In 1949 at age 24, Herbert Spencer was the founding editor, writer and designer of the graphic design journal Typographica, published by Lund Humphries until 1963. Devoted to critical analysis of type design and its applications, it was the first quasi-trade journal to address graphic design as contributing to the popular culture rather than merely serving the status quo of business.
During its 32-issue span, the magazine introduced a generation of printers, compositors and designers to the history of modernist design, which few people within the field had known existed. As editor, Spencer's goal was to foster greater appreciation of the artistic nuances of type composition and proffer aesthetic standards for the profession.
His own articles examined how the roots of modern typography were ''entwined with those of 20th-century painting, poetry and architecture,'' he wrote. Through Typographica he proposed that graphic design could be not only a stylistic veneer, but also a personal expressive form on a par with other plastic arts.
Typographica was a catalyst in bringing new ideas and practitioners together. ''His originality—what makes Typographica so impressive, even today—is his ability to think, as an editor, both visually and verbally,'' said Rick Poynor, author of ''Typographica'' (Princeton Architectural Press).
Herbert Spencer was born in London on June 22, 1924, to a family totally uninterested in art. By age 12 he was intensely interested in printing. ''The discovery that types came in different sizes and designs came as a tremendous shock,'' he told Mr. Poynor. During World War II he was a cartographer for the Royal Air Force, and later took a job designing trademarks for a London firm called Typographical Designers.
He developed a keen interest in the experiments of the Bauhaus and other progressive design schools and movements that had grown in Europe, and successfully incorporated their progressive theories of dynamic type composition in books, catalogs and publications he designed for Lund Humphries, as the company's typographic consultant.
In addition to editing the magazine, he taught and lectured in England and the United States on typography.
His first book in 1952, ''Design in Business Printing,'' proposed that asymmetrical layout was more flexible than antiquated central axis method, and his 1969 ''Pioneers of Modern Typography'' was a historical showcase of artifacts and biography of the earlier masters of this approach.
Heller, Steven. "Herbert Spencer, 77, Pioneer in Typography." The New York Times 17 Mar. 2002. Web. 25 Jan. 2017