Friday, October 2, 2015

Handmade Typography

Ignite | Pei-San Ng
This week I was browsing for hand-done lettering on the web. Aside from finding calligraphic and digitized typography, I stumbled upon the image of a word that was done in a script font, but it was mounted on the wall and made of matches.  Here is the image to the right:
This artist took on a new meaning of hand-done typography created handmade type. It never crossed my mind that this was also considered to be hand-done typography. I've thought of hand-done only be done on a two-dimensional surface.
Transformation | Pei-San Ng
            Pei-San Ng is an Illinois- based multimedia artist that has designed a series of typographical pieces that are made of thousands of matches. Her technique consists of simply gluing matches to a panel of wood that creates a word. (I presume that she has the script in an outline, but I did not read that on her website.) Ng reached out to and shared three of these pieces– Ignite, Transformation, and Creation.

Transformation (detail)
I went to Ng’s personal website,, to learn more about her intent behind her typographic artwork. Ng mentions in her artist statement that she enjoys the tease that her work evokes amongst viewers, “...if you light the matches, then you change the work, it becomes a performance, and you get a moment of satisfaction and then you have nothing.” As a viewer, you do get that sense of wanting to light the work, just to see it burn in order to experience the transformation of the piece. I like the fact that she uses words that relate the idea of fire by using matches to create the word. I also think it is interesting that on her website she has limited the amount of photographs that actually depict the letters burning so she can continue to tease the audience. You are forced to imagine the burning of each word. 

            With that being said, I explored variations of type and how people interpret the meaning of certain words through different typefaces. Through this exploration, I have learned not to limit my thinking to only the computer. It is much more helpful to try out different solutions when creating typography. Here are some examples of more interpretations of handmade type:
Sofa | click here to visit page
Above is a font that someone manipulated in Photoshop to mimic the idea that it was actually handmade. This particular piece could have been made by hand and then photographed. Once again, there is a certain ambiguity about the process. I thought this was pretty cool to have the word resemble a certain sofa and the feel of it as well.

Line | click here to visit page
This next picture is similar to the previous picture, but executed differently. The letterforms were obviously created using line and because lines create texture, they did not have to incorporate anything extra. The lines aren’t all uniform, which makes these letters a little more interesting. There are lines that wrap around and cross over the letterform to make the letters a little more dynamic.

Delicious | click here to visit page
This next image is made of food (not literally) and spells out Delicious. The cool thing about this image is that the artist had the food embroidered on fabric. It gives the piece a more crafted feel than the other two examples. The craftiness really embraces the handmade aspect of the process. In the close-up, you can really see the detail of the thread, which is really beautiful.

The last example that I have is almost like a performance piece. Each person uses his or her arms to become the letterform. Even the first and last person creates quotes. I have seen other people try to execute letterforms using the form of their bodies, but I think this way is far more successful.
Type Should Move | click here to visit page

Sustainable Typography

The environmental and economic impacts of design and print media are important to consider, especially regarding the cost and quantity of materials used. For this post I decided to research the intersection of typography and sustainability, and investigate typographic choices and innovations that respond to this issue.

The goal of sustainable typography is to reduce the amount of ink and paper used in printing. Simply put, conserving ink and paper saves money and the environment.

Century Gothic is regarded as a "green" font. A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin showed that it uses 30% less ink than the default font Arial, and even beats out Ecofont, which was designed for sustainability, in terms of ink usage. However, while it conserves ink, Century Gothic is wider than many other fonts, meaning that it is not sustainable in terms of paper use.

Gulliver, designed by Gerard Unger in 1993, was marketed "The world's most economical printing type." At 10 points, it can be condensed up to 90% of its original width, and due to a large x-height it can be read at smaller sizes without seeming small. The article I read gives an example of Gulliver's effectiveness. When USA Today had to adapt to a more slender layout, the publication lost a column of body. Switching to Gulliver allowed them to print the same amount of information in a smaller space, without the copy looking too small. This speaks to Gulliver's ability to reduce paper usage.

The Ecofont family was designed by a company called SPRANQ in the Netherlands, and is significant because unlike Century Gothic it was designed with sustainability in mind. Ecofont is a sans-serif typeface based on the Vera Sans family. The center of each letterform is lined with a series of small "holes," which reduce ink use by 15% compared to Vera Sans and do not reduce legibility. This version of Ecofont uses more ink than Century Gothic. However, the Ecofont software can also produce an Ecofont version of Century Gothic (and other fonts), significantly reducing ink usage. The creators of Ecofont recommend using a narrow version of Ecofont in order to conserve both ink and paper.

This post on Ecofont's website explains all of this and more, including the choice of Vera Sans (a lookalike of Verdana) as the basis for the font.

Ryman Eco, designed by Monotype, the Grey London advertising agency, and the Ryman stationery retailer in the UK, is another font designed to be sustainable. Each letterform consists of a series of strokes with space in between, and consequently Ryman Eco uses approximately 33% less ink than standard fonts. When printed at smaller sizes, ink bleeds into the negative spaces and causes the letterforms to appear more filled in. Legibility is extremely important in designing a typeface, and the designers of Ryman Eco took this into consideration in designing the font. Aesthetics were also a focus of Ryman Eco's design, setting it apart from fonts like Ecofont. In the words of Dan Rhatigan, type director at Monotype, “I feel other eco-friendly fonts have compromised on design, if you use them for anything other than an invoice, they’re just not very pretty. With Ryman Eco, we wanted to create something that looks like a classic serif from a distance but is also a beautiful font to work with when you blow it up. It was critical that it wasn’t just functional.” Ryman Eco is advertised as "the world's most beautiful sustainable font." What's more, Ryman Eco is free to download, making its sustainable impact widely accessible.

The Ryman Eco website features a series of designs using each of the font's capitals, as well as a video about the design of the font.

While no eco-friendly font is perfect, and none offer complete solutions to the issue of the economic and environmental issues surrounding printing. However, they still offer improvements and encourage consciousness of the environmental greater impacts of print design and communication.


Thursday, October 1, 2015


Typography has evolved into many different forms. From Kinetic type to Anamorphic type there is nothing it seems that Typography can't do. While scrolling through the numerous pages of possible blog topics, I came across an article from the Huffington Post that talks about Hongtao Zhou, an artist and professor from China. His recent project called "textscapes" is a tribute to the design progress China has made.

As we all have learned since the first day of this class, woodblock printing and moveable type can originally be dated back to about 600 AD in China; making early Chinese inventors, type masters. Unlike the methods of the early Chinese designers who actually carved the wood, Hongtao uses a 3D printer to create a similar feel of woodblock text. In his work, he turns a letter into a city and a story into a sculpture.

He sums up his work saying, "These documents make reading interactive for a general audience... [it's] knowledge as well as art," he added. "This series of work has text variations of braille, language characters, calligraphies and number systems to bridge the text and its visuality in architecture, landscape, portraits and abstract matters."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hand Done Type, the Dying Art?

So there I sat at my desk, Monster drink in tow with no clue what to write. Finally, the Monster starts kicking in, I begin my research topic on the notion that hand done lettering or calligraphy was a dying art.  It is a statement that I recalled hearing since my first class in Tyler during my color foundation drawing class. For me, drawing was hard enough as it is, but hand doing lettering was a whole other league of its own. 

Through my graphic design courses, Jessica Hische’s name is often dropped as a prime example of typography, most of it being hand done. Using that as my starting point I went to her website and ended up in her FAQ. In the section, “what’s the difference between lettering and fonts” and “how did you become a letterer,” explains the difference between “fonts” and “lettering”. In Hische’s own words, “lettering is essentially illustrations of letters, words, and phrases” rather than designing a whole entire typeface system. With a basic understanding, I continued on my journey of discovery, with actually reading articles about why this art is considered dying. I mean, designers like Jessica Hische does not seem to be the only one around doing it.

As the article “The Dying Art of Handwriting” puts it, the reason for this art “dying” or fading is because of the technological advances. Attributing the replacement of a $300 calligraphy pen for graduation to getting a Macbooks or iPad, the “new writing tools of the digital age.” A good portion of this article is dedicated to talking about how handwriting is similar to a muscle, that it builds “hand-eye coordination and […] fine motor skills.” That there was even studies conducted with children who practiced cursive writing at an early age in contrast to children who do not. The children that practiced end up with higher academic success in the future. It is specifically cursive writing though in this study, apparently connecting one letter to another literally helps to connect the dots or nerves in our brains. 

Not only is practicing writing cognitively good for us, but it is also a good way of distinguishing a person’s personality. I found this to be interesting because the one-way type is used in design, is to express a certain emotion or atmosphere, and here this article talks about a person’s personality through their handwriting. It is also mentioned that writing versus just typing directly, people are able to express more ideas because of the direct correlation between writing and thinking. As a designer, reading these past few passages really made me want to try doing lettering myself. Especially since I struggle with expressing more ideas.

In the last few passages of the article, the author expressed what she believes to be the reason of declining numbers in writing. Simply that schools no longer are focused on teaching children handwriting. That emoticons are more likely used by kids of today to express themselves than to write a letter.

On to the next resource, from Claudia Pearson. Here is another fellow designer that heard of “the dying art of hand lettering,” who like me also is confused. The author states despite notions of this being a dying art form, there is “evidently a huge resurgence” (this article was written in 2014) going on […].” She follows up by posting a few images of lettering. It good to know that I am not going crazy thinking that lettering and calligraphy is matter of fact, not dying after all. 

Lastly, the final article I read by Angelynn Grant, where she asks three “typography experts to weigh in on the recent hand-lettering boom.” She begins by stating that the past few years, as in starting around 2009, lettering has been exploding. Offering a quality that can “evoke the DIY/ craft,” and may relieve the sense from the “sterility of Modernism.”

One artist, Ale Paul, considers the different environment of the present to the past. At one point, the mass wanted to chase, perfect the modern/ machine cleanses. Now that the availability is accessible to everyone and is easily created, the majority is fixed on chasing the past. Seeing how designs from the past can fit into our own present period.

Another artist, Ken Barber, suggest that the “popularity seems to have risen among […] designers who don’t specialize in the practice.” 

As an end note to this assignment I just want to express that it is a relief to know that lettering and calligraphy are both not dying arts. Time to brush up on my lettering and maybe calligraphy skills!

Seb Lester talking about his work. (1:59)

Seb Lester recreating famous logos. Commence awe and drooling. (3:02)


Have a good one~

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Love Letter To You

A Love Letter For You by Steve Powers

Steve Powers
Powers, a West Philadelphian now based in New York, is a former graffiti writer who became a legitimate studio artist, illustrator, and Fulbright scholar. In Powers’ own words, Love Letter is “a letter for one, with meaning for all” and speaks to all residents who have loved and for those who long for a way to express that love to the world around them. He considers the project “my chance to put something on these rooftops that people would care about." The series all together expresses a love letter from a guy to a girl, an artist to his hometown, and from the locals of West Philadelphia. The series consists of 50 rooftop murals total. The Project was completed February 2010 and stretches on Market Street 45th to 63rd street. 

not part of Love Letter project <----- This one

"As part of the Mural Arts Project, we're not just painting murals to pretty the neighborhood. That's certainly part of it, but really the idea is to hopefully stimulate people to become more engaged and create change."

Do Murals Spark Social Change?
Another Germantown mural artist states, "If the mural is doing its job, it becomes like a keystone in the neighborhood; something to be proud of and something a landmark. Pretty soon, porches are getting repainted around it, trash is getting picked up, there's less graffiti and you can really see it becomes a rallying point for the whole neighborhood."- Nathaniel Lee

Founder and Executive Director, Jane Golden says "In the past 27 years, we have helped to show the dramatic impact that public art can have on neighborhoods, and we have demonstrated that Philadelphians across class, race and ethnicity want both beauty and artistic stimulation in their communities.”

Philadelphia is the second largest city in the world when it comes to murals. The largest mural in the world is housed at the Philadelphia International Airport. The Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia is a non profit organization that allows communities to come together are create something the surrounding neighborhood would enjoy. Their murals not only bring color and meaning to Philly neighborhoods but also help local artist and soon-to-be artist collaborate in designing and painting giant works of art. They have worked with artist all around the world, including Shepard Fairy, the well known created of Andrea the Giant's Obey brand. 
Steve Power's series of work is very typography driven. The color palette consists of bright, fun colors that have no business being in the surrounding area. The overall message of love is tame compared to other murals, whose voices talk of racial injustices and the famous icons that spoke the loudest. Power's series of typographic mural art is meant to be viewed with light hearted feelings and a generally sense of happiness. He sets the scene of  "a boy sends a love letter to a girl" with short messages that rhyme or use strong illustrations to get his meaning across.  
I agree that murals in general are a great way to make a community stronger. Steve Power's series of murals definitely brings a very positive feel. The juxtaposition of bright colors and strong typography next to dilapidated buildings brings a sense of regrowth to the area. My only criticism is that his work comes across as a Hallmark advertisement and paired with its surroundings might cause a disconnect to the average viewer. 
Spotting them on the Market Frankford Line would definitely bring the series as a whole together and it would make the scavenger hunt much easier to follow. But some murals as a single piece don't do it for me. Not every piece can be as powerful as the second image posted (the white wall with letter forms spread out to look like magnets). Some pieces are meant to be smaller and more intimate, and there is also the challenge of creating 50 different and unique murals, but I can argue that not all of Power's murals give me the message, or want me to research it further. 

With all that being said:
Is Steve Power's work decorative or can it allude to something more?
Do they mean as much compared to other murals of Philadelphia?

Type and image in 70’s horror posters

Type and Image in 70's Horror Posters

Thinking about current movie horror and how it doesn’t seem to a very interesting time for the genera, I figured I’d look back to some poster designs of older classics.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Huge condensed black and red type draws your attention immediately; your eye is drawn to the top of the first tagline, being the largest type. The tagline and title (all caps and red, being the most important in the end) frame a strong illustration of an impending murder, and the second tagline, in a similar shorter typeface. Under the title, the third tagline is a thinner version of the second tagline’s type.

The words themselves try to fill you with gruesome tension, “what will be left,” “bizarre and brutal,” “what happened is true.” After your eyes travel the poster, they return to the title in bright red, and the image interacting with it. It tells you what will happen, you are left to imagine how.


Bold, capitalized, tracked out, sans serif title followed by a strange hatching egg, and a smaller condensed tagline. Below is a strange metallic ropey floor and reflection of light from the egg. The entire poster tells you very little and places you in a strange environment. The title appears to drift in the vacuum of space, but the reflection of light makes the lower end feel contained and claustrophobic.  The smaller, tracked in type reflects this.

This poster, like the movie itself, takes the approach not telling you enough and letting you use your imagination. All you know is that you are in space, there is an alien, and you will scream. You are left to wonder just what will hatch from that egg.


Strong, thick, blood red type that almost feels like it curves like the waves in the ocean. It lives as a part of the illustration of the impending giant shark and seems to foreshadow the violence of when he meets the woman swimming above. The tagline, read second, sits in the frame of the title and art. Its curved serif font feels reminiscent of the book origins it describes. The names of the three main actors, with the title are more important then the past posters, along with the following credits, maybe because this movie is more on the blockbuster end of horror.

The poster is short and simple; a big shark attacks, based on the book. It encompasses the fear people feel of what is in the water and how defenseless they are there.


The first tagline brings you in with asymmetrical, capital type that seems to be not be kerned correctly, to it’s advantage. It comes off as off putting and wrong, like something in the uncanny valley. It’s followed by before and after photos of Carrie, one happy, one violent. The title waves and fades strangely like fog or a ghost. It’s warped, uneven and dirty. A small second tagline, same font as the first, gives you some more info, followed by the major credits.  All the major type is orange set on black, giving a sort of Halloween look to the poster. It is likely also referencing her orange hair, while the dirty darker spots call back to the gore.

This poster took the interesting approach of showing you the big ending scene, but, assuming you didn’t read the book, all you know is that Carrie goes to prom, and she can (and does) do something horrific. The poster shows a glimpse of the horror, and invites you to find out how we get here.

The Exorcist

The title is listed bold, capital, and with a slight serif. The purple against black gives off a twilight time feel. The producer and director are listed above and below in a thin, tall modern sans serif. “Directed by” is only half the height of the name, making it secondary. The image below is a man on the street at night, illuminated by light from a window. Below, a tagline of the same font as the director and producer, smaller and not in caps. The tagline gives context to the image, he is at the house, something from inside the house is projecting on him ominously, but we can’t tell what

This poster sets the mood, and gives you an idea and feeling of what is going on. It feels dark, cold, and strange. The strong white feels ominous as we anticipate what is in that house.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Contemporary Women Type Designers

Contemporary Women Type Designers

Although Tyler’s GAID students are predominately female, many of the great designers and type designers we learn about are men. Sure, Paula Scher and Jessica Hische’s names are dropped frequently, as they are both alumni. More often than not, however, we hear about the work of male designers. A Google search of “famous graphic designers” will provide a list in which the great majority are white men. Female designers’ names deserve to be recognized just as much as Sagmeister, Carson, Lubalin, and Rand. Unfortunately, the trend of underrepresentation/under recognition of women continues in the field of type design. Thus, I thought the ABCDEFridays Blog would be a great opportunity to feature a few contemporary women designers who specialize in type. Of course, many are missing from this list, notably women of color – but at the end of this post, I provide some extra links to more resources for folks to do some more research if they are interested.

Veronika Burian

Veronika Burian is the co-founder of TypeTogether, a type foundry in the Czech Republic that began in 2006. Although she studied industrial design as an undergraduate, her friend introduced her to type design, an experience she described as “like falling in love.” Despite her move away from product design, she’s noted the similarity between the two fields, as both typography and products are designed “to improve the experience of an object from the user’s point of view, be it a good piece of typography or a comfortable chair.” Today, she works fulltime in Spain on TypeTogether.

TypeTogether is known for their display typefaces intended for editorial use, while maintaining a sense of personality and a refined technical standing.

For instance, Crete is a typeface Burian designed after being inspired by a chapel wall’s lettering in, you guessed it, Crete. Notable are Crete’s serifs, which vary between being slab-like or curved upwards. Depending on the weight, the serifs add a touch of sophistication in Thin or strength in Thick. Crete is an interesting display type, and exemplifies TypeTogether’s reputation for creating unique typefaces that still function well.

Another notable typeface is Abril. If purchased all at once, Abril comes with an array of different weights that make the typeface multilingual in function. Like TypeTogether’s other typefaces, Abril is intended for use in publications, in print and online. The contrast between thicks and thins make Abril fun and compelling to look at. Similarly, the curves of the italic typefaces offer a contemporary take on a 19th century slab serifs. Burian and her partner have won several awards for Abril.

Marian Bantjes

Marian Bantje’s work straddles the line between design and fine art. Based on a small island off the coast of Canada, Bantjes is an established and respected graphic artist who has spoken at conferences worldwide. Her projects span across patterning, illustration, photography, typography, and design. For the purposes of this blog, however, I will focus on some of her type design work.

Bantjes’s Coexistence Poster was created for Alliance Graphique International (AIG) for an annual poster call. Bantjes designed the poster using her collection of sand, which she gathered from around the world during her travels. The poster exemplifies Bantjes’s eye for detail, pattern, and texture in addition to type. It reminds me of the current trend of using unconventional objects or materials and photography to create type, which Bantjes has explored in a number of projects herself.

Bantjes also makes great use of intricate line work in her typography. She’s internationally recognized for her ornate designs, and almost a bit obsessive exactness. Something I admire about her typography work is how apparent and significant her design choices/rationale are. Every corner of each letter appears intentional and thought-out.

Her cover for G2 in 2007 is a complex pattern that she designed to create the letterforms. If you can make it out, it says, “Puzzle Special.” Pretty amazing. And cool. Usually I stray away from work that’s too complex and confusing, but Bantjes’s work is different. In a time where popular design is flat, simplistic, minimal, and to the point, the eye candy that is Bantjes’s work becomes refreshing and unique. It holds my attention and only gets more compelling the longer I look at it. I’m not sure how many contemporary designers pull that off.

Zuzana Licko

Zuzana Licko is a typeface designer based in the Bay Area who is known for her early work designing bitmap type as Macintosh Computers first arrived on the scene. She and her husband co-founded Emigre, a type journal, in the mid-1980s. Licko designed an array of bitmap fonts for use in their magazine. Émigré became known for its experimental and unconventional use of type’s scale, leading, and column widths. Graphic designer Massimo Vignelli condemned Émigré’s aesthetic, calling it “garbage.” Eventually, however, Licko’s eccentric and unique style was accepted and praised over time. Today, Emigre exists as a typefoundry. Licko’s most well-known typeface, Mrs. Eaves, can be bought from Émigré’s website.


Mrs. Eaves, a remix of sorts of Baskerville, is named after Baskerville’s wife, Sarah Eaves. In her own words, Licko describes designing of Mrs. Eaves as “want[ing] to reinterpret Baskerville in a warmer manner, with less contrast, so it would be more fluid.” Indeed, reading text in Mrs. Eaves has a soothing quality to it. Its easygoingness is a significant difference from Baskerville, a typeface designed with high contrast in mind.

When the Macintosh Computer first arrived on the scene, traditional typeface designers shied away from it, calling it a “cute novelty” (Eye Magazine, 2002). However, Licko took to using the Mac as a type design tool immediately, describing it as like falling in love. Thus, Licko is remembered for being one of the first designers to see the potential in the pixel and embrace digital techniques. In fact, Licko works nearly exclusively on the computer. Aside from a few thumbnail sketches to figure out shapes of letters, Licko designs her typefaces using font software (Fontographer) and makes adjustments optically.

The influence of the aesthetics of the early computer is evident in Licko’s work. For example, her typeface Citizen is recognizable by its sharp edges and bitmapped appearance.

Citizen is merely one typeface that represents the dozens of unique typefaces in which Licko harkens back to primitive digital technology.

Typeface: Lo-Res

Typeface: Citizen

Typeface: Senator





Extra Resources