I don’t know what it is about type design recently. I could swear that five years ago there wasn’t even half as much interest as there is today! But somehow, it has become hip and interesting to a lot more people than before. Perhaps this reflects the growing democratization of type design, as newer practitioners are increasingly diverse by almost any measure of that term. When I started in the field, it seemed that it was 95%+ white males from North America and Western Europe. That is so totally not true any more! I think what is happening is that young designers can see diversity in their type design role models, and are appropriately encouraged by the existence and amazing type design skills of people from all over the world, including women and people of color.
Despite the frequently ill-defined line between Lettering and Calligraphy, they have always been separate disciplines. Lettering vs Calligraphy, a new project from Berliners Martina Flor and Giuseppe Salerno, seeks to bring together both the craft of drawing letters and the art of writing, but at the same time emphasize and celebrate their differences.
In February of 1989, I had the pleasure of meeting Josef Müller-Brockmann. I was a young, wide-eyed student of 21 years studying at Arizona State University. With great fortune, a professor of mine had heard that Müller-Brockmann was going to be in the country and asked him to add a stop in Tempe, Arizona. The program director for the design department at ASU at the time was the famous Rob Roy Kelly, known for putting together successful design programs, many of which became blueprints for other design schools. Because of Müller-Brockmann’s interest in design education, he accepted the invitation.
Beginning with Codex 3, we are pleased to announce that the journal will have an editorial board comprised of eminent figures in the fields of graphic design and typography, type design, type and printing history, and typographic education. The members, whose biographies are listed below, represent a cross-section of the letterphile world. They are a diverse lot, in terms of age, gender and geography, but also in their aesthetic stances. We expect their advice and involvement with Codex will make for a richer publication in the future.
The Type Directors Club in New York City has been holding an annual competition for the best in typography (that is, the use of type in graphic design) since the 1950s. In 1997, James Montalbano and Paul Shaw founded TDC2, a second competition that dealt specifically with the design of typefaces. Together, they chaired the first two TDC2 competitions, and they have remained closely involved with it ever since.
Today I’ve released two limited edition prints along with some originals. The prints are based on words penned by William Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas.
The week in type
Let’s start with some fantastic news: Issue #2 of Codex magazine is now available for pre-order. What’s more, you can now purchase a subscription. The second issue is rather special — A new Editor in Chief (Paul Shaw), a complete redesign (Linda Florio), more pages, more of the very, very best content. Spread the word.
When it comes to the Gilded Age, the canon of design history teaches of broadside posters and the Kelmscott press. Wood type and artistic printing have attracted a following and are fighting their way in. Further outside the canon lies a neglected facet of design woven into society, personal lives and business — engraved stationery. The Complete Engraver introduces engraving as a subject worthy of the canon, and is an approachable, interesting, and compelling read.
The Condensed Typeface Design Program at the Cooper Union is a five-week-long studio course that at first glance, simply teaches the basics and traditions of typeface design. In reality, it was an amazing and intense summer spent with passionate people immersed in the world of type. During the 12-hour days (with breaks!) we studied type history, calligraphy, different drawing techniques, and learned the process of designing and digitizing a font. Most of the program time was spent on a final project in which each of us created an industry-standard OpenType font.
Book review — Inside Paragraphs
I have long admired Cyrus Highsmith, both for his type design (Benton Sans, Prensa, Zócalo, & many besides) and his wonderfully unique style of illustration and lettering. In his debut book, Inside Paragraphs: typographic fundamentals, he brings both of these talents to bear on a single topic, the paragraph. The book might alternatively have been titled ‘Space: the initial frontier’ for its principal focus is what goes on inside — not a book, not a page, but — a single paragraph of text — and as what goes on inside is mostly space, white space, or negative space, it is the ideal starting point for an introduction to the craft of setting type, to typography.
Closing your eyes to see, covering your ears to hear
It has been a while since my last roundup, so buckle up. For those interested, I recently moved 4322.8 km (2686.06 miles) from my home in Japan to my new home in Vietnam. After nine wonderful years in Japan, it was time to move on. The other day I read an interview with my friend and too-infrequent chess partner, Oliver Reichenstein, who pretty much describes my own feelings on reaching Japan.