Born in Budapest in 1949 Tibor Kalman and his family moved to the United States just ahead of the Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956. His family moved to Poughkeepsie, New York. Kalman attended Journalism school at NYU but dropped out after a year. At that time Kalman worked for a little known bookstore called Barnes and Noble. His first design role was creating window displays for their store. Kalman would eventually become the design director for Barnes and Noble's in-house design department. In 1979 Kalman started his own design firm called M&Co. with Carol Bokuniewicz and Liz Trorato. Clients of M&Co. would include the Limited Corporation and musical group the Talking Heads. M&Co. became famous for throwing out all the rules which pertained to graphic design. Kalman and the designers at M&Co. would go to great lengths to purposely space letters wrong or skew letters just enough in advertisements to make the viewer think something was wrong but they didn't know what. They distorted letter forms and went out of their way to make fonts appear hand drawn. Kalman was not a fan of the polished, straight from design school, off the shelf way of graphic design in the 1980's. The company got the reputation of non-designers, eventually becoming the thorn in the side of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). Kalman and M&Co's design philosophy seemed to work as evident in their ever growing client list.
In 1990 Kalman started Colors magazine. A magazine about multiculturalism. Kalman moved to Rome in 1993 to work on the magazine where he had the role of editor-in-chief. The magazine covered controversial subjects such as, racism and the aids epidemic, using striking visuals to inform its readers. The magazine closed and Kalman returned to the United States in 1995 after he developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He died in 1999.
One of the most fascinating things about Tibor Kalman was, never having any training in design, he had a natural gift for understanding visual communications. Some of his most interesting works are uncluttered, usually heavily font driven pieces, which were short and to the point. Perhaps his lack of formal training was the reason his design work was so effective. He didn't realize he was breaking the rules and so was free to experiment until he found what worked. Kalman was quoted as saying when asked about his opinion of graphic design, "It's not brain surgery." I think it was his relaxed attitude toward graphic design which allowed Kalman to strip away all of the excess and concentrate on what was important, the message.
Kalman's work was usually very much to the point, as if he felt no need to tip toe around stubjects. In the following examples notice how much of his work is lacking in decoration but not in meaning.
|Poster for the 1988 Presidential election Kalman designed for Florent Restaurant in New York.|
|Advertisement for Florent Restaurant.|
|A spread for for the March 1991 issue of Interview Magazine.|
Kalman and M&Co also designed many quirky products. Below are a couple of examples.
|A clock design, of which, M&Co did many|
|An umbrella designed by M&Co.|
Tibor Kalman's work with colors magazine
|Colors Magazine covers. These show how Kalman Used Striking images and type to make the message clear.|
Farrelly, Liz. Tibor Kalman Design and Undesign. Watson-Guptill, 1998