If ever there was a most affable character, it is the exclamation mark! It's no mere line, dot or square, as it can be shapely, ultra-fat, and expressive, all at the same time. Used sparingly, it can make a party out of a dull sentence, and put a period to shame. Yet, when paired with large cap letters in repetition, it can be UTTERLY ANNOYING!!! None-the-less, it is worth celebrating this bold mark, which I neglected to do last week on National Punctuation Day (September 24th) when it escaped my notice! So today, I showcase some random appearances of this simple glyph.
Just above is a Paul Rand cover design for Great Issues in American History, Vol. 2. Source: Scott Lindberg/Flickr
Opposite is Anton Chekhov's novel, The Exclamation Mark, which was first published in 1886. Good Reads gives it a "four star"!
All four of the album covers above are from Seattle's own Jive Time Records, Project Thirty-three, an incredibly rich and well-catalogued archive of modernist album cover designs. The Admiral Stereo cover is dated 1960; The Hitmakers, 1967; Percussion Exotique, 1960; Grady Martin and the Slewfoot Five, 1964.
This 1964 cover on the Blue Note record label, with a flury of fat face italic exclamation marks, hits all the right notes! It was designed by Reid Miles (1927-1993), the inventive designer who showed us all what jazz looked like. Miles left Esquire magazine in 1956 to work at Blue Note where his career stretched over another decade and four hundred-plus cover designs. Despite his disinterest in jazz, his lean and expressive designs influenced a generation of music fans and designers alike. You can find a comprehensive archive of his cover designs here, a great interview with his former photo assistant, Wayne Adams at New Ish, and a nice write-up on Miles and his work over at Retinart, which is where I also found this brilliant Hi-Fi video below. Originally produced as a promotion for the upcoming concert season at the Bellavista Social Pub in Siena, Italy—this video brings Reid Miles type-laden covers to life—wear, tear and all!!!