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Typography Tuesday is Born

By • Oct 24th, 2006 • Category: Art, Design Geeky, Typography

Typography Tuesday I was reading up on the background of a typeface I’ve had a lot of interest in lately—Brothers (Emigre)—when I was reminded of what a ridiculous typography nerd I really am. From the overall aesthetic of a big sign on a building to the minute geometric detail of the characters themselves, I really like type and I always have. (Incidentally, the aforementioned font was designed by fellow Iowan John Downer in 1999. He’s somewhat of a star among a dying breed of hand-letterers and sign painters that I hope to hear speak one day.)

Since the advent of desktop publishing and digital type, I think both the general public and designers have come to take beautiful letterforms for granted. Many rare and old typefaces that might have otherwise been lost forever have been preserved and made useable again by being turned into digital fonts. At the same time, the array of fonts available to a designer—and the average computer user for that matter—is now enormous. There are still people practicing and learning the craft of designing type by hand, but it’s certainly a shrinking number. Not that designing type digitally is at all bad, but hand-lettering definitely bears an organic mark of the typographer more than most of its digital counterparts. I know that House Industries still does the bulk of their type design the old fashioned way…pencils, vellum, ink, brunshes, and Speedball pens. They still digitize the final product, but digital design tools aren’t central to the process. So, the ways of the good ol’ days are still being used.

As a youngster, I had typewriters, some manner of photocopier, and a small benchtop letterpress at my disposal which served as my first “design toolset” before I even knew graphic design was a profession. Certainly many years before I knew I’d be a designer myself. But I’ll leave that for another post. Apart from that childhood experimentation, I’ve sort of been working backwards over the years in my education and skills as a designer. My first jobs were producing for the web in the mid-90s, so I naturally started off in Photoshop and Illustrator. At that point, I was decent at emulating any number of graphic styles but hadn’t even begun to find my own. So, I started seeking out and learning from others who had the more fundamental skills that I felt I was missing. It’s funny that I was an Art Director at an ad agency in Minneapolis with some pretty big accounts before I learned how to do a quick and dirty marker comp. Hell, I didn’t even own decent markers. Granted, I don’t do marker comps very often at all. Almost never, really. But it’s a great skill to have when you’re brainstorming or tyring to explain your ideas to a client without having to jump on the computer. (It was a veteran copywriter that taught me to comp with pencil and markers, by the way. heh.)

There are two things that are the basis of any good design or fine arts education. Fundamentals and practice. For the most part, my learning of fundamentals has been on an as-needed basis. Other than that, it’s just been random things that I look into on a whim. I’ve decided to start being more disciplined about expanding my creative/artistic skills. So today,”Typography Tuesday” is born. Why Tuesday? Because “Typography Wednesday” just doesn’t have as much zazz.

It might be a photo study of old building signage, some historical research, or some lettering of my own. But I intend to do something typographically each Tuesday and post anything relevant here. Hopefully it’ll be of value to someone else as well.

Side note: Coop’s growing Paintblogging series and Von Glitschka‘s IllustrationClass.com have both given me a lot of insight into their processes and taught me a great deal. It’s not entirely the same thing, but that’s what inspired me to make this sort of thing available here. Thanks Coop! Thanks Von!

[tags]typography, fonts, graphic design[/tags]

is a post-hardcore rock'n'roller, graphic designer, amateur chef, typography nerd, coffee connoisseur, radio guy, motorcyclist, skateboard commuter, and a reluctant adult. He lives in Portland's Old Town area with the lovely Dr. Adrienne and Rocco the Dog.
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