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)

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