The collector: Scott Lindberg, Graphic Designer, Champaign IL, USA.
The collection: Generally, I collect Midcentury Modern graphic design. My greatest concentration has most recently been on book covers designed by Alvin and Elaine Lustig in the 1940s and 50s.
The story behind the collection...
I'm not really sure how I began collecting graphic design, but I am a designer and have been interested in graphics for as long as I can remember. I first became interested in the concept of Modernism in the early 1990s, when I became more aware (and subsequently obsessed) with Modernist decorative arts and furniture. That interest organically grew together with my life as a designer, which I guess was how the collection began. There wasn't one specific moment or catalyst for me becoming a collector of design ... one day I simply realized that's what I had been doing. When I made that realization, however, the floodgates opened and I began acquiring at a pretty ridiculous rate. Storage got a little out of control, and that's when I opened an online shop called New Documents. I use the shop as an outlet to curate my collection: selling pieces that don't quite fit in with my collecting goals of the moment (which unfortunately change fairly frequently) and divesting of duplicates. I have a hard time passing up great pieces of design when I see them, and New Documents helps me alleviate some of the issues that are caused by those urges.
I'm drawn to the work of Alvin and Elaine Lustig for many reasons. The Lustigs were pioneers in Modernist design, and believed in the "power of design when applied to all aspects of life." When Alvin began designing in the 1940's his work was considered radical, although it was not the type of radicalism that critics and the public feared. Besides making cutting edge graphics that still appealed the the mass audience, his personal story is also compelling. Diagnosed as a diabetic at a young age, Alvin's life and career were cut tragically short. He died at age 40 from complications to his disease. Towards the end of his life, he began to lose his eyesight ... something that would typically end the career of a designer. But Alvin was fortunate to have Elaine as his wife. She was an integral part of his studio, and acted as his eyes as they failed. After his passing she kept their firm open for several years, producing work of the same quality and in the same aesthetic as her late husband. They worked so closely together, their body of work really tells a cohesive story of them as a couple and as creators.
I've been actively collecting Alvin and Elaine Lustig's book covers for about 5 or 6 years, and have about 75 pieces in my collection. This is just a tiny fraction of my collection as a whole, however. We have at least a couple thousand books designed by various Modernists, with bookshelves in almost every room of our home. Then there are the record albums, posters, magazines, paper ephemera, and the list goes on ...My collection definitely speaks to my general interest in design and Modernism. It probably also tells a little bit about my addiction to "the thrill of the hunt."
For fear of damage, I keep all my books on traditional bookshelves with the jackets covered in protective wraps. It's just safest that way: there's less of a risk of sun fading the inks or fragile jackets getting tattered. I'll take things down occasionally to show to friends or to ponder if I'm feeling uninspired in my own work.
My favorite pieces are typically the ones I've found most recently. Right now those are "The Confessions of Zeno" by Italo Zvevo (1946) and the "Selected Poems" of Ezra Pound (1949).
Part of the enjoyment I get out of collecting comes from living with things that are culturally and historically important. Another part comes from researching, learning, and discovering new things about the early years of the industry I now work in. One of the most important parts, however, is the physical act of finding. I only rarely buy pieces online, since that takes away a little bit of this aspect. I'd much rather pour over bookshelves and dig through papers than Google my way to a collection. If I bought online my collection would definitely be bigger, but I wouldn't have as many stories to tell.
Shop: New Documents http://www.etsy.com/shop/scottlindberg
Blog: Ars Longa http://www.sllab.net