Type designer Chank Diesel has just released his typographic autobiography, Travelling Font Salesman. A unique approach to showing types he has produced over the past few years, this book was launched through Kickstarter, and displays about 20 fonts. I asked Diesel to talk about the whys and wherefores of this effort.
Oh it’s just to have a tangible precious artifact that displays my new fonts in the best possible context. It’s a wonderful thing to hold, it feels good in your hands and it smells good, too. It shows my fonts with purity and brightness, with words to help create a feeling of emotion and mental imagery as you browse through my new, contemporary typeface designs.
You’ve been working on your faces for 20 years. How does it feel seeing them in this volume?
I feel these printed pages show the typefaces in a way that’s clear and direct and pure, with human personality, too. The design isn’t distracted by photography or texture; it’s just type and color and paper, simple and clean and honest. I’m a big fan of Anne Ulku‘s minimalist and collaborative design style, and it was great to create an impressive work of book art along with her and writer Peter Hajinian.
I come from a ‘zine background and that indie-zine-spirit is what I was trying to capture with this book. I didn’t want to spend a whole year working on a dense and all-encompassing encyclopedic type specimen book; I wanted to make this more of a timeless slice of today, a lighthearted piece that we could throw together for fun in about six weeks. As it turned out it took about eight months to produce and edit and print. But I think still has a looseness and fun spirit that we see in ‘zines.
This isn’t the typical specimen book.
I’m so tired of type specimen books that show A-Z, a-z, then numbers and punctuation. I wanted something with thoughtful words and heart and a story that went from cover to cover.
A magazine is a great platform for a foundry to show their new type releases in the best possible context. And even though it’s hardbound, I still think of this as more of a design magazine then, say, a novel. Some of my fonts look best when used at 3″ tall and bigger, in lots of colors, and in the book I got to show them that way in this context.
And of course zinesters would always make use of the latest printing technologies; digital printing is amazing today — so yeah, let’s use full-color. I wanted it to be a 21st century kind of book with a lively palette. And making it hard-bound didn’t cost too terribly much more, so we made it a hardcover ‘zine.
It’s so cool to me how indie and self-publishers can make such professional and snazzy books in press runs as little as 500 or 1000. I was lucky enough to do a bigger press run of 2,000 copies since my Kickstarter project for the book was such a success. I can’t wait to get all these books out to people in the world who love type books. It’s a good book.
What’s next in your type making universe?
I like to just keep on making smart new fonts that are optimized for new applications in new media. I make lots of custom fonts for corporate clients, and I make my own fonts for fun, too. All the new places to see type, from phones to tablets to TVs, require new fonts built properly for those intended visual outlets, and I like making fonts that create solutions to other designer’s problems. I’d love to make another book, too. But first I think I have to go on a book tour for this one.
And I’m doing a fontmaking workshop, making a script font out of balsamic reduction on pecorino romano. Making alphabets is one of the best jobs going!