I recently played a game on Instagram where everyone posted a different letter of the alphabet each day. It's fascinating to see what your contemporaries, both professional and otherwise, come up with. Especially cool is that they were from all around the world.
I went back and, agonized through years of making words and found 26 letters and 10 numbers. My goal: find the ones I liked the best (or hated the least). Of course, when these letters were created, they each had a purpose and a story to relate so, I'm posting them here with some background for each.
Everything you always wanted to know about type: but were afraid to ask.
There was a time when type was created by a small number of artisans, trained by apprenticeship to the masters who preceded them. Creating fonts was a painstaking, tedious process and those ubiquitous symbols were shown respect and reverence. As befitting such vital resources, they were presented to printers and designers in elegant volumes.
Digital technology gave the resources for creating fonts to a much wider audience and a new generation of “typographers” came into being. Sadly, their passion to create was rarely matched by their skills or craftsmanship and so, the glorious legacy of great typography began to fade. With the availability to view, download and cluelessly mangle an infinite variety of fonts, the type book in physical form became nearly extinct.
Enter James Montalbano, a prolific modern day typographer with an uncompromising dedication to perfection, expertise with digital tools and a clear view of the history and continuing evolution of typography. Leveraging previously unavailable technology (and working ceaselessly), James has created a staggering collection of font families featuring numerous variations in weights, widths, alternate character sets and glyphs suitable for text in pretty much any language you’ll encounter.
His foundry, name, Terminal Design, comes from typographic nomenclature for the “terminal” or precise end of a stroke. Not satisfied to simply provide resources for nearly any conceivable designer’s task, James has assembled and published a definitive resource and a respectful nod to a lost tradition. Redeeming a classic format, the Terminal Design Type Catalog, eloquently executed by Charles Nix, of Monotype, presents character sets, one-line showings and particularly useful text settings in the tradition of great book design. As if this were not sufficient, the catalog concludes with appendixes of display and text parings and is indexed by x-height, stylistic set and type family.
Finally, for those of us who sometimes have a difficult time distinguishing one font from another, present company included, there is a fascinating section called earmarks. As explained by Mr. Montalbano: “The details of a serif font—the shape of the apex on an A, the serif structure, the size and placement of the jot on an i, the leg of an R, the tail of a Q—are the subtle but essential characteristics that help us discern and choose faces. In the pages that follow, these typographic moments are put under the microscope for your investigation and comparison.”
A rich and useful resource? The Zen of typography or both? You decide.
Understated opening and conclusion to a treasury of type.
The details of a serif font—the shape of the apex on an A, the serif structure, the size and placement of the jot on an i, the leg of an R, the tail of a Q—are the subtle but essential characteristics that help us discern and choose faces. In the pages that follow, these typographic moments are put under the microscope for your investigation and comparison.
Taking advantage of OpenType features to extend the range of a font to countless alternate and contextual characters.
In the haute cuisine of typography, subtle pairings allay monotony and elicit synergy.
The many options of character weight and width and comparisons of x-height.
Text samples in different, sizes, line widths and lins spacing, position and border dimensions.
Every line show a different member of this extensive type family.
People love to keep track of numbers, quantities, awards, rankings anniversaries and such. Since I know most of the numbers by heart, I often get to illustrate them on magazine covers for subjects such as "The 100 scariest Zombie movies of all time" or "37 of Cleveland's finest restaurants where you don't have to wear a coat and tie." In fact, I have a little gallery of past numbers jobs on my Drawger page entitled "By the numbers."
This latest opportunity came from ColoradoBiz magazine thanks to "50 Colorado Businesses Poised for a Breakthrough" and the new art director, whose vision we were able to realize without a hitch.
The AD had the idea of a theatrical presentation for the cover and an inside page. I showed him a lot of idea sketches but, I think his plan was the best of all and it worked like a charm. As a bonus, I was able to use my own fonts in the underlines, subheads and even the headline.
I did sketches focusing on the concept with which I was presented but, threw in a couple of my own weird ideas, just in case
As always, if it doesn't read in black and white, color isn't going to save it and could easily make it worse.
For the cover, we are welcomed with a classic theatre marquee. Where better to put a message you want noticed? If you remember to ask, I'll show you a bunch of other assignments where the "marquee" gambit worked nicely.
Entering the magazine, we also enter the theatre to see the curtains unfold on our story in the brilliant glow of the footlights.
Victor Vaissier was a much beloved figure In France at the end of the 19th century. In 1887 he named the company he had inherited from his father Savonnerie du Congo. With nationwide advertising campaigns and participation in a number universal exhibitions, he attained stunning success with his products ranging from soaps to toothpaste, hair creams and talc.
His charitable generosity, not to mention his distinguished and ample moustache, gave him near legendary status during the Belle Époque coinciding with America’s Gilded Age. In 1892 he built a fabulous home nicknamed “Castle of the Congo” as a kind of permanent spectacle which further elevated his profile and advanced his business.
As the nineteenth century celebrated like no other the discovery of the most distant countries, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, M. Vaissier chose much of his inspiration from the exotic plants and flowers of these regions. He even fancied himself in the image of King Makoko of the Congo, then under the French flag, and was known to occasionally dress in royal tribal garments. After his death in 1922, the company continued to run under a number of different owners and did not cease operations until the 1960s.
La Piscine - Musée d'Art et d'Industrie in Roubaix, having acquired an extensive collection has mounted an exhibition, sharing with the public the considerable output of this much celebrated man.
The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1.
In conjunction with the exhibition I was involved in recreating and/or restoring some of the original products to be available for purchase by visitors to the museum.
The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1.In conjunction with the exhibition I was involved in recreating and/or restoring some of the original products to be available for purchase by visitors to the museum. The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1
The Castle of the Congo and Vaissier's simple and straightforward (for the time) billhead.
A plethora of the original products, containers and packaging on display in the museum.
Rescued from dusty old archives, a selection of the restored soap packaging.
Left, the original, right completely redrawn box for a collection of scented soaps.
Left, illustrations from the catalog, right, the updated wrappers, Yep, we did have a lot of fun with these.
Left, illustrations of from the catalog of soaps with debossed imagery, right, the carefully drawn art that was to become the die.
Left, the catalog images, right, the finished bars of soap.
Gift-worthy selections meticulously packaged, include a newsletter detailing the history of the company and a mini facsimile of an original catalog.
Products based on original designs elegantly packaged for sale in the museum gift shop.