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.

Etsy Schmetsy: Comic-con

cc_0001_Burlesquerscc_0002_beatblackcc_0000_walkingdead

cc_0008_ laurawallstaylorcc_0007_oiseauxcc_0006_thor

cc_0005_morrisetsycc_0004_mydumpbearcc_0003_cowboysandaliens

cc_0009_farfallagiallacc_scottpilgrim

So Comic-Con was last weekend, and though I couldn’t go, I was riveted to the news that came in. Comics aren’t just for geeks like me anymore, as the movies based on them and influenced them dominate the theaters and are starting in on television. This week on the ‘schmetsy: inspired by the films inspired by the comics.

Row 1: The slit throat choker from Burlesquers (on sale!) would make a fantastic zombie accessory, as would the “I heart brains” necklace from beatblack. Inspired (loosely) by the upcoming AMC show The Walking Dead, which I couldn’t be more excited about: smart long-form zombie narrative on the network that brings us Mad Men.

Row 2: this delightful raven vase from laurawallstaylor and vintage rainbow bridge bookplates from oiseaux relate to the iconography of Thor (Odin’s ravens flank his crazy gilt glitz throne; the rainbow bridge to Asgard I am only hoping with show up in the film). And while I’m interested in Kenneth Branaugh’s take on this film, I was even more excited to learn Joss Whedon is now going to be in charge of the Avengers movie which will be following a year later!

Row 3: Cowboys vs. Aliens. Daniel Craig vs Harrison Ford. Harrison Ford playing a bad guy. Jon Favreau directing, in the vein of John Ford. Ok, enough gushing. How perfect is this print of cowboys and cowgirls shooting space invaders by morrisetsy? He has a whole series in that retro colorscheme. Or this Space Invaders-themed western shirt by mydumpbear — totally my style of geekery.

Row 4: Last but not least, pursemaker farfallagialla is so smart to have made some really nice Ramona Flowers bags in advance of when the film of (my personal favorite graphic novel series ever) Scott Pilgrim arrives. Not only is Ramona the love interest that Scott Pilgrim must fight a league of seven evil exes to date, but her rad purse actually features into the plot a few times, and contains a subspace tunnel. This high-quality reproduction is definitely the go-to bag of the season!

Levi’s Workshop: Print on Valencia

San Francisco has a super special new thing going on this summer. Levi’s Workshop/Print (a two-month pop-up community letterpress/silkscreen printshop) has opened in the Mission. I went to the opening night and stopped in again on Saturday, talked a bit with a few of the staff, and can’t stop thinking about how great it’s going to be.

The Workshops are places for creation, inspiration, and collaboration. We’re excited to bring the first of these experiences to life right in our own backyard. Located in San Francisco’s iconic Mission District (home to one of the first Levi’s® factories), we’ve opened up a community print shop. During July and August we’ll be hard at work teaching classes on classic letterpress machinery, screenprinting designs, setting type, and getting our hands dirty.

The facade: I love that they whitewashed and reclaimed the existing Biltmore Laundry sign with its classic Americana shape (see a great slideshow here) and mostly am a fan of the exhaustive list of types of workers (including blogger) on the facade, paid off with the Holzer Truisms-esque neon sign “Everyone’s Work is Equally Important.” But I am disappointed that they put it up in a handwriting font and not either traditionally handlettered or, if it has to be type, at least use the much more well-done Pettibon/McFetteridge-esque handlettering type used all over the site’s css.

levis_facade

levi_facade_before

My analysis: So normally I’d have a fair amount of skepticism for such a display of big-company-throwing-money-at-coolness, but there’s many ways that this is distinct from your average marketing exercise from the likes of Nike.

  1. Levi’s is a San Francisco company; their original plant was operating at 14th and Valencia until 2002. Plus of course, jeans were worker’s attire before becoming the greatest American sartorial export, making both the location/community and the “work” theme are not just genuine but resonant.
  2. Their choices of collaborators are not just buzz names (like Sagmeister, Fairey, Aaron Rose) but community-local (The Women’s Building, SoEx, Mother Jones, Mission Grafica) and public-pedagogical innovators (Alice Waters, Craig Newmark, 826) if not some combination of the three. It’s a group that is both nigh-unimpeachable and impressively progressive.
  3. The overall feel is much more public, conversational, accessible, educational and positive than it is branded-marketing-pushy. Which I hope is a sign of changing attitudes towards marketing in general.
  4. In an era of “new media” being everyone’s buzzword, it’s heartening to see this embrace of old media, of “getting one’s hands dirty.” Though no doubt twitter, facebook, blogs (not to mention jumbotrons) will amplify the message, the media in question isn’t apps and Mafia Wars but real ink, screens and presses — newspapers, broadsheets, posters, books, public propaganda. Both letterpress and arts education are under constant threat of disappearance and this public celebration is welcome. It’s easy to see how this will translate into other workshops: photography and music have both gone digital as surely as printing, and a space for darkrooms with, say Jonathan Kozol or for 8-track masters with Jack White is a beautiful idea.

I have no reservations saying that this workshop is a fantastic thing, and I’m hoping that it becomes the textbook example of corporate social responsibility, (cultural edition). I am excited about the next two months and only sad that it won’t become a permanent fixture of the Valencia corridor. After August, they’ll close back down, some version of the Slanted Door will move back in, and a new Levi’s workshop centered around photography will open in New York for two months.

levi_program

Some of the programs I’m particularly interested in after the jump.

Continue reading Levi’s Workshop: Print on Valencia

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…

pilothandwriting[1]

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.

Etsy Schmetsy: Apple Announcement

Where I’m from, Apple announcements and iPhone preorders selling out in 20 hours are the stuff workdays are made of. But what about the other sort, the apples of which one a day is said to keep the doctor away?

apples_0003_iadoreitapples_0000_TheCheekyGirlapples_0008_celentanowoodworks

apples_0002_spacejamapples_0001_kawaiiithingsapples_0006_irenesuchocki

apples_0007_jacquelineknitsapples_0004_lilyssuitcaseapples_0005_vivamadeira

row 1: Vintage brass apple container from iadoreit, baby hat with worm by TheCheekyGirl, ukelele by celantanowoodworks

row 2: German vintage plastic apples from spacejam, fruit memo set from kawaiithings, blossoming trees photograph by irenesuchocki

row 3: knit cozy by jacquelineknits, apron dress top by lilyssuitcase, handbound book with lie-flat binding by vivamadeira

Write the Future

You’ve probably noticed that the World Cup is going on, with people cheering in bars at 6am and taking large swaths out of their workday to watch another 0-0 tied match. If you haven’t been personally caught in the fever, you might not yet have seen Nike’s Write the Future ad, which is, in addition to soccerfantastic, also funny and smartly done and unbelievably ambitious.

Here’s an interview about the making-of (Weiden+Kennedy Amsterdam, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu of Amores Perros in case you wondered).

And Diem Chau, whose embroidery we featured a while back, handcarved crayons as part of the press kits they sent out in conjunction with the ad. Lovely — many more pics and more information at her blog.

writethefuture_crayons

writethefuture_kit

TypograFriday: The Neue Dot Matrices

Printing technologies are forever cannibalizing one another; letterpress to linotype to film to desktop publishing. Dotmatrix printing was one of the first printing technologies I was aware of — with the Mac 128 and the ImageWriter and the bitmap typefaces of 1984 — and the first and quickest to be made obsolete in my lifetime. However – much as letterpress got a new lease on life with artisanal printers, and pixel-aliased typefaces got new play with flash and web and portable devices – dotmatrix is back. The people who brought it back? Programmers with robots.

The example making the rounds on the blogs this week is the closest to my old ImageWriter… but it’s cobbled together using Legos and a felt tip pen. Adorably geeky.

Hello World is of course a basic output program, and so it’s not surprising to see it here as well, on this giant scale paintball gun dot matrix, with which you can message a neighboring building quickly. Designboom has a great writeup/photoset of a later iteration of this paintballer called the facade printer that even semisuccessfully printed in full color.

Similarly, from a few years back, someone hooked up a chalk-output dotmatrix that printed SMS messages from the back of a moving bike. I particularly like the lack of precision in these letterforms – warped by speed and tilt of the rider.

Of course it was only a matter of time before a technology so cool would be co-opted by Nike. Their Chalkwriter is much slicker, and quite impressive. I’d like to see Jenny Holzer ride up and down the streets of the Mission on one of these.

Finally, waterfall printers: they send timed bursts of water down so that the falling water makes shapes; the combination of crisp typography and the elemental nature of water/gravity is pretty breathtaking.

Etsy Schmetsy: CMYK

As a bunch of print designers we’re unnaturally inclined to be fans of process colors: CMYK, from which all colors are printed in, say, a magazine or newspaper. However, it’s not just people who have Evelin Kasikov prints on their wall who are in love with these classically fresh color combos.

cmyk_0000_alyoisiusspykercmyk_0003_oktakcmyk_0005_pabrika

cmyk_0006_ElasVintageFindscmyk_0002_dminortheorycmyk_0007_ableakney

cmyk_RuthieDesignscmyk_0004_hhopcmyk_0008_desTroy

Row one: High Rise Screenprint by alyoisiusspyker • Octopus pouch by oktak • The jean necklace by pabrika

Row two: Vintage flats from ElasVintageFinds • Magenta skull cameo by dminortheory • Fascio Print by ableakney

Row three: Color for Trees Print by RuthieDesigns • Pink lemonade print by hhop • And our take on the trend, (good for grads and rad dads alike) the Rad card by us! (desTroy)

Etsy Schmetsy: L7

Etsy thumbnails are squares; Schmetsy thumbnails tend to be squares. The Experts are pretty much squares and my guess is you are too. Here’s nine (3×3) Etsy takes on the shape.

square_0004_CarolinaPatchworkssquare_0003_Lana0Crystalsquare_0008_yumiyumi

square_0007_woodcocksquare_0000_PieceofPeacesquare_0005_digitdesign

square_0002_JoelBerryArtworksquare_0006_haveitconfectionssquare_0001_sstargell

Row 1: From my hometown, this quilt pattern from CarolinaPatchworks is a pretty rad modern quilt I wouldn’t mind having (though it’s not a manquilt, as one of their other patterns is described). This Linked Squares Necklace from Lana0Crystal lends playful geometry to an evening look. Birdie Squares by yumiyumi has square after square of cute birds.

Row 2:  As pocket squares should be used for fashion not as surrogate tissues anyway, this wool pocket Square by woodcock is fantastic. I have a few coats missing some buttons and occasionally think about getting some new vintage ones to replace em: I’m liking these wood square buttons from PieceofPeace. And speaking of wood, I’m digging the wood texture and interior glazework on these Wood-textured cups by digitdesign.

Row 3: A complicated and randomized system of overprinted blocks make up this CMYK monoprint by JoelBerryArtwork. We’ve never ordered food over Etsy but these artisinal Apple Pie Marshmallows by haveitconfections sound pretty fancy-tasty. And finally, the irregular lines and  antiqued finish of these square hoop earrings by sstargell takes some of the cold geometry out of the shape.

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.

typeface_posters

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.

hamilton_2

hamilton_specimen

hamilton_scraps

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.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin