Letterform Archive News

Sep 30, 2020

Leila Weefur and Alejandro Chavetta Join Our Board of Directors

Posted In: Behind the Scenes

Letterform Archive will benefit from the fresh perspective and expertise of two creative innovators as we expand the board.

We are pleased and honored to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors. A familiar face to anyone who has seen our membership video, Leila Weefur was a visiting researcher in our early years, and their story about exploring Blackness in advertising and typography at the Archive can be seen in The Occasional. Alejandro Chavetta has partnered with us on many projects, including exhibitions at Astro Studios where he was creative director, and content-creation for Adobe’s Create platform (now Discover), where he serves as Editor in Chief. Leila and Alejandro join an expanding board which aims to represent and respond to our broad community.

Aug 25, 2020

New in the Online Archive: Global Scripts

Our latest update includes items featuring Cyrillic, Hebrew, Indic, Japanese, Pegon, and Persian scripts.

R. K. Joshi, Indian Calligraphy Diary, 1980.

Among the 25 objects just added to the Online Archive are works representing various writing systems beyond Latin. The items are highlights from two events this spring: a master’s seminar in type history that we taught for California College of Arts, and a lecture, “A Brief Typographic Trip Around the World”, hosted by the Center for Book Arts in New York. In a time when a pandemic has hampered most of our summer travel, let our lifelike images take you on a virtual vacation to 18th-century Indonesia, 1920s Tokyo, or India through the ages.

Aug 11, 2020

From the Collection: Utopian Construction — Judaism and the Soviet Avant Garde

Posted In: Collections

Yiddish work by Kulture-Lige, El Lissitzky, and Natan Altman demonstrates how dreams of a new society revitalized typography.

Judaism and designs of utopia have a long history together. Many Jews have dreamed of a perfect and socially just society, and created art that reflected this desire. Jews played integral roles in the Russian Revolution and in Bolshevik communism, as well as in building intentional communities around the world. Jewish artists expressed their utopian visions in a variety of ways, but many artists such as El Lissitzky and Natan Altman used painting, design, and the abstract shapes of constructivism to illustrate an upheaval of the old social systems and a radical transformation to something new. This coincided with the rise of communism in Eastern Europe, and with talk of protection of ethnic minorities after centuries of pogroms and discrimination.

Jul 8, 2020

The Black Experience in Graphic Design: 1968 and 2020

Posted In: Education
Portraits of Dorothy Akubuiro, Bill Howell, Dorothy Hayes, William Wacasey, Alex Walker

Just over fifty years ago, at the apex of the civil rights movement in the US, Dorothy Jackson interviewed five Black designers about “the frustrations and opportunities in a field where ‘flesh-colored’ means pink”. The article for Print was perhaps the first in the mainstream trade press to directly address the impacts of racism in the profession and describe the experience of Black practitioners in their own words. What has changed since then? What remains the same? We asked today’s design leaders to compare their experience to the 1968 discussion and imagine what’s next.

Jun 11, 2020

Letterforms / Humanforms

Posted In: Collections

The interaction between letters and bodies is a recurring theme in art and design history. Our newest team member, sair goetz, shares what they’ve discovered in the Archive’s collection and beyond.

Stefan G. Bucher, Letterheads: An Eccentric Alphabet, The Unnamed Press, Los Angeles, 2018.
May 10, 2020

From the Collection: Tadanori Yokoo

Posted In: Collections

Our growing collection of posters by the avant-garde Japanese designer are portals to universes never before imagined.

Portraits of Yokoo included in his posters.

Post-war Japan was a catalyzing backdrop that shaped a generation of artists and designers, including the renowned Tadanori Yokoo (横尾 忠則). Over the span of two decades, the Emperor’s divinity had been absolved, the nation was demilitarized, and US military troops had occupied cities. In 1960, at the age of 24, Yokoo traveled 300 miles from Kobe to Tokyo, to the epicenter of this cultural whirlwind. Tokyo, now home to a rapidly increasing population of over 10 million, was preparing to host the 1964 Summer Olympics while reckoning with violent student protests and riots. There, Yokoo’s practice took root and would earn him a reputation for bridging high and low, pre- and post-modern, and Eastern and Western cultures, and challenging conventions by charging posters with intense emotion. Trailblazing across multiple media, Yokoo responded to absurdities of signs and symbols, tensions between seemingly opposing worlds, and existential questions of the self to offer works that are humorous, chaotic, and deeply autobiographical.

May 4, 2020

Sponsor a Shelf

Posted In: Behind the Scenes

Thousands of books and other design artifacts are lined up for the big Archive move. You can complete their journey.

Paul Rand bookshelf illustration as an animation with frowns turning upside down
Little 1 (detail), 1962. See the entire book, written by Ann Rand and illustrated by Paul Rand, in the Online Archive.

Like many of you, we're working from home. That doesn't mean, however, we aren't still planning the move and thankful to be working with our crews to complete the buildout as safely as possible.

And, right now, your support is more important than ever.

Apr 29, 2020

Honoring Scott Lindberg

Posted In: Collections
Objects collected by Scott Lindberg, including designs by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Ladislav Sutnar, Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, and Alvin Lustig
Objects collected by Scott Lindberg, including designs by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Ladislav Sutnar, Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand, and Alvin Lustig.

Through his extensive knowledge and keen curator’s eye, Scott Lindberg was a constant source of inspiration to the design community in the Seattle area and beyond.

Mar 10, 2020

Abram Games: Posters for the Public Good

Posted In: Collections

While design is never a panacea for the world’s ills, the work of British designer Abram Games has particular poignance as we face new threats, uncertainty, and disinformation.

Poster for British War Office (detail), 1941.
Poster for British War Office, 1941. Image: Wellcome Collection.

Last year we were honored to host a Live at the Archive event with Abram’s daughter, Naomi Games. There’s no better time than now to present a recording of her talk, which focuses on the designer’s unique ability to promote health and safety, raise awareness, and unite people under a common cause.

Feb 5, 2020

New in the Online Archive: Giovanni Pintori for Olivetti

In the 1950s, Pintori revisualized the typewriter, transforming it from esoteric machine to a charming companion of modern office life.

Detail of Olivetti 82 Diaspron pamphlet, 1960s.

See all this work at our hi-fi web resolution in the Online Archive.

The lifeless, rectangular slabs of metal we type on these days were preceded by tools with personality. Sculptural, colorful, and often weighty, typewriters were transformative machines that shaped modern industry and communication in the 20th century. The Italian brand Olivetti, founded in 1908, was among the many key players in the market and was unique in the way they saw approachable design as core to their identity. Part of Olivetti’s success is owed to Giovanni Pintori, who was the company’s art director from 1950 to 1967. Pintori’s color palettes, shapely abstraction, and smart use of the grid conveyed both the mechanic power of an Olivetti device and the joyful ease one should feel when using it.

Feb 4, 2020

Preparing to Move the Archive

Posted In: Behind the Scenes

A good friend will help you move some books, but a true friend will help you move 60,000.

Hey, can we borrow your truck?

Earlier this week, special guest Amos Kennedy Jr. visited the Archive while we were examining our largest books to prep for the move.

We’re so excited to move into our new home, because once we’re all settled in, we’ll be able to better serve our community — you! When most people think about moving, cardboard boxes and packing tape dance in their heads. But to move an archive, we’ll need more than bubble wrap, Sharpies, and trash bags.

Jan 8, 2020

Charter Member Keepsake

Posted In: Behind the Scenes

Here’s a peek at what our charter members should expect in their mailboxes in a few weeks — and how the design came together, thanks to Design is Play and Dependable Letterpress.

Dec 12, 2019

Coming Soon to the Online Archive: Tables

Posted In: Online Archive

For every Letterform Archive tour we set a table — a visual feast of objects that respond to the interests of each guest. Soon, you can get a taste of this experience from anywhere.

Photo of Letterform Archive reading room.
This table is set for “1960s–70s Independent Publishing”, a section of last year’s California College of the Arts MFA course on the history of typography.
Dec 4, 2019

An Update on Our New Home

Posted In: Behind the Scenes

Thanks to you, our new space is taking shape. Here’s a peek at what we’re building together.

photo of Letterform Archive reading room under construction
The new Letterform Archive reading room under construction.

In July, we announced the surprising — but ultimately opportune — news that Letterform Archive needs a new home. We asked for your help, and you delivered. Over 300 donors from at least 15 countries supported our move campaign. With matching pledges from Emigre and an anonymous donor, we crossed the midway mark of our $200,000 goal.

Nov 25, 2019

Thank you, Amelia

Posted In: Behind the Scenes

After over four years as our librarian, Amelia Grounds is turning the page for a new role at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. Here are a few of her proudest accomplishments and favorite things from the Archive.

Nov 12, 2019

Designing Only on Saturday

Posted In: Publishing

There may be no task more daunting than designing a book about a designer — especially when that designer was your friend of 30 years. That was the case with Chuck Byrne, who wrote and designed our book on the work of Jack Stauffacher.

Cover and artwork for Only on Saturday: The Wood Type Prints of Jack Stauffacher
Nov 7, 2019

Jack Stauffacher on Working with Type

Posted In: Publishing

For the printer and designer whose wood type prints are the subject of Only on Saturday, crafting a perfect page meant getting a feel for the written word, its history — and what it means to be human.

Text from Vico’s The New Science, handset in 7-point Kis-Janson type by Jack Stauffacher. Photo (detail) by Dennis Letbetter, Vico photographs portfolio, 2003.

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