Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From the Archives no. 17—More on Helvetica in the United States

This evening at the Type Directors Club I came across a type specimen entitled helvetica (all lowercase) issued by Empire Typographers, Inc., a type house in New York City, in February 1963. It was designed by Martin Friedman, a name that is unfamiliar to me. More importantly, it stated on the inside of the front cover, “Helvetica is now being cut in display sizes. The following will be available at Empire Typographers in the Spring, 1963.” The dating of this specimen is significant since Stempel did not publicly announce Helvetica’s availability in the United States until the November/December issue of Print magazine. Was Empire the first type house in New York (and maybe the United States) to import Helvetica?

The Empire list consists of: Helvetica (Roman) 14 pt.–48 pt, Helvetica Cursive 12 pt.–24 pt, Helvetica Demi-bold (Roman) 14 pt.–72 pt and Helvetica Bold-Face (Roman) 12 pt.–72 pt. The sizes listed suggest that foundry type is being discussed, but the note on the opposite page only mentions composition type. “First imported to the United States thru [sic] Mergenthaler Linotype Company by Bernard Blatt, a well-known typographer and President of Empire Typographers of New York, Helvetica has enjoyed widespread attention. It has become an immediate favorite on the continent [sic] since its introduction by Linotype Gmbh [sic] of Germany,” it says. This seems to support the information in my book Helvetica and the New York City Subway System that Helvetica was first made available in the United States as matrices from German Linotype, two years before Mergenthaler Linotype made matrices itself and Continental Amsterdam imported foundry Helvetica from Stempel. The large sizes of the type must have been APL or All-Purpose Linotype mats designed for headline usage and available in sizes up to 144 pt.

The names of the Helvetica family members mentioned are a bit odd. The translations from the German are literal: Kursiv has become Cursive (instead of Italic) and halbfett has become Demi-bold (instead of Medium).

Dear Paul, the literal translation of »halbfett« would be medium or semi-bold, but in terms of weight and design it rather equates a bold style (comp. NHG/Helvetica).

I am looking forward to further research at the TDC library to see if there are any other dated type specimens of Helvetica, Akzidenz Grotesk or Standard.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Opinion redux—Deviations from Standard Deviations

I am gratified that the first out-and-out Blue Pencil opinion piece has received a warm welcome. However, several people have posted comments or emailed me privately with corrections or comments that need to be addressed.

1. David Lemon of Adobe has written to point out that, “Stone was the first original alphabetic typeface designed at Adobe, but was preceded by Carta, Sonata & the now-ubiquitous Symbol. (I agree the “originality” of Symbol could be disputed, since it’s stylistically an extension to Times.)”

2. David Ikus wrote, “The initiative is great, but why are there so many American fonts & barely anything European, not to mention the lack of non-Latin type design?” Good point. One private email implied that the choices were New York-centric, but that is clearly not the case with the inclusion of fonts from Emigre (California), Carter & Cone (Massachusetts) and FontShop (Berlin). Among MoMA’s 23 fonts are six by seven Europeans (Wim Crouwel, Erik Spiekermann, Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum, Albert-Jan Pool, Neville Brody and Jonathan Barnbrook.)

MoMA’s selection is a reminder that all such initiatives are governed by the perspective and unconscious bias of the selectors which is shaped by their experience and knowledge. (That also applies to my counter-list.) This is why among graphic design history books Philip Meggs differs substantially from Patrick Cramsie or Roxane Jubert when the story reaches the 20th century. However, in the area of digital type design, it was the United States that was in the forefront of digital type design from c.1980 to c.1995, both technically and aesthetically, principally due to the rise of Silicon Valley. Surely this is what governed MoMA’s thinking. My own list included more Europeans (Adrian Frutiger, Hermann Zapf, Gudrun Zapf von Hesse, Gerard Unger, Martin Majoor, Luc(as) de Groot, Otl Aicher, Jovica Veljovic, and Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell—the founder of the company that bore his name).

The comments from both Davids are a reminder that the world of typefaces (fonts) is larger than than that of Latin fonts. I am not an expert in non-Latin fonts so I do not know where to begin in listing which ones (and which designers) were pioneers in the area of digital type design between 1960 and 2000. If anyone (hello, Fiona Ross and Gerry Leonidas?) would like to suggest another list I would be glad to post it.

3. Craig Eliason asks for more information on Silica and the claim that it was “the first typeface designed entirely on-screen.” I used the weasel word “ostensibly” because the only support I have for this statement is what Sumner Stone said at the time about it. No one back then or since has disputed his claim, but he was making it based on his own experience and knowledge. There well may have been a predecessor.

4. That brings up the point that our knowledge of history is only as good as the facts we have, and the facts we have are always subject to being superseded. My claim that TF Forever was the first original typeface designed using Fontographer came from Joe Treacy several years ago who supported my AIGA Voice article on the history of digital type design with several documents. However, the first original Fontographer typeface may have been the anonymous one used in the Altsys 1.0 manual for the software program. “The manual was full of screen grabs of the font being produced,” I have been told by an anonymous informant. (We need a picture of this!)

This counterclaim is similar to David Lemon’s comment about Carta and Sonata. We tend to overlook the ordinary in favor of the extraordinary, the anonymous in favor of the named. Thus, Stone and Treacy promoted their efforts while the designers of Carta, Sonata and the unnamed Altsys font did not—unlike Susan Kare who eventually came forth to promote her role in Chicago.

I was eager to include Joe Treacy because he (along with Gunnlaugur SE Briem, Peter Fraterdeus and Garrett Boge) was one of the early adopters of Fontographer (pre-1987) who has been overlooked in the history of digital type design. The reason is easy to fathom: the faces that he, Fraterdeus and Boge all issued were similar to those already available from phototype companies. They did not have the look of the “new” that those from Emigre did. (By the way, let’s not forget that Fontographer was preceded by Font Studio as a font design tool.)

5. My claim that Adobe Jenson MM was the first digital typeface with optical scaling appears to be wrong. HTF Didot (1991) had that feature as well, which I knew but I did not realize it was a Multiple Master font.

All of this goes to show that we badly need a history of digital type design (and one for the filmsetting era as well). A graphic design student in Lausanne is currently working on a thesis about “Computed Type Design” that might be a step in that direction. For now, the best we have is a few chapters in Richard Southall’s Printer’s Type in the Twentieth Century (New Castle, Delaware and London: Oak Knoll Press and The British Library, 2005).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Opinion—Standard Deviations

On January 24 of this year the Museum of Modern Art announced that they were adding 23 fonts to their Architecture and Design Collection. I paid little attention at the time to the news, other than to nod approvingly at their choice of typefaces by Matthew Carter, Jonathan Hoefler and Zuzana Licko. But last week I visited MoMA to see the Counter Space exhibition and afterwards I stumbled upon Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design, an exhibition of the newly acquired fonts.

It was exhilarating to see typefaces covering several walls of the central third floor gallery. But upon closer inspection the fonts chosen raised questions about MoMA’s thinking.

The 23 fonts chosen are:

OCR-A (American Type Founders, 1966)
New Alphabet (Wim Crouwel, 1967)
Bell Centennial (Matthew Carter, Mergenthaler Linotype, 1976–1978)
ITC Galliard (Matthew Carter, International Typeface Corporation, 1978)
FF Meta (Erik Spiekermann, FontShop, 1984–1991)
Oakland (Zuzana Licko, Emigre, 1985)
FF Beowolf (Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum, FontShop, 1990)
Template Gothic (Barry Deck, Emigre, 1990)
Dead History (P. Scott Makela and Zuzana Licko, Emigre, 1990)
Keedy Sans (Jeffery Keedy, Emigre, 1991)
HTF Didot (Jonathan Hoefler, Hoefler Type Foundry, 1991)
FF Blur (Neville Brody, FontShop, 1992)
Mason (nèe Manson) (Jonathan Barnbrook, Emigre, 1992)
Mantinia (Matthew Carter, Carter & Cone Type, 1993)
Interstate (Tobias Frere-Jones, Font Bureau, 1993–1995)
Big Caslon (Matthew Carter, Carter & Cone Type, 1994)
FF DIN (Albert-Jan Pool, FontShop, 1995)
Walker (Matthew Carter, Walker Art Center, 1995)
Verdana (Matthew Carter, Microsoft, 1996)
Mercury (Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, Hoefler & Frere-Jones, 1996)
Miller (Matthew Carter, Font Bureau, 1997)
Retina (Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, Hoefler Type Foundry, 1999)
Gotham (Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, Hoefler Type Foundry, 2000)

*I have added the foundries who issued the faces or the clients who commissioned them to the list provided by MoMA. The names are those in existence at the time the relevant typeface was released. (For instance, the Hoefler Type Foundry did not become Hoefler & Frere-Jones until 2004.) I also added Zuzana Licko’s name to Dead History since she is usually credited as a co-creator, the person responsible for turning P. Scott Makela’s design into a workable font. Some of the dates MoMA has provided seem iffy to me, most notably that of Mercury which the Hoefler & Frere-Jones website describes as “the product of nine years’ research and development”.

“We chose some of these typefaces because they are sublimely elegant responses to the issues of specific media,” says the MoMA press release. On these grounds they defend their choices of Retina, Bell Centennial, Mercury and Miller. “We have tried to form a comprehensive collection of the most elegant solutions to typography design in the midst of the digital revolution…,” is the explanation for including OCR-A, Oakland, New Alphabet, Verdana and Beowolf. Revivals and parodies of historical typefaces are included because “typography has a special relationship with its own past”. Those that “most inventively distill the essence of historical examples to give it new, contemporary life” are HTF Didot, Galliard (sic), Big Caslon, Mantinia and DIN. Dead History is seen as a reinterpretation of the past. And lastly, as the press release says, some fonts were selected simply because they “visually reflect the time and place in which they were made.” Thus, Interstate, Gotham, Walker, Meta (sic), Blur, Keedy Sans, Mason and Template Gothic. These faces are described as having cultural importance and notable for their aesthetic experimentation.

These rationales are a grab bag, essentially post hoc excuses for choosing whatever seems to have caught the curators’ fancy rather than part of a coherent argument about the changes in type over the past few decades. The overarching argument that these fonts represent the “evolution of digital typefaces” since the early 1960s is highly suspect as well.

The typefaces chosen by MoMA are, by and large, reasonable choices—just not the most important ones in every instance. More significantly, the faces left out reveal the true flaws in their claim to have assembled fonts that represent the history of type in the digital era. From this perspective, here is my list of what is not in the collection but should be:

OCR-B (Adrian Frutiger, European Computer Manufacturers Association, 1968)

The “human” response to OCR-A and the winner in the long-term in the debate over whether letters should be designed for computers and other machines to read or whether machines should be designed to read letters familiar to humans.

Digi-Grotesk S (Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell, 1968)

The first digital typeface

Marconi (Hermann Zapf, Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell, 1975)

The first original typeface to be produced with the Ikarus computer-aided design anddigitization system.

Computer Modern (Donald Knuth, 1980)

The first family of fonts developed using Metafont.

Chicago (Susan Kare, Apple, 1983)

A bitmapped screen font used for the operating system of the first Apple Macintosh.

AMS Euler (Hermann Zapf and Donald Knuth, American Mathematical Society, 1983)

Designed using METAFONT, a font manipulation program developed by Knuth.

Lucida Serif and Lucida Sans (Kris Holmes and Charles Bigelow, Imagen, 1985)

The first original type family intended for laser printing. And the first type family to successfully unite serif and sans serif designs.

Matrix (Zuzana Licko, Emigre, 1985)

The first Emigre font intended to be widely used by other graphic designers.

TF Forever (Joseph Treacy, Treacyfaces, 1986)

The first original PostScript Type 3 font made using Fontographer.

ITC Stone (Sumner Stone, International Typeface Corporation, 1987)

The though licensed to ITC, this was the first Adobe original typeface. It also further expanded the notion of the superfamily as it contained ITC Stone Serif, ITC Stone Sans and ITC Stone Informal.

Charter (Matthew Carter), Amerigo (Gerard Unger) and Carmina (Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse)—all Bitstream, 1987

The first original typefaces issued by Bitstream which, along with Adobe, was one of the two pioneering digital typefoundries in 1981. Charter was licensed to ITC in 1993 and became ITC Charter.

Adobe Garamond (Robert Slimbach, Adobe, 1989)

The first important historical revival in the digital type era. And one of the best-selling fonts of all time. Of much greater importance than Big Caslon.

Lithos, Trajan and Charlemagne (Carol Twombly, Adobe, 1989)

A trio of types based on key moments in the evolution of Western lettering (not type) that have been far more influential than Mantinia.

Rotis (Otl Aicher, Agfa Compugraphic, 1989)

A font family that went beyond both Lucida and ITC Stone to embrace sans, semi-sans, semi-serif and serif variants. A dated font, but no more so than Keedy Sans or Dead History and certainly much more popular then as well as today.

Scala (Martin Majoor, Vredenburg Centre, 1988)

Issued by FontShop in 1990 as FF Scala, this has been one of the most successful and influential type designs of the past twenty years, especially once it was joined by FF Scala Sans. It is far more important than either Interstate or FF DIN.

Poetica (Robert Slimbach, Adobe, 1992)

The first italic type family.

Myriad MM (Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly, Adobe, 1992) and Minion MM (Robert Slimbach, Adobe, 1992)

The first two Multiple Master fonts from Adobe. Minion MM was the first optically scalable font. Myriad has gone on to be the default face for many of Adobe’s and Apple’s products, packaging and advertising.

Silica (Sumner Stone, Stone Typefoundry, 1993)

Ostensibly the first typeface designed entirely on-screen.

Hoefler Text (Jonathan Hoefler, Hoefler Type Foundry, 1994)

The most successful GX font, Hoefler Text was part of System 7.5 for the Macintosh. It is the typeface that brought Jonathan Hoefler widespread recognition.

Adobe Jenson (Robert Slimbach, Adobe, 1994)

The first type revival with optical scaling. But not a widely used typeface.

Thesis (Luc(as) de Groot, FontShop, 1995)

The beginning of the biggest superfamily which includes sans, serif, square serif, monoline, semi-serif and other variants. TheSans has been especially popular. It is a much more significant face than Keedy Sans.

Georgia (Matthew Carter, Microsoft, 1995)

How can MoMA include Verdana without including Georgia? They were designed together to be used as sans serif and serif options for screen fonts. Georgia (used here) has been extremely popular as the default font for blogs.

Warnock Pro (Robert Slimbach, Adobe, 2000) and Silentium Pro (Jovica Veljovic, Adobe, 2000)

The first two original type designs in the OpenType format.

MoMA stopped at 2000 so too does my list, though there are a number of notable fonts that have been created in the past decade. The biggest lacunæ in MoMA’s list are the omissions of any font from either Adobe (the company that invented PostScript!) or Bitstream. Their account of digital type history is the equivalent of writing about American politics in the 1960s and including Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Robert F. Kennedy, and Eugene McCarthy but somehow leaving out John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Accurate but woefully incomplete.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

From the Archives no. 16—Choosing a Typeface

Among the items that interested me in the former library of the High School of Graphic Communications Art have been books, pamphlets and articles that promise to shed light on an often overlooked aspect of 20th c. graphic design: the origins and development of the type director and the type house. Two of the names that often pop up as early figures in this area are Frederick M. Farrar and Gilbert P. Farrar. I assume that they were brothers, but I have been unable to find out much about either man beyond what is in the books they wrote. Time magazine wrote two short profiles of Gilbert, one in 1936 and the other in 1943, that focus primarily on his career after 1936 as a magazine and newspaper design consultant. See,9171,885001,00.html,9171,756618,00.html

Gilbert P. Farrar wrote The Typography of Advertisements that Pay: How to Choose and Combine Type Faces, Engravings and All the Other Mechanical Elements of Modern Advertisement Construction (New York and London: D. Appleton and Company, 1920) which is available for PDF download from Google Books.

Fred Farrar worked as an art director at Calkins & Holden, Inc., the famous New York advertising agency co-founded by Earnest Elmo Calkins. In 1919 he left to become Vice President and Art Director of The Typographic Service Company in New York where he still was eight years later when he wrote Fred Farrar’s Type Book (New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1927).

One of the fascinating aspects of these two books is their discussion of which typefaces to use and why. The options are extremely narrow compared to the current world of digital type. Here are some excerpts from Fred Farrar’s Type Book about each of the eleven of the twelve typefaces he deems worthy of being used in advertising. (The missing face is Caslon 540 which he discusses only in terms of how it differs from Caslon Oldstyle 471.) Note that none of them are sans serifs.

Caslon Oldstyle 471: “This type is unquestionably the best to use in speaking English.” p. 6

Scotch Roman: “This is a splendid type of modern design with the peculiar characteristic that the capital letters are much heavier in face than the lower-case… but despite this apparent defect it composes beautifully….” p. 8

Bookman: “A vigorous heavy-face type of even tone, strong and convincing.… This type may not have anything to recommend it in the way of design, but it would be greatly missed if it were not in the equipment of the modern printing plant.” p. 8

ATF Garamond: “A graceful letter of some distinction, rather feminine in its graceful qualities.” p. 9

Goudy Oldstyle: “It is a nice round letter, well designed, but somewhat lacking in vitality. It is gracefully drawn in its individual characters, and when composed in a mass is good in color but not particularly easy to read. The capital letters are excellent and in themselves are sufficient reason for this being a popular type.” p. 9

Cheltenham: “This type suffers terribly from overcrowding, and when set in a mass, seems to be pinched to the point of suffocation.” p. 10

ATF Bodoni: “It is a modern letter, quite formal in design, but of great strength and dignity…. The proportions of the letter make generous leading essential.” p. 10

Century Expanded: “A newspaper type of simple design, utterly without charm, but of sufficient mechanical quality to recommend it for some uses. It is especially readable in the small sizes….” p. 11

Kennerley: “It has a rather pleasant freedom in its individual characters which, when set in a mass and properly leaded, is quite reminiscent of the old scribes, which is rather charming in thee machine-made days.… It is also a face of great utility in advertising, being of medium tone and of some decorative quality. It is rather classic in feeling and suggests most anything but motor trucks.” p. 11

Le Cochin: “It is a full-faced type—easy to read—but its marked individuality confines it to certain uses, such as advertisements for French products.… The roman capitals look quite large, owing to the shortness of the letters and the height of the ascenders; but they are so beautiful in design that they seem to decorate rather than mar the page.” p. 12

Cloister Oldstyle: “Cloister is a type of great utility, with a splendid decorative italic. The roman takes on so much color as it increases in size that it makes its own display lines without resorting to the bold face, which is a desirable quality in type for advertising use.” p. 13

Fred Farrar’s Type Book was published a year before Layout in Advertising by W.A. Dwiggins and Die neue Typographie by Jan Tschichold. Dwiggins acknowledged the existence of sans serifs in advertising but complained about their quality, remarks that led to his being commissioned by Mergenthaler Linotype in 1929 to design a good sans serif for them. The face that resulted was Metro and it launched his career as a type designer. The views of Farrar and Dwiggins were in stark contrast to those of Tschichold, who advocated the use of sans serif as the preferred typeface of modern times.

Gilbert P. Farrar lists thirty-three typefaces in The Typography of Advertisements yet none of them are sans serifs. He classifies typefaces not in the stylistic manner we are accustomed to, but by how they can be used in advertisements. Thus, there is “The Forceful Educational Style” which includes Cheltenham Bold, Cheltenham Oldstyle, Cheltenham Old Style Italic, Cheltenham Wide, Caslon Old Style, Caslon Bold, Caslon Bold Italic, and Old Style No. 15 (and Italic). “The Passive Educational Style” is best achieved by using Bookman Old Style, Cheltenham Medium, Scotch Roman, Scotch Roman Italic, Bodoni, Bodoni Bold, Bodoni Italic, and Bodoni Bold Italic for advertisements that appeal to men.

“Both the Bookman and the Scotch Roman have a sturdy dignity that is very pleasing to men.

“When Bookman is unobtainable use Cheltenham Wide, which is very similar. When Scotch Roman is unobtainable use Bodoni; Scotch Roman is so similar to Bodoni that I have often used it with Bodoni Bold for display because of the lack of another suitable bold letter to work with the Scotch Roman.” p. 59

For advertisements directed at women, Farrar recommends types that are “fancier”: Kennerley Oldstyle, Kennerley Italic, Cloister Old Style, Cloister Old Style Italic, and Della Robbia. And then there is always that reliable standby, Caslon Old Style which “knows no gender in its usefulness, and is a delicate, modest type in which to dress an appeal to women.” p. 73

“The Character or Comic Style” of advertising is best served by the same typefaces as in “The Forceful Educational Style” along with Foster (an ugly but surprisingly popular typeface prior to the 1920s). Slab serifs Foster and John Hancock are recommended in place of “Gothic” (meaning sans serif) for display in the “The Mail Order Style”. They are joined by Winchell (a type that is partway between Bodoni and a slab serif) and Webb (an outline slab serif) for “The Department Store Style”. All of these styles build upon “The Forceful Educational Style”.

Farrar also includes some condensed typefaces to be used in “high narrow spaces.”

Fred Farrar rails against the use of handlettering in advertisements—“the present-day avalanche of garbage”—unless it is done by one of the handful of masters of the genre such as T.M. Cleland, W.A. Dwiggins or Fred G. Cooper. Otherwise, he says, It would seem that where hand-lettering is being considered, and in the absence of a good designer, we might let Mr. Caslon or Bodoni substitute.” pp. 36–37. In contrast, Gilbert P. Farrar accepts the use of handlettering in advertisements, an indication of the aesthetic changes that took place in the 1920s. He even suggests typefaces that can mimic or substitute for handlettering such as Packard, Pabst and Tabard. However, he warns his readers not to use such types “unless there is a good reason why you should imitate handlettering.” (p. 101).

Gilbert P. Farrar concludes his survey of typefaces for advertising with this bit of advice, “Do not try to memorize a mass of type faces. If your code of principles on which you choose type faces is correct you will immediately see that you only need to know a few type faces. We have been trying to remember and use too many type faces. Let’s forget a few of them.” His final words anticipate Massimo Vignelli’s famous statement in the 1990s that we need to only use five typefaces and trash all the rest.

What’s Online no. 5: Inland Printer 1901

Here is another interesting tiny article from the 1901 Inland Printer which, like the 1899 one, is also available through Google Books. This time the article is related to printing. It is an early indication of interest in trying to use the new technology of photography to make typesetting easier, faster and more flexible. It is another reminder that we do not have an adequate history of phototypesetting, a technology that enjoyed a brief heyday that is increasingly forgotten.

Typesetting by Photo Process—For a long time rumors have been current in New York that a company was secretly preparing to undertake the production of type printing-plates by photography. Now the secret has leaked out sufficiently to warrant paragraphs in trade papers of the “revolution” it is going to bring about in the printing business. The type is printed on cards which are arranged in lines, photographed and etched on zinc, an advantage being that by camera reduction and enlargement any sized type can be had from the same copy. [written by Stephen Horgan]

The Inland Printer 1901 July, p. 541

What’s Online no. 4: Inland Printer

Several months ago I stumbled across the complete 1899 issues of the Inland Printer on Google Books. I downloaded the bound set and in skimming the pages this item caught my attention.

It is not creditable to the American people that they have to be “lawed” into respecting the flag of their country and the uniforms of the service. New York has found it necessary to pass a law making it a misdemeanor to publicly mutilate or deface the American flag. When the leaven of Americanism gets worked into the fibers of our mixed population there will, let us hope, be a deeper and purer patriotism and less hysterics.

p. 187, Inland Printer May 1899 vol. XXIII, No. 2

Two things surprised me about this tiny article: 1. That it had nothing to do with printing or any of its allied trades, and 2. that the topic was one that had recently (during the first administration of George W. Bush) been hotly debated. I am a firm supporter of the First Amendment and believe that acts of mutilation and desecration of the American flag are not inherently signs of unpatriotic behavior. I think that the Inland Printer’s view that patriotism cannot be “lawed” into existence is a sound one.

A Case Study no. 1—Chocolate & Zucchini—Addendum

The typeface used for “Chocolate” in the title of Chocolate & Zucchini is ITC Eclat (1984) by Doyald Young (1926–2011) who unfortunately passed away recently. You can see some of his sketches for the font at:

There are a number of tributes to Doyald online. Here are a few:

Update: Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

The original, limited edition version of Helvetica and the New York City Subway System (Blue Pencil Editions, 2009) has been sold out since the end of February 2010. Neither I nor my colleague Abby Goldstein, the co-designer of the book, have any copies for sale. Those who are looking for the book should either try eBay or the various online used book sources. The other option is to buy the newly published revised edition of the book now available from The MIT Press at the significantly lower price of $39.95.

The MIT Press edition is the same format and page count as the Blue Pencil version. The former contains a number of minor revisions to the text, correcting facts and adding newly discovered information, along with roughly twenty new photographs. Among the new photographs are several that show white Unimark signs in usage in the early 1970s. (I am still looking for photographs of such signs from the period 1966–1969.) The new edition also has a jacket, but the distinctive binding design of the Blue Pencil Editions book has been retained.

Keen-eyed observers will note that the colors and letters of the various subway lines on the jacket do not match those of today. That is because they are the colors and letters that were in use in 1970 when Unimark International produced the New York City Transit Authority Graphics Manual. The jacket design is based on p. 45 of the manual which reproduces the discs only in black and white accompanied by notes on the proper PMS colors to be used.

Comments on Tutorial no. 2—Addendum no. 2 Castle William and A

Johnny (Alex Morgan), Demo and ecs,
I don’t usually post comments on Blue Pencil without filtering or editing them first, but I think these testaments about Faust and Sure are deserving of being put up as is. Thanks to all of you for clearing up my misidentification of the star as an A and for explaining that SURE and FAUST are two different graffiti writers. I am sorry to hear that Sure was killed in Afghanistan.
Thank you for reading Blue Pencil and I apologize for not looking at these comments earlier.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From the Archives no. 15—Helvetica and Standard

Something else that I came across at the High School for Graphic Communication Arts were two issues of a former local trade magazine called Graphics: New York. Both were from 1965 and they help to pin down the moment when Helvetica arrived in New York and began to muscle out Standard (aka Akzidenz Grotesk).

The first issue is volume 2, number 1 from January 1965. On its back cover is an advertisement from Amsterdam Continental Types, the firm that imported European metal typefaces to the United States, for Standard. It was bragging that “crisp, steadfast Standard has become a new classic in creative typography” because it now had sixteen members in its family. The featured weight was Standard Medium.

The other issue was volume 2, number 8 from August 1965. The Amsterdam Continental Types advertisement on its back cover was no longer for Standard but was instead for Helvetica. “How do you increase legibility without increasing type size? Solve for x.” was the headline. The body text went on to explain,

“Increase the volume of the letter’s body.
“That is, increase it’s x-height.That’s what the Swiss did with Helvetica.
“They designed each character to take up a greater volume of space on the type body.”

It concluded: “HELVETICA: Swiss precision, classic simplicity.”; and “HELVETICA MEDIUM: Strongly authoritative; declarative.” The magazine itself did not pay attention to these claims for Helvetica or those for Standard. It was set in Trade Gothic. However, the inside back cover of the January issue contained an advertisement by Container Corporation of America (CCA), based in Chicago, set in Helvetica Medium.

Although Helvetica Medium had arrived in New York City by August 1965, Unimark International did not spec it for the subway signage it was working on. Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli chose Standard instead.

From the Archives no. 14—Linoskala

The High School of Graphic Communication Arts in New York City, originally founded in 1925 as the New York School of Printing, is changing with the times and one casualty is its extensive library of books, periodicals and ephemera about the printing industries (papermaking, binding, type design and manufacture, typography, editing and proofreading, graphic design, photography, illustration and more). Fortunately, thanks to Abby Goldstein, the material is being saved from the dumpster and will be finding a home at Fordham University. I have been helping Abby sort through everything to see what is valuable and what is not. In the course of doing so some fun and fascinating items have surfaced.

One such item is the Linoskala from Linotype GmbH, a two-sided volvelle (wheel chart) used to find out characters per cicero for 25 Linotype typefaces (presumably hot metal rather than Linofilm) at a series of [Didot] point sizes. The sizes vary from typeface to typeface with most being available in 6 pt, 7 pt, 8 pt, 9 pt, 10 pt and 12 pt while a few stop at 10 pt and Excelsior additionally offers 7.5 pt and 8.5 pt. Oddly there is no 11 pt.

There are two parts to the volvelle. One is a bright orange wheel with a handle and a viewing slot that has the list of typefaces and the cicero increments (in black) as well as Linotype’s logo. The other is a larger light gray wheel with the typeface names and point sizes in black arranged around its edge.

The volvelle is not dated but it is most likely from the early 1960s since Optima (1958) is among the typefaces. The other sans serifs are Futura Book, Neuzeit Grotesk Normal and Light, Erbar Grotesk Light and Black and Akzidenz Grotesk. Missing is Helvetica! Neuzeit Grotesk Normal has been used to set everything but the name of each typeface in the index on each side. They remain eponymous.