Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fancy Type & Imagey Letterforms

Imagey is objectionable, I know. Sue me.

My long stretch of light blogging may be coming to a close. The academic year is kicking off. It's time to get back at it, at least in the teaching tool department. I write in this space for pedagogical purposes quite a bit.

Which brings me to our topic. The fresh-faced juniors in Word & Image 1 are hard at work on the introductory problem for the semester. We labored for several years to find the right equation for the first project, and I think this one works pretty well for now. The Consonant project asks the student to produce/collect a stack of (at least) 50 (non-Googled) type specimens and images that communicate, Sesame Street-style, the letter in question. Which has been pulled out of a fishbowl at the very start of the festivities. We work our way down to a satisfying set of contrasting examples, after which other activities commence on a TBA basis.

Brielle (Killip; my teaching partner, a graphic designer) and I presented the project a week ago Friday. After we did so I got to thinking that I might have stressed the image piece a bit heavily, and failed to emphasize the typography and lettering dimension of the problem.

So at this juncture I turn to our students to make the point: in addition to everything we talked about last class, don't forget to look in old type specimen books or ancient Sears catalogs for examples of individual letterforms that might broaden your set beyond typing your letter ad infinitum and switching out typefaces on your computer. The idea of creative research–to review–is to collide with items, images, whatnot you wouldn't otherwise encounter. It's more like browsing, even trolling, than other forms of research.

At the top of this post, a specimen from Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas' Handy Book of Artistic Printing, a compendium of charming, occasionally oddball letterpress specimens published by Princeton Architectural Press last year. It's a hoot; if you're a graphicophile, I recommend it. Below, an array of individual letterforms and words.

And a second set, from pages 42-43.

Sprinkled throughout this post, a variety of hand lettered sources, from comic strip title panels to logotypes. My selections are heavy on the image side, as would be expected from an illustrator.

I have gotten away from detailed citations for the things I post, and have resolved to improve in that department. When I've done it in the past, I've always been pleased later to have the bibliographic data close at hand. Details below.

Images: Stark Brothers, Clerical Taylors, printed by John Baxter & Son, Artistic Printers, Edinburgh, Scotland; letterpress-printed advertisement 1882, reprinted in The Handy Book of Artistic Printing by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009; Seymour Chwast, Bestial Bold, from "Push Pin Graphic No. 83" issued 1980, reproduced in the Chronicle Books compilation, The Push Pin Graphic, published in 2004, written by Chwast and edited by Steve Heller and Martin Venezky; David Hockney, "The Letter N" from Hockney's Alphabet, published in 1991 by Random House in association with the American Friends of the Aids Crisis Trust; Morton Goldsholl and John Weber of Goldsholl Associates, Holiday Delight Baking Company Logotype, 1965, reproduced in American Trademark Designs by Barbara Baer Capitman, published by Dover Books, 1976; Fancy Typefaces, 1878-1895, Artistic Printing; Revolutionary Era Question and Answer Cards, French, reproduced in Antique Playing Cards; A Pictorial Treasury, by Henry Rene D'Allemange, first published in 1906 and reissued by Dover in 1996; Mark Todd, Bad Asses book cover design, Blue Q, 2007.

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