Lustig Elements

In the 1930s, mid-century modern designer Alvin Lustig indulged in a typographic experiment combining a variety of geometric shapes. He created letterforms that spelled out "Euclid, A New Type". The letterforms would go on to influence the masthead of Arts & Architecture, but were never formally finished in their original state.

Alvin drew inspiration from Oliver Byrne’s 1847 book, The First Six Books of The Elements of Euclid. The book contains writings on Euclidean Geometry that date back to early as 3000 B.C.

Continuing the Legacy

Euclid went on to be printed in Born Modern; The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig, a book co-authored by Steve Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen that encompasses Alvin's life and career. Designer Craig Welsh became increasingly intrigued by the letterforms he found in the book.

In the Fall of 2010, Welsh contacted Elaine nearly 80 years after Alvin designed the Euclid letterforms to learn more about them. After a couple correspondences and a visit to her Upper East Side home, Elaine and Welsh set out to complete Euclid.

In the summer of 2014, while interning under Craig Welsh, I joined the team to help revitalize Euclid in becoming a complete typeface.

Deconstruction

The first step in completing Euclid was to deconstruct the existing letterforms. From there, a grid was formed in which the rest of the characters were designed. Breaking down and understanding the original forms led to the design of new characters.

A Strict System

With a limited number of shapes and a strict grid, differentiating characters quickly became troublesome. Unlike most traditional letterforms, Euclid's grid did not allow for diagonal strokes. This became incresasing difficult when designing the z. The solution pulls from crossed z's found in handwriting by mathematicians, scientists, and engineers to differentiate their z's from 2's.

The quarter round shape was used to express diagonals to further differentiate the U and V characters in the strict grid.

These challenges continued when designing characters that weren’t widely used during Alvin’s time.

Simply Having Fun

During meetings, we worked alongside Elaine to figure out troublesome letterforms. Her wisdom in knowing what Alvin was thinking at the time he was designing the Euclid characters went unparalleled. With a great smile, she reminded us that "Alvin wasn't designing a typeface, he was simply having fun."


Alvin wasn't designing a typeface, he was simply having fun.

The Legacy Lives On

A full character set, numerals, and over 200 glyphs were designed based on Alvin's Euclid letterforms. The project launched on Kickstarter as Lustig Elements in the spring of 2016 where it raised over $20,000 from backers around the world.

The typeface has been cut into wood type by Hamilton and is now distrubted digitally through P22 Type Foundry in regular, inline, and small caps as part of their HWT Collection.

Word of the project quickly spread to designers and non-designers alike. The story went on to receive recognition from Adobe, AIGA, Art Directors Club, Design Milk, Neenah Paper, Under Consideration, Fast Company, Print, and Uppercase.

Some of the first uses of the revitalized typeface have been for the Studio-Hinrichs 365 Calendar and the redesign of Jewish culture magazine Tablet by Pentagram.

Gratitude

My most sincere gratitude goes to Craig Welsh and Elaine Lustig Cohen for allowing me to take part in this special project.