- Avant Garde is a seminal, but somewhat overlooked by a wider public, magazine, which broke taboos, rattled some nerves and made a few enemies. The magazine was the brainchild of Ralph Ginzburg, an eager and zealous publisher, even if the path that led to Avant Garde wasn’t so straightforward. It represents the third major collaboration between Ralph Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin, the magazine’s talented art director. The two previous magazines came to unexpected demise due to their candor and provocativeness, that landed them into legal trouble.
Avant Garde is the magazine that gave birth to a much maligned and equally lauded typeface of the same name. A typeface that reveled in the mutability of letterforms, exhibited brilliantly by its extensive set of ligatured characters. The magazine’s logo, which inspired the typeface, is a perfect encapsulation of what the magazine represented in 1968, the year the magazine launched: exciting, vibrant, edgy, with just the right amount of playfulness to move it out of the corporateness its geometric sans serif forms might otherwise imply. The magazine ran for 3 years, spanning 14 square-sized issues, and only folded due to Ralph Ginzburg losing his long-running legal battle with the US government over obscenity charges (partly stemming from Ralph’s and Herb’s first collaboration Eros magazine).
The strong content and the inventive design of Avant Garde is a testament to a close understanding that developed between Ginzburg and Lubalin, but also of a mutual respect of the boundaries set by each side. Ralph didn’t interfere in the design and Herb didn’t meddle in the editorial content. It’s a balance that magazines still strive for today. Avant Garde deserves a close investigation and appreciation. It still has a lot to say.
f'n De Es. Back when he was "Dieter Schwartberger."