Raisons d’Etre

A number of people have asked me what we’re all about, so here goes. 

1. Letterforms

Why? Short answer, because I love ‘em, always have. 

Why not Typography Archive? Because Letterform embraces the entire history and future of letterforms, before, after, and beside the dominance of typography. Twelve of the letters in our logo are not typographic, does that make them any less inspiring?

Some have asked, are you focused on letterforms in isolation? No, that would be daft. It’s equally about design with letterforms, and things that go with them. So isn’t that really just the history of graphic design? Yes, but with a special focus on letterforms.

For a better idea of our scope, just browse the site.

2. Imaging

We want to raise the bar in imaging graphic design. 

How? By capturing the tactile aesthetics of the object, not only digitizing what’s on the surface. Scanning and traditional copy photography won’t do, because they don’t capture texture well. What’s needed is high resolution photography of original works with lighting carefully tuned to capture tactility. 

Our goals include:
Sufficient resolution so that you can zoom in to see detail,
Appropriate capture of surface texture, 
Full spreads and full margins with edges showing so you see the whole design, and
Consistent color which captures even the subtle variations of “white” papers.

Note that these goals exceed not only what’s generally available on the internet, but also in some ways transcend the limitations of print in reproducing graphic design.

There’s a lot of inspiring design bouncing around the internet, but the quality of the imaging is terribly inconsistent and often quite low. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you recognize the limitations of what you’re seeing – it mirrors both the convenience and the quality limitations of compressed music. 

When folks come to visit, they often say about some iconic piece of design that’s been reproduced everywhere: “I feel like I’ve never really seen it before.” Nothing can replace that experience, but high fidelity imaging is certainly a step in the right direction.

We’ll be sharing in four distinct ways, each of which has limitations and benefits:

Good: Twitter, which has limited resolution, but allows for instant mobile viewing, a little zooming, and a quick reference gallery of recent images. These images are only a teaser for your smartphone.

Better: LetterformArchive.org allows for higher resolution, more zoom range, detailed captions, and more complete tagged and searchable galleries. It also dynamically serves resolution based on your device, so the retina experience is quite good. On computer or tablet, go here instead of Twitter.

Best: Our ultimate delivery medium for digital facsimiles will be an iPad app that allows us to deliver on all of our imaging goals. It will contain all of the content on LetterformArchive.org, as well as complete digitizations of many works. We are developing the specifications now, look for the crowd funding launch soon.

Ultimate: Come on over and see the real thing! We welcome visitors by appointment, usually aggregated in groups of five or so, on weekday afternoons. Go here to request a visit.

I’m having a lot of fun making this happen, I hope you enjoy it.