Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Start the presses!


The fundamental principles of composition are constant.  Styles are invented, transformed, evolved.  Good styles depend upon the adaptation of principles and then validate those principles.  The composition may be poetry or prose, music or dance, sculpture or painting, but the same principles govern: order, structure, and motion; rhythm, melody, and harmony; contrast, conflict and resolution.  These make a symphony or a skyscraper or this page. 

Typeface is a film by Justin Nagan about the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Company and the Wood Type Museum of Two Rivers, Wisconsin.  For about a hundred years, wooden type was the preferred mode for very large printing, from political protest placards to circus posters to billboards, and everything else that required type more than 72 points (1 inch) in size. These letters were larger than your hand, some a foot high. 



The film also ties in the re-birth of the old letter presses, history not just as it was but the adaptation and assumption of traditional tools and media to new expressions, bringing a “crazy growth in letter press printing.”  Students in university graphic arts classes make the pilgrimage to Two Rivers and then apply their insights on Chandler and Price, Steracle, and Vandercook presses.  At the museum, they acquire a three dimensional understanding of letters that is not available from  computerized typesetting.

The bonus features in this disk deliver the nuance and context.  Among them are an extended history of wood type and “The Most Ambitious Type in the World: Louis John Pouchée.” 

When I win the fight with Blogspot, these blogs begin with an opening paragraph in blue Helvetica Bold 12 point.  The body is in Georgia.


 “Since millions of people see and use Helvetica every day, I guess I just wondered, "Why?" How did a typeface drawn by a little-known Swiss designer in 1957 become one of the most popular ways for us to communicate our words fifty years later? And what are the repercussions of that popularity, has it resulted in the globalization of our visual culture? Does a storefront today look the same in Minneapolis, Melbourne and Munich? How do we interact with type on a daily basis? And what about the effects of technology on type and graphic design, and the ways we consume it? Most of us use computers and digital fonts every day, so are we all graphic designers now, in a sense?” 
Also on Necessary Facts 

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