Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Notable Letterhead Design of the 1960s

Opening on August 22nd at the Warren G. Flowers Art Gallery at Dawson College in Montreal is an exhibit of letterheads from the 1960s. 120 Letterheads were chosen from a large archive which designer and educator Frank R. Mulvey (1923-2005) collected when he was an Assistant Professor in the Art Department of the College of Liberal Arts at Pennsylvania State University in the early to mid 1960s. It was his passionate determination which compelled him to collect all sorts of design materials as an educational resource for his Graphic Research Library endeavor. His son Frank A. Mulvey, recalls how his father would spend many long nights at his typewriter, sending requests and inquiries for design materials to such luminaries as Ladislav Sutner, Lester Beall, George Nelson, Milton Glaser, and others. This exhibit opening late next week in Montreal gives us a window into the 20th century's most remarkable decade of modernist design, economic expansion and social change. Good design became good business, and it was in high demand at that time. A great letterhead was recognized as the DNA of any graphic design business, as it had to convey aesthetic sensibilities and communicate conceptual aptitude in an instance. As Milton Glaser so aptly put it, a letterhead is designed to "inform and delight." Many of these letterheads promise to do just that. For more details and information, check out Frank Mulvey's collection at his site, letterheads 1960s. The exhibit closes on September 5th. 

Just a few of the 120 items in order of appearance:

1 : Push Pin Studios | Letterhead
2 & 3 : Ladislav Sutner | Letterhead and macro image
4 & 5 : Colorcraft Lithographers | Letterhead and macro image
6 : Milton Glaser | Letterhead
7 : Knoll | Mailing Label
8 : General Dynamics | Letterhead designed by Erik Nitsche
9 : The American Crayon Company | Mailing Label
10 : Paul Theobald and Company | Mailing Label
11 : Lester Beall and Company | Letterhead and Mailing Label
12 : Aaron Burns and Company | Letterhead

:: Via Designers & Books. Macro photography by Anthony McLean.


  1. Who does't love a good letterhead?! I'm probably telling you something you already know, but check out Shaun Usher's 'Letters of Note' (http://www.lettersofnote.com)and his 'Letterheady' (http://www.letterheady.com) if you haven't discovered his sites yet.

    Thanks for another terrific post, Jennifer!

    1. Of course Shelley! Thank you for mentioning both of these great sites.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    If my father were alive today, he would be pleasantly astounded at the amount of people who are viewing the examples of graphic design that he patiently collected back in the 1960s for the purposes of inspiring students and practitioners of design. Thank you for creating this synopsis of his efforts so professionally on your blog.
    PS I'll insert documentary photos of the letterhead exhibit (set to open next week) in a few weeks under the "exhibit" post on http://letterheads1960s.wordpress.com

  3. And thank YOU for sharing your father's wonderful collection, Frank. It is an impressive archive and I'm just sorry I can't see it in person. I look forward to seeing more of your photos after the exhibit opens.

    All the best!


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