The Composing Room’s Impressive Schedule

The Composing Room and its PM / A-D and 303 Galleries produced enviable exhibitions and talks on and by the most innovative of the mid-century moderns. Dr. Robert Leslie, founder of the type shop and the Typophiles, was a true impresario of design and a master of showmanship.

 

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This is a snippet of a story I wrote for Eye in Winter 1994:

The Composing Room of New York was no mere type shop. While no other type business was more aggressively self-promoting, none so determinedly advanced the art and craft of type design or made such a remarkable contribution to design history and practice. What began as a campaign to attract the business of advertising agencies and book and magazine publishers in a competitive market evolved into one of the most ambitious educational programs the field had ever known, including type clinics, lecture series, single and group exhibitions, catalogs, and one of America’s most influential graphic arts periodicals, PM (Production Manager), later called A-D (Art Director), which was published bi-monthly between 1934 and 1942.

The program, conceived and sustained for almost 40 years by the Composing Room’s co-founder, Dr. Robert Lincoln Leslie (1885-1986), was rooted in graphic arts traditions yet was motivated by a desire to identify and publicize significant new approaches, even if these rejected tradition. What made the Composing Room so influential, in addition to being a recognized leader in quality hot metal and eventually photo-typesetting, was a commitment to explore, document and promote design approached whatever their style or ideology. Despite his own preference for classical typography, “Doc” Leslie, or “Uncle Bob,” as he was affectionately called, gave young designers a platform on which to publicize their experiments.

 

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