Letterform Archive News - Online Archive

Feb 23, 2021 | Collections, Online Archive

Now Online: Landmarks of Early Western Typography

From Gutenberg to Granjon, new additions to the Online Archive represent major developments in letterpress printing.

Christophe Plantin, Senatus Populique Genvensis…, 1579

In her recent update, librarian Kate Long mentioned the ways we use the Archive as a teaching tool, especially in our Survey of Type History for the MFA Design program at the California College of the Arts. Now in its third year, the course tells the story of design firsthand through a curated selection of artifacts from our collection. This year, of course, the pandemic is forcing us to meet remotely, which means we’re prioritizing key historical objects for digitization and virtual presentation. The beauty of this pivot is that everyone benefits – even those who aren’t master’s students – because the Online Archive is open to all. As a taste, here are a few recent additions to the site that represent typographic milestones over the first 150 years of letterpress printing.

Jan 26, 2021 | Collections, Online Archive

Emigre Archives Continue to Provoke and Enlighten

Librarian Kate Long recounts the many ways we use the Emigre collection, and Jon Sueda introduces a new series for experiencing Emigre magazine in the Online Archive.

a stylized image of Jon Sueda and his Emigre table in the Online Archive

It takes a long time to do most things well. When I started volunteering at Letterform Archive, the organization had just received its first major donation. Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko of Emigre had gifted their archives containing thousands of objects: books they printed, books they referenced, type development files, type specimens, every issue of Emigre magazine, process work and proofs, and binders holding a few decades’ worth of communication.

Jan 13, 2021 | Online Archive

Now Online: Guest-Curated Tables

We love to set tables for guests. Now, we’re inviting them to set their own. Custom collections by Levit, Levée, Morla, Sandhaus, and Weefur weave unique threads of design history, style, and meaning.

A sampling of artifacts from the guest tables featured in this article.

Last fall, when we introduced Tables, a tool for creating sets of typographic artifacts from our Online Archive, we asked a few friends, board members, and staff to put the tool to use. The results demonstrate the myriad ways members can use Tables to build collections of inspiration, research, and resources for use in the studio or classroom.

Oct 26, 2020 | Collections, Online Archive

Now Online: Color, Ornament, and Type at the Turn of the 20th Century

New additions to the Online Archive let you reach back to a vibrant period of ornamentation and letterform expression.

Ramade, plate from portfolio
Louis Ramade, D’Enseignes Décoratives á l'Usage des Peintres, chromolithographic print, France, 1890.

As the second industrial revolution hit its stride in the late 1800s and early 1900s, leaps in electrification, manufacturing, and transportation led to rapid changes in Western economies and societies. Advancements in paper making, printing, and typographic technologies followed suit, resulting in cheaper and more plentiful books, new forms of advertising to meet the demands of expanding commerce, and a burst of color and special effects that were previously impossible or too costly to produce. Meanwhile, as populations became vastly more urbanized, artists and printers waxed poetic about country life, incorporating the natural world into their work.

The latest batch of items in the Online Archive represents several dozen highlights from this era in our collection, including work by Will Bradley and Alphonse Mucha, sign painter portfolios from France, early type foundry ephemera, and a remarkable English catalog of wood type.

Aug 25, 2020 | Collections, Online Archive

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.

Feb 5, 2020 | Collections, Online Archive

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.

Dec 12, 2019 | Online Archive

Coming Soon to the Online Archive: Tables

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.
Jan 7, 2019 | Online Archive

Designing the Online Archive

We’re building a virtual discovery machine for letter lovers. Meet the designers who put you in the driver’s seat.

Designers and Archive staff discuss features, prototypes, and user flows during the development of the Online Archive.

The Online Archive beta is running and members are taking it for a test drive. Meanwhile, we’re taking a peek under the hood and introducing you to the people who built it.

Dec 18, 2018 | Online Archive

The Online Archive: Describing Design

Established library vocabularies aren’t right for our unique collection of type, lettering, and graphic design. So we’re creating a new one.

Letterform Archive’s catalog search function
A powerful search function surfaces our design-specific vocabulary and supports multiple filter terms.
Nov 29, 2018 | Online Archive

Now Live: The Online Archive Beta

Experience Letterform Archive from anywhere in the world.

When guests visit the Archive our goal is to inspire them through radical access to our collection of graphic design and typography artifacts. The aim is to encourage discovery through visual exploration. Now we’re making that experience available to everyone everywhere with the new Online Archive. Charter members will receive exclusive access to the beta before we officially go live in 2020.

Help Us Digitize Dwiggins

W. A. Dwiggins portrait
W. A. Dwiggins is the subject of our first publication, a comprehensive biography of one of the most innovative designers of the 20th century.

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.

Update: The Kickstarter campaign was successful and we reached our stretch goal. You can still preorder the book on Indiegogo InDemand.

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.