Thursday, February 28, 2008

Scan the Horizon for Signs of Life.

Red at night, sailor's delight.
Red in the morning, fisherman's warning.

(This gives me an idea for a new project, but alas! Perhaps another day.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday is a Day of Productivity.


The design and labor (voluntary) were outsourced for this sample.
And I am grateful.

The time elapsed between initial design concept to block production, and then to final print production, has been greatly decreased since the beginning of my research in September. I am pleased with this cut of maple. Though it retains its characteristic super-tight grain structure, there are some delightful idiosyncrasies in the ring surfaces. This creates patches of visible and vivid grain texture that mirror the ink coverage patterns on the final print.

ROAD TRIP: Groff & Groff Lumber

Signs That Your Obsession With Wood Type May Be Harming Others:

1) You manage to convince two level-headed friends that waking up before 6 am on a Saturday to select hard maple in Quarryville, PA is a great idea.

2) You depart West Philadelphia at 6:30 am to procure such lumber.

3) You bargain with a man named Morris Groff for a thick, choice cut of maple and make him cut it up into pieces that you are able to carry and fit into the trunk of the car.

4) On the way home, you pass a dead cow and almost hit a horse and buggy, endangering multiple lives.

EXHIBIT A: Groff & Groff Lumber, The Indefatigable Avery

EXHIBIT B: The Warehouse

EXHIBIT C: The Backyard

EXHIBIT D: Arboreal Mortuary

EXHIBIT E: Personal Favorites & Oddities


EXHIBIT G: Rigor Mortis

Saturday, February 23, 2008


(Un?)Fortunately, the type-high independent study, was not my Senior Thesis Project for graduation from The University of Pennsylvania. This blog has been crucial to the documentation and development of my thoughts and processes throughout these typographic experiments. I plan to continue blogging about my current thesis work, as it is really an extension of the type-high independent study.

INTRODUCTION: Democracy and The Designer

Printmaking, both historically and economically, has been considered a practice of tradesmen, entering the discourse of fine arts long after the printer's death with a nostalgia similar to that of "history painting", or only as the content raises controversial concerns above and beyond the general social din of the day. The printed word, however, both historically and economically, has been both a benefit and entitlement of those who could both read and afford such items. After Gutenberg's introduction of moveable type, subsequent type design evolved within bounds set by technology of the day and the needs of particular clients or publications.

Type designs today still seem to straddle a line of demarcation over whether or not to embrace the bastion of Beatrice Warde's proverbial crystal goblet in print-based media. Take these camps of thought and apply them to the realm of the digital, and you are faced with a veritable typographic free-for-all.

Now add the current stream of discourse surrounding classification of "graphic design", the role of designers, and the relationship of design to advertising and marketing...and you have a pretty pickle. A complex, yet pretty pickle...because after all, isn't that what designers do? Take the pickles and prickles of the world and make them visually appealing?

From this confusion borne of such an amassing of "gray areas", I seek to address three specific questions via the creation of a new typeface:

1. How and to what extent may the designer assert him/herself as a part of the design triad (audience, client, designer)?
2. Is it possible, in the "democratic spirit" of printmaking fused with socialist-minded fundamentals, to eliminate the client? Or rather, to fuse client and audience into a single entity?
3. How can this exploration be carried out in such as way that type as concept and object enter the contemporary art discourse?

THE PROJECT: The People's Typeface

1. Digitally standardize and produce a new typeface, influenced by an antique face from the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type book.
2. Upload to Penn Design Font Reserve for use.
3. Use files from FontLab to create laser cutter ready files in Adobe Illustrator.
4. Create moveable wood type using the laser cutter.
5. Create a "wailing wall" of broadsides printed in wood type.
6. Create accompanying narrative of study/process with supplementary and marketing materials, presenting the face as The People's Typeface, Everyman Roman, etc. (ie - pamphlets, posters, specimen sheets)

ANALYSIS: The Grand Narrative

I would like to keep the project completely insular to myself, remaining the silent and invisible vehicle for the voice of The People or general populace as a social construct. Any resulting discourse along the validity of the marketing strategies and presentations will be considered part of the work itself. The conclusion of a successful project will be a wall display of the broadsides and supplementary narrative materials, introducing the functionality and design process of the face.

Beatrice Warde - "The Crystal Goblet, or Printing Should Be Invisible"
Frederic Jameson - "Aesthetics and Politics" from Reflections in Conclusion
Michael Bierut - "On (Design) Bullshit" from
Robin Kinross - Modern Typography: An Essay in Critical History (London, 1992)
Maggie Holtzberg-Call - The Lost World of the Craft Printer (University of Illinois, 1992)
Simon Loxley - type: The Secret History of Letters (London, 2004)
From EMIGRE Magazine 47, 1998 - "Graphic Design in the Postmodern Era"
Soldiers of Lead - The Labour Party's Guide to Printing
Jan Tschichold - The New Typography (University of California, 1995)

type-high round-up, wrap-up, wind-down

I have been terribly negligent in wrapping up this project via photographic internet evidence! This situation will be remedied immediately.

So far, copies have been distributed to:
Matt Neff - Common Press/Print Shop Manager
David Comberg - Advisor
The Kelly Writers House
Dennis Pierrattini - Penn Design Fabrication Lab Manager

Appointments are in the works to deliver folios to:
Julie Schneider - Undergraduate Chair, Penn Fine Arts
Lynne Farrington - Van Pelt Rare Books & Manuscripts Library

More about the folio structure and its creation:
Sibylla Benatova from the Rare Books & Manuscripts Library got me through the creation of a working mock-up.
Then I created ten final versions of them by hand in the studio.
The main structure is Mohawk Concept 160 lb. Cover in Mahogany.
The front and back panels are Mohawk Concept 130 lb. Cover in Wood Spice.
The front panel was printed on a Vandercook No. 4 proofing press (same as the broadsides).
The panels were adhered with diluted PVA.
The edges were sealed with methyl cellulose.
The folio shuts with a tucked-in tab closure.