Top 10 Typographic Events of 2010
Mistral, Trois Scriptes Specimen Excerpt, 1956. Image courtesy of Sebastien Morlighem
1 – The Arrival of Webfonts 2010 will be remembered as the year that the Internet moved beyond Arial, Verdana, Georgia and the other web-friendly fonts offered by Microsoft. The major type foundries finally figured out several ways to offer fonts optimized for use on the web that are (fairly) secure from piracy, thus freeing designers from having to substitute text with images and Flash hacks. There are two basic choices for licensing and hosting fonts: Webtype and Typekit. Webtype is a partnership among Font Bureau, Ascender Corporation, Roger Black, Petr van Blokland and DevBridge. Typekit is supported by Adobe, FontFont, Bitstream and a host of smaller foundries such as Bigelow & Holmes, Mark Simonson Fonts, Porchez Typofonderie, P22 and Underware. Monotype Imaging, which owns the Monotype, Linotype and ITC libraries, is going its own way and offering web fonts through webfonts.fonts.com, one of its affiliated companies. Similarly, MyFonts is not a webfont service, though it sells nearly 5000 web-enabled desktop fonts bundled in various packages which include a @font-face kit. You host the font files yourself. Font Bureau Adobe Web Fonts Typekit Fontshop Monotype MyFonts Webfonts
2 – Matthew Carter receives MacArthur Fellow award Matthew Carter is the second type designer (following Charles Bigelow in 1982) to receive a Fellows award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. It is always exciting to see type design recognized as an important activity on a par with music, art, literature and the sciences. The so-called “genius award” is possibly the most prestigious individual award in America—certainly, it is the most remunerative.
Carter was also inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame this year. He is the third type designer to be so honored—Ed Benguiat (2000) and W.A. Dwiggins (1979) preceded him. To top off this special Carter year, he designed Carter Sans, the first typeface to bear his name. However, it will not be officially released until January 2011 (despite being used in the promotion of the ADC award a few months ago).
Not only was Carter honored by the MacArthur Foundation but so was stonecarver Nicholas Benson, current owner of the renowned John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island. Benson is the son of John E. Benson and grandson of John Howard Benson, both renowned stonecutters in their own right. Although Nick Benson has not designed typefaces for commercial sale, he has created custom alphabets for use in his larger commissions such as the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. MacArthur Foundation: Matthew Carter MacArthur Foundation: Nicholas Benson The John Stevens Shop Interview with Nicholas Benson
3 – Bibliothèque Typographique series published by Ypsilon éditeur in Paris This new French publisher has issued monographs on two important 20th century French type designers this year: José Mendoza y Almeida by Martin Majoor and Sébastien Morlighem and Roger Excoffon et la Fonderie Olive by Sandra Chamaret, Julien Gineste and Sébastien Morlighem. Neither Mendoza (b. 1926) nor Excoffon (1910–1983) is a household name in the United States anymore, yet their work is familiar and worthy of greater attention. Mendoza, the lesser of the two designers, is responsible for Photina, one of the first Monotype faces for photosetting, as well as Pascal, ITC Mendoza Roman, and several types not seen outside of France. Excoffon is the designer behind the still-popular Mistral, Choc, and Banco along with the underappreciated Antique Olive family and the fascinatingly bizarre Calypso.
Both of these well researched and written books (in French and almost flawless English) do an excellent job of dissecting the work of both of these designers, leading to a fresh appreciation of typefaces that one might ordinarily have overlooked or dismissed out of hand. There is plenty of material showing how these faces developed, including several dead ends and alternative ideas. The evolution of Diane and Antique Olive are especially fascinating. Alongside the archival material are the thoughts of the two designers as they tried to create types that not only were aesthetically pleasing but which fulfilled a specific need within a type library or solved a technical problem. For instance, Excoffon’s Diane is a roundhand script which is cast on an upright body while still maintaining a traditional slope and his design for Calypso’s “orange peel” letters was accomplished entirely in two dimensions (with every “halftone dot” being inked by hand by his assistant Mendoza). Mistral, Excoffon’s best-known typeface, was the first successful casual script to be cast in metal and even today it can hold its own with OpenType fonts having ten times as many glyphs. Morlighem and his co-authors bring a new respect for Antique Olive (a sans serif that tried to compete with Helvetica and Univers while also challenging our expectations of how thicks and thins are distributed within a letter) and ITC Mendoza Roman (a low-contrast oldstyle face that is entirely original) even as it is clear they will never be widely popular types—at least not in the United States.
Both books include additional material beyond the type designs. The Mendoza book has a selection of his lettering and calligraphy while the Excoffon has a wide range of Fonderie Olive promotional material, most of it designed by him. They also contain brief chronologies of both men’s lives and solid bibliographies. Although neither book is on a par with the massive survey of Adrian Frutiger’s typefaces issued in 2009 they both deserve to be on the bookshelves of every serious typophile. We could use monographs of a similar quality and brevity on other often-overlooked modern type designers such as Aldo Novarese, GG Lange, Freeman Craw and Bram de Does. Ypsilon.éditeur
4 – U&lc now online In October and again in November, Monotype Imaging began releasing free PDF versions (both high and low res) of back issues of U&lc (Upper & lowercase), the famous promotional magazine published by ITC (International Typeface Corporation). The magazine existed from 1974 to 1999, initially in tabloid size on newsprint and only in black and white. In 1988, color was added with issue 15:2 and a decade later (issue 24:4), it was downsized to the conventional size of 8 1/2 x 11 inches. The heyday of U&lc (and ITC) was from its beginning to 1981, the year that Herb Lubalin, its art director, died. The magazine was arguably the best single body of work that Lubalin (and his studio) did. For my money, the most impressive typographic layout he and his colleagues created was a showcase for ITC Cheltenham using literary quotations about the alphabet, type and letters by Victor Hugo and others. Unfortunately, that issue is not in this first batch of PDFs which are limited to volumes 1 and 2 (1974–1975). Fortunately, additional volumes are promised and there is the possibility the entire run will be offered on CD-ROM.
What made U&lc so wonderful—besides its design—was its content. It was full of articles on a wide range of topics related to graphic design, illustration, calligraphy, lettering and, of course, typography. Here is a random sampling of articles from just the first two years alone: “CBS: How a Corporation Sells Itself,” “The Faith of Graffiti,” “Definitions from The Devil’s Dictionary,” “The Letterform in Illustration,” “Jerome Snyder’s Invoices,” and “Metaphoricaltypography.” The early issues are also full of articles arguing for copyright protection for typefaces, a crusade that ultimately failed, as well as reports on technological trends in type design and typesetting. And there were showings of the latest typefaces from ITC, though these alphabet samples were not the principal way that the company managed to promote its typefaces. Instead, it was the use of ITC fonts—always credited—as an essential ingredient in the design of the various articles that was the real selling strategy.
The PDF versions of U&lc are a boon not only to typophiles but to design historians and type historians. They represent an opportunity to see the ITC library slowly emerging and evolving from typefaces created by LSC (Lubalin, Smith and Carnase) for its customers to reinterpretations of classic faces from American Type Founders (e.g. ITC Century) to new creations from leading European type designers such as Hermann Zapf and Aldo Novarese. In conjunction with Emigre 70: The Look Back Issue (2009) these PDFs promise to provide us with a fairly comprehensive portrait of changes in type design from 1970 to 2000. Vol. 1-1 [pdf] Vol. 1-2 [pdf] Vol. 1-3 [pdf]
5 – Type Americana Conference The Type Americana conference organized by Juliet Shen at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, November 12–13, shone a spotlight on American type design from the 1890s to the 1990s. It combined talks on American type designers and foundries with workshops on alphabet design and letterpress printing. The first day was devoted to talks—Thomas Phinney on American Type Founders, Juliet Shen on Morris Fuller Benton, Patricia Cost on both Linn Boyd Benton and Morris Fuller Benton, Steve Mattison on Frederic W. and Bertha Goudy, myself on W.A. Dwiggins, Shelley Gruendler on Beatrice Warde, Bill and Jim Moran on the Hamilton Type Museum, and Sumner Stone on Adobe Systems. The second day was given over to workshops by Sumner Stone as well as the Moran brothers, who led a letterpress printing class devoted to working with wood type (including some Hebrew wood type brought by one of the participants) and cuts. Both evenings included a showing of Rich Kegler’s film on Jim Rimmer (1931–2010) entitled Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century.
The talks were almost uniformly excellent, both informative and entertaining. American Type Founders dominated the day as Phinney gave a detailed, and at times dispiriting, account of its formation, rise and long decline; Cost revealed the lives of the quiet Bentons—Linn Boyd the inventor of the Benton punchcutting machine and Morris Fuller the designer of numerous typefaces; and Shenn analyzed several of the younger Benton’s most innovative designs including the Century family, Clearface and Clearface Gothic, and Adscript. Mattison’s look at Goudy—the type designer who overshadowed Morris Fuller Benton during the first half of the 20th century—emphasized the importance of his wife Bertha, renowned for her typesetting skills, as both companion and colleague. My talk on Dwiggins covered all of his typefaces, not just the ones done for Mergenthaler Linotype. Most of the non-Linotype ones are unknown or barely known since they have had little impact on subsequent type design, but they help put Metro, Electra, Caledonia et al into sharper focus. I also linked his type designs to his calligraphy and lettering, book design and marionette making. Beatrice Warde, Gruendler’s subject, was the only one that was neither a type designer nor a foundry. But, as everyone knows (or should know) Warde played an important role in the success of the Monotype Corporation from the 1920s through the 1950s. Gruendler provided the background (and truth) about her famous “Printing Should Be Invisible” speech as well as her relationship with her husband Frederic Warde, the peripatetic book designer/type designer. The Moran brothers outlined the history of the Hamilton Wood Type Co. which dominated the woodtype market in the same manner that ATF dominated that of lead type. The high point of their talk was a preview of a new wood typeface currently being designed by Nick Sherman. Stone’s presentation was an insider’s history of the early days of type design at Adobe as the company went from brutally digitizing the fonts of others to creating fonts of its own. The fonts that Adobe released in the late ’80s—most notably Trajan and Adobe Garamond—proved that digital type could be as good, if not better, than its lead predecessor.
The talks and the workshops were both full. This meant roughly 60 people for the talks and fifteen for each of the workshops. (Extra workshops were scheduled for a third day due to demand.) The small size of the conference fit the small size of the School of Visual Concepts which sponsored the event. Unlike ATypI or TypeCon, it was an intimate conference, the equivalent of hearing jazz in a nightclub rather than a concert hall or arena. There is still a lot of American typographic history yet to be explored. Let’s hope that the success of this conference leads to another Type Americana in the near future. Type Americana Roundup Images on Flickr (1, 2)
6 – The Cooper Union Typeface Design Certificate Program Prior to the establishment of The Cooper Union Typeface Design Certificate Program this fall, there was no place in the United States to study type design in depth. While the nascent program is not yet on a par with the MA Typeface Design program at the University of Reading in England or the Master of Design Type and Media degree at the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten at The Hague, it holds out great promise.
Type@Cooper, as the venture is informally called, is a joint effort of the Department of Continuing Education at The Cooper Union and the Type Directors Club. It is drawing on its location in New York City as well as the TDC’s reach to assemble an excellent roster of teachers and speakers. The core courses are being taught by Jesse Ragan, formerly of Hoefler &?Frere-Jones and the Font Bureau, and Alex Tochilovsky, adjunct professor of typography at Cooper Union and the curator of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography. Guest teachers this past semester included calligrapher Karen Charatan, Ken Barber of House Industries and Mark Jamra of TypeCulture. Supporting lectures were given by Stephen O. Saxe on 19th century type design; Mike Daines (formerly of Letraset and Baseline magazine) on type design between 1965 and 1990, the transitional period from lead to pixels that included the brief phototype era; Christian Schwartz of Commercial; and Roger Black, the legendary art director and digital/web visionary. The Spring 2011 schedule will include Matteo Bologna, John Downer, Richard Lipton and myself among the guest teachers and speakers.
If we’re lucky we’ll see the first fruits of Type@Cooper in early 2012. Type @ Cooper
7 – American Wood Type 1828–1900 by Rob Roy Kelly and Hamiltons Specimens of Wood Type Faces (c.1907) The re-publication of these two key texts is evidence of the popularity of wood type today. Kelly’s book, which was originally published in 1969, is the definitive history of wood type and one of the best books ever written in the field of printing history. (As a bonus, it is well designed.) The book has long been out of print and copies now command prices upward of $400 on the rare book market. Thus, this new edition of the book from Liber Apertus Press has been roundly welcomed by wood type enthusiasts unable to find or afford the original. David Shields, design curator of the Rob Roy Kelly Wood Type Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, has contributed a new foreword that traces the recent interest in wood type and current research on the subject. (The latter is especially red hot as a book on the history of wood type in Italy is nearing completion.) The essay, “Search and Research,” by Kelly about the origins and making of American Wood Type 1828–1900 is also included.
By 1906, The Hamilton Wood Type Manufacturing Company of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, was to wood type what American Type Founders was to metal type: essentially a monopoly. They had slowly bought up their competitors at the end of the 19th century and their 1906 specimen book was swollen with the faces thus acquired. The Inland Printer (November 1906) called it “the most elaborate and complete work of its kind ever issued.” Hamiltons Specimens of Wood Type Faces is the equally large specimen book the firm issued the following year. The basic difference between the two according to Jim Moran, printer/archivist at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, is that the 1906 catalogue identified the original manufacturers of each typeface and the 1907 one was scrubbed clean of all such information. Complete copies of either in good condition are so rare that this 1907 facsimile was stitched together from several sources. It is available from John Horn of Shooting Star Press, P.O. Box 17252, Little Rock, Arkansas 72222 for $40 post paid. American Wood Type Shooting Star Press
As a sidenote, check out Letterpress Daily and Specimen Sunday online. The site is chock-full of gorgeous wood type letters, both as physical objects in all of their raw beauty and as bright and shiny printed images. The straightforward images are beautiful enough to make a letter lover keel over in ecstasy. For instance, see the specially kerned Y with comma combination or the capital X with heart-shaped counters. There are also samples of Cooper Black, Kabel and Futura in wood type as well. Letterpress Daily
8 – Historia: A Type Specimen Made with Fonts from the Emigre Type Library This is one of the most unusual type specimens ever. Rudy VanderLans has eschewed the usual approaches to type specimens: alphabet showings (either whole or in lines), chunks of text from Cicero’s first speech against Catalina (“Quosque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra!”), witty or bizarre sentences in the manner of Thomas MacKellar, pangrams. learned disquisitions on the recondite origins of a typeface, or fake designs (business cards, menus, posters, etc.) employing the typeface. Instead, Historia harks back to the landmark 1882 type specimen book of George Bruce’s Son & Co., a New York typefoundry, which included the entire text of Theodore Low DeVinne’s essay “Invention of Printing”. It is a series of short essays by VanderLans on the thirteen battleground sites in the former Alta California that were part of the War with Mexico (1846–1848) that resulted in the addition of California to the United States—a key chapter in this country’s attempt to fulfill its “manifest destiny” to stretch from “sea to shining sea”. Historia differs from the Bruce specimen in that the text is illustrated by VanderLans’ photographs of the sites which today are primarily banal landscapes of suburban streets, shopping malls, railyards and industrial areas. A Description of the Final Stage of Frémont’s March Towards Los Angeles from San Juan Bautista to San Fernando Mission November 29, 1846–January 12, 1847 in a first-hand account of the Short Cut Over San Marcos Pass in the Santa Inez Mountains north of Santa Barbara December 24–27, 1846 by Edward C. Kemble is appended to the booklet, accompanied by a bibliography of the Mexican-American War.
VanderLans’ layouts, showcasing the Emigre type library, are vaguely 19th century in appearance. At first they conjure up images of wood type-infused broadsides in which fat faces, egyptians and grotesques are scrambled like geological layers of rock and sediment, but something is off. It is not just that the fonts being used are contemporary and thus do not precisely match those of the 19th century. Instead it is a the mix of bright colors, shadows and fades, border and frames, ornaments and fleurons that suggest the Artistic Printing of the 1880s or California fruit labels of the early 20th century. VanderLans has reinvented the Victorian past in the same way the psychedelic poster artists of the ’60s reworked Art Nouveau. The whole thing—a far cry from what Emigre magazine looked like in its heyday—is a marvelous post-modern pastiche that avoids the trap of nostalgia. The designs are all made possible by the breadth the Emigre type library has acquired over the past quarter century, especially such fonts as Brothers and Council by John Downer, Tribute and Dalliance by Frank Heine, and Fairplex by Zuzana Licko.
Historia is instructive, fun and useful. Emigre Type Catalog
9 – I Wonder by Marian Bantjes (London: Thames & Hudson and New York: The Monacelli Press, 2010) The first book on the work of Marian Bantjes is as over-the-top as her individual pieces are. This is not the usual designer monograph as portfolio but a collection of essays, some old and some new, written, illustrated and designed by the designer herself. This is a true gesamtkunstwerk, a book that is more William Morris than Neville Brody, more W.A. Dwiggins than David Carson. There is the same sense of post-modern pastiche as in Historia but the effect is completely different. I Wonder is full of patterned pages influenced by Celtic, Arabic and Asian art as well as concocted out of leaves, flowers, flags, type and pasta. There are bejeweled pages and pages of swirling vectorized calligraphy and framed photographs—and there are arcane diagrams. All of this design and decoration threatens at times to overwhelm the text.
Bantjes’ writing—some of it repurposed from blog posts on Speak Up—is quirky, casual, inquisitive. She is often thought-provoking (the essays on wonder itself, the politics of ornament, or memory), but sometimes her bemused musings are simply the product of ignorance (as in the essay on the design of the alphabet). The text itself is set in a variety of contemporary typefaces, making the book in effect a type specimen for our times—and a reminder that Bantjes began her design career as a book typesetter. There are fonts from Alejandro Paul, Doyald Young, Martin Majoor, Underware, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, Peter Bil’ak, John Downer, František Štorm, Xavier Dupré and Bantjes herself. I am especially taken by Angus R. Shamal’s ARS Descendiaan Italic (used in several essays) which was unfamiliar to me. (There is also Neue Helvetica Condensed Black for those nostalgic for Swiss modernism.)
I Wonder is a swirl of obsessive/compulsive design that needs to be dipped into and read in small doses to avoid insulin shock. There is none of the detached irony that seems to pervade Historia. Bantjes has produced a book that will be remembered for a long time. I Wonder
10 – A2-Type Recently, I profiled the new type foundry A2-Type, a venture of Henrik Kubel and Scott Williams of the design firm A2/SW/HK on this site. Since then, they have teamed up with Playtype.com to release more than 30 more fonts. Its debut is the strongest of the year. Of the new batch, those that have initially caught my eye are Banknote (a funky slab serif), Magna (a chunky grot in a contemporary style), Tobe (a chamfered sans in an early 1970s manner with unusual counter shapes), and Vogue Paris (a fairly traditional fat face in the vein of Poster Bodoni). A2-Type
Addendum: I had originally planned to include the new Taschen Books facsimile of Giambattista Bodoni’s two-volume Manuale Tipografico (1818) on this list, but that was before I actually saw a copy. The Manual of Typography (as it is titled) has been combined into a single volume, bound in bright red cloth, printed on bright white paper and supplemented with an essay by German printing historian Stephan Füssel that is printed entirely in Bodoni in red ink. The production value is so cheap and garish that, despite my desire to read Dr. Füssel’s text, I could not bring myself to buy a copy of the book. I had hoped that Taschen was going to take advantage of the marvels of digital photography to provide a true facsimile of Bodoni’s magnum opus, a book in which one could see—though not feel—the grain of the paper and the impression of the type in the original. That would have elevated this book above the three facsimiles that I already own.
The previous facsimiles of the 1818 Manuale Tipografico are: The Holland Press (London, 1960): two volumes in a matching slipcase (500 copies printed) Franco Maria Ricci (Parma, 1965): three volumes—the extra one for commentary by Angelo Ciavarelli, former director of the Biblioteca Palatina which includes the Museo Bodoniano, and documents—in a slipcase. (900 copies printed) Octavo Editions (Oakland, 1998) CD-ROM in Adobe PDF with an introduction by David Pankow
However, the Bodoni specimen that is really worth owning is not the overexposed Manuale Tipografico of 1818 but the one of 1788 in quarto format. While the 1818 book seems rare because only 250 copies were printed, the 1788 quarto is far scarcer with less than 50 copies known. (There is also an octavo 1788 edition of 100 copies.) Even the 1968 Officina Bodoni reprint of this book is hard to come by. But what makes the 1788 specimen desirable is not its rarity but its complete alphabet showings of each typeface. In contrast, the 1818 specimen shows off each typeface with a short quotation.
Atelier Perrousseaux (Editeur) has published the second volume (in two parts) of Yves Perrousseaux’s massive Histoire de L’Écriture Typographique. This one is devoted to the 18th century, thus covering the history of typography from the Romain du Roi to Firmin Didot and Giambattista Bodoni. The first volume, running from Gutenberg to the end of the 17th century, was published in 2005 but is still available. (The publisher has announced the next volume, Les Caractères de Civilité by Rémi Jimenes for March 2011 as well as a biography of Roger Excoffon by David Rault for April 2011.) These books—although printed on bright white paper and only in French—are of more interest to serious type historians than the Taschen Manual of Typography. Atelier Perrousseaux
Coming tomorrow: My top 10 list of graphic design events from 2010. Stay tuned …