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.

Diotima Classic

Diotima has become a forgotten face in the digital age. Originally made as foundry type by D. Stempel AG, it was a light design that, without the aid of ink squeeze, seemed too delicate when converted to photo and then to digital type. Its roman is wider than normal, while its italic is narrower...

Stereo Types

You might see it every day and never notice, but there it is, on your takeout box of Chinese food, on your morning coffee cup, or on the cover of a favorite book or album: “ethnic type,” lettering or type that suggests the culture of a specific ethnic or religious group. Many designers and...

Empire State Building

Just as Trajan signifies the Roman Empire, Broadway signifies Art Deco. The typeface—designed by Morris Fuller Benton for American Type Founders in 1927—is authentic, but it has become a cliché, used by numerous landlords to tart up their Art Deco–era buildings. This mindless approach to signage is now being challenged. The Empire State Building...

Flexion

In the late ’70s, John Langdon discovered that he could manipulate letters to form words that read the same from the right and the left. He has since carved out a strong career as a designer and letterer specializing in ambigrams, as the Janus-faced words are called, and he collected the best of his...

Metroscript

The typefaces issued by Alphabet Soup, the new foundry established by veteran lettering artist Michael Doret, are not your run-of-the-mill fonts. Each of the three initial offerings—Orion, Metroscript (above), and PowerStation—consists of more than a character set. PowerStation, based on Doret’s work for the Hershey’s flagship store in Times Square, is a sturdy, faceted...

Graphic Modernism exhibition review

Avant-garde design between the world wars has been endlessly studied, but despite the many monographs, books, catalogues and exhibitions, “Graphic Modernism from the Baltic to the Balkans 1910–1935,” an exhibition at the New York Public Library with an accompanying catalogue, proves there is still much to be discovered. Focusing on avant-garde design in countries...

Scotch Modern

Scotch Roman, beloved by D.B. Updike and W.A. Dwiggins, was a standard in the typographic repertoire of pre–World War II printers but fell out of favor after the war, supplanted by Bodoni. Nick Shinn of Shinntype has made a bid to resurrect this oft-maligned face with Scotch Modern. Scotch Modern is not a revival...

Eurostile Next

In 1952, the Nebiolo foundry in Turin, Italy, released Microgramma, an unusual sans serif. A titling typeface (which thus had no lowercase), it was designed by Alessandro Butti (1893–1959), the foundry’s type director, with the assistance of Aldo Novarese (1920–95). Ten years later, Novarese revisited Microgramma. He created a lowercase, and reduced the size...

FB Juliana

Sem Hartz (1912-95) was overshadowed in his lifetime by Jan van Krimpen, his colleague at printer and type foundry Joh. Enschedé en Zonen in the Netherlands. Unlike Van Krimpen, Hartz was principally an engraver of banknotes and stamps rather than a type designer, and neither of his two faces attained great popularity. Emergo, which...

Arno Pro

Designing type can be like searching for gold: Some type designers treat past art movements or pop-culture trends as streams for nugget-panning. Once a particular stream is depleted, they move on to another one. Other designers find a rich vein of typographic or calligraphic history and mine it over and over. Robert Slimbach, a...