Cold type vs. hot typesetters

I learned about the term ‘cold type’ quite late into my fascination with phototypesetting. And when I did it was straight from its biggest critic, Frank Romano, author of a book with the title

The term had been popular in English (only) in the 1960s and ’70s amid the changes from the then prevailing mechanical ‘hot’ metal typesetting, like Linotype or Monotype, that involved live typecasting, to ‘cold’ photographic systems and computer-based typesetting. But my qualms are more about what cold refers to in relation to hot here.

In the common sense it means typesetting without the casting of metal. Now that all composition and design is done with cool digital tools, we hardly ever have to differentiate between this anymore. What I would love to make clearer though and distinguish between is the difference between foundry type and hot metal typesetting. Especially non-native English speakers tend to throw all metal type into the hot metal melting pot, but nein:
Foundry type is traditional metal type of individual sorts (letters) for hand composition, once cast by a type foundry but usually used cold, then taken apart again and reused.
Hot metal type refers to typesetting machines that involve a casting unit that compose and cast individual sorts or a line of type on the fly, e. g. Linotype, Intertype, Monotype or Ludlow systems; hot to luke warm when handled right after casting and molten down again after use.
It gets real balmy though now that most metal type used in letterpress print shops these days is actually cold ex-hot-metal Monotype for hand composition.

So maybe we should not use the thermal terms at all and be more specific in what we mean. Or at least only use hot metal for the mechanical typesetting systems. Or only when we’re referring to genuine hot typesetters.*


Romano’s book is fun to browse and read, especially now, 39 years later, but also nothing to drop everything for. The proud colophon in the light of the dismal production quality is especially “entertaining”.



This post was sparked by the promise of “hot typesetters” in an interview with Briar Levit about her film Graphic Means.

I guess ‘hot type setters’ would also not have passed the editor. Hot metal type typesetters?

Cooler Typ


In an attempt to distract myself from stress-watching CNN or eating an entire bag of cough drops (they’re candy-ish), I’m spending this Valentine’s Day on the hunt for typefaces with interesting ♥ or ♡. Here’s what I’ve found so far (with a little help from some friends):

Bickham Script by Richard Lipton: ♥ and ♡ are sort of, um, oblique.

Cera Pro by Jakob Runge: ♡ grows a thicker outline with the font weight.

Franziska also by Jakob Runge: Nice ♥ and ♡.

Guapa by Laura Meseguer: a curly-centered ♡.

Regina (Black and Hilite) by Charles & Thorn: Custom ❤️, 💔 and ❣ (Thanks for the tip, Kenneth!)

Quixo by Frank Grießhammer: ♥ grows wider with the font weight.

Listen, I get that the need for ♥ and ♡ is greatly diminished thanks to the flashy stronghold of 😍💌💞💓💗💖💘💝💟💜💛💚💙 oh, and of course, 😻. For today at least, let’s enjoy the humble ♥, ♡ and the typefaces that honor them.

And type designers! Think about giving some love to ♥ and ♡ in your next release. Because ♥♡♥♡♥♡♥ is a lot nicer than ������� when searching for type.

Do you know of other typefaces with interesting ♥ or ♡? Comments are open!

Mayakovsky: ROSTA windows

ROSTA windows were Agitprop posters created by artists and poets like Cheremnykh, Mayakovsky, Moor, Nuremberg, and Volpin for the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA). They were usually displayed in windows and often painted with cardboard stencils rather than printed.

This is a selection of Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky’s posters designed for ROSTA from the book:
Duwakin, W. (1967). Rostafenster. Majakowski als Dichter und bildender Künstler. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst

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Emoji Ambivalence

In December 2015 I spotted an unconventional SKULL AND CROSSBONES ☠ [U+2620] on a passing truck transporting explosive goods in Gujarat, India. Needless to say I immediately demanded a whole set of emoji based on it, and needless to add nobody volunteered.

So here I am, a year later, trying myself as an emoji designer and simultaneously exploring possibilities of bringing this font to life. And that, I discovered, is a bottomless pit if I’ve ever seen one.
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Just Getting Started

What a day! We marched throughout the world and the outpouring of homemade messages of solidarity, resistance, love, and strength has been overwhelming. Here are a few of our efforts and some amazing signs we witnessed.

Some signs by Bettes:














Dirty Bandits

Indra (after ECS)



ECS and Naomi

Our Washington DC correspondents ECS and Naomi found some amazing signs at the big march:
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Review: ‘Carol Twombly: Her brief but brilliant career in type design’

Oak Knoll Press, 2016

Perhaps it is because we live in an age where styling and self-promotion shape how and whether we revere design, that the austerity of this book, and indeed, Carol Twombly’s life and career, feel so other-worldly. Which is not to say that Twombly is somehow weird or that this book about her life and work is lacking. In fact, the book is very well-written and — dare I say it, (this is a type nerd book after all) — quite an engaging read.
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