Letterform Archive News

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.
Oct 24, 2019

Type as Modern Art: The Influences Behind Stauffacher’s Wood Type Prints

Posted In: Publishing
Jack Stauffacher, Process work (detail) for The Rebel Albert Camus portfolio, 1969. Collection of Letterform Archive.
Only on Saturday. Hardcover, 10 x 14 inches, 208 pages. Regular: Scuff-free velvet-touch matte laminate case wrapped with a jacket. Deluxe: Hardcover with a portfolio of 10 facsimile reproductions and 10 impressions made with Stauffacher’s own wood type, bound and slipcased in dark green silk.
Reserve your copy

Long before Jack Stauffacher picked up a piece of wood type and used it to create one of his remarkable typographic abstractions, the printer and designer had collected lessons in his craft from across time — and from across the globe. Read on to learn about just a few of the many influences that informed his wood type work, which is the subject of our third book, Only on Saturday: The Wood Type Prints of Jack Stauffacher, now live on Kickstarter.

Early Experiments in Printing

At an early age, Jack Stauffacher was practically anointed as a printer. Paging through an issue of Popular Mechanics when he was fourteen, his eye fell on a mail-order advertisement for a 3-by-5-inch letterpress, and his curiosity was permanently piqued. By the time he graduated from high school, he and his father had built a modest studio in the backyard of their home in San Mateo, California, and the tiny mail-order press had given way to a more stately Chandler & Price model. Named the Greenwood Press after the street adjacent to their home, young Stauffacher’s enterprise began to take on small commercial jobs.

Sep 18, 2019

This Just In: Jack Stauffacher’s Studio

Posted In: Collections, Publishing

For over 50 years, Stauffacher lived a singular life at the heart of San Francisco’s creative community. Now, his legacy lives on at the Archive, and his wood type prints are the subject of our third book.

panoramic photo of Jack Stauffacher at his studio, Greenwood Press, 300 Broadway in San Francisco. Photo: Dennis Letbetter, 1991
panoramic photo of Jack Stauffacher at his studio, Greenwood Press, 300 Broadway in San Francisco. Photos: Dennis Letbetter, 1991
Jack Stauffacher in his studio, Greenwood Press, at 300 Broadway in San Francisco. Photo: Dennis Letbetter, 1991.

Some rooms convey history all by themselves. They tell stories about the people who live in them before those occupants even utter a word. Jack Stauffacher’s studio in San Francisco was such a place.

Sep 10, 2019

From the Collection: The Complete Commercial Artist (現代商業美術全集)

Posted In: Collections

A rare set of Japanese trade publications serves a visual feast of modern graphics and lettering, as well as a study of early-20th-century interactions between Japan and the West.

A few covers from The Complete Commercial Artist

The early 20th century in Japan witnessed a collision of emerging and residual forces. Tensions between past, present, and future shaped typography, lettering, and other areas of design. Leading up to the Shōwa period (1926–89), as a result of the nation’s modernization and growth of commerce, businesses recognized the value of advertising to consumers in a visually appealing way.

The budding interest in creative advertising and the rise of commercial retail led to a 1920s–30s boom in design trade publishing to satisfy the growing demand for rich reference materials. In 1926, Hamada Masuji (濱田 増治) and a group of colleagues, including Sugiura Hisui, Watanabe Soshu, Nakada Sadanouke, and Miyashita Takao formed the Association of Commercial Artists. Together, with Hamada serving as the Editor-in-Chief, they published The Complete Commercial Artist, a 24-volume collection of trade publications on commercial design.

Sep 4, 2019

Lautsprecher Gets Its Voice Back

Posted In: Collections

Jakob Erbar’s least known typeface went silent in World War II. David Jonathan Ross used a specimen at the Archive to bring it back to life.

One look at the web or our phones these days and it’s obvious that a certain style of typeface dominates contemporary design: the geometric sans serif. It feels like nearly every company, from tech startup to multinational corporation, is finding safety and clarity in the genre’s circular rounds, sharp corners, and clean finish. Meanwhile, there’s also a growing hunger for things that are handmade and handwritten, authentic and imperfect. These universal desires for mechanical order and human warmth are pulling in opposite directions.

Lautsprecher (German for “loudspeaker”) is a virtually unknown metal typeface from 1931 that somehow hits tones both geometric and calligraphic, right at a time when we’re tuned into those very frequencies.

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