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Design by: Tibor Kalman
Design year: 1991
30 Alphabet Blocks · Arabic, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Hiraganga (Japanese), and Latin/Roman letters
Blocks: Douglas Fir / 2”sq
Storage box: Douglas Fir / 11”x13”
Cardboard Gift Box
Made in USA
An American graphic designer of Hungarian descent, Tibor Kalman died in 1999 at the age of 50, leaving behind not only an important body of design work at his death, but in some ways the moral center of the entire graphic design profession.
When the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) awarded him their medal of merit the year he died, their tribute declared the following: ”Of the two names that changed design in the ‘80s and ‘90s — Mac and Tibor — one changed the way we work, the other the way we think. The former is a tool, the latter was our conscience.”
At the center of Kalman’s activism was his design company M&Co., founded in 1979 and named after his wife Maira. Kalman’s product designs for the firm often embodied his liberal and humanistic world views.
One such product was Global Alphabet Blocks, designed in 1991 by Kalman in collaboration with Scott Stowell. The blocks are recognizable by the different world alphabet scripts printed on various sides of the cubes. In making this gesture Kalman was proclaiming the unity of human identity through the graphic representation of language. He did so in the form of a familiar and educational toy, but in a striking way no one had done before.