Tibor Kalman

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Tibor Kalman
Tibor Kalman

( 1949 -07-06)July 6, 1949
Budapest, Hungary
DiedMay 2, 1999(1999-05-02) (aged 49)
Vega Alta, Puerto Rico
EducationNew York University
Known forgraphic design
(m. 1981)
  • George Tibor Kalman (father)
  • Marianne I. Dezsõffi (mother)
AwardsAIGA medal (1999)

Tibor George Kalman[1] (July 6, 1949 – May 2, 1999)[2] was an American graphic designer of Hungarian origin, well known for his work as editor-in-chief of Colors magazine.[3][4][5]

Early life[edit]

Kalman was born on July 6, 1949, in Budapest, to parents Marianne I. (née Deezsoffy or Dezsőffi) and George Tibor Kalman.[6][7][8] He became a United States resident in 1956, after he and his family fled Hungary to escape the Soviet invasion, settling in Poughkeepsie, New York.[9] Both of his parents had Jewish ethnic roots, and converted to Catholicism to avoid persecution, so 'Kalman only became aware that he was Jewish at the age of 18'.[10]

In 1967, he enrolled in New York University (NYU), dropping out after one year of Journalism classes to travel to Cuba to harvest sugar cane and learn about Cuban culture, as a member of the Venceremos Brigade.[9][11]


In 1971, Kalman returned to New York City where he was hired by Leonard Riggio for a small bookstore that eventually became Barnes & Noble. He later became the creative director of their in-house design department where he created advertisements, store signs, shopping bags, and the original B&N bookplate trademark.[11][2] In 1979, Kalman - along with his wife Maira Kalman,[12] Carol Bokuniewicz, and Liz Trovato - started the design firm M & Co., which did corporate work for such diverse clients as the Limited Corporation, the new wave rock group Talking Heads, and Restaurant Florent in New York City's Meatpacking District.[13] He sought to challenge mundane design thinking and aspired to create unpredictable work.[3] Kalman also worked as creative director of Interview magazine in the early 1990s.[9]

By the 1980s, Kalman was known for being 'the 'bad boy' of graphic design' because of his antics and radical consciousness. He believed that award-winning design was only possible when the client was ethical, and frequently called other designers out when he did not agree with their actions. He defined good design as a benefit to everyday life and should be used to increase public awareness of social issues.[3][2] Kalman adopted a vernacular style as a way to protest corporate International Style which was the primary design style of the time.[2]

Kalman became founding editor-in-chief of the Benetton-sponsored magazine Colors, in 1991. Two years later, Kalman closed M & Co. and moved to Rome, to work exclusively on Colors.[4] Billed as 'a magazine about the rest of the world', Colors focused on multiculturalism and global awareness. This perspective was communicated through bold graphic design, typography, and juxtaposition of photographs and doctored images, including a series in which highly recognizable figures such as the Pope and Queen Elizabeth were depicted as racial minorities.[9][3]

In 1999, Kalman won the AIGA medal as the 'design profession's moral compass and its most fervent provocateur'.[3]

Personal life[edit]

From 1981 up until his death, Kalman was married to the illustrator and author Maira Kalman (née Berman).[14][15][16] They met while attending NYU.[16] Together they had two children, Lulu Bodoni and Alex Onomatopoeia.[15][17]

Death and legacy[edit]

The onset of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma forced Kalman to leave Colors in 1995, and return to New York. In 1997, he re-opened M & Co. and continued to work until his death on May 2, 1999, in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico.[9][2]

Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist, a book about Kalman's work and that with M&Co, was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 1999.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tibor George Kalman in the U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007". Ancestry.com. Social Security Administration. 1999.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e Heller, Steven (1999-05-05). "Tibor Kalman, 'Bad Boy' of Graphic Design, 49, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  3. ^ a b c d e Heller, Steven. "Tibor Kalman". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  4. ^ a b Poynor, Rick (17 May 1999). "Obituary: Tibor Kalman". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-07. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  5. ^ Haber, Matthew (May 19, 1999). "Tibor Kalman: A highly innovative and influential designer, the onetime editor of Colors magazine died May 2". Salon.com. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  6. ^ "Obituaries: Tibor Kalman, Graphic Designer With Social Focus, Dies at 49". WWD. 1999-05-10. Retrieved 2021-07-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Marianne Kalman". USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive. Retrieved 2021-07-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Kalman, George T.". Newspapers.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer. 13 June 2003. p. B08. Retrieved 2021-07-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Tibor Kalman | Contributors | COLORS Magazine". www.colorsmagazine.com. Retrieved 2019-06-10.
  10. ^ Paola Antonelli, Tibor Kalman, Perverse Optimist, Booth-Clibborn Editions (1998), p. 54
  11. ^ a b "Tibor Kalman". ADC • Global Awards & Club. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  12. ^ "M & Co. Biography, People: Collection of Cooper Hewitt". Cooper Hewitt Museum. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  13. ^ Makovsky, Paul (March 20, 2006). "Restaurant Florent - 1985: A New York restaurateur creates a cultural hub by combining politics with design, activism with good food". Metropolis. Retrieved 2010-01-03. Quote: Florent Morellet "left most of the 1950s luncheonette features intact, and gave Tibor Kalman and M & Co. free reign [sic] to create ads and graphics that cultivated a Florent culture that survives today and extends well beyond the walls of the space."
  14. ^ "Tibor Kalman in the New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018, License 7442". Ancestry.com. New York City Municipal Archives. 1981.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ a b Alam, Rumaan (April 30, 2018). "The Singular Magic of Maira Kalman, at home with the beloved writer and illustrator". The Cut.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ a b Heller, Steven (Spring 2003). "Reputations: Maira Kalman". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 2021-07-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Pearlman, Chee (2001-11-01). "FIRST LOOK; Unleashing Her Inner Child". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-07-06.

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