During the month of February 2016, Alphabettes contributors opened their minds and hearts to create the Love Letters series. From Rio to Bangalore, Spain to California, we were taken on a world-wide tour of beloved treasures, found objects, personal histories and typographic ephemera. Enjoy the collection and let’s do it again soon.
2016 is a leap year, and all thanks to that I get to be here a second time to profess my love for one more thing. Even though I haven’t bought a newspaper to read the news in years, every time I spot a newspaper whose copy I don’t own, I need to buy it. What started as a couple of innocent purchases has turned into an obsession—some would even call it love!
A sample of nameplates from Indian newspapers (from top to bottom): Gujarat Samachar (Gujarati), Eenadu (Telugu), Madhyamam (Malayalam), Andolan (Kannada), Dinaethal (Tamil), Dainik Bhaskar (Devanagari), Lokmat (Marathi in Devanagari), Rozana Spokesman (Punjabi in Gurmukhi), Inquilab (Urdu in Nastaliq), Namasthe Telangana (Telugu), Sakal Bela (Bengali) and The Pioneer (English)
I had one hell of a hard time deciding what to write about. I considered writing about specimen books or lettering manuals, flea markets or abandoned factories, house numbers or old advertising signage, puns or portmanteaus or the state I go into when I draw type at night; things that capture me completely and fill me with deep joy and sometimes make me feel like I have little pink hearts bubbling out of my ears.
But I also love just looking: at tiny, unremarkable, mundane things; and even weird or bad design that only makes limited sense outside its target audience. And, I may not be part of that audience, especially when I’m traveling (which I love for this reason, too: an outside look at things). I often get a kick out of the amazing, impenetrable kind of bad we often overlook.
So I decided to write about Sant’Anna.
Type designers take joy in the little things. We obsess over our &s and †s, we toil over the ear on a double-story g, we include oft-forgotten characters just for fun, and we inject all of our personality into %s and #s. As a fledgling type designer, I’ve found the most joy in interpolation.
« Every designer should collect things » said Véronique Vienne, in a talk she gave in Amiens (France) back in 2013, when I was still studying typeface design there. This had quite an impact on me. At that time, I had already started collecting the tiny (and annoying) stickers you find on fruits and vegetables. Suddenly I didn’t feel like a weirdo anymore.
I don’t remember exactly why I started keeping them, and I still don’t know what attracts me most about the tiny sticky pieces: seeing them on the fruits or stocking them in my notebook, all together.
This post is about sharing my love for lettering on book covers that I’ve discovered and some collected over the last few years. That’s the easy part, but making a selection is quite hard, because there are lots of them I love. I hope you will enjoy it. I will start with two fabulous books I got in Warsaw.
Laura Meseguer is a freelance typographer and type designer based in Barcelona. She also teaches and eventually writes.
She works in custom lettering and type design projects and through her own digital foundry, Type-Ø-Tones, she releases and promotes her typefaces. These days she is busy with some lettering related jobs, the release or her typeface family Multi and the design of Qandus Latin, for the Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghrib project.
Finding the divine in the details—what others overlook—is not so much an amusing pastime, but a constant state of being. When out on a hike, I often stop to question a seemingly meaningless feature. What species of moss is this? Why does this look like a witch’s hat? Who lives in this hole? The answers can be fascinating.
Living in a city, one might find charming little doodads in the gutter and under hedges as well. The metal numbers and letters on telephone polls—what’s the deal with those? In the same week, I found two that had liberated themselves somehow. For years, I’ve been accumulating these letters, or odd bits that look like letters. Some as possible solutions for future typeface projects, others just for the sake of the collection.
Loving might be a too strong word for my fascination with so-called ghost signs, but I do feel strangely attracted to them. It was probably in England where I came across ghost signs for the first time, but it was only when I moved to the USA that I started photographing them.
Veronika Burian studied Industrial Design in Munich and worked in that capacity in Vienna and Milan over a few years. Discovering her true passion for type, she graduated with distinction from the MA in Typeface Design in Reading, UK, in 2003 and worked as type designer at DaltonMaag in London for a few years. After staying for some time in Boulder, USA, and her hometown Prague she is now mostly living and working in Spain.
Veronika Burian is type designer and co-founder (with José Scaglione) of the independent type foundry TypeTogether, publishing award-winning typefaces and collaborating on tailored typefaces for a variety of clients. She also continues to give lectures and workshops at international conferences and universities.
The beautiful handwriting of a notary on an officially stamped paper clearly states it: 1 bed in two colours, 4 cushions, 2 duvets, 12 bed sheets, 1 mosquito net, 2 tablecloths, 12 towels, 1 bedside table, 1 table and 1 sofa was all it took for my great great great grandmother to convince her husband to marry her. What a funny way to declare eternal love! However, contrary to what one might have wished, their love did not last forever. A second letter, written 24 years later, reveals that her late husband made sure to be remembered, leaving her with an exorbitant debt to pay back to the government.
Alas, these family letters were not the most authentic samples of love … but maybe the couple would be happy to know that their great great great grandchild is now in love with every single word that is written in them. I, thus, declare that I am in love with these letters, not because of the content—which I actually find highly entertaining—but because of the unique, elegant and impossible to decipher samples of Greek notaries’ handwriting. Enjoy!
Image 1 and 2: Saturday 2nd of April 1846. Marriage contract of my great great great grandmother. Written in Greek Polytonic.
Eleni Beveratou is a Typeface designer from Greece, living in London. Having a BA and MA degree in Communication design from Vakalo Art & Design College she later on pursued her studies with a MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading. She is now working in Dalton Maag as a Font Developer.
Declaring my love for pigeons is not an easy task. It was not easy to accept it in the first place. But one day I looked back I realised that my friends were right, I have a thing for pigeons. And this thing has a name: Peristerophilia. (With the exception of labeorphilia – love of beer bottle labels, I believe this loveletter-philia to be unique in having a name, whether that is something good or not, well, I really can’t say).
Was this love for pigeons triggered by my grandfather’s love for pigeon keeping? Back in the 60s my grandfather, Bibiano, used to breed pigeons in the attic and participate in competitions that consisted in, basically, many good looking male pigeons (at least if you are a female-pigeon) trying to conquer the female pigeon in dispute, and of course, bring her back. Cachorro, my grandfather’s palomo, was a winner, irresistible for all pigeon-ladies and Bibiano’s reason to be proud.
In my mother’s family archive, an old box full of old pictures, ephemera and other artefacts, there is still a copy of Bibiano’s membership card of the Spanish federation of pigeon keeping (Federación Española de Colombicultura).*
Elena works with type every day, not only as part of the small communications team working for the type foundry TypeTogether but also as one half of the publisher Tipo e. This imprint is dedicated to publishing original Spanish texts about typography to better establish typographic culture in Spain and beyond. Having completed her MA(Res) in Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading she is now a research student at Central Saint Martins exploring the relationship between architectural lettering and early corporate identity.
Love is a strong word, but I’ll admit I have a fondness for them. In truth, I grew up in Rio and I can’t say I ever paid much attention to this kind of acrylic signs. Now, having lived in London for almost a decade, whenever I visit I stay with family in an upper-class neighbourhood where they hardly exist. A few days ago I went to the grittier neighbourhood of Copacabana and had an almost Proustian experience as I found myself surrounded by these old signs; with their cheap plastic appearance and soft edges, they formed the typographic landscape of my childhood. Although I can’t say they are exactly beautiful, I suddenly found them oddly charming. They were the letterforms of local popular commerce in 1980s Rio, the letterforms of hardware stores, florists, barbers and fishmongers, cheap-looking and anonymous, often considered ugly and vulgar. Today they are slowly disappearing, and the city doesn’t mourn the loss.
I decided to write my love letter to them, in spite of all the mixed feelings about their aesthetic value, and tried to find out more. I daydreamed about finding an old factory with stacks of old acrylic letters in different styles, dusty and forgotten…
I’ve long loved the vintage femininity of mid-century European fashion. The silhouettes, the careful accessorizing, and most importantly, the thousand-yard glare beaming from a heavily-lined eye have always been an inspiration to me. An old friend of mine peddles these gorgeous pieces most weekends at the Brooklyn Flea, and one weekend, she brought a stack of these Italian Fashion magazines from the 50s. This one, Eva, is from 1951 and features a scripty lettering that perfectly matches the clothing’s aesthetic: custom, curvy, sharp and stabby at just the right points.
The cover features a few different lettering styles, but what mostly grabbed my attention was the script. It’s used throughout the issue, and creates a nice ‘voice’ for many of the headlines.
Elizabeth Carey Smith is a design director and type designer based in New York. She is an avid reader, writer, letterer, and rap music listener—whose focus is how letters and words express the most simple and complex aspects of our lives.
I stamped a love letter for you and I can still smell the ink on my fingers.
“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and i’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.”
― Frida Kahlo
Sol Matas is a typeface designer from Buenos Aires currently living in Berlin. Co-founder of the collaborative type foundry Huerta Tipográfica. Since 2001 she runs her own studio Sonnenshine specializing in branding. She has developed font projects in Latin, Cyrillic and Devanagari. She gave lectures at various events and educational institutions in Argentina, Spain and Germany.
After graduating from the MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading, I decided to buy myself a present: all the seven issues of Pagina.
Pagina is an international graphic design magazine, published from 1962 until 1966 in Milan by Editoriale Metro S.p.A, with quarterly (but very irregular) releases. Each of the seven issues was published in Italian, French and English, the layout was designed by Heinz Will while the covers were handled by different designers. The articles inside the magazine included authors such as Leo Lionni, Armando Testa, Bruno Munari, Saul Bass and Albe Steiner (just to mention a few).
The first three issues of Pagina (November 1962, June 1963, October 1963).
The cover for the second issue was designed by Bob Noorda and for the third issue by Pino Tovaglia.
Pagina 4, 6 and 7 (January 1964, January 1965, April 1966). Pagina 6 is a special issue entirely dedicated to Italy. and Pagina 7 is dedicated to Giambattista Bodoni. The covers are respectively by Max Bill, who also designed the typeface on the cover, Giancarlo Iliprandi, and Franco Maria Ricci.
Alessia Mazzarella is a freelance type designer from Italy, currently living in the United Kingdom.
She graduated with distinction in 2013 from the MA in Typeface Design program at the University of Reading. She received a BA in Graphic Design from Central Saint Martins, London and a BA in Graphic and Multimedia Design from Sapienza, University of Rome. She now works independently on typeface design and graphic design projects. During the MA she developed her interest in multi-script typeface design, focusing her research on the Odia and Gurmukhi scripts.
As the renowned Louise Fili has said, “everything looks better on a tin”. Amongst all the little advertising items I collect, little tins are probably one of my favorites. It seems that nearly everything was packaged in these sturdy little boxes at one point, from laxatives to typewriter ribbons.
Lynne is a NYC-based Graphic Designer with a passion for all letter arts in the world. A Typographer, Calligrapher, and Lettering Artist, she is an alumni of the School of Visual Arts and the Type@Cooper program.
I have loved the crackling and whispering of the wrapping papers of oranges since my childhood in the sixties. This is also the reason why I am not a professional collector of these papers. I want to hold them in my hands, not only to look at the broad variety of graphic treasures, but also to listen to them.
Valentine’s Day. The day of love, lust, and crushes. Maybe the first time you saw the object of your affection was across a room, at a party or a bar or on the street. Your heartbeat quickened, your palms began to get slippery, your mouth went dry … because you were in the presence of something that spoke to you, that you felt a chemical connection with, something that made you feel understood and less alone in the world. Well, that’s how I feel when I find a piece of beautiful printed type.
When you visit a flea market, there is great furniture, handmade wares, and delicious street food … and then there are the antique booths. If you’re anything like me, the paper ephemera portion of these booths create the same effect as if I was to see David Beckham across the room. Once upon a time, when I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I visited the Brooklyn Flea just to encounter such a corner of such a booth. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation began as my memory isn’t what it used to be, but I ended up in a deep conversation with the owner of the booth about some copies of Avant Garde magazine she had for sale.
Jillian is an Art Director, Designer & Typographic Illustrator based in Los Angeles, CA by way of the East Coast. After years in agency life, most recently for Broadway theater advertising, she has opened her independent studio focusing in key art & entertainment advertising, branding, editorial illustration, packaging, and lettering/typographic consulting. She is also a pole dancer that sometimes writes and talks about vulnerability and the inseparable connection between personal & professional life, educates about experimental typography, and operates on a platform of intuitive & empathetic solutions. Clients include The New York Times, Pepsi, Twitter, HBO, Taco Bell, Foreign Policy magazine, Charity: Water, and Club W wines.
Shortly after my arrival in Hong Kong in the year 2010, I visited the Hong Kong Art Fair. As the name indicates, it is a commercial event, a trade fair, selling and buying art. Towards the end of walking aisle after aisle through the fair, I found myself in front of a large-sized calligraphy by the internationally acknowledged Japanese calligrapher Inoue Yuichi. My heartbeat changed, rising, and on that very same day, I decided to take calligraphy lessons.
Well, this is not the first time that I publicly declare my love for this amazing piece designed by Bram de Does, but I insist on advertising it since I do believe more people should be aware of this part of his work, beyond Trinité and Lexicon.
Marina is a Brazilian type/graphic designer based in The Netherlands. Graduated from MA Type and Media (KABK) and MA Graphic Design (LCC), she works mostly designing letterings through her studio Marina Chaccur Designs and teaching workshops. Since 2010 she has also been part of the ATypI board.
I was not one of those stamp collector kids that inherit the hobby from their grandparents. I started collecting stamps (as well as riding a bike) while studying Graphic Design in Portugal.
Where I grew up there weren’t a lot of antiques fairs, at least I don’t recall going to any. While studying at University in Caldas da Rainha there was an antiques fair at the city park every second Sunday of the month, and it was there I came across this affordable hobby.