The Pen is Mightier Than the Pixel

Illustrative lettering at its finest can be found at The Tony & Gerry Show: An Exhibition of Iconic Hand Lettering, Drawings and Illustrative Letter Forms. This is the work of Tony Di Spigna (ITC Serif Gothic, The Mood is Hopper, Oh Baby, Bobby Fischer) and Gerard Huerta (ACDC, BlackJack, Bronco Billy, The Handmade Cigars. . .) on view from May 22nd to August 9th, 2012  (Monday to Friday 10AM to 5PM) at Pratt Manhattan Campus, 144 West 14th Street  7th Floor, New York, NY 10011.

In anxious anticipation of their show, I asked the dynamic duo about its genesis.

How long have you two been making illustrative letter forms?

Gerry: I have been drawing letter forms professionally for 38 years. I started in 1974 at CBS Records designing album covers for John Berg and Ed Lee.

Tony: As a professional and teacher, Ive been at it now for 40 years.

How, during that period, have you changed your style or approach to lettering?

Gerry: Initially, my approach was very self-absorbed, as the record business was wide-open to any kind of new solutions. My approach changed over time to solve a problem with a design that is appropriate. This has led me to produce a wide variety of letter forms over my career.

Tony: The bulk of my work has always been in the Spencerian style. However, I always approach a problem from the point of view of the the clients needs and the particular requirements of the assignment. To me the problem always determines the direction.

I believe hand lettering is being revived in this digital period. How do you see it as having evolved?

Gerry: My own pet peeve about the digital world is that people spend less time drawing. A good solution is a well-drawn one. A smooth edge and consistent stroke with a bad drawing is still a bad drawing. On the plus side the digital world has allowed for a much more expansive treatment of letter forms without the tediousness of ink, overlay film or airbrush.

Tony: I believe that hand lettering is being revived because more and more designers and art directors are waking up to the fact that computer generated art has its limitations. In the design development stage, when an assignment is given, most students and professional go directly to the computer to lay out and ‘sketch’ out ideas. I don’t think that one should should use a computer to sketch anymore than using a computer to draw in a life drawing class. I’m not against the computer. It’s a great tool, but it doesn’t generate ideas and it’s a poor substitute for hand crafted art. My fear is that the next generation of designers will never appreciate the difference.

What about this exhibition is “Iconic?”

Gerry: Many of the lettering images in this show have been around a long time in the form of corporate ID, rock band logos, magazine mastheads, etc., and have become a part of our pop culture.

Tony: What’s “Iconic” about this exhibition is that some of the pieces being exhibited are classical in the sense that they cannot be improved, like Gerry’s Thumbprint of the CHICAGO band and ACDC. They have become part of “Graphics Americana.”

[See this past Weekend Daily Heller on Time's latest taboo busting cover here.]

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13 COMMENTS

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  2. Hi Tony,
    I am working toward my B.S. in Graphic Design and I was just commenting to a co-worker today that I because I do so much digitally for my assignments I really don’t spend as much time as I need to drawing with good old pen and paper.  I really enjoyed reading your comments and interview.

  3. Great stuff, wish I was in New York to see it! … Well I enjoyed the post but then I read Jans’ comment. Seriously, is that the focus here? grammar? Enjoy the beautiful illustrative words not the written ones. And why would you assume that the artist made the mistake it isn’t his article. Jan “you are too good” but your perspective needs proofing. I’m sure you’ll find mistakes in this post -but who cares.

  4. The computer is just a tool like the pencil and the magic marker. Designs should be done in paper, even if they are just sketches. Then you should move onto the computer when your ideas are formulated.

  5. Jan…. you would be one hell of a proof reader. Did you enjoy the post? I believe that the words and thoughts were transcribed by someone other than the artists. That’s the way I read it. 

  6. Ah Steven. This is one of the best posts you’ve done. For me, specifically. Hand lettered type gets my engine started. I have annoyed many people by standing at Amoeba records in Hollywood in a complete trance. There’s a gigantic retro poster wall that makes me feel like I’m in heaven. Illustration and type melded so beautifully together. It gives me goosebumps. I met the artist that created the original artwork for the Genesis albums back in the day. Sort of surreal and funky stuff. We became friends and he shared some of his work with me. That’s the real stuff. Straight from the heart.

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  8. Pingback: Lettering — Pauline Clancy / Blog

  9. Hi, guys. This:
    Tony: I believe that hand lettering is being revived because more and more designers and art directors are waking up to the fact that computer generated art has it’s its limitations. In the design development stage, when an assignment is given, most students and professional professionals go directly to the computer to layout lay out and ‘sketch’ out ideas. I don’t think that one should should [one too many shoulds?] use a computer to sketch anymore any more than using one should use a computer to draw in a life drawing class. I’m not against the computer. It’s a great tool, but it doesn’t generate ideas and it’s a poor substitute for hand crafted art. My fear is that the next generation of designers will never appreciate the difference.
     
    I totally agree with the expressed opinions, but you are too good [read: "too much of a luminary/role model"] to be making these “Editing 101″ mistakes. You can do better than this.