Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Treats

Cloudland, a witches' waltz from the Spellman Collection of Victorian Music Covers at The University of Reading. 
Paganini's Witches' Dance from M. Ryan Taylor's collection of Halloween Sheet Music at Thirteen for Halloween. With exception of the following photo, all other songsheets below are from the Thirteen for Halloween collection. Below is a photo of the another edition of the same sheet music as above, but from my own collection which is litho printed only one color.  No publishing date on it, but the songbook containing it is dated 1907. Loving the rustic lettering on this one, but how hard is it to kern stick letters?

Electro Man here in the Superhero costume could be a dead ringer for Stephen Colbert in tights...

And just 'cause it's witchcraft, I give you Sinatra's Witchcraft songsheet from the Frank Sinatra Impersonator Blog. Happy Halloween from Letterology!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Frankenstein meets Frankenfont

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, reinvented from fragments of PDF fonts by the team at Fathom Information Design in Boston.
A team of visual storytellers from Fathom lead by data-viz wiz Ben Fry, recently recreated the entire text of Frankenstein 
using characters and glyphs from over 64,000 PDF documents obtained through internet searches. Precisely 55,382 different glyph shapes were extracted from 347,565 fonts in the PDFs, which were then coded and sequenced to fill all of the 342,889 individual letters found in the Frankenstein text. What emerges from this DNA-like sequencing is a new Frankenfont creation formed from font fragments by Fathoms' Fry and friends.
      The story opens with the display of the most common characters such as Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman. As the story of the Frankenstein monster evolves, so does the text which is coded to completely devolve into grotesque shapes near the end. Familiar glyphs and fonts merge into obscure scripts; non-Roman fonts begin to appear; and even typefaces morph into pictograms. This Frankenfont transformation becomes the perfect metaphor for Shelley's classic tale of the deformed monster Frankenstein. 

While most books are typically designed to interpret the authors' words with little fanfare and with an obedience to convention as Stanley Morrison once put it, Fry's new Frankenfont edition plays with our sense of order, and the traditional design principles such as consistency, navigation and readability go entirely out the window. As a teacher of book design and typography for many years, I strongly advocate these principles of convention to my students. Afterall, books have been successfully published in this manner for over 500 years. Despite this endorsement, I'm also a big fan of innovation and experimentation in books. In Fry's edition of Frankenstein, a hallmark of book design and innovation has been reached with this conceptual approach to text layout.
      As a timely sidenote to this story, the topic of a frankenfont came up in my classroom just 2 weeks ago when Kevin Larson from the Advanced Reading Technologies Department at Microsoft, was speaking to my students about readability studies of various typefonts and individual characters. Larson is a text enthusiast and has published many studies on the science of word recognition and legibility of characters. The suggestion of a frankenfont was mentioned in jest as one which could build upon the best characters of many fonts in order to achieve greater legibility. The next day, my student Susan Schumacher added a post on our class Facebook page with a link to Fathom's new Frankenfont edition of Frankenstein.
      Copies of the Frankenfont project can be purchased in paperback or hardback editions on Blurb with all profits given to Donors Choose to buy books for students. Incidently, Ben Fry was recently awarded a National Design Award in Interaction Design in June from the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. 

All of the nearly 5500 unique words to be found in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. (Click image to expand). The key to any great novel is to put them all in the right place ; )
:: Thanks to James Gaddy of Co.Design for packaging this story so nicely.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Live Ghouls!


Fun for the whole family! 
:: A great  collection of monster marketing materials from retro-space Flickrstream

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Evil Eye

If I could click my heels together three times and transport myself to 16th Century York, England—indeed I would—just to see all of the old book shops and printers which the town was famed for then. This printer's devil at 33 Stonegate, still keeps vigil outside what was once a printer's studio. Local legend has it he was blamed for any printers' spelling errors long ago. These days, it is said to be unlucky to look into his beady little eyes. (He's probably casting a spell in revenge). Oh spellchecker, why must you be so dull?   
::Photo courtesy York 360.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anatomy of a Typeface

Triptych for a gallery exhibition by Bjorn Johansson of Stockholm.
No name mentioned for this typeface. Skeleton font I presume?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monster Mash-up

A letterpress children's book full of mix-and-match monster glyphs, designed by Jake Sargeant of Los Angeles. See more here

Monday, October 24, 2011

Devilish Halloween Books

"A wonderfully dark, dystopian tale set in a world where excessive consumerism has lead to an environmental apocalypse". - Doug Johnson, Independent.

"Tom Slim, a printer's devil in WWII, encounters a demon where he works. After some scary and funny misadventures he uncovers a mystery and unmasks a villain.

A young adult mystery about an adventurous 12-year-old orphan who's a printer's devil in Dicken's 19th Century London. This book sounds like a great read for young kids, according to all of the positive reviews on Amazon, with colorful references of Victorian print shops full of lead type and printing presses.  

Printer's devil or indentured servant? Published in 1962, Augsburg Publishing House. 
1960 book cover design by Jason Kirby for Vintage Books. From Crossett Library, Bennington College.

Laurence Rickels takes on the Devil with his sequel to The Vampire Lectures and goes mano a mano with the Prince of Darkness himself. Cover design for The Devil Notebooks, published in 2008, was designed by David Drummond of Salamander Hill Design. Not certain who is responsible for that sinister origami red devil.
Part 1 of Chuck Palahniuk's recently published trilogy, Damned from Random House, tells the story of a very optimistic, but pushy little 11-year-old girl who finds herself in hell and has to manipulate the corrupt system of demons, according to Palahniuk's website. "Full of tastelessly hilarious gallows humor" - Janet Maslin, New York Times. The great cover design above is by Rodrigo Corral who has designed many Palahniuk books in the past. Below are uncredited cover designs for the Italian and Polish translations of this Damned book. You can get your own Damned book here or here.

The Printer's Devil

With Halloween in the wings, I thought it was prime time to share a clip from an early Twilight Zone episode from 1963 about a printer's devil who offers to save the collapse of a town newspaper in exchange for the soul of Douglas Winter, the editor of The CourierBurgess Meredith plays Mr. Smith, a devious old linotype operator who takes the job of a printer's devil far too seriously. As the prince of darkness, he generates scoops by creating carnage with his keyboard. Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger, but this edited clip is all I could find of this episode. Still worth a watch however, just to see Meredith in the role as the satanic linotype operator with the crooked cigar—all in glorious black and white. Kind of reminds me of Dick Cheney, with exception to the full colorization. Here is host Rod Serling's soft-spoken introduction to the Printer's Devil episode from the Twilight Zone season 4 episode: 
      Take away a man's dream, fill him with whiskey and despair, send him to a lonely bridge, let him stand there all by himself looking down at the black water, and try to imagine the thoughts that are in his mind. You can't, I can't. But there's someone who can—and that someone is seated next to Douglas Winter right now. The car is headed back toward town, but its real destination is the Twilight Zone...Da da da dahhh, da da da dahhh...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Childrens' Stories

Less is more is the best way to describe the inspired poster work of Christian Jackson. These could just have easily been produced as a series of book cover designs. Simply beautiful!