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.

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,...

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...

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...

An Interview With Matthew Carter

Last fall the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named Matthew Carter a Foundation Fellow. The so-called “genius grant” simply confirmed what those of us in the small design world already knew. That Carter is one of the most important type designers of the past half-century. He was born into the world of...

12 Overlooked & Underappreciated Typefaces

The end of the year / beginning of the year list-making spirit is still with me and so here I go with another typeface list. This one is devoted to typefaces that have been overlooked and/or underappreciated. The typefaces are listed in chronological order of their design. Walbaum by Justus Erich Walbaum...

Is There a New Leading Man in Hollywood?

Since the mid-1990s Trajan has been the favored typeface for Hollywood movie advertisements and posters. But within the last two months a small batch of movies have appeared that emphatically reject the respected Roman Imperial capitals. The new face in town is Gotham from Hoefler & Frere-Jones. At the moment it...

The Top 10 Graphic Design Events of 2010

I have not had time to elucidate my reasons for each of these selections so feel free to contest them. (I have left out items already included on the top 10 type events such as the Roger Excoffon book and the U&lc PDFs that could also fit here.) But here they...

Top 10 Typographic Events of 2010

1 – The Arrival of Webfonts 2010 will be remembered as the year that the Internet moved beyond Arial, Verdana, Georgia and the other web-friendly fonts offered by Microsoft. The major type foundries finally figured out several ways to offer fonts optimized for use on the web that are (fairly) secure...

Five Favorite Fonts from the New A2-Type Foundry

The London-based design studio A2/SW/HK has recently launched its own type foundry called A2-Type. The 15 fonts in the initial specimen book are largely derived from design projects that partners Scott Williams and Henrik Kubel have done since they formed the studio a decade ago. (The exceptions are A2 Klampenborg, designed...

The Tea Party Adopts Gotham and Other Surprising Political Campaign Fonts

Ever since the 2008 election, the design community has been delirious that the Obama campaign used Gotham by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. It has become received wisdom that this was the most adventurous font decision ever made by a political campaign and further proof that Obama deserved to win. McCain’s choice of Optima,...