In part two of our Toolkit for Learning Type History, Sabiha Basrai offers expansive approaches to studying typography.
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 typefaces and collaborated with staff on curriculum development.
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!
The long-awaited feature empowers Archive members to share custom sets of graphic design artifacts with anyone.
Letterform Archive members have long been able to save sets of images in the Online Archive as Tables. With our latest update, all members can now share Tables! Teachers can share sets of design artifacts with their class, or designers can share a mood board with their team or clients. We can’t wait to see how you use Tables now that you can make them available to anyone.
Based in Düsseldorf, Jens Müller has authored, edited, and published dozens of books on design. The A5 series — under his own Optik Books imprint — offers affordable and beautifully documented snapshots of design history at a digestible length and (you guessed it) A5 size. The 10th volume in this series, Collecting Graphic Design, calls attention to the few institutions and private collectors who concentrate on preserving and sharing objects of graphic design, such as posters, logos, book covers, design manuals, and ephemera.
From Gutenberg to Granjon, new additions to the Online Archive represent major developments in letterpress printing.
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.
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.
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.
We love to set tables for guests. Now we invited them to set their own. Custom collections by Levit, Levée, Morla, Sandhaus, and Weefur weave threads of design history, style, and meaning.
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.
New additions to the Online Archive let you reach back to a vibrant period of ornamentation and letterform expression.
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.