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This Just In: Schriftenkartei, a Typeface Index

This treasure chest of 600+ specimen cards holds a complete snapshot of the last metal type foundries in Germany.

Produced between 1958 and 1971, the Schriftenkartei (Typeface Index) represents a West German agency’s effort to catalog all the country’s typefaces in production at the time. The cards are useful for type researchers and designers as they share a common format and show complete character sets — a resource not often included in foundry specimens. Thanks to a generous donation, a set of these cards is now in Letterform Archive’s collection, and scans are available online.

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Type History Toolkit, Part 3: Non-Linear Lenses

The last installment of our design education toolkit offers alternative ways to teach and learn typography using themed tables in the Online Archive.

The Archive’s wide-ranging collection allows many entry points into type history. In earlier posts we offered a conventional chronological approach, and a global perspective. Over the years the Archive team built out a wide variety of tables in the Online Archive based on their interests or responding to a tour’s requirements. Many of these explore typographically significant themes, movements, and subcultures in graphic design, offering alternative ways to teach and learn about letterforms.

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Type History Toolkit, Part 2: De-Centering the Latin Letter in Design Education

Sabiha Basrai recommends globally expansive approaches to studying typography.

Letterform Archive is steadily expanding the representation of Eastern writing systems in the Online Archive. The image above highlights a few selections. See also the Global Scripts table, a guided view of these collections for use in education.
Type History Toolkit

This article by activist and educator Sabiha Basrai is the result of her 2023 research fellowship at Letterform Archive where she studied collections of global scripts and collaborated with staff on curriculum development. 

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Type History Toolkit, Part 1: A Chronological Approach

Curated sets of objects in the Online Archive tell a visual story of typographic design, starting with the Western world.

We love to hear how the Online Archive is enhancing design courses around the world. Teachers are using the Tables feature to create and share design artifacts and inspiration with their students, or present curated sets as slideshows in class. During the pandemic, when we weren’t able to welcome students to the Archive, the staff created our own tables* to help navigate type history and highlight works in the collection that exemplify major movements. Now we’re sharing a few of these tables with you!

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Coming Soon: The Richard Sheaff Ephemera Collection

Nineteenth-century printed ephemera brought color and design innovation to the masses. Thousands of fine examples of this blossoming graphic design will join the Archive.

The first artists and printers to call themselves “designers” advertised their work in the mid- to late nineteenth century. This period of the industrial revolution marked a peak of experimentation and extravagance in the trade, when printed ephemera flourished to meet the demands of expanding commerce and increasingly urban populations. Engravers, lithographers, and letterpress printers used a wide variety of opulent colors, lettering styles and typefaces, illustration techniques, and production methods to attract customers—both companies and consumers. They added dazzle and vibrancy to the stuff of everyday life: advertising, calling cards, invoices, labels, packaging, postcards, and tickets.

Up to that point, most people experienced printed material that was relatively dull, drab, and monochrome. Innovation in technology and craft changed everything. It was as if someone switched on the light.

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From the Collection: The Women of Photo-Lettering

Guest researcher Anne Galperin reveals unsung contributions to a major sourcebook of mid-twentieth-century type design.

Part 1: Ten of 252

One Line Manual of Styles, Photo-Lettering, Inc., 1971.

Sometime in the 1990s, my father-in-law Bill Hermes—who’d retired from his career as an art director—gifted me neatly organized boxes of his professional books, tools, and supplies. In this thrilling collection of stuff, which spanned decades, was the 1971 edition of Photo-Lettering’s One Line Manual of Styles.

This aptly named book is a mind-boggling, 470-page compendium featuring 6,500 eclectic examples of display typefaces from the most prolific supplier of phototypesetting. I browsed it often over the years, but, one day in the summer of 2018, something in the volume made me stop short.

In the sea of 252 names—including titans of modern graphic design such as Joseph Albers, Milton Glaser, and Bradbury Thompson—I counted 10 women. At that moment I decided to try and find them.

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