Friday, April 6, 2012

Photo Lettering

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to be able to call out of work so I could attend my first AIGA talk at U Arts, and get some use out of my membership. The talk was with typeface designer and developer, Ben Kiel, and letterer and type designer, Ken Barber of House Industries. They spoke a lot about what House Industries does, what kinds of things they create, and finally they got to the bulk of the talk, which was all about Photo Lettering.


Photo-Lettering Inc. was one of the earliest and most successful type houses to utilize photo technology in the production of commercial typography and lettering. PLINC, as it was affectionately known to art directors, was a mainstay of the advertising and design industry in New York City from 1936 to 1997. House Industries got a phone call one day from a guy, who explained that there were these archives and equipment just sitting in warehouse storage, and asked if they wanted it. House Ind. jumped at the opportunity and purchased the remaining assets of Photo-Lettering, Inc. in 2003 and have been working ever since to create a modern digital paradigm that reflects the high standards of the original company.

Back in the day, each of the Photo Lettering alphabets took over 200 hours to complete, originally drawn with pen and ink by veteran lettering artists. These alphabets were originally exposed on glass plates, but eventually were converted to film. Photo-Lettering films are approximately 28 in by 5 in tall. The prices were basically a steal considering all of the time and effort put into each specific letter.

There are many steps involved in photo-lettering, which you can learn all about the process here.

What House Industries has done, is updated it, and turned all of the alphabets into typefaces available online through their site, for only $7 a setting. It allows you to customize it any which way you like, with color, size, swashes, alternate characters, and numerals...whatever is available for each alphabet.

The talk was definitely well worth the effort and $4 subway fare. It's my goal to make it to as many AIGA events as possible. They're great!

They shared this video of Ed Rondthaler, the founder of photo lettering (yes he was still alive at the time- he passed 2 years later at the age of 104!) and his take on the English language and spelling, as demonstrated with a flip book, which was really funny.

I also highly recommend checking out their "Plog" :)

Enjoy browsing and playing!

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