Avant Garde is a typeface designed to attract controversy (as much as controversy emanates from within the often cloistered confines of modernist typography). Originally designed by Herb Lubalin with Tom Carnase, c.1968, for Avant Garde magazine, it was fantastically described by Lubalin’s design associate, Tony DiSpigna, as "The world's most abused typeface."
Avant Garde would also be the first typeface produced under the banner of the ‘International Typeface Corporation‘ (ITC), a tounge-in-cheek title for Lubalin’s typeface design company which would go on to hold serious connotations due to the group’s success, in the decades to follow.
DiSpigna’s hyperbolic description is possibly the result of the many versions, and therefore applications, that stemmed from this initial release. The first edition of Avant Garde contained only uppercase letterforms in limited weights, intended for headline use.
As the family grew in popularity, so did the many versions released. Soon Avant Garde had lowercase letterforms that blossomed into expansive character sets in a number of weights. Then came the condensed version, c.1970, which literally (s)quashed the open staunch geometry of the original letterforms.
All this rapid attention and versioning would lead ITC associate and art director Ed Benguiat to quip, "The only place Avant Garde looks good is in the words Avant Garde", harking back to the magazine the typeface was named after (which had a controversial story of it’s own, which is far too distracting to include here, but if you’d like to find out more visit The Herb Lubalin Study Center’s dedicated site at ︎︎︎ avantgarde.110west40th.com where you can also download back issues.)
As with many designers, I’ve had a bumpy ride with Avant Garde, having worked on Grafik magazine, whose legacy includes extensive use of the typeface as a core part of it’s visual identity. A monospaced version released by Elsner+Flake and designed by Ned Bunnel, c.1983, captured my attention but, as with the typeface it’s based on, I always struggled to find legitimate uses for it.
So, it’s strange that when it came to producing a physical version of the thesis, Made of Stories, I reached out for Avant Garde as a conduit for radical publishing practises. It made sense too to alter its letterforms somehow—to mutate it again, to move it further away from its staunchly geometric modernist roots and continue its legacy of flux. ‘Rounding’ became the simple but effective means for doing this, introducing more bubbles and loops and obscuring aggressively sharp terminals.
Being the only typeface exclusively (re)designed for the Made of Stories project it ended up being used for a lot of ‘serviceable’ styles such as captions and credits and held well when scaled up and down. Avant Round is included here to denote is presence within the Made of Stories project but will probably remain unavailable.
BTW If you would like to read more about Avant Garde and ITC in general, early back issues of the ITC magazine are downloadable via ︎︎︎ blog.fonts.com. The first issue includes an article on Avant Garde’s development by Lubalin himself and is highly recommended.
Unavailable. For exclusive use within the publication, Made of Stories only.