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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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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Visualizing design space in variable fonts

After attending Typolabs a few weeks ago, something kept on rolling around in my mind. Variable fonts—the main topic in type conferences since the announcement at AtypI Warsaw in 2016—was again at the heart of the debate in Berlin. If sliders generated some controversy one year ago, I would say ‘design space’ was one of the most repeated concepts this year. The opening talk by Gerry Leonidas pulled the trigger with a thoughtful presentation: ‘I am now in an environment where the design space is by default way bigger than my ability to imagine it, not just my ability to do something with it’.

Slide from Gerry’s presentation showing a figure that represents a font with three main axes

This figure, included in the presentation by Gerry Leonidas, is the visual representation of a font with three main axes.

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Dear Alphabettes: Freelancing and working from home

Dear Alphabettes,

Of the freelancers among you, what problems and anxieties are you facing? (Is a certain amount of uncertainty and anxiety maybe even necessary for the creativity of a freelancer?) Also, what are your experiences with working from home?

Jeremy

 
Dear Jeremy,

I don’t know if anxiety is necessary for creative practice, but it is certainly something I battle with in life generally! (I have OCD, anxiety and have had a bunch of panic attacks — my work is absolutely a trigger).

When I started out as a designer, I imagined a career in a studio leading a team of collaborators. When I got to that point, I was earning great money, working alongside people I admired on excellent projects — I was, in theory, achieving all my goals, but I was miserable, burnt out, and a nervous wreck. The trouble was in a corporate environment I was determining my worth by the quality of my work — so every project outcome (and compromise) became critical in my self-confidence, and I was busy striving for perfection in every project which was a fast track to the psychologist’s office.

So when I found myself looking to find a more healthy balance in my career and started to seriously consider freelance I was already incredibly anxious (seeing a psychologist twice a week) — I doubted my ability — wasn’t confident I could do good work, get the right clients or pay our mortgage. I wrote a tonne of pro’s and cons lists before getting started and also mapped out my back up career if everything turned to custard! But I was incredibly fortunate to have people around me who believed in my ability when I did not. That support structure was fundamental to me being able to turn my back on a well-paying job to freelance.

Before I wrote a business plan, I drafted a bare-bones household budget (to know exactly how much I needed to earn to cover our essential bills and living expenses). Then I wrote a business plan to ensure I could meet that minimum (x hours at y hourly rate = keep a roof over our head was my most basic formula!). Breaking it down like that gave me an achievable (less daunting) entry point and a specific number of hours to strive for each month.

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Fonts from the Future 🚀⚡️

Fasten your seat belt and strap on your mind reading helmet, Alphabettes reports to you from the future with a collection of potentially visionary, occasionally dystopian, and totally unfounded predictions for the type industry, and greater humanity, in the 22nd century.

Table of Contents:

Propa by Elizabeth Carey Smith
Global Restructuring Organization for Alphabetical Neolatry by Jess McCarty
The Letter Lady by Meghan Arnold
CLARE by Theresa dela Cruz
The Pixel Museum by María Ramos
Emojiface Design by Liron Lavi Turkenich
XBH-17478-F9 by Luisa Baeta
Variable Fonts: The Film by Amy Papaelias

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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 genuinely hot typesetters.*
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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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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Featured

Last week the latest issue of Neshan magazine —the biggest magazine with a focus on graphic design in Iran — issue number 37 (read here), was published. I first came across the cover of this issue on the instagram account of a colleague, and was instantly drawn by three words printed under the logo: Women and Design. Curious, I scrolled down to the caption to see what articles had been considered for/on a demographic I am very much a part of. I was confronted by a list of essays on female designers, almost entirely written by men. It was exasperating, and not because I was disappointed, but because I found this long list of male writers predictable, and therein lies the problem.

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