Sunday, October 31, 2010

Video View: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System Signage

Last February—with the assistance of Abby Goldstein and Jan Conradi—I organized Navigating the Labyrinth: Unimark International and the New York City Subway System for AIGA New York. The event was a sequel to my book on the history of Helvetica in the subway system and a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards manual designed by Massimo Vignelli of Unimark. The event, co-moderated by Jan and myself with a panel consisting of Vignelli, Michael Hertz, Peter Joseph, Doris Halle, Lance Wyman and Tom Geismar, was sold out. It was a remarkable evening, culminating in questions from the floor from John Montemarano, the current head of the MTA Graphics Unit, for Vignelli that had the crowd in uproarious laughter. If you missed the event in February and wondered what all the fuss was about on other blogs you now have a chance to catch up. The evening is available for viewing as a video at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What’s Online no. 3: The Catich Collection—addendum

The quotation in the previous post about trying to date the shift from the use of the reed as a brush to its use as a broad-edged tool caught my attention when sifting through the Catich Collection website because James Mosley and I had been wondering when (and why) the Romans changed from making monotone letters to letters with contrasting stroke thickness. We often describe the former as Republican and the latter as Imperial because they generally correlate with those eras in Roman history, but there is no evidence that the letters changed simply because the form of government did.

Above are details from two inscriptions at the Museo Nazionale Archeologico in Aquileia, one from the Republican era (1st c. BC) and the other from the Imperial era (105 AD). The former shows some letterforms that anticipate those of the Trajan Column inscription (narrow E, splayed M and wide N) while others are typical of Republican inscriptions (circular O, P with a partial bowl and wide S). The latter shows letters that display some of the features that Father Catich found indicative of the use of a broad-edged brush as the defining tool of Imperial Roman capitals (e.g. the lower left corner of the D, the bottom right serif of the I, the turned down middle arm serif on the E, the sweeping tail on the Q, and the puncti). I post these two images to show what a difference stroke contrast (or its absence) makes in the overall appearance of letters. The question remains: why did the Romans begin making letters with stroke contrast?

The answer may lie in the shift in tools from a reed used as a brush to one used as a broad-edged pen. Then again, Father Catich has shown that it is possible to make sans serif letters with a broad-edged brush. And John Stevens, one of the foremost calligraphers alive today, has demonstrated that it is possible to use such a brush to make both Imperial and Republican capitals (see the top line in the image below)*. So it is possible that the change of tool had no impact on the form of the letters. If so, then what did?

*the second line shows Renaissance capitals imitated by a broad-edged brush.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What’s Online no. 3: The Catich Collection

The recent comment by James Mosley re: Father Catich and W.R. Lethaby led to a discussion between us about what Father Catich’s sources were. That prompted me to see if any of Father Catich’s research materials for his books on the Trajan Inscription survive. I knew that St. Ambrose University, the school in Davenport, Iowa, where he that he taught had a collection of his inscriptions, calligraphy and other artistic works since I had been in touch with the archivist years ago. When I went online to see what else might be listed I discovered that the school had digitized the Catich material and made it available online as The Catich Collection. The website is

Poking around the site last week I failed to find what I was looking for: photographs, drawings and notes regarding inscriptions made by Father Catich during his stay in Rome in the 1930s. Typing in “letters” in the search engine lead me to one page in a 1935 sketchbook, one page in a 1936 sketchbook and one page in a 1940 sketchbook. The first (sample 1) consists mainly of pencil drawings of versals and textura capitals; the second (sample 1) has a reference to the Trajan Column but no sketches of letters; and the third (sample 8) is a spread about Hebrew letters. I also got two hits for a 1960 sketchbook which were more relevant. The first (sample 10) is a sequence of letter Hs in which Catich is clearly trying out his notion of how the minuscule h developed from the capital form. The second (sample 16) is a spread containing notes on the notion that the inscription’s letters were designed with perspective in mind. In general, the sketchbooks are filled with amateurish drawings of religious figures rather than with letters.

However, on other pages in the 1960 sketchbook there are notes about key works on writing, the alphabet, inscriptions and related sources—including the many Catich cites and lambastes in his books—as well as this intriguing note on sample p. 15:

‘The Pen, as a substitute for the brush, did not come into general use in Egypt until Roman times (after 30 B.C.), although it was used by the Gks. towards the end of the 3rd century B.C. Composed of the reed Phragmites Aegyptiaca, it was pointed at one end & it[s] normal length when new appears to have been abt. six inches.”

Similar notes appear on sample pp. 5 and 12. A few scribbled Imperial capitals appear on sample p. 4.

While The Catich Collection is—so far—a disappointment for anyone looking for the material that Catich used to develop his theories about the origin of the serif and the notion that the broad-edged brush was the tool that determined the basic form of the Trajanic letter, there is much to enjoy in it. There are numerous alphabet stones carved and painted by Catich. Most are Trajanic in style. Some (like Calligraphic Slate BOH 1335) include the basic brush strokes Catich believed underlay the Imperial capitals. An exception is Calligraphic Slate BOH 1322, a gothic/grotesque alphabet. Presumably Catich made it to demonstrate how the broad-edged brush could be used to produce a sans serif letter in the manner of signpainters.

There are also broadsides that explore the Trajanic capitals and their component strokes. See Calligraphy Broadsides 18 and 24 for instance. These broadsides show off Catich’s mastery of the broad-edged brush—as well as his love of pastel colors. Mixed in with the broadsides are two short video clips of him demonstrating writing with the broad-edged brush and also one of him making a rubbing of an inscription. They were done c.1969 and are extremely brief. Finally, a search for letters turns up a series of “illuminated initial letters” Catich produced in which Trajanic capitals are combined with figures. The figures are decidedly contemporary as there are swimmers, hockey players, football players, skiers other athletes alongside various animals and religious figures. However, nos. 009 and 019, a Roman ordinator (making an S) and a Roman stonecutter (making an I and T), stand out. They appear to be the artwork for drawings in Catich’s book on the origin of the serif.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tutorial no. 2—Addendum no. 2 Castle William and A Sure Faust

Here are two examples of lettering that I came across recently that illustrate good and bad flourishing. The bad example is from Fort William on Governor’s Island, the former Coast Guard facility that is now open to ordinary New Yorkers. The good example (A Sure Faust) is from a storefront near Raffetto’s on West Houston Street in Manhattan.

The Fort William inscription—unfortunately poorly painted—has crude curves and a tailpiece whose spiral gets tangled up at the end rather than finishing with a burst of vivacity. Part of the crudity of the curves is due to the medium, but clearly the stonecutter was not of the first rank.

A Sure Faust has been rapidly written on glass, probably with some kind of soap. The verve of the writer can still be felt in the flourishes on the e in “Sure” and t in “Faust” as well as with the underscore. These flourishes show how important body movement (whether it be fingers, hand, elbow or shoulder) is to achieving graceful and lively strokes. As so often happens with spontaneous gestures, the writing is not perfect. The first word (“A”) is only decipherable in context and the overlap between the S and F is too tight. But A Sure Faust—what does that mean?—is still a burst of sunshine on a cloudy day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

From the Archives no. 11: Woman’s Work?

This is a post that owes a big debt of thanks to Caitlin Dover, my former colleague at Print magazine. She is doing research on 19th c. signs in New York City and came across this intriguing reference to women signpainters. It is in The Employments of Women: A Cyclopaedia of Woman’s Work by Virginia Penny (Boston: Walker, Wise & Co., 1863), pp. 471–472. The entry, one of a long list of potential professions for women that defiantly avoids gender stereotyping, says in its entirety:

No. 508. Sign painting requires a long, steady, and regular apprenticeship. It requires also a correct eye and a steady hand. In large cities, sign and ornamental painting can be made a distinct branch of painting; but in a town or village it is combined with carriage or house painting, as one individual seldom has enough sign and ornamental painting to keep him constantly occupied. It is not more necessary for a painter to know how to mix the paints, and use judgment and taste in the selection of colors, than to form letters according to geometrical proportions. A painter must measure, more by the eye than a rule, the size and arrangement of letters in a given space. Good painters receive $3, $4, and $5 a day for their work, but generally are paid by the piece. When paid by the week, and they work regularly, they receive from $12 to $15 a week. Mrs. K, New York, says in Dublin there are many families that devote themselves to sign painting, but she knows of none in this country except her own. She employs a man to grind paints, put up signs, &c.,—also to paint out-of-door signs, that is, such as must be painted on the building. Her two daughters paint all the signs that are to be put up. Some of the large signs above stores in New York have been painted by them. They are paid as good prices as men. Her daughters received their instruction and advice from their father. In that way they acquired maturity of judgment and nicety of hand. Judgment needs to be exercised in regard to size and space, and artistic taste in ornamenting. A sign painter told me that superior workers can earn from $3 to $15 a day, if they have sufficient employment. Many house and other painters, in cities, profess to paint signs, but in reality have it done. Germans do much of it in New York, because they do it cheaply, but many of them do not execute their work well. It is customary to have an apprentice three years and pay the usual terms, $2.50 a week, the first year. A boy, during the first year, mostly grinds paints, goes errands, &c. Spring is the most busy season. Painting in oils is not neat work. A sign and carriage painter writes me: ‘The work is unhealthy on account of the poisonous vapors and dust. It requires two or three years to learn, and one must have a great deal of practice. A common education, natural taste, and a correct eye are the qualifications needed. Many parts of it are very easy and pleasant. Some parts might be done by women.’ The business pays best in large towns and cities. An ornamental painter writes me: ‘Women are employed in sign painting in England, France, Germany, and Belgium. The time required to learn would depend on the taste or genius of the individual. The qualifications requisite are those of an artist in a less degree.’ B., an emblematic sign painter, thinks the employment very suitable for females, but supposes there are better openings in other cities than New York. It requires two or three years to learn all the different branches well. During the first year a learner could not support herself, but after that could, if she had a taste for it, was industrious, and received enough orders to keep her busy.

It would be interesting to know how many women were employed as sign painters in New York City and other major American cities in the 19th century. As in the printing industry did they enter the profession through husbands or fathers? The three female sign painters specifically cited here apparently did so. Did that make them unique? There is much exciting research to be done.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Father Catich and the Serif: An Emendation


This is from your note on Cramsie’s book:

p. 43 “Some historians have linked the invention of the Roman serif to the carver’s chisel…. Another more recent theory has linked it to the invention of a square-cut writing implement; not a reed or quill, but a flat brush….”
[Father E.M. Catich should be identified as the author of the second theory which is now the preferred one.]

In saying this, like many others you do some injustice to W. R. Lethaby, who in his: ‘Editor’s preface’ to Edward Johnston, Writing and illuminating and lettering (London, John Hogg, 1906), pp. x-xi, has this:

“The Roman characters which are our letters today, although their earlier forms have only come down to us cut in stone, must have been formed by incessant practice with a flat, stiff brush, or some such tool. This disposition of the thicks and thins, and the exact shape of the curves, must have been settled by an instrument used rapidly; I suppose, indeed, that most of the great monumental inscriptions were designed in situ by a master writer, and only cut in by the mason, the cutting being merely a fixing, as it were, of the writing, and the cut inscriptions must always have been intended to be completed by painting.”

Lethaby was certainly the true ‘author’ of the theory.

James Mosley

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What’s Online no. 2: German Propaganda Archive

At TypeCon 2010 in Los Angeles last month I bought a copy of Der Schulungsbrief, a Nazi publication because it was dated January 1940 and I was curious about its typography. Unfamiliar with the periodical I Googled it and—to my surprise—came across an entire section of a website devoted to it. See operated by Prof. Randall Bytwerk of Calvin College, a specialist on Nazi propaganda. Der Schulungsbrief was a Nazi Party monthly magazine intended for political education. It presented Nazi ideology to the masses.

Prof. Bytwerk reproduces the covers of issues from 1942 to 1944. The mastheads are handlettered in uncial and roman. My copy, devoted to the history of the German army—complete with a reproduction of a painting of George Washington at Valley Forge and an article on the Hessians who aided the colonists’ fight against the British Empire—has a masthead (fig. 1) handlettered in schaftstiefelgrotesk, the mechanical version of textura that became popular from 1933 onwards. The interior is set in a Baroque fraktur, probably Walbaum Fraktur except for headlines in Gotenburg Halbfett by Friedrich Heinrichsen (D. Stempel, 1937). The inside front cover, entitled “Der Daxelhofen” by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (1825–1898), is set in Claudius (Klingspor, 1937) by Rudolf Koch. (The typeface was cut by Koch’s son Paul and issued posthumously.) The opening page (fig 2), with a greeting from the Führer, has the masthead excellently handlettered in a style mimicking Gotenburg Halbfett which is a typeface more stripped down than the standard textura but not as harsh as Element, National, Deutschland and other typical schaftstiefelgrotesk typefaces. The text of the greeting is in Koch’s Maximilian (Klingspor, 1913–1914). Heinrichsen (1901–1980) was a student of Koch’s at the Technischen Lehranstalt Offenbach. The back cover of Der Schulungsbrief depicts a German knight with a banner above his head bearing a quotation from Friedrich Schlegel written out in a Koch-influenced textura. Although Koch had nothing to do with the Nazis their publications often used typefaces that he or his students designed.

The discrepancy in typographic (and calligraphic) style between my copy of Der Schulungsbrief and Prof. Bytwerk’s copies is explained by the fact that on January 3, 1941 Martin Bormann issued a circular that claimed “in reality the so-called gothic script consists of Schwabacher-Jewish letters” and that henceforth “roman is to be designated as the standard letter” in the Reich.

Prof. Bytwerk’s post on Der Schulungsbrief is part of his larger website called the German Propaganda Archive whose “goal is to help people understand the great systems of the twentieth century by giving them access to primary material.” To further this aim there is a section called Visual Material which includes Nazi-era posters, racial wall charts, propaganda postage stamps, uniforms, etc. This section is a treasure trove for graphic design historians and in a future post I will talk more about this.

Archeology in New York: Missing Subway Map Revealed

Recently, there has been buzz because a Vignelli subway map has been discovered in situ in the New York City subway system at the IND station at 57th Street and Sixth Avenue (F train). Nicholas Hall posted a photograph of the map on September 10th on his Flickr site:

Then it was blogged about on Gothamist on September 16th by Jen Carlson who noted that it had appeared on the Forgotten New York website back in 1999:,%20outdated/oldsigns.html

Carlson’s description of the map as a redesign of “George Salomon’s New York Subway map” is incorrect since there were other subway maps in use by the NYCTA between 1958 when Solomon’s first appeared and 1972 when the Vignelli map was introduced (not the “late 1960s” as Kevin Walsh of Forgotten New York says). Details on the various iterations of the subway map will appear in Peter B. Lloyd’s book on the history of the New York City subway maps that is now in progress.

In 1999 Walsh noted that the Vignelli map was behind plexiglas and behind a modern map which apparently accounted for its survival. When I checked out the map two days ago it was exposed without any plexiglas or other protection (unlike the other side of the pylon where a contemporary subway map was displayed behind glass). It is also, as shown in the Hall photograph, in considerably worse shape than it was a decade ago—further torn and peeling. But it is still there, which in itself is a miracle.

The map is not from 1972 even though the basic design is. My examination of it revealed that the text of the key at the top and the various individual subway stops are all set in Trade Gothic rather than in Helvetica. This means the map is a later version that was “designed” by Diamond National, the company responsible in those years for printing the subway maps. [Greg D’Onofrio of Kind Company has pointed out to me since this post first went up that close examination of the 1999 Flickr photograph shows a date of August [xx] 1974 in the lower right hand corner. I had guessed at a date of 1976.]

Attached are some photographs of the map, including details where the difference in typefaces should be evident. Helvetica still survives as the typeface for major information such as the names of the boroughs.

Sic transit gloria.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 1979 New York Subway Map: A Question of Authorship, Part II

“I thus decided to designate the 1979 map as the Tauranac-Hertz map”

Your reasoning is impeccable, but the semiotics may not communicate the reasoning clearly. The priority of names may be taken to imply priority of design. (Hertz complains of being “at the arse end of the hyphen”.) I prefer the neutral name “1979 MTA map”, which I believe Tauranac and Hertz find acceptable.

You quote from your book, “Conceived by John Tauranac; designed and executed by Michael Hertz Associates” and then say you are revising this as “While Tauranac played a vital role in the development of the map he neither conceived of it nor did he design it.”

What is it to ‘conceive’ a subway map? I know what it means to conceive a feature—the geographic realism (Tauranac), or the distortion of the geography to give enough space for the subway lines (Hertz), or the trunk-based color coding (Tauranac), or a particular way of doing this (Nobu Siraisi), or a set of trunk colors (Siraisi & Hertz), or the rush-hour express symbolism (Sirais),or the service table (Joe Korman) etc. To say that anyone conceived the whole map would imply that one individual conceived all the major design features. As far as I can see, nobody conceived the whole map, neither did anybody design the whole map. The map evolved through the interaction of the members of the committee and Michael Hertz Associates, as well as through the feedback from Bronzaft’s field tests and questionnaires, and the interaction with Phyllis Cerf Wagner.

It seems more apt to say that the 1979 MTA map grew organically, than that it was conceived, designed, and executed.

For the record: John Tauranac was ‘Chairman of the Subway Map Committee’ & ‘Project Manager’ for the the new map. The designations ‘chief designer’ or ‘design chief’ were later informal descriptive terms. Mike Hertz was hired by the MTA as ‘Design Consultant’. Nobu Siraisi was hired by Hertz as ‘Art Director’.


“The impetus for a new map began with the work of Stephen B. Dobrow, Bronzaft and Tim O’Hanlon who field-tested the Vignelli map in 1972 and 1973. The results of their tests led to the formation in 1976 of the Subway Map Committee”

This has been claimed by Bronazft and Dobrow but I have seen no official documentation on the instigation of the Subway Map Committee—its remit or the reason for its inception. Known facts are: Bronzaft carried out the study in 1972/73, and by the end of 1973 was sending preprints to public officials; in 1974 Tauranac joined the MTA and found in William Allinson a senior figure who shared his desire for geographic maps; during 1974-75 the MTA guidebook ‘Seeing NY’ was produced, in which Tauranac did the cartographic design of a new geographic map subway map, and Mike Hertz was hired for the graphic design; as soon as that finished at the end of 1975, Tauranac and Hertz were assigned to Wilkinson’s committee. I see four factors triggering the committee:
(a) David Yunich & Fred Wilkinson (ex Macy’s men) pushing new marketing methods for the MTA. (The map was seen by many people as a marketing tool primarily, and as a wayfinding tool secondarily.)
(b) Allinson advocating a geographic subway map at a senior TA level.
(c) Tauranac successfully completing the new geographic subway map in ‘Seeing NY’.
(d) Bronzaft & Dobrow firing off their study. (With due publicity: Bronzaft had been appointed by Mayor Lindsay to a transit Watchdog Committee; Dobrow was head of the Committee for Better Transit).
So, the Bronzaft-Dobrow report only added to the impetus to set up the committee.


“its first iteration of the new map in the Spring of 1978”

That was the 3rd of 4 prototypes that were exposed to the public: a 3-color map in May 1976; another 3-colour map, probably June 1976; a 1-color map at Cityana in February 1978; a 2-color map at Cooper Union in April 1978.

Peter B Lloyd

The 1979 New York City Subway Map: A Question of Authorship, Part I


Thanks for your posting on the 1979 subway map, which focuses attention on the difficult question of authorship.

A subway map comprises several connected elements, which may have resulted from distinct design decisions, by different individuals or voted by a committee. The 1979 MTA map was produced by a committee of 12 people plus 3 staff at Michael Hertz Associates, working for almost 3.5 years (Nov 1975 to Jun 1979). During this time the chair changed (Fred Wilkinson to John Tauranac), several prototypes were produced and rejected; and the MTA fundamentally changed the terms of reference by deciding that it would, after all, pay for the changes of signage that would ensue from a change of color-coding of subway routes -- thereby enabling a major shift of map design from route-coloring to trunk-coloring. The notion that one person had a ‘big vision’ and everything else fell into place without needing further creative design activity would be mistaken.

The problem is exacerbated by the lack of detailed minutes and other documentation and the fading of memories of committee members over the intervening 35 years. The best that one can do is to sketch a plausible story based on fragments of documentation and triangulate different memories. This is what I have been doing in my spare time for the past few years. The best that I can come up with is an enumeration of design elements and a reasonable account of by whom, when, how, and why each decision was taken.

Another complexifying factor is the distinction between ‘cartographic design’ and ‘graphic design’. Some decisions have to do with the business purpose of the map, such as whether or not to include commuter lines (LIRR, ConRail, Amtrak). Other decisions have to do with the graphical representation, such as what set of colors to apply to the subway routes. So, when you write of who ‘designed’ the map, I fear that this conflates two different questions about the cartographic design and the graphic design. (It seems that within the design profession, a 'client' specifies the ‘requirements’ that a product must meet; and the ‘designer’ then designs a product that in some elegant and efficient way fulfils those requirements. In the development of the 1979 map, the MTA clearly had a role as a client specifying very high level requirements. But the committee straddled both roles of elaborating the detailed requirements as well as taking some of the design decisions.) In broad terms, the cartographic design was done collectively by the committee (led by Tauranac) and the graphic design was done by Michael Hertz Associates (led by Hertz). But the boundaries were blurred: the committee not only gave direction as to the cartographic design that was to be executed, but also gave specific instructions on graphical details (e.g. it is minuted that the use of London-style transfer symbols was stipulated by Tauranac). On the other hand, Mike Hertz himself was on the committee and took part in its discussions and votes. And occasionally map design ideas would arise from the graphic design team: for example, Siraisi came up with a way to express the peak-hour express trains, which is really an addition to the cartographic design. All of which suggests to me that it is not possible to make a clear distinction between the cartographic design and the graphic design of the 1979 MTA map.

As you kindly mentioned, I am writing a book on the history of the Subway Map, which (God willing) will be finished next year. Meanwhile the positive reception (and reprint!) of your magnificent book on the subway signage is an encouragement to me to keep on with this project in the belief that there may be an audience for it.

Peter B Lloyd

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What’s Online no. 1: Display

For years website designers Greg D’Onofrio and Patricia Belen of Kind Company (, best known for the design of the website Alvin Lustig 1915–1955: Modern Design Pioneer (, have been assiduously collecting examples of modern design from old books and periodicals to corporate brochures and other ephemera. Instead of hoarding their wealth of material, they have decided to generously share it with the rest of the world through Display, their new website (

Greg and Patricia are doing this not by slapping items up willy-nilly on Flickr but by creating Display, a website that seeks to maintain high editorial and curatorial standards. Thus, the items they post are fully sourced with information (where known or relevant) on title, client, designer, year, dimensions, page count, language and production method. Descriptions, most short but some the length of mini-essays, accompany each item. Their writing, echoing the spare aesthetic they appreciate in modernist design, is simple, intelligent and accessible. The mini-essays are accompanied by bibliographies that go beyond the usual second-hand sources.

The vast majority of the material on Display is largely unfamiliar, indicating how wide-ranging modernism was in the nearly forty years between the end of World War II and the birth of desktop publishing. Much of it is either the work of lesser-known designers or the lesser-known work of well-known designers. Among the former are Robert Büchler, Yves Zimmermann, and Fridolin Müller in Switzerland; Aldo Calabrese, Giulio Confalonieri and Lora Lamm in Italy; and Tomás Gonda, Manfred Winter and Hans G. Conrad in Germany. Among the latter are designs for the Carlyle Johnson Machine Company by Ladislav Sutnar, for Kaopectate by Lester Beall, and for General Electric by Herbert Bayer.

Two of the recent posts, the first devoted to the TM (Typographische Monatsblätter) covers of Yves Zimmermann and the second to advertising work from Pirelli, exemplify the strengths of Display. Zimmermann (b.1937), a protege of Emil Ruder, is absent from the sections on Swiss design in Meggs and the other graphic design surveys, yet his 1960 TM covers (seven designed, but only two published) are refreshing in their poetic spareness. The Pirelli advertisements—from a range of designers, including Bob Noorda and Alan Fletcher—represent a broader notion of modernism, one that is more playful and visually alluring. Once again, none of this work appears in the histories of graphic design.

This is what makes Display and similar sites such as Grain Edit ( the future of graphic design history* rather than the competing tomes of Philip Meggs and Alston Purvis, Johanna Drucker and Emily McVarish, Roxane Jubert, Stephen Eskilson, and Patrick Cramsie. This is how those who have been overlooked will finally get their due. But it will only happen if others with similar passions and—equally important—a devotion to detail, share their graphic design collections online. Display covers only a small slice of the graphic design world. There is a lot more of it yet to be explored.

*Of course, the site is not all altruistic. There is a bookstore section ( where some of Greg and Patricia’s collection is for sale. Their prices are neither cheap nor stratospheric. But for those who cannot afford even those books priced as low as $100, the pictures in the collection section of Display are a welcome consolation.

Erhard Ratdolt’s 1486 type specimen

Patrick Cramsie is correct and I was wrong. The first known type specimen sheet, dated April 1486, was issued by Erhard Ratdolt at Augsburg (Germany). Only one copy survives. See Annals of Printing: A Chronological Encyclopedia by W. Turner Berry and H. Edmund Poole (London: Blandford Press, 1966), p. 56 which reproduces the sheet. It shows a decorated initial A in the white-vine style common in Paduan and Florentine manuscripts of the time, ten sizes of rotunda faces, three sizes of roman, and one of greek. The colophon reads:

Indicis characterum diversarum manerierum impressioni paratarum: Finis.

Erhardi Ratdolt Augustensis viri solertissinu: preclaro ingenio et mirifica arte: qua olim Venetiis excelluit celebratissimus. In imperiali nunc urbe Auguste vindelicorum laudatissime impressioni dedit. Anno quam salutis. M. CCCC. LXXXVI. Calendarium. Aprilis Sidere felici compleuit.

[I hope I have correctly written out the abbreviated Latin words.]

About Blue Pencil

Some people have misunderstood the lengthy postings about books on Blue Pencil as book reviews. They are not. The original impetus behind Blue Pencil was to provide detailed dissections of the shortcomings, both authorial and editorial, of books in the field of design, beginning with those devoted to the history of graphic design. The postings are intended to be the digital equivalent of the editor who, in the heyday of the 20th century, wielded a blue pencil with a vengeance to insure that a manuscript was fit for publication.

Blue Pencil exists because publishers today are abrogating their duty. Editors are focusing more on acquiring manuscripts than editing them, proofreaders are being replaced by spellchecking software, and fact checkers are becoming obsolete. Blue Pencil is stepping into this void. It is a form of consumer protection for teachers and students who need the books it dissects.

In parsing books Blue Pencil looks for factual, orthographical, grammatical and typographic errors and, on occasion, conceptual shortcomings. The latter is not the principal focus of a book’s dissection, but there are times when a comment or two in that direction is unavoidable. The goal of Blue Pencil is not to indicate whether or not a book in question is good or bad overall—though the number of errors in it is certainly a strong factor in such an assessment.

The graphic design history books that have been put under the Blue Pencil microscope are all worth owning in various degrees. Each brings a different perspective to bear on the subject and provides material not found in the others. Eventually, Blue Pencil plans to provide a more direct comparison of these books as well as others not yet dissected (including all four volumes of A History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs).

Blue Pencil postings are time consuming. The most recent one on The Story of Graphic Design by Patrick Cramsie took over 64 hours to prepare—and it was the easiest of them all so far. This is my method: 1. I read the book and take longhand notes on its content as well as on any perceived errors; 2. I type up the errors I think I have found; 3. I reread the book to verify the errors I believe I have found and to look for others I may have missed; 4. I check the errors against information in books (using my personal library as well as the New York Public Library and the libraries at Columbia University) and on the Internet; and 5. I post my findings (including last minute adjustments) on the blog. After all this work I am sure that there are errors I have missed and worried that those I have identified are not errors after all. Blue Pencil is assuredly not perfect.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blue Pencil no. 10—The Story of Graphic Design

The Story of Graphic Design: from the Invention of Writing to the Birth of Digital Design

Patrick Cramsie

New York: Abrams and London: The British Library, 2010

p. 23 “graphe” should have an grave accent on the final e

p. 23 “constantcy” [is this a Britishism or misspelling?]

p. 25 “distiction” should be “distinction”

fig. 2.6 Scribal palette and brushes[,] c.15,500–14,500BC the image should be larger; as it is, the objects are not clear

p. 33 “A red quartzite statue made in Egypt between 750 and 712BC (fig. 2.7) shows the classic pose of an Egyptian scribe….”

[The statue in fig. 2.7 is green, not red.]

fig. 2.16 Trajan’s Column, Rome, c.AD113 this photograph of the Trajan Column should be next to the detail of the inscription on the column in fig. 2.19 rather than on separate pages (pp. 40 and 42).

fig. 2.18 Rustic capitals, c.AD730 the example of rustic shown is a Carolingian version (8th c.) which is quite different from the original Roman rustic of the 1st c. and after that is the subject of the text on p. 41.

p. 43 “Some historians have linked the invention of the Roman serif to the carver’s chisel…. Another more recent theory has linked it to the invention of a square-cut writing implement; not a reed or quill, but a flat brush….”

[Father E.M. Catich should be identified as the author of the second theory which is now the preferred one.]

p. 51 “This Lindisfarne scribe did not write with the standard Roman uncial script….”

[Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne was the scribe and his name should be mentioned]

p. 52 “The compass and divider marks on the back of the pages show how an ordered symmetry of repeated rectangular units underpins the [Lindisfarne Gospels’ carpet] page’s apparently free-form design.”

[why not diagram the underlying grid of the design in fig. 3.6?]

pp. 54–55 [in the discussion of the Caroline or Carolingian minuscule and the writing reforms initiated under Charlemagne there is no mention of Alcuin of York who was responsible for them; there is also no full image of a page from a Carolingian manuscript, such as the Grandval Bible, to show the full effect of Alcuin’s reforms and why Carolingian manuscripts are so visually different from their medieval successors.]

fig. 3.12 Glossed Bible, France, thirteenth century

[the single image is not sufficient to show the complex layouts that characterize Parisian glossed Bibles; a second page with a different columnar arrangement would show how the gloss and the main text changed in tandem. Although the image is small, fig. 3.13 (on the following page) provides a welcome detail.]

p. 63texturalis rotunda” should be “textualis rotunda”

fig. 4.1 Forme of type for Mainz Psalter, 1463 [this forme of type for the Mainz Psalter must be a re-creation or recasting and not the actual type that Fust and Schoeffer used. There is no mention of it on the website of the Gutenberg Museum which is where Cramsie indicates he obtained his image.]

p. 69 “The quotation here [below the image of St. Christopher] is followed by the date 1423, which may be when the woodcut was made, rather than when it was printed.”

fig. 4.5 Buxheim St Christopher, Italy, after 1423

[based on the discussion in the text (see above), this date should be “1423 or after”; Drucker & McVarish (2008), p. 65 accept the date of 1423.]

figs. 4.6, 4.8, 4.9 and others should be larger so that details (especially of lettering or type) may be more easily seen.

p. 72 “Gutenberg was not the only person from this time to be heralded as the inventor of printing. A few have argued that he stole the idea and the tools to execute it from a Dutch printer.”

[Why not identify Laurens Janszoon Coster here rather than relegating him to a note on p. 330?]

fig. 4.13 Mainz Psalter, Peter Schoeffer, 1457 is dark; compare it to the reproduction in Meggs (2006), p. 75 (which might be too bright).

p. 77 “What was even more unique [about the Mainz Psalter by Fust and Schoeffer] was the inclusion of a third color, blue, or in some instances, grey [in the large woodcut initial B].”

What is the source for the assertion that some copies have gray as the third color? None of the books I have nor online sources mentions a color other than blue.

fig. 4.14 Papal bull, title page, Peter Schoeffer, Mainz, 1463

[The subject of the bull by Pius II, a rejection of conciliarism in favor of papalism, would be worth mentioning since it helped pave the way for Martin Luther and the Reformation.]

p. 78 “The small rounded Gothic type [in Johan Zainer’s 1473 edition of “De mulieribus claris” by Giovanni Boccaccio] is less compact than the more angular and tighter Gothic of earlier incunabula. It gives the text area a lightness and an airiness, which is added to by the wider interlinear spacing….”

[online sources (except Wikipedia) give the title of the Boccaccio work as “De claris mulieribus”]

[This aesthetic description/discussion of what is a rotunda type used by a German printer might be explained by the subject: was Zainer choosing an “Italian” type to go with an Italian author (and a vernacular text) or was this the only typeface he had? This book influenced William Morris and his Kelmscott Press books (and Troy typeface) and some foreshadowing of that would be welcome.]

fig. 4.17 ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy’, printed by William Caxton, Bruges, c.1473/4

[The missing initial should be noted.]

p. 79 “Caxton had translated it [The Recuyell of the Histories of Troy] himself from French before printing it in Bruges around 1473/4. The text was printed with type that had been specially made for the book. Its design was based on the Gothic bâtarde script, which had been popular in manuscripts produced for the Burgundian court (

[It should be pointed out that bâtarde was the type used by Colard Mansion, Caxton’s Bruges master, and that it was a type associated with the vernacular.]

fig. 5.2 Printed and illuminated book, Milan, 1490 is murky; why is there no credit for the printer or an identification of the text? p. 340 identifies the book as “Sforziada di Giovanni Simoneta”. It is the Sforziada, or life of Francesco Sforza, written by Giovanni Simoneta and illuminated by Giovan Pietro Birago.]

p. 85 “Italy was the first country to receive the German invention of printing (two German printers set up a press in the town of Subiaco, outside Rome….”

[Why not identify Conrad Swenheym and Arnold Pannartz?]

p. 85 the discussion of littera antiqua does not mention Poggio Bracciolini, the most important figure in its development, nor is there an image of the script. The emphasis on Felice Feliciano in the revival of the Imperial Roman capital neglects far more important figures such as Mantegna, Bartolomeo Sanvito and Andrea Bregno.]

pp. 85–86 “He [Nicolaus Jenson] sought out the best examples of incised capitals and littera antiqua and then adapted them so expertly that, despite his type being one of the earliest roman types, it is still regarded as one of the finest (fig. 5.4).”

[It should be noted that Jenson’s types bear little resemblance in their capitals to Roman incised capitals and that despite many authors claiming a kinship between his minuscules and the littera antiqua (or humanist bookhand) no one has yet identified an example that is similar other than in the most general way. Gerrit Noordzij has suggested that Jenson’s roman is actually influenced more by textura. See in “Gothic” by Noordzij in Alphabet (vol. 26, no. 3 Spring 2001), pp. 21–26.]

p. 87 “Griffo’s first ‘Aldine’ type was a roman based on Jenson’s type, but with some of the calligraphic qualities removed.”

[This is contrary to the standard view of the relationship between Griffo’s type and Jenson’s in which the former is considered to represent a decisive break from the latter. For instance, A.F. Johnson (following Stanley Morison), says, “It may be noted that the Aldine capitals are inscriptional, like the lettering of classical Rome as found, for instance on the Arch of Trajan [this is in Ancona and is not to be confused with the Column of Trajan in Rome]. The slab serifs of Jenson’s M and of the A and N of other early romans are now discarded.” See Type Designs: Their History and Development (2nd ed.) by A.F. Johnson (London: Grafton & Co., 1959), p. 41. The differences between the two designs are summarized in A View of Early Typography Up to About 1600 by Harry Carter (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 72. “…he [Griffo] drew on pre-Caroline scripts as the inspiration for a more authentic roman type that soon displaced the Jenson version.”]

fig. 5.8 Writing manual, Ludovico Arrighi, Rome, 1522

[The title La Operina should be included in the caption; the date of publication, although printed as 1522, is now believed to have been 1524. See Scribes and Sources by A.S. Osley (London: Faber & Faber, 1980) and The Practice of Letters by David P. Becker (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard College Library, 1997). The image is cropped at both left and right.]

fig. 5.9 Writing manual, Giovanni Palatino, Rome[,] 1561

[The title of the manual should be included: Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere; and the author’s name should be given in full: either Giovanni Battista (or Giovambattista) Palatino. Palatino’s book was first published in 1540 (which is not mentioned in the text on pp. 90–91), reprinted in 1543 and 1544, enlarged in 1545, reprinted in 1561, revised yet again in 1566 and then reprinted additional times. The date of 1561 is misleading even if it is accurate to the copy that Cramsie consulted.]

pp. 90–91 The discussion of Palatino’s writing book does not do justice to it. For a summary of the book and its pioneering aspects see Luminario: An Introduction to the Italian Writing-Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries by A.S. Osley (Nieuwkoop: Miland Publishers, 1972), pp. 57–58.

p. 90 “Ludovico Arrighi (1475–1527)” should be “Ludovico Arrighi (c.1490–1527)” ; Osley gives Arrighi’s date of birth as “about 1490” (p. 27).

p. 101 “Grandjean” should be “Granjon”

p. 107 “The style of type [of the title] mixes roman and italic… while Gothic is used for the rest of the text. A similar disregard for typographic purity and formal elegance was displayed in the way the text was positioned on the paper.” re: fig. 6.7 Broadside ballad, England, 1634

[Although the imposition is inept, the typography still appears to be “pure”. Roman, italic and gothic are all used in the King James Bible of 1611 (the italic sparingly, see Thessalonians 4:18 to 5:28 or Psalms 19…3 to 21:10). The roman and italic are matched and separated by an image from the gothic (textura). Roman is used in the latter to separate the chorus (“with a hey, etc.”) from the main text of the ballad.

p. 109 “was” should be “were”

pp. 111–112 the discussion of the romain du roi makes no mention of the role of Louis Simonneau (1654–1727) in engraving the master alphabets (shown in figs. 7.1 and 7.2) that Philippe Grandjean used as the basis for cutting the typeface. He is also left out of the captions of the two figures.

fig. 7.2 Engraved roman and italic capitals, Imprimerie Royale, Paris, 1716 is too small

p. 117 Caslon types are discussed here but neither here nor earlier is there any discussion of Dutch types in Holland (e.g. by Christoffel van Dijck, Willem Blaeu, Dirk Voskens or Miklos Kis)

p. 118 “The influence of European typography on British printing… began to be reversed with the publication in 1775 of the first book [The Works of Virgil] to be issued from the press of the British printer John Baskerville (1706–1775).

fig. 7.10 ‘The Works of Virgil’, printed by John Baskerville, Birmingham, 1751

[the date of The Works of Virgil should be 1757]

pp. 119–120 the discussion of the influences on Baskerville’s type is in the right direction in looking to his experiences as a writing master and the effect of writing with a pointed quill and engraving letters in copper; however it fails to follow out this trail to the “Roman Print” in Bickham’s Universal Penman or to the “roman” in Alphabets in All Hands by George Shelley (1710).

p. 120 “The medium of copper engraving allowed the engraver to produce a greater range of thicknesses… and to make more elaborately curled lines since, unlike the penman, the engraver didn’t have to think about running out of dipped ink.”

[This statement underestimates the ability of writing masters to create elaborate flourishing despite the need to periodically re-dip their pens in ink. See the original work of Felix van Sambix (1553–1642) in the Special Collections of the Library of the University of Amsterdam or the work of Jean Larcher (b. 1947).]

pp. 120–121 the discussion of Bodoni’s types makes no mention of the fact that his earliest ones were imitations of those done by Pierre-Simon Fournier le jeune. It also fails to note that his mature types show a range of “styles” with more varied serif treatments and italics than are found in the contemporary work of Firmin Didot.

fig. 8.2 Astley’s playbill, 1877

[the date is a mistake since Andrew Ducrow (1793–1842) was deceased before 1877 (and the type styles would have been unfashionable. There is a pencilled note to the left of “ROYAL AMPHITHEATRE” indicating a date of 1827.]

[After the Tyndale Bible of 1526 Cramsie ignores the history of blackletter, including the Luther Bible of 1534 and the radical typefaces of Johan Friedrich Unger]

p. 124 “The cutting of wooden types was simplified during the second quarter of the century with the invention in America of the router, a mechanical cutter that could cut more quickly and precisely than a craftsman with his knives and gouges.”

[the discussion of wood types is very cursory and it fails not only to acknowledge Darius Wells as the individual who harnessed the router for the purpose of cutting wood type in 1828 but it leaves out the equally important role of William Leavenworth in joining the router to the pantograph in 1834, an act that allowed wood type letters to not only be made in a wide range of sizes but also to be stretched and condensed.]

and see American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period by Rob Roy Kelly (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969). The latter, one of the most important books on the history of type, is not in Cramsie’s bibliography.

fig. 8.6 Sanserif, British ‘One inch’ Ordnance Survey map, 1801

[the sans serif lettering in the map (e.g. ROMAN WALL and SEGEDUNUM) is difficult to locate; the caption or the main text (p. 126) should cite one or more words]

p. 126 “It [a smaller size of slab serif] even went on to become a style known in Britain as Clarendon. In the 1840s, this less monoline, somewhat condensed version of slab-serif was widely used for setting continuous lines of reading text.”

[There is no mention of Robert Besley and Benjamin Fox who created the first Clarendon in 1845 for the Fann Street Foundry. See Three Chapters in the Development of Clarendon/Ionic Typefaces by Mitja Miklavcic at]

p. 126 “Neo classical” [sic] is missing a hyphen [the spelling used elsewhere throughout the book]

fig. 8.8 Ornamented type, Louis John Pouchée, c.1822

fig. 8.9 Woodblock for letter Q shown opposite, c.1822

[the reduction of scale should be noted since in the fig. 8.8 there is one large Q and three smaller ones and in fig. 8.9 the lone Q is a third size; it would also help to indicate to the reader the large size of Pouchée’s letters.

p. 129 “Although Bewick did not invent wood engraving he developed and perfected it to such a degree that printers in Europe and America were also encouraged to exploit its potential.”

[If wood engraving was not invented by Bewick, then who deserves the credit? Joseph Cundall says “It is believed that Bewick was the first who used the wood of the box-tree, which is very hard, and who made his drawings on the butt-ends of the blocks, and cut his lines with the graver pushed from him. He brought into practice what is known as the ‘white line’ in wood-engraving; that is, he produced his effects more by means of many white lines wide apart to give an appearance of lightness, and by giving closer lines to produce a grey effect….” See A Brief History of Wood-Engraving from Its Invention (London: Sampson Low, Marston, & Company, Ltd., 1895).]

figs. 8.17 and 8.18 are too dark; unclear what the color of the latter is

p. 135 “The cover of this illustrated railway guide [fig. 8.17] shows a catholic mix of late-Renaissance ornamentation and varied styles of elaborate lettering….”

[The ornamentation is not late Renaissance ornament but more neoclassical or Empire style.]

pp. 133–135 the discussion of lithography makes no mention of Rudolph Ackermann, Charles Joseph Hullmandel (responsible for developing methods for reproducing tonal gradations and creating the effects of soft color washes), Godfroy Englemann (who patented chromolithography in 1937)or Currier & Ives.

fig. 9.2 Gothic modular type, V&J Figgins, c.1850

[These letters are not Gothic but closer in style to 19th c. Tuscans.]

pp. 141–145 the lengthy (and warranted) discussion of William Morris makes no mention of the influence of his calligraphic manuscripts on his activities with the Kelmscott Press; and the images fail to show any of the more common “plain” pages found in Kelmscott books (e.g. The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems by William Morris (1892) or Laudes Beatae Mariae Virginis by Stephen Langton (1896) or even most of the pages of the Kelmscott Chaucer. See]

p. 146 “One of the designers whose life as a maker of letters was guided by examples in [Edward] Johnston’s book [Writing & Illuminating & Lettering], was the German type designer Rudolf Koch (1876–1934). It is the first time that the word designer, as distinct from punch-cutter, type founder, printer or publisher can be used with real authority.”

[Frederic W. Goudy and Morris Fuller Benton both preceded Koch as a type designer by nearly a decade.]

p. 146 “Koch was employed to provide drawings of letter shapes which the foundry [Gebr. Klingspor] would convert into types for printing.”

[Koch did not make drawings for typefaces in the conventional sense; instead he created pen-and-ink calligraphic models for the Klingspor punchcutters to follow. This is one reason his typefaces have an organic unity not found in the work of his contemporaries. For examples of Koch’s “drawings” see Rudolf Koch: Letterer, Type Designer, Teacher by Gerald Cinamon (London: British Library and New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2000)]

fig. 9.11 Kochschrift, 1910; Maximilian, 1914; Wilhelm-Klingsporschrift, 1926; all designed by Rudolf Koch

[these are all digital versions of Koch’s fonts; they should not be used in this manner as they are not necessarily the same as the metal originals (which is definitely the case for Wilhelm-Klingsporschrift which has been outfitted with a modern k and x among other changes). The use of digital fonts as image for historical typefaces is unethical.]

p. 147 “The first type that Koch designed for the [Klingspor] foundry…—shown here as in all subsequent examples of type or typefaces, in a modern digital version….”

[Cramsie does not explain why he substitutes modern digital versions of fonts for past metal typefaces. There are only two possible explanations: 1. laziness, 2. cheapness. Certainly images of metal typefaces are readily available—and most are far more visually exciting than the bland digital alphabets he offers instead. If anyone doubts this, look at the two volumes of Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Visual Styles published by Taschen (and vetted elsewhere on Blue Pencil). And for Koch in particular there are some good examples of his typefaces available on Flickr.]

fig. 10.1 ‘Olympia’ poster designed by Jules Cheret, 1894

[the poster is signed ’92 and a date of 1982 is assigned to it by several sources. See'Olympia',-Boulevard-des-Capucines,-1892.html

p. 149 “The poster’s power was most actively demonstrated on the streets of Paris. The city’s boulevards and alleyways became lined with large and vibrantly colourful images.”

[Did Baron Hausmann’s renovation of Paris between 1852 and 1870 which created these boulevards have an influence on the emergence of the poster?]

p. 151 “Henri Van der Velde” should be “Henri van de Velde” (or “Henry van de Velde”); See

p. 155 “Another similar script-based logo is the monogrammatic form used by General Electric (fig. 10.8), whose elaborate initials were encircled and first placed on various electrical appliances in 1907.”

[the second logo in fig. 10.8 shows an encircled GE dated 1900]

p. 155 “Georges Auriol” should be “George Auriol”

p. 155 “The latter of the two books, his [François Thibaudeau’s] Manuel français de typographie moderne (‘French Manual of Modern Typography’), was the [sic] one the earliest manuals to feature specially made examples to guide the designer in laying out a page.”

pp. 155–156 Auriol’s most popular and enduring type design (it’s still possible to find examples of these letters on some of the signs for staircases leading down to the Paris Métro)….”

[The Métro lettering was by Hector Guimard and is not based on Auriol’s work. Guimard’s lettering for the Castel Béranger in 1898 already had sinuous Art Nouveau qualities. See and as well as photographs of the facade of the building.]

fig. 10.14 ‘Scottish Musical Review’ poster designed by Charles Rennie Mackkintosh, 1896

[there are other images that could better represent Mackintosh than this one, most notably something related to Miss Cranston’s Tea Room]

figs. 10.16 Cover, ‘Ver Sacrum’ magazine designed by Koloman Moser, 1899 and 10.17 ‘Ver Sacrum’, poster designed by Koloman Moser, 1902 show scale problems; the caption for the latter should say “Ver Sacrum V. Jahr”

p. 160“…the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), which [Koloman] Moser set up in 1903 with the Austrian designer Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956).”

[There is no mention here of the industrialist Fritz Wärndorfer who helped finance the Wiener Werkstätte (and who also provided a link to the Glasgow School).]

p. 160 “Hoffmann devised a set of symbols, which appeared on the workshop’s letterheads, invoices, cards, and supplementary items of publicity. His logo for the workshop was a rectangular rose (fig. 10.18)….”

[I have been unable to find a reliable source that confirms the attribution of the WW rose logo to Hoffmann. None of the sources I have on the Wiener Werkstätte mentions the design’s author at all. Werner J. Schweiger credits the intertwined WW logo to Moser and both he and Jane Kallir indicate that the marks for each WW artist were designed by the individuals themselves. See

Wiener Werkstätte: Design in Vienna, 1904–1932 by Werner J. Schweiger (New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), pp. 170–171; Viennese Design and the Wiener Werkstätte by Jane Kallir (New York: Galerie St. Etienne and George Braziller, 1986), p. 122.]

p. 161 It is disappointing that the only image representing Peter Behrens and his work for AEG, beyond iterations of the logo, is a detail of the facade of the AEG turbine factory that focuses on the logo (thus cropping out the innovative features of the building). A catalogue page showing his product design as well as his use of proto-grids and his own typeface would have been more effective.

p. 166 “Though the details of Bernhard’s early career have been confused by his own conflicting accounts, it appears that sometime around the age of 19 he made his first poster design for a competition sponsored by the Priester Match company (fig. 11.5).”

[If Bernhard was born in 1883 and the poster done c.1906 (as the caption to fig. 11.5 says) then Bernhard was 23 years old at the time. These dates are supported by Steve Heller at but says the poster is from 1905. However, Bernhard: Werbung und Design im Aufbruch des 20. Jahrhunderts by Hubert Riedel et al (Stuttgart: Institut fuur Auslandsbeziehungen e V., 1999) shows a different version of the poster (in a vertical format with four lines of text accompanying a different rendition of the Priester name) on pp. 13 and 21 with the date of 1903 and the familiar version on p. 61 with the date of 1915!]

fig. 12.2 ‘Un coup de dés’, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1914

p. 176 “…the use of a single typeface: a conventional literary Dutch/Transitional style of type….”

[The typeface is clearly a version of Caslon. This is based on viewing the Google Books online version of the 1914 NRF edition, which is the same as that pictured here. The title page, however, is set in the “Garamond” (actually a Jean Jannon design) released by Georges Peignot et Fils in 1912.]

fig. 12.8 ‘Blast’ magazine cover and inside designed by Wyndham Lewis, 1914

[who is Boehm? (see the inside page): “BLAST / pasty shadow cast by gigantic Boehm” and what is Putney? “…culminating in/ PURGATORY OF / PUTNEY”]

p. 180 there are no images to accompany the discussion of Marcel Duchamp’s work

p. 183 there are no images of De Stijl paintings to accompany the discussion of the work of Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg

The sequencing of chapter 13 Form and Function: Bauhaus & the New Typography, c.1919–c.1933 [why the circas?] and chapter 14 The Weight of Tradition: Traditional Typography, c.1910–1947 is odd; the initial date of the latter seems arbitrary as there is no single image or event in the text tied to it.

p. 189 there is no mention of the two schools —the Academy of Fine Art (Sächsiche Hochschule für Bildende Kunst) and the School of Applied Arts (Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule) in Weimar—that were merged to form the Bauhaus. This is important since it helps explain

the tension at the Bauhaus in the early years.

p. 192 “The once sacred slogan of ‘art and craft’ had now given way to the more modern mantra of Art and Industry—a New Unity.”

[“…the motto in 1919 had been ‘Art and craft—a new unity’.” See Bauhaus, 1919–1933 by Magdalena Droste (Cologne: Taschen, 2002), p. 58]

fig. 13.4 ‘Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar 1919–23’ exhibition catalogue cover, 1923 is dark; the title should be “Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar 1919–1923” and credit for its design should go to Herbert Bayer

pp. 188–201 there is no showing of any of the Bauhaus’ logos; their evolution encapsulates that of the school itself

figs. 13.5 Letterhead designed by László Moholy-Nagy, 1923 and 13.9 Bauhaus letterhead designed by Herbert Bayer, 1927 should be grouped together; also the Moholy-Nagy letterhead should be identified as being for the Bauhaus

p. 12 “Within graphic design as a whole, there are several areas with special attributes that set them apart from all others. To include them here would either have amounted to a series of token gestures or else have required the book to be extended dramatically. The items are as follows: information graphics….”

[Despite this caveat the book does include sporadic examples of information graphics such as fig. 13.17 Human chart from ‘International Picture Language’ by Otto Neurath, 1936 and several maps.]

p. 201 “hypocracy” should be “hypocrisy”


p. 201 “It is telling in its ignorance and hypocracy [sic] that long before the Nazis banned nearly all Modern art for being ‘un-German’, ‘Jewish’ and ‘Bolshevist’… the symbol they chose to represent their nationalist cause was a black geometric shape, the swastika… set on a white circle in a red rectangle. They are a combination of elements that would not have looked out of place on an early Bauhaus letterhead.”

[This discussion of the swastika ignores the modernist strain in Nazism as exemplified by Albert Speer and Hitler himself; as well as the history of the Nazi appropriation of the venerable symbol and its new design by Wilhelm Deffke. Among many sources, see The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? by Steven Heller (New York: Allworth Communications, Inc., 2000), pp. 67–68 which is not included in the bibliography. Also, the swastika is not pictured in any of its iterations.]

pp. 201–202 images of the work of Jan Tschichold are limited to the prospectus for Die neue Typographie and the 1937 konstruktivisten exhibition poster; an example of his pre-1925 calligraphic and typographic work would have been instructive

p. 202 “…[the prospectus for Die neue Typographie, fig. 13.18] is laid out asymmetrically in neat columns. And yet the short, thick vertical bar and the bottom column of text both sit outside the two-column grid established by the main text above. By subtly breaking out of a clear vertical alignment, Tschichold breathed life into an otherwise entirely formulaic design.”

[this analysis of the prospectus betrays a limited understanding of the subtleties at work in Jan Tschichold’s designs. In the prospectus there is only one column (justified) for the main text in the design. The right column (flush left, rag right) is a list of the book’s contents and the bottom column (justified) provides edition and production information about the book along with price. The latter is positioned to balance the other two columns (note that its width is determined by the length of the last line of the main text column). The short vertical bar is positioned between the first two columns and placed to call attention to the final paragraph of the main text which describes the intended audience for the book (the bar also signals that this is the end of the text and that it does not continue in the block of text below). The bar is echoed visually by Tschichold’s signature running vertically up the right side. The flush left/rag right contents column is “justified” by this signature, the block of production text, and the heading ‘Vozugs-Angebot’ with a thick rule at the upper right. All together, this prospectus is an incredibly subtle and sophisticated design that does not use a grid of any kind other than the inevitable one associated with a block or column of text.]

p. 203 “It is a study in contrasting pairs: the pair of rectangles, large and small, created by a thin bisecting horizontal line; the pair of circles, large grey [sic] and tiny black above; the pair of arrangements of small, light text, a single line above and a thin column below; and, lastly, the pair of lines of bold text in contrasting sizes. None of them derived their character from any overarching rationale, there is no apparent formula guiding their placement, and yet the tension generated between them and, also, between them and the edges of the poster, creates a dynamic harmony that reverberates throughout.”

[This is another inadequate analysis, one that is focused too much on what is on the surface. The description of pairs is fine (though the larger circle is yellow and not gray), but there are complex reasons why each item is placed where it is. There is no master grid (though Kimberly Elam has diagrammed the poster in Geometry of Design (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), p. 66. The yellow circle’s left edge aligns with the center line of the poster; the distance from the black dot to the bottom of the poster is the same as the distance from the top of the poster to the thin horizontal line; the black dot is aligned with the center of the yellow circle; the text following it provides the basis for the alignment and position of the column of names (which Tschichold makes sure does not extend beyond the word ‘konstruktivisten’; the distance between the ‘kunsthalle basel’ text is the basis for the other distances: twice as much for the date information following the black dot between it and the edge of the yellow circle and three times as much for the distance between the thin horizontal line and the column of names below it; the line length of the venue is half that of the title as well as the distance it is placed from the yellow circle; the title is located at the midpoint of the yellow circle (sitting on it as a baseline); the distance from the x-height of the title to the line matches the distance from the line to the x-height of the venue; and so on…. There is no system, only a careful calibration of ratios (and of weights of type and line) that make this poster so mesmerizing.]

fig. 13.20 Futura roman and italic, Paul Renner, 1927–30 the examples are digital; Futura came out in 1927 and the oblique was issued in 1930

p. 203 “As the demand for this new typeface [Futura] spread across Europe to the United States (where it was known as ‘Twentieth Century’ or ‘Spartan’) so its range of weights and condensed forms was expanded. By the end of the 1930s, Futura had become one of the most extensively used types of its time.”

[Neither Twentieth Century nor Spartan were American names for Futura. Both were knock-offs which varied from the original in various degrees depending upon the member of the family. Twentieth Century was issued by Monotype (beginning at some unspecified date in the 1930s) and Spartan was cooperatively done by American Type Founders and Mergenthaler Linotype between 1939 and 1955. For some details—though unfortunately not all—about these designs see American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century by Mac McGrew (New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Books, 1993), pp. 146–147 and 314–315.]

chapter 13 makes no mention of Der Ring neue Werbesgeltater

chapter 14 The Weight of Tradition: Traditional Typography c.1910–1947

[why begin with 1910 and end with 1947? 1910 can be justified as the date that ATF Bodoni was released, but Cramsie makes no mention of the typeface or Morris Fuller Benton, its designer, in his text. 1947 is clearly the year that Tschichold went to work for Penguin Books but 1949, the date of his departure, would make more sense as an end date. However, there are other end dates that might make more sense: 1951, the year of the Books for Our Time exhibition and catalogue or 1955, the year of the publication of Libor Librorum, a collection of page designs from the leading printers and book designers of the day in Europe and America.]

p. 205 “…the infamous Armory Show… which toured three eastern states in 1913, is remembered as much for the reaction it provoked as for the art it displayed. On the final night in Chicago….”

[Chicago is not in an eastern state]

p. 206 “The first composing machine to be developed sufficiently for commercial use was invented in the United States by a young German émigré, Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854–99), during the 1890s.”

p. 206 “Mergenthaler’s descriptively named Linotype (line-of-type) machine was patented in 1884 and first used commercially in 1886 by the New York Tribune….”

[these dates are confusing]

p. 206 “Both kinds of composing machine [Linotype and Monotype] provided the revival of traditional typography, which the Arts and Crafts [movement] had started, with a new impetus.”

[This is not true. Although each composing machine company needed new types, for decades their designs were mired in mediocrity and the machines were shunned by those in book publishing. It was not until 1913 that Monotype issued Imprint and Plantin, the company’s first revival; and not until 1915 that Mergenthaler Linotype produced Benedictine, its first historical design. Meanwhile Frederic W. Goudy was already doing new historical typefaces (Kennerley Old Style 1911 and Goudy Lanston 1912) and ATF had issued Bodoni in 1910 and Cloister (based on Jenson’s type) in 1913. ATF followed those with Baskerville in 1915 (roman matrices from Stephenson Blake and an original italic) and Garamond (really Jannon) in 1919. Stanley Morison’s ballyhooed “program” of revivals did not begin until 1922 with Garamond (Jannon again) in 1922 and Poliphilus in 1923. English Linotype belatedly joined the revival trend with Granjon (really Garamond) in 1929 and Estienne in 1930.]

fig. 14.3 Centaur, [sic] roman designed by Bruce Rogers, 1912 digital Centaur; the image also shows an unidentified italic which is Arrighi by Frederic Warde that is now misleadingly marketed as Centaur Italic

pp. 207–208 the discussion of the work of Bruce Rogers makes no mention of the concept of allusive book design

p. 208 “The version he [Bruce Rogers] made [of Centaur] with them [Monotype Corporation] was released in 1929 with an accompanying italic (not designed by Rogers)….”

[Frederic Warde, the designer of the accompanying italic, should be identified.]

p. 208 “…Goudy came to learn the subtleties of type design through the hand-craft traditions of the private press.”

[This is not true. Goudy learned type design through his long experience as a commercial artist specializing in lettering which preceded his involvement with private presses.]

p. 208 “In order to pursue this passion [for type design[ he [Goudy] started his own press and foundry in 1903.”

[Goudy started the Village Press in 1903 but did not add the Village Letter Foundery [note the spelling] until 1914. See Frederic Goudy by D.J.R. Bruckner (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990), p. 56.]

p. 208 Cramsie (like many others) does not fully understand the impact and importance of Goudy during his lifetime. Through his personality and work he spread the Morrisian gospel throughout the United States and his typefaces, especially Goudy Old Style (ATF, 1915), were used not only in books but in magazines and advertising. It may have been the first original design of the 20th c. to be so widely dispersed, preceding Futura, Times New Roman and Helvetica.

fig. 14.4 Examples of typefaces designed by Frederic Goudy: Kennerley [Old Style], 1911; Goudy Old Style, 1915; Deepdene, 1927 these are all digital versions

fig. 14.7 Perpetua roman and titling these are digital renditions; Perpetua is notoriously “thin” in its digital incarnation

fig. 14.9 New Johnston, 1979 why a digital rendition of New Johnston (a film typeface) rather than the original? Eiichi Kono of Banks & Miles was the designer. See

p. 210 “Thus, the series of typefaces released by the Monotype Corporation during the 1920s and 1930s pay tribute to some of the greatest names in Western printing: Plantin, Caslon, Baskerville and Bodoni.”

[These dates are wrong. Plantin was released 1913 by the Monotype Corporation; Sol Hess had designed a Caslon as early as 1903 for Lanston Monotype (and presumably used by the English company) and the company released its famous Caslon 337 (subsequently taken up by the Monotype Corporation) in 1915; Lanston Monotype did Bodoni 175 in 1911 and Monotype Corporation adapted Benton’s ATF Bodoni in 1930; and the Monotype Corporation, following ATF’s lead, issued a Baskerville in 1923. The famous series of typefaces done by the Monotype Corporation in the 1920s and 1930s were based on the work of Jannon (Garamond), Baskerville, Griffo (Poliphilus and Bembo), Fournier, Jenson (but using Rogers’ Centaur), Bell, Bulmer (but following the lead of ATF), and Van Dijck.]

p. 210 “A similar genesis lay behind Gill’s next and most popular typeface, the eponymous Gill Sans (fig. 14.11) which, though begun sometime after Perpetua, was released several years before it in 1929.”

[This is a confusing sentence. There is no date given for Perpetua here (or in fig. 14.7) though it is pointed out that the commission was given to Gill in 1924. Perpetua was begun in 1925 and released in 1929. Gill Sans was released in 1928. (No date is given in fig. 14.11.)]

fig. 14.11 Gill Sans another digital version

p. 211 “Following the addition of new weights and widths, it [Johnston Railway Sans] quickly became the most comprehensive lettering of its kind, and was later looked on as a model not only for other subway systems but for transport lettering in general.”

[what other subway systems?]

p. 212 there is no mention of the fact that Monotype had to alter Gill Sans in the early 1930s to make it more saleable in Germany and Switzerland by changing a and g (and some other letters) to look more like Futura. (The same thing was done by Mergenthaler Linotype to W.A. Dwiggins’ Metro.)

p. 214 “It has been suggested that a printed sample of a type designed decades earlier, in 1904, by a young American polymath, Starling Burgess (1878–1947), was the source of Monotype’s design [of Times New Roman]…. The Burgess theory has created enough doubt for The Times newspaper itself to describe its earlier type as being designed by Stanley Morison, Victor Lardent and ‘possibly Starling Burgess’.”

[There is no mention of Mike Parker, the originator of the Burgess theory, here or in the notes or the bibliography. The source of the theory is “W. Starling Burgess, Type Designer?” by Mike Parker in Printing History 31/32 (1994), pp. 52-108.]

p. 215 “Apple Computers” should be “Apple Computer, Inc.”

p. 216 as usual the images of Tschichold’s work for Penguin that are shown are title pages rather than interiors which was where his impact was greatest

p. 216 why include the work of Reynolds Stone and yet leave out the book designs of W.A. Dwiggins for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.?

fig. 15.2 ‘L’Intransigeant’ poster designed by Cassandre, 1925 given Cassandre’s pre-eminence in the 1920s and early 1930s it is too bad this is the only one of his posters to be shown

fig. 15.4 Dutch Cable Factory catalogue designed by Piet Zwart, 1928

[This is not the familiar image from the Nederlandsche Kabelfabriek (NKF) in Delft but a comparative one from its English subsidiary, N.C.W. Cable. The text is in English and the correct date is 1929. (The Dutch version is from 1928.) See and Bloomsbury Auctions.]

p. 231 why is Piet Zwart included in this chapter rather than the one on the Bauhaus and the new typography?

pp. 221–222 “The stimulus for it [Zwart’s use of photography in the NKF catalogue] was chiefly technological: the advance of a printing process that could convert the smooth, greyish tones of a photographic negative into an array of black dots of varying sizes.… This dotted or ‘half-tone’ image could be made for printing in relief and thus could be placed alongside the type in letterpress (also in relief) and printed together….”

[This is a strange place to first mention halftone screens. The first printed photo using a halftone screen occurred in 1873 and the use of such screens was common by the 1890s.]

p. 223 “Formerly an ailing humour magazine, Life was reinvented as a picture magazine and its design and content were altered accordingly.”

[Life, the picture magazine, bought the rights to the name Life from Life, the humor magazine. Other than that, there is no connection between the two. See and /]

p. 223 “the oddly goggled yet handsome head” [in the 1936 Pontresina poster by Herbert Matter]

[The goggles are protection against the sun and glare off the snow. By including them in the image, Matter suggests to the viewer that Pontresina will be sunny and warm even while skiing. Similar hints about skiing not being cold can be found in other Matter posters.]

p. 226 “Brodovitch was employed by Harper’s within the newly defined role of ‘art director‘….”

[The role of the art director was not that new as the Art Directors Club of New York was organized in 1920, implying that there were already a number of art directors plying their trade in the city in the previous decade. When did the term and the position begin and what was it? Art directors came from magazines and advertising in the early years and, as their name implies, they were responsible for directing (choosing and overseeing) the art used in a publication or an advertisement. Art meant paintings, illustrations or decoration that were commissioned, but eventually it also included photography (as in Brodovitch’s day). Look at the early annuals of the ADC and you will find pages showing off border decorations among other winning items.]

p. 227 the list of émigrés has Depero, Grosz, Gabo, Duchamp, Mondrian, Gropius, Bayer, Moholy-Nagy, Breuer and Mies van der Rohe but leaves out those more relevant to graphic design such as Carlu, Matter, Salter, Agha, Brodovitch, Lionni, Tscherny, Burtin, Steinberg. Furthermore, Depero was not truly an émigré as he worked in New York City from 1928 to 1930 but then returned to Italy before briefly (1947–1949) living in the United States again. See / and Graphic Design History (New York: Allworth Communications, Inc., 2001) by Steven Heller and Georgette Ballance pp. 157–158.]

p. 226 “The form he [Brodovitch] gave to the text was unbounded by any ‘house-style’. No single grid guided its placement.”

[A house style does not require the use of a grid. The idea that it does is essentially a post-1960 phenomenon. Much design of the

past did not rely on such structures but was more intuitive within the constraints of metal type. There is a house style (or Brodovitch style) to Harper’s which relies not on grids but on an approach to layout that seeks to surprise. Brodovitch’s use of photography and on Bodoni type were two elements of that style.]

p. 228 “Cartoon lettering in particular became absorbed into the expanding repertoire of modern graphic styles.”

[Movie cartoon lettering came from lettering for vaudeville, sheet music, the Sunday comics and other early 20th c. popular entertainment. The lettering in the accompanying fig. 15.13 “Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in ‘The Klondike Kid’” bears many resemblances to Art Deco sans serif faces of the time such as Kabel, Eagle Bold, Bernhard Gothic, Granby and Novel Gothic.]

chapter 15 Good Design Is Good Business: Commercial Modernism, c.1920–c.1960 is a hodge podge, ranging both geographically and stylistically (odd for a book dedicated to style as an organizing principle) all over the map: Cassandre, Zwart, Matter, Life magazine, Norman Rockwell, Brodovitch, Mickey Mouse, Lester Beall for the Rural Electrification Administration (this is commercial?), Pintori for Olivetti, IBM and Paul Rand, Lubalin against war (commercial?), Dorfsman on the space program (commercial?) and more. There needs to be some distinction between businesses such as NKF, IBM and Olivetti and magazines (whether newsweeklies or pulps). The only thing that holds this chapter together is the date range from c.1920 to c.1960 (though the CBS advertisement in fig. 15.26 is from 1962).

p. 229 “What they [early American modernists] created was a more flexible and less narrowly focused style of design—Brodovitch for example mixed a version of the eighteenth-century typeface Bodoni with his Modernist photographs….”

[This misses the fact that it was not only Brodovitch among the Modernists who used Bodoni. Jan Tschichold used it on his cover of Typographische Gestaltung (1935) and it subsequently became a staple for Paul Rand, Gene Federico, Reid Miles, Massimo Vignelli and others. Could it have been because Bodoni was a “modern” style typeface or simply that it had the cool, crispness associated with 20th c. modern design?]

p. 232 “Rand’s best-known piece of design, the IBM logo, was, paradoxically, one in which his creative input was rather limited.”

p. 232 “The square counters (the negative spaces enclosed in the letters) in the ‘B’ and the pointed trough [?] of the ‘M’ [of City Bold in the 1956 IBM logo] certainly made it look more distinctive [than the 1947 IBM logo] and, in combination with the heavier weight, more assertive, but essentially it was similar.”

[Cramsie does not realize how subtle changes to a logo can lead to radical results. To call the 1956 IBM logo essentially the same as the 1947 one is to reveal a lack of understanding of graphic design. One could equally say that the differences between the types of Francesco Griffo and John Baskerville are minor and that type designers such as Claude Garamond, William Caslon and Miklos Kis did little that was original.]

[Georg Trump, the designer of City, is not identified.]

fig. 15.16 IBM logos the middle IBM logo is misdated as 1972 when it should be 1956

figs. 15.23 Anti-war poster designed by Herb Lubalin, 1972 and 15.24 Typographic designs, Herb Lubalin, 1962–5 are poor choices to show Herb Lubalin’s influence. Something from his days at Sudler & Hennessey designing pharmaceutical advertising (commercial!) and from his time working for Ralph Ginzburg in the 1960s or with ITC in the 1970s would have been more appropriate. The anti-war poster is beyond the imposed dates for the chapter. The designs in fig. 15.24 (Marriage, Mother & Child and Families) were not solely Lubalin’s work but that of his studio Lubalin, Smith & Carnase.]

fig. 15.25 Typographic designs, Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, 1962 this example of Chermayeff & Geismar’s work is not representative of the firm.

[The title of this work, Watching Words Move, is missing. The image is taken from a reprint of the original since it is set in Helvetica and the original was in Standard (Akzidenz Grotesk). The date should be 1959 since that is when the design was done. It was published as an insert in the December 1962 edition of Typographica. See Robert Brownjohn Sex and Typography: 1925–1970, life and work by Emily King (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005), p. 146.]

p. 239 “…in 1960, Haas’s new parent company, Stempel….”

[This is not true. D. Stempel AG bought 45% share of Haas in 1927 and in 1954 it bought more shares (from H. Berthold AG) to become the majority stockholder but most of its shares had earlier been sold to Linotype GmbH. See Helvetica Forever: The Story of a Typeface edited by Victor Malsy and Lars Müller (Baden: Lars Müller Publishers, 2009), p. 25.]

p. 239 “Such was the importance attached to these variants [of Helvetica] and indeed to the typeface as a whole that the entire range was re-released in 1983 under the name Neue Helvetica, in which all the weights and widths, from Ultra Light Condensed to Black Expanded (>fig. 16.3) were redrawn and related to each other in a wholly systematic way.”

[The impact on Helvetica of Univers, which had pioneered the idea of a numbered, systematic approach to the design of a type family in 1957, should be noted.]

fig. 16.3 Neue Helvetica, 1983 and figs. 16.4, 16.5 Comparison of Akzidenz [sic], Helvetica and Univers both rely on digital font versions

p. 241 “…what can be thought of as Helvetica’s twin, a similar kind of neo-grotesque, called Univers (fig. 16.4). This typeface was also released in 1957 and its letters were also influenced by Akzidenz Grotesk.”

[This fails to recognize the true importance of Univers and its originality. It is not influenced by Akzidenz Grotesk. Frutiger began the design as a student exercise, as an attempt to rethink 19th c. grotesque typefaces. Univers is more rational and consistent than its forebears or than its rival Helvetica. The two typefaces are only superficially twins. For more details on the development of Univers see Adrian Frutiger Typefaces: The Complete Works edited by Heidrun Osterer and Philipp Stamm (Basel, Boston and Berlin: Birkäuser Verlag, 2009), pp. 88–117. Not only did Frutiger design the initial Univers family at one time to insure harmony and consistency across weights and widths (and come up with an innovative numbering system to identify each member of the family and indicate their relationships) but he designed the face for both photo-typesetting and metal. (This is discussed on p. 242.)]

pp. 242–243 “Because the italic has been derived from a cursive form of handwriting rather than directly from roman letters, it had developed some distinct shapes of its own. Frutiger, however, chose to ignore these conventional differences and instead made his italics from the roman by shearing his roman letters along a central, horizontal axis half-way up their x-height. Thus, his italics were really a sloped roman, or, as he called it, ‘oblique’ roman, rather than a traditional italic.”

[Grotesques and other sans serifs had oblique romans for italics from the early 19th c. on. Frutiger did nothing revolutionary. The Romain du Roi and Fournier’s types had already begun to break away from cursive forms for their italics centuries ago. The final break was made by Jan van Krimpen and W.A. Dwiggins (following Stanley Morison’s essay on “Towards an Ideal Italic” in The Fleuron no. 5 (1926), pp. 93–129) with Romulus Italic (1930) and Electra Oblique (Italic) (1935). See Dutch Type by Jan Middendorp (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2004), pp. 59–60 and Letters of Credit by Walter Tracy (Boston: David R. Godine, Publisher, 1986), pp. 180–181.]

fig. 16.13 ‘Neue Grafik’ magazine cover, 1958 a diagram of its underlying grid would be useful given the discussion on p. 248

p. 248 “While it [Neue Grafik] established the grid as an important tool of design, it did not invent it. Early in the era of manuscript production, long before books were printed, simple grids had been used to mark out where the lines of handwritten text should appear.…”

he goes on to explain that more complex information led to more complex grids, oriented to the reader more than the producer, in which fields replaced lines as the basic unit. He ignores one of the driving forces behind the shift to fields, the need to incorporate more imagery (primarily photographs) into designs in the mid-20th century compared to medieval manuscripts and early printed books. Further, he downplays the benefits of the field-based grid to the producer—especially in designing series of books. See Designing Programmes by Karl Gerstner (1963).

p. 257 Michael Hertz, the designer of the 1979 New York City subway map, should be noted

p. 256 “The gridded patterns of their [New Yorkers’] streets had given them a better understanding of the distances within their city [compared to London].”

[This is a common misconception. Manhattan is gridded (but not below 14th Street) as are many parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx, but there are large parts of New York City (especially in Queens and Staten Island) that are as vexing as central London. One of the shortcomings of the 1972 Vignelli map was how it distorted lower Manhattan.]

fig. 16.21 New York subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli, 1972

[The design should give credit to Vignelli Associates since several people in the office played key roles in its design and execution, most notably Joan Charysyn.]

fig. 16.23 New York replacement subway map, c.1979

[The word “replacement” is unnecessary and the date should be 1979 without the circa. Michael Hertz and Associates deserve to be credited with the design.]

chapter 17 Handmade and Homespun: Illustrated Modernism & Psychedelia, c.1950–c.1970 is nearly as jumbled as Chapter 15 as it bundles together Pablo Picasso, Saul Bass (but not Harold Adler), Peter Blake (and Jann Haworth), Wes Wilson, Henri Matisse, Jan Lenica, Lance Wyman, Milton Glaser, the Atélier Populaire, and Oz magazine. There is no realization that there are different kinds of handmade design and that not all of it was a reaction to Swiss design.

p. 261 “The freedoms fought for by the war generation were defined by questions of nationhood, empire and trade.”

[The mention of “empire” is a reminder that this book has been written from a British perspective as opposed to the American perspectives of Meggs, Eskilson and Drucker/McVarish and the French perspective of Jubert. This British perspective becomes more pronounced in this chapter and the following one.]

p. 262 “But the full range of photo-reproductive possibilities only came to fruition in the mid-1950s with the invention of a new kind of photographic film that made it more economical to print colour photographs.”

[What was the film?]

pp. 264–265 “Not only was graphic design a legitimate subject for fine artists, but its motifs became accepted as part of the visual language of art.… This new reciprocity between fine art and graphic design was explicit in the title ‘Pop Art’.…”

[Cramsie’s insights about the relationship between fine art and graphic design are not accompanied by any images of works by Roy Lichtenstein or Andy Warhol or James Rosenquist. Instead, these two pages are oddly filled with an illustration of the repeat First Things First manifesto of 2000!]

Despite the focus on the handmade in this chapter (and on social activism) a number of significant individuals are left out: e.g. Ben Shahn, Paul Peter Piech, Sister Corita Kent, David Stone Martin, Saul Steinberg, and Tomi Ungerer.

p. 266 “…it is his [Saul Bass’] poster for the 1955 film The Man with the Golden Arm (fig. 17.5) that is especially celebrated. As with Picasso’s poster, every mark in it is handmade: the lettering was drawn by hand by a specialist lettering artist in a style that matched the jagged, hand-cut silhouette of the arm and large, irregularly cut blocks of paper.”

[The specialist was Harold Adler who contributed lettering to many of Saul Bass’s projects during the 1950s and 1960s. His lettering style in this poster was similar to lettering he did for other projects (e.g. Anatomy of a Murder). By the way, there is type in the poster: the director’s credit and the fine print about the film at the bottom.]

p. 267 “It is not known whether Bass ever cited Matisse as an influence, but it is hard to think that he could have used such a similar method of picture making so soon after it had been established without having been influenced by Matisse in some way, if only subliminally.”

[There are other possible explanations for the look of The Man with the Golden Arm including the work of Ben Shahn as well as Stuart Davis’ paintings.]

p. 268 “A similar focus on the expressive quality of monochrome brushstrokes also defined a simple, almost child-like, poster created in 1965, not long after [Franz] Kline’s painting, for Air France (fig. 17.7).”

[Why is there no illustration of a Franz Kline painting or at least the mention of a specific one?]

p. 269 Op Art is mentioned but not Victor Vasarely, its most famous practitioner in the 1960s. Franco Grignani’s work is not included or noted and there is not even a shout back to fig. 16.20, the Woolmark logo by Francesco Saroglia.

p. 269 “The poster [Alban Berg Wozzeck by Jan Lenica, 1964] takes its basic motif from a painting that has come to define the movement [Expressionism], The Scream, by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, who first painted it in 1893…. The poster’s lettering looks back to an earlier period still, that of Art Nouveau.”

[But The Scream was painted at the beginning of the Art Nouveau era.]

pp. 272–276 are devoted to images of Che Guevara. This is too many for a book trying to be economical (similarly three pages of Helvetica were too much in an earlier chapter). This book already skimps on images and on individuals. The point about the iconization, dispersion and commodification of Che’s image could have been made much more concisely. And how can such a discussion leave out Paul Davis’ famous image of Che done for Evergreen Review (February 1968) which must surely have been a key moment in the beatification of the guerilla leader. See, and

p. 274 “His [Che Guevara’s] beret, not the peaked cap one might expect of a military leader, aligned him with the common man.”

[One shouldn’t forget the association at the time of berets with artists and with alternative (i.e. Beatnik) lifestyles. The beret had rebellious connotations. Of course, in the 1960s the beret also became associated with the Green Berets and thus of the United States war in Vietnam.]

pp. 277–279 the discussion of the graphics of the 1968 Paris student riots is too long. It prevents any inclusion of graphics from other hotspots (Eastern Europe and the United States) during that violent year.

fig. 17.22 Semaphore alphabet it is not necessary to show the entire semaphore alphabet to make the point about its connection to the ND symbol (fig. 17.21 but on the previous page unfortunately)

[What is missing is any mention of Rudolf Koch’s Book of Signs (London: First Edition Club, 1930) as an influence (i.e. the symbol for “The man dies” p. 10 is the same as the ND symbol without the surrounding circle).]

fig. 17.24 the color looks off

p. 284 there is no image from The Medium Is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and designed by Quentin Fiore to accompany the discussion of McLuhan’s theories

chapter 18 Tearing It Up: Punk, c.1975–c.1985 emphasizes British Punk rather with no mention of the American experience

p. 293 “Yet, despite the fact that album covers and other forms of rock-related graphics were making large numbers of people interested in graphic design, often for the very first time, the design industry in general considered this kind of work to be be unimportant.…”

[Apparently, the design history profession also considers it unimportant as everyone from Meggs to Jubert to Eskilson to Drucker/McVarish to Cramsie skims over album cover design. Cramsie does not even include Alex Steinweiss, the father of record cover design nor Reid Miles of Blue Note fame. Among those slighted (before 1977) are David Stone Martin, Jim Flora, Rudolph de Harak, Paul Bacon, Robert Crumb, Heinz Edelman, Klaus Voormann, Mouse & Kelly, S. Neil Fujita, Phil Hays, Paul Davis, Marvin Israel, John Berg, Daniel Pelavin, Gerard Huerta, Milton Glaser, Hipgnosis, Martin Sharp, and John van Hamersveld.]

pp. 293–294 “… album cover design was generally regarded as the perfunctory product of an anonymous [emphasis added] layout designer or illustrator. The status of music-related graphics only began to rise once designers such as [Jamie] Reid and the British graphic designer and illustrator Colin Fulcher (1942–1983) had shown its potential for expression and wit.”

[This completely overlooks the American rock music scene (and before that jazz scene) from the early 1950s on. See my list of names above (which includes a few non-Americans). “The Grammy Awards began presenting awards for Best Album Cover in 1959, recognizing the growing artistry of the ‘face’ of recorded music releases,” according to]

p. 294 “publicized” should be “publicize”

p. 301 “…perhaps the best known Postmodern architect of the time, the American architect and industrial designer Michael Graves.”

[There is no mention of Robert Venturi or of Learning from Las Vegas, the influential book he wrote with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. See Learning from Las Vegas (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1972; rev. ed. 1977). For Muriel Cooper’s controversial design for the first edition see]

p. 306 “Mike McCoy” should be Michael McCoy as the name of his firm is Michael McCoy Design. See

figs. 20.2 E13-B, 1958, 20.3 OCR A, 1966 and 20.4 OCR B, 1968 are digital versions of film faces

p. 318 “Though the letters all appear in the same typeface, their varied sizes and careful positioning, and the positioning of the shoes they advertise, were made possible by the immediacy and control that came from designing with a computer.”

[This design by Neville Brody for Nike (1992) [fig. 20.11] could have (and was) easily done in the pre-computer era of cut-and-paste mechanicals. See the work of Bradbury Thompson (not in this book) such as “Composition in Space” 1951 in The Art of Graphic Design by Bradbury Thompson (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988), p. 125 or the William Longhauser poster advertising Michael Graves (see fig. 19.5 in this book). The typeface in the design is not Helvetica as claimed but Franklin Gothic.]

fig. 20.13 Modern digital fonts showing digital fonts is fine at this point since that is their original state; the fonts shown are not named and they are not a very representative selection of what was happening in the first decade of digital type. There are no cut-and-paste mix ’n’ match fonts from the late 1980s/early 1990s such as Fudoni, Dead History, Prototype or Not Caslon nor are there any notable special effects faces such as Beowolf, Blur or Jesus Loves You.

p. 322 “The unconventional way in which he [David Carson] combined text and pictures, as well as other kinds of graphic marks, was rooted in his lack of formal training.”

[This repeats the canard that Carson is a self-made designer, ignoring his stint (even if only for a few weeks in summer) in a workshop led by Hans Rudolf Lutz, a Swiss designer who broke from the modernist tradition in the early 1970s. See


p. 330 re: p. 17 the proper publishing information for the English translation of Voltaire’s A Philosophical Dictionary should be “London: Printed for John and Henry L. Hunt, 1824” not “University of Wisconsin, 1824”. The University of Wisconsin was founded in 1848.

p. 331 re: p. 114 the full title of the Michel Wlassikoff book is The Story of Graphic Design in France

p. 333 re: p. 284 “Marshal McLulan” should be “Marshall McLuhan”

p. 334 re: 301 “Paul Greenhaulgh” should be “Paul Greenhalgh”

p. 334 re: 313 “RUPA” should be “DRUPA”

p. 337 “Gray, Nicolette” [twice] should be “Gray, Nicolete”

p. 337 Gray, Nicolette [sic], XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, Faber and Faber, London, 1951 is cited in the bibliography but the revised second edition titled Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces (1976) is considered to be a better book

p. 337 the 4th edition of Encyclopedia of Typefaces is dated 2003 but there were no printings between 2001 and 2008

[There are many books missing from the bibliography but the one that is most surprising is the 4th edition of A History of Graphic Design by Philip B. Meggs and Alston Purvis (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2006). Also No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism by Rick Poynor (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003) is absent.]

[throughout the bibliography “Edition” is incorrectly capitalized]

p. 340 “miniscule” [sic] should be “minuscule”

p. 341 re: fig. 7.12 “Firmin Didot” should be “Pierre Didot”

p. 342 re: figs. 10.16–17 “Kolomon Moser” [sic twice] should be “Koloman Moser”

p. 343 re: fig. 15.4 Dutch Cable Factory catalogue date should be 1929 not 1928

p. 344 re: fig. 15.19 “8-stripper” [sic] should be “8-striper”

p. 344 re: fig. 16.21 “Metropolitan Transport [sic] Authority” should be “Metropolitan Transportation Authority”

p. 344 re: fig. 17.5 should add a credit for Harold Adler as letterer

p. 346 “Georges Auriol” should be “George Auriol”

p. 348 title of Layout in Advertising is not fully italicized

p. 348 “Giovanni Baptist [sic] Palatino” should be “Giovanni Battista Palatino”

p. 348 “Rudolph Koch” should be “Rudolf Koch”