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Archive for August, 2012

Funny shapes

Published

At TypeCon in Milwaukee at the beginning of this month, Cyrus Highsmith gave a witty, illustrated talk about spacing in text typography, which served as an introduction to his new book, Inside paragraphs: typographic fundamentals (published by Font Bureau). It startled me, because I hadn’t been aware that he’d been working on such a book, and because it dovetails with what I’ve been talking and writing about for quite some time: that typography is all about space. Appropriately enough, though without any planning on my part, my former colleagues at Microsoft had brought stacks of one of my little typography booklets, Arranging fonts: it’s all about space, which is about exactly that.

Cyrus focused on the paragraph as the basic unit of text typography, which is a sensible way of looking at it; that neatly separates what Jost Hochuli calls “microtypography” from the “macrotypography” of the page. And Cyrus can draw a lot better than I can, so his illustrations – both in the book and in his talk – make his points brilliantly and lucidly.

The book itself is small, light, and oblong – very easy to carry around and read, with long paper flaps that you can use to mark your place. Cyrus wrote it because he wanted it for the typography classes that he teaches at RISD; and because he wished that he’d had it when he was studying design. It’s probably a good introduction to the subject for graphic-design students, but even more than that, it’s a basic explanation for anyone who uses type and wonders why it sometimes looks right and sometimes doesn’t.

Edgy trust

Published

I’ve done a number of projects with Seattle poet JT Stewart over the last few years: two chapbooks, a bunch of broadsides, promotional materials for events, and the workshop that we’ve taught together for poets who want to turn their poems into broadsides. Most recently, JT’s work was selected for a display of literary and visual works that came out of Artist Trust’s EDGE program, a “professional development program” for artists. The exhibit, called “A Celebration of Washington Artists,” is on display at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle until October 18. Most of the work on the walls is paintings, prints, photos – visual art – but interspersed among them are poster-size displays of some of the writing that has come out of the program. Since the poems of JT’s that got selected came from the chapbook Love on the Rocks – Yet Again, which I designed and produced, I created a visual display for them as part of this exhibit. Two of the four panels are the front and back covers of the chapbook (the back features a highly visual poem); the other two are poems from the body of the book, presented in a format that I thought would be eye-catching and readable on a public wall.

When I stopped by the WSCC on the first day of the exhibit, I could spot our installation immediately from the escalator. On the way back down, I caught a snapshot of someone already stopping to read the poems.

Garamond after Garamond

Published

James Felici has an article on CreativePro about the many different typefaces called “Garamond.” It’s not a new subject, but it’s one that we need to be reminded of every so often. As Felici explains, many of the typefaces that we know as “Garamond” are actually not based directly on the work of Claude Garamond, the 16th-century French punchcutter, but on the work of Jean Jannon, who was working several decades later. Jannon was inspired by Garamond, but his types are distinctly different.

I took a crack at explaining this myself in the early ’90s with a Garamond family tree that I put together for Aldus magazine. (When I say “put together,” I mean that I researched it, organized it, and wrote the text; I did not, however, design the actual page.) That’s what you see a snapshot of over there to the left.

The tree gets complicated. Monotype Garamond, for instance, is a Jannon revival; so is Garamond No. 3, released by Mergenthaler Linotype in the early 20th century. ITC Garamond, although its letter forms are clearly based on Jannon’s, is so wildly inflated and exaggerated that I always wish ITC hadn’t called it “Garamond” at all; it’s a useful advertising typeface, but never a book face. Stempel Garamond, on the other hand, is based on Claude Garamond’s own types; so is Adobe Garamond, and the even better Garamond Premier Pro (both designed by Robert Slimbach).

Garamond Premier Pro was Slimbach’s return to the source several years after he designed Adobe Garamond (and well after I created this family tree). Although both of them are based on the Garamond type specimens in the archives of the Plantin-Moretus museum, Garamond Premier draws on several sizes of Garamond’s types to create optical sizes for the digital typeface. I find it a more satisfying and versatile typeface.

[Images: Garamond family tree (top), from Aldus magazine, March/April 1993; samples (bottom) of optical sizes of Garamond Premier Pro.]