Contains the full text (without the images & captions) of the book originally published by Mark Batty Publisher. I am distributing the text under a Creative




НазваниеContains the full text (without the images & captions) of the book originally published by Mark Batty Publisher. I am distributing the text under a Creative
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dot-font

talking about design


John D. Berry


This Word file contains the full text (without the images & captions) of the book originally published by Mark Batty Publisher. I am distributing the text under a Creative Commons License; you’re welcome to read it, copy it, print it out, pass it on, quote from it (with attribution), and generally make it more widely available, within the restrictions of the CC license (see the copyright page for details).

Naturally I encourage you, if you find this interesting, to buy the print edition, from the bookstore or online book dealer of your choice. The book is compact but, unlike this Word file, illustrated. Since the images come from a variety of sources, it isn’t practical to distribute them freely in this way; the words, however, are all my own, and now they are in your hands.

Page numbers in the table of contents and the index refer to the printed book.

Many thanks to Mark Batty for encouraging this form of distribution, and to Cory Doctorow for advice on how to go about it.

— John D. Berry, April 2010


Dot-font: Talking About Design
© 2006 by John D. Berry

design & production: John D. Berry
typefaces used: mvb Verdigris (text); htf Whitney (display and small display); and Freight (display on cover).
cover image: Ionesco (left) and Massin (right), copyright 1965 by Yan (Jean Dieuzaide); droits réservés. Used by permission of Massin.

Photo of Rich Gold (page 27) courtesy of the Palo Alto Research Center, photographed by Deanna Horvath. Photos of “Research in Reading” exhibits (pages 27, 28 & 30) courtesy of Onomy Labs. Photo of 1970 New York City subway map (page 37) courtesy of Massimo Vignelli. Photo of New York subway signage circa 1965 (page 38) copyright New York Transit Museum. Photo of bart signage (page 47) courtesy of emseal floor systems.Images from film footage of Hermann Zapf (page 124) used by permission of Jack Stauffacher.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be used, reproduced, stored, transmitted or copied in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise) without prior written permission, except in the case of short excerpts embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Every effort has been made to trace accurate ownership of copyrighted text and visual materials used in this book. Errors or omissions will be corrected in subsequent editions, provided notification is sent to the publisher.

Library of Congress Control Number:
2006933333

Printed and bound at the National Press
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 first edition

All rights reserved

This edition © 2006
Mark Batty Publisher
36 West 37th Street, Penthouse
New York ny 10018

www.markbattypublisher.com

isbn-10: 0-9772827-1-6
isbn-13: 078-9772827-1-5


THIS DIGITAL EDITION, including its adaptation for the screen,
© 2010 by John D. Berry

Distributed under Creative Commons License

You are free to SHARE — to copy, distribute and transmit the work

Under the following conditions:

Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to http://www.dot-font.com/rights

Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from John D. Berry.

Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.

More information here: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/


contents


Introduction7


PRACTICE & IDEAS

Massin: the unclassifiable free thinker 10

Rick Poynor’s vices & virtues 16

Boundary disorders 23

Reading into the future 27

ok to typeset 31


REAL-WORLD EFFECTS

Underground typography 36

Electoral typography 44

Kerning chads 49


DESIGN ALL AROUND US

Floating in numbers and letters 54

Room with a view 59

One for all? 63


DESIGN ON THE PAGE

Where type came from 70

Avant-garde page design 74

Having designs on books 78

Book design: text 83

Book design: display 87

Putting some spine into design 94


DESIGN & CULTURE

Typography, architecture, & inscriptions 102

The Vico collaboration 107

The Parmenides Project 110

Type goes global 115

Zapfest 118


Index127


DEDICATION

To my partner Eileen Gunn
for continually asking the hardest questions


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thanks to Creativepro (www.creativepro.com), for pro-viding the platform on which all of these articles were published, and through which they reached their first audience. In particular, thanks to my editors there: Pamela Pfiffner, Mitt Jones, and Terri Stone. Thanks, too, to Peter Fraterdeus, for graciously letting me use the name “dot-font” without restriction, after having un-realized plans to use it himself. And thanks to all the people I’ve written about, for doing interesting things.

Thanks to Buzz Poole, Jacob Albert, and Christopher Salyers at Mark Batty Publisher, who all helped to make this book what it is.

Thanks to everybody who supplied images, either for the original columns or for this book — especially to Massin and to Steve Woodall, of the San Francisco Center for the Book, for supplying the cover image. Thanks to Susie Taylor and the San Francisco Public Library, for supplying the footage of Hermann Zapf and Jack Stauffacher in 1960, and to Axel Roesler of the University of Washington, for capturing still images from that footage.

Thanks to Mark van Bronkhorst, Jonathan Hoefler, and Josh Darden, for the use of their fonts, respectively: mvb Verdi-gris (text), htf Whitney (display), and Freight (cover display).


introduction | John D. Berry


“Dot-font” is the running title of the column I’ve been writing for the past half-dozen years for -Creativepro.com, an online portal aimed at creative professionals. The column is part of an ongoing conversation with the design field. Its focus has been on typography and design, though as you can imagine the subject matter has ranged far afield at times. In a companion volume to this small book (Dot-font: Talking About Fonts), I’ve collected some of the essays with a particular focus on type; in this book, by contrast, I’ve gathered essays about design in general, or about particular aspects of it. But type is never far from the surface; there’s very little in graphic design that doesn’t involve type and lettering in some form, and the written language is embedded in almost every aspect of our daily lives.

I’ve never been very interested in observing boundaries anyway; it’s usually at the edges, where definitions blur, that things get most interesting.

The articles that I’ve chosen to reprint here follow a natural flow within each section, but it’s not always a chronological one. For that reason, I’ve given the date of original publication at the beginning of each column; sometimes the context requires it. In its original form, on an active website, each article included a multitude of links — to people or books or sites referred to, sometimes to related ideas, and of course to sources or background information on fonts. There’s no point to including such links in a printed book; you could find them more easily, and in more up-to-date form, by Googling the key words. In a handful of places, I’ve included a Web address (after first checking to make sure that, at least as I write this, the link is still live) where the website was the particular focus of what I was writing about. Otherwise, you’re on your own.

Design is an amorphous subject, and an ambiguous but highly useful profession. The purpose of design is to give clarity and form to the shapelessness of everyday life — or at least to create some structures that help us navigate within the everyday chaos. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to pin down any particular definition of “design.” Plenty of designers and non-designers have promulgated theories and manifestoes, but what matters is their practice. One of the reasons I started writing “dot-font” is that we all live in the midst of design every hour of the day; at the beginning of the 21st century, we live in a designed world, for better or worse. We might as well pay attention to it, and turn an observant and critical eye on what’s around us.


practice & ideas

Massin:
the unclassifiable free thinker

The innovative graphic work of Massin exhibited in the United States, in a show that inspires and frees up designers.

[June 27, 2003]

The French graphic designer Massin is best known in this country for his ground-breaking typographic and visual treatment of the Eugene Ionesco play The Bald Soprano (La Cantatrice chauve), first published in France by Gallimard in 1964. Massin’s interpretation of Ionesco’s absurdist play was ground-breaking: using a playful collage of posterized black-and-white photographs of the actors in silhouette, surrounded by sprays and cascades of type in varying sizes and styles (without benefit of cartoonish effects like word balloons), he created a juxta-position of type and image in book form that became a classic of expressive typography. The stark images from The Bald Soprano are instantly recognizable — both the characters and their jumbled words.

But Massin has done a great deal more than just this one notable book. The exhibition “Massin in Continuo: A Dictionary,” which originated at Cooper Union in New York and toured to Los Angeles, Boston, Baltimore, and Minneapolis before coming to San Francisco, explores Massin’s long career as a book designer, typographer, art director, writer, photographer, and music aficionado. An abridged “dictionary” ran over the summer of 2003 at the San Francisco Center for the Book. The abridgement was necessary, says sfcb artistic director Steve Woodall, because of the Center’s limited exhibit space, but it presented an oppor-tunity to focus on “what is arguably Massin’s most interest-ing work: his early projects with Club du Meilleur Livre and his influential typographic experiments of the 1960s.”

Education of a Renaissance man

Massin started early. At the age of seven, he was producing small books that he would both write and lay out, signing them, “Robert Massin, Author, Editor, Publisher, Typographer, and Photographer.” As a child, he absorbed all the graphic images and letter forms to be found in his grandmother’s grocery shop: logos, packaging, signs, posters, and enamel advertising plaques. He was a voracious consumer of vernacular culture. Even earlier, when he was only four, his father (a stone engraver) gave him a hammer and chisel and asked him to engrave his name in soft stone — even though the young Massin did not yet know how to write the alphabet. “This remains in my imagination a founding moment of my interest in letters and all graphic things,” he says. The exposure to letters as images in their own right as well as carriers of meaning set the stage for Massin’s lifelong career of graphic experimentation.

Designing books

He began designing books in 1949 for the Club du Meilleur Livre, one of the major book clubs that flourished in France after the Second World War, in a time when there was no functioning network of bookstores across the country. For several years, the book clubs were the principle means of publishing and distributing literature in France, and the designers and art director had a free hand in presenting their texts. Massin credits his mentor Pierre Faucheux with inspiring his own approach to the books. “Faucheux had been one of the first designer/-typographers to emphasize the importance of dynamic typography and documentary iconography on covers, at a time when illustration had not yet been replaced by photography. For my first covers, I was asking myself, ‘What would Pierre Faucheux think?’” Massin describes himself and his fellow (sometimes competing) book-club art directors as “graphic acrobats.”

From an early date, Massin was influenced not only by the traditions of book design but by the innovations of film: Saul Bass’s title sequences for the movies of Alfred Hitchcock, and Tex Avery’s animated cartoons. “I have spoken often,” he says, “about the cinematic quality of book design, revealing its narrative structure while constantly changing scale and rhythm, and alternating focal planes and perspective. Between the endpapers and the first signature, it was like creating a little flip-book within the book. It was quite common to have these elaborate introductory pages in the Clubs’ books.”

Massin finds inspiration in popular culture, and as a book designer, he puts these influences to work in interpreting the text. In the words of the exhibition’s curator, Laetitia Wolff, “While an innovator in typography, he has shown respect for classic, romantic, and popular art, integrating graphic elements of other epochs to match the content and context of a book he is designing.” For Blaise Cendrars’s LOr (Gold, Club du Meilleur Livre, 1954), for example, Massin cut out letters from an 1848 American poster and used them to match the visual style of the California Gold Rush.

Book series

For the publisher Gallimard, whom he worked for as an art director for twenty years, Massin created the “Folio” line of popular literary paperbacks in 1972. He had to design 300 layouts in less than six months to launch the new line. Since the bright white Kromekote paper stock had recently been introduced by Champion Paper, he gave all the books a recognizable identity with bright white backgrounds, and used a consistent typeface, Baskerville Old Style, juxtaposed against unique illustrations. It was an uphill battle to convince the sales force that the pocket books they were selling were meant to be kept, not just read once and thrown away. They were a long-term success. The Folio paperbacks can still be easily found in any French bookstore, although today their cover images are more likely to be stock photos than the original illustrations that Massin commissioned from notable illustrators such as Folon, Ronald Searle, and Roland Topor. (Massin still has a few of the original drawings framed on his walls.)

All the world’s a page

Massin went to twenty different performances of La Cantatrice Chauve at the Théâtre de la Huchette in Paris. He even recorded the play so he could catch the inflections, intonations, and pauses of the actors as they spoke, and then transform them into an interplay of photographs and type. Ionesco’s play deals with breaking down clichés and thoughtless truisms into absurd caricature; it has been described as an anti-play. Massin’s treatment on the page reflected that disjointedness and conveyed it graphically. He gave each character a different typeface, varying the size, angle, and placement to convey the nuances of the spoken dialogue.

“Massin’s version,” says Wolff, “created with the blessings of Ionesco, sought to capture the dynamism of the theatre within the static confines of the book.” Massin himself says that he “introduced the notion of stage time and space to the printed page.”

Still bending expectations

Massin has designed and art-directed many other books and lines of books over the years, as well as writing -several. His own books have included Letter & Image (La Lettre et LImage, Gallimard, 1970), a comprehensive study of the interaction of letters and images through human history, and a theoretical treatise on page layout, La Mise en Page (Hoëbeke, 1991), which he both wrote and designed.

The techniques he uses to create his expressive kind of typography have changed with changing technology; today he works with digital publishing tools like Photoshop and Illustrator. The Bald Soprano had to be created in painstaking physical paste-ups on boards; he didn’t even have the advantage of phototype, which was not in common use yet in the early 1960s. One technique he used in order to freely change the shapes of letters, in the days before computer type, was to have them printed on condoms, which he then pinned down in stretched and distorted form and photographed.

As Laetitia Wolff concludes in her introduction of Massin and his work, “This free-spirited and compulsive creator is the unsung hero of an immense graphic heritage. Make way for Massin.”

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