Graphic designer Frank Lucas was born on August 29, 1930, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He went on to become the first African American illustrator and photographer in Boston’s advertising industry.
Raised in Cambridge, Lucas was attracted to art at an early age.
With his talent, he was hired as an Army illustrator and photographer during the Korean War. After the war, he returned to Boston and graduated from the Vesper George School of Art in 1955. Lucas was then hired as a graphic designer at Parsons Friedmann and Central. He would later move to Barker Black Studios, where he worked primarily with publishers.
Frank Lucas during a photo shoot for a series of Silver Burdett Ginn book covers that combined photography and illustration. Courtesy: The History Makers
In 1966, Lucas was hired at Ginn and Company, a publishing house where he supervised art editors in the purchase of illustrations and photography for school textbooks. During his thirty-one years there, Lucas also managed packaging and oversaw art direction for the firm’s advertising and promotional materials. Later, as director of art and design for children’s trade books, Lucas pioneered new techniques in design, production and printing. He retired from the company in 1997. Since then, he has served as a consultant and art director to Course Crafters, a firm that produces materials for Sesame Street, Berlitz and several other educational publishers.
In addition to his work experience, Lucas has directed the career of many art students teaching art at several Boston art schools. He also taught graphic design and lectured at the famous Rhode Island School of Design. Lucas and his daughter, Diahanne, published a monthly New England newspaper, Reunion, for four years. Lucas has drawn wide praise and is the recipient of several awards for his professional work.
Graphic designer Frank Lucas entered into the mostly white publishing and advertising business through persistence and a strong commitment to his craft.
After serving as an artist/illustrator with the U.S. Army during the Korean War and attending the Vesper George School of Art, in 1956, Lucas had the opportunity to interview for the Boston-based firm of Parsons, Friedman and Central Advertising with two other designers.
“I went in there about nine thirty. First guy gets up and leaves. He’s finished. Second guy gets up and leaves. He’s done. I stood there working… and about six o’clock the two owners came in and they said, ‘Well Frank you didn’t get the job…They thanked me very much and they said all of the niceties that a person will say. So I would say about a week later I got a call from them and they said, ‘Would you like to be trained by us?’ And I say ‘Yeah.’ ‘There will be no money involved, but we’ll show you what we know. And I became at that time one of the first blacks working in design in the City of Boston.”
Lucas continued to break color barriers in the publishing world as the first African American in the editorial staff of Ginn and Company, where he worked as the director of art and design for children’s trade books. Throughout his thirty-one years at Ginn, Lucas remained one of the few African Americans on the editorial side of the publishing world.
Frank Lucas at work at of Parsons, Friedman and Central Advertising. Courtesy: The History Makers
One of Lucas’s designs for the Silver Burdett Ginn Series of readers in 1989. The covers used aluminum printing to make the image move, and were responsible for creating sixty percent of the market share. Lucas earned a national award.