The Pen is Mightier Than the Pixel

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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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.]