Power in the Poster: 1997–2017, 43 Black Pins, 40 men, 3 women

1997–2017, 43 Black Pin awards: 40 men, 3 women

Each year the Designers Institute of New Zealand awards two Black Pins, its supreme award. For the past two decades, 43 Black Pins have been awarded, of which 40 have gone to men and 3 to women. For this year’s Best Design Awards (to be announced in September), of the 9 convenors of juries for judging the nine main categories and various sub-categories, 8 are men and 1 is a woman. Of the jurors and convenors combined, 46 are men and 15 are women. The jury for the Value of Design Award is made up of men only, no women.

How has this happened? Where are the women?
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Dear Alphabettes: what defines a ‘Book’ weight?

Dear Alphabettes,
Is ‘Book’ supposed to be lighter or bolder than ‘Regular’?

Lisa

Hey Lisa,

Thanks for asking! And no thanks for making me answer this. We put out a poll asking our peers what they think it’s supposed to be, and you’re not going to like the results. 58% of the votes claim it should be lighter, while 42% claim it should be darker. There are historic, conceptual and technical considerations for why it might be so uneven.

The reasoning for ‘Book’ to be lighter than ‘Regular’ is as good as the one for it to be bolder. A lighter weight ‘Book’ style may have been made to counteract the print gain of paperback printing, and a darker ‘Book’ style may have been made to look better when smaller (just as optical sizes tend to gain weight towards the smaller end). I find both of these lines of reasoning persuasive and logical. (And then there are also the instances where it’s neither reason, but something else entirely, or just legacy.) And then we’re back to why you asked the question in the first place.

There is also a technical problem with some software interpreting ‘Book’ to be the same weight as ‘Regular’. That means that the styles will be sorted differently – or even ignored – depending on the application you’re using. Software doesn’t care about the logical conundrum, or which side of the Twitter poll gets slightly more votes. If software got to decide, we’d just name all our weights with numbers instead.

If it is reasonable for a weight to be two different things, perhaps the best solution is to avoid the name ‘Book’, at least in combination with ‘Regular’. Type designers should then skip the term, and instead either commit to a more thorough system for optical sizes, or adopt more distinct names. Some favourites include ‘Blond’ (as Fred Smeijers likes to call his slightly-lighter-than-regular weights) and the rather literal ‘Blanca’, ‘Gris’ and ‘Negra’ pairing that PampaType do in their fonts. I guess I’m partial to poetic names.

Lisa, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to give you the most common [citation needed] answer in type design: It depends!

Love,
Robin

Script, print, and letterforms in global contexts: the visual and the material

At the end of June, I was lucky to attend the new Centre for Printing History and Culture (CPHC) conference ‘Script, print, and letterforms in global contexts: the visual and the material’. Organised at the Birmingham City University in the UK by the talented Sahar Afshar, Vaibhav Singh, and Darryl Lim, the conference set out to explore the ‘plurality of engagements with, and interpretations of the printed and written word in various writing systems and artefacts’.

Maybe it was the anticipation of attending a conference’s first edition, or the large range of fascinating topics on the conference schedule. Or perhaps it was the idea of visiting the ‘Brummies’ in Birmingham, with its beautiful industrial terracotta buildings. Whatever the origin, I was already excited about this conference long before it even started. And I can confirm that it totally lived up to my expectations.
It’s the smallest conference I’ve ever attended, and probably the most eclectic. With a crowd of roughly 50 attendees and speakers, its ambition was no less than that of a larger conference. Bringing together scholars and practitioners from various disciplines such as book history, printing, publishing, type design, typography, and print culture, the conference aimed to start conversations from different points of view on print ‘in the diverse linguistic contexts of the world’.

Script, print, and letterforms in global contexts: the visual and the material. Vivien Chan takes the stage.

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Embracing Britishness: musings on biscuit lettering culture

It all began two or three years after I moved to the UK when I realised that I was living here in contradiction to my host country and not in harmony with it: (my) life was a cultural fight. It was frustrating. At some point, I decided to change the paradigm, embrace Britishness, stop fighting it and learn the culture of the country where I happily live. That journey of learning and embracing the Britishness included, unavoidably, British biscuits.

British biscuits

My first biscuits study, in the form of an Instagram hashtag: the Fig Roll, the Shortcake, the Garibaldi, the Duchy?, the Finger Cream, the Redcurrant Puffs, the Rich Tea Finger, the ‘fake’ Bourbon — Bourbons are never square!


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