I was very sad to hear about the sudden passing of designer Margo Chase. As a teenager in the 90s, it’s hard not to recognize Chase’s impact on the visual language of popular culture in those formative years (Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Dracula! Madonna!). Her lettering, logos, and typefaces are emblematic of an era where forms were being developed and explored that truly expressed digitality. If you’re not familiar with Chase’s work, check out these short interviews on Lynda.com, especially Logos and lettering, which includes some discussion of her early influences and process, and Gothic design where she talks about her cover design for Letter Arts Review, and her typefaces (thanks Typographica for the link). Some nice tributes can be found on Brand New, Graphic Design USA, Art Chantry’s Facebook post, Richard Lipton’s instagram post, The Dieline, among many others.
If you have been following my interview series here on the blog, you might already know that there is a well-defined structure for those conversations. Today, I want to share an interview done in a different way. It will be quicker, a bit more friendly and not any less personal. Carolyn recently published a typeface and a book, and those two were good enough reasons to sit down and enjoy a virtual conversation about the process.
The Grolier Club’s exhibition The Calligraphy Revival 1906–2016 (May 17 – July 29, 2017; 10am–5pm Mon–Sat; free admission) is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in applications of western letterforms to experience firsthand the breadth of calligraphy’s beauty as well as its utility. The exhibition, curated by Jerry Kelly, features works by a diverse range of calligraphers. It runs the gamut from art to design to handwriting and often defies categorization.
Exploring the first multi-style Hebrew typeface family
Hebrew was the language of the Israelite and Judean people for over 1,300 years when around 200 BCE, it died as an everyday language and was confined to religious use.1 This affected the Hebrew script heavily, since it only developed those attributes that were necessary to present specific religious texts. Therefore, Hebrew is lacking the typographic tools that would have evolved and developed from an ongoing secular use. Moreover, the Hebrew script was considered sacred. The scribes that were permitted to write manuscripts were concerned with preserving the letterform appearance, even at the expense of the ease and speed in which they could be read.2
Hebrew was reintroduced as a spoken language in the 1880s. Since then, it experienced an accelerated process of revival. The shift from the written form to movable type was a hastened and interrupted one and did not allow for refinement and distillation of the letterforms.
Setting type in the Hebrew script was and still is a frustrating experience. Not only there is a shortage in typefaces which sufficiently address specific Hebrew script issues, but the few that are available mostly consist of a single regular style, accompanied by a small number of weight variations. So, what is a Hebrew typesetter to do when trying to create differentiation within a text? I remember how pleased I was when I found a book published in 1905 in Minsk. In it I spotted one spread that seemed tailor-made to answer my question. The typesetter used different typefaces, different sizes, increased letter spacing and underlining. These were amongst the popular typographic solutions throughout the 20th century.
A spread from the book printed in 1905 in Minsk showing the various ways to handle word differentiation and emphasis without a typeface family: 1. Underlining a word. 2. A different typeface, in a different size. 3. Increased letter spacing.
UPDATE! Couldn’t make it to the live variety show or just want to relive the whole thing? Here’s the recording (listen on the site or download):
Here are a few fun highlights, captured on twitter:
— mekka blue (@mekkablue) June 15, 2017
People are now sketching for the Alphabettes header competition, and so can you! Send/submit/tweet your designs! Bianca is the jury. pic.twitter.com/RCopr31R5c
— Alphabettes (@alphabettes_org) June 15, 2017
— Indra Kupferschmid (@kupfers) June 16, 2017
Thanks for listening!
This article is based on the presentation What The Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About Variable Fonts delivered at ISType conference in Istanbul. It’s a summary of my personal thoughts on recent developments that might have an effect on responsive typography. It is also a collection of references to inspiring projects and experiments some of my colleagues have been doing. It touches on a few concepts I found necessary to explain but it shouldn’t be considered an in-depth report on those. Continue reading