was by Daniel Pelavin.

p. 131 “Family Ties” is reproduced too small for readers to appreciate the typography and humor of Spy magazine.

p. 146 the Parrish Art Museum is not in Purchase, New York but in Southampton.