7 February, 2008
The Evolution of Tech Logos
It took a visit to Finland in 1996 to realize that Nokia the cellphone company and Nokia the tire company were one and the same. Apparently these are merely the latest stops on a very long journey: Nokia was founded in 1865 as a wood-pulp mill, on a channel of rapids between two Finnish lakes, all of which goes to explain why the company's original logo was this slightly alarmed salmon.
Neatorama is running a very entertaining look at the evolution of tech companies’ logos, which includes such well-known corkers as IBM's grand typographic globe, and the short-lived Apple logo (that still makes me hear strains of "Carry On My Wayward Son.") Less publicized, with good reason, is the original Canon logo — née Kwanon — which had all the worldly sophistication of a Charlie Chan movie. I'm gravely concerned for the Motorola logo, though: it's memorable, distinctive, and typographically lovely; there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, which means it's probably next in line for the ax. (Xerox, I'm looking at you.) So I'm adding this one to the H&FJ Endangered Logo Watchlist, and offering 3:2 odds on a tragic redesign before the decade's out. —JH.
6 February, 2008
Not Playing at a Theater Near You
Now appearing at Vanity Fair is a great exhibit of lobby cards from the collection of the late Leonard Schrader. From Schrader's collection of 8,462 items the editors have chosen an attractive and representative set of 36 that celebrates the golden age of lettering, before its ultimate fall to typography.
At left, an excerpt from Saved by Wireless, Joe and Mia May's 1919 epic about which the IMDB is strangely silent. (Judging from the cavemen, presumably it does not deal with the convenience of 802.11; been there, though.) Other highlights include MGM's The Devil Doll, whose inside-out lettering prefigures Roger Excoffon's Calypso typeface of 1958, and Fritz Lang's Metropolis rendered in a whimsical style of lettering that befits the movie's cheery themes of dystopianism, technological isolation, and internecine strife. For ages six and up. —JH
6 October, 2007
Books as Furniture
Years ago, I walked into a used book store in Chicago, and beheld an astronomically unlikely thing: a run of pristine leather books, each stamped "CASLON" in gold letters, each in a typeface of a different vintage. These were type specimen books from the Caslon foundry, and to see them in such quantity was a singular experience. Type specimens are usually accumulated individually, painstakingly, and expensively, from antiquarian specialists or the occasional flea market. Only rarely do they surface in sets, and when they do it's usually at a private auction, not on the shelf behind the counter at a bookshop that also sells gum.
Noticing the tag marked "sold," I asked what by then had become a reflexive question: "Are these going to Tobias Frere-Jones?" The shopkeeper replied that they were not: they'd been sold to one of the store's regulars, a philistine decorator who's always on the lookout for clean leather bindings...Continues...
26 September, 2007
A Treasury of Hollywood Lettering
Lettering buffs and cinephiles alike may enjoy this lovely Flickr set containing final frames of classic films. Romantically, these hearken back to an age before typesetting replaced hand-lettering as a matter of convenience, but sociologically they tell another interesting story as well. A movie concluding with "The End," perhaps followed by a list of its major players, definitively dates a film to before the rise of the unions, which now negotiate on-screen credits for even off-screen contributors. Best Boys and Key Grips are old hat: today it's Mouse Wranglers and Assistant Caterers who are the little people, along with the occasional Compositing Inferno Artist. (But where are the type designers, hm?) See this fascinating infographic in The New York Times, comparing the length of the credits in Casablanca with those in Lord of the Rings. — JH