19 August, 2009
Inside the H&FJ Drawing Office
A View of the Drawing-Office of Hoefler & Frere-Jones, Manufacturers of Phonograms & Allophones. Special Designs & Estimates Submitted on Enquiry. Write: H. & F.J., Houston-Street, New York.
Just kidding. Thanks, Eric Baker, for the photo! —JH
15 December, 2008
Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 14
Hot on the heels of my open question about artists and fives, I came across this marvelous photograph by Berenice Abbott featuring a pair of gorgeous fives in starring roles. Abbott is best remembered for Changing New York, her seminal collection of photographs that documents New York of the 1930s; it’s both an inspiration and a great resource for designers, especially typeface designers whose work is influenced by the public sphere.
For eighty years, the A. Zito Bakery stood at 259 Bleecker Street, a short walk from the H&FJ offices. In a street now dominated by bar room neon and vacuform plastic, Zito’s window looked in 2004 much the way it did when Abbott photographed it in 1937. Bread Store is among a collection of Berenice Abbott Photographs now available from AllPosters.com as high-resolution Giclée prints, lovely not only for the glimpses they offer into a grander New York, but for some marvelous lettering as well. These barber shop windows (1, 2) must be tremendous up close, and the humble decals in Zito’s window above have long been a favorite of ours: our Delancey font is based on them. —JH
20 October, 2008
The Neon Boneyard
Our own Andy Clymer has returned from a trip out west with some fine photos of Las Vegas’s infamous neon boneyard. A project of the Neon Museum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of one of the nation’s great lettering traditions, the neon boneyard is of course located in the Las Vegas desert: an ideal climate for preservation, and convenient to the center of the energetic neon carnage of the 21st century.
Years ago I enjoyed a tour of the boneyard during a visit with Yesco, the Young Electric Sign Company, who are responsible for the haberdashery of a significant number of megawatts on the Vegas strip. It was with a combination of pride and horror that I discovered how many H&FJ fonts were being used on the new digital signs that were fast replacing the old neon: even today, Yesco’s own site advertises their digital abilities using a little Knockout. For a type designer with a love of signs, it’s a very odd feeling. —JH
17 December, 2007
Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 9
A visit to Shorpy inevitably lasts the rest of the day. This tremendous archive of hundred-year-old photos has much to recommend it to anyone interested in period typography: the optimistic lettering of the New Deal is well represented, and there's an excellent cross-section of sidewalk Americana as well; entertainingly, the whole collection is leavened by an undercurrent of quiet menace that I find delightfully surreal.
There are impossibly old photos from Antietam and significant ones from Kitty Hawk, but it's candid images like this that I find the most striking. For while it's their farmers and seamstresses and street urchins who draw focus and take center stage, the true subject of these photographs is the lettering in the background, and the thousands of invisible hands responsible for every single letter.
To my delight, Shorpy is now working with the Juniper Gallery to produce reproductions of some of their most evocative Vintage High-Resolution Photographs. Produced as eight-color giclee prints on a variety of archival stocks, Shorpy's photographs are available in sizes from 19" x 13" (48cm x 33cm) to 47" x 34" (119cm x 86cm). Order by December 18 for Christmas delivery. —JH