By: Steven Heller
“Someone once said that you might be conscious of a person’s being well dressed, but that you shouldn’t be able to remember a thing he was wearing.” That little pearl comes from a circa 1950 promotion booklet from Linotype called Type Ideas for Book Designers. It goes on: “The same applies to good typography in novels … A reader should be conscious only of the fact that a book’s typography is pleasing to his sense of proportion and design.” It seems almost quaint in this age of pdas and iPads. But the archaic quality of the “type ideas” makes this a wonderful journey back in time.
Here are a few excerpts: Referencing The Cardinal, a novel by Henry Morton Robinson, “We selected Times Roman for the clothbound edition,” says designer Helen Barrow, “for its dignity of design, and because it gives you a bigger, more readable letter form for the point size.” About The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier, Ama Reese Cardi noted “Right from the start, this clean-lined modern Linotype face was a ‘natural’ for Miss du Maruier’s brilliant novel.” For The Riddle of MacArthur by John Gunther, designer Kermitt Patton explained, “Baskerville, handsome and distinctive, has undergone a test of time and usage that few of our other typefaces can equal.” And for Native Arts of the Pacific Northwest, Alvin Lustig said “Because Bodoni Book relates extremely well to the most advanced ideas of design and typography, as well as to the more traditional concepts of form, it was well suited to the spirit and content of this book.”
How genteel are these designers, how wonderful were the days when designers spoke of their types like wine.