Alvin Lustig Influence

In just 40 years of life, Alvin Lustig made lasting contributions to the world of graphic design. Lustig may be best known for his contributions to book cover design, but he also designed magazines, interiors, and textiles. His work exemplifies modern design with its minimalism, fragmented, flat color, and abstract shapes, both solid and outlined. His work also often features small, restrained san serif typography and experimental, handwritten-style typography.

The colors in his work are vibrant, often featuring bright yellows, reds, blues, oranges, and pinks. The backgrounds of many of his works includes thin lines and symbols that look hand drawn and add texture to the overall work.

I was drawn to Lustig’s work for its carefully crafted simplicity, vivid colors, and quirky shapes and outlines. I was most inspired by his book covers, particularly his designs of The Great Gatsby, The Man Who Died, and Monday Night.

The center of visual interest in my design are two layered images of bicycles. The flat color of the yellow bike references the flat color of Lustig’s designs, and the overlaid outline draws from his design on the book cover, The Man Who Died. I struggled with the shape of the bikes in my poster design because I was worried the bikes were too carefully drawn and did not accurately represent more abstract the shapes of Lustig’s designs. I kept the original designs of the bikes, but if I could change something about the design, I would render the bikes in a blockier style.

Behind the bikes, I drew concentric ovals in wobbly lines to mimic Lustig’s thin line drawings on his book covers. My drawing is mean to resemble the Little 500 racetrack, but also to add some texture to the overall design because it stands in contrast to the flat color of the bike.

For typography, I was inspired by Lustig’s redesign of The Great Gatsby. The small, restrained type he employed on the cover inspired me to replicate the look on my own poster. I chose to use Futura, a modern, san serif that looks like the clean, efficient typography Lustig used. I also used Lustig’s paper cut-out-looking letters for the “500” in little 500. Initially, I had the numbers much larger and aligned with the horizontal of the page and in multiple colors. However, I decided the black and white was cleaner and more true to the work of Lustig, and made them smaller and slightly askew, as Lustig did on The Great Gatsby.

Overall, I am pleased with the design of the Little 500 poster because I think it successfully references Lustig’s work. The one area that may be too similar to Lustig’s designs is the typography of the “500,” which is drawn straight from the Gatsby cover. One area that may be too different from Lustig’s work is the drawing of the bikes in a less realistic way. My experience with this influence project was immensely valuable, and has shown me the importance of learning about the work of graphic designers that came before.