9 November, 2009
Sure, I Guess That’s My Final Answer
Typeface: Whitney Semibold
I have a friend, an editor at a renowned university press, who is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the English language. He is my go-to man for typo-lexico-philological questions, like whether there’s an English word that contains the adjacent letters h and x (there is); he’s the sort of gent to casually drop the words "usufructuary" and "megaboss" in the same sentence. It was therefore with great temerity that I once challenged him to a game of Scrabble, which to my surprise and relief he declined. ”I hope you understand,” he said, “I can’t. What would happen if I lost?”
This allegory was far from my mind when I agreed to captain Team C at “The Type is Right,” the AIGA/NY’s first-ever typographic game show. Join me and H&FJers Andy Clymer and Sara Soskolne, along with nine other nerds and nerdesses, as we go for the gold tonight in Brooklyn. The contestants’ range of interests and inclinations suggests a fun evening, probably one rife with withering embarrassments that you won’t want to miss. So come and join us this evening at Galapagos in DUMBO, and see which lucky typographer gets the chance to go all Kanye on the actual winner. —JH
The Type is Right
Monday, November 9, 2009, 6:30–8:30pm
Galapagos Art Space
16 Main Street
Update: H&FJ clinches the vaunted title! Assisted in no small part by our fourth contestant, selected from the audience by random draw: typomaniac Ina Saltz. (Which is a little like learning that "one of the dads," who has volunteered to fill in at a Little League game, turns out to be Barry Bonds.) Thanks to the AIGA/NY, emcee Ellen Lupton, host Matteo Bologna, puzzlemaster Paul Shaw, and all the other participants for making it a fun evening. And please never remind us that we mistook a line of Zuzana Licko’s Filosofia (1996) for a line of Giambattista Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico (1788). Our only explanation is that the venue boasts very bright spotlights, and an enviable collection of pale ales.
12 October, 2009
Teens, Typography, and Tim Gunn
I knew I wanted to work with typography by the time I turned eleven. Back then, my curiosity about letter-making could only be satisfied in oblique and solitary ways, most of which involved borrowed sheets of Presstype, and goofing off with the family typewriter. The Macintosh couldn’t have come soon enough.
Young typophiles today have more outlets for their enthusiasm (you are here), but next Monday will gain rare access to the profession as well: National Design Week begins October 18, when the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum will inaugurate the festivities with its 2009 Teen Design Fair in New York. Teenagers with an interest in design are invited to learn about type design — as well as graphic design, fashion, industrial design, and architecture — by chatting one-on-one with dozens of practitioners, including me. And Project Runway host Tim Gunn emcees the event! —JH
Teen Design Fair
Monday, October 19, 4:00-6:30pm
The Times Center
242 West 41st Street
New York, NY 10018
14 July, 2009
In Today’s Mail
10 March, 2009
The Gerrit Noordzij Prize, Part 2: Incoming
Type designers are accustomed to approaching the line between homage and parody with great care. It's especially daunting when its subject is a living colleague, as was the case last Friday when Tobias presented an award of his own design to Wim Crouwel, winner of the 2009 Gerrit Noordzij Prize. (In keeping with the tradition, the current holder of the prize designs the award given to its next recipient.) To design an award for Crouwel, a Dutch icon who is indelibly associated with a strong and recognizable personal style, takes great sensitivity: imagine having to design a business card for Piet Mondrian, or select a ringtone for Igor Stravinsky.
If there is anyone able to see past the obvious, it is Wim Crouwel. In the 1960s, Crouwel's fresh yet doctrinaire approach to graphic design earned him the pejorative nickname "gridnik," which Crouwel, with typical flare, adopted as a moniker, and later chose as the name for his best known typeface. In his acceptance speech on Friday, Crouwel described his decades-long disagreements with his friend Gerrit Noordzij — in whose name the award is given — and both men reflected gleefully on their continuing philosophical differences. This fruitful synthesis has colored both the study and the practice of graphic design, and it's satisfying to see it recognized. This is what awards should be for.
In keeping with the custom, Tobias designed an award that uses his own work but includes a nod to Crouwel's. In celebration of the pre-history of the Gotham typeface, Tobias arranged for the fabrication of a traditional enamel sign, featuring an abundant grid of Gotham's many styles (64 out of 66, to be precise.) Hearing Crouwel speak with such good humor at the presentation ceremony, I was almost tempted to reveal Tobias's original idea, which was to find a way to bridge the Dutch tradition of chocolate letter-making with Crouwel's arresting new alphabet of 1967. ("I probably could have done it with Kit-Kat bars," Tobias mused.) I am certain Crouwel would approve. —JH