Friday, June 28, 2013

Running Away From Home

Okay. You're leaving home for good. You've had it up to here. You get no respect from anyone. Your parents make you go to bed earlier than your older, less mature brother, and they dote all of their attentions on your baby sister. 
     What kid (or adult) hasn't entertained the notion of taking to the open road and running away from home? Or maybe you did so, and returned an hour later, only to find nobody even noticed your absence. If so, then you can relate to The Beginner's Guide to Running Away From Home, an endearing tale of elaborate scheming and creative spirit written by Jennifer LaRue Huget and illustrated by the master of multimedia miniatures, Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio. It is a story told in intricate 3D illustrations of adventuresome spirit with a gentle reminder that there is no place like home. 

For this book, Sickles embarked on a 15 month journey of his own, illustrating, fabricating and photographing each meticulous character and scene of the story. He carefully flushed out the details of each 3D image with full sketches before creating his small figures. Each red-nosed character takes on a life of their own after he fabricates them from polymer clay and loosely sewn clothing. To create his miniature sets and props, Sickles relies on all sorts of found junk such as scraps of wood, fabric remnants, electrical cords, and plastic seals from orange juice containers; often letting the objects dictate the story. Everything is fair game. He then carefully stages the lighting and photographs each set in order to draw us into his magical miniature world of red-nosed characters. His work is part sideshow and part dreamland, but never far from home. Run away to your favorite bookstore soon and pick up a copy for someone you know.

On this note I might add, that I, too, will be packing my bags and running away from home for a week-long journey of my own. I will however, leave behind a trail of my favorite Independence Day indulgences from the road next week, so I can find my way back home again. Until then, "there's no place like home."   

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Color Atlas

An ink color sample page from a Japanese sample catalog of matchbox cover designs, most likely from the 1960s. This very scarce catalog is currently available from the Boston Book Company 

An early kimono color combination chart for layered clothing from Vintage Printables.

Gem color chart which appears to be partially hand stenciled. From Vintage Printables.

A personal color atlas from British artist William Gilpin (1724-1804). His sketchbook titled Hints to Form The Taste & Regulate Ye Judgement in Sketching Landscape is from 1790. From the Yale Center of British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Lichen color charts from the Svensk Lafvarnas Farghistoria by Johan Peter Westring. Printed in 1805-09. Via the Biodiversity Heritage Library archive. 

A comparative tomato gradient to incite tomato envy. From Present & Correct.

A 1944 color chart from The Technique of Colour Printing by Lithography: A Concise Manual of Drawn Lithography by Thomas E. Griffits, Faber and Faber. From the Crossett Library Flickrstream.

A 1942 Color Harmony Manual by Egbert Jacobson Color Laboratories Division, Container Corporation of America. From the Crossett Library Flickrstream.

The toast gradient scale from Things Organized Neatly.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The 1952 Typewriter Type Issue

In June 1952, Print magazine devoted an entire issue to the typewriter, "a machine to supersede the pen." The front cover, designed by George A. Shealy, cleverly illustrates the concept of an "imprint" from the artwork on the back cover. The endsheets are a nice pattern of alphabetical U&lc typewriter text. The design and layout of the remaining interior pages are far less interesting, but the content compensates for this shortfall. It begins with a short historical background of the typewriter, including an amusing letter Mark Twain typed for his brother in 1874, about "this new fangled writing machine." Historical sidenote: Twain's letter was typed just prior to his investment in the Paige Compositor, an early keyboard-operated typesetting machine that was soon overshadowed by the Linotype machine.

Because of the variable widths of the letters in our Roman alphabet, monospaced typewriter fonts have always had their limitations. I thought it was interesting to learn that the Crandall Typewriter Company was working on a proportionately spaced typewriter as early as 1881, but it was over fifty years later before even a modest success was achieved. In 1941, the legendary type designer W.A. Dwiggins spelled out some of his own challenges in designing new faces for the modern typewriter. He acknowledged the typewriter was for writing letters and not for composing books, and therefore shouldn't parody them. 


Companies could choose to have their trademark assigned to a customized key on their keyboard. Is that a real trademark, or the first smiley face emoticon above?
Ornamental typewriting was "used as training practice for aspiring stenographers." Had I known that artistic stenography was part of their job description, I might have considered this vocation. I do especially love the decorative borders created by the overlapping characters.

Remington Rand developed The Dual-Rite attachment to apply the first bold-weight strokes to specific typewriter characters, giving seniors everywhere even more an incentive to type everything in boldface ALL CAPS.

The Justowriter adopted the use of code for aligning text on a page, a complex maneuver at the time.

Inspector Remington here had the envious job as a poison pen typewriter sleuth. Below is a vast range of showings of the many faces designed for Remington and IBM typewriters.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Matter of Style

Swiss-born designer and photographer Herbert Matter (1907-1984) had an envious and long career, working with such legendary designers and artists as A.M. Cassandre, Le Corbusier, Derberny & Peignot, Alexander Calder, Charles and Ray Eames, and Fernand Leger to name just a few. His brilliant photomontage poster work for the Swiss Tourist Office in the mid-1930s, helped chart the course for modernist design. They are still some of the most recognized posters ever printed and have influenced generations of young designers. Matter eventually made his way to the US and was hired as a freelance photographer for Harper's Bazaar by art director Alexey Brodovitch. He later designed covers for arts & architecture magazine, spent twenty-years as a design consultant for Knoll Associates, was appointed Professor Emeritus of Graphic Design and Photography at Yale University, and received countless prestigious design awards before his death in 1984. 
     This featured modernist collection of Matter's catalog work was produced when he was the design consultant to the Guggenheim Museum between 1958 to 1968Bodoni Poster Compressed appears to have been his adopted "house style" font of choice during this decade, which he applied with great restraint. I have to wonder if this wonderful 1940 Photographie cover design below was ever an influence on Matter for the Calder catalog cover design above. (Always attempting to connect the dots;) To learn more about the catalogs you can visit the Guggenheim Museum's online collection. All of Matters' catalogs are available at the Internet Archive. 

A trailer for The Visual Language of Herbert Matter.