Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 2012 xType Chronicles Continue

Student Earica Brown used an acetylene gas flame torch as a tool to create her xType font, Carbon. With the flame turned low, a dense black carbon (soot) is released, enabling her to draw some very ethereal letterforms. She then bound all 26 of her original carbon copies into the handmade portfolio she is seen holding below.

Brendan Lattin took a lot of time outside of class to build his experimental typeface, Time Out. He cut 26 letters of the alphabet from 2 pieces of plywood each, and formed them into right angles. His objective was to experiment with light, however he had no preconceived notion for its outcome when he initially began the ambitious project. When viewed straight on, the light casts a nice glow around each letterform. What is less predictable is how the letter and light transform as you change viewing positions. Now he just has to figure how to get it all off his living room floor. ; )    

Neil Palmer's font, Remnant, was inspired by a wall of pasted posters just down the block from the school. He saw beauty in the letters that formed when layers of posters were torn away and loved the concept of trying to recreate them. He experimented with hand tearing and glueing letters, but opted to assemble them digitally from various abstract pieces in the end.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Alternate 3D Univers

Second year design student Sean Loomis takes on a 3D Univers, and deconstructs all 26 letters of the alphabet with hand-cut and folded paper for his recent experimental type project. Using stop-motion animation, he films the distorted uppercase letters with a revolving motion until each one comes into vision, closely resembling Adrian Frutigers' original designs for Univers 59 Ultra Condensed. Nicely synced with a soundtrack by the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, (Ok, Across the Universe might have been too obvious a choice), Sean's alternate condensed universe is a great experimental adventure.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Historic Russian Typography and Printing

Thought I would take a little break from the recent xType chronicles today and preview some pages from Volume 1 of the first (and only) edition of the Illustrated History of Book Printing and Typography, 1889, with text in Russian. Author Fiodor Il'ich Bulgakov (1852-1908), was a well-known Russian writer, art critic and journalist. With 364 pages of text, drawings, and color chromolithograph plates, this book would be a fascinating read for any scholar of typography and printing. Available from Russian Art and Books, $895. Of course it would help if you could read Russian. ;) 

2012 Student xType Projects, Part 5

Bugs never looked so beautiful. Student Claire Parkin had a ball with these letter bugs, assembling them into large letterforms.
      Corinna Rodriguez illustrated an Avian Alphabet of 26 species of birds seen below, and assembled them into an accordion book.  

Ayla Jacob took the term "experimental typography" quite literally for her project. Test Type is made of hand-formed paper clay letters which are dropped into small text tubes containing water. Added to each are several drops of colored ink. She photographed the reaction the colored ink had on each of the fragile paper clay letterforms.
      Christian Valencia's geometric font Plexi, was first drawn in Illustrator and then laser cut into plexiglas. The letterforms were then glued onto clear plexiglas for display. Christian's next task is to try to photograph the light each letter casts onto a white wall. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bespoke Bloc Type

"Bloc Type" is the work of second year design student Bridget Nielsen, for her xType assignment Winter quarter. It was inspired by some of Neville Brodys' condensed sans serif fonts and her love of Cyrillic font designs. To create her letterforms, she hand-cut paper stencils from light cardstock and silkscreened a small edition of posters in various colors as seen above. Having never designed a typeface, Bridget found it a challenge to create a design which was consistent, functional and yet beautiful at the same time, and to produce it entirely by hand. So popular was her 3-color proletariat typesetting poster Shh!, inspired by the 1941 Russian poster "Don't Gossip" by Vatolina and Denisov, Bridget has promised to print a second edition. I'll be sure to make an announcement when this happens. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Old School Type

Part 3 in the series of recent student experimental typography works reveals John Aspinall's parody of the 1985 Super Mario Bros. computer game. John refers to this parody as "Old School Type", as he inserted 26 mega-low-rez letters of the alphabet for the two Mario Bros. to navigate. This video shows his experimental game in linear action while Mario and his bro Luigi jump and dodge enemy attacks and navigate all 26 letters. Venturing into it, John was uncertain if his concept was even conceivable, but he discovered a way to manipulate the existing architecture of the classic 27 year-old Nintendo game in order to accommodate all 26 letters as part of the game's strategy. When he recently previewed the interactive game on a big screen at school, students—younger than the game itself—were standing in line to play it. John has now earned official old school, "game boy" status.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who Killed Smith Corona?

Second year design student Ryan Anderson did some forensic undercover investigations of his own this quarter in the creation of his experimental type assignment. What he uncovered has all the makings of a crime scene whodunit-type drama with twenty-six extremely suspect characters. In true type crime noir fashion, he cast himself in the part of Weegee, the NY crime scene photographer, taking many blown-out flash photos of the mayhem that occurred. Also typecast as a forensic specialist, he carefully examined all the evidence to solve a puzzle only a type sleuth could reveal.
      Lying in a pool of parts in a friend's garage, this 
broke-down, Smith Corona Super Sterling typewriter (1965-2012) suffered a bitter end. Ryan's friend was quickly vindicated of the murder when he claimed he had no clue how it even landed there. It just appeared one day. Ryan admits he then tampered with the evidence by removing the typewriter and parts and re-staging the entire crime scene in front of an old Royal typewriter he owned. To solve the mystery, he tinkered with every arm, leg and lever of the typewriter until he found a key to each character of the alphabet. In the process of uncovering the case and unravelling the inked ribbon, he found fingerprints all over the case. "Holy crap! I'll never solve this mystery now!" he said to himself as he carried the remains of the Smith Corona, smeared black with fingerprints, to the trash. As it goes, he never completely solved the murder case, but he documented each suspect character of this hardboiled mystery and got a grade A for his efforts. His appropriately titled, "Dead Type" poster, as seen below, may be hanging in a post office near you soon.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

xType on Center Stage

Each year about this time I feature the work of many of my Experimental Typography students which happen to be some of my favorite posts. After five years of teaching this class (it took a vacation last year ;), I am happy to say my students just keep raising the type bar. This time around, I would like to introduce the video Alphabemation, which was created by second year design student Brie Elam. This was her first attempt at animation, and it is a remarkable piece of work with over 1300 images she created with clay letters and compiled into a stop-motion video using Adobe Premiere and iMovie. The music which is so beautifully synced with it is by the Cinematic Orchestra. Any animation is a leap of faith until the final editing and assembly is completed, and I am so delighted with the outcome of Brie's ambitious work. The xType assignment (a technical type term I coined for this experimental class) was just one among many, many which she and other students had to complete this Winter quarter. Now their work deserves to take center stage. Many more of my students' various xType projects are waiting in the green room for their cameo appearances. Please stand by.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Early 20th Century Trade Marks, Part 2

It is easy to find joy in some of these early 20th C logotypes like those published in The Trade Mark News in 1910-1913, and kindly shared on Double-M's Flickrstream. These old trademarks are the folk art of the graphic design industry and just like folk art, there were no rules applied. They were likely created by self-taught hand-lettering artists and illustrators, who didn't obsess about the appropriate use of white space or faux small caps or letterspacing, but probably should have. The most successful designs seem to be those with text in shapes, ribbons or other devices; or those with custom lettering on a path or multiple paths. These trademarks were often created by skillful showcard artists familiar with manipulating text. More importantly, these artists were intuitive designers which comes from experience and an observant eye. All of the logo designs seen here may have a mixed success, but the various groups of them create some great patterns when combined together. Find a previous post I did on early 20th C trademarks here in Part 1.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Type Rider

Take one poet, add a typewriter, a bicycle and a birthday wish to travel cross country, and you have the makings of a great story. Maya Stein soon hopes to publish this story of her dream of the open road, and it will be written by people she meets along the way. She turns 40 years old in May and wants nothing more but to cycle at a clip of approximately 40 miles a day, for 40 straight days to Milwaukee, WI, the birthplace of the typewriter. Along her journey she wants to meet up with people and invite them to contribute their voices to a communal typewritten poem, or series of poems. She wants to bring people together through the written word and has developed a Kickstarter campaign to reach $15,000 in the next 40 days to do so. I admire her spirit of adventure, her sense of purpose, and the image of a Remington ten forty; the "moveable typewriter" in tow behind her bicycle. Just the numerology alone—of the 40 miles, 40 days, 40 years and a ten forty Remington is all too Pythagorical (if there is such a word ;) So donate $4 or $40 and send Maya on down the road from Amherst, MA to Milwaukee, WI. With all my talk of the open road lately, I'm thinking it's near time I take Letterology on a big road trip.
::Thanks to Rob for this Type Rider link. He bravely types for peace, democracy, and the glory of the typosphere at Typewriter Heaven.

My Kind of Town

Featured here is an elaborately illustrated 7-color poster with printer ornaments and type, entirely handset by the team at Starshaped Press. Their poster is included in the Flag and Seal Revisited exhibit, honoring Chicago's 175th birthday, currently on display at Expo 72 until August 26th. Designers and printmakers were invited to reinterpret the official city seal which included the words, URBS In HORTO, or City in a Garden. The skills and talent of Team Starshaped have been thoroughly tested with their typographic portrayal of the Chicago waterfront surrounded by tall buildings, trees, foilage, fountains and flowers. You can find a few of these prints for sale right now on Etsy. This is my kind of type town.         

Monday, March 12, 2012

Covering the Beats

Jack Kerouac was born 90 years ago today in Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1957 he published his autobiographical work On The Road, about his 1951 cross-country travel adventures with Allen Ginsburg, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs. He typed the manuscript in just three weeks on a single 120 foot scroll and it soon became the defining work of the postwar Beat Generation. Here are just some of the covers which helped to define his book over the last 55 years. Above left is the first edition in 1957. On the right is UK Edition with cover art by novelist Len Deighton. The two covers above are from pitoucat's flickrstream. Below are two of my favorite On The Road covers in the mix. From left to right: a 1961 Dutch edition and a 1959 edition from Argentina, both from Beat Book Covers

Above is a 1958 US edition from Beat Book Covers, and an undated US Pan Books edition from pitoucat

Both covers above are from Portugal. One on left is from 1960, and cover on right is 1978. Below left: Dutch cover design from 2004. Right: from Iceland from 2008. All 4 are from Beat Book Covers

1989 UK Penguin edition and a 2008 Australian edition. Below left: Another favorite of mine is the first UK edition of the original scroll manuscript. The first US scroll edition is on right. Both from 2007 via pitoucat.   
Kerouac's own design for On The Road from 1952 which was never used. Via Beat Book Covers.
      If you are keen on taking a road trip, make a detour to The Beat Museum in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood; the epicenter of all things Beat during the 1950s. The Beat Museum is dedicated to "the spirit of The Beat Generation", which they define as tolerance, compassion and having the courage to live your individual truth", and they are home to an extensive collection of Beat memorablilia, including original manuscripts, first editions, letters, personal effects and cultural ephemera. Today the museum kicks off a 90th birthday fundraiser and online auction which help to support special events at the non-profit museum. New items will be added daily through March 21st. Gotta dig it.