An Essential Calligraphic Facsimile

Here’s why I backed this Kickstarter project to reprint the sketchbooks of typeface designer Hermann Zapf. If you love letters, you should too.

If you know Zapf Chancery and Zapf Dingbats, you know the faintest shadow of the work of Hermann Zapf. If you know exquisite mid-century books printed in Palatino, you’re getting closer; I never did, having come of age with the brutish digitization of Palatino that shipped with my first laser printer (along with other notable Zapf faces such as Optima and Melior, both too subtle to survive the barbarity of toner at three hundred dots per inch.) People under the age of fifty likely know Zapf only as a typeface designer, and while a deeper study of his typefaces will lead to such treasures as Hunt Roman and Saphir, even this is only half the story. Zapf is a consummate calligrapher — he has been for eight decades — and he is about to share with the world one of his private treasures.

My introduction to Zapf the calligrapher was Feder und Stichel (Pen and Graver), a monograph of 1950 featuring twenty-five calligraphic studies cut in metal by August Rosenberger. They show not only Zapf’s mastery as a shaper of letters, words, and paragraphs, but a catholic taste for historical forms that live apart from his commercially-produced typefaces. There are rustic capitals that date to the third century, two interpretations of the 16th century Civilité, and a spectacular alphabet of inline Fraktur capitals. Zapf and I have a mutual close friend, who recently mentioned an even more exotic bit of Zapfiana, the sketchbooks that Zapf carried with him after his conscription into the German Army at the outbreak of World War II. Only reproduced in excerpt, and never seen outside of Zapf’s home, it is these that the Kelly-Winterton Press is undertaking to produce in facsimile.

Behind the Facsimile

The proper execution of such a project will require an editor with a deep knowledge of letters, a printer intimately familiar with the demands of reproducing complex artwork, someone with long-established relationships in the fine press community, and a designer up to the challenge of presenting this work in an appropriate typographic context. This project has all of these contributors in the form of Jerry Kelly, a designer, printer, and professional calligrapher, who studied under Zapf in 1979. Kelly is a lover of letters: he wrote the introduction to The Art of the Type Specimen in the Twentieth Century (and designed it beautifully using a typeface to which I’d never given a second thought); he designed The Practice of Letters, which presents The Hofer Collection of Writing Manuals from the Harvard College Library, still an indispensable reference on the evolution of letterforms. Books-on-books can sometimes, cruelly, be careless in their details; this will not be such a project. The facsimile edition will cost $65, though a range of deluxe options include such premiums as additional enclosures and fine bindings. I’ll be adding one of these to my bookshelf, and I’d encourage you to do the same, both to encourage the preservation of this important work, and to enjoy the fruits of this wonderful labor of love. —JH

Made with Cloud.typography

Videri Chocolate Factory

A colorful and unexpected palette of webfonts helps three chocolatiers deliver their most piquant flavors online.

It was the shared dream of Sam, Starr, and Chris that brought about the Videri Chocolate Factory. From the historic Raleigh Depot in downtown Raleigh, NC, the three operate a retail storefront, a factory floor, an outdoor café, and now a website where an animated collection of webfonts from H&Co helps them tell their story.

Videri’s diverse font palette includes Landmark , Verlag, The Fell Types, and Indicia.

Finding a way to express the company’s personality with typography was a top priority for the the team at PRPL, the digital creative agency tasked with creating the site. “I wanted to create a type system that felt friendly and organic, but also would feel at home in a factory setting,” said George Kedenburg III, lead creative at PRPL.

Kedenburg chose a vivid collection of fonts for the project, relying not only upon hard-working ScreenSmart fonts for text, but some rare and unexpected choices for display typography. Verlag and Sentinel ScreenSmart are used throughout the site, while headlines feature a mix of our more exotic typefaces: the dazzling Landmark Inline and Dimensional, the textured Fell Types, and the rubber-stamped Indicia font from our Numbers collection.

At small sizes, Sentinel ScreenSmart keeps the text perfectly crisp.

PRPL assigned distinct roles to each typeface, and used the Cloud.typography character set panel to carefully control what each webfont includes. (The Indicia typeface is used for all the numbers on the site, from prices in the shopping cart to the digits of the company’s phone number.) Refining each font’s character set not only helps reinforce the site’s brand guidelines, but helps keep webfonts lean, and quick to download. “That’s something I don’t think we’ve ever done, or thought would be worth doing,” adds Kedenburg. —NW

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 17

I wonder what sort of psychological profile one could draw from my favorite childhood possessions. I neither played nor followed football, but clung to my NFL lunchbox that showed all the team helmets with their different insignia. I had no special interest in English History, but was fascinated by the chart in our living room that traced the succession of British monarchs from William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth II. A kindergarten teacher gave me a chart of rocks and minerals found in the northeast; a kindly docent at the South Street Seaport Museum gave me a diagram showing how to communicate the alphabet using morse code, semaphore, and maritime signal flags. The list goes on and on, and only a graphic designer will understand the common thread: I had a thing for data visualization.

Whether these objects provoked my interest in design or simply resonated with it, they were marvelous things to have around as a kid. I’m therefore delighted to see that a company called HistoryShots is offering for sale a similar collection of visually engaging prints, not merely suitable for framing but actually framed. Clockwise from top left: The History of the Union Army and Confederate Army, The Conquest of Mount Everest, Visualizing The Bible, Death and Taxes, The History of Political Parties (Part II), and the Race to the Moon. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 16

“Modern Gaspipe” is the charming taxonomic name for this kind of letterform. We’ve explored the style in our Tungsten type family — itself a fine holiday gift, ahem. But for those with a hankering for decor, the always fruitful Three Potato Four has this unlittle item for sale, a huge handpainted wooden figure three (34" / 86cm), perfect for your living room, studio, or threearium. Thanks to Brian Hennings for finding this one: frankly I’m amazed that he hasn’t had his fill of these kinds of letters. —JH

Wearable Rococo

Look up and you’ll see the floriated, ornamented, shaded letters of our logo (l. gravura tuscana), as well as an italic cousin used for the News, Notes & Observations nameplate. I have a special fondness for these kinds of letters, which reflect a synthesis of traditions from both typemaking and engraving. Is it therefore any wonder that I love these alphabet brooches from Bena Clothing, spotted by our friends at Design Sponge? They’re made from laser-etched cheery veneer over mahogany, thoughtfully offered as set of 53 pieces with duplicates of popular letters. (I wonder how the frequency distribution of initials differs from that of other kinds of words: extra Js, I imagine?) —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 15

If you’re an editorial designer, chances are that you’re familiar with the Society for News Design through its workshops, its excellent international conferences, and of course its annual. What you might not know is that SND operates the non-profit SND Foundation, which provides college scholarships, research grants, and travel stipends to help students attend its events. Did I mention the college scholarships for designers?

For last year’s conference in Las Vegas, SND Foundation President Bill Gaspard orchestrated a terrific keepsake: a deck of Custom Illustrated Playing Cards, for which 54 illustrators volunteered their time and talent, contributing one card each. Guessing correctly that H&Co has a thing for the typography of playing cards, I was invited to design the packaging, affording me a chance to two of our best wedge-seriffed typefaces, Saracen and Mercury. And naturally Gaspard and fellow designer Tyson Evans used our Deuce font on the cards themselves.

For those who weren’t able to make it to Vegas, SND is now offering sets of these commemorative cards for sale, for a tax-deductible contribution of $20.00. All proceeds go to support the work of the SND Foundation; did I mention the college scholarships for designers? —JH

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&Co 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 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

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 13

Typeface: Knockout

The disappearance of wood type has something to do with the slow fade of letterpress from the world of commercial printing; it also has something to do with that dude at the flea market who sells hot-glued wood type sculptures on the weekends. And the Dust Bowl didn’t help: seventy years ago, Americans throughout the Great Plains discovered that blocks of hardwood impregnated with linseed oil could be very useful in a whole new way, so into the furnace they went.

Uppercase Gallery in Calgary has collected some wood type that’s been removed from circulation, and is offering it as the cheerfully packaged Authentic Vintage Woodtype Lettermix. We’re delighted that they chose our Knockout font family for the packaging, a typeface founded in the very sans serifs that their package contains. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 12

I liked samplers as a kid. In the fictional account of my life, I could trace this affection to my dear great-grandmother Abigail, who spent hours embroidering by candlelight (when she wasn’t busy repairing uniforms for returning Union soldiers.) But having grown up in New York in the seventies, it’s more likely that I first noticed the style while watching Family Feud, and that a steady diet of Atari 2600 and NAMCO simply predisposed my developing brain to a sympathy for bitmaps.

Etsy is carrying a charming little bag that pays homage to the cross-stitch, a gusseted Canvas Tote silkscreened in orange or blue. At 11" × 14" (30cm × 35cm) it’s big enough for the usual junk that designers lug around, and is of course a sound alternative to grocery store plastic, whether you’re ecologically responsible or just self-righteous. Either way, be stylish. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 11

Typeface: Ziggurat Black

Picking up where we left off last year, we thought we’d round out 2008 with some holiday ideas for the recovering typophiliac in your life.

I’m intrigued by Jen Bekman’s 20x200, which every week produces small runs of small works on paper, at prices to match. Among their collection of prints and photographs is this limited edition print by Superdeluxe, the studio of designers Adrienne Wong and Karin Spraggs. The appropriately named Ziggurat 5 is a happy riot of color and type, featuring of course the figure five from our own Ziggurat Black typeface. (What is it about artists and fives?) The print is produced in three different editions: a small 8½" × 11" (22cm × 28cm) in archival pigments, a larger 17" × 20" (43cm × 51cm) that includes a letterpress impression, and the largest 30" × 40" (76cm × 102cm) which combines printing and silkscreening. Collect all three. Fives. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 10

Harry Beck’s map of the London Underground is one of those seminal information graphics that has come to define an entire category. It must be as widely recognized as Mendeleev’s design for the periodic table of the elements; it’s surely been as influential, and as widely imitated and spoofed.

What makes both diagrams significant is that they bravely dispense with information traditionally thought to be crucial. Mendeleev described matter without any of its physical characteristics, which freed scientists to infer more significant information purely from the table itself. And Beck realized that the scale of a city was irrelevant to a commuter (as well as difficult to draw), so he bent the shape of Greater London to meet the needs of the map, in what’s technically called a cartogram.

Mark Ovenden’s Transit Maps of the World is a terrific and well-illustrated tour through the world that Beck created. It’s interesting to compare the choice of cartograms and equal-area maps in different cities, and at different times: Beck’s diagrammatic plan for the Paris Métro was rejected in favor of a beloved but impenetrable drawing, which is just the kind of Gallic gesture that has been confounding the English for centuries. The images in Ovenden’s book make it tempting to make inferences about the cultures behind the maps: the diagrams for Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhiny Novgorod have an undeniably Suprematist bent, and those for Beijing and Guangzhou look as if they could actually be the Simplified Chinese ideogram for “subway.” Closer to home, the map of Los Angeles looks likes an Anasazi petroglyph, and that of Washington, D.C. resembles nothing more than a pit of highly partisan snakes. —JH

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" × 13" (48cm × 33cm) to 47" × 34" (119cm × 86cm). Order by December 18 for Christmas delivery. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 8

The arrival of a new year means it’s time for a new Pentagram Calendar. We’ll forever be partial to the 2006 edition, for which Pentagram commissioned us to design twelve new fonts of numbers; we subsequently added three additional styles, anticipating of course the post-revolutionary 15-month calendar under which all earthlings will unite in observance of Hoefluary. (Reminder: font licenses must be paid in full by Tribute Day, Hoefluary 15.)

But until the revolution comes, enjoy your quaint 12-month ways with the stylish 2008 Pentagram Typography Calendar. 2008 looks like it’s going to be a vintage year, for this year’s edition is designed exclusively using the typefaces of Matthew Carter. Few things can make January more exhilarating than a brace of Galliard old-style figures, and the appearance of the scarce Walker typeface in February hints at many more treats throughout the months to come. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 7

It’s hard to begrudge the polish and flexibility of a good pixel, but I’ll always have a soft spot for the earlier technologies. Mechanical and electronic displays with fixed images were somehow knowable in a way that screens are not, lending a palpable something to the things they inhabited. Has train travel been the same since the disappearance of the thip-thip-thipping flap display? Didn’t buses seem more resolute when emblazoned with hand-lettered roll signs, before today’s dot-matrix mayhem doomed them to speak in half-hearted and confounding abbreviations (or cheerily exclaim Out of Service as they malingered along?) Has the person yet walked the earth who has fond feelings for the starburst display of a credit card terminal?

One of my favorite outmoded technologies is the nixie tube. A tiny vacuum tube containing individual glowing cathodes for each digit, nixies were once a staple of high-end office calculators and measuring devices. Every few years, someone unearths a cache of virgin nixies and brings a nixie clock to market, which promptly sells out; this year’s offering is the Chronotronix V400 Nixie Tube Clock, an especially attractive contender in a polished cherry case, candidly offered in a limited edition. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 6

I’ve yet to meet a designer that didn’t have a thing for cartography. In any medium (to this day, maps are printed, engraved, drawn and painted) cartographers have to be excellent and inventive typographers, and mapmaking has given typography some of its most interesting styles. Some of the more exotic letters we’ve drawn certainly owe something to mapmaking, in this case the engraved maps of the very fertile Age of Enlightenment.

Equally interesting are the artists and designers who interpret maps. I hope to someday own one of Paula Scher’s fantastic paintings (which incidentally are on display at New York’s Maya Stendhal Gallery through January 26), but in the meantime I might outfit myself with one of the five City Neighborhood Posters from Ork Design. Chicago, San Francisco and Boston are represented, as well as Manhattan and Brooklyn; gift certificates are available for the itinerant among us. Hand screen printed, and signed and numbered, $22 each. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 5

If there’s one thing that says Gotham Fabulous, it’s rhodium-plated silver with a hit of CZ. Sara found these Initial Pendant Necklaces online, each offering 0.2 carats of genuine cubic zirconium in a tarnish-free setting. A full alphabet’s available, though sadly no ampersand, otherwise the whole H&Co posse would be rolling in style.

A classier alternative is this stunning diamond necklace by Irina Block. But either option requires a primo backup gift. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 4

Every design studio has at least one of Edward Tufte’s books. They’re traditionally distributed during the sacred initiation ceremony through which one becomes a Graphic Designer: a cloaked celebrant makes the sign of command-option-escape and anoints the novice with toner, the congregation recites the paternoster from Paul Rand’s Design, Form, and Chaos, and the now-ordained Designer is presented with the Holy Relics that will form the heart of his or her own workplace: a manga-inspired wind-up toy, a framed fruit crate label with a smutty pun, an overwrought and temperamental stapler with a European pedigree, and a copy of Envisioning Information.

Whether you share Tufte’s love of clarity, or haven’t read his books and simply want the shortcut to intellectual street cred (I’ll deal with you later), you’ll want a copy of this poster showing Napoleon’s March to Moscow, which Tufte correctly calls “probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn.” Designed by Charles Joseph Minard in 1869 and now reproduced by Graphics Press, the diagram simultaneously shows the position, direction, and strength of Napoleon’s army, as well as the time and temperature at each turn — a remarkable amount of information for such an intuitive and tidy diagram. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 3

Much nattering takes place on this blog about the distinction between lettering (letterforms rendered for a particular situation) and fonts (sets of type designed for reproduction.) Edible lettering is an ancient tradition, but edible fonts may be something new: our designer Sara Soskolne discovered this marvelous set of Movable Type in Chocolate, created by Sandra Kübler and Christine Voshage.

I have to commend the duo for including a broad character set, including accents and punctuation. (The Droste company, which makes the chocolate initials given to Dutch children for Sinterklaas Eve, doesn’t produce even the letter I, presumably because it’s challenging to design a chocolate I that matches the weight of the M or W.) As we know, children are a stickler for fairness, especially when it comes to chocolate, just as typographers are a stickler for fidelity, especially when it comes to chocolate. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I posted some scans of nineteenth-century wood types by William Page, from the rare specimen book Wm. H. Page & Co. Wood Type of 1872. The designers at the Cary Graphic Arts Press (Rochester Institute of Technology) apparently share my love of Page's colorful woodtypes, for their lovely Wood Type Notecards reproduce some pages from the exceedingly rare Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, &c. of 1874. I don’t imagine I’ll need much of a pretext to send these to my favorite typophiles; I think I’ll save the SIN cards to send to clients who don’t correctly use small caps or smart quotes. —JH

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 1

Since the countdown to the holidays has begun in earnest, we thought we’d dedicate the rest of the week to recommending typographic-themed holiday gifts for the designers in your life.

Our own Ksenya Samarskaya liked these Alphabet Mugs from Fishs Eddy. The monograms draw from different decorative traditions: the A and C are from decorated American wood types (and you know we love those), the T from signwriting, and the K and Y from nineteenth-century lettering manuals. (That I love the baroque O, Q, and R should come as no surprise; they’re close cousins of our own logo. —JH

Holiday Gifts for Typophiles

An office full of type designers is already a dangerous a breeding ground for the highly contagious chronic arrowmania, but H&Co alumnus Kevin Dresser has taken things to the next level with the DresserJohnson Arrow Ring. A chic adaptation of one of the duo’s great icons (their logo for Brooklyn Bunny is a cheerful highlight in modern logodom) the Arrow Ring makes possible marvelous moments of unwitting self-annotation such as this. A great stocking-stuffer, available in sizes 2–13. —JH

Helvetica for the Holidays

Christmas is about more than just eggnog and carols and sitting by the tree. It’s about having to explain to your family yet again what exactly it is that you do for a living, and suffering through comparisons with your cousin who’s “also into computers.”

If there’s anything that mom and dad truly need this holiday season, it’s to be tied to the andirons and belabored about the head with a copy of Jan Tschichold’s collected essays in the original German (still available in hardcover.) But in the spirit of giving, as well as various local ordinances, get them instead a copy of Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica on DVD, which goes on sale today. It’s smart, engaging, witty, and a great introduction to graphic design for the non-designers who spawned you. It also affords ample opportunity to use the phrase “that’s Hoefler&Co: I buy fonts from those guys all the time,” which mom and dad might remember come next year. —JH

Love Letters from Plum Press

You can always tell when a typeface designer is involved. Some unseen force summoned me across the room to this beautiful set of greeting cards, resplendent in rich stochastic color, and bearing a wonderful assortment of letterforms. The choice of typeface for the letter K was enough to identify their designer as a connoisseur: it’s Sapphire, a rare and underestimated typeface by none other than Hermann Zapf (1953), and one of my personal favorites. The others in the series have their own stories, as I would soon learn from their designer: it’s our very own Sara Soskolne, who designed them for Plum Press.

The P is modeled on a Photo-Lettering face called Johnson Grafin Hedda, and the F and C are adapted from an 1884 set of French signpainter’s specimen sheets titled Modèles de Lettres. In nice counterpoint to the luscious outside, inside each is an inscription set in our own HTF Didot font. The complete collection features eight cards, covering for a range of appropriate occasions; I’m stocking up on the the apology card, K is for Knucklehead, in anticipation of future bad behavior. —JH

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