Though I have the utmost respect for Massimo Vignelli, and am a fan of his work, his we use too many typefaces is just plain wrong. It’s by no means the first time Vignelli has voiced these views. If you have no idea what I’m writing about, then watch this video: Continue reading this article
Dan Reynolds’ review of Bibliothèque Typographique’s
first book, José Mendoza y Almeida
Teaching on a postgraduate course feels very much like a spiral: the annual repetition of projects, each a vehicle for a journey of education and discovery for the student, blurs into cyclical clouds of shapes, paragraphs, and personalities. There seems to be little opportunity for reflection across student cohorts, and yet it is only this process that improves the process from one year to the next. Having passed the tenth anniversary of the MA Typeface Design programme was as good an opportunity as any to reflect, and ILT’s offer to publish the result an ideal environment to get some ideas out in the open. Although my perspective is unavoidably linked to the course at Reading, I think that the points I make have wider relevance.
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In 1983 Rudy VanderLans, Zuzana Licko, Marc Susan, and Menno Meyjes began Emigre, a magazine about “…the global artist who juggles cultures, travels between them, and who is fluent in the cultural symbols of the world. An émigré.” Early issues meandered through essays, interviews, fiction and poetry. VanderLans directed wild layouts that ignored the so-called rules instilled by modernist design pedagogues. After four issues Susan and Meyjes had left the magazine, allowing VanderLans and Licko to steer Emigre toward being a design magazine that explored experimental and usually computer-driven work like their own.
Large or small, letters seem to inhabit their own universe. Re-arrangeable in any combination, they can spell out all conceivable messages, be they poetic, bureaucratic, or anything in between. But sometimes a text is just about its letters themselves, not an object to be read, but one to be looked at. Type specimens have taken various forms over the centuries, from posters to postcards and from primers to pamphlets. In fact, this web ‘page’ that you are reading now is also a type specimen, at least of some sort. In our digital age, creating type specimens has become easier than ever before. But what did our predecessors do 100 years ago, or even 500 years ago?
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This is the doorway to The Claremount, an apartment building in Manhattan. I think that it was built in the 1890s. Those letters over the door just reached out and grabbed me from across the street and I had a typeface coming on.
Artist Joseph Kosuth’s 1965 work One and Three Chairs presented a static composition that represents an idea three ways. It was heady stuff, addressing what conceptual artists saw as a crisis of reconciling the realization of concepts with the concepts. One of the three material representations in One and Three Chairs was an enlarged photostat of the dictionary definition of the word chair, making text both a literal and metaphorical focus in a work of art. It was not the first time text had been used in art, but it was a key moment in the conceptual art movement of the time, followed by decades of conceptual artists using text to convey their ideas.
Perhaps the most difficult part in compiling this list is not what to include, but what to leave out. There are, then, many other typefaces that should be in this list, but aren’t. Perhaps some of your favourites from 2009 coincide with mine; perhaps they don’t — I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Without further ado:
Hoping that everyone is feeling refreshed, invigorated and inspired after Christmas and New Year. That we are now in 2010 is arbitrary, but it is at the same time a marker, the end of something, and the beginning of something else; a kind of armistice, an opportunity to dump all the bad, and begin a anew with the good. Well, that’s quite enough verbiage from me. May I present to you the first week in type of the 10s.