Learning from Letraset

Learning from Letraset”, a talk I gave at Cooper Union on February 22, 2106, as part of Type@Cooper’s Herb Lublin Lecture Series

Letraset and other brands of rub-down type literally put typography in the hands of the people. Rub-down type made it possible for students, professionals, and everyone else to design with real typefaces, without needing professional typesetting services. A cheap and easy way to experiment with typography and other graphic elements, Letraset put a lot of care into making type easy to use well, but it also resulted in a lot of ways to use type badly, but with interesting results. With some care and attention, however, it was a great way to develop an eye for typography.

This talk was a look at Letraset’s type and other graphic supplies, showing how they put the tools of professional design into everyday hands. It also looked at how people had to improvise with Letraset, and made the most of the materials at hand.

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February 27, 2016 6:58 AM | Comments (0)

The Indy Style Mag Style

A couple of years ago I wrote about a trend in magazine cover design that felt like was becoming a real cliché — centered title, single image with a border, maybe a bit of non-hierarchical list about what’s inside. After a recent visit to the newer, larger Magma shop in Covent Garden, I can see that this very homogeneous style for independent mags is still deeply entrenched, and spreading.

February 19, 2016 8:08 AM | Comments (0)

Now we’re talking

After years of listening to fascinating, chasing interviews with a diverse bunch of smart people on Typeradio, I was really flattered when Donald and Liza asked me to sit down for a chat when I was in Den Haag last March at the Robothon conference.

You can finally listen to the interview here. This is one of a few interviews that I gave before I left Monotype that have trickled out afterwards, and they all feel slightly awkward now that I'm trying to establish my place in the world outside of my old job. I can hear in this one how careful I'm being when I describe the situation, since I was only recently getting past my first attempt to leave, and trying to make peace with the new role that I took on instead.

Typeradio has quite a body of work available now, and it was really great to see the tables turned recently when Type Journal interviewed Donald and Liza about the project.

December 6, 2015 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

I have a face for radio

Paper Cuts

Like this site, Pink Mince is another side project that’s been going for so long that its own history is part of why I can’t bring myself to call it quits. I may publish sporadically, but I’m really proud of the eleven issues (not to mention the Minis, the merch, and the far-more-active Tumblr moodboard) I’ve produced across the last 6 years or so.

Despite the body of work, it's rare for a zine get much of a reach, so I don't often get to talk much about what the overall project has been about over the years. Happily, book artist Christopher Kardambikis invited me for an interview on Paper Cuts, an online radio show he hosts, where he talks to zine makers and other DIY publishers about the things they do. It was great to ramble on for a bit, and finally explain what I mean when I say that Pink Mince isn’t just a gay zine, but is also a showcase for contemporary typeface design and vintage lettering that features pictures of dudes.

Sparky in Vienna

(That’s me sneaking a discussion of Pink Mince into a talk on Letraset I was giving in Vienna.)

December 3, 2015 9:22 AM | Comments (0)

100 things about Sparky, revisited

I’ve been promising myself that I would use all this free time I have now to devote energy to writing here again, but I have become so undisciplined about writing for myself that it’s been extremely hard to keep that promise. It’s also uncomfortable to face the reality that this site has long outlived its relevance, and I mostly keep it going just because I’ve had it for so long that I hate to just give up once and for all on something that has so much more history than so many other things to be found online.

I recently look back at an old entry from late 2002 in which I listed 100 substantial and trivial bits of information about myself, and was struck by the differences between the state of my life then compared to now. I figured it would be a manageable way to dip my toe back into the water by assessing that old post and updating or fleshing out as needed.

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December 2, 2015 11:47 PM | Comments (0)


It's been a mostly pleasant time since I left my old job back in September. For the first month or so, I was actively using my newfound free time to get reacquainted with New York, which I actually never quite had time for since moving back in the Summer of 2013. [Insert small rant here about how I let myself work too much, and how my job made that all too easy to justify.] I investigated my new neighborhood, explored various parks up here in northern Manhattan, puttered around my apartment tweaking this to get to feel just right, lost a bunch of weight that had crept up on me over the least couple of years. (I don't stress-eat every day anymore!)

I also joined a few museums and visited a few others to get myself thinking more about other kinds of creativity than just typography. A long-running passion for type, compounded with a demanding job in the field, had made me a little lazy about investigating other forms of art, no matter how much I have always enjoyed it in many, many forms. It's been good to set my lens a little wider again.

Eventually, a few opportunities to do some freelance projects came to fruition, easing my fears that I'd starve or default on my mortgage before the year was out. It's been fun to have a little more variety to what I do again, although I confess that the biggest project was a Monotype follow-up — curating an exhibition in London about Eric Gill's work. It was fascinating and somewhat cathartic to wrap-up a long-simmering project with Monotype, but with a little bit of distance as an outsider.

Although the first few gigs as a freelancer materialized through the momentum of people knowing who I was and that I was suddenly available, I figured it was time to prepare myself to face the world properly, so I overhauled my online portfolio for the first time in years — like, about 8 years. It was a vivid reminder that I have a pretty eclectic background within the relatively narrow field of design and typography. Also, a reminder that I still don't have much of an interest in designing web sites.

December 2, 2015 9:28 PM | Comments (0)

Passion for Type

My very good pal Doug Wilson did this video interview with me last year, and side from the sound of my chest hair rasping against the microphone, I really like how it turned out.

Unfortunately, it languished a while since Monotype cancelled the initiative this was for. Some things that are out of date:

September 4, 2015 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

Tattoo videos

I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but the more time I spend talking about typography to people who are into it, the more people want to know as much about my nerdy type tattoos as they want to know about whatever I'm supposed to be talking about. As a result, I've been featured in a couple of videos that just take a look at my scrawny arms with their interesting markings:

The Alphabet Man

Dan Rhatigan on type...Type on Dan Rhatigan from Grey London on Vimeo.

Just for the sake of reference, here’s a list of my tattoos (as of August 2014, of course):

  1. R from unknown wood type

  2. & from Poetica by Robert Slimbach

  3. ü from Meta Bold by Erik Spiekermann

  4. s from Fette Fraktur

  5. K from the old Krispy Kreme logo

  6. g from Baskerville, based on types of John Baskerville

  7. § from Champion Gothic Middleweight by Jonathan Hoefler

  8. 7 from Century Oldstyle Bold by Morris Fuller Benton

  9. y from Cooper Black Italic by Oswald Cooper

  10. W from Whitney Bold by Tobias Frere-Jones

  11. z from Stilla by François Boltana

  12. r from Maple Medium by Eric Olson

  13. 2 from Ingeborg Block by Michael Hochleitner

  14. w from Actium Black Italic by Gerben Dollen

  15. a from Dolly Italic by Underware

  16. e from Sodachrome (Left and Right) by Ian Moore and Dan Rhatigan

  17. Y from Banco by Roger Excoffon

  18. Å from Leyton by Ian Moore

  19. C from De Little 30-Line 196

  20. H from Calypso by Roger Excoffon

  21. é from Gill Sans Ultrabold (Gill Kayo) by Eric Gill

  22. B from Festival Titling by Phillip Boydell

  23. ø from Bell Centennial Bold Listing by Matthew Carter

August 21, 2014 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

Ryman Eco

Yet another project I’ve been meaning to write more about at length, but haven’t had the time to do so properly. However, here’s a video in which I say most of what I’ve been meaning to write:

Dan Rhatigan on Ryman Eco from Grey London on Vimeo.

Ryman Eco from Grey London on Vimeo.

August 21, 2014 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

Century: longer version

Century: 100 Years of Type in Design from Monotype on Vimeo.

May 20, 2014 6:29 AM | Comments (0)

Century: 100 Years of Type in Design

This little bit of excitement has taken up a lot of my time and concentration for the last few months, and the last few weeks in particular.

[Century: 100 Years of Type in Design from Monotype on Vimeo.]

From the AIGA, our hosts: “Gathering rare and unique works from premier archives in the United States and London, “Century” will serve as the hub of a series of presentations, workshops and events held at the AIGA gallery as well as the Type Directors Club and the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at Cooper Union in New York City. The “Century” exhibition features a range of artifacts representing the evolution from typeface conception to fonts in use. Typeface production drawings by the preeminent designers of the last 100 years, proofs, type posters and announcement broadsides are supplemented by publications, advertising, ephemera and packaging.”

And if you're curious, here is some of the coverage:

[All photos by Bilyana Dimitrova. Video clip by Ben Louis Nicholas. Animations by Pentagram.]

May 13, 2014 8:22 AM | Comments (0)

The Reflex

You know when you’ve been noticing something creep up on you over time? Things you begin seeing, filing away, forming into a pattern? Yesterday, I was looking at a bunch of projects by student designers, and a certain trend snapped into focus. It was so instantly, immediately clear the first time I saw an example, and by the 6th I was really frustrated that so many people had veered toward the same solution without thinking much about context. I worry about things like this in design — especially when I see it in student work — because I began to worry that a style becomes a tic, a reflex that may not be questioned or considered well enough.

You try. Can you notice the pattern forming, the approach that has become a kind of template for a certain kind of work?

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May 13, 2014 5:28 AM | Comments (1)

Spacing tests

A quickie, just so I can direct people to a few of my favorite sets of test material that I use in the earlier stages of working on a typeface design:


Essential — Miguel Sousa’s adhesiontext tool

Emil Ruder’s Spacing Test

This comes from this Typophile thread on spacing, and refers back to Emil Ruder’s Typographie published 1967. The idea is that the first group of words contain the more easily combined shapes, while the second sets contain trickier combinations, such as the accursed diagonals! The two sets of words should achieve pretty even overall color if a typeface is spaced pretty well. The Typophile thread presents the words in lists, but I find it easier to set paragraphs side-by-side and compare results as I work on spacing.

bibel malhabile modo biegen peuple punibile blind qualifier quindi damals quelle dinamica china quelque analiso schaden salomon macchina schein sellier secondo lager sommier singolo legion unique possibile mime unanime unico mohn usuel legge nagel abonner unione puder agir punizione quälen aiglon dunque huldigen allégir quando geduld alliance uomini

vertrag crainte screw verwalter croyant science verzicht fratricide sketchy vorrede frivolité story yankee instruction take zwetschge lyre treaty zypresse navette tricycle fraktur nocturne typograph kraft pervertir vanity raffeln presto victory reaktion prévoyant vivacity rekord priorité wayward revolte proscrire efficiency tritt raviver without trotzkopf tactilité through tyrann arrêt known

Kern King

Leslie's Cabarga’s Kern King is another test I’ve been using for ages. It contains words that represent the most common character combinations. The list is biased heavily toward English, but it contains a bunch of foreign and made-up words just to be a little more thorough. Just in case the link ever breaks, I’ll simply quote it here:

How to Use Kern King

First, complete the spacing of your font in progress, but before adding kerning . . . paste [this text] into a word processing or layout program document, look at the words in lowercase, then as all caps, and see how they set. Make a list of all the problem pairs: those that are too far apart, and those that are too close together. Open up the font again in Fontographer or FontLab, make corrections to spacing and add kerning. Generate the font a second time. Check again. Repeat process until [spacing and] kerning seems perfect.


lynx tuft frogs, dolphins abduct by proxy the ever awkward klutz, dud, dummkopf, jinx snubnose filmgoer, orphan sgt. renfruw grudgek reyfus, md. sikh psych if halt tympany jewelry sri heh! twyer vs jojo pneu fylfot alcaaba son of nonplussed halfbreed bubbly playboy guggenheim daddy coccyx sgraffito effect, vacuum dirndle impossible attempt to disvalue, muzzle the afghan czech czar and exninja, bob bixby dvorak wood dhurrie savvy, dizzy eye aeon circumcision uvula scrungy picnic luxurious special type carbohydrate ovoid adzuki kumquat bomb? afterglows gold girl pygmy gnome lb. ankhs acme aggroupment akmed brouhha tv wt. ujjain ms. oz abacus mnemonics bhikku khaki bwana aorta embolism vivid owls often kvetch otherwise, wysiwyg densfort wright you’ve absorbed rhythm, put obstacle kyaks krieg kern wurst subject enmity equity coquet quorum pique tzetse hepzibah sulfhydryl briefcase ajax ehler kafka fjord elfship halfdressed jugful eggcup hummingbirds swingdevil bagpipe legwork reproachful hunchback archknave baghdad wejh rijswijk rajbansi rajput ajdir okay weekday obfuscate subpoena liebknecht marcgravia ecbolic arcticward dickcissel pincpinc boldface maidkin adjective adcraft adman dwarfness applejack darkbrown kiln palzy always farmland flimflam unbossy nonlineal stepbrother lapdog stopgap sx countdown basketball beaujolais vb. flowchart aztec lazy bozo syrup tarzan annoying dyke yucky hawg gagzhukz cuzco squire when hiho mayhem nietzsche szasz gumdrop milk emplotment ambidextrously lacquer byway ecclesiastes stubchen hobgoblins crabmill aqua hawaii blvd. subquality byzantine empire debt obvious cervantes jekabzeel anecdote flicflac mechanicville bedbug couldn’t i’ve it’s they’ll they’d dpt. headquarter burkhardt xerxes atkins govt. ebenezer lg. lhama amtrak amway fixity axmen quumbabda upjohn hrumpf

KERN KING Part 2 — Most Common Initial Caps:

Aaron Abraham Adam Aeneas Agfa Ahoy Aileen Akbar Alanon Americanism Anglican Aorta April Fool’s Day Aqua Lung (Tm.) Arabic Ash Wednesday Authorized Version Ave Maria Away Axel Ay Aztec Bhutan Bill Bjorn Bk Btu. Bvart Bzonga California Cb Cd Cervantes Chicago Clute City, Tx. Cmdr. Cnossus Coco Cracker State, Georgia Cs Ct. Cwacker Cyrano David Debra Dharma Diane Djakarta Dm Dnepr Doris Dudley Dwayne Dylan Dzerzhinsk Eames Ectomorph Eden Eerie Effingham, Il. Egypt Eiffel Tower Eject Ekland Elmore Entreaty Eolian Epstein Equine Erasmus Eskimo Ethiopia Europe Eva Ewan Exodus Jan van Eyck Ezra Fabian February Fhara Fifi Fjord Florida Fm France Fs Ft. Fury Fyn Gabriel Gc Gdynia Gehrig Ghana Gilligan Karl Gjellerup Gk. Glen Gm Gnosis Gp.E. Gregory Gs Gt. Br. Guinevere Gwathmey Gypsy Gzags Hebrew Hf Hg Hileah Horace Hrdlicka Hsia Hts. Hubert Hwang Hai Hyacinth Hz. Iaccoca Ibsen Iceland Idaho If Iggy Ihre Ijit Ike Iliad Immediate Innocent Ione Ipswitch Iquarus Ireland Island It Iud Ivert Iwerks Ixnay Iy Jasper Jenks Jherry Jill Jm Jn Jorge Jr. Julie Kerry Kharma Kiki Klear Koko Kruse Kusack Kylie Laboe Lb. Leslie Lhihane Llama Lorrie Lt. Lucy Lyle Madeira Mechanic Mg. Minnie Morrie Mr. Ms. Mt. Music My Nanny Nellie Nillie Novocane Null Nyack Oak Oblique Occarina Odd Oedipus Off Ogmane Ohio Oil Oj Oklahoma Olio Omni Only Oops Opera Oqu Order Ostra Ottmar Out Ovum Ow Ox Oyster Oz Parade Pd. Pepe Pfister Pg. Phil Pippi Pj Please Pneumonia Porridge Price Psalm Pt. Purple Pv Pw Pyre Qt. Quincy Radio Rd. Red Rhea Right Rj Roche Rr Rs Rt. Rural Rwanda Ryder Sacrifice Series Sgraffito Shirt Sister Skeet Slow Smore Snoop Soon Special Squire Sr St. Suzy Svelte Swiss Sy Szach Td Teach There Title Total Trust Tsena Tulip Twice Tyler Tzean Ua Udder Ue Uf Ugh Uh Ui Uk Ul Um Unkempt Uo Up Uq Ursula Use Utmost Uvula Uw Uxurious Uzßai Valerie Velour Vh Vicky Volvo Vs Water Were Where With World Wt. Wulk Wyler Xavier Xerox Xi Xylophone Yaboe Year Yipes Yo Ypsilant Ys Yu Zabar’s Zero Zhane Zizi Zorro Zu Zy Don’t I’ll I’m I’se

Digits of pi

My favorite way to check figures as I work on them is to fill preview windows, test documents, etc with digits of pi. It’s a great way to look for gaps or dark spots in the overall color, and check for that tricky sweet spot between even color and clarity of individual numbers. Also a great way to compare blocks of tabular figures against blocks of proportional figures.


My most frequently visited page on Wikipedia is the multilingual List of pangrams page. It’s a great way to check that a design holds together once you start figuring out accent marks, or to try character combinations you might not think about on your own. I edited down the lists on that page to a briefer text that tests various languages using the Latin alphabet:

Catalan: Jove xef, porti whisky amb quinze glaçons d’hidrogen, coi! Young chef, bring whisky with fifteen hydrogen ice cubes, darn! Aqueix betzol, Jan, comprava whisky de figa. That idiot, Jan, was buying fig whisky. Danish: Høj bly gom vandt fræk sexquiz på wc. Tall shy groom won dirty sex quiz on W.C. Quizdeltagerne spiste jordbær med fløde, mens cirkusklovnen Walther spillede på xylofon. The quiz contestants ate strawberry with cream while Walter the circus clown played the xylophone. Dutch: Lynx c.q. vos prikt bh: dag zwemjuf! (Perfect pangram, 26 letters) Lynx , in this case fox. stings bra: hey swim teacher! Doch Bep, flink sexy qua vorm, zwijgt But Bep, thoroughly sexy of shape, keeps silent Sexy qua lijf, doch bang voor ’t zwempak Sexy of body, yet scared of the swimsuit Pa’s wijze lynx bezag vroom het fikse aquaduct Dad’s wise lynx piously observed the sturdy aqueduct. Filmquiz bracht knappe ex-yogi van de wijs Film Quiz startled handsome ex-yogi Several others: “Max boft: z’n vrouw is qua type degelijk”, “Lex bederft Uw quiz met typisch vakjargon”, “Sexy dame bezorgt chique volkje fijne wip”. Filipino: Ang buko ay para sa tao dahil wala nang pwedeng mainom na gatas. (Coconut is for people because there is not enough milk.) Pwede kang yumaman dahil sa bagong roleta. (You can be rich because of the new wheel.) Finnish: Törkylempijävongahdus — Muckysnogger booty-call. Albert osti fagotin ja töräytti puhkuvan melodian. Albert bought a bassoon and blasted a puffing melody. (Used in older versions of Word Perfect). French: Buvez de ce whisky que le patron juge fameux. Drink from this whisky, which the boss judges to be famous. Portez ce vieux whisky au juge blond qui fume. Go take this old whisky to the blond judge who smokes. Bâchez la queue du wagon-taxi avec les pyjamas du fakir. Tarpolin-up the taxi-railcar tail with the fakir’s pajamas. Voyez le brick géant que j’examine près du wharf. See the giant brig which I examine near the wharf. (The person is looking at a ship) Voix ambiguë d’un cœur qui au zéphyr préfère les jattes de kiwi. Ambiguous voice of a heart which prefers kiwis’ bowls to a zephyr. Monsieur Jack, vous dactylographiez bien mieux que votre ami Wolf. Mister Jack, you type much better than your friend Wolf. (Was used in the Swiss army to check the keyboard of typewritters before teletransmission) German: Sylvia wagt quick den Jux bei Pforzheim. Sylvia dares quickly the joke at Pforzheim. Franz jagt im komplett verwahrlosten Taxi quer durch Bayern. Franz chases in the completely shabby cab straight through Bavaria Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den großen Sylter Deich. Victor chases twelve boxers across the great dam of Sylt (with umlauts and ß, each letter exactly once, according to the pre-1996 spelling rules): “Fix, Schwyz!” quäkt Jürgen blöd vom Paß. “Quick, Schwyz!” Jürgen squawks zanily from the pass. Falsches Üben von Xylophonmusik quält jeden größeren Zwerg. Wrong practising of xylophone music bothers every larger dwarf. Icelandic: Kæmi ný öxi hér, ykist þjófum nú bæði víl og ádrepa. If a new axe were here, thieves would feel increasing deterrence and punishment. Svo hölt, yxna kýr þegði jú um dóp í fé á bæ. A cow in heat with such a limp would admittedly keep silent about drugs in sheep on a farm. Italian: Quel fez sghembo copre davanti. That slanted fez covers the front. Ma la volpe, col suo balzo, ha raggiunto il quieto Fido. But the fox with her leap has reached the quiet Fido. (Without foreign letters; observe that “Fido” is a proper noun commonly given to dogs.) Quel vituperabile xenofobo zelante assaggia il whisky ed esclama: “Alleluja!” That blameworthy and zealous xenophobe tastes his whisky and says: “Alleluja!” Pranzo d’acqua fa volti sghembi. O templi, quarzi, vigne, fidi boschi! Che tempi brevi, zio, quando solfeggi. “Berlusconi? Quiz, tv, paghe da fame.” (Umberto Eco) “TV? Quiz, Br, Flm, Dc... Oh, spenga!” (Umberto Eco, 1979) Norwegian: Vår sære Zulu fra badeøya spilte jo whist og quickstep i min taxi. Our strange Zulu from the bathing Island did actually play whist and quickstep in my cab. Høvdingens kjære squaw får litt pizza i Mexico by. The chief’s dear squaw gets a little pizza in Mexico City. IQ-løs WC-boms uten hørsel skjærer god pizza på xylofon. IQ-less WC-bum without hearing cut good pizza on xylophone. Sær golfer med kølle vant sexquiz på wc i hjemby. Strange golfer with club won sex quiz on W.C. in hometown. Quizer om Canadiske wienerbrød i juni var fryktet av personer med xenofobi, derfor zappet de vinneren så hardt at de ødelagte æren sin. Quizzes about Canadian wiener breads in June was feared by individuals with xenophobia, so that is why the zapped the winner so hard that they damaged their honor. Portuguese: Um pequeno jabuti xereta viu dez cegonhas felizes. A curious little tortoise saw ten happy storks. Blitz prende ex-vesgo com cheque fajuto. Police arrested ex-cross-eye with fake check in a checkpoint. Gazeta publica hoje no jornal uma breve nota de faxina na quermesse. The journalists publish today at the newspaper a short note about the cleaning at the kirmiss. À noite, vovô Kowalsky vê o ímã cair no pé do pingüim queixoso e vovó põe açúcar no chá de tâmaras do jabuti feliz. At night, grandpa Kowalsky sees the magnet falling in the complaining penguin’s foot and grandma puts sugar in the happy tortoise’s date tea. Luís argüia à Júlia que «brações, fé, chá, óxido, pôr, zângão» eram palavras do português. Luís argued to Júlia that “big arms, faith, tea, oxide, to put, bee” were Portuguese words. Zebras caolhas no Java querem passar fax para moças gigantes de New York. One-eyed zebras in Java want to fax giant ladies from New York. Spanish: El veloz murciélago hindú comía feliz cardillo y kiwi. La cigüeña tocaba el saxofón detrás del palenque de paja. (Used in Windows as sample text) The quick Hindu bat was happily eating golden thistle and kiwi. The stork was playing the saxophone behind the straw arena. El pingüino Wenceslao hizo kilómetros bajo exhaustiva lluvia y frío; añoraba a su querido cachorro. The penguin Wenceslao did kilometres under exhaustive rain and cold; he longed for its dear puppy. Jovencillo emponzoñado de whisky: ¡qué figurota exhibe! Whisky-intoxicated youngster — what a figure he’s showing! Ese libro explica en su epígrafe las hazañas y aventuras de Don Quijote de la Mancha en Kuwait. That book explains in its epigraph the deeds and adventures of Don Quijote de la Mancha in Kuwait. Queda gazpacho, fibra, látex, jamón, kiwi y viñas. There are still gazpacho, fibre, latex, ham, kiwi and vineyards. Whisky bueno: ¡excitad mi frágil pequeña vejez! Good whisky, excite my frail, little old age! Swedish: Flygande bäckasiner söka hwila på mjuka tuvor. Flying snipes seek rest on soft tufts [of grass]. Yxskaftbud, ge vår WC-zonmö IQ-hjälp. Axe handle messenger, give our WC zone maiden IQ help. Gud hjälpe Zorns mö qvickt få byxa. God help Zorn’s maiden get trousers quickly.

March 18, 2014 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

What, these old things?

Centaur by Bruce Rogers


Bruce Rogers, drawing of the typeface Centaur for the Monotype release, 1929. Source

What, these old things?

Centaur original drawings

I’m being glib, I know. I legitimately feel privileged that part of my job is to work with these incredible, unique materials and help show them to the world. However, it does give me a tremendous kick to see work I’ve been involved with in my day job job appear in my Tumblr feed when I least expect it. In this case, it almost took me a second to realize that the Centaur drawings were being posted by the superb Design Is Fine, because I am so used to seeing this particular photo and these particular drawings. In fact, the caption is even one that I wrote originally, when we were preparing material for the Monotype Recorder/Pencil to Pixel mini-site.

I’ve made a point over the last few years of getting material from Monotype’s archive out into the open more often. It requires a lot of care to make sure the materials are protected, but I truly believe these are most valuable if they are seen and discussed in a way that makes it clear how much they connect to what we do today. What I’ve found from showing things like original lettering drawings and the mechanical type drawings made from them is that people get really excited about seeing physical artifacts that connect to design work that they’ve most experienced digitally. I think fonts are a particular case, too, as it is so easy to take them for granted when they appear in ever-expanding pull-down menus. When people see the hand-drawn shapes it is much easier to realize that even though few designers draw out a complete typeface in pencil these days, those shapes have to come from somewhere, and a person will have been involved in drawing those shapes.

I full-on love the part of my job that lets me be archivist and historian. LOVE. IT. I love spending time with these materials and learning more and more about what went into producing them, and I love getting to digest all that information and use to get people excited about what can they can do with typography now.

Assorted typographic treasures
January 14, 2014 6:01 AM | Comments (1)

Futura: The Typeface of Today and Tomorrow

James-Lee Duffy of We Are Shadows, and me

Just released: another in the series of short videos produced by D&AD that peer into the wonders of the Monotype archive. In this latest one, I have a chat with James-Lee Duffy of We Are Shadows about a stack of Futura specimens from the Bauer foundry, and how Futura is used today.

[Unfortunately I can’t embed the video, but you can watch it on D&AD’s site.]

James-Lee Duffy

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January 8, 2014 11:15 AM | Comments (0)
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