I was excited when Taschen announced the first volume of Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, described as “This exuberant selection of typographic fonts and styles traces the modern evolution of the printed letter”*. Such language, including the title, is disingenuous, because this book is not a history. Type does contain a short essay by coauthor/coeditor Cees W. de Jong about type history, but it is poorly written and riddled with inaccuracies. Similarly bad are the captions that introduce each specimen. Many are obvious or inane statements such as “It was an honor to have one’s name set on such a lovely publication.” (p. 88), “This printer from Amsterdam evidently had a lot of customers in the countryside.” (p. 100) and “Back in time! Two lines, two different typefaces in a fantasy world.” (p. 243). Overall the writing feels like a draft rushed to press; it should have been fact checked and edited by a historian.
Let’s face it, most of the general public does not really understand typography. So when I first tell people that I attended something called ‘Type Camp’ this summer, I tend to garner a lot of puzzled looks. But, smiling bemusedly, the typographic outsider with whom I am conversing, is likely to then ask a question not so far off from my own the first time I heard about Type Camp: what, exactly, do you do there?
Well, explore typography, of course.
I signed up for Type Camp not quite knowing what to expect, but I knew one thing for certain: that the past two years at my in-house design job had burned my creativity to a crisp. There are many things I love about my work, but I was beginning to feel like I had settled into a rut. So when I found a link to the Type Camp website, my heart jumped. Started in 2007 by teacher and typographer Dr. Shelley Gruendler, Type Camp professed to be a living-learning creative retreat for designers and typophiles — a seemingly perfect way to escape my creative slump. It sounded absolutely glorious to travel to an island off the coast of Vancouver, BC to study typography with four inspiring teachers and a group of like-minded designers. I couldn’t wait.
And rightfully so. From the moment I stepped off the ferry onto Galiano Island, I felt as if I’d entered an impossibly magical creative dreamland. The chance to study typography with Shelley, Stephen Coles, Tiffany Wardle (aka Typegirl), and Marian Bantjes, seemed like a dream enough. But add that to a lovely landscape filled with fresh-scented pine, luscious blackberry bushes, and pristine sea air, and I was convinced that things couldn’t get much better.
“The truth of the terse but expressive ‘dead and forgotten’, comes home with peculiar force to the searcher after information about the individuals who have developed the art and craft of typefounding.”
– William E. Loy
The Industrial Revolution is often seen as a black hole in the history of typography. In that era the role of the punchcutter changed to that of a largely uncredited factory worker. Records of who worked on individual typefaces are sparse. Today it can seem as if there is practically no information left about the designers of the nineteenth century.
It’s been a little while since the last week in type. I have so many links, so many new releases, so much news to share, I wonder where I should begin. I know, let’s start with a great site based on a very simple idea — Typedia is an encyclopedia of fonts, or in the words of its creator, a mix between IMDb and Wikipedia, but just for type. It’s not that the information is not out there; it is, but where this site, the brainchild of Jason Santa Maria and co., succeeds is in putting that information all under one roof, so to speak. My favourite feature is the Good Deeds page, which makes it really easy to contribute.
It’s been quite some time since I mentioned the brilliant Type Radio. It’s a podcast I’ve been listening to for ages, and they now have a huge archive of type-related interviews.
You can list podcasts by interviewee or even by font. You can also subscribe to Type Radio via iTunes. I’ve downloaded most of the archive to my iPhone, so now I have Type Radio any time, any place, any where.
Related: Read Between the Leading podcast.
Up next: A gargantuan week in type.
Berlin-based Martin Wenzel might be best-known for his TDC-awarded sans serif family FF Profile. He runs his own studio, focusing on type and communication design and teaches type design at the Design Academy Berlin. Martin also runs his own shirt store WordsOnShirts that features some nice hand lettering designs.
When Johno first asked me to write about Typekit, I jumped at the chance. I’d received a beta invite to try out the service about a week before, but deadlines had got in the way of actually getting round to it. Now I had the perfect excuse to have a proper play, create a test site, and immerse myself in the technology that got the web design community frothing at the mouth when it was announced a couple of months ago.
However, as I started to experiment with Typekit, I realised that the really interesting thing isn’t the technology itself: it’s what Typekit — and other services in the same vein — mean for the way we experience type on the web. And I’m not talking about it from a user’s perspective, where they get to see the end results of using a variety of typefaces, but from the web designer’s perspective: the way in which we’re going to be using and paying for fonts.