Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
“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
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.
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
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.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
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.