Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,400
edited September 2017 in History of Typography
As a teenager in the 1960s, I had little access to pornography. By the time I was old enough, Playboy had been outdone by Penthouse, so I never paid much attention to it.

When I started my career in advertising in Toronto in the late ’70s, coming from a fine art background in the UK, I gave myself a crash course in North American advertising from old Playboys. It was a cornucopia of photography, illustration, typography and design, with the originals of many of the award-winning ads from the New York Art Directors Club competitions, the annuals of which I also collected.

Playboy was a very fat magazine with a circulation of around 6 million in its heyday, with a bigger format than Time, but not as big as Life or Look. The prime print media buy for Mad Men, no doubt.

It was also art directed from issue one by Art Paul until 1982, and he sure used a lot of different typefaces for the titles of articles.

Quite apart from the pin-ups and the interviews and the well-known writers, there is another aspect of Playboy which is generally overlooked—its graphic design, in both editorial and advertising. Hugh Hefner worked with Paul, giving him a lot of room to create.

“For Paul—student at the Institute of Design, commonly called the Chicago Bauhaus—Playboy was a laboratory for producing a model of contemporary magazine design and illustration...Paul helped create a forum that demolished artistic and cultural boundaries. In doing so, he transformed magazine illustration.” — Stephen Heller.

I don’t know who created this 1967 ad, but for me it’s most iconic of that era.
Isn’t that tight-but-not-touching Goudy something?!
(The body copy is Times.)


  • Certainly looks like Goudy Old Style to me at first glance.

    But I thought most advertising was typeset by the ad agency, and was sent to publications in image form, since one might see exactly the same advertisement in LIFE and Popular Mechanics.

    Maybe I'm mistaken, and ads were simply tightly specified, since each publication might have had to tweak photographs, for example, to have them turn out right on the specific type of printing press they used.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,400
    Art directors provided type houses with a rough layout of the ad and typed copy (text), marked up for typeface, size, leading, paragraph indent and extra leading, and measure (line length).

    The headline in the above ad was set from typositor, with manual positioning, the body copy from a text machine, could have been metal or photo in 1967.

    Galleys of the set type were assembled on artboards at the agency, with black-and-white prints from the photo transparencies in place “for position only”, and a tissue overlay with instructions for the film house, e.g. to close crop the bottle above. These art boards were controlled at the agency by its production manager.

    Then the artboard and photo transparencies were sent to a film house (pre-press production), which scanned the transparencies (colour separations into CMYK) and film-stripped (taped) these together with film of the type, and exposed these onto final film—sets of four-colour negatives which were returned to the production manager, who sent these to the various publications, which in turn sent them to their printers, who exposed them onto printing plates.

    The media buyer at the agency was responsible for informing the production manager of the specifications of the media, i.e. size, paper stock and screen resolution.

    Often, different sizes of film were made from the same artwork, but with consistent proportions, so that the same ad might appear in different sized publications.


    I believe there was some kind of synergy between agency art directors and publication art directors, as both were well aware that their work would be on adjacent pages.
Sign In or Register to comment.