Once threatened by dispersal, over 60,000 letter templates from the British Linotype company now have a home at Letterform Archive.
In early April 2017, dozens of boxes arrived at the Archive. Each was packed with hundreds of folders containing thousands of large cards. And on each card, a pencil drawing of a single letter outline, annotated with measurements, character information, dates, and a draftperson’s signature.
On behalf of Bruce Kennett, Rob Saunders, Stephen Coles, and everyone here at Letterform Archive, I would like to thank all 1,059 backers who helped bring the Dwiggins book project to life and ensure Kennett’s remarkable biography will be published.
We are grateful for the outpouring of support, and thrilled to have connected with this worldwide community of Dwiggins fans. If we include the direct, offline orders we received from individuals and institutions who could not use Kickstarter, we surpassed our stretch goal. Therefore, in addition to publishing this book, we are committed to digitizing our entire Dwiggins collection, starting with the rarest materials.
Orders for the deluxe edition have now closed, but in case you or someone you know would like a copy of the standard edition and missed the opportunity to get one on Kickstarter, we have set up a page on Indiegogo InDemand to collect all remaining preorders until we go to press in August.
In honor of Earth Day 2017, we bring you this small pamphlet, written and designed by W. A. Dwiggins nearly seventy-five years ago, and published by the Typophiles in 1943. The context for this piece was World War II. Influenced by his Quaker background, Dwiggins created, on more than one occasion, vivid work that advocated for an end to aggression and violence. The message of The Crew of the Ship Earth still resonates today, and it seems appropriate to look again at this tiny pamphlet and appreciate its powerful vision: “… an entirely new mental picture of the world’s population: a picture of all of us together sharing the same needs, the same dangers, the same fate … the same hope … .
W. A. Dwiggins has a posse. We launched our Kickstarter campaign for A Life in Design on March 27 with the hope of reaching some of his many fans around the world. Here we are, twenty-six days later, and the community has responded in force, manifesting a genuine and widespread interest in the man and his work. While our original fundraising goal represented only a fraction of the actual costs needed to develop and produce this book at a level that does justice to Bruce Kennett’s remarkable biography, we now have received the resources needed to cover our expenses.
As a nonprofit organization, we are committed to using all proceeds to further our mission. Therefore, in response to the phenomenal outpouring of support, we feel compelled to do more. As we head into the last week of the campaign, we’re introducing a stretch goal of $175,000. The additional funds would allow us to digitize the rarest Dwiggins objects in our collection and share them in a public, online gallery of zoomable, downloadable images. While “A Life in Design” includes over 1200 illustrations, it represents only a segment of Letterform Archive’s holdings, which include process work, original sketches, typeface proofs, and other unique material rarely seen outside our doors. A rich web gallery will introduce Dwiggins to designers and makers around the globe. Here’s a sample of what’s possible.
Philip Grushkin was a tour de force in the publishing world. Before launching his prolific career, Grushkin studied under master book jacket designer George Salter. Working largely during the 1940s–80s, he designed book jackets for publishers like Random House and Alfred A. Knopf. He later became an art director, designing hundreds of books for Abrams Art Books.
Letterform Archive acquired a modest portion of Gruskin’s archives in the fall of 2016, complete with original art and mechanicals for several of his dust jacket designs. The collection is a great source of education and inspiration for both students and researchers. Showing final pieces, while highlighting edits and production notes in the process pieces is an excellent tool for explaining pre-digital printing processes to aspiring graphic designers.
Letterform Archive’s publishing program debuts with W. A. Dwiggins: A Life in Design, a comprehensive illustrated biography of the innovative type designer, illustrator, and lettering artist, William Addison Dwiggins. Written and designed by Bruce Kennett, with a foreword by Steven Heller, this book is essential for anyone interested in graphic design, publishing, and the book arts.
The book text will be set by the author in a revival of Dwiggins’s Electra type, made by Jim Parkinson especially for this project. (Early backers will have the opportunity to acquire these types for their own use.)
Jack Stauffacher (who celebrated his 96th birthday in December 2016) has been making books since age 16 — which means 80 years spent practicing and perfecting the interrelated arts of printing, typography, design, and publishing. A 2004 AIGA medalist, the self-taught Stauffacher is one of the most distinguished printers in the United States today.
Last fall, Letterform Archive acquired over 200 of Stauffacher’s wood type prints. These are the product of the printer-typographer’s experiments with the drawers of wood type he inherited at his 300 Broadway studio, located in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.
These wooden letters — many mismatched, not a single complete alphabet among them — provided, simultaneously, a semantic constraint and a material freedom. Stauffacher used the opportunity to create “monoprints,” no two the same. Among his techniques: manipulating the layouts of the letters on the bed of his press between impressions; using solvents and sponges (among other materials) to create unique textural variations and effects with inking; iterating with sub-sets of letters; and inking once, then printing multiple times. The resulting prints offer striking variance in color, shape, texture, and pattern — a particular contrast with Stauffacher’s more traditional editioned productions.
A facsimile edition of these prints is forthcoming from Letterform Archive.
Dutch designer Piet Zwart (1885-1977) was trained as an architect, but is best known as a pioneer of twentieth century experimental typography and photomontage. He preferred to call himself a “form engineer” because he was such a strong believer in functionality, standardization and machine production. The master set from Zwart’s own archive is at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.
Letterform Archive’s collection of Piet Zwart was begun thirty years ago, but it has been substantially enhanced by newly acquired material. Starting in 2013 there was a series of five auctions in the Netherlands featuring duplicates from Zwart’s personal archive. We were an active bidder in all five sales.
Our Piet Zwart collection now contains over 120 pieces of rare ephemera. Many are proof copies (printed on one side only) with dates or other notations in his own hand, and almost all have Zwart’s name and address rubber stamped in green on the back.
The items featured in the linked PDF arrived recently from the last of the five auction sales.
Letterform Archive gratefully acknowledges Aaron Marcus’s recent generous donation of an archive of his work.
The newly acquired collection encompasses a broad swath of Marcus’s works and interests, ranging from art and design to physics and computer science. Through his experimental design works and creative explorations, Marcus challenges both our notion of what letters are and how they are constructed. His explorations—through both hand work and computer code—prefigure a computer-assisted approach to creative expression that is widely utilized by artists and designers today.
Thanks to a generous gift from Professor Dennis Y. Ichiyama, Letterform Archive is excited to add nearly 200 identity manuals to our collection.
Dennis Ichiyama is a designer and professor of visual communication design at Purdue University. As a student, he studied under Paul Rand at Yale, learning the importance of creating within limitations — a philosophy he carried with him into a long career as a designer and educator.
Letterform Archive recently acquired an archive of material by and about Albert Klijn (1895–1981), a Dutch graphic designer, painter, typographer, bookbinding designer, and illustrator. The collection includes posters, paintings, advertisements, periodicals, seals and stamps, calligraphy, and a large assortment of ephemera and printed matter.
Klijn studied at the Quellinus School in the Netherlands and is known for designing many items for the city of Amsterdam, including various letterheads, logos, coats of arms, and five Town Calendars (1924–1929). He is most famous for designing the logo for the Municipality of Amsterdam Giro, the first cashless payment system in the Netherlands. Klijn worked for the interior designer Theo Nieuwenhuis from 1866–1951 and ran the studio for Advertising Art with his brother Willem Klijn (1892–1961).
In 1923, Klijn designed the cover for issue number forty-one of the highly revered art magazine, Wendingen. The archive includes several process pieces for this magazine cover, including a drawing and several printed proofs.
The abundance of material in the archives of Albert Klijn provides excellent insight into the artist’s multifaceted nature and creative evolution. It is an honor for us at Letterform Archive to preserve and share his history, art, and process with our community.
Acquisition reflects commitment to providing hands-on access to type foundry’s significant digital archive, collateral material, and ephemera.
Letterform Archive has received a major gift from the renowned type foundry and publisher Emigre, Inc. The gift includes rare archival material in various media, such as a complete run of Emigre catalogs, development files for original Emigre typefaces, and audiotapes of unedited interviews with Emigre magazine designers and contributors that offer an oral history of the design community, as well as printed sheets, posters, ephemera, and paste-ups.
Seattle sign painter and showcard writer Ross F. George (1889–1959) was the inventor of the Speedball pen and author of the first 17 editions of the Speedball textbook (now in its centennial edition).
With this post we gratefully acknowledge George’s family’s donation of an archive of his work, containing drawings for original alphabets published in the Speedball textbooks, his pens (including some early prototypes), showcards and other examples of his lettering and drawing, account books, papers, and photos.
George’s Speedball textbooks and pens have aided countless calligraphers and lettering artists over the last 100 years. We’re thrilled that Letterform Archive will now get to share his history, art, and process with many more.
We were delighted to get our hands on a copy of William George Sutherland’s The Sign Writer and Glass Embosser, a rare technical manual from the turn of the 20th century. Consisting mainly of decorative alphabets, this book was meant primarily for use in signage, with chapters dedicated to various methods of decorating on glass including gilding, embossing, etching, and enamel painting. The volume includes a portfolio of 32 lithographed prints, 16 in color with occasional gold, by Kleinertz of Manchester.
The exhibition organized by Letterform Archive in San Francisco brings together handmade letter art from the 15th century to today.
On January 22, 2016 the San Francisco Center for the Book will open an exhibition organized by Letterform Archive in San Francisco that showcases handmade examples of the letter arts made by practitioners from various disciplines, including calligraphers, architects, type designers, and illustrators. By juxtaposing works created across diverse time periods and geographical locations, the exhibition seeks to highlight the tremendous creativity and myriad possibility for the handmade letter arts, while at the same time drawing connections between seemingly disparate works.
The Cooper Union’s Continuing Education Certificate Program offers West Coast courses beginning October 2015.
Type@Cooper and Letterform Archive are partnering to offer a post-graduate certificate program in Typeface Design in the new Type Annex of Letterform Archive. In addition to this rigorous one-year course in typeface design, the newly established Type@Cooper West program also brings public workshops and a public lecture series focusing on lettering, digital typeface design, font production, and typography.