Skip to main menu Skip to main content Skip to footer content

Author: Tanya George

For Your Reference: Threading Letters

From embroidery to weaving, there is a long history incorporating letterforms into fabric. In this visit to the Archive’s stacks, we’re pulling multiple threads on items that tie text to textiles.

Cover for Alphabet de la Brodeuse.

The word “text” originated from the Latin word “textus,” which means “a weaving” or “a fabric.” In ancient times, textus referred specifically to the process of weaving fabric. Over time, the meaning of the word expanded to include written or printed material, reflecting the idea of words being woven together to create a coherent written work. This metaphorical extension continues today with words and phrases such as seamless, threadbare, unraveled, looming, frayed, tangled, and spinning a yarn, highlighting the connection between the physical act of weaving fabric and the intellectual act of composing written language, both of which involve the interlacing of individual elements to create a unified whole. In this installment of For Your Reference, we revisit the Archive’s stacks for books and other items that build a tangible connection between threads and letterforms.

Read More

Calendar Design in the Online Archive

A variety of planners, event guides, and type specimens offer over a dozen ways to represent the year through lettering and typography.

We’re starting 2024 with a selection of objects in the Online Archive that chart Gregorian timekeeping across the twentieth century. This compilation includes traditional calendars, fonts crafted explicitly for typesetting calendars, branded promotional calendars, and material that reveals the process of making a very unusual calendar. We hope these ideas inspire you throughout the year.

Read More

For Your Reference: Books About Signs

From retail branding to wayfinding, sign letters shape our urban landscape. Get a peek at the Archive’s stacks in this first stop on our reference library tour.

As an omnipresent artifact of design, signs have a universal ability to both impart information and evoke a feeling. Sign documentation — whether online or in a book — can be a portal into a place’s cultural history. It captures a typographic snapshot of a city. It tells a story about evolving reproduction technologies and how they affect design choices, how commercial dynamics affect cityscapes, and how typography can communicate the intangibles of a business and its clientele.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Beyond the Bauhaus: Ecuador, Land of the Shuar

Vanessa Zúñiga Tinizaray refocuses geometric and systematic design principles on a culture far from 20th-century Europe.

Vanessa Zúñiga Tinizaray
This article supplements a Bauhaus Typography at 100 interview with Vanessa Alexandra Zúñiga Tinizaray.
See the interview

Letterform Archive’s current exhibition celebrates, among many things, the centenary of the Bauhaus. Such recognition indicates the significant impact of the school in modern culture. The Bauhaus has become synonymous with minimal and geometric systems of design. This makes it convenient to attribute this school of thought as a source for any graphic work that shares these characteristics, but similar ideas have been around long before the Bauhaus. The Ecuador, the Land of the Shuar poster that is part of the “Beyond the Bauhaus” section of the show is an example of contemporary designers practicing some of the principles associated with the school, and, in this case, principles rooted in a marginalized history.

Read More