Author Archives: Paul Shaw

About Paul Shaw

Paul Shaw is a letter designer and design historian. He is the recipient of many design awards as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution. He currently teaches at Parsons The New School for Design and the School of Visual Arts.

Michael Harvey's Life of Letters

I have known Michael Harvey, the British book jacket designer / lettercutter / type designer, for nearly thirty years. And I have known his work for far longer, having first discovered it in Erik Lindegren’s ABC of Lettering and Printing Types (Askim, Sweden: Erik Lindegren Grafisk Studio, 1964–1965, 3 vols.) when I was a...

Book Review: Characters by Stephen Banham

My blog Blue Pencil has become infamous for no-holds-barred critiques of books. This is not a Blue Pencil takedown. Instead, this is a welcome opportunity to praise a book that is exemplary in nearly all respects. The book in question is Characters: Cultural Stories Revealed through Typography by Stephen Banham (Port Melbourne: Thames &...

A Closer Look at Type@Cooper

Cooper Union and the Type Directors Club teamed up in the fall of 2010 to sponsor Type@Cooper (known informally as CooperType), the first postgraduate certificate program in type design offered in the United States. The extended program*, coordinated by Cara Di Edwardo and led by Jesse Ragan and Alexander Tochilovsky, covers a wide range of topics: techniques, technology, aesthetics...

The Kerning Game

The art of spacing is one of the most difficult aspects of working with letters. But anyone who works with letters extensively knows that good spacing is often more important than good letters. In “Lettering as a Work of Art”, the essay that prefaces Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering (1966 but originally Meisterbuch der...

Not My Type

This is the second time I have tried to write a review of Just My Type. It is a frustrating book—warm and friendly on the surface but obnoxious underneath. The first time, I methodically tore it to pieces in my blue-pencil style, pointing out its deficiencies in niggling detail. When I was done, I...

Un Buon Tempo at Il Buon Tempo: A Visit to Lucio Passerini in Milano

I spent the first weekend of July as the houseguest of Lucio Passerini, Milanese woodcut artist and letterpress printer. On the morning of July 2 we took a leisurely walk a mile or so to his studio, Il Buon Tempo on Via Longhi. The weather was sunny but cool, unusual for Milano in the...

Akira Kobayashi, Akko Pro, and Akko Rounded Pro

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Akira Kobayashi’s tenure as type director at Linotype. Born in Tokyo in 1960, he studied graphic design at Musashino Art University. Kobayashi began his career in type design at Sha-Ken Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of phototypesetting machines just at the cusp of the digital age. In the...

Sixty Years of Book Design at St. Gallen, Switzerland

Fifty-five years ago Swiss design was at a crossroads. In “Über Typographie” (Schweizer Graphische Mitteilungen, April 1946) Max Bill urged Swiss designers to follow “‘asymmetric’ or organically formed typography”, to reject “the conventional text-image of axial symmetry” and the retreat into historicism that it represented. Jan Tschichold’s rebuttal, “Glaube und Wirklichkeit” (SGM, June 1946), repeated...

Flawed Typefaces

What constitutes a flawed typeface? For this article it is defined as a typeface that is perfectly fine—except for one nagging aspect, usually a single character. A flawed typeface is one that either you avoid using entirely because of this lone defect; or one that you use sparingly—and only then, after some alteration of...

Take the SVA Train: Louise Fili's Homage to New York's Subway Signage

For decades the School of Visual Arts in New York City has been famous for the unstinting excellence of its promotional efforts. The most visible of these works have been subway posters notable for their blend of memorable copywriting and arresting imagery. The latest example is an eye-catching simulation of the mosaics that are...