I’ll admit it, I’m a type junkie. I have been for a long time, and there is no 12 step program to cure me of this affliction. It’s part of being a graphic designer, and someone who has spent the better part of his adult life playing with, using and building with typography to create something new and unique.
This morning when I was out on the Hamilton Wood Type Museum website (yes there is a museum dedicated to wood typography) I came across a book for sale that will be going into my reference stack asap.
“Alphabets of Wood. Luigi Melchiori and the history of Italian wood type” is the most recent addition to the latest wave of books dedicated to the history of wood type used in printing presses before digital, and before metal type became the standards of the day. It is also the first book to seriously look at the historical and cultural significance of Italian wood type manufacturers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
“This book sprung from an encounter with the life and work of Luigi Melchiori, a skilled craftman who lived and worked during the late ninteenth and early twentieth centuries in Crespano del Grappa – a small community at the foothills of the Alps in the Veneto Region. It is a tribute to a maker of alphabets of wood. The authors, James Clough and Chiara Scattolin, develop a private and professional artist’s profile, the history of the wood type and its progressive use in typography. The archive “Luigi Melchiori” is part of Tipoteca Italiana’s collections.”
Some of these I like better than others. I think Burger King should seriously consider going with the hand lettered logo created by Sara Marshall as part of her lettering project Brand by Hand. Other’s like the Coca-Cola logo just aren’t doing it for me. None the less it’s an interesting project, especially when you consider just how hot hand lettering is these days.
One of the the things I really love about these is the skill of execution. By that I mean it is solid hand lettering, that looks good. Not some sketchbooky I don’t give a rip about things like kerning, stuff which seams to have gained huge ground in the design community as of late. As someone that learned how to hand letter decades ago by hand painting store front sings, I have a solid appreciation for the skills it takes to letter like this.
There was a time not to long ago when people actually had good hand writing. Taught in primary school, practiced for hours, good penmanship was king. Slowly though, over the last twenty or so years it has begun to dissolve. Why write by hand? Why write in cursive? Why practice the art of creating letterforms by hand when you can type, touch or talk, and have your primary communication device correct your spelling on the fly. Don’t get me wrong I am not anti-technology. I am however in love with beautifully crafted hand lettering that demonstrates the craft of a dying art form. Thanks to people like lettering artist Seb Lester the art form stays alive and well. Hopefully his work will encourage others to take up a pen and create with ink on paper.
Cloths of Heaven’ is Lester’s interpretation of “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”, by renowned Irish poet William Butler Yeats. The video shows the creation of a the master art for a serigraph poster, which was also translated into a limited edition embroidery piece via The London Embroidery Studio. The attention to detail, and the craftsmanship that went into this is outstanding. It is a continuation of his exploration of the theme of beauty in the context of letterform design, and the mastery of the calligraphic arts. Big hat tip to Seb Lester.
“Yeats’s poem references ‘embroidered cloths’ and ‘gold and silver threads’, so I wanted to try to make the screen print look like an exquisite and timelessly beautiful piece of highly ornamental needlework. I’ve drawn from Medieval, Renaissance and 18th-century sources but I have also tried to integrate personal, progressive and irreverent flourishing ideas. The result is a hybrid stylistic treatment that I think could only exist in the 21st century.”
I like Bob Dylan. I’m not a huge fan of his new album, but his classics are well, classic. I’m also a huge fan of hand lettering. I think this comes from the fact that I’m old enough to remember actually doing hand lettering for design assignments because computers weren’t around.
This little video is a bit of Friday inspiration on a couple of levels. It involves Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, Hand Lettering, and the video keeps it simple and lets the typography do all the heavy lifting. If you want to see a bit of how this was made, go to the artists webpage here.
I love hand drawn type. I think it comes from the fact that I am old enough to know what it was like to actually hand letter, in the pre-computer days. I also remember what it was like to hand set type using galleys pasted up on board, or using rub-down Letraset press type. This kind of work tends to give you an appreciation of what it takes to set type, let alone be a master calligrapher.
Sebastian Lester was trained as a graphic designer at Central Saint Martins, and now lives and works in London. His specialty is hand drawn type, and based on the images below you can see why. Beautiful, detailed, incredible, hand drawn type forms that create stunning compositions. Even if he finishes his works out on the computer, he starts them by hand, and his sense of movement, balance, and composition are so solid.
I love this ambigram poster entitled “Blazing”. Just stunning work, that makes me a bit jealous, and leaves me in complete awe of his skills.