Lester Beall
Pioneer of Modern Graphic Design in America
1903 - 1969
Pioneer of American Graphic Design
Synonyms: pathfinder,
initiator, trailblazer
According to The American
Heritage College Dictionary, a
pioneer is described as:
1. One who opens up new areas
of thought, research, or
This greatly describes what Lester
Beall did for Modern American
Graphic Design during his time, as
well as today and for the future.
Lester Beall
Sought as the Pioneer of
Modernist Graphic Design in the
United States of America, Lester
Beall was best known and
recognized for his work in posters
with the US Government’s Rural
Electrification Administration.
Beall was also well known for his
highly regarded work with Time
Magazine, Fortune Magazine,
Chicago Tribune, The Art Directors
Club of New York and many more
Early Life
Lester Beall was born in Kansas City, Missouri on
March 14th, 1903.
His family then moved to St. Louis, Missouri that
same year.
He also lived in St. Joseph, Missouri in 1910 and
then moved to Chicago that same year and
continued his education there.
Beall attended Chicago’s Lane Technical School
and graduated in 1922.
Beall attended The University of Chicago in 1922
while trying to decide whether he would pursue
an acting career or pursue the visual arts.
Early Life
 Beall graduated from the
University of Chicago in 1926
with a major in Art History.
 Beall had begun his freelance
design career immediately after
college and stayed in Chicago
and work in a downtown office.
 In 1935, Beall moved to New
York in Tudor City (Manhattan’s
East side) to open an
office/studio for work in his
In 1928, Beall marries his wife, Dorothy
Miller. On October 26th, 1929, his first
child, a son by the name of Lester
Beall, Jr. was born. Joanna, his
daughter, was born on August 17th,
After gaining experience in design
while in Chicago, Beall moved to New
York to start his own design business.
He moved before his family was ready
to get the business started, then the
followed suit after his daughter,
Joanna, was born.
 Lester Beall did a lot of
experimentation. He was a
highly visual person and always
needed to do something that
was stimulating his creativity.
He was very fond of drawing
and painting the human figure.
He was always very fascinated
with that form and believed that
that was what helped him to
develop as an artist as well as a
Lester Beall met Fred Hauck in 1932.
Fred Hauck was an artist who had just
returned from Munich, Germany where
he studied under Hans Hoffman. Hauck
had brought back books that he had
shared with Beall about other
international trends. Those trends that
started from the Bauhaus. These two
were not just friends, but they
opened/shared a design office space
together in 1933 in Chicago. Without
Fred and his souvenirs from Munich,
Beall may have not seen, understood,
and studies the European avant-garde
style that he clearly has a strong hand
Fred Hauck
Lester Beall’s Style
 Lester Beall’s interests lean more
towards typography from illustration
after meeting Fred Hauck.
 Beall’s style was influenced by European
Avant-garde and the Dada design
 Beall uses a lot of layering of photos and
 He uses bright bold colors and lines and
patterns t0 grab your attention.
 He is well-known for using arrows in his
work, where he states that the arrow is
the best thing to use for the viewer to
see where you want them to look next.
As said before, Beall was an experimenter.
He experimented with photography,
photograms, photographic effects,
drawings, parts and pieces of paintings.
He chose all sorts of media to be engaged
and inspired from.
…and Photomontage
Beall also produced work by
using photographs and
instilling them into his
design work. The photos
would be strategically
placed or placed interlaced
between others to create
texture, depth, interested
for the final product.
Beall experimented with wood blocks, lithos, and typographic effects.
“ Designers must work with one goal in mind—to integrate
the elements in such a manner that they will combine to
produce a result that will convey not merely a static
commercial message, but an emotional reaction as well. If
we can produce the kind of art, which harnesses the power
of the human instinct for that harmony of form, beauty, and
cleanness that seems inevitable when you see it? Then I think
we may be doing a job for our clients. The designer's role in
the development, application and protection of the
trademark may be described as pre-creative, creative and
post-creative. "
-Lester Beall
Exhibits and Shows
 Lester Beall’s first show was in 1933 for the Art Director’s
Club of Chicago, which was also its first show.
 His first one-man exhibit (and was the first of many others
to have a one-man show) was in 1937 at the Museum of
Modern Art in New York.
 He has been a part of many shows internationally, which
included Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Stockholm,
Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Melbourne, Australia,
Japan, both in Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as in
Czechoslovakia and Canada.
 Beall had also been a part of many international shows
within the United States.
Chicago…to New York
…to Connecticut
Beall stayed in Chicago until 1935 and then moved
east to New York City in which he set up his studio.
His home life was in Wilton, Connecticut all the
while he had his studio in New York City. He then
moved into another country home in Brookfield
Center in 1950 that was later dubbed “Dumbarton
Farm”. Though this was his place of residence, he
also housed farm animals, primarily purebred
Cheviot sheep and his design studio.
“There were a number of reasons why this move was made: the obvious
reason of canceling out the commuting every day, but also by living and
working in the country I felt I could enjoy a more integrated life, and
although I still need the periodic stimulation of New York City, the
opportunities of creative activity in an area of both beauty and tranquility
seemed to me to far exceed anything that a permanent studio and
residence in New York City might offer—The way a man lives is essential to
the work he produces. The two cannot be separated.”
-Lester Beall
Rural Electrification Administration
These series of posters that Beall
designed for the REA was to help
people understand and become
aware of the importance and power
that electricity has on a home, family,
farm life, etc. It was assumed that
the audience of these posters had
limited reading skills, thus Beall was
able to design posters for everyone
to understand. He designed a total
of 3 series for the REA, from 1937 –
1941, to promote their goals with
bold colors, dramatic shapes and
lines and a visual image that drew the
viewer in and personalized it for the
These posters were to
convey how comfortable
and happy you would be
once you had electricity at
your home. All posters were
simple and straightforward
for the audience.
REA posters…
More of Lester
Beall’s work…
Top left: Scope Magazine
Top right: US Government, 1941
Middle: Scope Magazine
Bottom right: US Government Housing Authority, 1941
Lester Beall’s personal work
Beall was a great artist. His love for the human figure shows in these
paintings. He enjoyed the idea that the human figure in his drawings and
paintings are something “not completely abstract but certainly not literal
or realistic.” (Beall)
Lester Beall’s personal work
Collier’s Magazine
While working with Crowell
Publishing Company, Beall
produced very powerful work
which still convey very strongly the
messages of that time period in
history. His use of angles and
arrows and strong shapes help
promote his style as well as the
feeling of that era.
Other publications and design
Other publications and design
Other publications and design
Corporate Identity
Beall was very successful at communicating ideas and elevating
the tastes of his corporate clients after WWII. He had a great
talent and effectively communicated the clients goals and
ambitions with good design and good business.
Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, 1959
Corporate Identity
Caterpillar Tractor
International Paper
Merrill Lynch, Fenner,
Pierce, and Smith, Inc.
Last Years
Lester Beall died at the age of 66 in
1969, survived by his wife, Dorothy,
and children, son Lester Beall, Jr., and
daughter Joanna.
After Beall’s death, he was inducted
into the Hall of Fame by the Art
Directors Club of New York in 1972.
In 1993, he was honored with the
Lifetime Achievement Award by the
American Institute of Graphic Arts.
“Lester was first of all an artist, not only because of a vital and important
talent, but because of an emotional spiritual quality, a very special attitude.
He was a pioneer in his application of graphic design to advertising,
publishing and related creative activities. He was acutely aware of the
effects of graphic design on the human environment and of the social
responsibilities of the designer.”
-Dorothy Miller Beall
“Beall has something in common with the
pioneers who discovered the American west and
utilized and developed what they found there
to their own ends. Like them he will never be
satisfied with what he has accomplished, but
will always be searching for other ways of
combining the new and the useful.”
-Graphis Magazine
Awards and Recognition
 Lester Beall received his first award for his work in 1934 for Illustration
from the Art Directors Club in Chicago
 Beall was the first designer to earn the 1st one-man exhibit at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1937.
 In the same year, he was able to exhibit his work in Paris for the first
time with six pieces of his work.
 He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from
American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
 Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972 by the Art
Directors Club of New York.
Meggs, Philip B., Purvis, Alston W. History of Graphic Design. 4th ed. Hoboken,
New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2006. Print.
Remington, R. Roger. Lester Beall: Trailblazer of American Graphic Design.
New York, New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print.
American Graphic Design Pioneer, Lester Beall. The Estate of Lester Beall and
VAGA / Visual Artist And Galleries Association. 2010. Web. 22 April 2012.
Pickett, Joseph P. The American Heritage College Dictionary. 4th ed. Boston,
New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002. Print.

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