Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Letter A

Bianca Chang is a paper artist, illustrator and creative problem solver based in Sydney, Australia. All her paper sculptures are made from photocopy paper and cut entirely by hand using only pencil, ruler, compass point, and sharp blades.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bringhurst on Reading

Reading, like speech, is an ancient, preliterate craft. We read the tracks and scat of animals, the depth and lustre of their coats, the set of their ears and the gait of their limbs. We read the horns of sheep, the teeth of horses. We read the weights and measures of the wind, the flight of birds, the surface of the sea, snow, fossils, broken rocks, the growth of shrubs and trees and lichens. We also read, of course, the voices that we hear. We read the speech of jays, ravens, hawks, frogs, wolves, and, in infinite detail, the voices, faces, gestures, coughs and postures of other human beings. This is a serious kind of reading, and it antedates all but the earliest, most involuntary form of writing, which is the leaving of prints and traces, the making of tracks.

:::Robert Bringhurst::: A Story as Sharp as a Knife (1999), p.14.
Via: Greg Kindall over at Seven Roads.

Book Skeletons

Book structure models by British artist Sarah Mitchell. She is currently completing a fine arts degree at Leeds Metropolitan University. See more of her work here.


1961-62 catalog cover designed by Milton Glaser for an exhibition of Paperback Covers.

Early Book Marketing

The first italic type design originated in Venice, Italy when this edition of Virgil was published in 1501 by Aldus Manutius of the Aldine Press. Aldus actually commissioned type designer, Francesco Griffo to punchcut the first italic typeface for his book. I believe Aldus also originated one of the earliest creative marketing plans at this time as well. He cleverly chose to base the italic upon a popular form of cursive handwriting which was quite fashionable amongst his many educated customers. He also was the inventor of the semi-colon which I have reported upon previously on Letterology. One thing Aldus might have overlooked however; it appears he was so busy marketing his book, he forgot to add a decorative drop cap on the verso page.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Doh! Update alert!
Being a Renaissance guy, I couldn't believe Aldus could just overlook adding initial caps in Virgil. It then dawned on me that of course he printed a placeholder cap—For Placement Only—and had it in mind to add the beautiful hand-painted ornamental drop caps post printing. I did further investigations and found a few images of the book in the archives of the British Library and there is even an illuminated border. The physical description of this book actually reads: 8vo, 228 leaves, on vellum. With illuminated initials and illuminated border to the first page of text. (Meaning just the front matter?) No credit to the artist who created all of the page illuminations however. Typical!

Chocolate Face

Chipper. Made entirely of Chocolate Chips. From Candice Onodi, a recent design graduate of College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

This Book Belongs To_______

Ex Libris bookplates printed by young Japanese children. Sorry I cannot provide more detailed information and credits. Does anyone happen to know more?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Electric Marquee Condensed

Via: Sally Jean.

Manly Typesetters

Oh, to walk through the aisles of this vast government office and watch these typesetters at work. My cold fingers begin to crack just thinking about it. From a Harris & Ewing glass negative, Washington, circa 1910. Purchase a hi-def image of The Typesetters at Shorpy.

Just My Type

British journalist Simon Garfield describes the past 560 years of font design as the most fruitful and longest lasting collision of science and art in his newly released book, Just My Type. Garfield examines the pivotal moment when computers gave us the artistic freedom of the pull-down menu, and left the world of Letraset in the dustbin of font history. He profiles the great originators of type, from Baskerville to Zapf, as well as people like Neville Brody who threw out the rulebook. For type nerds this is a must read. Take a peak at a short video of Garfield talking about fonts and books here. You can also read a short extract from his book here. So I wonder what font he used?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Is it just me, or does this photo look like text on a page? Stunning photography work by landscape photographer, Micheal Kenna. The leading is a little loose for that particular point size however.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I completely see the irony in my acknowledgement of a British artist and publisher for a Thanksgiving Holiday tribute today, so just pretend the title mention of Foreign Food is all about turkey and pumpkin pies. (Nevermind the little penguin on a platter at the bottom of the table.) I simply love how this illustration of a family gathering displays the pre and apres meal scenes on the front and back covers, and the table doubles as the text panel for the plates of mostly handlettered type, while the family is the decorative border treatment. (I'm sure they've been called far worse.) Hats off to David Gentleman who illustrated the Plats du Jour cookbook for Penguin Books in 1957. He just turned 80 this year and continues to work from his home in Camden. There is a great read about Gentleman and his work at Penguin in Fine Books Magazine last year with and excerpt of a 2007 talk Gentleman gave at a gathering of Penguin designers and creatives. Happy Thanksgiving all! I am so grateful there are so many books yet to discover and so many people who still enjoy them!

Luis Seoane Title Pages

Title page spreads designed by Argentinian painter and poster artist, Luis Seoane, in the early 1950s. From a collection of poetry books by Ediciones Botella al Mar.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

30 Days | 30 Covers

This is Day 24 of the 30 Covers, 30 Days project sponsored by the Office of Letters and Light, an ambitious organization which fosters self-expression for young writers and encourages people of all ages to find the inspiration, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. For the month of November, they have matched a dream team of book designers (headed up by John Gall) with participants in their NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month writing project. Each designer is given just 24 hours to then complete their book cover to accompany the title. You can see all the covers to date (including John's which was Day 1) on Gall's blog, Spine Out. Above is Day 4: The Last Sin Eater, designed by Evan Gaffney and Day 20: The Day the Caffeine Died, designed by Gary Taxali. Thank you Sam over at Biobabbler for the link!

Book Design is Off the Charts

From the book, An Investigation Into the Physical Properties of Books, designed by W.A. Dwiggins in 1919 and published by The Society of Calligraphers. Dwiggin's witty infographic illustrates the Calligraphic Societies generally low opinion of the design of books during the decade after 1910. It was this scathing attack that lead to his work with publisher Alfred A. Knopf. There he designed a total of 329 books, 17 of which were chosen as AIGA selections. In addition to his distinguished book design career, Dwiggins was also a skilled calligrapher, worked in advertising, and designed many typefaces—most notably Electra and Caledonia for Linotype. He also coined the term, Graphic Designer in 1922 in reference to himself. His celebrated design of H.G.Wells, The Time Machine was published in 1931.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


In his visual essay, Iced Up and Platinum Plus, graphic designer Ryan Molloy wittingly references traditional art nouveau and art deco ornamental forms and fuses them with bling-inspired designs of hubcaps, gold teeth and other diamond-encrusted accessories from hip-hop culture. Like a hip-hop DJ, I integrate these older forms with my newly designed bling-inspired ornaments he claims. To demonstrate this, Molloy deliberately borrows a page from traditional book design and creates beautiful decorative borders. I do wish Molloy would release his Bling-Bling font, so the rest of us could do some sampling too.

Spine Design

My students are in the process of completing final text tweaks on the interior pages of their books and will soon begin work on the dust jackets. Not only do they design the front cover, but they produce the entire book jacket including the narrow spine. So often the spine is the only noticeable element of the book on a shelf, and it stands to reason it should be a compelling design. Spines come in all width, sizes and styles, but they typically include the book title, author and the publishers name and mark. It can be a challenge to include all three of these elements within the spine's narrow confine, but I encourage students to consider this an opportunity to be playful with typography and color on occasion. Ultimately, they must honor and interpret their author's work in the context it deserves.

At some point I hope to post photos of student's book covers along with some their interior page designs which are coming along quite nicely. Meanwhile I am including photos of various styles of traditional book spines. The first two images are from the recently published Penguin Classics series which are stamped linen cloth bindings designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. The next is a series of The Penguin Poets paperbacks (try to say that three times) which consist of lovely patterns in their own right. They were designed in the 60s and 70s by Stephen Russ, who trained with Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious at the Royal College of Art in the 1930's. Following this is a set of handtooled leather-bound Korans, a number of ornate stamped cloth bindings most likely from the 1920s and 30s, and several other series including the Little Golden Books with patterned foil spines.

Book Spines
little golden books
Book end