All posts filed under: Typography

‘The Visual History of Type’ reviewed

Notebook: 2 October 2017 | BOOK REVIEW | TYPOGRAPHY The Visual History of Type by Paul McNeil. Published by Laurence King 2017 Wow! What a fantastic book this is. The legendary Dutch designer and typographer Wim Crouwel has described it as, ‘amazing, overwhelming, stunning’ and ‘wonderful’ and he’s not wrong. It is an essential record of every major typeface created since the development of printing with moveable type in the 1450s and it is well designed, easy to navigate and beautiful to look at. I couldn’t put it down. As a graphic design student in the late 1970s, my knowledge and understanding of type was built on what I gleaned from the Letraset catalogue, fusty old art college library books (apart from Sutton and Bertram’s rather good Atlas of Typeforms first published in 1968) and what I saw around me in print. These days, students can raid the internet for information but they will still welcome Paul McNeil’s book, which I’m sure will become the definitive reference guide for students, professionals and anyone else with an interest …

Reading, writing and typography

Pictured above. A collection of old signs and letters on display in the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. Photo by Rachel Bray Notebook 18 June 2017 | DEGREE SHOWS | TYPOGRAPHY Reading with a cap ‘R’ – the Thames Valley, Crossrail boomtown; home to the rock festival and the gaol where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated; and home for a while, to poor old Jude Fawley in Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure. Once upon a time I spent a week in Reading hospital having my appendix whipped out. It was my first encounter with a scalpel (a few years later I was to learn that the ’10a’ scalpel blade was the graphic designer’s preferred blade of choice). And in 1974 or so, I would have tottered on my platform shoes into Reading’s Top Rank nightclub to see the legendary singer Edwin Starr perform. The ugly old station-side nightclub has long since disappeared and been replaced by smart office blocks but the town is still rather dull and congested with traffic. …

Orwell

Notebook: 13 April 2017 | BRANDING | TYPOGRAPHY When I’m not designing for Gilburt and Paul, or teaching editorial design, I collaborate with two ex-work colleagues and old friends, the journalists and writers Jonathan Arnold and Gary Mead. We have a partnership called Orwell and our aim is to provide businesses with influential content and design that enhances those businesses’ core philosophies so that they become better known, better understood and better received. And we do this using rigorous thinking, superb writing and carefully crafted design. Our expertise lies in creating a wide range of long form content such as annual reports and other corporate publications, thought leadership brochures and magazines, research documents and white papers. To find out more about Orwell, take a look at our website. Here are pages from our Orwell brochure that I designed last year.

Niiice…

Notebook: 10 August 2016 | VIDEO | MUSIC | TYPOGRAPHY | THE C-WORD Some of you will know that I’m a bit of a cricket fan. England play their 4th and final test match against Pakistan at The Oval in London tomorrow (Thursday 11 Aug 2016) and to promote it the ECB have released a clip of England captain Alastair Cook scoring his century against Pakistan at The Oval back in 2010. But the ECB have had a bit of fun and they’ve presented the video with a 1960s vibe including a very cool soundtrack, The Bewitching Hour from 60s jazz pianist David Lee (who also wrote music for the cult tv show, The Avengers) and stills of Alastair Cook shown as a pastiche of old jazz album covers pictured above and below. You can watch the clip here. In the words of The Fast Show‘s Jazz Club presenter: ‘Niiice…’     ecb.co.uk

Optima and co – it’s a love/hate thing

Notebook: 21 November 2015 and updated 10 August 2016 | TYPOGRAPHY Above: Optima graphic from MyFonts.com website Optima is one of those odd sans-serif fonts that has thick and thin strokes (rather than monoline strokes) that you would normally associate with a classic serif font – sometimes it is classified as a ‘contrasted ‘ or ‘modulated’ sans’. And sometimes it gets bunched into that category of sans fonts called ‘Humanist’ which have a softer feel as opposed to the harder, machined feel of say Futura or Univers. Once upon a time I must have really liked Optima because I remember using it in the first set of books that I ever designed, then I found it drab and old fashioned but now I’m warming to it again. It was designed by the German Herman Zapf (yep, the dingbats chap) in the early 1950s. He had travelled in Italy and was influenced by Roman inscriptions and the strokes of Optima have a characteristic flaring at the tips that reflect Italian stone carving. (Strictly speaking, Optima should be classed as an ‘incise’ or …

4 kilos of indie mags

Notebook: 15 Feb 2016 | MAGAZINES Last month I visited the fabulous magCulture shop in Clerkenwell, London. They stock over 250 different independent magazines. Knowing that it would be a while before I was down that way again, I stuffed my rucksack full of as many goodies as I could carry and I came away with 4 kilos of delicious and sweet smelling indie mags. This weekend I finally got round to looking at them. Here’s what caught my eye: ELEPHANT is a big, chunky, quarterly magazine all about art and culture. It’s published out of Amsterdam and has been going since 2009. The original design was by Matt Willey (Avaunt, The Independent, Port) but in 2014 it was redesigned by Atlas Studio with a brief to make it look ‘less like a design magazine‘. Either way, it’s still a pleasure to handle with its sharp and tightly engineered design. Like many of the indie mags, it makes use of a mixture of different paper stocks to define different parts of the mag – it has two clusters, …

The Architects’ Journal

Notebook: 9 February 2016 | MAGAZINES | TYPOGRAPHY | PHOTOGRAPHY If you rummage around on the lower shelves at WHSmith you’ll come across a selection of industry and trade magazines such as The Grocer, Print Week and Campaign. Many of the sharper looking trade magazines are produced by the publisher EMAP – think of Drapers, Retail Week, Construction News, Nursing Times and of course AJ or The Architects’ Journal. AJ has a long history of clean, crisp, good looking design with its refined, understated layouts that let the pictures and architectural drawings do the talking. Years ago I applied for a job at AJ as the assistant art editor – I’ve always had a keen interest in architecture and I was excited by the chance of working on such a good looking publication – but alas I didn’t get the job. I remember being interviewed by the art editor Paul Harpin who later moved on to become group art director at Centaur and then creative director at Haymarket. Paul’s predecessor at AJ was Simon Esterson, so between the …

Eight Passion Proteins With Care

Notebook: 28 October 2015 | TYPOGRAPHY I have several old shoeboxes stuffed full of graphics goodies – bits of old printed ephemera that I have collected over the years such as tickets, old tube maps, small booklets, cards and so on. Anything that took my fancy – a quirky bit of typography, an odd illustration, a clever piece of design – was admired and then stashed away. I’ve just unearthed an intriguing pamphlet called Eight Passion Proteins With Care from one of the boxes and it may be familiar to anyone who shopped or worked in and around London’s Oxford Street in the 1970s and 80s – and if the pamphlet isn’t familiar then Stanley Green, its placard carrying author, surely will be. Green believed that if we ate too much protein it would build up in our bodies and lead to uncontrollable ‘lust’. Stanley Green in Oxford Street, 1988. Photo by Tom Gold He would wander up and down Oxford Street in his recognisable peaked cotton cap, preaching his gospel in his soft but resonant tone, with his placard clearly visible above the …

fontsinuse.com

Notebook: 7 October 2015 | RESOURCES | TYPOGRAPHY If you’ve not come across it before, fontsinuse.com is a good resource site for typographers. They describe themselves as, “An independent archive for typography”. If you have a font in mind that you are thinking of using and you want to see how it looks, you simply run a search for it and it throws up lots of examples of past useage. Whereas a google image search for a font tends to just give you a ‘font catalogue’ version, fontsinuse will show you proper working examples that fontsinuse members have supplied. It also allows you to search across different formats and industries, for example: Architecture, Art, Automotive or Newspapers, Magazines, Books and so on. There are lots of great fonts to peruse including a whole bunch of historical beauties, and new fonts/finds are being added all the time.

1940s/50s font catalogues from Soho skip

Notebook: 1 October 2015 | TYPOGRAPHY I found these font catalogues tossed in a skip full of builders’ rubble in a quiet Soho back street in the 1980s. Type faces for Books was published by the Aylesbury printer Hazell, Watson & Viney and has a range of type specimens for book work with 19 different fonts set in a variety of point sizes and leadings. Colour tinted borders have been used to define typical page sizes of the time. My favourite of the three is Book Types by William Clowes, the Suffolk based book printer. This catalogue has a huge range of texts set in different fonts and sizes and on different types of stock – rough old ‘Antique’ papers through to glossier ‘Art’ papers – all in order to help the typographer select a good, readable font “calculated to soothe the eye of the reader rather than distract it … and strike a nice balance between appearance and utility” as the book’s preface explains. I’ll still sometimes dip into these catalogues whenever I have to select a text font for a new …