Articles

The Ayers No.1 layout will be around forever, transparently allowing the idea to shine through – winning awards for copywriters and photographers, but only incidentally for art directors.

Alex W. White 7 Magazine Covers

Herb Lubalin Avant Garde Magazine coverI have written more than thirty articles on design and typography that have appeared in industry-leading magazines like Communication Arts, Publish, Step-by-Step Graphics, Folio: The Magazine of Magazine Management, and WordPerfect, as well as online. Indeed, one of the top hits Google provides for me is an article I wrote for graphic-design.com about the typeface Avant Garde, designed by Herb Lubalin as a a magazine logo or ‘flag,’ then expanded into a full character set. Despite my deep admiration for Herb’s œuvre, my distaste for AG may sadly go down in history as my biggest claim to fame. I certainly didn’t anticipate this one article’s stickiness. Some of the titles of my articles are Design with a Capital P; Bugs Bunny and Better Publication Design; Type in Use, a seven-part series that preceded my book of the same name; Avant Garde is Outré; Beyond Helvetica and Times; and The Music Is Not In The Violin.

I have provided the first paragraph or two of the articles below. The links in the book reviews for TDC’s Letterspace will take you to the articles in their entirety.

Communication Arts magazine Words and Pictures articleCommunication Arts Magazine – “Words and Pictures”   In a time when targets are pounded by three to four thousand messages per day, design is a vital tool to get someone’s attention. Editorial must show value; advertising must show benefit; books must be clear and effortless. If an ad lacks stopping power, it is because its creativity has been reduced to the familiar. Its message has become skippable. ¶ Tear out the full-page ads in an issue of a magazine and pin them on the wall. Take a look: display typography in advertising is often bland. It might even be called “mere typesetting.” Legibility is the preferred goal, as if getting targets to first look at the ad is insignificant…

Communication Arts Type in the 1920s articleCommunication Arts Magazine – “European and American Typography in the 1920s”  The 1920s is a decade of exceptional typographic growth and experimentation. It is the decade in which “graphic design” is given its name by W.A. Dwiggins. Emerging from the First World War, the arts communities in Europe and America are already deeply involved in a succession of movements that continue through mid-century. Ideas are churning and invention is in the air. ¶ The world is changing rapidly at the close of WWI. Cubism, De Stijl, Suprematicism and Dadaism are flourishing. The Russian Revolution in 1917 propels Russian artists to new ways of seeing. The revolution ruins nearly every physical tool they have to work with, so imaginative use of what is left lying around is essential… 

Nicholas Jenson's Typographic ContributionsType Directors Club Letterspace – “Nicolas Jenson’s Typographic Contributions”  This article is excerpted from the original, which appeared online in the Digital Type Review. Nicolas Jenson was born in France in 1420. In 1458, when he was 38, Jenson worked as an engraver at one of France’s mints. Charles VII sent him to Mainz to study the new art of movable-type printing, which was styled after the region’s Blackletter. In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg had perfected movable type in Mainz after developing his ideas in Strassburg. His 42-Line Bible initiated the Incunabula – or “Cradle” – the term for the first fifty years of movable-type printing. But when invaders sacked Mainz in 1462, most of the printers left the city, helping spread movable-type printing throughout Europe. By 1500, printing and typecasting grew to 1,000 printers working in about 200 locations throughout Europe. Collectively, they produced nearly 35,000 works…

TDC Thinking in Type reviewType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Excerpt: Thinking in Type: The Practical Philosophy of Typography”   Today’s typographic designer, working in an environment in which there is simply far too much to see and too much to hear, must act as an editor to reduce as well as clarify messages for readers. This requires critical understanding, which grows from having read the material to be designed and visually editing it for the reader’s greatest benefit. It is not enough to be a visual artist, when information is what we designers process. ¶ Typography is not mere typesetting. It is processing visual language to enhance its strength and clarity. Spoken language has a few components that add to the message: the speaker’s appearance, rhythm, pitch, tone, and gesture (pounding on a table while speaking may indicate anger). Visual language has equivalent considerations. By altering typeface (equivalent to a speaker’s clothing), size, weight, spacing, and position, messages are sent along with the content itself. All of that together is typography…

TDC Frederic W. Goudy video reviewType Directors Club Letterspace – Video Review: “TDC library gets Frederic W. Goudy home movies  A videotape appeared in the TDC mail recently from Elizabeth S. Manion, the director of the Marlboro Free Library in Marlboro, New York. Ms Manion writes, “We were given several old movie reels of Goudy’s home and members of his family… I finally had the footage transferred to videotape and thought you might like a copy. You will see Goudy’s home “Deepdene” in Marlboro; Goudy’s wife, Bertha, and his son; a graduation where Goudy apparently spoke and received an honorary degree; and the waterfall which is part of the creek that ran through his property…”

TDC Letterform Collected reviewType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Review: “Letterform Collected: A Typographic Compendium, Caroline Roberts, Editor  I kind of have a good thing for the letter “R.” It has all the parts I like to play with: a curving bowl, a vertical, and a diagonal. It’s the biggest kit of letter parts – cats in a bag – that can either fight or get along. And if I had to pick just one “R,” which is ridiculous on the face of it, I might pick Will Bradley’s intensely idiosyncratic “R” from his Magazine Initials set. ¶ Letterform Collected: A Typographic Compendium is a body of reprinted columns that appeared in Grafik magazine between 2005 and 2009. It is a very pointed look not just at typefaces, but at individual characters. Each writer was invited to choose and speak on behalf of a specific character from a specific typeface. Each contribution gets a spread: their thoughts in green on light pink on the left and a big light pink letterform on a green background on the right…

Forms In Modernism coverType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Review: “Forms in Modernism: A Visual Set,” Virginia Smith  Modernism is a period in design history that transcends normal evolutionary development. The 20th century brought form based on function, asymmetry, and a new purity of design. The idea for this book is wonderfully simple: compare type forms with their contemporary architectural and furniture and clothing styles in order to reveal a “visual landscape of periods of design, where we can detect a common impulse toward form creation.” Smith calls these groups “visual sets…”

TDC American Type Design and Designers reviewType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Review: “American Type Design and Designers,” David Consuegra  Where does type come from? What inspires its design? Are type designers artists? They certainly can be: type design requires extreme and very specific sensitivity. All the type designers I know have a quirkiness that sets them apart from other designers. American Type Design and Designers presents the foremost practitioners as whole persons, and shows their alphabets in the context of their typographic applications. As you may suspect, each informs the other. ¶ Here is a book I’ve been wanting to bring to your attention from the day I received a copy three months ago. I have plenty of opportunity to pick and choose between the books that are sent to the TDC: this book rates very highly…

Graphic Design History Heller CoverType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Review: “Graphic Design History,” edited by Steven Heller & Georgette Ballance  Ignorance of design history is rampant and studying it is a pain in the neck. You probably didn’t get much of it in college and if you did, it was probably easier and more fun to concentrate on your studio coursework. No one ever talks about design history or design contextualization on the job. It takes attention and brain cells to absorb and use design history. ¶ If you bumped into the beautifully written articles in Graphic Design History when they first ran in design magazines over the past decade, you may have skipped them. Graphic Design History gives you a second chance. Why bother with design history? Steven Heller explains in his introduction, “Knowing the roots of design is necessary to avoid reinvention, no less inadvertant plagiarism. …When history is recorded with verve and presented with passion, it enlightens and nourishes.…”

Alphabets to Order coverType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Review: “Alphabets to Order: The Literature of Nineteenth-Century Typefounders’ Specimens,” Alastair Johnston  Here is the idea: Typefounders, in the process of showing off their fonts in the 1800s, developed a nearly poetic sense of expression that revealed issues of the day. As Johnston puts it, “…Typefounders, like graffiti artists, have nothing in particular to say but an overwhelming need to say it.” ¶ The book grew out of a pair of lectures Johnston, a Scotsman who teaches at UC Berkeley and edits The Ampersand for the Pacific Center for the Book Arts, gave in 1979 on the roots of concrete poetry and the origins of display typography. Johnston “came to typography through poetry and… was well aware of the modern experiments with language and letterforms… Dadaism and Surrealism, however, were movements that grew out of broader cultural contexts than simply poetry, and in this case, the specimen books reflect a ground-swell of nonsense that can be traced back for decades into popular culture…”

TDC Type & Typography reviewType Directors Club Letterspace – Book Review: “Type & Typography,” Phil Baines & Andrew Haslam  Type & Typography distinguishes itself in a market that recently seems very well-supplied in books on type. Others include David Jury’s About Face: Reviving the Rules of Typography, John D. Berry’s Language Culture Type, and Robin Kinross’ Unjustified Texts: Perspectives on Typography. As the authors of this book note in the opening chapter, typography can be various things: an art; a craft; the architecture of ideas; the management of letters; a formal extension of memory; or “painting with words.” This book’s core idea examines the most obvious definition: “typography is intrinsically visual language… Typography is to language what maps are to geography, scores are to music, and algebra is to mathematics.” Why then, the authors ask, is typography taught in art schools while language is taught entirely separately in universities and colleges? Type & Typography is an excellent effort at making connections between language and the notational system we use to record and distribute thought…