Fancy Type & Imagey Letterforms


It's a new year, and classes are whirring to life. In Word and Image 1, we are launching our first project. 


In point of fact, I am sitting in my office, having ducked in for 5 minutes to repost this entry for today's students, whose work is hanging in Lower Walker as I type. This italicized type is being written in the present tense. 





We labored for several years to find the right equation for the kickoff project, and I think this one works pretty well for now.

The Consonant Project asks the student to produce/collect a stack of (at least) 50 (non-Googled) type specimens and images that communicate, Sesame Street-style, the letter in question. Which has been pulled out of a fishbowl at the very start of the festivities. We work our way down to a satisfying set of contrasting examples, after which other activities commence on a TBA basis.







A few years ago, Brielle (Killip; then my teaching partner, a graphic designer) and I presented the revised project. At the time, after we did so I got to thinking that I might have stressed the image piece a bit heavily, and failed to emphasize the typography and lettering dimension of the problem.





The other problem, which Amy and Penina (my partners in crime) have observed, is that 90% of the type on the walls today looks post 1980, How about before 1500??? I have added a few examples just now. 





So at this juncture I turned to our students to make the point: in addition to everything we had talked about in the first class, don't forget to look in old type specimen books or ancient Sears catalogs for examples of individual letterforms that might broaden your set beyond typing your letter ad infinitum and switching out typefaces on your computer.







The idea of creative research–to review–is to collide with items, images, whatnot you wouldn't otherwise encounter. It's more like browsing, even trolling, than other forms of research.











Top right, a specimen from Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas' Handy Book of Artistic Printing, a compendium of charming, occasionally oddball letterpress specimens published by Princeton Architectural Press last year. It's a hoot; if you're a graphicophile, I recommend it.

Immediate right, an array of individual letterforms and words.





And a second set, from pages 42-43.











Sprinkled throughout this post, a variety of hand lettered sources, from comic strip title panels to logotypes. My selections are heavy on the image side, as would be expected from an illustrator.


Stark Brothers, Clerical Taylors, printed by John Baxter & Son, Artistic Printers, Edinburgh, Scotland; letterpress-printed advertisement 1882, reprinted in The Handy Book of Artistic Printing by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009

Seymour Chwast, Bestial Bold, from "Push Pin Graphic No. 83" issued 1980, reproduced in the Chronicle Books compilation, The Push Pin Graphic, published in 2004, written by Chwast and edited by Steve Heller and Martin Venezky.

David Hockney, "The Letter N" from Hockney's Alphabet, published in 1991 by Random House in association with the American Friends of the Aids Crisis Trust

From the  Ship of Fools , 1494. Sebastian Brandt. Annotated citation to come.  

From the Ship of Fools, 1494. Sebastian Brandt. Annotated citation to come.  

A late medieval/early modern calendar. Citation to come. 

A late medieval/early modern calendar. Citation to come. 

Morton Goldsholl and John Weber of Goldsholl Associates, Holiday Delight Baking Company Logotype, 1965, reproduced in American Trademark Designs by Barbara Baer Capitman, published by Dover Books, 1976

 Fancy Typefaces, 1878-1895, Artistic Printing

 Fancy Typefaces, 1878-1895, Artistic Printing

Revolutionary Era Question and Answer Cards, French, reproduced in Antique Playing Cards; A Pictorial Treasury, by Henry Rene D'Allemange, first published in 1906 and reissued by Dover in 1996

Mark Todd, Bad Asses book cover design, Blue Q, 2007

Milt Caniff, wordmark for Terry and the Pirates, the comic strip that ran from 1934 to 1973 (although Caniff left the strip at the end of 1946 to create Steve Canyon).  From a Sunday strip, 1944.