American designer Lester Beall (1903-1969) was educated at Lane Technical School in Chicago and received a bachelor's degree in art history from the University of Chicago. Upon discovering the work of the European avant-garde, Beall was inspired to bring American design of the 1930s and 1940s to a higher level of effective visual communication. Self-taught, Lester Beall was one of the first Americans to have his work shown in a German monthly graphics periodical, Gebrauchsgraphik, and was one of the first Americans to incorporate the New Typography, using techniques such as photomontage, collage and the use of cut-out flat colored paper in combination with photography and economical line drawing, reworking the element of European modernism into distinctive American style. He produced solutions to graphic design problems that were unique among his American contemporaries.
Beall moved from Chicago to New York in 1935 and did work that was influential to the field of editorial design. Between 1938 and 1940, he redesigned twenty magazines for McGraw Hill, in 1946 he designed two covers for Fortune and in 1944, he began designing Scope magazine for UpJohn Pharmaceuticals which he did until 1951. In 1952, Beall opened a design office on Dumbarton Farm, his home in rural Connecticut. In 1973, four years after his death, Lester Beall was inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame.
Philip B. Meggs credits Beall with "almost single-handedly launching the modern movement in American design". In 1973, four years after his death, the Art Directors Club of New York belatedly elected him to its prestigious Hall of Fame. Bob Plisken, who worked for Beall in the early 1940s, said on that occasion, "In my opinion, Beall did more than anyone to make graphic design in American a distinct and respected profession".
This collection documents the career of Lester Beall, graphic designer and commercial artist from approximately 1933-1967.
Lester Beall Papers, 1933-ca.1967, Archives Center, National Museum of American HIstory
2012.3084 (NMAH Acc.)
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