TypograFriday: Sagmeister

We went to see Stefan Sagmeister talk at the Levi’s Workshop last week — sort of amazing, really, that one of the most famous designers in the world spoke to an audience of maybe 200, for free. For those who are unfamiliar with our profession’s enfant terrible, he’s a smart and humorous designer with a refreshingly honest standpoint.

What you may not know is that after seven years of running his studio, he took a full year off for inspiration and exploration, and intends to do this every seven years. He justifies this decision admirably well, and as he is prone to saying, Having guts always works out for me.

He showed slides of a few of the projects from his second one, from which he recently returned, from Bali. His first, where he stayed in New York, he considers mostly a failure. And yet, a page from a diary from that first year headed Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far has provided him the content for dozens of high-profile projects for a variety of clients over the last several years (plus a very-cleverly designed book and community-participatory website).

Some of the entries are thought-provoking like koans, like Jenny Holzer truisms. Others are shockingly banal, at least when you’re expecting Holzer-level thinking. But the typographic settings of them (often made with collaborators such as Marian Bantjes) are always interesting.

sagmeister_sugar

sagmeister_pennies

sagmeister_complaining

Oh in case you’re wondering: this Absolut ad isn’t Sagmeister but a complete (if well-executed) ripoff of his style.

dutch books-flickr mondays!

So sorry for the tardy posting…things are a bit hectic at work. I’m really enjoying this collection of Dutch books, posted by lliazd. Enjoy, and hope everyone is having a good Monday!

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TypograFriday: TypArchive

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Thanks to one of my new favorite blogs, The Jealous Curator, I just discovered TypArchive, an amazing collection of images of hand-painted, neon and dimensional signage. Aside from being really nice to look at, I think it could be a great resource if you are looking for a little typographic inspiration. When Owen and I travel, we are constantly snapping pictures of cool typography; perhaps we’ll need to submit a few images.

TypArchive is an image library primarily focused on hand painted signage. The objective is to amass a comprehensive global collection of a high-quality images and produce hard-copy volumes.

Amidst a landscape of vapid strip malls and sterile signage, hand-painted lettering retains a soulful aesthetic to be treasured. Like other crafts dissolving in the digital age, sign painting is a fading occupation. Today it’s easy for any layman with minimal computer knowledge to produce a sign within minutes, but the skill acquired to artfully produce hand lettering took years of apprenticeships, dedication and true talent. – RD Granados

Here you can find out more about digital signage software.

Typografriday: Pilot handwriting

In high school, I bought boxes of Pilot V5s at Staples, and told anyone who seemed to care that they were the best writing pens to be found. Now the geniuses at Pilot have turned to the web and made a site/tool that’s pretty interesting. You just write letters on a printed template, hold it up to your webcam and it makes a ‘font’ of it that you can write e-correspondence with.

I tried it and well, it’s both pretty rad and really weird. I mean I made a half decent handwriting “font” in a matter of minutes. Using a webcam! On the other hand, the automated tool picked up some false positive images which screwed up several letters, there was no preview before saving and no editing after saving. Plus the editing tools are really pretty bad — the “A” looks funny because it didn’t read that so I moused it in using their odd editing tool. Plus of course at the end you don’t have a font, you have uh, your own handwriting which you can only use to write notes…

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Then again, why should I expect perfection out of something that was free and took ten minutes? And when was the last time I made a font, even of my handwriting? As if I haven’t been interested since forever: thanks Pilot for giving me a chance to try it.

TypograFriday: Typeface, Hamilton


Last weekend we saw Typeface at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It’s a documentary about letterpress, woodtype and especially the Hamilton Wood Type Museum by filmmaker Justine Nagan. We enjoyed it for its empassioned subjects and typegeekery of a level not seen onscreen since Helvetica typegeekery. However, it’s a somewhat melancholy film: its noble agenda seems to be to get people enthusiastic about preserving typographic history, it’s just not terribly optimistic about it.

A few posters for the film printed at Hamilton and available for purchase.

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Clockwise from upper left: Edition of 22 by Nick Sherman, monoprint and edition of 35 by Stacey Stern, edition of 5 by Dennis Ichiyama.

Hamilton was the leading American producer of woodtype through the 20th Century: if you’ve spent time in any type shop undoubtedly you’ll recognize their imprint on the handles of the drawers of type cases. Their early history – where they bought out more-elaborate Victorian competition then, once they’d achieved a near-monopoly, promptly doubled their prices – is covered unsentimentally in the film. Indeed, the juxtoposition of what an industrial operation Hamilton made of woodtype and what an artsy crowd inherited its remains is one of the animating tensions of the film: oldtimers who were cutting type when they shuttered two decades back shaking their heads at the abstract collages being printed by visiting letterpress artists. The closed facilities of Hamilton, barely transformed, became the Hamilton Wood Type Museum and it seems a pretty fascinating place. Next time we’re through Wisconsin (or even a state away) we’ll definitely make the detour.

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Three pics courtesy of Nick Sherman: a print from an enormous point-size numeral 2, the cover of a specimen book, and pantograph scraps from the cutting of Matthew Carter’s contemporary Hamilton-cut woodtype face, Van Lanen Latin.

TypograFriday: Eames

As faithful chroniclers of the slab serif revolution (see our picks here and our take on H&FJ’s fantastic options here), we’d be remiss if we didn’t cover House’s new take on the form, Eames Century Modern. This lovely and super complete family makes me think five things in this order:

1. Back in the days of sorting the metal types at CCSF’s type shop, I would sometimes run into some mid-century advertising typefaces and think, “why does no one make things in that proportion anymore?”

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2. Dang, I kind of wish we hadn’t gotten Clarendon Text because dang this sort of superfamily is like as useful as that and a bag of chips.

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3. Who knew you could make stencils sassy?

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4. What does this typeface have to do with the Eames again?

eames_nofont

OK,  valid argument/dodge. But, I’m going to use it as an excuse to put Powers of Ten here because if you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it recently, you reaaaaally should.

powers of ten :: charles and ray eames from bacteriasleep on Vimeo.

5. Wait a minute, there’s something familiar. Erik Van Blokland, is that you?

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As a matter of a fact, it is Van Blokland who developed the type family (along with the usual suspects at House). He is the typographer/programmer behind Letterror, who brought us the premiere self-randomizing face Beowolf, the most richly alterating typewriter face Trixie, and our favorite extended slab Zapata – in recent years I’d wondered what he’d been up to and now I know.

The dead giveaway to me was the tails on the italics lowercase, which almost make it feel like a clean typeface made out of his fantastic handdrawn face Salmiak. Ever since seeing the Eames specimen I have been hypothesizing a project where we’d use the two together somehow.

TypograFriday: Friends of Type

I am really enjoying Friends of Type. It’s sort of a communal sketchbook more than anything. The four titular friends (Aaron Carámbula, Jason Wong, Erik Marinovich and Dennis Payongayong) who each live/work in different places, are pushing themselves/each other and coming up with great typographic treats day to day and week to week. The work is awesome and getting better and better. They even invite guest editors/contributors like Ed Nacional — with the very best questionnaire designs I have ever seen.

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fot_nacional_snooze

fot_aaron_rad

fot_dennis_rules

fot_erik_punk

All these and like zillions more, and much bigger, at FoT.

In case you were thinking oh snap I should totally buy that… there are still sets of their edition-of-100 4-print letterpress print set available and it’s pretty great.

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TypograFriday: Logotypes in Hebrew

The designers among our readership are probably familiar with Brand New, the blog that features, analyzes and critiques rebrands and logo redesigns. But you might not have seen (because it’s, ahem, brand new) Brand New Classroom, which takes on the even more niche-y topic of student identity redesign projects and invites its readership to constructive critique. Makes me a bit jealous of folks doing design school in the internet age.

Yesterday Brand New Classroom featured Israeli type maestro Oded Ezer‘s students taking on the interesting assignment of making Hebrew versions of logotypes (whilst preserving their character), to pretty fantastic results. Well, as far as I can tell without being able to read the Hebrew. Here’s three of my favorites:

Hallmark by Orly Dekel.

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IBM by Rotem Dayan.

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Carmel by Stav Axenfeld.

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Ezer has some great pieces of typographic experimentation himself, with Latin and Hebrew letters, and a monograph, The Typographer’s Guide to the Galaxy. I particularly like his excellent homage to Glaser.

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TypograFriday: Ruzicka Revisited

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Alright typophiles, are you familiar with Rudolph Ruzicka? His handlettered folio Studies in Type Design? No? Not yet?

Jesse Ragan, Type Designer and friend of the Experts (Samantha and I went to RISD with him), is here to change all that. He’s reviving some of Ruzicka’s type studies (with the blessing of his estate) that have never been made into type at all: not metal, photoset or digital. While I was not familar with Ruzicka in the same way I am with Zapf, Gill, Berthold or dozens of other letterer/typographers, his letters are pretty stunning; I am excited at Jesse’s undertaking.

Even if you’re not a fan of the calligraphically-derived serif as we are, you should check this out: he’s keeping a blog about his process, which is thoughtful and gets delightfully deep into the work. The most recent post for instance, which he wrote for a column for Grafik magazine, is a longish piece largely about reconciling a single character, an elegant double-storey lowercase “g.” It’s a great mix of openness about the challenges of the process and meditatively ressurecting and conversing with the absent Ruzicka through the close interpretation of his letters.

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For those of us who think ilt‘s pedagogical essays are too few and far between, who miss not just typographi.ca but linesandsplines, or who have ever looked for Spiekermann’s other book, there’s something new for your rss feed.

The temptation to clothe the twenty-six leaden soldiers in new array is irresistible. This is the only apology offered for suggesting still further additions to the seemingly infinite variety of existent typefaces.

-R.R. Studies in Type Design

All images courtesy Ruzicka Revisited.

TypograFriday: I Wonder

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As we’ve mentioned repeatedly (like here, here and here), we are huge fans of Canadian designer Marian Bantjes and her exquisite work. So, we’re pretty excited about her upcoming book, I Wonder. It’s not a monograph of her work-to-date: all the design in it was created just for the book. And as you can see from the galleys below it’s visually stunning with plenty of spot gold, I can tell you from my days following her on Speak Up, the observational/essay content is bound to be awesome too. We don’t acquire books at the rate we used to but are psyched to have this next to visual/verbal communicators the likes of Sagmeister, Venezky, David Byrne and Paula Scher.

You can read more about the book in her preview, and it is available for pre-order on Amazon for a great price.
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