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2022 Design Lectures: Ten Videos to Revisit at the New Year

Last year Letterform Archive hosted 24 virtual events exploring typography from around the world. You can still watch them all.

2022 was another busy year for online public programming at the Archive. Over the year we recorded two dozen visually rich presentations on typography, graphic design, and their connection with our culture at large. These events include Letterform Lectures, a companion to the Type West certificate program in type design; our Salon Series, featuring staff or guest experts taking a deep dive into a specific theme within the Archive; and a special event with Ellen Lupton celebrating the culmination of the Bauhaus Typography at 100 exhibition.

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Interview with Alan Sobrino of Errant Press

“Now is the time to take words from boring codex forms and put them everywhere.” Vivian Sming talks Latin American artists’ books with Alan Sobrino.

Alfonso Santiago, Bookmarks / Separadores, Piedra Ediciones, 2022.

As part of her curatorial fellowship at Letterform Archive, Vivian Sming has been introducing us to innovative book artists and independent publishers. In this installment, she sits down with Alan Sobrino of Errant Press who distributes and publishes books by Latin American artists, often in bilingual editions. All the books shown here are now part of the Archive’s collection of visual language.

Vivian Sming: Can you introduce yourself and tell us what prompted you to start Errant Press?

Alan Sobrino: My name is Alan Sobrino. I’m from Mexico City originally, but I have lived the last 10 years in a city called Culiacán in Sinaloa, Mexico, one of the most violent cities in the world. It’s the hometown of a lot of drug dealers. While I was living there, I started working on Errant Press. I knew that what I was trying to make and what I was writing was never going to be published in the way I wanted them to. If you go to traditional publishing houses with ideas that are outside of the box, like putting some poems in matchbooks or like playing with the containers, well, obviously, they’re going to react. They liked the texts, but I got rejected all the time trying to put them together as a project. After a while, I decided to start doing it myself. My first books didn’t look like the ones I make now. They started as small projects for friends. I shared them with people who I knew would like them. They eventually started growing and becoming more popular between friends and zinesters in Mexico. I decided to create Errant Press as a gateway for putting all these works I was making already out there, and also to make a little bit of money to keep producing. Because I realized that without money, I couldn’t keep publishing my work. I thought Errant would be a good way to make some cash flow so I could keep producing.

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This Just In: Punk Flyers of the Bay Area

Our new collection offers a visual explosion of the 1970s–80s punk scene in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco.

Bob Clark, Flyer (detail) for Blistering Agents at The Sound of Music, ca. 1980. Bassist “Big Bob Clark”, later of the band Agression, died in 2021.

Punk has always been anti-establishment, and that includes the traditional design establishment. Its ethos is DIY; make do with what’s available, and figure it out. Don’t have the necessary supplies? Doesn’t matter; you can make paste from flour and use a public library’s xerox machine. Punk thumbs its nose at the polished. It embraces the messy, the handmade, and the authentic. It is a state of mind reflected both in the sound of its music and the look of its promotional graphics.

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This Just In: Indian Movie Posters

From Bollywood to Tollywood, Tanya George looks at her country’s varied cinematic industries and writing systems through our new collection of film posters.

A few of the 15 posters included in the Archive’s new Indian movie poster collection.

For several years now, Letterform Archive’s curatorial team has focused on expanding its collection to underrepresented parts of the world. One ongoing project under this umbrella includes promotion material from India’s diverse film industries as a way to showcase expressive lettering in multiple scripts, including Bengali, Devanagari, Urdu, and Telugu. In 2021, I was invited to help shortlist from a wider set of posters, designs that represent a wide range of lettering styles.

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Now Open: The People’s Graphic Design Archive

A new digital platform for documentation and research is set to reveal a more inclusive history, and the ideal complement to Letterform Archive’s physical collection.

Introducing The People’s Graphic Design Archive

The story of graphic design is traditionally written by award winners, major brands, and big names. Their work is heralded in trade journals and design annuals, established as canon in college text books, and archived in museums and special collections. Meanwhile, the wider world of design — which can have as much impact on its audience — goes unrecorded. This includes objects that are widely seen but under-appreciated, or hyper-local and lesser-known, but no less remarkable. And that work is often designed by underrepresented or marginalized people.

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How Type Travelled Across Nations and Foundries

Our correspondent Tanya George dives into the Archive’s type specimen collection to explore the many ways typeface designs changed hands in the metal era.

Catalogs from two different foundries reveal two very similar typefaces. Left: Alpha-Blox, ATF specimen, ca. 1950. Right: Positive, Gujarati Type Foundry specimen, ca. 1940s.

Archives can be intimidating spaces. They’re usually filled with objects and materials that are valuable and relevant to building knowledge but require someone to know what they’re looking for and ask the right questions to the right people. So here is a small gateway into the type specimen collection at Letterform Archive. I ask a question — “Why does the same typeface design reappear in specimens from other foundries?” — and try to answer it by using objects found at the Archive and other accessible resources.

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