Remembering SVA Faculty Member Ed Benguiat, 1927 – 2020

The prolific type designer put his indelible stamp on everything from Esquire magazine to Stranger Things.

October 16, 2020 by Joyce Rutter Kaye
Ed Benguiat

Ed Benguiat, a longtime SVA faculty member and creator of more than 600 typefaces, including the eponymous ITC Benguiat, which gives the Netflix series Stranger Things logo its early ’80s swagger, died on Thursday, October 15, at age 92. He is survived by his wife, Elisa (Halperin) Benguiat, a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren.

For almost 50 years, Benguiat taught type classes of all levels in the BFA Design, BFA Advertising and Continuing Education departments at SVA. The majority of Benguiat’s typefaces were drawn by hand from the 1960s into the 1980s—“B.C.” he would say, or “before computers”—and he ensured that his students absorbed the essentials of drawing and using type. “You have to learn to draw first,” he said in an interview with the Art Directors Club. “The computer won’t do it for you.” 

In addition to ITC Benguiat and Benguiat Gothic, among the designer’s other signature ITC typefaces were Tiffany, Bookman, Korinna, Souvenir and Edwardian Script. He also drew or redrew logos for Esquire, The New York Times, Ford, Estée Lauder, Playboy, the original Planet of the Apes film, and many more. He also served as the typographic design director of Photo-Lettering, Inc., a leader in the development of phototype (the pre-digital technology used to develop commercial type libraries); and played an instrumental role in the founding and development of International Typeface Corporation (ITC), where he served as vice president until 1986. He was awarded the Type Directors Club (TDC) Medal in 1989, was named teacher of the year by SVA in 1995, and was inducted into the Art Directors Club (ADC) Hall of Fame in 2000.

As a former professional jazz drummer who played gigs on New York’s famed 52nd Street jazz row after serving in the Army’s Air Corps during WWII, he likened the creation of design and type to that of making music. “Music is placing sounds in their proper order so they’re pleasing to the ear,” he said in an interview with the TDC. “Design is placing things in their proper order so they’re pleasing to the eye.” 

SVA mourns the loss of a generous, charismatic and talented designer and educator. Read his tribute from the SVA Archives here, and see a selection of his work, courtesy the SVA Archives, below.