This 1947 print by graphic designer Alvin Lustig presents an early logo design for the Hollywood animation production studio United Productions of America (UPA), founded in 1943 and primarily active through 1960. The graphic identity’s bold black circle with its vertical brown band embraces a simple and modern approach to portraying a classic film reel, and the gestural qualities of the “UPA” letters reflect Lustig’s interest in biomorphic surrealism. The printed textile “Incantation,” which Lustig also designed in 1947, features a similarly fine linear motif that the designer has here adapted to suit typographical forms.

Letterhead, United Productions of America, ca. 1947; Designed by Alvin Lustig (American, 1915–1955); Letterpress on white wove paper; 28 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.); Gift of Tamar Cohen and Dave Slatoff, 1993-31-161

Lustig created two stationery programs for UPA. He designed this first logo in 1947 for a fee of $250.00 and a second trademark in 1950 (visible on the letterhead above) that became the iconic graphic identity of the studio throughout its heyday.

UPA’s choice to commission Lustig to design their logo is especially important—the animation studio pioneered the look of the “modern cartoon” that came to define 1950s animation and produced many successful animated shorts, three of which won Oscars. Rather than creating movement and realism in every frame, UPA used the style of modern graphic design to develop a contemporary approach to animation with a stylized and abstract look. As Lustig was one of the leading graphic designers at the time, his logo designs for the studio serve as further evidence of their embrace of and interest in modern graphics.

Julie Pastor is Research Cataloguer in the Department of Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

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