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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Learning Design From Pulps

I confess that I learned just about everything I know about how to design from crappy ads in pulp magazines, including the ones below. The very first chance I had to design a publication I used these lessons without a hint of irony. No winks! No nods! Just copied the format, used Addressograph gothic typefaces and cut out veloxes with an XActo. Before ever laying eyes on an Art Directors Club annual, this is what I thought graphic design should be. It was easy enough. It was bold and clear. And it suited my aesthetic inclinations (or lack thereof).

For those of you who miss the days when typography was purely functional and graphic composition was no-nonsense, here are some choice examples of pulp virtuosity.

This is how I understood the power of tiny pictures to make a striking pattern.

Look at that column crop. Maybe a little close on the left, but hypnotic, don’t you think?

When printing black on black, be certain to make a white outline. Check out the “O” in “Cortina.”

I learned about curved edges and how useful they can be for sidebars.

Type on an angle underscored the sense of urgency.

There is an art to using arrows in a forceful way. This ad showed me the way.

Bold caps dropped out of a black circle is a surefire way to grab attention.

What can I say? Every typeface tells a story!

One of the best uses of progressive head cut-outs ever.

This has it all. Drama, scale, germs …

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