H&FJ Supports Hamilton

In support of their unique work to both safeguard and celebrate American wood type, we’re proud to announce the donation of a $10,000 Sustainability Grant to the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum of Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Wood type is a vital part of our visual culture. Its riot of technological and typographic innovations remains as relevant as ever to modern typographic practice: whether your favorite font comes in multiple widths, or features chromatic layers, it owes a considerable debt to its wood type forebears. H&FJ has always believed that the preservation and study of historical typography serves even the most progressive experiments, so we’re proud to support Hamilton, not only in its curatorial mission, but for the relevant and exciting programming it provides to both the community in Two Rivers, and the design community at large.

This Sustainability Grant kicks off a new fundraising chapter for the museum, to help secure the future of its new home at 1816 10th Street. If you love typography, we hope you’ll join us in supporting their wonderful work. —JH

Legacy of Letters: An Italian Tour

So enormous are the contributions of the Italian people to typography that they often pass unnoticed. The words you are reading may be written in the English language, but they are rendered in the Latin alphabet, which comes to us via Roman ancestors. We celebrate these same ancestors in the name of our upright Roman alphabet, and we remember their country of origin in our slanted Italics. If you ever use our Requiem typeface, take note: taxonomically it is a Venetian Old-Style, its letterforms modeled on the work of a renaissance Roman calligrapher, who was inspired by the inscriptional lettering on a classical Roman monument, which was dedicated to a Roman emperor. The emperor’s name was Trajan, an Italian name you may recognize from your font menu; he is immortalized there alongside dozens of his compatriots, including Aldus, Arrighi, Bodoni, and Jenson.

Since Italy has remained a cradle of letters and literacy since classical times, it makes an excellent destination for any lover of typography. This June, design historian and calligrapher Paul Shaw will be leading Legacy of Letters, an eight-day typographic tour of some of Italy’s most typographic destinations. Including both Emilia-Romagna and the Veneto, the tour includes stops in twelve typographic capitals including Parma, Mantua, Verona and Venice. Registration is now open for a limited number of spaces.

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

Learn Typeface Design with Sara Soskolne, H&FJ

Hands-on instruction in typeface design is notoriously hard to come by. Those interested in learning the craft have either to content themselves with a one-hour workshop at a professional conference, or commit themselves to a year of graduate school abroad. But this month, the Book Arts Center at Wells College Summer Institute is hosting a one-week class in typeface design with Sara Soskolne, Senior Typeface Designer at H&FJ. The class is limited to ten students, promising a rare chance to work with a professional type designer one-on-one.

The facilities boast large classrooms dedicated to lettering arts and digital imaging (all blissfully air-conditioned), and those with broader interests in the book arts will find two binderies, two press rooms, and seven Vandercook proofing presses. Those with broader interests still will find Wells College handsomely placed on New York’s Lake Cayuga, suggesting post-typographic swimming and birdwatching, magnificent sunsets, and fireflies by the kilowatt. Bring your “Co-Ed Naked Intramural Kerning” t-shirt.

Registration is now open: contact Nancy Gil, Summer Institute Director. And soon! —JH

Letterror at the Graphic Design Museum

Photo: Erik van Blokland

When we first met at the ATypI conference in 1989, Erik van Blokland, Just van Rossum and I were branded the “young turks” of typography, presumably because we were fifteen years younger than ATypI’s next-youngest member. Erik and Just were already notorious for their Beowolf project, which hacked the PostScript format in order to produce self-randomizing letterforms; this mischievous bit of culture jamming was enough to endear them to me, and to a generation of designers who have followed their work ever since.

Beowolf (and its sister font, BeoSans) are now an established part of typographic lore, and both rightfully received attention in the opening exhibit of the world’s first Graphic Design Museum in Breda. The place is swimming in typography (like the Netherlands in general), but it’s especially gratifying to see that in this new installation, visitors can experience BeoSans’ two-dimensional letterforms with the benefit of the fourth dimension as well. The addition of a timeline makes the faces’ randomness seem as natural an attribute as size, color, weight, or width, hinting at a future in which our screen-driven civilization could come to regard mutability as an integral part of the typographic experience. As always, I’m curious to see where Erik and Just’s original thinking will ultimately take us. —JH

The World’s First Graphic Design Museum

On my first trip to Amsterdam in 1992, I spent a couple of hours having lunch at a pleasant café on Willemsparkweg. I’d come from seeing an exhibit of the year’s best book covers, and planned to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city’s many graphic design bookshops. A passing waiter, noticing my open sketchbook, idly asked me what I was designing. I took note that he’d said “designing” rather than “drawing,” and on his return trip he surprised me further: “are you designing a typeface?”

A nation whose visual literacy is such that the lay public is familiar with the concept of typeface design is surely a designer’s paradise. And if there were any doubt that Holland is the world’s preeminant design capital, tomorrow will see the opening of the world’s first graphic design museum in Breda. There’ll be live coverage on the museum’s website, emceed by none other than Queen Beatrix! I love the Dutch. —JH

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